Idolatry is one of mankind’s oldest sins against their Creator. What are the false “gods” that people worship today—and where are they leading our world?
Ragnarök, or the “twilight of the gods”—heralded as Götterdämmerung in the opera by composer Richard Wagner—may be known to the general public as a popular superhero film, but how many know its true origins? This story from pagan Norse mythology describes a series of natural disasters and a great battle that results in the death of several gods and brings the end of the world, after which the earth is reborn anew.
From a very different perspective, the Bible’s prophecies—far more ancient—have long foretold something similar. The twentieth century saw the rise of numerous social theories that were promoted as the “saviors” of nations and the world. Yet the dramatic failure of these modern “gods” left a trail of tears, suffering, and destruction in their wake. The history of the last century clearly demonstrates the persistence of God’s truth and the amazing accuracy of prophecies inspired by the real God of the Bible that are still coming alive today.
When Egypt was the most powerful nation on earth, God began to do a series of great miracles through Moses. Egyptian magicians, frustrated when they could not duplicate God’s miracles and realizing they were dealing with a power greater than any they had ever encountered, concluded, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). God then visibly spared the land of Goshen—where the Israelites resided—from the plagues He brought on the rest of Egypt (Exodus 8:22; 9:4, 26; 10:23).
The Israelites and the Egyptians witnessed the power of God when He parted the waters of the Red Sea to aid the Israelites’ escape from their Egyptian overlords (Exodus 14–15). The Israelites also saw God stop the waters of the Jordan River as they crossed into the Promised Land (Joshua 3:14–17), and they witnessed how God supernaturally intervened in battle during the conquest of their new homeland (Joshua 6:5; 10:11). The Bible records that even pagan kings—Nebuchadnezzar and Darius—came to see that the God of Daniel “is the living God” who “delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth,” and that “there is no other God who can deliver like this” (Daniel 6:25–27; 3:28–29). The God of the Bible repeatedly and openly declares that He alone is able to predict the future and then bring it to pass (Isaiah 41:21–24; 45:21; 46:8–10). The Bible records these remarkable events as verifiable history. For more on this vital topic, you can request a free copy of The Bible: Fact or Fiction? or read it online at TomorrowsWorld.org.
Moreover, Moses also warned the ancient Israelites not to drift away from the living God and follow false gods, to “take heed to yourself… lest you forget the things your eyes have seen…. Take careful heed to yourselves… lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image… in the form of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden you” (Deuteronomy 4:9, 15–19, 23). The living God of the Bible clearly instructed His chosen people, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt…. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2–3).
Yet, despite often witnessing the miraculous power of the real God, the Israelites turned away and began to worship an idol during the 40 days that Moses was on Sinai receiving the laws of God (Exodus 24:18; 32:1–9). Recognizing the Israelites’ tendency to forget the living God and look to false gods, Moses warned, “I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 31:29). The Old Testament records the sad story of how the nations of Israel and Judah repeatedly turned away from the real God to worship the false gods of neighboring nations (2 Kings 17:7–8, 18–20).
The prophets of God also foresaw what would happen to the descendants of the Israelite nations in the last days. Jeremiah prophesied of a “time of Jacob’s trouble” in the “latter days” when false teachers—including misguided religious leaders—would “cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness” (Jeremiah 30:3–7, 12–15, 24; 23:13–16, 32). God used the prophet Jeremiah to indict the Israelite nations for worshipping a different god: “They have forsaken Me… and hewn themselves… broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:4, 5–13). The prophet bemoans the fact that the Israelite nations have created their own “gods.” Jeremiah warns that there will be serious consequences for rejecting the living God: “it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the Lord your God” (Jeremiah 2:19).
The false gods with the greatest influence over our modern world are not the glaring idols of wood and stone created by the Norse and other ancients. Today’s most dangerous false gods are gods of the mind. These are the intellectual constructs of misguided thinkers, largely stemming from philosophers who sought to dethrone the real God and His inspired word, the Bible, and replace Him with a secular philosophy that essentially deifies human reasoning.
This fundamental intellectual shift laid the groundwork for fertile human minds to conceive of Marxism (the socialist vision of a “new man” without God, stemming from secular humanism), National Socialism (which made a “god” of nationalism and racialism), and crony capitalism (using “free” markets to amass wealth and gain power over others). Other new “gods” around us include consumerism (worshipping the output of human hands), radical environmentalism (elevating the creation as “Mother Earth” above the Creator and promoting macroevolution), and hedonism and sexual indulgence (seeking pleasure without regard for the good of others).
It should not be surprising that all of these false gods have proven—and still prove—to be dismal failures. Marxism turned out to be a colossal mistake. National Socialism perished in flames that ravaged the continent of Europe. Socialism and capitalism are both struggling today. Environmentalists are not saving the planet, and the hedonistic pursuit of sexual indulgence has unleashed on the world a plague of sexually transmitted disease, moral and social confusion, and suffering. When communities are forced to adopt unbiblical values of “anything goes,” under the pretext of “tolerance” and “diversity” without regard for biblical standards of love toward neighbor and obedience to God, it leads to breakdowns in trust, people withdrawing into themselves, social and political divisions becoming aggravated, and social tensions increasing.
Long ago, the prophets of the real God warned His chosen people that, if they rejected Him, “[y]our own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you” (Jeremiah 2:19)—in other words, they would reap what they sowed. The blood-soaked history of the twentieth century vividly illustrates the tragic results that occur when people make false gods of man-made philosophies. For those with eyes to see, the last century witnessed the death of many false gods—these flawed ideas generated by misguided individuals who rejected the true God of the Bible.
Thankfully, the real God will soon intervene in the affairs of mankind by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to establish His Kingdom on earth and bring peace, justice, and the knowledge of the true God to the peoples of the world (Isaiah 9:6–7; 11:1–9). That great event is just ahead.