THE IDOLATRY OF IMMORALITY
Satan's Last Attack. Numbers 25:1-5, 9
The last attack of Satan on the Exodus Movement just before the crossing of the Jordan into the promised land was an appeal to the indulgence of sexual passion which led to the terrible sin of Baal-Peor effecting 24,000 members including many leaders. Immorality is the climax and ultimate consequences of worldly conformity. It is the greatest of all the sins of worldliness and the final goal of the enemy of our souls in leading God's people worldward. The lord gave ancient Israel many warnings against licentiousness and immorality as the worst forms of idolatry. See Deuteronomy 22:20-24; 23:14-17; 24:1-4.
Form of Immorality
That immorality is a form of idolatry is evident from many scriptures. In Ephesians 5:3-5 and Colossians 3:5, fornication, uncleanness, filthiness, inordinate affection, and evil concupiscence are enumerated among the lusts of the flesh which constitutes idolatry. In Psalm 106:28, 35-38 we are told that when the Israelites "joined themselves to Baal-Peor" they "sacrificed their sons and daughters unto devils" and "sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan" and "served their idols which were a snare unto them." Idolatry is defined as "inordinate love and admiration." False worship and moral corruption have always gone hand in hand. The friendship of the world or worldliness is called adultery in James 4:4. This is not only because union with the world constitutes spiritual fornication, but also because physical licentiousness has always been the climax of abandonment to the spirit worldliness. The most worldly and idolatrous ages of human history have also been the most immoral and corrupt.
Satan's religion is pictured in Revelation 17 as a "harlot" with whom "the kings of the earth have committed fornication," because apostasy from the religion of the true God and fornication have always been linked together. "Harlotry is the standing symbol in the word of God of a debauched worship, idolatry, and false devotion. When people worship for God what is not God, and given their hearts to idols, or institute systems, doctrines, rites, or administrations, to take the place of what God has revealed or appointed, the Scriptures call it whoredom, adultery, fornication. The reason is obvious. The breaking down of the divine laws and ordinances necessarily carries with it the breaking down of the marriage institution, and hence all supports of godly chastity and pureness. Accordingly all false religions are ever attended with lewdness, even in connection with their most sacred rites." —"The Apocalypse." Seiss, Vol. 3:113. See Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 3:1,3, 6-9; Ezekial 16:32. This figure is appropriate because fornication and adultery are forms of false affection which prostitutes the most sacred part of the nature to alien purposes. The alienation of the heart's affection and allegiance from Christ is a violation of the most sacred ties that bind a Christian to Christ and is therefore designated as spiritual fornication.
Paganism Corrupt. Romans 1:21-32
One cannot read this description of idolatry without knowing that it is inseparably connected with licentiousness. "All paganism is at bottom a worship of nature in some form or other. … The mystery of birth was the deepest mystery of nature; it lay at the root of all thoughtful paganism, and appeared in various forms, some of a more innocent, others a more debasing type. To ancient pagan thinkers, as well as modern men of science, the key and the hidden secret of the origin and preservation of the universe lay in the mystery of sex. … Upon such basis as this rested almost all the Polytheistic worship of the old civilization; and to it may be traced back stage by stage the separation of divinity into male and female gods, the deification of distinct powers of nature, and the idealization of man's own faculties and desires and lusts; where every power of his understanding was embodied as an object of adoration, and every impulse of his will became an incarnation of deity." —Encyclopedia Britannica.
Mount Peor. Numbers 23:28
Mount Peor was on the east side of the Jordan over against Jericho, and was one of the mountains from which Balaam attempted to curse Israel. Baal-Peor was an idol whose worship was attended with the most degrading and licentious rites. A great temple crowned the summit of Mount Peor which was dedicated to the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth, the chief god and goddess of the Moabites and Midianites. It was to a great religious festival in this temple on Mount Peor that Balaam invited the Israelites, and those who attended were beguiled and led into worldliness and licentiousness and thus into idolatry. "Having defiled their consciences by lewdness, they were persuaded to bow down to the idols. They offered sacrifices upon heathen altars, and participated in the most degrading rites. It was not long before the poison had spread, like a deadly infection, through the camp of Israel. Those who would have conquered their enemies in battle, were overcome by the wiles of heathen women. The people seemed to be infatuated. The rulers and the leading men were among the first to transgress, and so many of the people were guilty that the apostasy became national." —P.P. 454.
"When Moses was aroused to perceive the evil, the plots of their enemies had been so successful that not only were the Israelites participating in the licentious worship at Mount Peor, but the heathen rites were coming to be observed in the camp of Israel. The aged leader was filled with indignation, and the wrath of God was kindled. Their iniquitous practices did that for Israel which all the enchantments of Balaam could not do—they separated them from God. By swift coming judgments the people were awakened to the enormity of their sin. A terrible pestilence broke out in the camp, to which tens of thousands speedily fell a prey. God commanded that the leaders in this apostasy be put to death by the magistrates. This order was quickly obeyed. The offenders were slain, then their bodies were hung up in the sight of all Israel, that the congregation, seeing the leaders so severely dealt with, might have a deep sense of God's abhorrence of their sin, and the terror of His wrath against them." —P.P. 455.
Leader's Executed. Numbers 25:3-5
This divine sentence was pronounced against the leaders who were guilty. The guilty leaders were hanged and the others who had committed fornication were slain with the sword and by the plague. The Lord did not simply remove the guilty officials from their positions, nor did He move them to another part of the camp in an effort to cover up their sins. The example of leadership must be of the highest order and they must be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord. This prompt execution of the divine sentence brought a revival and reformation into the camp. "With tears and deep humiliation" the Israelites confessed their sins and wept before God "at the door of the tabernacle. … The priests and leaders had prostrated themselves in grief and humiliation, weeping 'between the porch and the altar', and entreating the Lord to spare His people, and give not His heritage to reproach." —P.P. 455.
This earnest work of repentance and confession on the part of the leaders and members of the Exodus Movement, when they were made aware of their spiritual destitution, brought about a spiritual revival and reformation that purged out the last of the rebels and cleansed the movement for entrance into the promised land. "The judgments visited upon Israel for their sin at Chittim, destroyed the survivors of that vast company, who, nearly forty years before, had incurred the sentence, 'They shall surely die in the wilderness.' The numbering of the people by divine direction, during their encampment on the plains of Jordan, showed that 'of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, … there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun." —Id.456. This last attack of Satan proved a blessing in disguise to the movement as a whole by shaking out the last of the rebels and in giving the others a vision of the sinfulness of sin which led to godly sorrow and repentance.
Advent Movement. 1 Corinthians 10:8, 11, 12
After quoting these verses the servant of the Lord wrote: "All along through the ages there are strewn wrecks of character that have been stranded upon the rocks of sensual indulgence. As we approach the close of time, as the people of God stand upon the borders of the heavenly Canaan, Satan will, as of old, redouble his efforts to prevent them from entering the goodly land." —Id.457. "Satan's snares are laid for us as verily as they were laid for the children of Israel just prior to their entrance into the land of Canaan. We are repeating the history of that people." —Vol. 5:160. "I was pointed back to ancient Israel. But two of the adults of the vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions. Modern Israel is in greater danger of forgetting God and being led into idolatry than were His ancient people. Many idols are worshiped, even by professed Sabbath-keepers." —Vol. 1:609.
"Satan is continually seeking to overcome the people of God by breaking down the barriers which separate them from the world. Ancient Israel was enticed into sin when they ventured into forbidden association with the heathen. In a similar manner modern Israel is led astray." —G.C. 508. Satan "lays his snare for every soul. It is not the ignorant and uncultured merely that need to be guarded; he will prepare his temptations for those in the highest positions, in the most holy office; if he can lead them to pollute their souls, he can through them destroy many. And he employs the same agents now as he employed three thousand years ago. By worldly friendships, by the charms of beauty, by pleasure-seeking, mirth, feasting, or the wine-cup he tempts to the violation of the seventh commandment." —P.P. 457, 458.
The God of Passion
Many today are worshiping the god of lustful passion. "Satan seduced Israel into licentiousness before leading them into idolatry. Those who will dishonor God's image and defile His temple in their own persons will not scruple at any dishonor to God that will gratify the desire of their depraved hearts. Sensual indulgence weakens the mind and debases the soul. The moral and intellectual powers are benumbed and paralyzed by the gratification of the animal propensities; and it is impossible for the slave of passion to realize the sacred obligation of the law of God, to appreciate the atonement, or to place a right value upon the soul. Goodness, purity, and truth, reverence for God, and love for sacred things,—all those holy affections and noble desires that link men with the heavenly world,—are consumed in the fires of lust. The soul becomes a blackened and desolate waste, the habitation of evil spirits, and 'the cage of every unclean and hateful bird.' Beings formed in the image of God are dragged down to a level with the brutes." —Id. 458.
A Gradual Moral-Decline
"A long preparatory process, unknown to the world, goes on in the heart before the Christian commits open sin. The mind does not come down at once from purity and holiness to depravity, corruption, and crime. It takes time to degrade those formed in the image of God to the brutal or the satanic. By beholding, we become changed. By the indulgence of impure thoughts, man can so educate his mind that sin which he once loathed will become pleasant to him. Satan is using every means to make crime and debasing vice popular. We cannot walk the streets of our cities without encountering flaring notices of crime presented in some novel, or to be acted at some theater. The mind is educated to familiarity with sin. The course pursued by the base and vile is kept before the people in the periodicals of the day, and everything that can excite passion is brought before them in exciting stories. They hear and read so much of debasing crime, that the once tender conscience, which would have recoiled with horror from such scenes, becomes hardened, and they dwell upon these things with greedy interest." —Id. 459.
An Immoral Age. Genesis 6:5
This same condition will again prevail just before the return of Christ. Matthew 24:37-39. "The growing compromise with the world on the part of the large proportion of the membership of our churches, the neglect of real prayer and the inactivity in real soul-winning work, cannot but fill any intelligent and properly instructed Christian with a sorrow that almost breaks the heart. … Conditions in our universities, colleges, high schools and grade schools, not merely the religious conditions, but the moral conditions, are terrible beyond expression. I could not put into print things that have come under my observation as to the slump, not only in the modesty, but in the moral decency, not only among our young men and boys, but among our young women and girls." —"Moody Bible Institute Monthly." July, 1927.
Antitype of Baal-Peor
No person can read the following named characters from the Spirit of Prophecy regarding the terrible sin or immorality in the church without knowing that we have come to the antitype of the Baal-peor experience of ancient Israel, and that we are therefore on the very borders of the heavenly Canaan: "Agents of Satan," —Vol. 5:137-148; "The Appearance of Evil," —Id. 591-603; "Moral Pollution," —Vol. 2:346-353; "An Appeal to the Church," —Id. 439-489. These references and many others picture conditions of worldliness and immorality among church members just before the end that is sad to contemplate. We are told that many leaders will fall through this last attack of Satan. These conditions will result in the message that brings the shaking and purifies the Advent Movement. Joel 2:1, 12-17. This is the Laodicean message and the same language is used in describing the consternation of the loyal leaders in connection with the Baal-peor experience. The final execution will begin with the "ancient men" or "elders" who minister in the Lord's house. See Exodus 9:4-9.
Day of Execution
The day of execution in modern Israel will come and the Lord will cleanse the church of all moral pollution. Ephesians 5:25-27. "Cleanse the camp of this moral corruption, if it takes the highest men in the highest positions. God will not be trifled with. Fornication is in our ranks. I know it, for it has been shown me to be strengthening and extending its pollutions. There is much we will never know; but that which is revealed makes the church responsible and guilty unless they show a determined effort to eradicate the evil. Cleanse the camp, for there is an accursed thing in it." "The time has come for earnest and powerful efforts to rid the church of the slime and filth which is tarnishing her purity." —T.M. 428,450.
"Shall the sacred vessel, whom God is to use for a high and holy work, be dragged from its lofty, controlling sphere to minister to debasing lust? Is not this idol worship of the most degrading kind?—The lips uttering praises and adoring a sinful human being, pouring forth expressions of ravishing tenderness and adulation which belong alone to God,—the powers given to God in solemn consecration administering to a harlot; for any woman who will allow the addresses of another man than her husband, who will listen to his advances, and whose ears will be pleased with the outpouring of lavish words of affection, of adoration, or endearment, is an adulteress and a harlot." —Id. 434, 435.
The Church Purged
"Israel's sin at Baal-peor brought the judgments of God upon the nation, and though the same sins may not now be punished as speedily, they will as surely meet retribution." —P.P. 461. "The church is corrupt because of her members who defile their bodies, and pollute their souls. … But the days of purification of the church are hastening on apace. God will have a people pure and true. In the mighty sifting soon to take place, we shall be better able to measure the strength of Israel. The signs reveal that the time is near when the Lord will manifest that His fan is in His hand, and that He will thoroughly purge His floor. … In this time, the gold will be separated from the dross in the church. True godliness will be clearly distinguished from the appearance and tinsel of it. Many a star that we have admired for its brilliancy, will then go out in darkness. Chaff like a cloud will be borne away on the wind, even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat. All who assume the ornaments of the sanctuary, but are not clothed with Christ's righteousness, will appear in the shame of their own nakedness. … Then will the church of Christ appear 'fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." —Vol. 5:79-82. This is a description of the church during the latter rain and loud cry.
The Shaking Time
That the shaking time will also be the result of the preaching of the Laodicean message is evident from the following: "I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen, and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God's people. I saw that the testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded. The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs, has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded. This testimony must work deep repentance; all who truly receive it will obey it, and be purified." —E.W. 270. Then follows a description of the latter rain. The immoral conditions in the church will give emphasis to the need of the Laodicean message.
A Cleansed Church
When the church militant becomes the church triumphant it will have been cleansed from all pollution and will be "holy and without blemish." Revelation 14:1-5. "They are as pure as virgins." —Wey. Christ's loyal and pure church is symbolized by a "virgin" and the individual members as "virgins." See 2 Corinthians 11:2; Matthew 25:1. Dean Alfred believes that the language should be taken literally, that the 144,000 get complete victory over impurity of mind and body during the most licentious and immoral age of all history. They pass triumphantly through the antitype of the Baal-peor experience of ancient Israel. "They are virgins," in that they lived chaste lives, both as to faithfulness to God in their religion, and as to their pureness from all bodily lewdness." —"The Apocalypse," Seiss, Vol. 3:22. The sealed 144,000 will be pure in both soul and body, mind and spirit.
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