Religion in the Wilderness
As we continue to trace the steps of the children of Israel through the wilderness, we find the manifestation of religion there.
“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us’” (Exo. 32:1).
Moses spent forty days and nights atop Mount Sinai receiving from the Lord the patterns of the tabernacle, of all the furniture and utensils, and of the holy garments of the priests. But for the earth dwellers, those forty days/nights were a test that manifested the rebellion in their heart. Although Israel had come out of Egypt, the idolatry of Egypt they were accustomed to all their lifetime had yet to be uprooted from their hearts. The journey out of Egypt is an exodus out of the flesh. But outward separation and external conformity are not sufficient. An inward transformation is necessary.
Consider the scene. As the impartation of the law unto Moses was taking place atop the mountain, the idol was being manifested on the earth. That which was exalted as God in the people was made visible as God was revealing His glory. In us too, the impartation of the Law of the Spirit in the Day of the Lord will make manifest all the corruption of self and carnality hidden in the deep recesses of our heart. As God brings us into higher realms and greater unveilings of Christ, more and more will the man of sin be exposed within us.
“For that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thes. 2:3-4). It is the Day and the brightness of Christ’s coming within each saint which exposes all the dark works of the Adamic nature in our earth.
We see two realms and spheres of life in the text in Exodus: the mountain top and the earth. We also see two types of people who live out of these realms: a heavenly people and an earthly people.
The glory of God and the impartation of His nature emanates out from the heaven of our spirit (mountain top). Christ is unveiled from our spirit first to regenerate our soul and to transform our body. Everything that is God ordained, holy and life-producing comes from heaven. For “a man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” (John 3:27). Thus all good things that the children of Israel received in the wilderness came from heaven, be it the law and council of God or the manna.
But what if that which is to come from heaven delays? Indeed when heaven withholds its dew the earth will bear no fruit. But heaven only delays for those who dwell on the earth. It was when Moses delayed coming down from the mountain that the children of Israel decided to take matters into their own hands – trying to bring forth heaven out of the earth. This is the essence of religion: man attempting to produce from his earth that which is heavenly. The golden calf was of the earth, molded by men; hence dead and lifeless. But the word assures us that “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth” (Joh. 3:31).
We witness a similar situation with different outcomes in the lives of the disciples. Our Lord Jesus told the disciples: “behold I send the promise of my Father upon you but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luk. 24:49). Power has to come from on high, thus they had to tarry. The Word ‘tarry’ is the Greek ‘Kathizo’ which properly means to ‘make to sit down’. To tarry signifies the end of works or labours of the flesh in the earth realm. Thus our Lord Jesus left the disciples with no instructions, no strategies, nothing to institutionalize, no earthly means or methods to organize and spread the kingdom. Having imparted to them the word of life, they were simply told to tarry – made to sit down.
The Greek word also means ‘to confer a kingdom on one’. It is positional in that the one who tarries is set and appointed in a higher realm. The earth is full of agitations and efforts of the flesh, there is no sitting (rest) there. Thus the word is used in reference to being seated in heavenly places. Jesus said: “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits (Kathizo) on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit (Kathizo) on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mat. 19:28). Those who have received the promise to sit with Him in heavenly places have entered His rest and have ceased from all the toils and labours of religion. They no longer till their earth to bear fruit from it. Instead they are vessels through whom the Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.
But the children of Israel could not tarry for they were earthly. As Moses delayed, men rebelled against God and took matters into their own hands. For the spiritual, heaven never delays for it is now and those who are seated in Him find themselves in His rest, progressively experiencing His increase. But for the earthly, heaven’s absence in their experience causes them to strive in their earth. Here, false idols of self and flesh become justified and disguised by doctrines and traditions of religion. Paul warns us: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3).
Was this not what happened in Sinai? It was the people who gathered, having turned from the Truth, to ask Aaron to make them gods. Today too, there are many who gather to themselves one minister after another to satisfy their desires by erecting golden calves of prosperity, pseudo-psychology, intellectualism, kingdom-building, faith for self-indulgence, fleshy gratifications, comfort, etc. These are indeed earthy for they have no love for the truth but are rather occupied with attaining earthly status and benefits.
The Beasts and the Realms of the Sea and Earth
The golden calf was erected to be worshiped by the children of Israel on the earth. Throughout scripture we read of much corruption that comes out of the earth. But the earth is not the lowest realm. In Revelation, John saw two beasts; the beast out of the earth and the beast out of the sea. Before we look at the beasts themselves, let us consider the realms from where these beasts come out of.
All that transpires in the book of Revelation occurs in three realms; heaven, the earth and the sea. The sea is the lowest realm; mankind at its lowest point controlled by the lust of flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Individually, it represents the body realm and the raging nature of the Adamic man finding its highest expression in unsaved men. For “the wicked are like the troubled sea” (Isa. 57:20). Wicked men are also described by Jude as: “raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame” (Jude 13).
The beast rising up out of the sea represents the carnal system of the world that emerges from the evil heart of fleshly man. Jesus declared: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed all these evil things.” All who live and operate under this system dwell in the sea. This includes majority in the world today who are subservient to the spirit of the world. Thus we read that “all the world marvelled and followed the beast… And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:3, 7).
The second realm is the earth. Those who dwell on the earth comprise of those who have experienced the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ but whose life and thinking is not spiritual. Although at their highest, they experience heaven, they also muddle with the sea. These are carnal Christians, soulish men – moral, intellectual and religious people who mind earthly things. They are earth dwellers. Like the children of Israel, they have come out of Egypt but they have yet to be freed from the bondage of the Egypt within. Their life, thoughts, words, ambitions and understanding is natural, tied to the earth. Their focus is on the outward achievements and external gains. They reject the pure walk of the Spirit. Therefore, they fail to comprehend and press into the spiritual truths and realities of the Kingdom. Out of such a people comes a mixture of carnality and spirituality. They take the things of God and mingle them with earthly methods and programs. Consequently, religion is birthed.
Thus the beast out of the earth signifies the carnal system of religion. John saw “another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon” (Rev. 13:11). Its horns which resemble a lamb make it seem like the meek and humble Lamb. In Revelation 5:6 we see the figure of the real Lamb having seven horns. Yet this one only possesses two. Religion is an imitation. It seems authentic and real. It mimics the Lamb, but it’s a counterfeit for when it speaks, it speaks like a dragon. Its words are lies and abominations, filled with hate and vengeance. It distorts the word of God. It falsifies the nature of God. It is the voice of another. But by its disguise, those who dwell on the earth are deceived because they neither know the voice of the Lamb nor follow Him wherever He goes.
The deception of the beast out of the earth (the carnal system of religion) causes men to show it reverence and adoration. “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). Such was the condition of which Jeremiah spoke when the people’s trust had turned from the Lord to the house which He had given them (Jer. 7:14). Even today, where is the trust of the saints founded upon? Is it not their church organization and all its creeds, programs, and appointed ministers? The passion and vigour with which religious folks defend their church system is a clear indication of their devotion to the bestial system of religion.
Those bound to religion are also deceived by the signs this beast performs. Many saints today are flocking by the thousands to so called “men of God” who offer people no life but a circus that stirs their soul. Indeed they do great signs, they exorcise, they heal, they prophecy. But they are hireling shepherds like Micah, who ministered for ten shekels and a shirt. Be not surprised, this beast “performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men” (Rev. 13:13). By these signs many are fooled, thinking that these miracles are a confirmation of a genuine ministry approved by God.
But all these deceptions of the beast demonstrate the depravity of those in the church system who are neither unable to discern the Lamb nor to hear His voice. In the absence of the Spirit’s witness, they look to signs and wonders as a confirmation of a genuine ministry. But this is precisely how the beast misleads men to make idols of those ministries. “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast” (Rev. 13:14). Countless are the images that religion erects in men’s minds. Images of God, images of a heaven, images of a Jesus coming through the clouds, images of an eternal hell, images of rapture, images of literal thrones, images of Armageddon, images of 666 on the forehead, images of tribulation and so on. By erecting such images, the bestial system stimulates the natural mind to fiddle with imaginations.
Notice also the relationship between the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth. Both emanate out of the carnal Adamic nature although they find expression in different ways among those in the world and in religion. Therefore, those on the earth are not only controlled by the beast of the earth but also of the sea. For we read regarding the beast out of the sea that “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb” (Rev. 13:7-8). The power of the system of the world extends its influence over those in the church system.
The beast rising up out of the sea (carnal system of the world) is also described as having “seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns” (Rev. 13:1). The HEADS are indicative of headship just as one can be a head of an organization or a government. The SEVEN heads signifies the completeness and totality of the beast’s authority and control. This beast has all-encompassing control and authority over all the nations and governments of the world, good and evil alike.
Regarding the horns, we read that “the ten horns which you saw are ten kings” (Rev. 17:12). Theses represent not literal kings but organized powers and dominions through which the bestial system operates and rules. There are also crowns on the horns, indicating the rulership of these organized systems which preside over the affairs of men in the world. Thus those men whose desires, actions and thoughts are directed by the spirit of the world have crowned the beast and given him authority within.
Accordingly we read: “And he (the beast out of the earth) exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast” (Rev. 13:12). Do we not observe today the power of the world over the religious church system? Its thinking, its teachings, its music, its structure, its methods, its ideas and countless other facets of the world all appear mixed into the church system.
The religious church system is also under the authority of the government, married to the state, from which it receives authorization for its name and gains accreditation to conduct service and to officiate marriages and funerals. Thus the pastor reads during the pronouncement of a marriage ceremony saying: “By the authority vested in me by the state, I pronounce you husband and wife.” Thus one has to be a minster recognized by the state in order to conduct a wedding or funeral ceremony. The union between church and state is obvious.
Thank God for He is causing His apprehended sons to put on the mind and nature of Christ that we may discern this bestial systems of carnality. Our Lord is now separating an elect company unto Himself. Praise be to His name!