Sabbath Truth - Sunrise over Mountains
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Baptized Paganism

Baptized Paganism
In the southeast corner of the Fertile Crescent, what we call now the Holy Land, lay the wicked Edomite empire. The capital city was Petra, which means ‘stone'. It was well named, for Petra was a very unusual city, virtually impregnable because it was simply a deep valley with almost exactly perpendicular walls all the way around some 160 or 170 feet high. The only way to get into the valley was through some very narrow gorges, so narrow that as one walks down those gorges even today he can touch in many places the walls on both sides. There was no building material within the city, and so the Edomites carved their homes and shops and temples of worship right out of the walls inside that valley. Then, with the rock which they quarried out as they were building their structures back into the mountain, they built altars and homes out on the valley floor.

The city was practically impregnable. There are more than 1,000 remains that exist there in the city of Petra today. Among them are high altars erected by the Edomites to the sun. The altars are blue and purple and yellow, but most of them are red. The rock cliffs were red, and as the people quarried out their temples and homes and shops they took the surplus stone and built their altars in the middle of that valley. So, these red stairs led to the high places of sun worship, a worship that involved actual human sacrifice to the goddess of the sun. Here parents sacrificed their own children to the Sun-god.

Did you know that sun worship can be traced right back to Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah? This takes us right back to the tenth chapter of Genesis. "And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth, and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel ... ." Genesis 10:8, 10. It is from the word Babel that we get the word Babylon. Both words mean "confusion." It was at this place that men who professed to believe in God and heaven, built a tower that they hoped might reach to heaven. This represents man's vain attempt to gain salvation in some other way than the way appointed by God. These people were literally attempting to work their way to heaven. They were heading for the right place (heaven) but because they were going about it in their own way instead of in God's way, they did not get there. Genesis 11:4.

But you say, What has this to do with sun worship? Did you know that according to ancient tradition, when Nimrod died his spirit entered into the sun and became the sun god? Nimrod was worshiped as the sun god. Did you know that Tammuz, the illegitimate son of the wife of Nimrod was also worshiped as the son of the sun god? Did you know that Tammuz is mentioned by name in the Bible? Semiramis, the mother of Tammuz, was also worshiped as the queen of heaven. From Babylon these mysteries of sun worship spread to Egypt, Persia, and other countries of the Orient, and later to Rome. We can take time to mention only a few of the many cases recorded where sun worship made inroads into the faith of God's chosen people of Israel.

King Ahab of Israel married Jezebel, a daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon. The Phoenicians worshiped Baal Melkaart, the sun god. They offered their own children in sacrifice to this god whom they worshiped. Jezebel fostered the worship of Baal throughout Israel. She imported some 850 priests of sun worship and the state supported them. I Kings 18:19.

God called his prophet, Elijah to stand up for truth in the face of sun worship. Do you know what sun worship was doing to the people of Israel that aroused the anger of God? The Bible tells us. Notice how the issue is brought into focus when Elijah and King Ahab meet; "And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel, but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim." I Kings 18:17, 18. This was the issue. Following Baal, the sun god, had caused the people of Israel to forsake the commandments of God. When Elijah tried to encourage the people to give up sun worship and return to the commandments of God, he was accused of being a trouble maker. The people had accepted sun worship and now Elijah was coming around and getting them all confused.

While the people of Israel had accepted sun worship and were breaking the commandments of God, they still claimed to believe in God and to be His people. The false religion of sun worship had been mixed together with the true faith of God.

The prophet Ezekiel gives us a vivid picture of the way in which sun worship had been mixed with the worship of God: "He said also unto me, turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east." Ezekiel 8:13-16.

Six hundred years before Jesus was born as a babe in Bethlehem, God showed Ezekiel that sun worship was being carried on in the very grounds of the temple dedicated to the worship of God. Women were weeping for Tammuz, the son of the sun god. The worship of the true God was being polluted by pagan sun worship.

Now I want you to see what God said about it, and about you today in relation to it. It is in the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament; "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." Malachi 4:5, 6.

What does it mean? Does it mean that Elijah will be resurrected? Does it mean that Elijah will be reincarnated? No. What does it mean? It has a two-fold application. It applies to a message that was to be given to the world prior to Christ's first coming, and it applies to a message that is to be given to the world prior to Christ's second coming.

Matthew 17:10-13. Listen! "And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist."

The disciples questioned Christ, "If you are the Christ, where's Elijah?" Jesus pointed out that the prophecy of the coming of Elijah had been fulfilled by John the Baptist. John the Baptist was not a reincarnation of Elijah. It was not a man but a message. John the Baptist had the Elijah message for that generation. He denied that he was Elijah when the people asked him, "... Art thou Elias? and he saith, I am not." John 1:21. Jesus said he was. John said he wasn't. Both were right. It was not a man but a message. John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Luke 1:17. He said, "... I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, ... ." John 1:23.

The truth of God had been corrupted by man-made tradition and pagan practices. The Elijah message was to restore the truth of God. It was to "make straight the way of the Lord." Speaking of the message of John the Baptist, Jesus said, "And if you will receive it, this is Elias, which was to come." Matthew 11:14. Elias is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Elijah just as Noe is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Noah, and Esaias is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Isaiah.

It was a message rather than a man that was to prepare the way for the first coming of Jesus to this earth. It is a message rather than a man that is to prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus to this earth.

Is there a message for our day to lead us out of confusion and to "make straight the way of the Lord?" According to the Bible God will send such a message "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Are you confused over religious issues? Do you need such a message? Can you support all of your religious beliefs and practices with Bible truth? Have we gradually through the centuries been led away from the pure truth of God?

I want to illustrate my point today by using some examples that are not great moral issues. Please do not misunderstand. I am bringing these things in only by way of illustration.

I want to ask you a question: What do Easter eggs and bunny rabbits have to do with the resurrection of the Saviour? Did you know that Astarte, or Ishtar, or Easter was the queen of the heavens? She was the female goddess just as Baal was the male god. Centuries before the birth of Christ this female goddess was honored in a festival every springtime. The people of Israel angered God by making cakes or buns "to the queen of heaven." Jeremiah 7:18.

"An egg of wonderous size is said to have fallen from heaven into the river Euphrates. The fishes rolled it on the bank, where the doves having settled upon it hatched it, out came Venus, or Astarte." Tammuz was the illegitimate son of Astarte (Also called Ishtar, Eastre, Semiramis, etc.)

He was born on the 25th of December, and that day was kept in honor of the birth of Tammuz for centuries before the birth of Christ. Tammuz was killed by a wild boar in the springtime. Every spring they wept forty days for him. Ezekiel tells us that these customs even in Old Testament times crept into the religion of God's people, and God was angry. What a pity to surround such magnificent events as the birth and resurrection of Christ with such trappings!

Now, as I said before, these things are not great moral issues, and I have used them today only by way of illustration, but is it possible that these same influences could have affected important truths? While he was still alive, the apostle Paul foretold that influences would arise within the church to corrupt the truth as taught by Jesus. "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." Acts 20:29, 30. In another place Paul says, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: ... ." II Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 7. My friends, that spirit of anti-Christ went far beyond the counterfeits I've mentioned today. It tried to strike down the authority of God by striking at His claims to be the Creator and ruler of the Universe.
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