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Section 12A... The Occult/
Idol Worship

 

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Idol Worship... The Spirits Behind The Idols
Carol Brooks

And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk: [Revelation 9:20]

Also See Paganism

ON THIS PAGE

The Warnings Against Idol Worship

Idols.. Actual gods or Representations of gods?

Idols and The Demonic

The Spirits Behind Pagan Gods and Goddesses

The Consequences of Idolatry

Idolatry in Catholicism and Orthodox Churches

Idolatry and Other Religions

The End Of All Idolatry

 

The Warnings Against Idol Worship:
There is considerable debate among Christians as to exactly what constitutes idolatry. However this article is not focused on the visual representations of Jesus and/or other Biblical figures, (which has been dealt with elsewhere), but on any material objects (sculptures, figurines, carvings, paintings etc.) of false gods that have been ascribed with Divinity... or Divine power to which religious worship is directed.

In a number of places the Scripture makes clear that God has no shape or form, and is utterly incomparable; thus no idol, image, idea, or anything comparable to creation could ever capture God's essence. For example, when the Israelites are visited by God (Example... Deuteronomy 4:15), they see no shape or form. While it is true that many verses in the Bible use anthropomorphisms to describe God, (e.g. God's mighty hand, God's finger, etc.), these verses have always been understood as poetic images rather than literal descriptions.

The Biblical condemnation of idolatry, usually defined as worship of any cult image, idea, or object, as opposed to the worship of a monotheistic God, is very strongly worded and found all through Scripture, from cover to cover. It is singled out in the Bible as the most abominable of sins, so much so that the first two commandments state...

    Then God spoke all these words, saying, I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 1] You shall have no other gods before Me.  2] You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,

Note: “Jealous” does not mean He is suspicious or distrustful, but that He demands exclusive devotion.

The warnings about idols extend from one end of the Bible to the other..

    And I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their ordinances, nor defile yourselves with their idols. [Ezekiel 20:18]

    Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. [Matt 4:10-11]

    “… abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. [Acts 15:20]

    And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk: [Revelation 9:20]

The Pauline Epistles contain several admonitions to "flee from idolatry"

    Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. [Romans 1:23-25]

    For this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. [Ephesians 5:5]

    Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; [Colossians 3:5]

    Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you [Galatians 5:19-21]


Idols.. Actual gods or Representations of gods?
 It is not known whether the idolaters of Biblical times believed that the idols they worshipped were actually gods or spirits, or that their idols only were representations of said gods or spirits.

Elijah And The Priests Of Baal
When Elijah challenged the priests of Baal atop of Mount Carmel to persuade their god to perform a miracle, the pagan priests beseeched their god without the use of an idol, which certainly indicates that Baal was not an idol, but rather one of the polytheistic gods that merely could be worshipped through an idol.

The kings words in the story of Bel and the dragon are also telling..

Bel and the Dragon
The Protestant Bible contains 12 chapters in the book of Daniel. However there were two other chapters (13 and 14) which were translated into Greek in the Septuagint, but are considered apocryphal or not belonging to the canonical works accepted as the Bible. [See Section on The Apocrypha]

The story of Bel and the Dragon in the 14th chapter of the Book of Daniel has an interesting account in which the Babylonians had an idol called Bel, for whom they provided “six barrels of fine flour, forty sheep, and six measures of wine” [v.3]. The account continues..

    The king worshiped it and went every day to adore it; but Daniel adored only his God. When the king asked him, "Why do you not adore Bel?" Daniel replied, "Because I worship not idols made with hands, but only the living God who made heaven and earth and has dominion over all mankind." Then the king continued, "You do not think Bel is a living god? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?". [V. 4-5]

Daniel responds that the idol is made of clay covered bronze and thus, cannot eat or drink and then proves by a clever ruse that the sacred meal of Bel is actually consumed at night by the priests and their wives and children, who entered through a secret door when the temple's doors were sealed. However it is clear that some of the population, including the king, believed the idol was a living God.
 

Idols and The Demonic
A false god is an idol, and God did not condemn idolatry throughout the Bible for no purpose.  False gods are clearly associated with the demonic.

The word translated “idols” in Psalm 96:5 (“all the gods of the nations are idols”) is daimonia or “demons” in the Septuagint, which is the ancient Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures. The Septuagint was an old testament source for early Christians and was frequently quoted by NT writers.  From cover to cover, the Bible does not differentiate between sacrifices made to idols and sacrifices made to demons.

    They sacrificed unto demons, which were no God, To gods that they knew not, To new gods that came up of late, Which your fathers dreaded not. [Deuteronomy 32:17]

    “[the Israelites] served their idols, Which became a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons” [Psalm 106: 36,37]

    And I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their ordinances, nor defile yourselves with their idols. [Ezekiel 20:18]

In both the Old and New Testaments the worship of idols (from eidos… form, appearance) is called the worship of unclean spirits, which may be one explanation for the hideous faces given many of these images. In other words the pagan images, the lifeless statues of ancient gods and goddesses were simply the face of the daimonia (demons). Why else would the apostle John warn anyone to beware of an inert, inanimate statue made out of metal or stone..

    My little children, guard yourselves from idols. [1 John 5:21]

Paul was very clear that the Gentiles sacrificed to devils.

    They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread. "You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth. [Deut. 32: 17-18]

    What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.  (1 Cor. 10:19-20),

In the feasts in honor of the gods, wine was poured out as a libation, or drank by the worshippers, but Paul made it very clear that this was the “cup of demons”, and emphatically warned that we cannot commune with the true God and demons as well

    You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. (1 Cor. 10:21).

    And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [2 Corinthians 6:16]
     

Paul’s Reaction To A City Full Of Idols?

    Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. [Acts 17: 16-17]
     

The Spirits Behind Pagan Gods and Goddesses
“Much of what is currently published under the guise of New Age “enlightenment”, is nothing less than Old Age doctrines of nefarious invisible hosts. As in antiquity, so in modern times, those who practice paganism are guilty of worshipping “devils”…

Since the Bible clearly defines idolatry as the worship of demons, and since demons are eternal personalities, which desire the worship of men, it is fair to conclude the characterization of such deities as “Zeus,” “Amun-Ra,” “Demeter,” and “Isis,” were simply the classical names attributed to specific fallen spirits. In other words, Apollo was a real personality; Osiris was a genuine underworld fiend; Hecate actually lived, and still does! The Hindu gods ‘Shiva’ and the eight-armed ‘Kali’ are far more than man made images. The images of the gods (falcon headed statues, animal forms, etc) provided a point of focus. (Kali is even ‘demonic looking’ and is depicted as holding a skull in one of her hands).

It is interesting to note that each of these deities has specific characteristics such as nature, gender and authority which would probably not be the case if they were nothing but man made ‘statues’.” [See The New Age and Devil Worship]
 

The Consequences of Idolatry
A search on the word idols in the Bible turns up well over 100 results, most of which have to do with God’s opinion of idols, His warnings to the man that would have anything to do with them, and what the end result is going to be... both for the idols and those who worship them. Here is a small sampling. 

Isaiah 2 warns about the latter days when “He will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many people”. Isaiah goes on to tell of this day

    For thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they are filled with customs from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners. And their land is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land also is full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots. Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made. And the mean man is bowed down, and the great man is brought low: therefore forgive them not. Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, from before the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be brought low, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day. [Isaiah 2:6-11]

    And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols shall utterly pass away. And men shall go into the caves of the rocks, and into the holes of the earth, from before the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake mightily the earth. In that day men shall cast away their idols of silver, and their idols of gold, which have been made for them to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the caverns of the rocks, and into the clefts of the ragged rocks, from before the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake mightily the earth. [Isaiah 2:17-21]

    The burden of Egypt. Behold, Jehovah rideth upon a swift cloud, and cometh unto Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall tremble at his presence; and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. [Isaiah 19:1]

    For in that day they shall cast away every man his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin. [Isaiah 31:7]

    Let all them be put to shame that serve graven images, That boast themselves of idols: Worship him, all ye gods. [Psalm 97:7]

    And your altars shall become desolate, and your sun-images shall be broken; and I will cast down your slain men before your idols. "I will also lay the dead bodies of the sons of Israel in front of their idols; and I will scatter your bones around your altars. In all your dwelling-places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your sun-images may be hewn down, and your works may be abolished [Ezekiel 6:4-6]

      Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Return ye, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. [Ezekiel 14:6]

And two verses From Revelation

    But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." [Revelation 21:8]

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [a]effeminate, nor homosexuals, [1 Corinthians 6:9]


Idolatry in Catholicism and Orthodox Churches
One of the issues that have divided Catholics and Protestants concerns the use of images in worship, termed in Catholic circles as the veneration of images. To Protestants, this is plain and simple idolatry which is condemned by God in Scripture, notably by the second item of the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, teaches that such veneration is part of a new economy of images that is now permitted by God in view of the truth of the Incarnation of Christ. According to Catholic theology, icons of Christ (as well as of Mary, the angels, and all the Saints) do not violate the intent of the first commandment. [Read The Use Of Images In Worship... Is It Biblical?]
 

Idolatry and Other Religions
Hinduism: In Hinduism, idol worship is called “a superior form of divine worship” [http://www.hinduwebsite.com/idols.asp]. Even the most philosophically sophisticated and ethically advanced Hindus usually worship before idols. To add to which, occult practices such as those condemned in Deuteronomy 18:9-14 [divination, telling fortunes, interpreting omens, consulting a medium etc] are common in Hinduism. [See Section on Hinduism]

Islam itself condemns idolatry, but has fundamentally unbiblical views of God and Salvation. [See Section on Islam]

Buddhism: Although there does not seem to be any evidence of the promoting of idol worship by Buddha, statues of him flood the world of present day Buddhism. The official position is that “The images are erected as a mark of respect and appreciation for the highest achievement of enlightenment and perfection by an extraordinary religious teacher”. Symbols which helps the  Buddhist “recall or to remember the Buddha”. The reality is probably a little different, with very little "pure" Buddhism being practiced in the world today. The ultimate aim of Buddhism is “Nirvana”, a perfect peace of mind that is free from suffering, desire, anger and the cycle of rebirth. The individual becomes one with the universe. [See Section on Buddhism]

Note: that while there may be a certain degree of moral truth in non-biblical religions, when a religion's view of God and salvation is fundamentally false, then it must be considered a false religion, no matter what truth it may teach on ethics or other matters. Both Islam and Buddhism fall into this category.
 

The End Of All Idolatry
In the words of J.C. Ryle

“The end of all idolatry shall one day come. Its doom is fixed. Its overthrow is certain.  Whether in heathen temples, or in so-called Christian Churches, idolatry shall be destroyed at the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then shall the prophecies be fulfilled:

    "The idols will totally disappear" (Isaiah 2:18). 

    "I will destroy your carved images and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands" (Micah 5:13).

    "The LORD will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land" (Zephaniah 2:11).  

    "On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more," declares the LORD Almighty. I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land" (Zechariah 13:2). 

In a word the 97th Psalm will then receive its fulfillment: "The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.  His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols—worship him, all you gods!"

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