In the New Testament, the word “religion” is recorded in five verses. Curiously, the word “religion” is not found in the Old Testament. This does not however imply the absence of religion since the beginning of time.
Before the fall of Adam, both Adam and Eve knew God intimately. Religion in an institutionalized form as a system of beliefs to compel them to approach and worship God wasn’t necessary. Even after the fall of Adam, none of them were compelled strictly as a matter of form in their approach to God.
The incident of Cain is a case in point. When he approached God in his own way, God simply dismissed and ignored his offering. God didn’t rebuke him. God just didn’t accept his sacrifice and that was all. There wasn’t any penalty for approaching God in a way that was unacceptable to the Creator God.
This wasn’t the case after Moses showed up to deliver an institutionalized format of worship. The moment Aaron’s sons tried to be funny and offered strange fire, they were executed immediately on the spot.
Leviticus 10:1: And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
Leviticus 10:2: And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Numbers 26:61: And Nadab and Abihu died, when they offered strange fire before the LORD.
Hence, religion is a serious business and not to be taken lightly. Until Moses showed up, religion before the Global Flood was still free and easy. It was up to men to approach God in an acceptable way with animal sacrifice given to Adam after his fall to cover his nakedness. Unfortunately as the human race progressed, they got further and further away from God.
Notwithstanding, there were still men seeking after the God of Creation, in particular, Noah found grace in God’s sight and were spared together with his family from the destruction of the entire world.
Genesis 4:25: And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.
Genesis 4:26: And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.
After the flood, the way to approach God didn’t really change much. Noah continued with the same worship with animal sacrifice and was accepted by God.
Genesis 8:20: And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Everyone from Noah’s family knew God and knew the way to approach God. There wasn’t any need to regurgitate an acceptable format in this regard.
After the flood however, additional laws were given. Capital punishment came into effect for murder while before the flood, even after Cain killed Abel, he wasn’t put to death immediately but allowed to die like every other man on earth. So killing and lawlessness became rampant before the flood with no penalty and deterrence to compel men to exercise self-restraint.
In addition, a diet of meat of flesh became a recommendation rather than simply dining on a vegetarian diet before the flood. Notwithstanding, consumption of blood was expressly forbidden even extending to the Church Age saints.
Genesis 9:3: Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
Genesis 9:4: But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
Genesis 9:5: And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
Genesis 9:6: Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
As men progressed after the flood, the narratives of the Creator God passed down from the three sons of Noah became blurred and culminated to the incident of the general rebellion at the Tower of Babel. God had already told Noah there would not be a global destruction like the one they had just experienced after coming out from the ark.
Genesis 8:21: And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
Tragically, men didn’t believe God’s promise. The distant memory of the universal flood was all too real. Building a tower to reach heaven would be a great idea to escape another flood should it occur again much like today’s modern men trying to figure out how to colonize other planets in case we need a global migration plan when this earth becomes uninhabitable.
Genesis 11:1: And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
Genesis 11:2: And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
Genesis 11:3: And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
Genesis 11:4: And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
Project Babel was divinely disrupted with the confusion of the language of men. The one world language became a multitude of languages. As such, men had to separate themselves and develop separately. So the knowledge of the Most High God became even more fuzzy and uncertain. Oral traditions of the Creator God they heard from their forefathers became a distant memory. The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth before the flood became worse.
While worshipping God was still free and easy with no penalty imposed for failing to approach God, institutionalized religion became fashionable. Unfortunately, men began to worship idols to replace the worship of the true and living God. Corruption of the knowledge of Creator God became widespread so much so God had to call Abraham and remove him from his own kindred and nation to instill in him and his descendants after him the knowledge of the covenant keeping God. There was no other way to teach, lead and guide Abraham had he remained with his idolatrous family and environment.
Joshua 24:2: And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
Joshua 24:3: And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
Joshua 24:14: Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
Joshua 24:15: And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
All this happened before Moses showed up and the situation was so bad that idolatry became institutionalized in all nations on earth. Men served other gods rather than the true and living God who gave them life.
Acts 17:29: Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
Acts 17:30: And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Even after Moses having received and given the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel but while spending time up in the Mount with God, the children of Israel couldn’t wait to return to their idolatrous influence imbibed in Egypt.
Acts 7:39: To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
Acts 7:40: Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
Acts 7:41: And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
Acts 7:42: Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
Acts 7:43: Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
So God gave men up for those steep in idolatry with no remorse nor repentance towards the Creator God. When God finally delivered Commandments to Israel via Moses, the first part of the Ten Commandments was to stamp out idols and a thorough condemnation and rejection of idolatry in approaching the Holy God who created the heaven and the earth.
Exodus 20:3: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Exodus 20:4: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Exodus 20:5: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
The pervasive and pernicious evil influence of idolatry must be stamped out and completely eradicated in no uncertain terms. There is no sharing of God’s glory with idols erected after the imagination of men’s evil and wicked heart.
Even with the issuance of the Ten Commandments, no penalty was clearly spelt out yet. It was just commandments given to the children of Israel God’s requirements and expectations of them being God’s covenant people. No commandments in written form were given after the fall of Adam before the flood. After the flood, no commandments were given in this manner as well other than capital punishment for taking man’s life and abstinence of blood in diet.
With the arrival of the Ten Commandments, penalties for non compliance were subsequently issued together with a host of other laws whether ceremonial or religious observance including even dietary and sanitary requirements. Penal code to govern men with regard to their relationship with the God of Israel and between themselves is also formalized. So religion became formally institutionalized for the State of Israel where religious laws and state laws are incorporated as one.
Religion in fact became a chore and a heavy burden especially with the ruling religious elite imposing additional requirements based on their own private interpretation of the laws of Moses. While these laws and statutes were designed to teach the children of Israel the true way to approach God, and to learn the difference between clean and unclean as well as between what is holy and profane, they were nonetheless a heavy yoke to bear even the apostle Peter acknowledged.
Acts 15:10: Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
These laws were notwithstanding, necessary during that point in time to serve as a shadow of things to come with regard to Christ fulfilling every jot and tittle of the law to redeem fallen man from sin.
Hebrews 9:8: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
Hebrews 9:9: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
Hebrews 9:10: Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
Colossians 2:16: Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Colossians 2:17: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
The practice of religion for the children of Israel was compulsory. Religion and State both existed as one. In fact, religion in Israel was state sanctioned. The king himself must be involved in the de facto head of State and religion while the great high priest and priests administer the ministry of temple worship.
Deuteronomy 17:14: When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;
Deuteronomy 17:15: Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
Deuteronomy 17:18: And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
Deuteronomy 17:19: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
Deuteronomy 17:20: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
Hence the children of Israel should by right exist in a happy state under this theocracy being ruled by God’s appointed servants with king and priests setup but that wasn’t always the case. With fallen men whether on the throne or priests in God’s sanctuary, they were subject to corruption and disobedience to God’s revealed laws. They found themselves often punished by God for rebellion and returning to idolatry with famine and destruction of their cities eventually exiled from their own promised homeland.
Religion can become a bondage and sometimes even work against us. The experience of the apostle Paul is a case in point. Being a Pharisee, he claimed to belong to the most strict sect of his religion. So religion in Israel back then was already divided even though religious life came from the same source. Down through the years, sects existed due to interpretation of the laws by different individuals and people chose sides.
Acts 26:5: Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
Being involved in religion, in particular, the most elite of them all as a Pharisee, Paul found himself on the wrong side of the fence as far as knowing God and serving the Lord were concerned. It was the Pharisees that gave the Lord Jesus Christ the most trouble during His earthly ministry and eventually plotted to have the Lord crucified. Paul came to this realization his religion was actually warring against the Most High God he claimed to worship and serve.
Galatians 1:13: For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
Galatians 1:14: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
Being religious doesn’t mean one is close to God at all. It could be an adherence out of self interest for political power and self adoration to be seen of men where the Lord often condemned during His earthly ministry confronting the religious authorities whenever and wherever they showed up to hinder His work.
Nevertheless, religion being practiced with no self motives involved can be valuable. James made it very clear the form of religion that is acceptable in the sight of God and men.
James 1:26: If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
James 1:27: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
This distinguishes the difference between pure religion and impure religion where practitioners practiced in vain to achieve any lasting and eternal benefit. Religionists use religion as a means to an end for self benefit. For such people, there must be rewards whether tangible or intangible in this life for them to put in time and effort as well as financial resources to further their cause.
Perhaps the most heinous crime religionists commit is to use the State to further their cause in religion. Religionists often use the powers that be to execute their agenda. The Pharisees and Sadducees are examples where they delivered the Lord Jesus Christ to the Roman Authorities to be put to death. When such people made used of the powers that be, it can backfire on them too.
Knowing full well Jesus was innocent but the Roman governor couldn’t set Christ free. Hence, he went on to mock the Jews with a mocking skit crowning Christ as King and then went on to abuse Him. When they eventually nailed Christ to the cross, the title was “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS”. This embarrassment of course didn’t go unnoticed by these religionists. They thought they could complain and mount a challenge to get this title altered but their efforts were in vain.
They made used of the Roman Authorities to do their bidding and of course there must be a price to pay. So the Romans soundly insulted the Jews that day. They crucified their King and what can they do about it! What a national insult, embarrassment and shame!
John 19:21: Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.
John 19:22: Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
Religion and the powers that be exist together and they can become a volatile powder keg. Since time immemorial, religionists and politicians make use of each other for their own agenda. As far as politicians are concerned, religions are simply forces to be reckoned with and can be used to further their own political career and ascendancy.
For religionists, the practice of religion is big business. It occupies quite a large chunks of the economy in some countries. The endless ceremonies and observances certainly drive the economies of some cities and countries. Career religionists also make a living out of the masses instead of engaging in productive generation of goods and services for the economy of the state. The clash of religions inviting intervention from the powers that be is very real. The case of the uproar in the city of Ephesus is a good case study.
Acts 19:24: For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;
Acts 19:25: Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.
Acts 19:26: Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:
Acts 19:27: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
Acts 19:28: And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
Religion often binds men to bondage. The arrival of Christianity sets men free from all the trappings and useless and meaningless observances. Aids to worship are no longer necessary as true believers turn from idols to worship the true and living God in spirit and in truth. Career religionists become obsolete and are retrenched and have to seek meaningful occupation to feed their families instead of leeching on the masses of ignoramus depending on them to access God on their behalf.
John 4:23: 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.
John 4:24: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
What the Lord told the Samaritan woman that day shows there are true worshipers and by implication fake worshipers. Pure religion belongs to the group of true worshiper who worships God in spirit and in truth with no ulterior motives involved. Their only purpose is to seek after the Lord and honour God.
On the other hand, fake worshipers engage in impure religion for personal gains and glory. Their worship has other considerations. Whether driven out of fear of losing advantage, wealth preservation, popularity, business networking and even personal well-being, their labour will be in vain.
Throughout history, religionists and politicians use each other for gains and the final common denominator is money. The more the following the more the income for that religion and her champions. The more support politicians get, the more they could enrich themselves too. The Great Whore in Revelation 17 and 18 clearly illustrates this arrangement.
Revelation 17:1: And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
Revelation 17:2: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
Revelation 17:3: So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
Revelation 17:4: And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
Revelation 17:5: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Revelation 17:6: And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Revelation 17:15: And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
Revelation 17:16: And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
Revelation 17:17: For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Revelation 17:18: And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Religionists flirting with politicians are very common. Such transactions are called fornication in the spiritual sense. Religionists and politicians use each other and when such spiritual and political economy finally collapses, that will be the end of religionists. The protection from the State where religionists are allowed to operate and prosper can be removed at a moment’s notice. Power comes from the barrel of a gun so said the late Chairman Mao. Religionists may have power over the masses but actual kinetic power comes from the ruling politicians of the State.
When the war between religionists and politicians is finally settled, the real economy is destroyed as well. The time when religionists and politicians rewarding each other richly would be a thing of the past. The real scale of such unclean economy created by religionists manifests itself for all to see. Those who benefited from such fornicating business transactions will no doubt lament the demise of their business empire.
Revelation 18:2: And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
Revelation 18:3: For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
Revelation 18:6: Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
Revelation 18:7: How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
Revelation 18:8: Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
Revelation 18:9: And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
Just when everything comes to an exploding end, only pure religion will remain. The practice of religion will not be tainted with selfish motives and corrupt agenda. Religion will be compulsory without being compelled and encumbered with bondage. Being religious is a way of life with much peace, joy and rejoicing in that eternal world of bliss.
Revelation 21:22: And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
Revelation 21:23: And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
Revelation 21:24: And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
Revelation 21:25: And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
Revelation 21:26: And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
Revelation 21:27: And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
May that eternal world of pure religion warm the hearts of every child of the living God who stays away from institutionalized religious bondage in this day and age!
Revelation 22:20: He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Revelation 22:21: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.