Spiritual Acrophobia

The Fear of High Places

Shortened Version

by Dr. Ken Matto

There seems to be a new mindset among some Christians and that is Spiritual Acrophobia. Acrophobia by definition means a fear of high places. There is a teaching being propagated by Harold Camping of Family Radio that the organized church is no longer being used of God to send forth the gospel. This is because he claims that the churches are all corrupted and invaded by false gospels AKA high places. He links this with his Latter Rain belief that the church no longer is sending out the true gospel and God is now using the electronic media to accomplish the task before the return of Christ. Since December 24, 1906, the electronic media has been used to send forth the gospel simultaneously with the organized church.
To a certain point he is correct in that many churches are dead and useless because they simply do not have a grasp on what the true gospel is. Much of the modern day clergy teach a moral and political gospel but are neglecting the spiritual aspects of the gospel. This means they are teaching a gospel that does not go beyond the portals of death. The teachings of heaven and hell are absent in many churches and much feel good philosophy is being taught as truth.
(Isa 30:9-11 KJV) That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: {10} Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: {11} Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
Part 1 - The High Places in Scripture
Now when we turn to the Old Testament we will gain a better understanding of what a high place is. The Temple was the center of the worship of Jehovah during the times of Ancient Israel and Judah. After the Exodus from Egypt, Israel wasted no time in constructing a high place because of the extended time Moses was on the Mountain (Ex. 32:1-8) waiting to receive Godís Law. This was a testing program for the nation of Israel and they failed horribly by culminating their failure in the construction of a golden calf which symbolized their quick slide into apostasy.
I am not an over-zealous proponent of the clergy system we have in the church but more and more I am coming to the conclusion that it is necessary for a godly man to be in charge of the local church. We saw what Israel did when there was no leader. The sinful tendencies of man took over right away. Whenever a godly man is in charge of a church, it prospers spiritually but when a spiritually unqualified man is in charge, the church plunges into apostasy rapidly.
(Exo 34:12-13 KJV) Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: {13} But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
After the incident with the golden calf, God is now giving Israel both instruction and a warning that if the pagan images are not destroyed along with the places of worship, then Israel will become snared and will forsake the worship of the true God in the temple and in the biblically prescribed manner. God even warns that Israel is not to make any kind of covenant with the pagan inhabitants of the land. A covenant would probably have been something to the effect of allowing them to worship their false gods on a concurrent basis. This would mean that they would be separated in worship but dwelling in the same land which would ultimately lead to spiritual disaster for Israel.
(Lev 26:30 KJV) And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.
(Num 33:51-52 KJV) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; {52} Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:
Here God plainly tells the nation of Israel that He is going to judge them fiercely. Because of their apostasy God would ultimately destroy both nations and send them into captivity to serve the pagan nations they chose to follow. Israel may have kept to the belief that if they kept a place for the pagan gods of the surrounding nations, they would appease them and would live in peace. The problem is that peace with the world is war with God This is akin to what many churches are doing today by being world friendly they feel they will appease the government and the unbelievers but they will be crushed.
(1 Ki 3:1-3 KJV) And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about. {2} Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days. {3} And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.
These passages teach us that before Solomon built the temple, the people were worshipping the Lord in the high places. This no doubt was borrowed from the wilderness wanderings in which the Tabernacle was the center of worship. However, until the Temple was built there was really no order of worship so the people chose to worship the Lord in these places. Here they were not worshipping false gods but for lack of a central place of worship, they made their own individual places of worship. It states that Solomon loved the Lord yet he himself sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. This is an important revelation when comparing the contemporary teaching on high places in the churches today. I will make the application a little later in the study.
(1 Ki 14:22-23 KJV) And Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done. {23} For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.
It was not bad enough that Israel was taken into captivity for their spiritual harlotry but Judah did not learn the lesson and became an apostate nation by adopting the customs and false gods of the other nations. This resulted in them going into captivity with the Babylonians for 70 years. When they were finished with the captivity, they were no longer a pure nation but became mongrelized. Their pure lineage was adulterated because of their disobedience. This is easily seen in the book of Ezra.
I wanted to preface this article by bringing to light the harsh realities of the high places and how they affected an entire nation which was divided, who were supposed to be serving the same God.
The high places were attributes of the Canaanite religion in which God commanded the Israelites to destroy them upon their entering the land of Canaan. The high places were normally associated with profligate sexual and sacrificial behavior. Along with this there was a sacred pole at many of the sites which had phallic affiliations which normally had a figure of Ashteroth on the top of it. This was the worship of the fertility goddess of the Canaanites. This practice went back as far as the 15th century BC as being recorded on the Ugaritic tablets of the Ras Shamra find.
(Isa 57:5 KJV) Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?
This verse condemns the practice of some of the pagans at the high places in Gezer, where Canaanites dwelled, in which the first-born babies were killed and their bodies placed in earthen jars. Many of these have been unearthed by archaeologists who actually found the bones of many babies in jars as well as walls of houses where it was believed that the bones of babies in the walls would keep away the evil.
Many of the ancient false religions constructed high places for the worship of false gods. The Babylonians constructed the Ziggurats. The Greeks had an Acropolis and Mt. Olympus. The Mayans and the Egyptians had their pyramids. They had high altars in various places in the land in opposition to the idea of one place of sacrifice in the temple, which was the pattern given by God. Of course, the one place of sacrifice in the temple represented the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus in which Christianity is centralized. The temple in ancient Israel also was a central place of worship.
Part 2 - Are there High Places in the Church today?
Having some knowledge of these high places and the purposes they served for the pagan nations which surrounded the nation of Israel, it now behooves us to look at these high places and see if they can really be applied to the church in our time. Before I summarize I want us to look at many verses taken from the Old Testament, mainly in Kings and Chronicles, to gain a better understanding as to what these places were and the nature of them. It is important to do this to see if we can make an application of a "type" without stretching the verses or using the anathematized method of eisegesis. There will be much repetitive analysis of each verse because basically they all say the same thing as there is a single thread which runs through all of them.
Lev 26:30 KJV - Here we see that God is going to condemn the high places along with the images.
1 Ki 12:26-32 KJV - Here we see the false religion of the worship of two golden calves.
1 Ki 13:32-33 KJV - Here we see that Jeroboam set up the high places in Samaria as well as the ones in
Bethel.
1 Ki 14:21-23 KJV - Here we see Judah provoking the Lord with the construction of high places on the hills and
groves. Remember Isaiah 57:5?
1 Ki 15:14 KJV - Here King Asa, whose heart was right with the Lord, did not remove the high places
1 Ki 22:42-43 KJV - Here is the son of Asa whose heart was right toward the Lord, yet he did not remove the
high places.
2 Ki 12:2-3 KJV - Jehoash was under the tutelage of a godly priest yet he did not remove the high places.
2 Ki 14:1-4 KJV - Amaziah who also did right in the sight of the Lord did not remove the high places.
2 Ki 15:32-35 KJV - Jotham also did right in the sight of the Lord, yet the high places were not removed.
2 Ki 16:2-4 KJV - Here we see Ahaz also sacrificing his son to the false gods and offering sacrifice in the high
places.
2 Ki 17:6-11 KJV - Here we see a massive program of constructing the high places for the false gods.
2 Ki 18:1-4 KJV - Now if we are going to say that Ancient Israel and Judah typified the church in the manner of high places, what do you do with the section of Hezekiah when he completely cleansed the land and temple. As the Scriptures teach he removed the high places with all their paganism. So if you are going to hold to the pattern, then sometime during the "Latter Rain" the church is going to be purified completely, to wit, before the Lordís return. There will be a church on earth with no false teachings.
2 Ki 21:1-3 KJV - Here is Manasseh who was the son of Hezekiah. When he became king, he rebuilt all the
paganism his father destroyed and went after false gods.
2 Ki 23:5, 8, 13, 19-20 KJV - Here is King Josiah who initiated another total cleansing from the worship of the false gods. We see here that he even slew the false priests which would be akin to removing the false teachers from the churches if we follow the type. This section on Josiah would be another period in the "Latter Rain" that would look to a purified church on earth.
2 Chr 11:5 & 15 KJV - Here we see another high place being built for the purpose of worshipping false gods.
2 Chr 21:11-14 KJV - Here is King Jehoram who is being chided by God for his evil ways and as a result the
Lord sent the enemies after him
2 Chr 28:24-25 KJV - Here is Ahaz raping the temple of the treasures and making them into instruments to
worship the false gods.
Psa 78:58 KJV - Here we see a general description of Israel provoking God with the high places.
Jer 3:21 KJV - This verse describes the worship of false gods which replace the worship of the true God.
Jer 7:31 KJV - Here is another high place for the worship of the false gods by means of human sacrifice. Jesus
used this place as an example of Hell.
Jer 19:4-6 KJV - Here God specifically states that the people have forsaken Him and have sacrificed unto other
gods.
Jer 32:34-35 KJV - Here God is stating that the abominations of the heathen were set up in the temple which defiled it but God also states that the high places were also built as separate entities. Here we are seeing two distinct locations.
Ezek 6:3-8 KJV - Here God is pronouncing a destruction of all the high places and the altars and the idols which Judah was using for their pagan worship.
Ezek 16:15-17 KJV - Here God is stating that Judah was doing the same thing as the idolatrous nations by dressing up their idols and their high places. Remember that the religion of the heathens also included prostitution. Here God is condemning them for spiritual prostitution.
Ezek 16:39-40 KJV - The word "eminent place" is the Hebrew word "gav" which simply means a back, brow, or a rounded elevation. The word basically describes anything with a curve or something which is rounded. This would have been the place where the pagan altar would have stood.
Hosea 10:8 KJV - Aven means iniquity or sorrow. God here is saying that the high places will be destroyed but do you notice that he is saying that thorns and thistles would come up on the altar. Notice that thorns and thistles are growing in the out of doors.
1 Ki 3:1-3 KJV - I wanted to give a comment on this passage. It is also taught in the High Place study that those doctrines which are not 100% biblical are flippantly called high places. The types of doctrines I am speaking of are: Pre-Trib, 1000 year reign, pre-Trib rapture, etc. It is also taught that those who hold to these types of doctrines are not saved. Well, if we are going to parallel the high places of Israel with the end time church, then this, like the Hezekiah and Josiah portions of Scripture must be factored in. Here was Solomon who loved the Lord yet he partook in the high places. We know Solomon was saved based on the following verse:
(Neh 13:26 KJV) Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.
No person can be beloved of God and be unsaved. So here we have Solomon who walked in the laws of his father David yet partook of the sacrifices of the high places, yet he was saved. This verse teaches us that a person can hold a wrong doctrine and still be saved. Just because a person does not know the doctrines of election and predestination, does not make them unsaved. There are many in free will churches today who have a strong desire to share the gospel with the world and are doing just that. The efficacy of the gospel being taught is measured by its ability to bring people to Christ. I personally was saved under the ministry of two free will preachers in 1980, Jack Van Impe and Billy Graham. Was it them that saved me or was it God? Of course, it was the Lord. Even if a person thinks they "accepted the Lord" the bible clearly teaches that a person responds to the gospel because they have been qualified by God to do so.
Summary of the High Places
We have looked at many verses which speak of the high places. I did not go into deep analysis of each verse because I wanted to establish the thread which ran through these verses. While I did not list every verse, I have looked at every verse and they all speak of the high places as:
1. Being a separate place of worship
2. Places specifically built for the worship of false gods.
3. Using a separate set of pagan priests
4. Places for pagan rituals
5. Places for human sacrifice
6. Places which did not even mention the worship of the true God except a few
times in the pre-temple era such as after the fall of Shiloh but these places
were built when there was no order of worship and no central place to
worship God until the Solomonic temple was built.
Therefore, based on the biblical evidence, the present manner in which the high places are being taught is erroneous and deceptive. To compare a place of intentional worship to a false god to someone or to a church holding a false teaching is like comparing apples and oranges. The High Places in Scripture are in no way connected to the temple. Since the High Places are separate entities, they cannot be compared to the church either as I have never heard of or experienced a Christian church which is dedicated specifically to the worship of and/or to sacrificing to a false god. The heathenous High Places were not originally built for the worship of God and then over time there was a slide into false religion. They were heathenous from their inception until their destruction because that was the purpose they were built for.
Let me give a quick analogy about comparing separate entities:
I live in New Jersey where I am about 152 KM (95 miles) North of Atlantic City. There are many gambling casinos there. Now I would say a casino is a high place because it is dedicated solely to the things of this world plus they serve the god of this world and it is totally detached from the church. To look at a casino and then summarize, that based on what that casino is doing, the First Presbyterian Church of Happyville is dead. This is akin to looking at the high places, which were dedicated to paganism and then saying all the churches are dead. Water and Oil do not homogenize neither does that method of Bible study.
The Dangers of the High Place Study
When people start believing a study simply based upon who has originated it without checking them out in Scripture, there will always be consequences. One of the most dangerous consequences of this study will be to undermine the spiritual foundation of the Christian. Christians will now be going to church, not to see what they can glean from the ministries offered but to see how many high places there are. When they start counting the high places, the next move is to leave the church. So they leave and go to another church and lo and behold, there are high places there too. So they visit another church and wow, more high places.
So now the Christian leaves the church and sits home because according to the high place study, every church is now fallen away and has high places. So the Christian who has swallowed this deception begins to stagnate in their Christian walk and they become weaker and very accusatory toward every church. They have no fellowship nor accountability. Eventually their love will wax cold and become very lonely and acrimonious because the only fellowship they will have will be the world on the job.
But the man on the radio says we can all fellowship around the radio. In other words, we can sit spellbound and listen to his opinion on the bible while he does not even know what he is doing to the body of Christ and how he is really causing many Christians to stumble. The problem is that they are still alone and in violation of the mandate to gather together on the Lordís day. Computer churches, telephone churches or radio do not offer the Christian anything of a permanent status.
There is no doubt in my mind that many of the churches are in apostasy but that is not an intentional worship of false gods nor is it human sacrifice. The present High Place study should be scrapped because it is nothing more than one manís tirade against the church with a mishandling of Godís word. My fear is that many Christians will never go back to church because they will be suffering from spiritual acrophobia.

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