Gen. 4:3-8 π Lev. 17:7 π Num. 6:6 π Jdgs. 13:5 π Jdgs. 14:4 π Jdgs. 14:8-9 π Jdgs. 15:15 π Jdgs. 16:1 π Jdgs. 16:1-3 π Jdgs. 16:3 π Jdgs. 16:4-5 π Jdgs. 16:19 π Jdgs. 16:30 π Hos. 4:12-13; 2nd π Hos. 5:4; 2nd π Hos. 5:6 π Hos. 5:6-7 π Hos. 5:7 π Mt. 16:18 π Mt. 18:34-35 π Jn. 3:3-8 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 15:5 π Rom. 8:37 π 1 Cor. 6:20 π 1 Cor. 10:20 π Phlp. 4:13 π 2 Tim. 3:5 π Heb. 11:4 π Jas. 1:27 π 1 Jn. 1:9 π 1 Jn. 3:12 π Jude 11 π Rev. 3:17-18 π Rev. 12:11 π Rev. 17:3-6 π Rev. 17:18; 2nd π Rev. 18:4 π Rev. 18:9 π Rev. 18:15 π Rev. 18:17 π Rev. 18:23 π Rev. 18:23-24
We will begin with the most dangerous and the most successful of these Satanic beings. When we understand what this evil spirit does and has accomplished among men, it will make it easier to understand the roles the other rulers play.
The first mention of this spirit is found in the Old Testament. Hosea prophesied in the name of the
My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God. They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks, poplars, and terebinths, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters commit harlotry, and your brides commit adultery... They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God, for the spirit of harlotry is in their midst, and they do not know the
LORD... With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself from them. They have dealt treacherously with the LORD, for they have begotten pagan children. Now a New Moon shall devour them and their heritage. ( Hos. 4:12-13 ; 5:4 , 6-7; top )
Before we examine the symbology of this Old Testament prophecy, let us jump ahead to the New Testament to find the name given to this spirit there, for that name will make it easier to grasp this spirit’s place in human history. John wrote:
And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written:
And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. ( Rev. 17:3-6; top )
Because even this description is filled with imagery that has been taught in various ways (tainting it with “baggage” that is not necessarily true), let us give this evil spirit a more usable name, that is, a name more usable to our modern ways of thinking. Drawing from Paul, Hosea and John, let us call this evil spirit the ruler of false religion. This being does not enter into a person, possess them and force them to practice false religion. No, she (to continue the symbology used by John - whether this being is actually female is doubtful) uses deception to cause men to believe they are pursuing God when, in fact, they are not.
James gave us the definition of true religion when he wrote,
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. ( Jas. 1:27; top )
If this does not describe our religious practices, the ruler of false religion has deceived us and taken us as prey and the devil is eating us for food, that is, using us to further his war against Christ.
A caution must be sounded immediately. Jesus also said,
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. ( Jn. 15:5; top )
We can, in a frenzy of religious duty, visit orphans and widows all day long and tend to their troubles until we are exhausted and penniless. But unless the Spirit of Christ within us is leading us to that particular orphan or widow at that particular time and He has equipped and provided us with precisely what that orphan or widow needs, it amounts to nothing. Likewise, in trying to be spotless from the world, we can work ourselves up to a form of godliness ( 2 Tim. 3:5 ) but only God truly cleanses us from all unrighteousness. ( 1 Jn. 1:9; top )
Put bluntly, the goal of the ruler of false religion is to get us to do anything but abide in Christ, using deception to cause us to believe we are pursuing God when, in fact, we are not. The more “noble,” the more “self-sacrificing,” the more “sacred” these acts seem to be, the better as far as she is concerned. But if it is done apart from obedience to the Spirit of Christ within, it is nothing. Worse, it is the means by which the ruler of false religion blinds us to the real gospel of Christ.
Let us return to Hosea’s symbology and examine from the Scriptures just how this ruler of false religion, the spirit of harlotry, deceived and enslaved Israel.
My people ask counsel from their wooden idols... They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops... ( Hos. 4:12-13; top )
These are things one ought to turn to God with. Instead of seeking the wisdom of God and bringing the sacrifice of a pure heart, these people practiced the rituals of the pagan people around them and paid homage to gods who are really demons. ( Lev. 17:7 ; 1 Cor. 10:20; top )
They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God... And they do not know the
LORD. With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the LORD, but they shall not find Him... ( Hos. 5:4 , 6; top )
They still obey the law, they still bring their sacrifices to Jerusalem, giving lip service to God, but a pure, contrite heart is missing. They neither know God nor turn to Him. They merely practice an empty form of religion in His name. And though they go to His temple with their sacrifices, God is simply not available to them. They have been conned, robbed of a precious heritage.
They have dealt treacherously with the
LORD, for they have begotten pagan children. Now a New Moon shall devour them and their heritage. ( Hos. 5:7; top )
Whether taken literally or figuratively, the result is the same: God is deprived of His heritage. In a literal sense, the parents’ practice of false religion produces children who see nothing wrong with false religion and the downward spiral toward lawlessness (doing what is right in one’s own eyes, pursuing one’s own agenda) has begun. In a figurative sense, their practice of false religion produces “children,” more acts of false religion and hypocrisy and God is robbed of those who might otherwise worship Him in spirit and truth. (see Jn. 4:24; top ) The picture of a New Moon is one of darkness while the reflective side of the moon faces the sun as it rotates around the earth. The light of God’s face and glory is turned away and men stumble in darkness or, at most, with flickering torches of demonic or man-made light (religion, rituals, traditions, etc.). Darkness swallows up the heritage of the sons of light when false religion is practiced and the true ways of God are neglected and ignored.
Let us fast forward again to John’s vision. We are isolating some insights about this ruler but we must not completely forget that this vision also represents a city ( Rev. 17:18 ; 18:4 ), one that is destroyed by fire in one hour. ( Rev. 18:9 , 15 , 17; top ) Whether this element of the vision is literal or figurative or some combination of both, it does not negate the insights we can glean about this ruler of that city.
John was told about this woman that she was
...that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth... [her] merchants were the great men of the earth, for by [her] sorcery all the nations were deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth. ( Rev. 17:18 ; 18:23-24; top )
This spirit’s activities go all the way back to Abel whom Cain killed, in part, because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s. (see Gen. 4:3-8 ) False religion has never been acceptable to God and the ruler of false religion has always stirred up its participants to a murderous fury against those who practice true religion acceptable to God. The way of false religion is the way of Cain. ( Jude 11 ; also see Heb. 11:4 ; 1 Jn. 3:12; top )
The ruler of false religion has inspired great men throughout the centuries to head up movements and religions that mislead people away from the truth of Christ in varying degrees - Mohammed, Marx, Hitler, Ghandi to name a few obvious examples. These are the merchants of Babylon the Great ( Rev. 18:23; top ) and the sorcery she practices is the power she exercises to blind the peoples of the earth to the light of Christ. Her activities over the centuries have established an institution that is cherished among men but is an abomination to God.
One of the most poignant types (pictoral representations or applications) of the work of the ruler of false religion is found in the story of Samson, the strong man of God, and Delilah, the harlot or prostitute for hire. Let us remember who Samson was:
Samson was to be set apart with special vows unto the Lord from the time of his birth. ( Jdgs. 13:5 ) This is a picture of every believer who, upon his new birth from above ( Jn. 3:3-8 ), is to be totally and completely set apart to Christ. ( 1 Cor. 6:20; top )
Samson was gifted with incredible strength and, armed only with a jawbone of a donkey, killed a thousand men who were most likely better armed than he was. ( Jdgs. 15:15 ) The believer in Christ can do all things through Christ who gives him strength ( Phlp. 4:13 ) and is more than a conqueror through Christ who loves him. ( Rom. 8:37; top )
One night, Samson walked away with the very gate to the city of Gaza right under the noses of his enemies. ( Jdgs. 16:3 ) The gates (schemes and devices of the enemy meant to deceive and imprison believers) will not prevail against the ekklesia, the true people of Christ. ( Mt. 16:18; top )
But what was Samson’s weaknesses? Women - and flirting with impurities. Though according to his Nazirite vows he was never to approach a dead body ( Num. 6:6 ), he did not hesitate to scoop honey from the carcass of a lion. ( Jdgs. 14:8-9 ) And though he was a leader among his people and could have probably chosen any Hebrew woman as his wife, his tastes ran toward the women of the Philistines. Interestingly enough, Samson’s sinful taste in women was used by the Lord as an opportunity to inflict judgment upon the people of the Philistines. ( Jdgs. 14:4 ) Also quite interestingly, Samson’s feat of removing the gate of Gaza was performed after he spent the night with a prostitute! ( Jdgs. 16:1; top ) In the same way, many believers live their lives seeing how close they can come to sin without actually willfully touching it (or they are completely unaware of how sinful their attitudes and actions really are) - and then they find themselves enticed by worldly principles, luxuries and/or comforts more so than they are drawn by the Spirit of God. God will hold guiltless neither the demonic forces who deceive nor the human participant in that deception - but the fact that a child of God has been deceived by the demonic gives God an opportunity to move against the works of the demonic (that’s how transcendent God is in this matter!) And even though a believer has given into sin, he is still able to overcome the schemes of the enemy if he will but get up and move away from his place of sin and back to his rightful place in Christ. This is the superior power of God’s grace over sin and the deceptions of the demonic).
Delilah is the epitome of the prostitute or whore for hire. Samson (having failed to learn his lesson about sleeping with the women of the enemy’s camp - Jdgs. 16:1-3 ) committed fornication with Delilah (who received but obviously did not reciprocate his love) and she continued sleeping with him even as she utilized her feminine charms to ferret out the secret of his great strength so that she might receive the handsome monetary reward of the lords of the Philistines. ( Jdgs. 16:4-5 ) Most “believers” today do exactly as Samson did. They love to go to a “church,” sit silently in a pew and practice the rules and traditions of their own religious club, having little or nothing to do with Christ as they are lulled to sleep so they can be brought into further slavery to the Satanic. The spirit of false religion, as did Delilah with Samson ( Jdgs. 16:19 ), lulls her victims to sleep so that they might be turned over to their enemies, have their eyes plucked out and be tormented for the remainder of their days. This is a picture of the believer’s lost discernment and inability to overcome his tormenters. (see Rev. 3:17-18 ; Mt. 18:34-35; top )
The story of Samson ends with his regaining his strength just long enough to destroy more of his enemies then he had done in his whole life ( Jdgs. 16:30 ) - and I believe Samson is a picture of the whole of the body of Christ throughout church history and into the Great Tribulation where saints overcome the devil by the giving of their own lives. ( Rev. 12:11; top ) There is nothing in the Scriptures, however, that requires the spiritual life of each and every individual believer to conform to the pattern of Samson’s life.
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