The Lord says, “These are the people who wash themselves and make themselves pure so that they can go into their special gardens to worship their idols. They follow each other into the gardens to eat meat from pigs, rats, and other dirty things. But they will all be destroyed together.”
~Isaiah 66:17 (ERV)
So much of the time, due to the topics I often minister on, I refer to this verse with a focus on the second part of it. It is certainly of major concern that many professing Christians today totally ignore the food laws despite passages like this that speak of a time when God will “destroy” people for simply eating unclean things. But the text also says that this outpouring of God’s wrath is not reserved solely for those who eat unclean animals, but also those who worship idols.
I am well aware that there are those who think they know it all and will claim that the language of the text along with practices of Ancient Near East history shows that this is specifically talking about sacred groves and sacred trees in the midst of these gardens. Perhaps it is, but if you are familiar with my teaching you will know that I promote broader interpretations of a text, and a common sense approach to obeying Torah that is based around erring on the side of caution. Some may think this makes me an extremist or a fanatic, and perhaps it does. I’ll thank them for the compliment! I’d rather be fanatical and make it to heaven then be one of the billions of backslidden liberal Christians skipping down that broad path to hell The Bible warns of.
It is quite obvious from a reading of the whole Bible that idolatry in any form is evil and a direct violation of the commandments of our God. So, there really is no harm, in my opinion, with assuming that the text in Isaiah 66:17 would apply to all forms of idolatry. Regardless of whether or not the fulfillment of this prophetic utterance is the destruction of all idolaters or merely those who engaged specifically with worshiping a designated tree in the midst of a sacred grove is insignificant really, as all who engage in idolatry, as well as all who engage in any violation of Yahweh’s Torah, face the possibility of eternity in a lake of fire.
Again, I know there are people today who either do not believe in a literal hell, take an interpretation that the wicked will just be destroyed and have no eternity, or that the concept of hell or a lake of fire is temporary in nature and only serves for the purification of those who did not fully repent in this life. And, again, I say that I believe in erring on the side of caution. Eternity in hell and/or a lake of fire is a long-held theory, among these and other theories about life after this world, and as the most extreme, along with the fact that it can be supported by Scripture, it seems like the logical choice to embrace. If it’s the right belief according to The Bible, then I am right in focusing on it and warning people not to end up there. Even if wrong there is no harm in pushing the “most extreme” theory, as the others are merely “lesser punishments”.
If you have ever been involved in sales, you may have at some point heard the phrase: Under promise and over deliver. It simply means that you promise as little as you can so that when you actually provide a product or service to a client or customer they will be more impressed by it because they will feel they got more than they thought. Whether that is true or not.
The same concept would apply here. If I tell you that there is a real hell and it is eternal, and it turns out to be less than that, then it would be at least some relief should you choose not to heed the warnings and ultimately end up either in a temporary punishment for “purification” or merely cease to exist at all and never experience punishment for your choice to reject God and His Word and live in your sin.
Idolatry In Modern Culture
So much of the time when the word idolatry is mentioned people generally think of the practitioners of some exotic religion where people make little statues of their “gods” to worship them. Yes, that is a type of idolatry, but apart from those who may go into foreign Christian missions it is not something we encounter much today. Quite simply, the worship of false gods through the use of idol statues really isn’t a problem in a predominantly Christian society (regardless of how “Christian” that society actually is or is not).
Today it seems that idolatry takes on more subtle forms than the actually established carved and molded idols of times past. Yes, those things still exist in parts of the world, but in a culture where the majority of people still claim to be “Christians” there is not too much of that type of idol-worship going on today. So, let’s take a look at what are the issues of concern today.
A lot of movies are being made in recent years about popular comic book characters. This is no doubt the result of those who grew up with these characters now being in positions to create Hollywood-level movies. And what better than to create a feature film about your favorite “superhero”? But many of these characters take their inspiration directly from pagan religion.
Thor, for example, is a god in the Norse Pagan Religion’s pantheon of gods. Aquaman’s storyline includes connections with the Roman god Neptune, known also as Poseidon in Greek paganism. Looking at a list of comic book characters you can easily find other examples, even if not as popular with fans. Now, I really don’t watch a lot of fictional movies, but even when I do I assure you that they are not based on the idolatrous demon-gods of pagan religions.
This one will likely not win me many friends, but the popular Starbucks® brand, which in known for its coffee, has as its company logo a Celtic goddess named Melusine—a twin-tailed mermaid creature of sorts. And that is not the only one, I have seen other coffee companies using what appears to be a goddess character as their corporate logo as well, perhaps trying to emulate the great success of Starbucks®. I recently heard someone who loves their coffee products say that they believe there will be Starbucks® in heaven. Well, there might be coffee in heaven, but I promise you it will not be made by anyone who pays homage to pagan religion by putting a demonic mermaid-goddess on their coffee cups. Consider this statement from the late Dr. Lester Sumrall, who most Pentecostal Christians still consider to be the foremost expert on demonology of the entire Pentecostal Movement, as stated in his book Demons: The Answer Book regarding matters exactly like this and the movie characters mentioned above:
America’s climate today makes such “harmless” activities as these fairly commonplace. The influence of godliness and righteousness in our nation has waned; most people are spiritually starved, although forty-three percent attend church with some degree of regularity. This moral bankruptcy fosters the ideal environment for the occult and superstitions.
Sumrall was once asked about demonic symbols, and in his answer he said: “The devil has symbols of his power. And you had better take notice of them. As Christians, we should not have symbols of the devil’s power in our possession. These symbols may have strength you don’t know about. So, you should be careful with them and about them.” In another question about things like magic, ventriloquism, Halloween costumes, and the like, he very plainly declared, “Don’t play with things connected with demon power, leave them alone.” Think hard about this statement, especially with regard to the next thing I am going to discuss.
Another trend I am seeing everywhere today is the appearance of unicorn imagery literally everywhere. You almost can’t go anywhere today without being bombarded by these “mythical creatures”. I even saw a product during the winter holiday season that had a picture of a Santa Claus—another character that comes directly from Norse Pagan mythology, inspired by the god Odin, part of the same pantheon as Thor—with his sleigh being pulled through the air not by the traditional flying reindeer but a fleet of unicorns. What it seems many Christians today are completely ignorant of, however, is that these creatures are an important part of the occult (Satanism, devil-worship) and Wicca (a religion of witchcraft).
Part of the legend involving unicorns is that they can only be enticed by a virgin girl and if a non-virgin girl tries to entice one, it will recognize the deception and devour the imposter. This is very typical of mythologies from things like witchcraft and paganism. Look at what is stated about witchcraft in the Handbook Of Today’s Religions by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart:
Witchcraft is known as the “Old Religion” and is an ancient practice dating back to biblical times. Witchcraft can be defined as the performance of magic forbidden by God for non-biblical ends. The word witchcraft is related to the old English word wiccian, “practice of magical arts.”
It was during the Middle Ages that witchcraft experienced a great revival. It was an age where everyone believed in the supernatural and superstition abounded. Roger Hart expressed the climate in the following manner:
The people of medieval Europe shared a deep belief in the supernatural. The kingdom of darkness, with its devils and evil spirits, was as real and personal as the Kingdom of Heaven: Magic could be as powerful as prayer.
The idea of supernatural spirits was universal and ordinary folk everywhere believed in demons, imps, goblins, hob-goblins, poltergeists, and other spirits, and in legendary creatures such as vampires, werewolves and unicorns (Roger Hart, Witchcraft, New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1971, p. 11). [emphasis added]
If someone wanted to become a witch, there was an initiation process. Some of the techniques were simple and some were complicated, but there were usually two requirements. The first requirement was that the would-be witch must join of his or her own free will. The second requirement was that the prospective witch must be willing to worship the devil.
What is being confirmed here by Hart and validated by McDowell and Stewart through inclusion in this theological standard on pagan religions and the occult is that unicorns are a part of witchcraft, Wicca, and the occult (Satan worship in general). Those “cute, cartoonish” unicorns you see on clothing and toys catering primarily to young girls, but also to boys in some cases, is something you’d be best to stay away from.
In researching this I came across several Wiccan Spell Books that require images of unicorns in actual witchcraft spells that one can perform. I’ll not dare cite these spells, even in part, or state the titles of such books. And I advise against looking them up yourself, apart from verifying that what I am telling you is true. I know there will be some naysayers who will say this is a “weak argument” because of other elements used in spells, which would include general food items among other things. They will claim that if we shun unicorns or other imagery of this kind for this reason we would have to shun everything used to cast spells. The difference is that a food item or something else God created is being used in a way it was not intended whereas demonic symbols and imagery were not created by God in the first place.
You might think they are harmless, but when you get these things for your children you are literally inviting demons into their life. And, in my experience, Christian parents who accept these things typically do not read The Bible and have no real prayer life so they aren’t even trying to come against these devils and their children have no example of how to fight them either. In other cases they might read their Bible but they are among the ranks of those who think teaching like this is sensational nonsense, so again they do not take demonology serious and are not inclined to go into spiritual warfare for the protection of their children.
Something else I have noticed is that unicorn imagery is becoming strongly associated with the LGBT Movement, which promotes the acceptance of homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. This may be the reason why so many of the unicorn images currently being marketed are combined with rainbow coloration. The rainbow is supposed to be a symbol of the covenant God made with Noah that extends to all of Noah’s descendants, of which I will remind you includes you. If you believe the biblical record, then you should believe that you are a descendant of Noah. Rainbows being used to promote the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender agenda or combined with symbols of witchcraft and devil-worship are something no serious Christian should want to embrace as acceptable in their life. Any professing Believer who sees no problem with things like unicorns is either ignorant, of which there is still some hope as they may be receptive to the truth if presented to them, or they are just plain defiant to the God they claim they serve.
There is a LOT of demonic imagery making its way into children’s toys, clothing, and programming on television these days. It’s certainly not limited to unicorns, though they are currently the most prominent of demonic symbols at the time of this writing. The Walt Disney Company is notorious for it, with everything from genies to witches in their princess movies. I recently saw one such movie that centered on the ancient “mother earth goddess” paganism—what is often known as Gaia. There are also educational cartoons being made with genies, unicorns, witches, goblins, trolls, mermaids, dragons, fairies, and so many other demonic mythical creatures.
There is a cartoon that teaches kids word formation called Wallykazam where all the characters are things like trolls, goblins, and witches. There is another cartoon airing called Vampirina about a vampire girl and her family. What these things are doing is training children to want to worship the devil and become a witch of their own free will, the two requirements to enter real witchcraft. There are other cartoons that you can use to educate your children, they don’t need to watch the ones that tell them that demonic symbolism is fun.
It’s amazing to me how many Christian parents raise their children on this stuff and then seem baffled when they become teenagers and explore things like Bloody Mary, Ouji Boards, Levitation, and other forms of ACTUAL witchcraft and Wiccan religion. They don’t understand that they opened the door for that because of what cartoons they let their children watch when they were little.
Don’t play with things connected with demon power, leave them alone.
~Dr. Lester Sumrall
Here’s the thing. I have seen people speak against these things, and then I have heard others turn and say things like, “Well, you know, he has his convictions and that’s fine, I can respect that, I just don’t share those convictions.” “It’s only a movie,” they say, or, “It’s just a cup of coffee”. “You know, unicorns and such are just make-believe fairy-tale creatures, they are harmless.” But I want to ask you a question, all convictions—or lack thereof—aside, in light of the knowledge of where these things originate, what their inspirations are, or how important they are to occult and witchcraft practices:
ARE YOU 100% SURE THAT YOUR GOD IS OK WITH ANY OF THIS?
Think long and hard about that question. How can you possibly be confident to the point of a 100% certainty that the same God who tells us in His Torah not to worship other gods, not to come into his presence with other gods, not to be entertained by other gods, and not to use the worship practices used by pagan peoples in the worship of their gods to worship our God approves of any of this? How can you be certain that YOUR God is accepting of you watching a movie where the lead character comes out of pagan religion or that the cup your coffee is in has a pagan goddess prominently displayed on it?
You cannot be so certain about this, and if you cannot be certain about it the possibility exists that YOUR God sees this as idolatry and pagan worship. It doesn’t matter what you think, what you want to say it means to you, or however else you might try to justify it in your mind. If even the possibility exists that YOUR God sees these things as acts of idolatry and devil-worship than that should be the only thing that matters to you. Because if that’s how YOUR God sees this and you insist on doing it anyway, despite warnings like this, then you have not just engaged in idolatry, you are now engaged in open and intentional idolatry because you have been made plainly aware of this. You are literally spitting in the face of the God you claim is YOUR God. And, according to Hebrews 10:26, you might not even be able to be forgiven by YOUR God if you are doing this in open defiance having come to know the truth.
I know professing Christians who will not eat a bite of pork, because they “follow Torah”, but they think nothing of drinking coffee out of the cup with the demon-goddess on it. They’ll celebrate the Feasts of God from the Torah, because they “follow Torah”, but they will also watch all these comic book movies, including the ones featuring the characters inspired by pagan gods. When it comes to obeying The Bible, you can’t just do what’s popular or what you are comfortable with. You have to obey The Bible. Period.
I’m not saying all this to instill fear in you. Yes, we should fear God and keep His commandments, that’s scriptural and The Bible says that this is what being human is all about; it’s the whole duty of a man (see Ecclesiastes 12:13). But really, obedience should always be the result of our salvation and our love for God. Fearing God should also be the result of our love for God, which would ensure that we are not obeying out of fearing the wrath of God. But I can tell you this much: All that aside, if you are violating the Word of God and you are called to stand before Him before you repent of it, I believe you will find yourself on the receiving end of the wrath of an angry God.
I know there are theologians today dismissing the notion of an angry God. I know there are those who would say that there is no place today for the “hell, fire, and brimstone preaching” of generations past. But you better be careful if you are so inclined to embrace such things. God’s wrath is recorded throughout the text of The Bible, and if there is any chance that His wrath is indeed the wrath portrayed by the revivalists of a bygone era you do not want to find yourself on the wrong side of it. Just obey The Bible! It’s not like it’s a hard thing to do… if you are really saved and really love Yahweh.
Now, I’m not saying every movie is “bad” or that you should be afraid to go into a restaurant for a meal just because they might have something like a statue of Buddha displayed in their entryway. He that is in us (Yahweh) is greater than he that is in the world, and I get that. But stop and think about some of these things.
Going back to the Disney movies, one thing I was really impressed by is how the very popular Frozen movie presented the young queen’s witchcraft as something evil. Yes, in the end it was “controlled” and being used for the “good of the kingdom”. But the very fact that it was presented as a form of evil makes it so much easier to teach your child that it indeed is evil, if you decide to allow your children to watch that one. The movie with the “mother earth goddess” thing going on, Moana, also presents a cultural theme with the island tribe. This is a positive thing that inspires children to learn to love all people.
So, in some cases you may be able to watch these movies with your kids, allow them to not look “weird” around other kids, and use content in the movie itself to show them how certain things are evil in God’s eyes. But in other cases, especially as an adult Believer in Yahweh, if you have a choice, choose wisely. Children, especially young ones, don’t always understand why they are not allowed to do something, so you might need to make a difficult decision to “guide them” through a cartoon movie that all their friends get to watch. Adult Believers, on the other hand, really have no valid excuse to entertain themselves with things they know are demonic.
Is there a comic book character not connected to pagan religion? Watch the movie about that one if you have that much of a desire to watch such movies. Is there a place to buy a cup of coffee that doesn’t put the image of a pagan god or goddess on their cups? Go there to buy your coffee (and you’ll probably save a few dollars in the process). Is there a restaurant option that doesn’t have elements of pagan worship on display? Eat there instead!
This is not about being legalistic or being afraid to be around pagan idols. It’s about how much do you love and honor Yahweh that you would honor His commandments and not engage in idolatry or have any other gods before Him or in His presence? And by the way, a major part of that commandment is being in God’s presence with another god. So when you have your cup of pagan-goddess coffee and go to some type of worship gathering, prayer meeting, or fellowship with other Believers to be in Yahweh’s presence, you are literally coming before Him with another god. That’s the FIRST of the Ten Commandments! Think about that.
I honestly don’t really understand why Christians would even be drawn to watch most movies, listen to worldly music, buy things that pay homage to pagan idols and elements of witchcraft, or anything else connected with devil-worship except MAYBE for research purposes into the culture we are supposed to be standing against. I don’t listen to secular music in my home or car, and if I am out in public where I have no choice, I still choose to ignore it as much as possible. Practically all of what I watch on television is educational and even what is not that educational is still telling me things about the culture of our day more than anything else. I am pretty confident that most anything I watch on television is useful in some way to learning something I can use for Kingdom work. And even at that, there are things I absolutely will not watch—movies that feature characters modeled after pagan gods are certainly toward the top of that list, probably right below pornographic programming.
Meat Sacrificed To Idols
One thing I have heard coming out lately is a lot of teaching regarding what Paul said about meat offered to idols and then sold in the marketplaces. If you are familiar with the passages, you know that Paul essentially taught that it was permissible to purchase meat from a market for your own personal sustenance without regard to whether or not it was used in temple worship to pagan gods prior to it being sold in the market (see Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10).
Often this raises questions about what this means and whether or not it is “wrong” to eat meat offered to idols today, as a Christian. This is usually not much of an issue, but one area where it comes up is in regard to meats that are certified halal. This is an Islamic certification that requires the animal to be slaughtered facing Mecca while a Muslim prayer to Allah is recited. This would clearly seem like the practice of sacrificing the animal to an idol and subsequently the meat being sold at the marketplace.
Recently I heard one of today’s most popular preachers rambling on about how he can eat meat offered to idols if he wants to, because he apparently thinks Paul gives him such permission. I watched a video of another prominent Hebrew Roots ministry that actually dug deep into it and seemingly concluded, perhaps surprisingly to some, that the only real prohibition is against engaging in the actual idol worship itself, and so even meats labels in such a way to declare they were offered to an idol or pagan god—as in the case of meats labeled halal—would be acceptable even for Christians to eat them.
I have no issue with the teaching done by these ministries; they made their points and supported them with arguments for their case. It’s not so much a matter of whether they were right or wrong, but that there is a major factor I feel was overlooked, and that is the common sense factor. What is the common sense factor regarding this issue? It is the fact that there is no actual need for most Christian today to buy meats certified halal or in any other way marked to indicate the animal was used in some type of pagan worship. Further, no matter how good the argument may be—and I agree we cannot force something into the text of Scripture that isn’t there—I’m not convinced that we can say wholly and dogmatically that something like a halal certified animal meat product is permitted to be purchased and eaten in the privacy of your home, so long as you aren’t actually yourself worshiping an idol or the deity of another religion.
Now, let me interject here that there are people accepting faith in Messiah in Islamic dominated countries, and perhaps it is difficult or even impossible for them to get meats without them being halal. Because I believe there is a genuine need, based on Scripture and science, for humans to eat some amount of animal meat (from biblically clean animals, of course) then perhaps in such an extreme scenario a true Believer may be free to use the extremes of Scripture interpretation to validate eating the halal meats because literally nothing else is available. If nothing else, we have the situation regarding Passover where it is commanded to eat lamb with bitter herbs. If the only lamb meat available to a convert to Judeo-Christian faith was from an animal sacrificed to Allah, the commandment to keep the Passover may override the commandment not to eat meat offered to an idol. In Rabbinic thought, historically, a positive commandment (do this) always overrides a negative commandment (do not do this). But, again, this is an extreme and very unique situation. Most Christians do not live in nations under Muslim control, so this will never really be a problem for them. Don’t use extreme and rare scenarios that don’t apply to you to justify doing something that might cause YOU to wind up in hell.
Let’s just assume for a moment that the simplest answer is the right answer. In this case, the simplest answer is that if the meat is marked as having been dedicated to a god of another religion, then it is to be avoided. There is really no good reason to seek out lengthy explanations to justify doing something that pushes the line on a commandment from The Bible, and especially one referenced in Torah.
Let’s look at it from another perspective. I have written extensively about the matter of tattoos in a message titled The Mark Of God. The commandment in Leviticus 19:28 plainly says not to get a tattoo. There shouldn’t even be a discussion beyond that. These people that are stretching and pulling other Scriptures or even reading into the commandment things like “It’s only talking about getting tattoos for the dead” are missing it. What happens if they are wrong? Why can’t they just plainly obey the plain commandment? Is the tattoo bringing you closer to God? How can it after He plainly commanded against it? Is the tattoo a prerequisite to salvation? How silly to even think such a thing!
We need to approach The Bible, especially regarding commandments, with common sense and always, always, ALWAYS err on the side of caution. If you get a tattoo, and you were wrong, you have a problem. If you don’t get one, you have nothing to worry about. If you buy the halal meat and you are wrong, you have a problem. If you don’t buy it, you have nothing to worry about. If you think nothing of unicorns or mermaids or Thor and Aquaman and you are wrong, you have a problem. If you eat pork or shellfish and you are wrong, when you stand face-to-face with God you will have a problem. Why is this so difficult for people to understand? Why do so many so-called “Christians” feel the need to try to figure out what they can get away with at the risk of being wrong?
Remember, when it’s all said and done, you WILL stand before God in judgment. You WILL be sent to one of two possible destinations. Is a tattoo or a piece of meat dedicated to an idol or an opportunity to work and get overtime pay on the Sabbath or celebrating the highly questionable secular-pagan holidays of Christmas and Easter or whatever else “Christians” try to justify really worth it? What if those things cause you to go to hell? I’m not saying they will, I’m just asking you to consider: What if they do? Do you really want to hear the words, “Depart from Me, worker of lawlessness, I never knew you,” over something as petty as a tattoo or a piece of meat? You better take some time and really think hard about that if you are one of these folks trying to find justification for these things!
Really, I don’t even understand the basis of the argument to try and figure out if it’s OK to eat something previously offered to a god other than Yahweh. I simply cannot wrap my head around the debate. It seems that the only reason why any ministry would dig this deep and try to offer any potential justification for it is either: 1. They somehow think that it will gain them some type of credibility among their followers, despite justifying something that is highly questionable to begin with, just because they can “support their argument” with the points they are using, or, and perhaps much more concerning, 2. They actually want to eat meats offered to idols or at least feel like they are allowed to do it. My question, especially to the latter, is: Why would you want to? Why would any professing “Christian” want to do anything that might remotely be outright rebellion against God and defiance of His Torah? Quite simply, if someone is a true Believer, THEY WON’T WANT TO!
If you are truly committed to serving Yahweh, the God of The Bible, you won’t want to eat some halal meat offered to Allah. An actually saved person won’t want to eat something offered to Baal, or Molech, or Diana, or Zeus, or any god, modern or ancient, other than YOUR GOD.
It’s nothing more than idolatry to even try and find a loophole to justify doing this or anything else that violates a commandment—any commandment anywhere in The Bible. The commandment says not to eat meat offered to an idol. If you need to dig deeper than that to figure out whether or not it’s OK to eat meat offered to an idol, then you have a heart condition that is not completely sold out to serving the God you claim to be submitted to in the first place.
Yes, Paul gave permission to eat meat sold in the market, even meat that may have been offered to an idol or a pagan god… IF YOU DON’T KNOW IT WAS OFFERED TO AN IDOL OR PAGAN GOD. In 1 Corinthians 10:28 Paul says that once you are told that the meat was offered to an idol, you are no longer free to eat it. One can argue, I suppose, that the reasons he gave still “permits you” to eat meats offered to an idol. But, again, why would you even want to? The moment it is made known to you that it was offered in idolatrous worship to some pagan god is the moment you should have no problem going to the next portion of meat being sold. And let me add, while Paul did say that it’s for the sake of others, it still stands that he said once it’s made known to you it is not to be eaten. Regardless of the “why” behind it, the commandment stands that if you know it was offered to an idol you are not to partake of it. Why is this so difficult for people to understand?
If I saw a cut of beef in the market marked as certified halal my thought is not going to be “Oh, good, let me get this halal meat so I can stick it to all those religious legalists and show them that God will not smite me for eating it.” I have no desire for that thing because it’s part of a demonic religion, and quite frankly any “professing Christian” who thinks it OK to buy Muslim meat is someone I would wonder if they are really even saved at all. Even those I mentioned a moment ago who are trapped in a Muslim nation should only eat halal meats with disdain, despising the fact that they are forced to eat such meats and longing for our God to deliver them from such bondage. And if they are truly saved, they will do just that!
Idolatry Or Evangelism?
With all of this information I am giving you about idolatry, there is something I do want to mention to help you if someone perhaps falsely accuses you of committing idolatry. Over the years I have noticed that some well-meaning Christians will say something like: “Anything can become an idol in your life”. In so doing, I have heard people say such ridiculous things as “going to Church can be an idol” or “Ministry can be an idol” if you put them before your “personal relationship with God”. I’ve never quite understood how attending a fellowship of Believers or ministering to people can become an idol; it just sounds ludicrous when you think about it. Let me try to illustrate this issue with a scenario that took place recently, of which I was involved.
Not too long ago, during the month of December, I was pushing a lot of teachings about the origins and influences of “Christmas”, along with quotes from some very prominent ministers of the past, including A.W. Tozer, Charles H. Spurgeon, and A.W. Pink opposing the celebration of this secular-pagan holiday. I had shared a social media post from a known and respected Torah-teaching minister, not so much because I agreed with everything he stated but because he made a very valid and concerning point that caught my attention.
He said that many Pastors know the truth but still won’t disband the celebration of things like “Christmas” and “Easter” in their Churches because that is when the offerings are the biggest of the whole year. I would add to his concern that services during these popular holidays draw larger attendance and sometimes even those Pastors with correct motives see this as a chance to introduce more people to the Gospel. What “gospel” you can present in the midst of blasphemy is another topic for another time I suppose.
Let me interject here before going on, that I am not putting this segment into this message to specifically talk about why we, as true Believers, should not celebrate things like “Christmas”, “Easter”, “Halloween”, or any other unbiblical holiday. I have entire articles on each of these holidays that address them in more detail. I also have full articles on the Feasts of Yahweh, that are in The Bible, and how they are so much better than the unbiblical celebrations of the secular world. What I am sharing here is merely to illustrate a point.
In the dialogue that followed on this post I shared, things got a little heated with one particular person who had previously taken a similar stance against these highly questionable holidays, but for whatever reason has chosen to go back to celebrating “Christmas”. Now, it should be noted, this is not to attack a Brother in Messiah, thus the reason I am not posting his name. In the end I deleted all of the comments made on the public discussion and chose to cut ties with the guy because we clearly do not agree and I felt it would not be healthy to keep the door open for repeating dialogue of this nature with him. But I am leading up to a point I want to make here.
In the dialogue, it was stated by another contributor—someone I consider a good friend and whose ministry I often glean insights from—that I was making a bigger deal about “Christmas” than even Christians who celebrate it. As such, it was suggested or alluded to that I was in idolatry because of how much emphasis I was putting into my “war against Christmas”. This was a big part of why I deleted the comments and cut ties with the other fellow. But not because I felt convicted and he was right is suggesting I was committing some form of idolatry. Allow me to continue…
I would agree that it was idolatrous if I was just trying to get attention or take advantage of the fact that some people get so caught up in the more sensational teachings as opposed to those that are foundational. I should note that there is nothing wrong with sensationalism if it is based on a solid and credible theory. The problems are often caused by teachings what can be proven wrong but people push them anyway because they are popular. It is important to understand the difference because I see some ministries today that are so afraid to be wrong about something that they will shun and even attack anything they consider even the slightest bit questionable or sensational.
So, of course it would be idolatry if I were just trying to make a name for myself or something like that. But what if I told you that I genuinely believe that there is at least a chance, whether small or great, that celebrating these secular-pagan holidays like Christmas, Easter, and even Halloween (and I will never understand why Christians think Halloween in any form is OK)—that are found nowhere in The Bible—could cause people to be cast into hell, whatever your particular view of hell or eternal separation from God may be? This changes things.
Approaching the matter from this perspective, you can no longer call it idolatry if someone genuinely believes there is a chance that people are going to be eternally separated from God over something like celebrating “Christmas” or “Easter” or any other unbiblical thing. You must now consider that this passion driven by conviction is based wholly in that old Moravian saying: The apex of all Christian endeavor must be to place the jewel of a soul in the crown of our Savior. As such, committing so much time and energy to speaking against holidays like “Christmas” and “Easter” or any other potentially idolatrous or pagan activity, more than what any Christian commits to their celebration of it, is no longer something “concerning” but the very thing we who hold such a conviction should be doing.
In other words, it’s not idolatry if I or anyone else thinks you are going to hell and are exhausting every effort possible to stop you. That’s called preaching the Gospel of Yeshua.
Committing Idolatry Without Knowing It
To follow on this line of thought with reference to the “holiday” talks, as well as many other cultural interests that may have connections to idolatry and pagan religion—things like yoga come up often, which has connections to Eastern mystic religions—there are often numerous biblical references and examples that are brought up. Among them are the golden calves, altars to Baal, Asherah poles, and children dedicated to Molech. Many also like to go to Deuteronomy 12. And for good reason, as the passage says that we should not take practices from pagan religions and idolatry and rebrand them into worship of Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
As it is one of the two major times of the year these discussions come up (about a month before Christmas or Easter), I was turned on to some teachings I had not reviewed in the past. One of them was a teaching conducted in a discussion format with Dr. Michael Heiser, a well respected theologian, focused on Christmas and the December 25th date.
Like many similar pieces I have looked at, there was the typical “maybe” attitude. Maybe there’s a pagan connection, maybe not, we really can’t be sure. In one statement it is even admitted that there “could be” links to idolatry and pagan religion.
But something else jumped out at me in this one. I came across this statement: “They’re going to call it things like idolatry. So idolatry, however… really I would say it requires willful worship—or maybe knowing… You kind of know what you’re doing. ‘I’m doing this thing as an act of worship.’”
So, according to this claim you would have to know the full history behind the idolatry before you are actually committing idolatry. I will have to respectfully disagree with this. Why?
Numbers 15:22-31 and Hebrews 10:26-27, along with other less-direct passages, note that there is a distinction between sins committed out of ignorance and sins committed with intent. If you know something is based in idolatry or paganism, and you discard that knowledge to do it anyway, that would be sinning with willful intent. But if you don’t know it’s connected to idolatry or paganism, that doesn’t change the fact that it is, in fact, connected to it.
To be clear, while I am referring to an example from a discussion on Christmas, I am not specifically talking about that “holiday” or claiming that it is based in paganism. The endless debate on that celebration and its counterpart (Easter) will likely never come to a conclusion, though I do think because of that we should treat it like it is since that whole “maybe it is” continues to linger.
What I am saying is that there are clear parameters in Scripture for sins committed in ignorance. But these actions are still called sin. On top of that, as much as people don’t want to hear it, both Numbers 15 and Hebrews 10 agree that these sins committed in ignorance are the only category of the two that can be covered through a sacrifice—and I will remind you, Hebrews 10 contextually is referring to the sacrifice and shed blood of Yeshua. I hope you will think long and hard about that the next time and every time you find yourself thinking about doing something The Bible says not to do.
So, while I appreciate the contributions great thinkers like Dr. Heiser make to theological learning, I feel in this case he missed it, even if merely a simple overlooking of this biblical distinction of sins of ignorance and sins of intent. As such, my conclusion, whether we are talking about sins of idolatry or assimilating with pagan religious practices or any other transgression of God’s Torah, is that it doesn’t really matter if you know better or not: sin is sin. The difference is you clearly have an opportunity to repent once you have been made aware you are sinning in ignorance, while the record indicates that possibility might be exhausted if you know something violates God’s Torah and you decide to do it anyway.
If you are interested in listening to it or opening the transcript to read Dr. Heiser’s teaching click this link to go to the page where it is shared: Is Christmas A Pagan Holiday?
Pagan, Then And Now
Something else I have seen argued is that the word pagan originates from a Latin word “paganus”, which was a derogatory word meaning villager, rustic, or civilian. It was basically like calling someone a peasant. So, the argument goes that the term didn’t originally have a religious connotation and thus it shouldn’t be so flippantly thrown around toward those who do things that seem to oppose Judeo-Christian faith (a faith that is based on The Bible and its instructions to those who believe in the God of that Bible).
The problem with this line of thought should be obvious. You simply cannot take original or antiquated meanings of a word and spin them like this. It is irresponsible and misleading. Many words today have multiple meaning, despite the same spelling. This ranges from differing definitions of the same word to a word being used, without a change in spelling, as both a noun and a verb.
Take, for example, the word gay. About a hundred years ago most who used this word were using it in its “original meaning”, which was simply an expression of joy. Today it is the standard word used for homosexuality. Thus, if I said “John is gay” in 1930 it would likely have a completely different meaning to the hearer than if I said it today. So, should we throw out the modern definition of the word and assume anyone who says they are gay, including the growing number of “pastors” who make the claim, are simply saying they are full of joy? That would seem absurd. We would automatically assume they are expressing a homosexual or lesbian lifestyle unless they clarified that they were using the word to express basic joy.
The same is true with the use of the words pagan or paganism. When Believers say it today, clearly they are expressing something that is both religious in nature and outside of the parameters of The Bible. We must always be very careful we are not misleading people.
People will say that they cannot prove one way or another on many issues I have brought up. You know, just because unicorns are used by pagan witches to cast spells doesn’t “prove” that they are demonic. Just because Thor was an established pagan god doesn’t “prove” that it’s wrong to watch the movies. Just because Christmas and Easter appear to be connected to Saturnalia/Yule and Eostre, respectively, doesn’t “prove” that they are evil pagan holidays and counterfeits of God’s Holy Days, the Feasts.
Again, you better be careful. Remember, everyone you have any influence on has an eternal destination at stake—heaven or hell—that could sway one way or the other based on your teachings or the beliefs you express. Ezekiel warns that if you don’t warn the wicked of their wickedness then their blood will be on your hands. Do you really want to stand before God with blood on your hands? You better think about that before you compromise a previously held conviction. You better meditate on my prophetic call before you say something that will lead people to embrace something that God might hate.
Whenever you have a matter where something is not in and/or approved of by The Bible and people are debating about whether it may or may not be linked to idolatry or pagan religion, the burden or proof always falls on those who want to say it’s not. If it cannot be proven one way or another, the only logical thing to do is renounce it. Something not in The Bible cannot be imposed as an obligation on The Believer and if there is any chance at all that it derived from or is connected to idolatrous or pagan religious practices it may have a negative impact on your salvation—in other words, it could be the very thing that causes God to say to someone at the judgment: “Depart from Me, worker of LAWLESSNESS, I never knew you”. So think long and hard about that before you listen to those taking a more passive stance on matters like these.
No Other Gods
“You shall have no other gods before Me. Do not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or on the earth below or in the water under the earth. Do not bow down to them, do not let anyone make you serve them. For I, Adonai your God, am a jealous God, bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to the thousands of generations of those who love Me and keep My mitzvot.
~Exodus 20:3-6 (TLV)
This passage contains what most consider the first two of the Ten Commandments. Now, I have always felt that these sort of go together as one main commandment to have no other gods before Yahweh. After all, graven idols that one worships would be an act of having another god before our God. But in a way they really are two very separate thoughts.
As I stated earlier, at least part of the commandment to have no other gods before Yahweh is found in not coming into His presence with the imagery of another god. This, as noted earlier, could be something like going to a fellowship meeting of some sort to worship, pray, discuss the Scripture, or in some other way engage in being in the presence of God while holding a cup of coffee that displays another god or goddess on it. It could also be going to such gatherings wearing a t-shirt displaying the imagery of such things as those comic book characters derived from pagan gods or mythological images associated with witchcraft like unicorns, mermaids, or other such things. You may literally be breaking the first of the Ten Commandments by what’s on your coffee cup or your t-shirt, and most Christians today, even with me telling you this, still won’t see any problem at all with doing it anyway.
These would be acts of coming into the presence of YOUR God with the images of other gods. But what about when you are not in a Church or fellowship gathering? What about when you are driving alone in your car with nobody around? Or if you are working at your job and not actually engaged in any type of fellowship or religious activities?
Shouldn’t you always consider yourself to be in the presence of God?
It never ceases to amaze me the way Christians in all circles will try to justify things that they would do good to just leave alone. As a Believer, I have simply never understood people who claim that they place their faith in the God of The Bible but then try to justify things that even appear to oppose The Bible or cross the boundaries into idolatry or pagan worship practices.
Even the most liberal of Christians will often defend the validity of the Ten Commandments. Yes, I know there are people today going as far as telling Christianity to throw them out and “unhitch ourselves from the ‘Old testament’”. But that is at least still rare and receiving of much ridicule. Thankfully, most Christians still think the people pushing those doctrines are heretics. Very few Christians would actually claim that it is acceptable to commit idolatry or have other gods before our God.
Yet, despite this, as I have shown throughout this message, many professing Christians actually are putting other gods before Yahweh. They actually are worshiping idols, or at the very least ignorantly embracing them in their choices of entertainment.
Think about all the accounts in The Bible of those who turned from the commandments of God and embraced idolatry. Whether the golden calf in Exodus, the plethora of idolatrous practices found throughout 1 & 2 Kings, or the warnings of the Prophets against such things as passing children through the fires of Molech, there are plenty of examples of people practicing some form of idolatry or pagan worship. In Kings we see it over, and over, and over, and over again. First Solomon married foreign wives and allowed them to bring their gods into Israel and even put them in Yahweh’s Temple. Just one generation later a trend started where king after king after king did what was evil in God’s eyes: molding golden calves, building alters to Baal, raising Asherah poles, and burning incense in high places. All acts of idolatry and pagan worship!
I bring this up all the time and people say things like, “Oh, that was different. They were worshiping pagan gods. I’m just letting my kid play with a unicorn toy. I’m just watching a movie. I’m just drinking a cup of coffee.” Is that all it is? I once pointed out that the act of Molech worship involved putting a child on the lap of the idol statue in almost the same way children today are placed on the lap of Santa Claus. I was told I was crazy because people don’t burn their children with Santa Claus. What they don’t realize is that it was only the most extreme Molech cults that burned their children to death. When you look into it, the practice was a religious ceremony where the children often were not even harmed. They were simply dedicating their babies to this pagan god the way some people dedicate their children to Yahweh, but in the ceremony with Molech they put the child on the statue’s lap.
The thing is, the reason the Israelites did all of these things is not because they just decided to reject their God and convert to other religions. They did these things, as seems apparent in the biblical record, because they simply became popular cultural norms. The trend is very clear. Solomon married foreign women. They brought their culture with them. Their culture included their pagan gods and idols. These things were assimilated into the culture of Israel. And in just one or two generations they became just as “normal” in Israel as the pagan practices used in celebrating things like “Christmas” or “Easter” are in so many Churches today. The Asherah poles and alters to Baal became perceived just as “harmless” in the eyes of the people as unicorns or Thor in the eyes of Christians today. They didn’t see these things as paganism or idolatry. They saw it as just part of their culture. We would do good to think about this when we, as Christians, make statements like Kingdom over culture.
Look, the biggest mistake you can ever make, as a Believer, is to base your choices on what you see other “Christians” doing. I see what Christians find acceptable almost daily thanks to social media. As good as it is to promote the true Gospel message, it also exposes you to more hypocrisy that ever.
Don’t play with things connected with demon power, leave them alone.
~Dr. Lester Sumrall
This from one of the most well-respected ministers of the present age—a man who was considered the top expert on idolatry, paganism, and demon powers. And yet I personally know preachers with the highest levels of influence who claim to have been trained in ministry by this man, Lester Sumrall, who will tell you the exact opposite. One likes to tell a story about how he was going to dinner once with another minister who didn’t want to go into a restaurant because there was a particular idol “guarding” the front door. Instead of accepting and respecting the other person’s desire to honor God, this minister (telling the story) has mocked this person as being scared of an idol and saying that he was going to go in and eat a steak.
Now, it is not my intent to say who was right or wrong in that scenario. But if someone were truly trained by the leading Pentecostal expert in demonology then you would think that they would take demons and idols more serious. Sadly, I have seen him do the opposite of what Dr. Sumrall taught more often than following his teachings.
I hear it all the time: “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Yes, that’s true, but that doesn’t give you free license to play games with demonic idolatrous practices. It doesn’t mean you should go watch a movie where the main character is modeled after a legitimate pagan god that people worship. It doesn’t mean you should buy your children clothes and toys that have demonic imagery like unicorns, mermaids, goblins, trolls, genies, fairies, and other mythological beings associated with witchcraft and devil-worship. It doesn’t mean you should drink beverages out of cups that have the image of a pagan goddess on them.
If you really have God living inside of you, the greater one than he who is in the world, you simply wouldn’t want anything to do with those things. You wouldn’t want to go watch a movie that literally defies your God if your God is living in you. You wouldn’t want to drink anything out of a cup displaying a god or goddess that your God, who says He is a jealous God, hates if your God is living inside of you. You wouldn’t want to have symbols of Satan, Wicca, or the occult in your home if God is living inside of you.
Having God inside of you is not so you can embrace paganism and idolatry to somehow “prove” that He is greater than those things. He said not to come before Him with any other gods. How do you know He has turned and walked off if you try coming before Him with your “other gods”? And before anyone says anything, that doesn’t mean He is leaving or forsaking you. It just means that if you want to play with “other gods”, maybe He’ll just leave you to it and wait for you to reject them and come back to Him alone.
Have no other gods before Yahweh your God. How hard is that? Apparently it’s a difficult thing for some. But if you are really, truly sold out to serving the God of The Bible, then this should not be a problem for you at all. The God, or gods, you showcase are the One or ones you are serving. I leave you with this well-known passage of Scripture, along with a proposed modern-day take on it—not to try and rewrite Scripture, as if I would dare such a thing, but simply to help you the reader apply this verse to the idolatry taking place in modern culture:
If it seems bad to you to worship Adonai, then choose for yourselves today whom you will serve—whether the gods that your fathers worshipped that were beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will worship Adonai!”
~Joshua 24:15 (TLV)
If it seems bad to you to worship Adonai, then choose for yourselves today whom you will serve—whether the gods in the movies you watch or the gods displayed on the food products you consume or the pagan, witchcraft, and demonic symbolism you give your children as toys or any other idolatry popular in today’s culture. But as for me and my household, we will worship Adonai!”
~Joshua 24:15 (Authors Proposed Modern-Day Application)
~Blessings and Shalom~
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