The Bible reveals that there really is idolatry in the Church of God. Don’t be so sure you aren’t an idolater.
Could you be a member of the Church and be an idolater? One would think that idolatry and Christianity are incompatible, and to that simple notion I would agree. After all, the Bible says:
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
~ 2Co 6:14-16
And, of course, there is the stern warning of the example of ancient Israel:
7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
~ 1Co 10:7
So, perhaps it is easy to lull ourselves into the sense that we are somehow immune because we have God’s Holy Spirit, and that makes the Christian walk incompatible with idolatry.
However, that ignores the fact that the above are given as warnings about idolatry in the Church of God!
We need to shake ourselves, wake up and realize that human nature tends towards idolatry. It gravitates to what we can see, hear and touch. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit will not force us to act against our own character. It give us the power for we ourselves to resist temptation, but it will not force us to do anything.
Therefore, idolatry is much like any other sin. We are fallible humans who naturally are given over to sin. Unless we expend the effort to fight temptation, there is nothing that can truly help us. However, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to resist. It is there, ready and available when we need it. Furthermore, we can pray for even more of it, which can aid us even further.
Do people in the Church covet? Yes. Do people in the Church shade the truth? Yes. Do people in the Church steal? You know that some do, even if it is only small amounts. Judas, who was in the presence of Jesus Christ, still stole. So, it should not be surprising that people can call themselves Christian and still be involved in idolatry.
Having said that, obviously the warnings are there and there so often not only because idolatry is possible but probable. Look around, and some blatantly worship a dead man. Some worship their organization or perhaps the man running it (often by introducing the idolatry as a flagrant elevation of the dead man and then shifting to themselves). Some people have fallen in love with their own pet doctrine and left the Church because their pet doctrine was more important than keeping the commandment to assemble together. Some have made an idol out of government. Some border on worshiping the host of heaven with their fanatical and distorted view of the calendar. Idolatry in the Church of God is not only possible, but it is!
Anything that comes between you and God is an idol. It can be a point of view, a physical representation of God, a person who mediates or simply something that totally takes the place of God in your life. Every time we sin, we make an idol of ourselves by determining that what is good in our own eyes is more important than what God says about it.
Still think idolatry cannot exist in the Church? Christ Himself said it would be there at various times down through the ages. Remember that He admonishes each and every one of the Seven Churches of Revelation to listen to what He says to the “churches“, plural. The messages were targeted to each and yet meant for all.
Instead, most treat the messages as a way of picking out the one we like the best, applying it to ourselves and then hit everyone else over the head with the others. It is so backwards that it is a doctrine of Satan. Ironically, it in itself is a form of idolatry in the Church of God, taking notions like “us vs them”, “Laodicean vs Philadelphian”, church “eras” and such way out of proportion and making them more important that the actual messages Christ was delivering to all the churches down through all of time up until His return.
Notice the messages Christ gives His churches in these areas in Rev 2-3.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Most commentaries agree that their first love would have been Jesus Christ. Perhaps they were busy quoting men rather than the word, just as some quote HWA as much or more than the Bible. Nature abhors a vacuum. If they left their first love, then something surely took its place, and was thus an idol. It was important enough for Him to threaten to pull out their candlestick if they did not repent.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
The Nicolaitans are a group that we do not know much about. This is a key. So much of how God deals with people are either through symbols or through the names He gives them. You cannot make a meaningful symbol of something obscure. It would have to be known in order to understand what it represents. Since we do not, speculation about them or their leader is useless. This is why we must look to what the name itself means.
Nicolaitans is a compound word meaning either “destruction of the people” or better “victory over the people”. Since they are compared to Balaam in this section, it is important to point out that Baal means “lord” and thus “Balaam” could also be interpreted as conqueror (lord) of the people.
In contrast to the idolatrous worship of government structure, what did Jesus say?
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.
42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
~ Mk 10:41-43
Pergamos seemed to have double the issue of idolatry as of any other group:
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Not that Thyatira was immune from idolatry:
20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
It is interesting that they even allowed a false prophetess among them, very similar to how certain groups cater to their own false prophets today. Of course, the penalty for “her children” is quite severe.
And, of course, there is Laodicea, which translates to “the people judge”. They view themselves as rich, with no needs. In short, they are above the fray and judgmental of the riffraff that surrounds them.
Is that idolatry? You bet!
Self-sufficiency by definition means they feel no need for God. So, what happens is the normal unconverted tendency to put one’s self in the place where God should be in one’s life. Christ tells them to repent, which means they believe they are without fault. They have judged themselves as better than others, when in reality they are in very poor spiritual condition.
I cannot help it, but every time I see Donald Trump on TV or hear about a story about him, it to me pictures the ultimate extreme of how someone boasts of their riches to such a degree that they feel they have no need of repentance. Trump could not even tell someone the last time he felt sorry about something. I have no doubt of who is his god.
Trump is the perfect candidate in this age of complacency. He is the perfect symbol for a church in such a time where the prevalent arrogant attitude is “Join us or else you will go into the Great Tribulation”, because, after all, they are so much more above all the other unwashed riffraff organizations.
So, four out of seven of the Churches of Revelation are engaged to one degree or another in idolatry.
You can either believe the words of Christ, or you can continue on towards destruction. Passover is supposed to be a time of reflection and of self-examination. It is a good time to ask, “Am I an idolater?”
13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
~ Rev 22:13-15