1. Spiritual Beings
Theme: 1. Spiritual Beings
Summerstrand 18:30 21 July
We are not alone!
God created two overlapping realms, the heavens and the earth
In the beginning God created two realms, the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). This is the setting for the story of the Bible. In the garden of Eden humans squandered their chance to rule the earth on God’s behalf and lost their access to this paradise because of their foolish rebellion against God’s will (Gen 3). This is the earthly part of the story we are quite familiar with.
But there is another set of characters, the spiritual beings of the heavenly realm who also take part in this earthly story. These two realms, the heavens and the earth, overlap. With that part of the story we are not so familiar.
We are not alone!
Plus, there are deep misunderstandings of what the Bible actually teaches about these spiritual beings.
We will look in our series of seven sermons amongst others at the “host of heaven”, as Genesis 2:1 calls the sun, moon, and the stars that were created to rule over the day and the night (Gen 1:14-19). These heavenly bodies are real but also double up as symbols of real spiritual beings. The same goes for the snake in Genesis 3 who is both a real snake as well as a representative of a real spiritual being (Rev 12:9; 20:2).
Series of seven sermons
We are going to look at the following spiritual characters in the Bible:
- Spiritual Beings – 21 July
- Elohim – 4 August
- Divine Council – 11 August
- Angels and Cherubim – 18 August
- Angel of the Lord – 25 August
- The Satan and Demons – 1 September
- The New Humanity – 8 September
The series will focus on a lot of content out of the Bible. Maybe stuff that you have never heard of. Maybe stuff that you have forgotten of.
This content is absolutely necessary. We have to grow in knowledge before we will be able to understand, and engage, and live the life God has called us to. Before we will be able to trust God for the life He has called us to.
We have to know the what before we can get to the how.
Introductory video to Spiritual Beings
“Spiritual Beings are copyright 2019 by The Bible Project and are available for viewing at www.thebibleproject.com“
SERMON ONE: SPIRITUAL BEINGS
Rediscovering the double perspective of the Bible
What do you make of that? Does it ring true? Or does it stretch your credulity? Do you think this a naïve way of looking at reality?
And why is this even necessary?
Well, firstly, we are not alone!
This is what the Bible teaches. So, we have to make sense of it. And in the Bible study this week I will give you lots of Scripture references to see for yourself what the Bible teaches about Spiritual Beings. It is the event on the Bible app (Youversion).
And secondly, because we believe in the Bible as the Word of God, we have to listen to hear why God wants us to know these things. To hear why He lets us into the secret that there is this overlapping heaven and earth dimension to the entire storyline of life on earth.
This rediscovery is vital to our faith
I think there are three reasons why this message is vital to our faith. Why God wants us to take notice and integrate this understanding with our faith.
I think, once we rediscover this double perspective of the Bible – the earthly and the heavenly – it will help us in three ways.
1. We will have a better understanding of this world.
We will become aware of the reality of rebellious spiritual beings still at work behind the scenes in the ongoing human rebellion against God. They were at work not only in the garden of Eden, but also right through history, even today. As Paul says:
“4 … the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4).
It is not as if people just believe the stupidest things on their own. It is not as if people do the weirdest and wildest things on their own. It is not as if people just one day embark on the most devious and demonic schemes on their own.
Their minds are blinded from seeing the truth, believing the truth, and walking in the truth. By the god of this world.
We are not alone!
There is a god at work in the minds of unbelievers, the god of this world, darkening their understanding, keeping them from the light. Sometimes he even chooses to have them disbelieve that he is there, so that they can be blinded to his existence. Because then they will also have trouble believing in the one God that matters to all of us. And he succeeds in his plan to keep them from the light.
When we see this clearly, we will also see that the way to dispel the darkness is for us to walk in and to witness to the light. To live in the acknowledgement of the spiritual realm. To witness to the light, the light we see in Jesus.
When people see the goodness and the love of our way of life, they will see in us the gospel of the glory of Christ. They will see what God created humans to be.
They will realize we are not alone, and that that fact is also a glorious realization of God and his plan for this world.
When we see this clearly, we will also really understand that to dispel lies is to deliver the truth, in love, so that the veil on people’s understanding may be lifted. To transform hate is to really love and give of ourselves. To bring light is to expose the darkness, even if it is at a cost to ourselves.
2. We will have a better understanding of our role as the “image of God” (Gen 1:27).
We will get a greater appreciation for God’s plan to redeem humanity in Christ to rule over a unified heaven and earth (Ephesians 1:3-10). In fact, that is what already began at the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. He was raised, says Paul:
“21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:11-23).
It is not only the god of this world at work in people blinding them to the truth. It is also God Himself that is at work to reveal His kingdom. God wants to fill everything with the fulness of Himself.
He has placed Jesus above every rule and authority and power and dominion, above every created thing in the past and the future and given Jesus as the head of the church to facilitate his rule over everything.
That is our calling. To work with Jesus for the kingdom that He has established and to invite all people to join us in worshipping the one true God, His Father. To establish communities of believers that will love God and one another so that the abundant life that God meant for human beings can flourish. So that the “image of God” can realize its purpose, to be representatives of God, to show Him to this world.
When we see this clearly, we will also see that we do not live as beggars, as people that are given over to be trampled on, but as part of the body of Christ that has overcome the powers of darkness. We are children of the Kingdom of God. We are His children that He loves and care for.
That is why God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him all authority in heaven and earth. God put Jesus above all rule and authority and power and dominion. So that He can establish His Kingdom. And this is not only relevant for the age to come. It is already in force in this life.
That is why we can pray for transformation in people’s lives and in society and trust the Lord that He can bring about change. Because He has overcome. Even if the change is slow, even if it takes time, even if it works out in a different manner than what we asked for, God can and will bring about change.
3. We will have a better understanding of how we should live in this double-decker world.
That is why Paul calls us to be strong in the Lord and in the might of his strength. To put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. We are called to a spiritual warfare, against the god of this world, against the powers, because Christ has already overcome them all:
“12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).
Yes, we are not alone.
And it isn’t aliens I am talking about. It is spiritual beings that impact our society. And although we have to be careful that we do not overestimate their importance, we also should never underestimate them.
That is why Paul says to the Ephesians: “give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:27). Not in your personal life. Not in public life. He is talking about sin. When we stand firm against sin, we give the devil no opportunity in our life.
He also advises: “Stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11). The devil wants lawlessness. He wants you to live on your own terms. To live in this world as if God doesn’t exist. As if you can do what you want.
Therefore, Paul says to Timothy, the young pastor of Ephesus, beware that you do not fall “into a snare of the devil.” (1 Tim 3:7; see 2 Tim 2:26). The devil is the tempter, the deceiver, the one that blinds us to the truth. And we should listen to and live in the truth that God has revealed to us in His Word.
Peter concurs in his first letter: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet 5:8). And James, the brother of Jesus, says: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jam 5:7).
We are not alone!
We are engaged in a constant spiritual warfare.
And you cannot avoid it. If you try, all you will succeed in, is to fall for the snares and schemes of the devil, leading you astray, letting you fall into sin, and becoming trapped in the lies and deceit that he blinds us with.
But we also have to know that when Paul talks about our spiritual armour, he talks about ordinary spiritual things, our faith, our readiness to witness, our steadfastness in the Word, and our prayers. That is the things we fight this battle with.
And we have to know that we fight from a place of victory. We fight because the battle has been won. Otherwise we lose before we even begin.
Become strong in the Lord and in the might of his strength
That I want you to hear tonight is that we are not alone.
I want you to acknowledge the spiritual realm that impacts our daily life.
And I want you to become strong in the Lord and in the might of his strength (Ephesians 6:10-20).
- When you stand for the truth and use the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God – you are winning this spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:14, 17).
- When you grow in your faith – growing in knowledge of God and in trusting God for this life – you are winning this spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:16).
- When you use all opportunities to share the gospel – even if it is in small ways – you are winning this spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:15).
- When your pray at all times as the Spirit leads you – you are winning this spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:18).
Next week we will look at the Elohim. We will look at the biblical word for God, Elohim, that is actually a title and not a name. And we will see that this title can refer to other spiritual beings as well as to the creator God.
We have to grow in knowledge to be able to understand and engage and live the life God has called us to. We have to know the what before we can get to the how.
So, put on your detective hat this week, Sherlock Holmes, and read through the references I give in the Bible study to solidify your understanding of the Biblical picture of Spiritual Beings and their role in creation as well as our role as God’s chosen image-bearers.
Read through the six statements I make on the topic of Spiritual Beings. Look up the references in the Bible and see for yourself what the Bible teaches on the reality of Spiritual Beings.
When you come together as a group talk about what you have learnt and what questions you still have. Send the questions to me so that I can incorporate the answers in the following sermons (email@example.com).
Six statements with their foundation in Scripture.
1. The garden of Eden was a place where heaven and earth overlapped.
God and spiritual beings frequented the garden where humans were called to be God’s representatives. Eden (garden of luxuries) might have been part of a larger region as the garden was also “in Eden” (Gen 2:8).
Eden was associated in prophetic literature with a mountain because Ezekiel speaks metaphorically about Egypt that was brought down from Eden, the “garden of God”, as from a mountain to the world below (Ezek 31:8).
Eden is also called paradise in intertestamental writings (2 Esdras 3:6), following the cue of the LXX (the Greek translation of the OT) that translated the Hebrew word “garden” with the Greek word “paradise” (Gen 2:15; Isa 51:3). Paradise thus became the name for Eden in the NT (Lk 23:43; 2 Cor 12:4; Rev 2:7).
2. The garden of Eden was not meant to be just a habitation for humanity, but a divine dwelling place where humanity would live and prosper in the presence of God.
Eden was also the abode for the meetings of the divine council (Ezek 28:2,13-16). In fact, the garden is depicted as the prototypical temple, in the same sense that the entire creation was depicted as the temple of God (Isa 66:1).
In the same manner Jerusalem’s temple was a sort of microcosm of creation, a dwelling of God, as Eden was. One can see the symbolism of the rivers flowing from Eden (Gen 2:10-14), likewise from the temple (Ezek 47:1-12; Zech 14:8), as the waters of God giving life.
3. The sun, moon, and stars are real created bodies as well as symbols of heavenly beings.
The sun, moon and stars are real created bodies when they are mentioned individually (Isa 40:26; Ps 33:6). But they are also symbols of heavenly creatures, the “heavenly host” where they are mentioned in the plural (Gen 2:1; Judges 5:20; 1 Sam 1:3; 15:2; 17:45; 1 Kon 18:15; Ps 24:10; 84:2; Isa 1:9 [x62 in Isaiah]; Jer 2:19 [x76 in Jeremiah]; Ezekiel do not mention them; Zech 1:3 [x52 in Zechariah]; Lk 2:13; Rom 9:29; Jam 5:4).
4. Human beings had the high calling to rule the earth but revolted against God and were evicted with the serpent from Eden. Humans still had the desire to rule and created an anti-Eden, building Babylon, following the whispers of the rebel spiritual beings.
The serpent, who was part of a spiritual rebellion against God, tricked humans to disobey God as he did. He and his kin followed humans outside of Eden and strengthened their desire to rule, this time against God’s will by building the tower of Babylon. Babylon is the symbol of an anti-Eden spirit, a desire to rule the world on humans’ own terms, living in God’s world without acknowledging Him, without following His desires and will.
That is why God had to scatter humans through the language confusion at Babylon, so that people could spread and do their job of inhabiting, cultivating and conserving the earth (Gen 11).
5. The dream however stays the same. God has called humans to dominion over the works of His hands, as Psalm 8 so exuberantly celebrates it. And God will see to it that it comes to pass.
Psalm 8 talks about the high calling of humans to rule the earth and celebrates the glory and grace of God that never let his purposes go to waste.
1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
When we read this Psalm with eyes illuminated by this double-decker worldview, we see that the Psalmist is worshiping God for his glory, not only up above in the heavens but also down here on earth where He uses the weak and insignificant to “still the enemy and the avenger”. We hear echoes in these words of the battle with the spiritual foes from Eden that God engages in with us.
Why does God bother with us at all? Because He has the highest calling for us still. We will have dominion over the works of His hands. God will see to that. We will see that all things are put under our rule. For that was the whole purpose of the coming of His Son to defeat the rebel powers and renew his creation to its former glory. And us with it.
6. Jesus overcame evil to reunite heaven and earth so that a new humanity can partner with God.
This is a theme that is picked up by the NT in the story of Jesus – as we touched on at the beginning – who overcame evil, and in the process reunited heaven and earth, so that a new humanity can partner with God henceforth (Eph 1).
That is also what the writer of Hebrews in his sermonic letter and Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians puts on the table.
Hebrews 2 says that Psalm 8 was fulfilled in Jesus:
5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebr 2:5-9).
Paul concurs in 1 Corinthians 15 when he proclaims that every rule, authority and power, have been destroyed, and even death itself will be destroyed, so that we can reign with Christ forever:
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:24-28)
And it is with this in mind that we should walk with God, spreading the good news, working for the coming of the kingdom.
The garden of Eden thus stays the symbol of the new heavens and earth, a picture rooted in our remote past but also firmly established as the goal for our coming future, as Jesus wrote to the church in Ephesus:
7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Rev 2:7).
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