Idolatry - The Curse of Religion
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., April 1993
Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, January 2007
Read the accompanying Newsletter for January 2007
Let me start by asking a question. How should a Christian today view the matter of idolatry? The question of idolatry is seldom heard about in sermons or in literature put out by various religious denominations. It is as if the matter of idolatry is an ancient and archaic practice that only troubled earlier people one step out of barbarism. It does not seem relevant in our modern, sophisticated world. Why, the one thing a Christian could never be accused of — as some people think — is that they practice that old heathenism called idolatry. Yet the last thing the apostle John warned Christians about in his first epistle was this matter of idolatry.
It says in 1 John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” The apostle Paul had a similar warning. He had an entire chapter devoted to the matter of how Christians should avoid idolatry. Of course Paul was talking to the Corinthians back in the 1st century, and the Corinthian region in Greece was filled with idolatrous practices. Paul warned the Corinthians living at the time that they should not practice idolatry. If we are doing the same thing today, the apostle Paul would suggest that we avoid the same type of practices that the early Corinthians were doing.
In 1 Corinthians 10:14 Paul sums up the previous 13 verses when he says, “Wherefore my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” He does not say stand back, look at it, and have nothing to do with it, he says to flee from it. When you flee you turn your back on it and run away as fast as you possibly can. That is what he said to the Corinthians. In fact, in verse 7 he again makes an appeal in the positive sense.
“Neither be you [you Christians, the Corinthians] idolaters, as were some of them [the Israelites at the Exodus]; as it is written, the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”
1 Corinthians 10:7
That is a reference to Exodus 32:6 which records the event of Aaron setting up the golden calf when Moses was up on the mountain. He had been up there for some time, and Aaron saw that the people were getting disquiet and they wanted to “worship” God. Where was Moses? So Aaron, Moses’ brother, made a calf, set it up, and they began to eat and play and drink around that calf and have festivities to this “god.” That is the reference the apostle Paul is talking about. The historical context is that of the Exodus. If you look at 1 Corinthians 10:1, here is what he says to these Corinthians:
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.”
1 Corinthians 10:1
That sea is the Red Sea; that cloud is the Shechinah glory of God, which was like a cloud in the daytime and a pillar of fire by night. For 40 years that cloud hovered over the tabernacle as long as it was set up. If the tabernacle was to be moved, the cloud first would move in that direction. Moses then, after assembling the people together and putting the tabernacle onto wagons, would go in the direction of the cloud, or the fiery pillar. When the cloud would stop, Moses would reconstruct the tabernacle precisely under the cloud. It was there that God came to visit His children the Israelites.
That is what the apostle Paul is talking about here. He says, I do not want you Corinthians to be ignorant. You may be Gentiles, but here are events for us today, for our admonition. The fathers:
“… were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink.”
1 Corinthians 10:1–4
There was the spiritual food, “meat,” which was the manna provided for them daily. They had to have manna in the wilderness because there was no food to support the great number of people. 1 They:
“… did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock [that stone, that petra] that followed them [that accompanied them]; and that Rock [or that stone] was Christ.”
1 Corinthians 10:4
This point is most important to this whole lecture. Before I go into detail about idolatry, and what Paul was talking about, you must understand that Christ Jesus was very much there at the time. Obviously this was before His birth in Bethlehem, some 14 centuries before. Here is the apostle Paul, as clear as he can, saying that Christ was accompanying the Israelites at the Exodus.
Realize that the apostle Paul, speaking about idolatry, wants everyone to know, and especially the Corinthians, that Christ before His birth was there providing them with water. You do not realize how they were actually provided with water in the wilderness.
When you look at the problem very carefully, the water was supplied miraculously. It is called “spiritual drink,” but it comes from a “spiritual rock,” not an actual rock, a spiritual rock, a spiritual stone. But that stone was very real. That stone, that rock was Christ. He was there all the time during the Exodus, even though the 10 Commandments and the other laws were given by angels as we will see later, at the same time He supervised every bit of it, our Lord Himself, Christ Jesus before His birth. 2
As far as the Israelites were concerned, from the time they left Egypt, went through the Red Sea, and throughout the whole of their 40 years of journeying with the Shechinah glory governing and directing them, wherever that Shechinah glory positioned itself, the Holy of Holies was placed right underneath it. I will show you why it was important that it was right underneath. If you check very carefully, you will find that Paul was talking about the water that they drank, not the food that they ate, which was manna. 3
They had to have water in the wilderness. The water came from the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, from that cloud that was over the Holy of Holies. In that cloud was a spiritual rock, a spiritual stone. We find in the book of Ezekiel and in other places that from that spiritual stone came good, fresh water that they could drink. It came out of the Holy of Holies on the right side, probably, of the altar of burnt offering, and flowed out to the camp of the Israelites and they could actually drink of that water. Believe it or not.
This will happen even in the future when there is a temple to be built in Palestine. In the Book of Revelation it speaks about the river of life that gives water and nourishment to feed the tree of life from whence people can eat and they can be healed from and also obtain life, spiritual life. That water also comes from the throne of God in the symbolic Holy of Holies, this Shechinah glory, this cloud over the Holy of Holies. In that cloud and above the Mercy Seat (as it is called in the King James Version) where the Cherubim were in the tabernacle, was a symbolic stone, a symbolic throne. That throne was made of one solid piece of sapphire. That stone had a personage sitting on it. That was the stone, the throne, on which Christ Himself sat. He sat above the Cherubim more in authority than the Cherubim.
How does this relate to idolatry? Idolatry in the Old Testament was the making of idols, pictures, and images of any kind of the various Elohim or the gods that existed at the time who were authorities in charge of various nations that God had placed here on earth. When God reaffirmed the covenant with Israel through Moses, he said from now on you will not go whoring after other Elohim. That is made quite plain. You shall not make molten idols. You shall not in any way set up pillars nor establish groves or trees or such things, because the heathen were doing that. They were doing it to their gods, to their Elohim.
Those Elohim were real. Who were they? They were the powers underneath the true God, the Father, and, of course, underneath Christ Jesus. When Paul wrote about fleeing from idolatry, he gave the example of when Aaron set up the calf at the foot of Mount of Sinai while Moses was on the mount. When Moses came down with the two tablets in his hand, he saw what was happening. And he was angry. God let Moses know in no uncertain terms that He was angry. The calf that Aaron set up was a symbol of a Cherub.
In Ezekiel chapter 1 the Cherubim sometimes have the face of a man, sometimes the face of a lion, sometimes a face of an eagle, and also a face of a calf or an ox. The Cherubim in Revelation chapters 4, 5, and 6 are described in the same way. They are shown with the face of a man in some occasions, some occasions with an eagle, a lion, or an ox. Sometimes both in Ezekiel and in the 5th chapter of the Book of Revelation, these 4 faces are all together, one single being that has symbolic wings associated with them. But each of these symbolic features denotes Cherubimic personalities who are powerful angelic forces underneath the authority of God the Father and Christ Jesus. They are not God in the sense of being deity, part of the family of God, but they are considered Elohim by the people and in the Old Testament.
The fact of idolatry is that most of the Canaanites were setting up these images, these groves or trees or pillars or idols, molten idols, or carved wooden idols, sometimes made of stone. They were doing that to depict the angelic powers that were over them at the time. In the prophets we read that there were various personalities who were spiritual powers that God allowed to be over the various nations of the earth. Even Israel had an angelic power over it. That angelic power was Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21, 12:1; Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7). (We also have another spirit entity, the “angel of the Lord,” coming into the picture as we will see later.)
Christ Jesus has far more authority and power than any angel. That is why Paul says that the rock that gave them the drink in the wilderness was Christ. Keep that in mind. Christ was very much there at the time.
“But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples [or types], to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be you idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’”
1 Corinthians 10:5–7
That is a reference back to Exodus where Aaron set up the golden calf. I will show how idolatry entered the scene and how the apostle Paul used this principle example against idolatry. It is chapter 32 of Exodus. Start with the last verse of chapter 31.
“And he [the angel of the Lord] gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God [elohim]. And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, ‘Up, make us gods [elohim], which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot [know] not what is become of him.’ And Aaron said unto them, ‘Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.’
And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf [Aaron melts the gold and molds a single idol]: and they said, ‘These be your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’ And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it [before the idol]; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, ‘To morrow is a feast to the Lord [YHWH, the true God].’”
In having this “feast to the Lord,” they were having it in front of this molten image in the form of a calf. Aaron was saying to bow down before this calf in a festival, but it [our worship] is going unto YHWH. It is as if the calf is YHWH, or the calf is the god leading them out of Egypt. Is it not interesting here that this single calf, a single molten image, is called “these be your gods” in the plural?
It means that this calf represented a Cherubimic creature that was a powerful, angelic being sent from God. Aaron no doubt thought it to be no less than the angel of the Lord itself, the agent of the Lord. The Jews recognized that an agent of Lord speaks as if it is the Lord Himself. If God sends someone in His name, that person has the right to speak in the first person. It is done time and time again in the Bible.
Aaron here raised up a calf and said, this is your god that brought you out of Egypt. In fact, he is meaning many gods. “these be your gods,” representing the leader of a host, or an army. That is how they looked at it. The next day was the feast time.
“And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.”
This is the verse the apostle Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians chapter 10. Paul mentions this very event. They had a feast to YHWH, but they were doing it to a calf. That calf represented an angelic creature who was not actually YHWH. Aaron thought it was a representative. Read the rest of the account:
“And the Lord [the being actually representing YHWH at that time] said unto Moses, Go, get you down; for your people, which you brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, ‘These be your gods, O Israel, which have brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’ And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of you [Moses] a great nation.’”
Moses interceded for Israel and God’s anger was finally moderated. But not until “about 3000” (verse 28) fell by the sword because of their idolatry. It means that if you raise up an idol that looks like the cherub that was leading you out of Egypt (and that is the indication here), it was still absolutely wrong to do so. Moses and the whole people had already been given the 10 Commandments by the voice of God from heaven itself. 4 Aaron thought it was perfectly alright to do. He found out very quickly that it was not. They made an image to an angel, a cherub. It may well have been the very cherub that brought them out of the land of Egypt, but it still was not God, who alone was to be worshipped. The 10 Commandments [the core of the Old Covenant] that the people had already agreed to said they would make no image of any kind whether being in heaven, earth, or underneath the earth, that includes the waters of the sea.
It means that you should not be making images to the idols, to angels, angelic or celestial powers. This calf that Aaron was depicting was a symbol of a cherub, as described in Ezekiel 1:10. Revelation 4:7. Cherubim could only to be displayed in the tabernacle. Aaron thought the calf was the angel called YHWH, the angel of the Lord. He no doubt felt that. But he was depicting YHWH wrongly, and YHWH did not like it. Even the angel of the Lord did not like it.
Who revealed the laws to Israel at Mount Sinai? It was God certainly and Christ was there the whole time. But Christ used a mediator to do the job for Him. That mediator had a whole host of other helpers, and they were angelic creatures. This cherub or this angel of the Lord, who had the permission to use YHWH’s name in the first person, had a lot of helpers with him and they were also called Elohim. Because you see, they were “powerful ones,” [which is what Elohim means]. The Israelites, when they saw this calf, said he is the leader of the Elohim who are leading us. In fact, there was an angel of the Lord that was leading the children of Israel, under the name of YHWH, into the wilderness, and even giving the 10 Commandments. 5
Now those 10 Commandments and the other laws, 612 of them altogether, actually were given by angels, by a prime angel, this angel of the Lord that Aaron was trying to depict. But it was wrong for them to worship that angel. It was wrong even to set up an idol of any kind to the true God. God said in chapter 34 of Exodus, two chapters later, that they should not go a whoring after the gods of the nations who are none other than angelic powers that He has placed over those nations and that they are under the jurisdiction of these angelic powers. But they should worship the true God without any images, pictures, or diagrams of any kind whatsoever. Now that is the way God wanted it.
But who was it that revealed the Law to Israel? If you look at it very carefully, you will find that there was one prime spiritual entity, an Elohim, which means a powerful one, who gave the Law to Moses. If you will read the scripture carefully, you will find that the one who revealed the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai was not God the Father, and it was not even Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus was there. He was leading the Israelites. He allowed the Law to be given by His messenger. That messenger was the angel of the Lord. The apostle Paul mentions this. Even in the 1st century Josephus, the Jewish historian, knew these things, and others also realized that God uses agents, mediators, and a prime mediator (in the singular), to give knowledge and understanding to the people of God and to Israel. However, if those messages are given in the name of YHWH, it is as if YHWH Himself had stated them. That is a fact.
Who was this personality that gave the Law to Moses, who had the ability to come in the name of Elohim, but also in the name of YHWH himself? He was actually an angel. This is made abundantly clear in the Old Testament and it is confirmed in the New Testament by the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:19 and by Stephen in Acts 7:53. It is fully acknowledged by Josephus the Jewish historian. If you will go to the New Testament, you find that this powerful Elohim, or an angel, and his angelic helpers, were the ones who spoke the Law to Moses that was finally recorded on those tablets, and then in a book for the other parts of the Law that went with the 10 Commandments.
This information in the Bible makes it certain that that angelic personality was not Jesus Christ before His incarnation. This is made plain in the Book of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews, whom I feel was the apostle Paul, took the first two chapters to show that Christ Jesus was not an angel. He was not an angel then; He is not an angel now and He will never be an angel.
Do you know what Christ Jesus is? He is someone far more powerful and greater in authority than any angel. All angels were created by Christ Jesus and for Christ Jesus before the creation of the heavens and the earth. You will find that in the last verses of Psalm 103 and continuing into Psalm 104. But Jesus Christ was not an angel. He has never been and He never will be. He is more powerful, more awesome in authority, and higher in station than any angel. Paul said in Hebrews 1:4–5.
“Being made so much better than the angels [talking about Christ], as he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, ‘You are my Son, this day have I begotten you’? [quoting Psalms 2:7] And again, ‘I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son’?”
No angel has ever been described that way. But Christ Jesus is described in that fashion. He goes on:
“But to which of the angels said he [God] at any time, ‘Sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’?”
Hebrews 1:13 [quoting Psalm 110:1]
Has he ever said that to an angel? No. He said it to His Son, His only begotten Son. Colossians 3:1 says that Jesus Christ is sitting on the right hand of the Father right now in heaven. You and I are sitting right there with Him. If we are with Him legally, sitting on the right hand of the Father in heaven (and that is what it says in Colossians 3:1 and Ephesians 2:6), it simply means that you and I, with Christ, are much higher than all the angelic authorities in the universe at this present time. And that includes the ones who gave the 10 Commandments to Israel.
Paul says that none of the angels have ever been given the permission to sit on the right hand of the Father, but Christ Jesus has. That is Hebrews 1:13. There is no controversy about this matter to the writer of Hebrews. Christ was not an angel because He was far higher in power and esteem than any angel no matter how exalted in rank that angel might be.
We can further identify that particular angel revealed in the Old and New Testaments. The clearest way to identify him is to give a compendium about this role of the angel is found in various historical contexts of the Old Testament. This Angel of the Lord was very active in human affairs from the time of Abraham to the period of the judges. He was especially active in helping righteous people to know the truth of God.
In fact, in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the new edition, Professor John Wilson gives, on page 125, under an article titled, “Angel of the Theophany” (which means angel of the appearance of God), he gives a description of this angel of the Lord. And it is most interesting. It is a summation of who this angel that represented YHWH in the Old Testament from the time of Abraham right on through the period of the judges. 6 This Angel of the Lord was not Christ. He was a Cherub that Aaron was trying to depict as the calf. He was right! But Aaron was wrong first of all by even making an idol, which is idolatry.
I will get into what real idolatry is today and how Christians are very much into idolatry, the same as the Israelites were doing at the time of Aaron, at the time of the Exodus. Today they are worshipping angelic creatures, and they should not be doing it. They are actually depicting the way angelic creatures look and not the way God looks. That is absolutely condemned both in the Old and New Testaments.
There is no mystery about it at all. All we need to know about the Family of God, about the Host of Angels that are in charge of the nations of the earth, when we all put it together, you will be clear that Christ Jesus is God’s Son and we are in Him and, believe it or not, we are higher than all of the angels as long as we stay in Christ.
We should pay attention only to Christ and God the Father as far as our worship is concerned and not to angelic powers, no matter who they may be. It has to do with idolatry if we go in any other direction, and the people of the world have done exactly that. They have begun to worship angelic powers, the spirits under God the Father and Christ, and many of them are evil powers. Some of them are good, but even the good are not to be worshipped, honored, and certainly not represented in any way because they are angels.
We are not destined to be angelic powers in the future. We are destined to become the very Sons and Daughters of the living God, of the Father himself, of YHWH, and our elder brother is Christ Jesus. We are to be esteemed in a much higher position than even the highest of the angels. Indeed we are destined with Christ to judge even the angels in the future, and the highest of them as far as that goes (1 Corinthians 6:3).
But the people of the world have gone off into idolatry. They have gone off into nature worship. They have gone off to a worship involving spirits. We hear about “the great spirits” that the North American Indians appeal to, and they do it genuinely. Sometimes they received help in ancient times and even today. But what they are doing is going after the spirits of the land in which they find themselves. There are angelic powers that are in charge of the lands and of peoples and of periods of time that God has allowed to exist. But they are not God. They are Elohim in the sense of being under the authority of God, and they do indeed have power, but they are not members of the very family of God.
Christ Jesus, however, is our Elder Brother. God the Father is our Father and there happens to be no other mediators between us and God the Father except our Elder Brother. Read what Paul says: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). That scripture we must always keep in mind. We are destined to be members of the very family of God and in actual fact legally, we are right now members of that family even being flesh and blood (1 John 2:29–3:10).
However, we do not have the power, nor do we have the bodily composition of God the Father or Christ. We will assume both the power and bodily composition in our resurrection from the dead. Our devotion, our worship, if we have that, is to be made to Christ Jesus and to God the Father without any angels ever coming in the way whatever. Now in this classic scripture in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 I want to explain this now because it has to do with the very essence of idolatry and how people have gone off into it today.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 10 the apostle Paul tells Christians, specifically the Corinthians, in verse 14: “flee from idolatry.” He says in verse 7: “neither be you idolaters,” as at the time of Aaron. Aaron was wrong to depict that Cherubimic creature, powerful as he may be and wonderful as he may be and to be respected, but that angelic person is not God, even though he can come in the first person saying that he is, and the first person as an agent of God, as a mediator.
We need no angelic mediators. That is what the apostle Paul said in Galatians chapter 3. He said it in 1 Timothy 2:5, that we have direct access to God the Father Himself through Christ Jesus and we do not need any angelic mediators whatsoever as did the ancient Israelites.
In case someone gets mistaken over the whole matter of the God of the Old Testament, understand that Jesus Christ was very much in evidence through the whole of the Old Testament period. And lest someone might feel that the God of the Old Testament was the Angel of the Lord, YHWH exclusively, and that Christ Jesus was way off in the background somewhere, the apostle Paul made it abundantly clear. When the Israelites were on the way out of Egypt, the cloud in which they were baptized, given spiritual food and spiritual drink, came from that spiritual stone that accompanied them on the way of out Egypt.
Who was that stone? It is translated “rock” in the King James Version. It is perfectly correct to say that. It is from petra which means a rock or a stone. Who was that stone that accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt, and was very concerned about them, responsible for giving them food, the manna, and responsible for giving them water, says the apostle Paul in the literal sense? That personage was none other than Christ.
Read 1 Corinthians 10:1 again to get the context. I will explain something that will be very interesting that you probably had not realized before.
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
1 Corinthians 10:1–2
What about this cloud? Remember, in the Old Testament a cloud accompanied the Israelites everywhere they went in the wilderness. When it moved, the Israelites moved. When it stayed stationary, they stayed stationary. This cloud hovered over the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle all the time. And the tabernacle is a portable temple.
The tabernacle itself was typical of the Garden of Eden. Remember that a river came out of the Garden of Eden in the first chapters of Genesis. Wherever this cloud was, you will find water associated with it. At night this cloud appeared like a pillar of fire. So, a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloudy substance during the daytime hovered precisely over the Holy of Holies.
What was in this Holy of Holies that Moses constructed? There was the Mercy Seat (as it is called in the King James Version). There was the pot of manna, and there was the rod that budded. Then there were also two Cherubim, one on one side and one on the other, with their wings stretched over, facing each other over this Mercy Seat, which represented a physical representation of the throne of God.
In fact, God himself did accompany the Israelites in the personage of Christ, and while He was there, He hovered over the Mercy Seat in a throne, in a spiritual throne that has been described by those who have seen it. I am talking about Ezekiel and others; this throne hovered over the Cherubim in the tabernacle, and in this cloud. This throne looked like it was made out of a pure solid block of sapphire stone. Sapphire is one of the most beautiful of precious stones that you can imagine.
Sapphire is a stone that has to do with royalty. When Ezekiel saw the stone that was in the form of a throne, that the Cherubim carried wherever they went, their object was to transport this throne and the One sitting on the throne wherever the personage on the throne wanted to go. In the case of the tabernacle, this was supposed to be God’s home. The inner part of it, the Mercy Seat right above where the Cherubim were with their wings stretched over was to be a representation of the throne of God. Believe it or not, just above those Cherubim, in an actual sense, but also in a spiritual sense, Ezekiel could see into the Shechinah glory, and he could see another throne on top of that throne. It was the sapphire throne on which a personage would sit. He did not have wings; He looked just like a man. The Cherubim had wings and various other animal features associated with them, symbolic of angelic powers.
Ezekiel saw the Cherubim in action and in his first chapter. It is most interesting that when he was able to see how the Cherubim themselves could transport this Personage on this sapphire stone throne anywhere in the universe. When Ezekiel describes the features of these angelic Cherubimic creatures as well as their ability with this conveyance to transport God on His sapphire throne anywhere, he states that they were able to go any direction without having to swerve. Gravity seemed to have no effect on them whatsoever. In other words, Ezekiel saw something which was supernatural and not in agreement with the laws of nature that we see here on the earth.
Toward the beginning of his prophecy, Ezekiel says the Lord came to him and gave him a vision. “And I looked, Ezekiel said, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north” (Ezekiel 1:4). 7 Now what does he see? “He sees out of this whirlwind a great cloud and also a fire enfolding itself.” A cloud with fire; this is exactly what the Israelites saw in the wilderness. They saw a cloud. At night they saw a fire, because after dark they could see enfolding fire in the cloud. This is what he saw:
“… a great cloud, a fire enfolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst the color of fire. Also out of the midst thereof [of this cloud and fire] came the likeness of four living creatures.”
He goes on to explain that they had “the likeness of a man” overall, but they had certain features of animals associated with them as well. Verse 10 gives the symbolic features of the faces of these four creatures: one had the face of a man, another had the face of a lion, another had the face of an ox, that is a calf, and the fourth had the face of an eagle. These are explained also in Revelation chapters 4 and 5, where the same characteristics are given. These four faces represent four different sides. 8 These Cherubim have wings and they form a conveyance with wheels within wheels that can go throughout the universe. 9 When these living creatures want to go anywhere:
“the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went ...”
It simply means that they had no obstacles in their way.
“The wheels were lifted up over against them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; …”
When they wanted to move they were lifted up from the earth and then moved through the air, to the firmament as it says, through the expanse. The Cherubim were carrying something. What were they carrying? If you go to verse 26 you will find out what they were carrying, because they could actually fly they could go anywhere they wanted. Look at verse 26: “And above the firmament [this expanse], which was over their heads ...” The Cherubimic creatures are on this conveyance with wheels that can go anywhere. Above their heads “... was the likeness of a throne.” This is most important. Over the Cherubim’s heads:
“... was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone [a single stone made out of sapphire]: and upon the likeness of the throne [sitting in this chair-like affair] was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it [sitting on the throne].”
And I saw as the color of the amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins [this person sitting on the throne] even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. [He was resplendent in glory.] As the appearance of the bow [a rainbow] that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”
This was a description of the Shechinah that accompanied the Israelites everywhere they went. It was the cloud, Paul said. In the Book of Exodus it was the cloud; in the Book of Numbers it was the cloud. It was fire at night and cloud in the day. It was the Shechinah, which means the glory of YHWH. Ezekiel says:
“... When I saw it, I fell on my face and I heard a voice of one that spoke. And he said unto me, Son of man, stand on your feet and I will speak unto you.”
This personage sitting on this throne, carved from a single stone which looked like sapphire, looked like an ordinary man. It does not say that he had wings or anything that could be described as such. He looked like an ordinary person. This person was sitting on this throne made out of stone, in the cloud, in the fire that would go from place to place. It is an apt description of the Shechinah glory that accompanied the Israelites when they came out of Egypt that the apostle Paul said came with them. From out of this rock, this stone associated with this cloud, water came forth to give Israel nourishment for their 40 years in the wilderness. This was in addition to the manna that also came forth outside each morning that the Israelites gathered. Look at Ezekiel chapter 10. We have a further description by the prophet.
“Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament [that means in the atmosphere] that was above the head of the Cherubims, there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.”
Here is the sapphire stone again, above the heads of the Cherubim. Moses made Cherubim, placed them in the Holy of Holies, put their wings to go over the Mercy Seat which was a physical representation of the throne of God in the Holy of Holies. But above that Ezekiel saw another throne, a real throne, a spiritual throne, and someone sitting on that throne above the heads of the Cherubim. It was the glory of the Lord.
Who was sitting on that throne? It was the personage Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians chapter 10. It was Christ. That personage was not in the form of a calf or an eagle, a lion, or any other creature, but He was strictly in the form of a human being. That was God. That was the God of Gods who created the heavens and the earth under the Father. That was the real personage that accompanied the Israelites wherever the Cherubim would take them in the cloud and the fiery place at night.
Paul said that from that stone accompanying them, that rock (either a literal rock or the Shechinah glory) provided the water. Look at the new heavens and new earth after the Millennium is over when God the Father comes down, John the apostle saw something in vision just like Ezekiel described.
“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and [the throne] of the Lamb.”
Now where does that water come from? It comes forth from underneath the throne.
“In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river [the water from the throne becomes a river], there was the tree of life [one tree, singular], which bare twelve manners of fruits and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.”
The river of life comes from that throne. Water comes from that throne. That is what will happen in the future. But that is not the only place we see water coming from the throne of God.
The original tree of life was on the riverbank coming out of the original Garden of Eden. But here is this throne described with water clear as crystal coming directly out of the throne of God, and that throne, by Ezekiel’s description, is made out of a single piece of sapphire stone. On that throne was a personage called the Son of Man. Who is the Son of Man? Christ Jesus. That is what the apostle Paul said.
In the future, Ezekiel went on to explain, there will be a temple established here on this earth. When that spiritual temple is put here after Christ comes back, note what happens when it is established.
“Afterward he brought me again [Ezekiel says], unto the door of the house [the house of God, the temple], and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward.”
Waters comes out from the Holy of Holies just as it says in the book of Revelation, where it also comes from the throne. And what was in the holy house? It was the Mercy Seat which represented the throne of God. But Ezekiel saw that above the Mercy Seat, above the Cherubim, was a real throne made out of sapphire stone, and someone sitting on it inside the holy place.
Ezekiel goes into the area of the Holy of Holies and what does he see? Water issuing forth “from under the threshold.” It goes eastward under the right side of the house south of the altar. Ezekiel was right outside of the Holy of Holies facing eastward. He saw this water coming from behind him out of the throne area, and it goes out on the south side of him and the south of the altar.
As it goes out the east gate, a man with a plumb line in his hand went forth eastward and measured the distance across this river coming out of the throne in the Holy of Holies. The width of the river measured a thousand cubits. Then as it goes on it gets wider and wider and wider. Finally it goes all the way down to the Dead Sea. Do you know what happens? That water makes the Dead Sea to be purified completely so that fishing will be done in that Dead Sea in the future. This is all described in Ezekiel chapter 47.
In Joel 3:18 we find water again coming from the Holy of Holies or where the Shechinah glory is. It comes out of the same area as when the tabernacle was established back in the wilderness.
“And it shall come to pass in that day [in the future], that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain [a spring] shall come forth of the house of the Lord [the temple], and shall water the valley of Shittim [the Jordan valley].”
In Zechariah after Christ comes back from heaven, He puts His feet on the Mount of Olives, and peace is finally established here on the earth. Then notice what happens. It says in Zechariah 14:8, the last chapter:
“And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea [that means the Dead Sea to the east], and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.”
What am I getting at with all this? It is simply that water was associated with the Shechinah glory, with the cloud and with the fire. In that cloud were the Cherubim transporting a person who was on a sapphire stone. Out of that stone came forth water that gave nourishment to the Israelites while they were in the wilderness. Ezekiel saw the same type of water coming forth from the same area. In the Book of Revelation the river of Life comes forth from the throne. What we are seeing here is that Christ Jesus was very much present in the wilderness when the Israelites were there.
The reason I bring this up is because Christ is the only one to be worshipped. Any one who goes to any other personage that is an angelic creature or spirit being, if we do so, we are doing wrong, we are actually in the realm of idolatry, even if we try to worship a Cherub who is righteous. What the ancient heathen did was to worship their own gods. They worshipped the spirits of the lands in which they found themselves. These spirits are angelic powers that God has established and allowed to be here on earth to rule under Him for righteousness sake. But Israel has its own angels, Michael and Gabriel, as well as the angel of the Lord. But even though they are for Israel’s sake, and we each individually have an angel to help us and all of that, they are our helpers under God and not to be worshipped or communicated with in any way.
We are representatives of nothing less that the very family of God, and only our Elder Brother Christ is the one who intervenes between us and the Father. That is the close relationship we have. But the other nations of the world, they wanted to go to the spirits that governed them, their Elohim. There were ancient Elohim all over the place, angels in charge of various things. God says to Israel do not go over to them like the ancient heathen.
In Exodus chapter 34 God makes a covenant with Israel the second time. This time He concentrates on one important point, that Israel is not to go over to the worship the spirits of the land, the angels, and others that make manifestation from time to time. Have nothing to do with them, worship only the true God in heaven. Almost all of the idolatry of the ancient world worshipped spirits, angels, which actually do exist.
“And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all your people I will do marvels [God says], such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which you are shall see the work of the Lord [YHWH], for it is a terrible thing that I will do with you.”
By “terrible” He means they will see the power of God in action.
“Observe you that which I command you this day [here are the commands of God to the ancient Israelites]: Behold, I drive out before you the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. [These were the Canaanite tribes were then in the land of Canaan.] Take heed to yourself lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither you go, lest it be for a snare in the midst of you.”
Now here is what the Israelites living at the time were to do. “But you shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves [their trees]” (Exodus 34:13). These things were for religious purposes. He does not say put them in museums or galleries to admire them or show how silly they are.
“Destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For you shall worship no other god: for the Lord [YHWH], whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
He only wants Himself and His firstborn Son to be worshipped, and no one else; it makes no difference who they are, man or whatever or angel. He is a jealous God, one of whose names is Jealous.
“Lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they [the Israelites] go, a whoring after their gods.”
That means committing fornication in a spiritual sense with their Elohim. God is saying here through Moses that the nations do have Elohim in charge of them. They have angelic powers put there but they are lesser than God and are not to be worshipped. The ancient nations were building altars to them, and images to them, and raising up and decorating trees and things like that to them, and putting stars on top to them, and dedicating all types of things to them. You shall not worship any other god, even if it is a righteous angel. This is where Aaron went astray. He was not putting up a false angel, a false Cherub. He was putting up a proper one; but it was horribly wrong for him to do so.
This is what we find to be the case now because God is a jealous God. Today we find people putting up an image of Jesus in their churches, in their Sunday school books, and their Sabbath school books, whether it is a picture, an icon, an image, a statue, or whatever. What kind of a god do they have there? Someone who could never look like this jealous God in heaven. A man, we are told by the apostle Paul, is to have short hair. It is a shame for a man to have long hair (1 Corinthians 11:14), because the male member of society is in the image of God and of Christ. God would not allow His priests in the temple ever to go with long hair because they represented God.
But the false angels in Revelation chapter 9 come out of the bottomless pit with hair like women that comes down to the shoulders. What do we do? We put up the image of Jesus but it is not the true image at all. It is of a false god, Zeus or of Serapis, and we start worshipping it. We do not think we do, but we do. It makes no a difference if you are Catholic, or Greek Orthodox, or a Protestant.
It seems everyone wants this image of a long haired Jesus, and yet it is nothing more than a pagan god, a pagan angelic creature that they are worshipping; and a bad angel. Any “god” with long hair in the form of man, it is a form of shame and it is not be done. God said to the ancient Israelites, I am “a jealous God.” Do not go a whoring after other gods. He admitted that those gods existed. 10
The idols themselves are dumb; the idols made out of wood and iron and gold are nothing. They represented these angelic powers, these spirits that most in the world have gone over to. It goes on to say you do not sacrifice unto them, you do not call for them, you do not eat their sacrifices, or:
“… go a whoring after their gods, and make your sons go a whoring after their gods. You shall make you no molten gods [or any kind of images].”
Note what Moses is telling the ancient Israelites. He did not say that there were not pagan gods, of course there were (and are). They are in the form of angelic creatures that God allows to exist, but God says not to worship them, you are to worship Him.
Go to Micah chapter 4. It was well recognized in the Old Testament period that there were many gods besides just YHWH. These gods were not the true God. But these Elohim, whose name really does mean “god,” were angelic powers with certain authority coming from the true God himself. We find in Micah chapter 4 at a time in the future:
“They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the YHWH of hosts has spoken it. [Note when this time comes:] For all people [in the King James Version] will walk [in the Hebrew, “now walk”], every one in the name of his god and we will walk in the name of YHWH our God for ever and ever [for the age and beyond].”
Micah here is admitting, and God is admitting, that there are other gods out there in the sense of angelic powers. But there is only one God family that YHWH is the head of and He has a firstborn Son. That firstborn Son is the One sitting on that sapphire throne, a throne that represents the Shechinah glory of God in cloud and fire above the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies. The one on the stone from which the water came was none other than Christ Jesus. That is most important for us to understand.
The apostle Paul in Ephesians and Colossians talks about the powers and the principalities, about the angelic powers that have been put down through Christ, and that Christ is now exercising His authority with us in a personal direct way. He does not go through angels to us anymore. That does not mean He cannot send angels to help us, but we do not have to go directly through angels any longer.
We are a unique people that have direct communication with God the Father through Christ alone. We no longer need any other mediators, no angel whatsoever, no matter how important he may be. That is what the apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:5. Our only mediator is Christ. We are in the bosom of the Father already through Christ. We are, according to Colossians 3:1, sitting on the right hand of the Father in Christ and you must couple that verse with Ephesians 2:6. We are sitting on the very throne of God legally in heaven with Christ now.
The angelic powers have been overcome. The apostle Paul said that these powers did not even understand the full gospel in the past — not before Christ Jesus came on the scene nor before the apostle Paul and others were given a spiritual understanding of just what the mystery, the great secret, was all about. This great secret is that we are all to become members of the very family of God, higher than all the angels put together. We are the children of God, the sons and daughters of God, and although angels can have the name of Elohim on them, they cannot have the designation of sons or daughters of Elohim. We are the sons and daughters of Elohim by which we partake of the very nature of God.
In Colossians and in Ephesians we find the apostle Paul saying that we are fighting with the principalities and powers now at the present time and we should overcome them, and we can do so through Christ. Do you realize that we can ask Christ to help us overcome all of the evil powers that there are in the universe? It is not that you and I have power of ourselves right now, but all we have to do is invoke the name of Jesus Christ. I will tell you this, if we do, those angelic powers (be they good or be they bad) have to obey.
It is like a child maybe six years of age who has a nanny over him or her. The child has to obey exactly what the nanny says, and can in no way go contrary except if the child says to the nanny, I would like to do this or that, and the nanny says, no, you do not have any ability to do that. But the child says, I have a note from my father dated today that says I can do this; here you are Miss Nanny, look at my note. The nanny sees it is in the handwriting of the father, and the nanny has to do what the father says.
That is the way it is with each of us. We have to go through the Father and Christ and we have to use their names to get relief if we have any problems from these angelic powers. These powers that God allows to exist today, some of them are evil.
In the Old Testament God was very much in charge back there. Some people actually believe that the God of the Old Testament is an evil god or a god inferior to Christ or to God the Father. That is utter nonsense. God himself does evil in the New Testament. The Book of Revelation comes directly from Jesus Christ himself and He has power and authority to do as He pleases. If He wants to deceive the world, He can do that. In fact He shall deceive the world just before His second coming.
He is the God of Gods who is in charge of everything. Do not let anyone tell you that the Old Testament God is an inferior God, and that the idols that we find in the world today represent that inferior God. That is not true whatsoever. What we find from idolatrous worship is that people have put up images of various deities as they call them, gods, that exist, but they are angelic forces. These angelic forces should not be depicted at all, because if you are going to put them in place of the jealous God, who is YHWH, you are thinking along the lines of the false gods. 11
The idolatry in the world today in our churches is nothing more than paganism. You know what happened in the 4th century when the people were converted to Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy as we call it? They had Zeus around. The authorities had put Zeus there with his long hair and had the people call him Jesus. But do you know what they thought of? They thought of Zeus.
Today it is time that all representations of God are removed, even those that [falsely] represent Christ. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
Ernest L. Martin, April 1993
Edited by David Sielaff, January 2007
1 The exact number of people is covered in my book, 101 Bible Secrets That Christians Do Not Know. The great number of people had no food to eat ordinarily. They had to be supplied with manna, and with water to drink. ELM
2 In Colossians chapter 1 the apostle Paul says that Christ, underneath the Father, created the heavens and the earth. He created the angels in the first place. That is why we have Him always coming into the picture here, because He created Adam and Eve. The God of the Old Testament, the real God of the Old Testament, with a whole bevy of angels underneath Him, is none other than Christ Jesus. Christ was the one who revealed the Father to people (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22). YHWH is the Father’s name, and Christ can bear it as well. But the one who really was in active charge of creating the heavens and the earth underneath the Father, according to Colossians 1:15–21 was Christ Jesus. John the apostle said that the Word, the Logos, was in the beginning with God and He was God. He had the rank of God upon Him. God (Elohim) is a name of a family. It means powerful ones. The name YHWH Elohim, shows who the powerful ones are governed by. YHWH, who is the Father and underneath Him is Christ the Son, they are one as far as power and authority and administration. They represent a single entity and yet they are distinct personalities, as we find in Scripture. ELM
3 For a 40 year period angel's food was miraculously supplied to them called manna (Exodus chapter 16 and Psalm 78:4–5). Even quail was provided to them for meat (Exodus 16:13, Numbers 11:31f and Psalms 105:40). ELM
4 The Commandments were written down but the people had not seen them written on the stones yet. When Moses came with those stones written by the hand of God, he looked and saw all of this nonsense that was going on. ELM
5 Even though the Angel of the Lord represented YHWH and spoke for Him (which is what angels do, “angel” means messenger), Israel was not allowed to represent the Angel of the Lord, or any angel, with an image. DWS
6 See the review and discussion of Professor Wilson’s ISBE article in Chapter 2, “The Law Was Given by Angels” of Dr. Martin’s book Essentials of New Testament Doctrine (Portland, OR: ASK Publications, 2001), and online at http://www.askelm.com/essentials/ess003a.htm. DWS
7 It is interesting that it comes from the north. When you read the scripture you will find that the north quarters is where God lives. It is simply an indication here that it comes from the presence of God, from the north. ELM
8 If you look at it very carefully, they also represent the principle tribes of Israel, one side was in charge of 3 tribes, another was in charge of 3 tribes, another 3, and another 3 making four principle tribes in charge of the 12 tribes of Israel. The man represented Reuben, because he was the firstborn of Jacob. The lion was, as we say, Leo the lion, you know, of Judah. The ox was of Joseph, the calf. And eagle was of Dan. And you will find this same scheme in Revelation chapter 4 as well. ELM
9 They can go anywhere throughout the firmament. While this was fantastic in the time of Ezekiel and John, today we now understand the principles of flight in the atmosphere, travel in space, and even in the universe as presented here. DWS
10 God does not want His glory or any praise to Him to go to images of any kind. God says through Isaiah: “I am YHWH: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise [praise due to Me] to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8, compare with Philippians 2:11).Read Isaiah 2:8, 42:17, 44:9–20, and 57:1–13, all of which deal with idolatry. This also applies to “pictures” of a long-haired Jesus. See Bible Secret #5 of 101 Bible Secrets That Christians Do Not Know at http://www.askelm.com/secrets/index.asp. DWS
11 We have 6 presidents of the United States living at present [in 1993]. Each one of them has a different personality. Let us say you are a Republican and you like Reagan. If you put a picture of Reagan in your home and later find that someone has substituted a picture of Jimmy Carter or someone else, your emotions would be upset by that. Maybe you like Carter and you do not like Reagan, it is the same thing. Who you depict is very important to who you are in tune with. That is why God says I want none of these false gods or angels, or anything else depicting Him. Aaron picked the right angel, a Cherub, but you know, he actually got the people playing in the wrong way. God said it is not to be done. ELM
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