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The Gentile idea of forced worship

April 29, 2011

In the Psalms, people are encouraged to worship God, but the threat to those who do not comply is not unending torment in hell, but that they will not enter into God’s “rest.”

Psalm 95:6-11
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

Forced worship, with the threat of punishment if one does not comply, was a Gentile approach. It characterized Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. [Daniel 3:6] Nebuchadnezzar and his image together can be compared with the doctrine of hell, in man’s religion.

In Babylon, the threat to those who refused to bow down and worship was to risk being thrown into a fiery furnace, which corresponds to the torments in hell, threatened to unbelievers, and the wicked, in many Christian denominations, in the Muslim religion, and in Jewish superstition. True worship is pictured in a prophecy of Isaiah, where he said all nations will seek God.

Isaiah 2:1-2
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

The mountain of the Lord’s house is the kingdom of God, consisting of those who worship God in spirit and in truth, as Jesus said in John 4:24. Jesus discussed with a Samaritan woman what true worship meant.

John 4:21-24
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

In Isaiah’s prophecy the mountain where people come to worship God is raised up above the hills, and is spiritual, not a literal mountain on earth. It has the name Jerusalem, but it is the heavenly one. To enter into this heavenly kingdom is the “rest” represented by the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Isaiah said people will come to worship God willingly, not because they are threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace, or with unending infernal torment.

Isaiah 2:3-4
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

The “rest” promised to the saints is the blessing which both the sabbath day, and dwelling in the land of promise represent.

In the prophecy of Revelation 12:14, the land of promise is the land or the earth that swallows up the serpent’s flood. The truth of the gospel, which is represented by the land, destroys and swallows up the flawed interpretations, and superstition, that threatens to carry away the woman. In the land there are mountains and hills, valleys, rivers, and cities.

The mountains of prophecy are symbolic of promises of a high, spiritual nature, about things that are enduring or eternal. The “mountain of the Lord’s house,” Isaiah said, would be raised up to the tops of the mountains. In the New Testament, Mount Zion and Jerusalem are in heaven.

In the Sermon on the Mount, there are many promises. The saints are promised “the kingdom of heaven,” they will be comforted, and will “inherit the earth,” they will be filled with righteousness, obtain mercy, see God, and will be “called the children of God,” and will inherit “a great reward in heaven.”

Matthew 5:3-12
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

The mountain where Jesus gave his sermon and these promises is not specified, but it is one of the “mountains of Israel.” These promises are reasons men will seek God, and worship in truth, not because of phony threats of unending infernal torment in hell, that characterizes Gentile religion.

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