For many years, the once revered theological concept of God has been breaking down under the impact of increasing knowledge, as well as liberal, modern thinking. It has been a long time since the artists have depicted God as an old man with a long, white beard. No doubt, few, except children, ever did really think of God in this way. But the concepts of God held by most adherents to Christianity have been based upon the creeds of the Dark Ages. And now, the enlightened professors of theological seminaries are finding it more and more difficult to accept and teach this Dark Age perception of God. No place can be found in their thinking for such a God, and so some have announced that “God is dead.” In reality, it means they no longer find a need for the word god in their moral philosophizing.

The Death of the Gods

“(As there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” —I Corinthians 8:5,6

THE qualities and characteristics we attribute to the God we worship are based upon the things which we believe concerning him. This is in harmony with the teaching of the Bible, which reminds us that the true and living God who is presented in its pages is one who cannot be seen by human eyes. All we can know about him is learned through his Word, and through his creative works with which we are surrounded.

Throughout the ages there have been myriads of gods which have been worshiped and served by mankind. The vast majority of those who worship gods of one sort or another are not satisfied to have them remain invisible. Therefore, they erect images representing the gods of their choice. These tangible idols, they claim, help them to visualize their gods, and hence they purport to be a great aid to faith.

There were a number of prominent gods worshiped by the heathen nations during Old Testament times. One of the great sins of God’s chosen people was their uncontrolled desire to join in this heathen worship of false gods. One of the most popular gods was Baal, who was the supreme male deity of the Phoenician and Canaanitish nations; the female counterpart was Ashtorath. These names share the peculiarity of being used in the plural form. This fact suggests to Bible scholars that here is implied the different modifications and concepts of the deity, which, of course, were varied.

There can be no doubt of the very great antiquity of the worship of Baal. As far back as Moses’ time we find it established among the Moabites and their allies, the Midianites, through whom the Israelites were seduced to worship this god under the particular form of Baal-peor. Much pomp and ceremony was connected with the worship of Baal: temples were erected to him; images were set up; his altars in high places were numerous; there were priests in great numbers and of various classes. Even the worshipers appear to have been arrayed in unique robes. Their worship included burning incense and offering burnt sacrifices while the officiating priests danced with frantic shouts around the altar, and cut themselves with knives to excite the attention of their god.

Molock was another prominent god worshiped by the ancient heathen nations, whom the Israelites also idolized. He was a fire god, and the titulary deity of the Ammonites. Fire gods appear to have been common to all the Canaanites, Syrian, and Arabian tribes, and were worshiped by the most inhuman rites. The images of Molock are said to have been hollow furnaces made of brass, the fire burning within them, into which children were thrown to be burned to death in the hope of appeasing the wrath of the god.

In most instances the people conceived these gods to be vengeful, always seeking opportunities of venting their wrath on their subjects. Human sacrifices were common; and concerning this inhuman practice, Jehovah said, “They have built also the high places of Baal to burn their sons with fire, burnt offerings unto Baal which I commanded not, nor spoke it. Neither came it into my mind.” Certainly we can be assured that our loving God has never had in mind the idea of torturing his human creatures with fire. This concept of deity is entirely foreign to the teachings of the Bible with respect to the true and living God.—Jer. 19:5

In the New Testament we are again reminded of the many false gods of the heathen world when Paul referred to these in his sermon on Mars’ Hill. He said, “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too religious [superstitious]. For as I passed by and beheld your devotion [gods that ye worship, margin] I found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom ye therefore ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, being that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is worshiped with men’s hands as though he needed anything, seeing that he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.”—Acts 17:22-25

The most outstanding of all gods mentioned in the Bible is Satan, the devil. Paul described him as “the god of this world, [who] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (II Cor. 4:4) Because Satan has blinded the minds of the people, the true and living God of the Bible is as yet an unknown God to the vast majority of mankind. While the light of the Gospel shining forth from Jesus and from his enlightened followers has been a blessing to many individuals throughout the centuries of the present age, the larger portion of mankind is still in heathen darkness, and today countless millions do not believe in any god. Perhaps, however, those who do not believe in any god are just as well off as those who are bound superstitiously to a false god.

Since the introduction of Christianity into the world, another false god has been created by human philosophy—the god of torture. This god began to be created in men’s minds soon after the death of the apostles, as a result of a lack of correct reasoning on the Scriptures. Some of the prominent leaders in the church became ensnared in Satan’s original deception that death was not the penalty for sin. Believing Satan’s lie to Mother Eve, “Thou shalt not surely die,” they concluded that since no one could die, then that which appeared to be death must be a gateway into another aspect of life. And since the wicked would not be worthy of a happy life after death, they reasoned, it must be a life of torment.

To begin with, this false concept was conceived without authority from the Bible, and was based on the idea that torment or suffering would have purifying powers on the souls of those who experienced it, and that, eventually, after a long period of time, they would be holy enough to enter heaven. According to this theory, the place of torment was called purgatory—a word not found in the Bible at all. This perception of God is still very much alive today, in the minds of millions of people.

As time went on, there came the Protestant Reformation; its leaders, not able to find anything in the Bible about purgatory, discarded this concept of life after death for sinners. But the idea has also been invented of a place of eternal torture from which there could be no escape, which the reformers failed to realize was not taught in the Bible. Indeed, God never tortures his human creatures under any circumstances, nor during any period of time. Nevertheless, reformers held onto the theory of hell-fire, everlasting punishment.

This abhorrent doctrine presents God in an even worse light than did the theory of purgatory, for not only would the torturous punishment serve no ultimately advantageous purpose, but would never end. Naturally, our minds revolt and turn away from the heathen concept of a god who would be pleased to have his worshipers cast their children alive into the flames to be destroyed. But this hideous concept of a god is not nearly as horrible as the one we are given by the dogmas of purgatory and eternal torture.

It is not surprising to learn that many of the philosophers of today, who have been freed from the shackles of superstition, have announced that to them this god is “dead.” How, indeed, could anyone find a place in their heart for worship and adoration of such a god! The Scriptures make it crystal clear that the true and living God of the universe, the Creator of heaven and earth, does not intend to permit false gods to exist forever. They are all to be destroyed, including—and especially—Satan, the instigator, inventor, and chief of the false gods. Let us note some of the Bible prophecies which indicate this.

Addressing the worshipers of false gods, the Prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” (Jer. 10:11) The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and the bats. (Isa. 2:17,18,20) Again, Isaiah wrote, “O Lord, our God, other lords [gods] beside thee have had dominion over us, but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. They [the false gods] are dead, they shall not live: they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.”—Isa. 26:13,14

This is a remarkable prophecy. It refers to the time when, according to the Scriptures, the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 25:6-9; 2:2-4; 11:9) Then the people will recognize and acknowledge the fact that they have been deceived by false gods. “Other lords besides thee have had dominion over us,” they will confess, and in most instances, how cruel that dominion has been. The people have been held in obedience through fear; they have feared torment by a cruel and punishing god. But then, in the Millennial Age, they will rejoice to realize all these other lords are indeed dead, being destroyed from the people’s minds by the enlightening influences of the kingdom of Christ.

Actually, of course (with the exception of Satan), the false gods which have plagued the people throughout the centuries have never been living gods, except as they have lived in the fear-filled minds of their worshipers. This is true of the torment god, and other false concepts of the Christian god, which have come down to us from the Dark Ages. And since these false gods exist merely in the imagination of the people, when the light of truth shines into their minds, they die. Satan, on the other hand, is a real personality—the fallen angel, Lucifer. The Prophet Isaiah wrote concerning him, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning? How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations? For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell to the sides of the pit.”—Isa. 14:12-15

The Hebrew word translated ‘hell’ in this passage is sheol. It is this word that is translated ‘grave’ in Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave [sheol] whither thou goest.” From this text it is clear that sheol is a state of unconsciousness. It is the death condition. And therefore, for the fallen Lucifer to be brought down to hell, or sheol, it means he will be destroyed. This, indeed, will be the death of the greatest of all false gods!

This god is described as “that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan.” (Rev. 20:1-3) Here we are also told that during the thousand-year reign of Christ, Satan will be bound, preventing him from deceiving the nations. We are informed in the tenth verse that Satan is finally cast into the “lake of fire, which is the second death.” See verse fourteen.

We read in Revelation 20:10, that “the devil that deceived them was … tormented day and night forever and ever.” This is a poor translation. The root meaning of the Greek word here translated ‘tormented’ is ‘a touchstone’. The noted professor of Greek, Dr. Strong, admits it is only by analysis that the thought of torture is derived from the original. While Satan will be destroyed in the symbolic lake of fire, which is the second death, the memory of his nefarious course of opposition to God will continue as a touchstone forever. For example, the terrible results of disobedience to God and his righteous law will never be forgotten.

The true and loving God of the Bible is not a god of torment. While justly destroying those not worthy to live (including Satan, the god of this world), he will not torment even the devil, but will destroy him in the second death, thus making an end of the chief of all false gods.

Through the Prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might. Let not the rich man glory in his riches, but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord that exerciseth lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”—Jer. 9:23,24

This great and loving God has never been known by the ‘death of God’ theologians of our day, so their philosophies do not refer to Jehovah. The god they describe as ‘dead’ is the god of the Dark Ages, the god of torment. They are not acquainted with the God who delights to exercise loving-kindness in the earth! Moses wrote, “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God. Thou turnest men to destruction and sayest, Return ye children of men.”—Ps. 90:1-3

The true and living God of the Bible turned man to destruction through the original sentence of death which came upon our first parents after they disobeyed his law. As a result of this, man has been a dying creature. But this will not continue forever. As Moses foretold, the time will come when God will say to the condemned, dying, and dead race, “Return, ye children of men.” In this brief statement by Moses of God’s plan for the recovery of man from death, we are reminded of divine love, of God’s justice, his wisdom, and his power. These four cardinal attributes of Jehovah’s character reflect his glory. We cannot literally see God, but we can visualize his glorious character, and thus can worship him with all our hearts.

While God sentenced our first parents to death because they transgressed his law, he still loved them, and loved their progeny upon whom the penalty of death also fell. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”—John 3:16

It was God’s love which prompted him to send his Son into the world to be the redeemer and savior of the people. Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus we see the operation of God’s justice. God could not set aside the just penalty of death upon the human race unless that penalty was paid by another; and Jesus is the one who took the sinner’s place in death. Jesus poured out his soul unto death. Yet, as Isaiah wrote, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him. He has put him to grief. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”—Isa. 53:10

Dawn Bible Students Association
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