Messages from Heaven (2004 Eternal Productions) looks innocuous enough—perhaps sitting on a shelf at a local Christian bookstore, perhaps given as a gift by a non-Catholic family member, perhaps even purchased thinking this might be a solid video produced by good, daily-Mass-going Catholics. It looks innocuous, but looks—and producers of videos—can deceive.

Make no mistake, Messages from Heaven is a flagrant anti-Catholic polemic. Listed among their “Catholic Witnessing Resources,” Eternal Productions attempts to put Church-approved Marian apparitions to the test, but devolves into a diatribe against Catholicism in general, taking shots at dogma and doctrine on the Blessed Mother of God and the Church. The presentation of this video begs the question: If these Fundamentalist producers have the corner on the truth of the Gospel, why would they cloak the production in deception for wider distribution and viewership? Have they not seen it written that God “never lies” (Tit 1:2) and that the devil is the one who is the “the father of lies”? (Jn 8:44) Why, then, would these producers use so much deception? Let’s consider some of these works of deception.

First of all, the cover is a stark misrepresentation of the contents. The title itself is a gross misnomer, Messages from Heaven. In fact, the conclusions of all the studio commentators of this video are that the messages are not from heaven at all, but are the work of Satan. In fact, nowhere on the cover does the video indicate the position its commentators will unilaterally take—that the Virgin Mary has not appeared in Church-approved Marian apparitions, but rather that the devil has deceived Catholics. The cover features a traditionally Catholic image of the Blessed Virgin standing on the globe. The video touts itself as “A Biblical Examination of the Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the End Times.” The back cover features similarly innocuous language with real photos from real apparitions. One could easily be duped into buying this polemic, thinking it’s a Catholic presentation. One could mistakenly confuse this “Eternal Productions” piece with one from the internationally known Eternal Word Television Network, watched by millions around the globe.

But the deception does not end there. For 18 minutes in the video, a fairly decent presentation of the apparitions is set forth with little negative tone. Catholics at this point may think they are viewing a legitimate documentary. But what the producers of this video have done is set up a “bait-and-switch,” easily recognizable to those who look at their assertions through the lens of logic. After their presentation on the Marian apparitions, they present a number of good proofs for the truth of the Resurrection of Christ—a very useful and inspiring presentation of the truth of the Resurrection—but one can only scratch the head and ponder how this is meant to disprove the veracity of the apparitions. The video’s fundamental assertions are as follows:

The phenomena of worldwide Marian apparitions are an unmistakable reality.

The Bible is the clear and infallible Word of God, the source of all truth, and never therein is it written that God would send the Virgin Mary to convert hearts before the end times.

Therefore, the apparitions are ultimately a work of the devil.

This is a clear fallacy, built on logic that “does not follow.”Their obvious intent is to use the Bible to smite the apparitions. Additionally, the producers of this video give a less-than-favorable depiction of Catholic believers. Based on the tone in the video, it is clear that the producers are casting a certain “judgment” on those who believe in apparitions. The voice of Mary in the apparitions is even given a subtle, synthetic depth to sort of indicate that there is something diabolical at work in Church-approved Marian apparitions.

Furthermore, the video is not simply an attack upon Church-approved Marian apparitions, but upon Catholic doctrine and belief in itself. “Trusting in the Church, trusting in works: none of that will save you,” says Winston Bygrave, Teacher of Religious Education.

Christ the Eikon

The producers of the video also lack a Biblical understanding of images. They take up an ancient iconoclastic criticism of Catholics for their devotion to statues of Mary, citing the Deuteronomic prohibition on the making of images. In the Old Covenant, Israelites fell into worship of idols. They worshipped the images their hands had made.

Yet in the New Testament, Paul states that “Christ is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). But we must look closer at this word “image.” In the Greek, Christ is the eikon of the invisible God; Christ is the icon. The one who was once invisible has made himself visible, and in doing so has himself made an “image.” Has God contradicted his own Word and broken his own commandment? No; that’s impossible. We must try to understand the context of the prohibition against making images in the OldCovenant. The Israelites fell into the worship of the pagan deities. But in the New Covenant, God has taken an image unto himself, Jesus Christ. And so now God is the image to be worshipped. So either God has violated his own commandment, or we have to understand the Old Testament in light of the New.

And how did the God-man Jesus the Christ become this image? Through the fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Catholics have endured centuries of persecution because of their devotion to icons.To allege that Catholics are statue worshippers is an age-old attack, and one through which many Catholics lost their lives in the iconoclastic periods of Church history, when many were martyred because of their love for Christ portrayed in sacred art. Our veneration of images of Our Lady veneration of the person of Mary, not worship of statues, as was the case in the Old Covenant. As to the claim of one of the commentators that Christ predicts Mary worshippers:where is that in Scripture?

Queen of Heaven and the Woman of Revelation

These commentators also complain of the attributes of God in Mary, according to the messages of the approved apparitions. Indeed, and praise God. This is Scriptural. Christ makes us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). Let us also not forget St.Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “What no eye has seen, norearheard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).So it stands to reason that Mary, who is assumed into heaven with a resurrected, glorified body like Christ’s would because of her union be able to be omnipresent. This is not detracting from God but a magnification of him,a glorification of him. That he would in his benevolence and generosity equip a creature with his own nature. “Partakers of the divine nature”—this is Scripture.

Moreover, Mary is able to be present with all believers not through of her own power, but because she is in total and full union with her divine Son, who is omnipresent. One who is fully united in a glorified body with the omnipresent God is mystically sharing in God’s omnipresence also, mystically partaking in the divine nature. This is something we have to look forward to in heaven, but which Mary currently enjoys by virtue of her Assumption body and soul. Plus, we must ask the question, would Jesus make his mother the mother of all “who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev 12:17; cf. Jn 19:25-27) if he were unwilling to equip her with the ability to exercise her motherly role over each and every person?

The speakers in the video seem to take issue with the Queenship of Mary. However, that Mary is Queen is Scriptural,particularly since the Son of David is a royal title for Jesus the King. Solomon, the son of David, ruled over Israel with his mother beside him as queen. Jesus, the son of David, rules over all creation with his mother beside him as queen. Jesus is King of Heaven, his mother is the Queen. The producers have an unscriptural interpretation of Revelation 12 as well. Somehow they liken the woman clothed with the sun of Revelation 12 with the harlot of Babylon of Revelation 17. This interpretation totally defies the context of the scriptural texts.

The woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet is a sign of dominion. If she is clothed with the sun and stands on the moon, then the sun and moon serve her. In ancient times, both the sun and the moon played prominent roles in pagan mysticism. But a woman who is clothed with the sun and has her feet on the moon is clearly greater than both. This woman gives birth to the one who would “rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne”—clearly in reference to Christ. The woman then escaped the pursuit of the dragon via the wings of a great eagle (a symbol which is in reference to St. John the Evangelist, cf. Jn 19:25-27). The dragon then went to make war on the offspring of the woman.

But the speakers go even further. They believe that by in some way separating Mary the Mother of Jesus from the Mary of the apparitions, they can attack the woman of the apparitions.

Commentator Roger Oakland, President of Understand the Times, says,

The Scriptures warn us very clearly that Satan is a master deceiver, and that Satan can actually appear as an angel of light. And we know that the Word of God is light. So Satan can actually manifest himself in the form of the truth or appear to be true, and yet be deceptive.

However, we see what Jesus says when one attacks the integrity of his mother.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says that he speaks of what he has seen with his Father. His interlocutors say that Abraham is their father. But Jesus says had they been children of Abraham, they would do what Abraham had done. They respond, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” Notice what this implies: A direct question of the origins of Jesus, that his father is unknown and that his mother is a fornicator. This dishonoring of the Most Holy Name of God the Father and the Blessed Mother draws a response from Jesus: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (see Jn 8:31-58).

If indeed this woman of the apparitions is the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of Jesus, they have dishonored the mother of the Jesus whom they love by identifying Mary with the whore of Babylon! They commit a Scriptural crime against the Mother of Jesus. Indeed, even identifying the All-Holy Mother of God with the one who is “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev 17:6).

This is a great offense indeed! We must pray very hard for the conversion of those who have produced this video, and those who are lured in by it.

Mediation and Advocacy

Those responsible for this video center their attack upon Catholic doctrine as well.

“It denigrates Jesus Christ,” says Protestant commentator Dave Hunt, author of “In Defense of the Faith.” “Why can’t I go right to him? He’s my Savior. He’s the one who loves me. And he said that we would go to the Father through him. Then where does Mary come in? Not in the Bible.” Interestingly, that we go to the Father through the Son is found in the Gospel of John, the same Gospel that demonstrates Mary’s mediation through her intercession at the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12). There, also, in the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus say to the Beloved Disciple, “Son, behold your Mother” (Jn 19:25-27). When we find Mary, we find Christ. The early Church knew this, as we have record of a prayer dating to the 3rd century.

Under your mercy we take refuge, Mother of God, do not reject our supplications in necessity. But deliver us from danger. You alone chaste, alone blessed.

Ray Viola, senior pastor of Koinonia Fellowship, says that Mary’s Mediation is contrary to Scripture. He quotes Hebrews, which states that Christ “is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25). This verse he holds up somehow in opposition to the mediation of Mary is taken out of its context. Yet, this verse in Hebrews is in reference to the one high priesthood of Jesus Christ. We know that Christ in his one high priesthood mediates through his priests.But Christ the humanity of Christ is essential to exercise a high priesthood. And from whom does Christ derive his humanity? Christ would not be human were it not for the yes of the Virgin.

Viola continues: “For someone to be the mediator between God and man, he had to be fully God, he had to be fully man, he had to be sinless, and Jesus Christ indeed is fully God and fully man.” So was Moses fully God when he made intercession for the people in Ex 32:10-14? Was Paul writing to divine readers when he asked for their intercession in Rom 15:30-31, 2 Cor 13:7, Eph 6:18, Col 1:9, 2 Thess 1:22, Philem 1:22, Heb 13:18, some among many such references to intercession? Consider especially Philippians 1:19: “For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.” So it is clear that in Paul’s eyes mediation comes through the prayers of the faithful—of whom Mary is the first and foremost—and through the Sprit of Jesus Christ.

Regarding the oft-quoted1 Tim 2:5, consider also that the Greeks were worshipping Paul as one among the gods. In the Scriptural context of the passage itself, 1 Tim 2:5, Paul is twice affirming monotheism: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Additionally, four verses previous, Paul asks for mediation: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men”

So Paul is asking for mediation, even though he states that there is one mediator. Can Scripture contradict itself? No. Hence, our separated brethren have somewhat misunderstood this passage and its meaning. It would seem that the true meaning is that there is no mediation between God and man outside of the one mediation of Christ Jesus. All mediation is in and through Christ. Yet, the Protestants in this video cast the apparitions of Mary as if she said that in some way she mediates outside of the one mediation of her son. Our separated brethren cannot show where in the approved apparitions she has said that.

The Immaculate Conception and Coredemption

Raul Ries, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Golden Springs, cites the Magnificat from Luke to suggest that “Mary acknowledges that she’s a sinner and she needs a savior. Here we see by the Scripture that she actually is pleading for Jesus to become her own savior. … Simple, humble, Mary.”

However, while Mary claims God as her savior, it is eisegesis (or projecting external meaning into text) to presume that she is saying that God is her savior from sins of commission. Even had Adam and Eve never sinned in the Garden, they would still need a savior to save them from the lowliness of the earth and deliver them into the heights of Heaven. This is precisely what Mary is so humbly speaking about in the Magnificat when she says, “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:47). If we consider the very next verse, “for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden” (Lk 1:48) we see that God saves Mary precisely in this context. Christ is her savior. But we are not only saved from sins. We are saved from low estate into his kingdom.

But the Fundamentalist commentators bitterly attack the notion of the suffering of Mary with Jesus at the foot of the Cross. Cecil Andrews, Director of “Take Heed” Ministries, based on his understanding of suffering for sin meaning vicarious suffering as a substitute for the sinner, even goes so far as to say, “Mary in no sense suffered for us.”

Says Chuck Missler, Bible Prophecy Researcher:

This whole idea that Mary is to be a co-redemptrix of Jesus Christ is of course contrary to the biblical understanding. It’s one thing to be a little heterodox, it’s one thing to be at the periphery, it’s quite another to go in direct opposition to the central truth of the Bible. … We’re talking here about going head-to-head to the central theme of Gospel. … These assertions are anti-Biblical, not just non-Biblical, and are dangerous.

Contrary to what these commentators say, Paul writes very clearly: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24). Is Paul taking away from the one redemption of Christ? Not in the least; rather, he participates with his cooperation, his coredemption. So now why would Paul be the only cooperator, the only coredeemer, in redemption? If Paul, who was not at the foot of the Cross, can suffer vicariously for the sake of the Church in his flesh, how much more can Mary, who was at the foot of the Cross in the flesh, suffer for our sake and complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions?

Conclusion – Test All Things

“Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15). Let us not think that we are in a different time in the history of the world, free from anti-Catholic attacks. These are “Catholic Witnessing Resources,” and no doubt they have spread far and wide, and perhaps have even been used to de-evangelize many Catholic communities.

We must absolutely test all things—including the video Messages from Heaven. Cloaked in deception, a misinterpretation of Sacred Scripture, and an overt disdain for Catholic belief and worship, we can anticipate the spiritual fruits of such productions: Division, rejection of the Mother of Jesus and her role in giving her flesh to the Eternal Word, and anti-Catholicism. But perhaps what is most dangerous is that productions such as these could cause hesitancy over the legitimate Church-approved apparitions. Many might not take heed to the messages that the Blessed Mother has so lovingly repeated over the past few centuries. In the year that marks the 150th anniversary of Our Blessed Lady’s apparition at Lourdes, we know now more than ever that the world needs the true Queen of Heaven, who herself has received a crown of twelve stars from her the Most Holy Trinity.

Kevin Clarke is a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He publishes a semi-weekly blog, The Charcoal Fire.