Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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"The things that the heathen sacrifice, they sacrifice unto devils, and not unto God."
Paul, In 1Corinthians 10:20
The gods of the Gentiles were "nothing", as far as what men imagined them to be, but at least in some cases, they were in fact, real beings. They were demons, and sometimes those demons actually did things and spoke. The Egyptian magicians in Pharaoh's court, you may remember, performed three of the miracles that Moses and Aaron performed: turning rods into serpents (Ex. 7:10-12), turning water into blood (Ex. 7:20-22), and bringing frogs in incredible numbers upon the land (Ex. 8:6-7). After that point, the magicians could not repeat the miracles God wrought through Moses and Aaron. They had demonic power at their disposal, but it was limited by God.
The point here is that those Egyptian magicians could not have performed miracles through the power of their own imaginations. Their miraculous power came from real beings: demons. The "gods" they called upon for help responded by giving them power to perform a few miraculous deeds. But the deeds they performed were what is called in the New Testament "lying wonders and signs" because the men who trusted in those gods were trusting in a lie. Those gods could not save them from eternal damnation. They could not grant eternal life. They were not God, who alone will save or destroy, and their powers are limited by God. They can work only when God grants them to work, and their work serves His mighty purposes, as it did in Egypt long ago.
So, maybe the ancients were not the utterly foolish people that some may try to make them out to be for their faith in the gods. If the gods had never done or spoken anything to them, then their faith in those gods might be considered utterly foolish. But if, upon occasion, those gods did speak and those gods did do something, then we can begin to see them not as complete fools but as simply foolish. They trusted in invisible beings but the wrong ones. They worshiped invisible beings that at times actually spoke, and sometimes wrought miracles, but they failed to understand and worship the invisible Creator. That is foolish.
Moses (Lev. 17:7; Dt. 32:17), David (Ps. 106:35-38), and others all understood that the gods of the Gentiles were in fact demons. Paul taught that demons devised some of the doctrines certain ministers teach (1Tim. 4:1), and the source of a man's doctrine is the god which that man truly is serving when he teaches it. In teaching "doctrines of demons" men of the modern era may "worship demons" as energetically as any ancient pagan priest. James said that demons were among those who believe in the one true God (Jas. 2:19). And in John's Revelation (18:1-2), an angel from heaven helps us understand how this could be when he declared that demons were imprisoned within the religious system of "Babylon", which is Christianity. Within that religious system are righteous men and unrighteous men of saints, sinners, and demons. It is mass confusion and God is calling His people out of it so that they no longer will serve demons "thinking to do God a service."
The "patron saints" of Catholicism, including "the Mother Mary", who on rare occasions appears to individuals, are nothing more than renamed heathen gods from the ancient world. Demons are no less active in their delusive works than they were long ago; they have merely changed their doctrines, their methods, and their names and we can recognize them only as we come to understand the singular truth of Christ Jesus.