THE PREAMBLE TO THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The preamble to the Ten Commandments given in Exodus states:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Exodus 20:2).
God’s words are so full of such meaning, we could take each word individually and write an entire book on each one, so complex is God’s mind—which should not come as a surprise, considering how complex His creation is.
First of all, notice that the “I am”—the self-existing One—says of Himself that He is our God. God chooses His words very carefully to make this point very clear that He is “the Lord your God.” He is ours! The whole human race can say this: God is our God! He is not some far removed, distant judge waiting to condemn us. He is intimately involved in helping us to survive Satan’s reign of terror here on earth.
Our God is for us, not against us (Romans 8: 31). He is on our side; He wants to help us and save us from the destruction of the enemy. He wants us to stop running away from Him as if He were the foe, as if He were the enemy. It is to this intent that He goes to great extremes—even the extreme of the cross—in order to reveal to us who He truly is.
When our God gave the law to Moses, He had already brought Israel out of Egypt, where they had been slaves in a literal sense. Interestingly, the original meanings of the word “Egypt” are “black land” and “house of the soul.” In the Bible, “black,” “darkness” and “night” are all used metaphorically in association with the Devil, deception, and death, because it is the Devil who “had the power of death:”
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Paul’s careful choice of words are important: the Devil “had the power of death.” How do we know that the devil had “the power of death?” Death is clearly tied up with his Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. God had told Adam regarding Satan’s Tree: “the day you eat of it you will surely die.” Satan’s power is the power of deception. Thus, “the power of death” is related to all the lies he taught us about God through the principles represented by his Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Paul places Satan’s power of death in the past—he “had the power of death.” Satan no longer has the power of death because of Jesus. His “power of death” has been broken by the good news Jesus came to bring us about who God really is. Jesus has released us from the “bondage” of fear—the bondage to the “fear of death.”
Through Jesus we no longer need to be afraid of God. Through what Jesus taught and revealed about God, we no longer need to believe that the Father is violent. We no longer need to believe that He is a destroyer. We no longer need to believe that God is the One who punishes us. Through Jesus we no longer need to fear even death itself, for He has told us that God’s commandment regarding us is eternal life (John 12:50). Now Satan no longer has the power of death over those that believe the good news—who believe all these things which Jesus taught.
“Egypt” also means “house of the soul.” The doctrine of the immortality of the soul taught extensively in Egypt by the gods was the first lie the serpent told Eve: “You shall not surely die.” This is not only contrary to empirical evidence—we can see death all around us—but to biblical truth also, which teaches that God “alone has immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16).
Thus, even the word itself connects “Egypt” with Satan. We cannot write here about the horrendous things that were really going on in ancient Egypt and how Satan used Egypt as a prototype of what he really wants his kingdom on earth to be like—especially in our day, the last days. If the reader decides to research and study this subject carefully, he/she will conclude that we are actually living in a modern-day version of Egypt run by the serpent (a symbol used extensively in Egypt and now in our days also) and its moral law of reward and punishment.
God wants to metaphorically bring us out of Egypt because Egypt represents absolute bondage to satanic power and control. The bondage the descendants of Abraham experienced in Egypt is a type—just a shadow, an example of the tyrannical kind of rule Satan wants to fully implement here on earth before his time runs out.
Satan has been ruling on earth—there is no question about that. But he can only fully institute his system as we allow him. As we move toward Jesus’ second coming, he will achieve greater control because Jesus said that in the last days “iniquity” would “abound” (Matthew 24:12), and iniquity is Satan’s tyrannical system of rule through reward and punishment. This is his merit and demerit system, a social credit system which is already taking over parts of the world as we speak.
God’s statement that He is the One who brought the Israelites “out of the house of bondage” applies not only to that past event—the type—but to a much grander future phenomenon—the antitype—which is to take place just before this great controversy over the two laws can finally end. The exodus from Egypt to Canaan—the Promised Land—is an example to us, who are living in the last days, just before Jesus’ second coming:
Now all these things [THE EXODUS] happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come [OUR DAYS] (1 Corinthians 10:11, emphasis added).
Therefore, the opening phrase, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” is also a prophetic statement that God will bring us out of everything that Egypt represents. Notice that it is God who will bring us “out of the house of bondage”—not we ourselves. We are like sheep who follow a shepherd. Our job is to follow—to have an open heart to receive, accept, and obey the truth.
We ask the question: If Egypt was the type—the typical house of bondage—what is the antitype? What is the antitypical house of bondage that God needs to bring us out of?
Again, keeping in mind that the central issue in the great controversy between God and the Devil is the law, we can conclude that the antitypical house of bondage is Satan’s moral law of Good and Evil and all its fallout (which includes death). We are to come out of his merciless and cruel reward and punishment system and enter the Promised Land where agape love—righteousness—is the law of the land:
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13, emphasis added).
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the reward and punishment system it represents is the “house of bondage” which envelops the whole world.
To God, who is not bound by the confines of time, bringing us out of Egypt’s slavery is already a done deal because He knows that this will happen—in His mind He has already brought us out of the bondage of Egypt. With all this in mind, let us then look at the Ten Commandments given in Exodus chapter twenty.
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
1. Exodus 20:3: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Isn’t it interesting that the very first commandment God gives us tells us to stay away from “other gods”? And if God, in the very first of His Ten Commandments says that we are to stay away from “other gods,” ought we not to find out who and what the gods are? But before we do, let’s find out what it means to have other gods before God.
Literally, “before me” means “before my face,” which is an idiom. Notice how one commentary explains it:
This Hebrew idiom often means “besides me,” “in addition to me,” or “in opposition to me” (SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, p 601).
The actual Hebrew words mean above, over, upon, or against my face, presence or person. To have other gods before God then means to have other gods besides Him, in addition to Him, or in opposition to Him. Think also of a mask against someone’s face. The mask hides the true person and gives a false impression. The idea is that we are not to put the gods as a mask over God’s face because that would give us a false impression of who God is.
Who then are the gods mentioned here? Some might interpret this to mean that a god is anything that supplants God’s place in our hearts. Things such as money, love of pleasure, career, cars, etc. While it is true that these things can gain control of our affections, God is talking about something very real and specific here—he is talking about the gods that humanity has worshipped throughout history. The Hebrew word used for “gods” here is elohim, a word which has nothing to do with money or idols of the heart. Elohim is a word that refers either to God or to gods—in other words, to the Deity or to a deity.
Thus, elohim in this context refers to pagan gods such as Baal, Ashtoreth, Hermes, Jupiter, Zeus, Osiris, etc. It refers to the gods that nations have worshipped throughout human history. The gods which humanity has worshipped are varied and numerous, but in essence they are all the same: they are all an expression of Satan’s principle of Good and Evil—the reward and punishment moral code. The gods are real beings in the sense that they are in effect Satan and his fallen angels.
The Christian reader at this point might think to move on, perhaps; skip this section, as this obviously does not apply to Christians who believe they worship the true God. After all, Christians worship the God who distinguishes Himself from the gods by pointing out that He is the Creator of heaven and earth.
But before you move on, Dear Reader, we suggest you keep on reading a little longer. For soon it will be seen that many a modern-day Christian is worshipping just as false a god as Baal and the whole retinue of gods. Paul suggested as much, when he pointed out that those who are living in a works-based system (Good and Evil, a merit demerit system) are followers of Baal:
Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work (Romans 11:2-6, emphasis added).
Elijah thought he was the last of God’s followers, but God tells him that He had reserved for Himself “seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal.” Those seven thousand men were a “remnant,” and the reason they were a “remnant” was because they believed in the God of grace—“according to the election of grace.” Thus, if they were a remnant, all the others who were in the mainstream were still worshipping Baal—the god of works.
There are only two kingdoms, two thrones, and two ways: there is God’s way of grace and Satan’s way of works, which is the reward and punishment system. The remnant people are “according to grace,” and those who bow their knees to Baal are still operating in the system of works. They think salvation is based on their works—if they do good, God will reward them with eternal life, and if they do evil, God will punish them with eternal death.
This theology was taught to the ancient Egyptians by the gods, and most religions have carried on the torch as if it were truth. The problem with this is that it ascribes a duality to God, making Him a Good and Evil character. But God has no duality. He is “One.” God’s kingdom operates solely by grace. He has freely justified all of us based on the unconditional grace of His kingdom of agape love.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:23-26, emphasis added).
All have sinned, all have fallen short of God’s glory, and all have been freely justified by God’s law of agape love—declared innocent as if they had never sinned. This is the grace-kingdom of the true God. What we are saying here is that one does not need to bow down to a wooden statue in order to worship a false god. All we need to do is think God operates by Satan’s Good and Evil system of reward and punishment and we will be in reality worshipping Baal.
So then, who really are the gods? Are they a creation of human imagination? Are they simply mythology and folklore passed down through the ages? Are they real? Many do not believe they are real. They argue that all those stories, those myths are just myths, and cannot be trusted to be true.
But then let us ask this question: why would God, in the very first Commandment, tell us not to worship the gods? Is God someone who can’t be trusted either? Does God know what He is talking about? Can He be deceived by human folklore?
According to the Bible, the gods are much more than mere figments of our imagination. Notice the following passage from the Book of Deuteronomy:
But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
You grew fat, you grew thick,
You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him,
And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons [NKJV SAYS DEVILS], not to God,
To gods they did not know,
To new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not fear.
Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful,
And have forgotten the God who fathered you (Deuteronomy 32:1518, emphasis added).
Did you notice how in the passage above, the gods are clearly shown to be demons, devils? This is further confirmed in Psalm one hundred and six:
They [ISRAEL] did not destroy the peoples,
Concerning whom the Lord had commanded them,
But they mingled with the Gentiles
And learned their works;
They served their idols,
Which became a snare to them.
They even sacrificed their sons
And their daughters to demons,
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.
Thus they were defiled by their own works,
And played the harlot by their own deeds.
Therefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against His people,
So that He abhorred His own inheritance (Psalm 106:34-40, emphasis added).
Israel, the people of God, was sacrificing their own children to the gods, who are represented by idols and who are actually demons. The gods are not an illusion or fairy tale —they are as real as real can be.
Did you notice in the above verse that Israel was supposed to “destroy the peoples, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them?” Doesn’t this verse seem to contradict all we have been saying about God’s character, that He is not a Destroyer? It may appear that way, but once we start digging, we will see what this really means as we address this in detail in a later chapter by the title “Utterly Destroy Them.”
Satan is the chief of the demons, and the demons are the fallen angels that came down to earth with him:
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth (Revelation 12:3-4, emphasis added).
So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him (Revelation 12:9, emphasis added).
These fallen beings comprise one third of the total number of angels that were in heaven. We don’t know exactly what their number is, but we know it is a significant number. Demons, posing as gods, interact with human beings in supernatural ways. They influence people. They are involved in the affairs of mankind. And most importantly, they rule the earth through the reward and punishment system of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Notice what Paul says about them:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
Our war is not against each other, not against human beings—“we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” Our true warfare is against the gods—“principalities,” “powers,” “rulers of the darkness of this age,” “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” There are spiritual armies, legions of wicked fallen angels “in the heavenly places.” What does it mean that they are “in the heavenly places”? Does it mean that these angels are in heaven? How can they be, if they were cast to the earth as we just read above in Revelation 12:9?
This vast army of fallen angels are “in the heavenly places” in a very specific sense: they sit in the seat of God, pretending to be God:
The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord God:
“Because your heart is lifted up,
And you say, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of gods,
In the midst of the seas,’
Yet you are a man, and not a god,
Though you set your heart as the heart of a god
(Ezekiel 28:1-2, emphasis added).
Satan and his angels take the seat of God by making us believe that their wicked law of reward and punishment is God’s law. The moral law of the fallen angels is the same as Lucifer’s: they operate by the moral law of Good and Evil. Fallen angels are mean, intolerant, implacable and merciless. Like the dragon, their leader Lucifer, they also believe punishment is the best way to keep order. They devise horrific punishments for those that dare to place themselves under their jurisdiction.
Plutarch, the Greek biographer and essayist (AD 46 – AD 120) states that the gods were not Gods nor men, but “grand Daemons,” and that they themselves undergo severe punishments:
Typhon, Osiris, and Isis were not the events of Gods, nor yet of men, but of certain grand Daemons, whom Plato, Pythagoras, Zenocrates, and Chrysippus (following herein the opinion of the most ancient theologists) affirm to be of greater strength than men, and to transcend our nature by much in power, but not to have a divine part pure and unmixed…For there are divers degrees, both of virtue and vice [GOOD AND EVIL], as among men, so also among Daemons…Empedocles saith also that Daemons undergo severe punishments for their evil deeds and misdemeanors…(William Watson Goodwin, Plutarch’s lives, vol. 4 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1874), 86-87, emphasis added).
Who were Typhon and Osiris? They were Egyptian gods. What Plutarch is saying here is that these Egyptian gods were not a manifestation of the true God nor were they mere human beings: they were “grand Daemons.” Then he informs us that the Greek philosophers Plato, Pythagoras, Zenocrates, and Chrysippus believed that demons were much stronger and transcendentally more powerful than mankind.
Next, Plutarch reveals a profound truth. He touches on the very core, the very foundation of the kind of understanding we all need to have about God, because this is what differentiates the true God from all the false gods. He says that demons do not have “a divine part pure and unmixed.” What this means is that the true God, the truly divine God, does have a “divine part pure and unmixed.” What does it mean to have “a divine part pure and unmixed?”
The key to understanding this is to think of the words “pure” and “unmixed” in the context of the two Trees in the Garden of Eden. These two words complement each other—they explain each other. Something pure is something that has no mixture in it. Something unmixed with any foreign substance is something pure.
God is pure and unmixed. There is no mixture in Him—no mixture of Good and Evil in Him. Therefore, if God is light, there can be no mixture of light and darkness in Him. And if He is life, there can be no mixture of life and death in Him. God is the Tree of Life, and He is “pure” and “unmixed.”
Both Paul and John addressed this same foundational truth in their own words. Paul said:
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away (1 Corinthians 13:9-10).
To “know in part,” in the context of 1 Corinthians 13 which describes God’s perfect love (we have shown in God on Trial that biblically speaking, the word “perfect” means to be entire—having no division or mixture), means to have a knowledge of God that has mixture in it. To see God as having a mixture in His character is to have an imperfect knowledge of Him; this is to “know in part,” that is, to think that God is “part” Good and “part” Evil. John explains the same thing in different words:
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5, emphasis added).
John is saying the same thing as Plutarch and Paul: God’s divine character is pure and unmixed. To fully understand this, we need to keep the two Trees in the Garden of Eden as our frame of reference. The Tree of Life is pure and unmixed, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is impure and mixed, because it has a mixture of Good and Evil, light and darkness.
Notice the word “pure” in the following passages:
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully (Psalm 24:3-4, emphasis added).
For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord (Zephaniah 3:9, emphasis added).
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8, emphasis added).
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17, emphasis added).
God’s “divine part pure and unmixed” is also portrayed in the Bible by the spotless, pure, entirely white lamb, which represents Jesus Christ. It is also represented by the word “holy,” which means clean, pure, unmixed.
As we have already shown, there is another verse in the Bible that addresses this, a verse which Jesus characterized as the most important commandment—“the first commandment.” And why is it the most important commandment? Because it tackles the root of all our problems—having a false knowledge of God—and it also offers the root for the solution for all our problems:
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31)
“The Lord your God is One.” This oneness represented by the above statement has to do with God’s singleness of character, with His character of agape love, which by nature is absolutely untainted by any darkness, wickedness, evil, and death.
Have you ever wondered why in the Bible demons are often called “unclean spirits”? Could it be that it is because they do not have that singleness of character that characterizes God? Could it be that is because they have that mixture of Good and Evil, referred by Plutarch obliquely as “vice and virtue”?
Plutarch says something that is quite eye opening. He says: “For there are divers degrees, both of virtue and vice, as among men, so also among Daemons.” What does he mean? Plutarch is referring to the principle of Good and Evil—“virtue [GOOD] and vice [EVIL].” What he is saying is that, just as human beings have various degrees of Good and Evil in them, so do these demons or fallen angels. This makes sense, because if both humans and fallen angels are operating by the same principle of Good and Evil, then they would have the same mixed characters.
Did you also notice how according to Plutarch, the gods themselves suffer “severe punishments for their evil deeds and misdemeanors”? This is so because they are dealing in the reward and punishment domain. Reward and punishment—virtue and vice—is the law of their kingdom. Satan sits at the head of this kingdom of darkness as its supreme ruler, as the autocratic judge who arbitrarily parcels out rewards and punishments to fallen humans and fallen angels alike—and he does it arbitrarily, that is, as he sees fit. We all belong to this kingdom that mixes Good with Evil—that uses reward and punishment. This means that even the fallen angels are suffering through his system of Good and Evil as we are.
Having “no other gods before” God, then ultimately means to not put any of these gods and the mixed laws and principles they teach ahead of the pure God and His unmixed law of agape love—pure, unmixed, unconditional love and mercy.
The gods teach lies; their wisdom is the opposite of the wisdom of God, and they lead us to death, not life. All the gods are Satanic—they all lead to Satan and his principle of Good and Evil. They are altogether the expression of this principle which Satan believed was greater than God’s law of agape love.
Furthermore, the gods are violent. Jesus revealed that the true God never uses violence, which is what Jesus demonstrated while on earth. Isaiah clearly says this about Jesus:
He had done no violence (Isaiah 53:9).
Jesus was like a “Lamb to the slaughter”—He never opened His mouth to curse those who were killing Him. He forgave His destroyers. He blessed those who hurt Him. He never used violence for anything: whether to teach a lesson, or to save Himself. Satan had nothing in Jesus because Jesus never once operated by Satan’s violent death system of reward and punishment.
Thus, when God asks us to put no other gods before or above Himself, He is in essence pleading with us to choose the way of life and to shun the way of death. The gods are violent, revengeful, cruel, wicked, false, and misleading. By contrast, God is non-violent, forgiving, faithful, merciful and just; He is love, truth, and life.