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It is written:
2 Peter 2:4-For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
To the shock of many disciples of Christ, the Bible teaches in numerous places that the gods of paganism are real beings (cf. Exodus 18:11; 20:3; Numbers 33:4; Deuteronomy 10:17; Joshua 22:22; Psalm 82:1, 6; 86:8; 95:3; 96:4; 97:9; 135:5; 136:2; 138:1; 1 Corinthians 8:5-6; Galatians 4:8). Furthermore, Scripture is clear that the pagan gods and goddesses are the fallen angels who rebelled against God (Genesis 6:1-4; Revelation 12:7-12) and their offspring, the demons who were killed in the Flood (Psalm 96:5).
Let’s notice some evidence of this from the Word of God.
First, the Apostle Peter refers to the angels who sinned being cast into Hell (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). The Greek word used here is not the regular word translated “Hell” (Gehenna), but is the word Tartarus.
Speaking of this word and how it forms a connection between the fallen angels and the pagan gods, one researcher has noted:
“To the Greeks, Hades was the realm of the dead, similar to the Jewish concept of Sheol. Tartarus was a level below Hades reserved for supernatural threats to the Olympian gods, “as far beneath Hades as heaven is above earth.”[ 5] It’s where the king of the Greek gods, Zeus, banished his father, Kronos, and most of the Titans after the Olympians successful rebellion. It’s described as a dismal place, even more depressing than damp, moldy Hades: [The hundred-handed Hekatonkheires] overshadowed the Titans with their missiles, and hurled them beneath the wide-pathed earth, and bound them in bitter chains when they had conquered them by their strength for all their great spirit, as far beneath the earth as heaven is above earth; for so far is it from earth to Tartarus. For a brazen anvil falling down from heaven nine nights and days would reach the earth upon the tenth: and again, a brazen anvil falling from earth nine nights and days would reach Tartarus upon the tenth. Round it runs a fence of bronze, and night spreads in triple line all about it like a neck-circlet, while above grow the roots of the earth and unfruitful sea.[ 6] (Emphasis added) Note the parallels between the words of the Greek poet Hesiod and the epistles of Peter and Jude: A group of gods rebelled and suffered the consequences—imprisonment in a very dark place far below the earth. Here’s the point: Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter specifically linked the angels who sinned with the former gods of the Greeks, the Titans. We know Peter’s angels are the Watchers, the sons of God from Genesis chapter 6, because they’re clearly the same ones mentioned by Jude, who gave us an important clue to their identity: And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 6–7, ESV; emphasis added) The sin of the angels was like that of Sodom and Gomorrah—“ sexual immorality” and “unnatural desire.” The only place in the Bible where that happened was Genesis 6: 1–4. So, the Watchers of Genesis are the Titans of Greek myth. And those fallen angels still have a role to play in our future.” (Derek P. Gilbert, Last Clash of the Titans: The Second Coming of Hercules, Leviathan, and the Prophesied War Between Jesus Christ and the Gods of Antiquity, 12-13 (Kindle Edition); Crane, MO; Defender Publishing)
In yet another work, Gilbert points out more of these connections. He demonstrates that the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint, completed around the second to century B.C.) identifies the “gods” of paganism with the fallen angels.
“The Jewish religious scholars who translated the Tanakh (what we Christians call the Old Testament) from Hebrew into Greek about three hundred years before the birth of Jesus understood the connection between the old gods of the pagans and the giants of Genesis 6. In the Old Testament, there are verses where the translators chose titanes (Titans) and gigantes (giants) for the Hebrew word rephaim. As we explained in chapters 1 through 3 of our book Veneration, the Rephaim were the spirits of the Nephilim destroyed in the Flood, but the pagan cultures around ancient Israel believed they were the spirits of their deified royal ancestors—in other words, “the mighty men who were of old.”[ 14] There was a clear connection between the Nephilim of the Hebrews and the demigods of Greece and Rome. As the hybrid offspring of gods and humans, heroes like Herakles and Perseus were by definition Nephilim. Even though that was understood by the Jews of Jesus’ day and the early Christian church, it wasn’t until 1999 that Estonian scholar Amar Annus made the connection for us in the modern world. Annus showed that the term used by the Greek poets Hesiod and Homer to describe the men who lived during the Golden Age when the Titan king Kronos ruled the world, meropes anthrôpoi, was derived from the same Semitic root, ` rp, behind the Hebrew word Rephaim.[ 15] He went a step farther, showing that the name of the old gods of the Greeks, the Titans, came from an ancient Amorite tribe, the Tidanu,[ 16] about which we’ll have more later.” (Derek P. Gilbert, The Second Coming of Saturn: The Great Conjunction, America’s Temple, and the Return of the Watchers, 15-16 (Kindle Edition))
Second, the gods of the pagans are clearly identified with the fallen angels for us in Psalm 82.
Psalm 82:1, 6-God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.…I said, “You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High.
The phrase “children of the Most High” in verse 6 translates the phrase bene elohim, often used in the Old Testament to refer to angels (cf. Genesis 6:1-4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:4-7).
Third, Psalm clearly specifies this connection between the pagan gods and the fallen angels and demons.
Psalm 96:5-For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens.
Notice how this is translated in the Greek Old Testament:
Psalm 96:5 (Brenton’s LXX)-For all the gods of the heathen are devils (demons, M.T.): but the Lord made the heavens.
Why the difference between the Hebrew and Greek of these passages? Notice the connection between Psalm 96:4 and 5.
Psalm 96:4-5-For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens.
Consider that the “gods” in Psalm 96:4 are interchanged with the “idols” of Psalm 96:5. This is a reminder that the Jewish people saw a connection between “idols”, “demons,” and “gods.” We see this clearly earlier in Psalms:
Psalm 106:36-38-They served their idols, Which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons And their daughters to demons, 38 And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood.
The “idols” were seen in ancient times as the receptacles for the “gods” and “demons” of paganism.
“This imaginary line is one that the LXX crosses quite transparently. 29 Recall that our earlier table indicated that the LXX translates benê ʾelōhı̂m (“sons of God”) in Deuteronomy 32:8 as angelōn theou (“angels of God”), but uses plural forms of theos elsewhere when the gods allotted to the nations are mentioned (Deut 17:3; 29:26; Ps 82:1, 6). 30 In Deuteronomy 32:17 these gods ( ʾelōhı̂m ) are described as šēdı̂m , guardian spirits. The LXX chooses to translate šēdı̂m of Deuteronomy 32:17 with daimonion but also refers to these same beings as gods ( theoi ): They sacrificed to demons ( daimoniois ) and not to God, to gods ( theois ) whom they had not known ( LES ). The vocabulary is neither inconsistent nor confused. There is no effort on the part of the translators to deny the reality of the divine beings allotted to the nations, or perhaps make them less than gods by calling them daimonion . LXX Deuteronomy 32:17 shows the flaw in such thinking. The following instances of daimonion are instructive in this regard. The ʾelōhı̂m/šēdı̂m allotted to the nations are daimoniois (“demons”) in Deuteronomy 32:17. The LXX translator made the same translation choice in the only other Old Testament passage where we find šēdı̂m (Ps 106:37; LXX Ps 105:37). LXX Psalm 95:5 (Heb. 96:5) reads, “For all the gods ( theoi ; Heb. ʾelōhı̂m ) of the nations are demons ( daimonia ), but the Lord made the heavens” ( LES ). Here the LXX chose to translate Hebrew ʾelōhı̂m literally, but the ensuing term is not šēdı̂m but ʾĕlı̂lı̂m (“idols”). The Hebrew Bible here draws a close association between the spirit beings and the objects of worship they were believed to inhabit. In ancient Near Eastern thought, the two were not the same, though closely associated. Construing this as meaning that the biblical writers thought the gods of the nations were merely handmade objects does not reflect the reality of ancient beliefs about idols. Michael Dick, whose research focuses on idolatry in the ancient Near East, cites ancient texts that reveal the idol maker using deity language for the idol that he made with his own hands while still maintaining a conceptual distinction between the image he made and the deity it represented. The deity would come to reside in the statue, but it was distinct from the statue. Dick notes one occasion where “the destruction of the statue of Shamash of Sippar was not regarded as the death of Shamash. Indeed, Shamash could still be worshiped.” 31 Gay Robins, another scholar of ancient cult objects and idolatry, explains the conceptual distinction between deity and image maintained in the ancient Near Eastern worldview: When a non-physical being manifested in a statue, this anchored the being in a controlled location where living human beings could interact with it through ritual performance.… In order for human beings to interact with deities and to persuade them to create, renew, and maintain the universe, these beings had to be brought down to earth.… This interaction had to be strictly controlled in order to avoid both the potential dangers of unrestricted divine power and the pollution of the divine by the impurity of the human world. While the ability of deities to act in the visible, human realm was brought about through their manifestation in a physical body, manifestation in one body did not in any sense restrict a deity, for the non-corporeal essence of a deity was unlimited by time and space, and could manifest in all its “bodies,” in all locations, all at one time. 32 The point is that, for ancient people—including Israelites—gods and their idols were closely related but not identical. This is important because Paul cites Deuteronomy 32:17 in 1 Corinthians 10:21–22 to warn the Corinthians about fellowshipping with demons. Paul obviously believed daimonia were real. Paul would not be contradicting the supernatural worldview of his Bible.” (Michael S. Heiser, Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness, 1068-1100 (Kindle Edition): Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)
Another author describes the connections between ancient paganism and idolatry:
“More sophisticated classical Pagans, however, understood an idol to be something different—more than a mere representation of a god, but less than the actual god itself. The purpose of making a physical image of a god was, for the sophisticated Pagan, to attract that god’s attention. An idol was a kind of “god magnet,” meant to invite the god’s presence into the shrine, home, or whatever locale where the idol was erected. Another way of imagining an idol is as somewhat akin to a voodoo doll. Whatever happened to or for the idol would be telegraphed to the actual god. Thus, cleaning and clothing the image, burning pleasant smelling incense, making offerings of food, or even human lives, before an idol would please and comfort the god it represented, making him or her more positively inclined toward the devotee. This is the logic behind the golden calf incident (Ex. 34). The Israelites did not simply decide to make up a new and different god. They were still intent on worshipping YHVH, but they felt compelled to make an idol of God in the form of a calf (a bull, really) in order to attract the attention and ensure the continuing presence of YHVH in their midst, which they felt was missing during the absence of Moses. From ancient texts of the cultures surrounding Israel, it is clear that for an idol to function, one had to do more than merely construct the image. Idols were “activated” by means of initiation rituals. Thus, in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian magical texts we have a ceremony called the “opening of the mouth” rite by which the idol was activated and the presence of the god was drawn to it. 3” (Geoffrey W. Dennis, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism: Second Edition, 206-207 (Kindle Edition); Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications)
The Psalmist is clear regarding the connections between the “gods” of the nations (i.e., paganism) with the idols/demons of the ancient world. The identification of demons as the spirits of the Nephilim giants is made clear in many extra biblical books:
1 Enoch 15:8-12-My judgment for the giants is that since they are born from flesh they will be called evil spirits and will remain on the earth. 9 Because they were created from above, from the holy Watchers, at death their spirits will come forth from their bodies and dwell on the earth. They will be called evil spirits. 10 The heavenly spirits will dwell in heaven, but the terrestrial spirits who were born on earth will dwell on earth. 11The evil spirits of the giants will be like clouds. They will afflict, corrupt, tempt, battle, work destruction on the earth, and do evil ; they will not eat nor drink, but be invisible . 12 They will rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them.
Jubilees 10:1-6 (emphasis added, M.T.) -1. And in the third week of this jubilee the unclean demons began to lead astray the children of the sons of Noah; and to make to err and destroy them. 2. And the sons of Noah came to Noah their father, and they told him concerning the demons which were, leading astray and blinding and slaying his sons’ sons. 3. And he prayed before the Lord his God, and said: God of the spirits of all flesh, who hast shown mercy unto me, And hast saved me and my sons from the waters of the flood, And hast not caused me to perish as Thou didst the sons of perdition; For Thy grace hath been great towards me, And great hath been Thy mercy to my soul; Let Thy grace be lift up upon my sons, And let not wicked spirits rule over them Lest they should destroy them from the earth. 4. But do Thou bless me and my sons, that we may increase and multiply and replenish the earth. 5. And Thou knowest how THY WATCHERS, THE FATHERS OF THESE SPIRITS, acted in my day: and as for these spirits which are living, imprison them and hold them fast in the place of condemnation, and let them not bring destruction on the sons of thy servant, my God; for these are malignant, and created in order to destroy. 6. And let them not rule over the spirits of the living; for Thou alone canst exercise dominion over them. And let them not have power over the sons of the righteous from henceforth and for evermore.”
The early Christians understood these facts.
“Not knowing that these spirits were demons, they called them “gods,” and gave to each the name which each of the demons chose for himself. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.164. The poets and mythologists did not know that it was the [wicked] angels, and those demons who had been begotten by them, who did the various things to men, women, cities, and nations that the poets and mythologists wrote about. So they ascribed them to God Himself and to those who were considered to be His very offspring. . . . For they called them by whatever name each of the angels had given to himself and to his children. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.190. The demons, as you call them, received their structure from matter and obtained the spirit which is inherent in it. As a result, they became intemperate and greedy. . . . O Greeks, you worship these beings, produced from matter, but very remote from right conduct. Tatian (c. 160, E), 2.70. [When exorcised by Christians,] these beings admit that they are not gods. And they confess to you that there is no God, except one—the God whom we worship. Tertullian (c. 197, W), 3.38. As is shown by the Magi, the philosophers, and Plato, these impure spirits (the demons) lurk under the statues and images that are consecrated to them. In the meantime, they are breathed into the [pagan] prophets. They dwell in the shrines, and they sometimes animate the fibers of the entrails. They control the flights of birds, direct the lots, and are the cause of oracles involved in many falsehoods. Mark Minucius Felix (c. 200, W), 4.190. When they are adjured, those most wicked spirits confess that they are demons. Yet, when they are worshipped, they falsely say that they are gods, in order to lead men into errors. Lactantius (c. 304–313, W), 7.130.” (David W. Bercot, Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, 7805-7819 (Kindle Edition); Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.
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