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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by John D. Clark Sr.
“The things Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God.”
There is nothing that has caused more misery on earth than wrong ideas about God. Indeed, the origin of all human suffering was the wrong idea about God that Satan planted in Eve’s mind in the garden of Eden. However, modern cultures can be as superstitious as ancient ones; wrong ideas about God are not exclusive to ancient civilizations. Modern man is so proud of the knowledge God has given him that he regards the myths of the classical world as having no more basis in reality than a cartoon, but this generation’s arrogance toward previous ones is based more on fiction than many of the myths of ancient civilizations. In the Bible, there are examples of soothsayers and witches who had real spiritual power. A most stunning example is that of the Egyptian magicians of Moses’ time. They performed miraculous deeds which for a time matched the miracles which Moses and Aaron performed by the power of God (Ex. 7:9–12)! The witch of Endor in 1Samuel 28, for another example, had power to communicate with the dead, and the demon-possessed girl in Acts 16 made her owners wealthy with her supernatural knowledge. In spite of what many “enlightened” people now believe, such supernatural events really took place. Ancient people were deceived by them, to be sure, but not because the tales of such spiritual powers were phony, but because they were true! The Devil is a real creature, as are fallen angels. They are not inventions of man. They once stood before God in heaven but were cast out (Jn. 12:31; Rev. 12:9). They know God better than ordinary humans know God, and they still have the supernatural powers with which they were created. They can reveal things to people, and they can perform feats of superhuman strength through humans, as did the demon-possessed man whom Jesus healed at Gadara (Mk. 5:1–5).
Ancient people were full of common sense and no more gullible than people are now, and it would be prudent to give their stories more credence than most are willing to do. In the nineteenth century, a German named Heinrich Schliemann dared to think that way. He was ridiculed by the “experts”, but his confidence in certain elements of ancient mythology proved to be well-founded. Schliemann believed that the ancient city of Troy had been a real place (remember the Trojan Horse?), and he ventured out on his own to search for that city. Using geographic information from Homer’s Iliad as his principle guide, he astonished the experts by discovering the ruins of Troy in the northwest corner of Asia Minor – exactly where Homer had said Troy stood!
Of course, many ancient myths were fabricated, including much of Homer’s story of Troy, but ancient man’s colorful imagination does not mean that supernatural things did not take place. Spiritual powers are real. With God’s aid, Samson exhibited astonishing strength, as did the demon-possessed man out of whom Jesus cast a “legion” of demons, and the Bible also mentions wicked men of giant stature who lived before the flood, “mighty men, men of renown from long ago” (Gen. 6:4). These men had sunk into the depths of spiritual darkness, and it is easily seen how that some of them, by demonic power, could have performed mighty feats. It is inconceivable that ancient people, intelligent as they were, would have continually made sacrifices to gods who never did anything for them. Nor would people, for centuries, have kept making arduous pilgrimages to oracles if doing so never benefitted them.
Repeatedly, the Bible states that what the Gentiles worshipped were demons (Lev. 17:5–7; Dt. 32:12–18; 2Chron. 11:13–16; Ps. 106:34–38; 1Cor. 10:18–22), but the Gentiles did not see demons as evil. There were multitudes of demons that ancient men respected and worshipped, calling those gods by lovely names, such as Jupiter, Athena, Apollo, Aphrodite, and inventing elaborate ceremonies and mythic stories about them. People prayed to those gods and anticipated supernatural help. The evidence suggests that sometimes, those demons fulfilled men’s expectations and gave them a prophecy, or revealed a secret, or endowed someone a supernatural quality. To receive such blessings, one needed only to do as Satan suggested Jesus do in the Temptation: “Bow down and worship me.”
When Jesus neared demon-possessed people, the demons would often declare truth, such as, “I know you, who you are – the holy one of God!” (Mk. 1:23–24), and sometimes, they would beg him, “Don’t torment me!” (Mk. 5:7). Sometimes, they would even speak of the coming Judgment, saying to Jesus (Mt. 8:29), “Have you come here to torment us before the time?” The demon-possessed girl in Philippi irritated Paul by following him through the streets of Philippi, screaming, “These men are servants of the most high God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation!” (Acts 16:16–17). Those demonic voices, crying out bits of truth through possessed people, were the voices of the gods of the ancient world, and ancient people trusted in them instead of the true God.
If demons spoke through ancient people of the holiness of God and the certainty of judgment to come, then, why should we think it strange that demons continue to do so? Paul said that Satan has transformed himself into “an angel of light” and that Satan’s “ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness” (2Cor. 11:14–15). So, ministers of Satan now masquerade as servants of God. But if we know the Bible and human history, we know men have often been moved by Satan and demons to do so. In the ancient world, who were Satan’s ministers, but the priests and priestesses of the gods? Was not the high priest of Jove (chief god of the Romans) Satan’s supreme minister? Were not the ancient false prophets and poets ministers of Satan, who yielded themselves to demons and fervently prayed to be possessed by them, calling on the muses, or the lyre-playing Apollo, or shrewd Athena, or other gods?
The official title of the high priest of Jove (Latin pronunciation: Yohweh), was Pontifex Maximus. That title was a coveted political prize granted by the senate of Rome to prominent men. It was the world’s highest religious position, first held by nobles such as Julius Caesar, and later by the emperors of Rome. If there ever was a man who was a “minister of Satan”, then Pontifex Maximus was he, being the chief priest of the Empire’s highest ranking demon.
If Satan’s ministers have now transformed themselves into apostles of Christ, as Paul said (2Cor. 11:13–15), then where is Pontifex Maximus now? Where has that chief minister of Satan gone? Find Pontifex Maximus and listen to him, and you’ll hear a man claiming to be the Vicar of Christ, the chief pastor of saints. Find Pontifex Maximus, and you’ll witness for yourself a man under Satan’s control, speaking reverentially about God, exhorting men to worship Him, and warning of the Judgment to come. Find him, and as in ancient times, you’ll find multitudes following him, worshipping demons in beautiful, if not magnificent settings, “thinking to do God service” (Jn. 16:2). Find Pontifex Maximus today, and you’ll hear the cunningly devised “doctrines of devils” about which Paul warned believers. Where is Pontifex Maximus and his fellow ministers, and by what name do they now call themselves? You tell me.