Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris McNeely] Life in ancient Greece, Rome, and Canaan revolved around the worship of pagan gods, like Zeus, Artemis, Baal, and Molech. Some see the same forces at work behind the shocking moral meltdown unfolding right now in our own communities. Have the ancient gods returned?
[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow directly from your Bible here on "Beyond Today."
[Darris McNeely] The Apostle Paul described our time in detail when he wrote this in scripture. He said that, "Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, despisers of good, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." Note that Paul uses the term unholy. I think about that term when I see today's culture embracing ancient pagan images and open satanic worship. I see the acceptance of lifestyles whose roots are in ancient pagan cultures, and I see a culture adopting practices that embrace death and lead to death. I see this and I know that we have crossed into a different world. We're now in a culture that embraces evil.
In recent times, I've been traveling a lot to Turkey to study the story of the Seven Churches of Revelation. Christ wrote to seven congregations in what was then Asia Minor, giving them a message of warning about the times in which they lived. And the more I study those messages, I see that they have meaning for us today. Society has embraced an evil culture today just as it did in that day when Christ wrote to those churches. That embracing of evil is going to be our undoing.
Writer Naomi Wolf recently discussed this topic. She was prompted by overt displays of pagan occultism. Among them was the recent Grammy Award ceremony in the United States, where entertainer Sam Smith performed a musical piece titled "Unholy." It had satanic imagery that was bathed in a lurid, red light. In 2022, a terrifying animatronic bull figure was bowed down to by scantily dressed male and female dancers at the opening ceremony to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. And then I've heard that there's something called SatanCon coming, billed as a weekend of blasphemy and would be the largest Satanic gathering in history, and it's going to be held in Boston, Massachusetts.
In a lengthy but really perceptive article about the emergence and the acceptance of this evil that's dressed up in progressive clothing, Naomi Wolf wrote as if she was reading right out of the Bible, what the Bible says about the perilous times in which we live. Here's what she wrote. She said, "This, the absence of the protection of our God, the ascendancy of a realm on Earth of us doing it all ourselves, regarding ourselves, worshiping ourselves, whoring after only human works, releasing ourselves from all lawful constraints, and embracing all lusts and all obedience to non-divine authorities, rejecting mercy, celebrating narcissism, treating children like animals whom we own, and treating the family like a battleground, treating the churches and synagogues as marketing platforms, this," she said, "is indeed what the realms of pagan darkness, or principalities and powers look like."
Writing like this, reading it in the secular press, really should alarm us. Naomi Wolf's article was motivated by a recent book that was written by Jonathan Cahn. Now, Jonathan Cahn's writing usually stirs interests a great deal. He connects current events to Bible prophecy. I've read several of his books, and I've even interviewed Jonathan Cahn. I don't always agree with every one of his predictions, but he does see that something is happening in our world today. His latest book, "The Return of the Gods," puts forth the idea that the ancient gods, like Baal, Molech, and Artemis, among many others, have returned in recent years. They've come back. And they're behind the current evils that are becoming public policy in so many states.
Let me mention two of them. First is dealing with abortion. The hardcore abortion activists, who want to permit the taking of a baby's life up to the point of it even exiting the womb of its mother, is one. It just blows your mind to think about that. Another is the policy in the state of Minnesota announcing that that state is a safe haven for young people wanting to undergo gender transition, even if that transition is opposed by their parents. I'm sorry, but this is pure evil. This is not normal, logical, or sane public policy where people debate, discuss, and come to solutions for the public good. All of that has been thrown out the window in recent times. No, this is evil, and it will destroy lives.
Now Jonathan Cahn, in his book, attributes these changes in society to the unleashing of the ancient pagan gods, like the Baals and the Molechs, who have, as he says, returned to popularity within these evil manifestations. They've come back almost as if from the dead, so to speak. Well, you know, I think that Cahn makes a compelling case which does appeal to Naomi Wolf and other astute observers. But while he makes a compelling case, it's really not the whole story. I'm going to explain why it's not the whole story in a moment. Stay with me. I happen to have the privilege of teaching the book of Revelation at the college level. Teaching the book of Revelation really sharpens the interest in the events that took place, where these Seven Churches in Revelation to whom Christ addressed that book, where they were located in ancient Asia Minor. As I made these trips to the region in recent times, the more I visit, the more I learn, and the more I really want to dig deeper into the study of Revelation and the background to better understand exactly what God is saying to His church today. Because I happen to believe that the book of Revelation holds the key for today's church to survive the open spiritual warfare from the demonic world. The evidence of demonic influence on existing culture is clear, and it's unmistakable when you study into it.
In the first century, those disciples who follow the teachings of Jesus were surrounded by a thoroughly pagan world where false gods, like Zeus, Apollo, Artemis, were all worshiped in huge, grand temples that dominated the public life in these cities. It's hard for us today to really think about this with our mind and our modern technological world, to really grasp how deeply ingrained into the life of each man and woman was the worship of gods which are not gods, gods which are not gods according to the Bible, that a person's job in those days depended on their allegiance to whatever deity was the God of their craft. If they were a carpenter or a stone mason, they had a patron deity and they were expected to honor that god or goddess by attending banquets in that god's temple, dining on the food that had been offered in sacrifice to that god. And if they didn't do this, it would deprive them of their livelihood and their social standing. They wouldn't get contracts, they wouldn't get jobs and they would be ostracized by their own community for not upholding the public order and the public good. And that's what Jesus is talking to the churches about there in Revelation, in chapter 2 and 3.
A Christian could not do this. He could not go into these temples without violating God's commandments. Now, two of those congregations that I'm talking about are listed in Revelation and they existed in cities where these gods were held in particularly high status. When Christ addressed the members of the church in the city of Pergamos, He told them that their city was where Satan dwells. And He said that their city, Pergamos, held what He called Satan's throne. I was at that site recently with a study group, and there was a feature about that city that helped me to point out to them exactly what I thought would be the best candidate for this throne of Satan. To me, this altar of Zeus is the perfect candidate for what is called the seat of Satan in Revelation 2. The scholars will debate that, they'll look at the Trajan temple up here, but that comes a little bit later, even after the time of John. But all the other temples were here, again, part of this hall of fame. But if I were to pick one relic, one site where Satan's seat is, to me, it's that altar of Zeus. And I think that, depicted by the battle of these gods and these demigods from the earth in this Titanic struggle, to me, is a perfect representation that we read about in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, where Satan said, "I will be like the most High," and ascended and drew a third of the angels with his tail, as Revelation 12 says, to the earth, in this battle that is mentioned in those prophetic scriptures of a Luciferian rebellion. To me, that is Satan putting his stamp of what happened. And then that whole story is told through all the mythologies of all the different cultures of humanity, not just the Greek, but Egyptian and otherwise.
But coming to its particular formation here in Pergamon at that time, during the centuries leading up to the beginning of the birth of Christ, the beginning of the church, I think you've got a perfect positioning right here for the seat of Satan that John warns people and talks to them about. If you were to put yourself in their shoes, again, after that letter being read, a specific reference to their city and what they lived among, when they would walk by or view what was down here, what kind of thoughts must have gone through their minds, thinking about what the story that they were a part of, to be told that they lived where Satan dwells, where Satan's seat is, it must have given them a lot of food for thought. One hopes that also some strength and courage to resist the influence of this culture particularly in this city. Being told that you live where Satan dwells would've been shocking if you were in that congregation and you heard those words read to you in your setting. I'm sure it was.
You know, Satan does have a realm. Scripture calls him the ruler of this world, and it says that he is the god of this age. Satan even offered to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would bow down and worship Satan. So he does have that realm and that world and even sat on a throne in one portion of it. You know, another of the Seven Churches of Revelation was in the city of Ephesus, which was home to at that time, one of the great wonders of the ancient world, the great temple of Artemis. The site of that temple today is really nothing more than, it's just an empty field, with one reconstructed pillar at the top. And in the first century world, however, it did hold the attention of the entire city and of the region and told a remarkable lesson.
It is interesting to think about the cult of Artemis that was here that gave rise to the silversmiths and so much in the city. The idea of these gods, they were lost, their temples were burned, they were forbidden by later Byzantine Christianity to even exist. But as we know, as we understand the development of Christian history after the time of Paul and the apostles, paganism may have been overridden by a form of Christianity, but those gods and goddesses really didn't go away. They just were transformed into what became Christianity.
As one scholar put it many years ago, Christianity became a form of baptized paganism. I just recently wrote an article about what's taking place in our culture today with frankly a return to paganism, what some call, these ancient gods now returning. And my thought, as I put in the article, was they've always been around. They've just been hiding in plain sight. They've been hiding in plain sight down through the centuries. And because in America and other parts of the Western world, we have made this break with the Bible, this break with God, and a denial of that, a threshold has been crossed. I don't think that we're going to go back. And there's been an eruption of evil, there's been an eruption of the ideas behind these ancient gods and goddesses, the trans movements that is now becoming a dominant philosophies of the West.
There's an interesting connection to the cult of Artemis as she developed here from this fertility goddess Cybele. They had their priests and their cultic priesthood. Men who were joining the priesthood of Cybele and as that was folded into the worship of Artemis, the men who would become priests would go through a self-castration. They would mutilate themselves. And then they would present as feminine. They would present as women as part of their cultic practice. And they were looked at, in some cases, as they, depending upon their depth of worship, if you will, the depths of Satan, those priests were looked upon as in a sense semi-divine. And this is something that's little known, but people who are alarmed as well and recognize what's taking place see this as just a page out of the pagan world that is now becoming the accepted practice in our schools, and in our media, and at the highest government levels, where the president of the United States applauds young people who decide to trans, to change their gender. And you're standing in a spot where that was a part of the first century world that the Apostle Paul preached against and had to deal with. Transgender men officiating in the pagan cult of Artemis was a part of the way of life here in Ephesus at that time.
So when you consider then the ministry of the Apostle Paul in the city of Ephesus over a three year period, you can begin to get a clearer picture of what he worked against and the culture that Christians had to deal with. Today's transgender culture is a mirror of many aspects of that world where the gospel of Jesus Christ first prevailed against lifeless paganism. The message of Revelation is really meant to give us a focus today in the face of an increasingly idolatrous world that's engrossed with a culture of self, and now with an added spiritual dimension of outright satanic adoration and twisted demonic ideas and behavior intended to distort every norm of human life. The structure of the family is being attacked at every level. The idea of gender and the very nature of humanity is being mutilated as part of deliberate public policy. We can't survive with that.
What we're seeing is not the return of the ancient pagan gods. These gods have been hiding in plain sight. They've been here all along. What's new is that they're emerging from behind the facade of false religion, false religion which has carried them from the ancient to the modern world. The Bible clearly tells us that behind every idol and every false god that Paul, and John, and Peter, and the apostles worked against is a demon seeking to be worshiped. When you read the scriptures, what God says about this is very plain.
God said at one point of the people of ancient Israel, He said, "They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods, with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals that their fathers did not fear." The Apostle Paul, who had to walk and work in the midst of all of this, he wrote to the Corinthians living in a city full of the same temples and the same idolatry describing that worship. He said, "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons."
The idols and the temples of the ancient times, they may have represented these gods like Zeus, Athena, or Artemis, but the real objects of worship were fallen demons of the spirit realm, the powers of darkness, the unseen rulers and influences of civilization and culture. To truly understand the course of world history, you must recognize that a being described as the prince of the power of the air governs and shapes the way of life of human society and resisting the ways of God. Paul told the Ephesians that they once walked along Satan's path in their pre-Christian life, and he made great strides against the Satanic culture during his time. Over three years in Ephesus, his preaching and his teaching resulted in the word of God, the word of the Lord growing mightily and prevailing against that world. But church history clearly shows that these gods never went away. What they did is they got themselves baptized. They transformed the teaching of truth amid the early church. The worship of God on his Holy Sabbath was changed to Sunday, the day of the sun god. The pagan holidays at the roots of Easter and Christmas in time replaced the festivals that God had revealed in His scriptures. One by one, the foundational truths taught by Christ and the apostles were replaced by destructive heresies, as Peter called them, and doctrines of demons, by Paul. Think about that.
You might worship a doctrine of a demon. The picture of the church that emerges after the first century period looks nothing like the church originally founded by Jesus Christ. Idols, icons, and saints were worshiped instead of the true God. The Christianity of later history, along with other false systems, became the hiding place for the ancient pagan gods. We're seeing them more overtly emerging now as the world in which we live is forgetting God. Recent decades have seen a steady diminishing of a Bible-based morality, ethic, and way of life among the Western nations. There have been many secular prophets who have warned through the years that people were turning from God, and that His word, the Bible, was no longer a vital part of the foundation of life.
One of the most interesting was that of the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who said that when he was speaking of his own Russia, languishing in the death camp called communism, he wrote that "Men have forgotten God." "Men have forgotten God," he said. That's why it all happened. He was speaking of Russian communism. Well, we can take those words forward into our time today 'cause this is what's happened in America. This is what's happened in the English-speaking world as well. The current explosion of satanic pagan worship is the result. In 1914, when a beast-like power rose in Europe, spewing war across the continent, leading to the collapse of empires, followed by, a generation later, of another world war, and the death of millions by bloodshed, and famine, and pestilence, and holocaust, it was because men had forgotten God. When the subsequent prosperous world removed God from the public square by judicial decisions, it was because men were not thankful to God. When legalized abortion led to the murder of millions of unborn children and a generation desensitized to rejecting the sanctity of life, it was because of the words of Romans 1, "Their foolish hearts were darkened." And when the nature of marriage between a man and a woman was legally changed to approve same-sex marriage, it was because men were full of lust and unclean. And when the sexual gender of men and women has been trampled and thrown aside, it's because the truth of God has been exchanged for a lie.
Forgetting God has resulted in a debased culture that God describes as full of unrighteousness, immorality, covetousness, maliciousness, strife, deceit, and evil, where there is pride, and disobedience, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful behaviors. The resulting culture of death awaits the judgment of God. We have come to a stage in this progression of evil where it seems that the Gods who've always been there, hiding in the western world behind a veil of false religion, claiming to come in the name of Jesus Christ, with its doctrine of demons and plain idolatry, has now emerged into the open. And we're watching demonic influence in the public culture. The ancient gods have not returned. They've always been there. They've been hiding in plain sight for 2,000 years. It's as if God held them back, but we've turned our back on God, and we have forgotten Him, and removed Him from the public arena. And these evil unholy forces have emerged, and their influence has grown bolder. And we've crossed a threshold, and it appears there's no going back. The only way we're going to get through this is through the clear and plain word of God.
The booklet we are offering on our program today to help us understand and make a step out of this type of world is "Tools For Spiritual Growth." Our mission on "Beyond Today" is to help people, through the written word of God, to develop and to understand exactly how to deal with the culture that is enveloping us today. This booklet, "Tools For Spiritual Growth," an informative guide, can be yours by calling the number that is on your screen or going to the website that is there, at beyondtoday.tv. We're in a spiritual war. And Jesus Christ calls every one of us to face the battle of the ages by standing firm with the armor of God and taking a very firm hold and grasp of His very word. That's the only way we are going to make it through this world into his world to come.
[Narrator] Please call for the booklet, "Tools For Spiritual Growth." It will help you learn how to pray meaningful prayers to God, how to meditate effectively, how to use tools like fasting, and fellowship, and your personal Bible study to actively discern God's will for you. Order now. Call toll free 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. This free study aid will provide you with vital information on how you can actively grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one-year subscription to Beyond Today magazine. Beyond Today magazine brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year, you'll read about current world events in light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family, and godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, "Tools For Spiritual Growth," and your free one-year subscription to Beyond Today magazine. 1-888-886-86322 or go online to beyondtoday.tv.
[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with the United Church of God. If you're looking for a church that encourages living what the word of God really teaches, you found the right place. We're a community of believers dedicated to seeking the truth and preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God. We'd like to welcome you to come and join us on this spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.