A perfect altar: Whole stones, no iron tools
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What do these symbols mean, and what can we learn from this for our lives?First published on the 24th of September 2016 — Last updated on the 26th of July 2020
The law of Moses is very specific when it comes to building an altar. Joshua defeated the King of Ai after a fierce battle and built an altar unto God. He followed the instruction, which came from Moses:
Joshua 8:30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,
Joshua 8:31 As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.
The altar, which God requires in the Bible, is very different from the altars that were built by the pagans, and even the altars that the churches have today. It’s also very different from what one would imagine us humans coming up with if we were left to our own imaginations. Naturally, if you were given the task of building an altar to the glory of God, and it was left to your own imagination, it would be grafted with the finest detail, elaborate pomp, and precious materials to the best of one’s ability. But the Bible is trying to teach us something very specific when it comes to God’s altar, and that is why it has these strange but very specific instructions. Let us explore this.
The Bible is clear that the individual believers, you and me, are the stones of a spiritual house:
1Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
So we as the believers in Jesus Christ serve both as priests to offer up spiritual sacrifices and also as lively stones to build up a spiritual house. Part of this house will be an altar that is built from lively stones, on which spiritual sacrifices are being made.
This means that we must offer up "self" on the altar of our hearts as we die to ourselves.
We have to offer up "self-will" as we die to ourselves, and voluntarily agree to obey God’s will.
We have to make this vital decision of our own free will and our own free choice.
We obey God not out of compulsion nor a sense of duty that forces us to obey Him. Rather we obey God out of a sense of love because we want to obey Him. We do not serve God out of a desire to gain just because we want to go to Heaven. We do not serve God because we are scared of going to hell. These motives are governed by the desire of "self-interest" to gain a reward or avoid a punishment. This kind of thinking just means that "self" is still alive and well within our hearts. We serve God because we love Him as a most incredible Person and we so admire His thinking and are so inspired by His great plan for humanity which He has revealed and is still revealing to us in His Bible. And we want to know more about Him and His thoughts because He is just so awesome. We just want to do things His way because He has a Big Picture in mind, which we cannot fully comprehend. God knows so much more than what we know.
The biggest enemy of God's will is my self-will. My thinking is distorted by my reactions to all the local circumstances that I find myself in, and all the future ambitions that I have. I am too obsessed with financial survival and personal success. Meanwhile, God's Big Picture is unfolding like a hidden stream that runs through human affairs and I am mainly unaware of what He is doing. I want God to make my plans successful, but God wants me to help make His Big Picture come to pass.
Take an example: Hitler gassed six million Jews to death in the Second World War. These Jews and their families felt totally abandoned by God. What they did not understand is that the world basically hated the Jews and would never grant them a homeland in Palestine. When the horror of Hitler's death camps was revealed in 1945, then the world briefly felt sorry for the Jews, and in 1947 the United Nations, by a majority of about two votes, voted to give the Jews a small piece of Palestine. This was God's Big Picture for the Jews. God wants them back in Israel so that two prophets, Moses and Elijah, can turn them back to their Messiah during the Tribulation. So God's Big Picture will always override our small selfish wills. Truth has always grown out of hardship and suffering. Are we ready to make such a sacrifice for God?
The main reason for us to be on earth is not to become rich and increased in goods, but rather to return to the beliefs of the early Church of the New Testament. God wants to restore us back to believing in the written Bible. That is His Big Picture for today. The only sacrifices that God accepts are when we sacrifice our self-will and our opinions up to Him so that He can take us back to the teachings of the apostles.
For us to correctly understand what the true altars are we have to go back to the Old Testament and see how their altars were built. The altar was the place where the sacrifice was made. The Old Testament altars are a type or shadow of the sacrificial life of a believer in the New Testament. Our spiritual sacrifices to God are when we give up our aims and ambitions, our selfish quest for girls, glory, and gold, and simply become part of His Big Picture. Then we allow Him to do with us whatever He pleases. Our hearts are on the altar. God knows if our sacrifices are truly made from our hearts, or whether we are scheming for some personal advantage when we serve him.
Hebrews 10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
So the altars and the sacrifices in the Old Testament were not the perfect solution but served as a model for the spiritual altars and sacrifices in the New Testament.
Jesus Christ is not impressed with our big church buildings and impressive stages on which sacrifices are made which stimulate our emotions. Wonderful, heartfelt worship-music means little without truth to God. The disciples thought the Temple building in their time was impressive, but Jesus quickly lets them know that He is not impressed.
Matthew 24:2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
Matthew 24 is the chapter about the end time. All that will be leftover from these man-made megachurches will be a heap of rubble. If we are looking toward something that will last forever, we're not going to find it in the church buildings.
After Israel settled in the Promised Land and Solomon was given the instructions to build the temple, we again see this instruction of God prohibiting iron tools to be used during the temple construction. All the stones had to be ready-made and brought to the building site, and then simply placed in position.
1Kings 6:7 And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.
So it is obviously very important to God that there is no involvement of iron tools when it comes to building his house or altar. When we then build the temple of our spiritual lives, we have to make sure we adhere to this specific instruction. Just as the whole stones spiritually represent the life of the believer in Jesus Christ, so too, iron tools have a spiritual meaning.
According to the Bible, iron in the hands of man represents an oppressive system. This may be a political or religious system. We find our first clue in Daniel
Daniel 2:40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
Daniel saw the future of the Babylonian kingdom during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and the three Gentile kingdoms that would follow. After Nebuchadnezzar’s reign the Medes and Persians took over, and then Alexander the Great defeated them and the Greeks ruled the world as the third kingdom.
Rome emerged as the fourth Kingdom and is represented by iron.
Today the world’s kingdoms are represented by the feet which are made of a mixture of clay and iron. Somehow the power of Rome is still influencing the great powers of today. Iron doesn’t mix with clay so it is not a power with total dictatorship over the world like in the Dark Ages ( about 600 AD to about 1500 AD ). Today Rome is a religious power that influences leaders across the globe without directly taking over their authority.
Rome has risen as a church power and as a financial power.
The Pope claims to be the spiritual head of the 1,2 billion Roman Catholic believers. These people accept the Pope as their spiritual ruler, without that reality interfering at all with the fact that they also have a President or Prime Minister who is their political ruler. Thus the Pope is the only man who has his followers in every country. So the legs of iron in Daniel’s image which represented the pagan Rome of the Caesars then changed and became small pieces of iron that were mixed up with the clay throughout the feet. Roman Catholicism is getting mixed up in all the nations around the earth.
The Roman Catholic denomination is the biggest Christian denomination in the world.
This powerful ability to bind people to the Roman Catholic traditions is symbolized by the fact that the binding forces that hold an atom of iron together are stronger than the binding forces that are found in any other atom.
In Daniel’s image, iron is the only metal that rusts. The golden head represented the very clever ideas of the mystery religion of Babylon. These mysteries of Babylon entered Rome when Caesar became their high priest or Pontiff in 63 BC. Then these mysteries entered the Roman Catholic church between AD 382 when the bishop of Rome Damasus was called Pontifex and when Pope Leo 1 took over the title of Pontiff, around 450 AD. These pagan mysteries then began to corrupt Christianity. This is represented by the iron rusting.
Israel’s captivity and oppression in Egypt are compared to an iron furnace:
1Kings 8:51 For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron:
When Israel went astray the Lord delivered them into the hands of Jabin, king of Canaan. Again the oppression is depicted by iron. Chariots represent the strength of the iron-oppression.
Judges 4:3 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
But God does not want us Protestants to rely on our man-made iron-hard denominational systems that are just an image of the Catholic church system. Being bound in a Protestant denomination is no real help as there are thirty thousand different types of denominations amongst the churches. They obviously cannot all be right. Imitating the Roman system on earth may look impressive to you, but it means nothing to God.
Psalms 20:7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
Isaiah 31:1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!
Denominational Christianity is very strong. But God wants us to stay with the Bible. Denomination is not a word that can be found in the Bible.
Again, later on in the book of Kings, Zedekiah the false prophet makes iron horns to represent his false oppressive revelation. Ahab, king of Israel, wanted to go to Gilead and defeat the invading Syrians. Zedekiah told him what he wanted to hear, that Ahab would win, and used two iron horns to symbolize Ahab's brutal military power. Iron power is brutal and crushes any opposition. Ahab manifested this oppressive attitude by putting Micaiah, the true prophet of God, into jail for telling the truth. Iron rule is not tolerant of an opposing viewpoint. Iron rule just establishes who is in charge, but it does not establish what is truth.
1Kings 22:11 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the LORD, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them.
1Kings 22:24 But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?
1Kings 22:25 And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.
1Kings 22:26 And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son;
1Kings 22:27 And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace.
1Kings 22:28 And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the LORD hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you.
Zedekiah used iron horns for his analogy. Iron is so hard. This speaks of using brutal power and force to achieve the Jewish king's aims. But these were not God's aims, so Ahab ended up being killed.
Iron represents the hard spirit of denominational Christianity. Each church is convinced that they are right, so if you disagree then you must be wrong. If you want to join our church then you must do things our way. If you raise objections to what we do and believe, then we want nothing to do with you. Iron control keeps everyone in their place. The issue is not truth; the issue is obedience to the system.
This "control by iron force" philosophy was represented in the political world when Russia built an "iron curtain" or wall to divide eastern Europe from western Europe after the Second World War. It was just a display of brutal power and force to keep East Europe under Moscow's centralized control and domination. The dictatorial Russian President has the say. The rest are only there to obey him and do it his way. Disagree and Russia will send in her tanks to crush dissent. People were only allowed to think in the way Russia told them to think. The net result was backwardness, poverty, and long queues in Russia and Eastern Europe in order to obtain basic commodities. When the iron curtain broke in 1989 it ushered in a decade of growth and prosperity for that region because the people of different nations could freely interact with each other. Market economies all over the world began to take off. The removal of this iron curtain, which had just been a massive barrier to economic progress and freedom of thinking, even saw about 200 million very poor Chinese and Indians receiving a dramatic uplift to their standard of living. Humanity really benefited when this "iron curtain" barrier of force and dominating power by a centralized leader was abolished.
This is the secret of success of denominational growth, that relies on an iron fist to force the people to believe the same thing. The leaders or pastors dominate the church, crush any opposition, and then brainwash everyone into believing their viewpoints. You are only allowed to believe what the church denomination believes. The denomination accepts the quotes of the leader as being the basis of their faith. But other leaders have different interpretations which they impose on their congregations. and that is why we now have 45 000 different types of Christian denominations today. The iron control of denomination ( or pastor domination ) clamps believers into their myriads of different, conflicting church groups. But the net result is a poverty of Bible knowledge. Believers in one denomination do not feel free to interact and exchange viewpoints with other denominations because each person feels obligated to defend their denominational viewpoint. Each denomination believes that they are right and have need of nothing. They build their doctrinal opinions around themselves as walls. There is nothing that they need to learn from outsiders.
This technique keeps masses of Christians in ignorance of large portions of Scripture.
Notice that it’s the generations of Cain from which the works of iron started in the word.
Genesis 4:22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.
After the Flood, we get the first kingdom which was set up by Nimrod.
Genesis 10:9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.
Nimrod was such a powerful dictator that in peoples' minds he even came before the Lord God. People were more concerned with what Nimrod said than what God said. That is the basic problem with denominational Christianity. The members keep repeating what the pastor or leader says, rather than trying to prove their beliefs from the Bible.
That is the seed of denomination. Get a powerful leader, and their quotes will be regarded as more important than God's Word.
Genesis 10:10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
His kingdom was based on the tower of Babel which represented his religious beliefs. These mysteries of Babel then spread to the other cities and were the glue that bound this first Gentile kingdom together. Religious conformity is the key to being a successful denomination. People easily submit to a powerful leader, especially when they see him crushing dissent in their midst. And the leader or pastor has the power to kick people out of the church.
In Daniel's image, the pagan Roman empire was represented by the iron legs of the western and eastern Roman empires. The collapse of the Roman empire in AD 476 led to the rise and spread of the Roman church throughout the world which is represented by the bits of iron in the feet of the image. The feet represent the seven church ages that have occupied the last two thousand years of human history. The clay represents the true church in each age because plants can grow in clay soil. Thus the clay is the only part of the image that can produce life. Finally, the Roman Catholic church is called mystery Babylon in Revelation Chapter 17. The mysteries of ancient Babylon, beginning with the tower of Babel, have now found their final resting place in the Roman church denomination. And the Protestant denominations are forming an image to the Roman church as they copy its methods and its mysteries.
God’s punishment toward Israel for disobedience of the law is suffering and affliction without rain:
Leviticus 26:18 And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
Leviticus 26:19 And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
So the Bible is clear on the brute power of denominational iron, and that is why God is so insistent on building his altars without it. Christians must be whole stones. They must think for themselves and be able to prove their beliefs from the Bible by themselves. God is not interested in parrots who just repeat what others say. Many Christians today do not even carry a Bible to church. It is no longer really necessary. Especially when the mega-churches now place the emphasis on self and living your best life now. According to them, we are no longer here to fulfill God's Big Picture, which is His will. We are just here to endlessly satisfy our own greed and our ambitious self will. Christianity is in sad shape.
It is more accurate to refer to modern-day Christianity as "Churchianity".
Roman Catholicism was the first man-made denomination. It spectacularly survived in the Roman empire when the Roman Caesars killed about 3 million Christians between 64 AD and 312 AD. It also survived when the barbarians destroyed the Roman empire by 476 AD. Then it grew to have power over the barbarians when the Popes crowned the barbarian kings, especially that most powerful Frankish king Charlemagne, who was crowned as Holy Roman emperor in 800 AD by Pope Leo 3.
Today Roman Catholicism has spread world-wide and has such a strong binding influence that holds more than a thousand million people together in this huge denomination.
The impressive survival skills of Roman Catholicism and its ability to spread worldwide made the Protestant churches envious. The Protestants thus decided to imitate the Catholic system and make a Protestant image of Catholicism. Thus the Protestants also formed denominational church organizations with centralized control in order to set up churches that could survive in changing times and spread out through the world.
But the Bible does not speak of denominational religion.
However good our intentions are, when we build an altar under the influences of iron, which represents denominational man-made structures that Protestants copied from Rome, all we will have is a great "experience", but it means nothing to God. The system in itself, in order to work, will corrupt the truth and that is what God hates
Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
This is the saddest condition of the church. Christians indulge in playing follow-my-leader, and thereby take their eyes off Jesus Christ and the Bible.
The Bible talks about a Millennium reign, which lasts a thousand years, where Jesus will rule the earth on the throne of David. The Bible says He will rule with a rod of iron. This means He will oppress every evil thing during that time when there will be total peace.
Psalm 2:9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Revelation 19:15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
This is payback time for God. Satan has used iron force to dominate people's thinking and this enforced conformity to human traditions and opinions has led to numerous errors in the churches. Many good Christians have been crushed by these religious organizations. But God has no time for sin. So in the Millenium, He will then use the iron of force to crush sin. So if you want to be there with Him, learn to hate sin. God loves the sinner but hates the sin. We must learn to think like God. We must love sinners but we must stay away from their sins.
Saved Christian churchgoers will be fooled at the end time by their churches, and end up in the Great Tribulation. They are fooled because the church system impresses them, even though the denominational leaders are not keeping to the truth of the Bible. Interestingly enough, many people have been fooled by iron pyrite which is also known as Fool’s Gold. It looks like the real thing but it is worth very little.
Fool’s Gold has iron mixed with sulfur. The yellow sulfur gives the iron a yellow colour which looks like gold. The Bible's name for sulfur is brimstone. Brimstone is associated with hellfire because sulfur burns with a horrible smell.
Luke 17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Revelation 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Church systems impress us humans because they look right, but they have very little truth and substance to shape our lives and make us resilient to the lies that so easily beset us. Jesus stands outside the church door (in Revelation chapter 3), so what is in the church denominations cannot give us the faith that will help us to escape from the Great Tribulation that will soon engulf the world in fire.
II Peter 3:12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
The most famous fight between two champions was the clash between David and Goliath.
David rejected any armour or weapons of iron.
David picked up five smooth stones from a small stream. Five letters spell JESUS.
I Samuel 17:40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.
One stone, that had never been touched by iron, won the fight.
We do not need a congregation of great size, nor impressive religious qualifications, as our weapons.
Make sure that your beliefs are not shaped by denominational traditions and opinions.
Faith in Jesus, the written Word, will win the battle.