Most people assume that since the false gods are false, they are therefore, not real. But that’s not the picture the Bible paints. While there is only one true “God of gods and Lord of lords” (Deuteronomy 10:17) who created all things (Revelation 4:11), He empowered some of the spiritual beings he created to rule over different nations (Deuteronomy 32:8; Daniel 10:13, 20) while He Himself chose the descendants of Abraham as his own nation (Deuteronomy 32:9).
But the false gods (or the cosmic powers as Paul would call them in Ephesians 6:12) did not rule well or image God to their nations, so they are now considered a part of the demonic world (Deuteronomy 32:17; 1 Corinthians 10:20; Revelation 9:20). Because of this, God has decided to take away their immortality in the final judgment of the last days (Psalm 82).
All of this being said, the dark spiritual world of the Bible is significantly more complicated than a being called “Satan.” The Bible assigns all kinds of rebellious spirits to the demonic realm. But despite their variations in background and authority, they have one thing in common: they’re united in purpose and mission (Mark 3:23-27)—and that’s something that we in America do not have.
The differences that we see in one another in the real world and the virtual world on a day to day basis are stark and extreme. And as with all extremisms grounded in violence, vitriol and hatred for the other, no one can say one thing right without saying another thing wrong. I remember noticing this while attending a conference on social justice—a particularly important topic in my life as an urban pastor. I was there to learn how to advocate for the impoverished and disenfranchised in my neighborhood with love, but instead I was taught to do so with hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness.
It was the second morning of this conference that I couldn’t help but feel like I had somehow stumbled into a worship service of one of the false gods. The fervor of the attendees was religious but the ideals being preached were not Jesus, nor were they neutral teachings. It was so strange to me. Many of the themes being preached on were things that Jesus cared about, but the methods being taught to bring about justice and the ideals of what justice actually was was far from Him. This must be what it means for Satan to disguise himself as an angel of light, I thought (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Soon I felt the Bible contextualizing the world around me. I was in the midst of a spiritual battle between God and the gods, between angels and demons—and the battle was growing more and more each day. As I looked back over the last few years of what our world had gone through, I suddenly felt like there was a scheme you could see at play all around us—a perfect storm of sorts that seemed far too perfect to have just come about naturally. Something had been put in place that couldn’t be reversed—a tangible change in the spiritual climate and atmosphere. The western world was being played by the gods and demons they didn’t even believe in.
And what hurt me the most in the midst of all of this was that some of the people I thought knew the Holy Spirit’s voice best, seemed to divide themselves up between all of the polar opposite extremisms offered. In this time, it feels like much of the church has turned their focus off of the ways of Jesus and onto the ways offered by others.
And as I wake up each morning to the news of what all unfolded the day before, I continue to watch the plot of the powers at play. I watch as both Christians and non-Christians make decisions they think are their own, unaware of the outside inspiration. And I fear I see some of the upcoming climaxes of where all these things lead and I pray we’re not blind enough to fall for every trap; for right now the world and its gods beckon us to be fully and passionately allied with their rebellions, conspiracy theories, elections, movements, and so on.
It’s important now more than ever that we remain firm in Jesus. His is the only side we are to take and naturally that will make us extremists—but extremists proper, grounded in love and justice for the neighbor. Our ultimate answers won’t be found in a president or a method or an ideology or a theory, but in a King who came to reign and is already reigning—a man named Jesus who is the one true God-in-flesh that made all of the other authorities in existence, whether they be spiritual or human (Colossians 1:16).
Perhaps we still have a chance to turn some of this around. But if so, it will require us to recognize that the world is not as simple as we’ve made it out to be, and that we can all fall prey to the cosmic powers if we are not focused on Jesus, just like humanity did all throughout the Bible and the centuries following.
And if we can’t turn this scheme around, we must stand firm as the church in a time where it will be much more difficult for us to do so. But even in that difficulty, Jesus will meet us even there and not only help us to survive, but thrive.
Want to learn more about the Biblical view of the spiritual world? Check out my book The Rush and the Rest or it’s shorter companion, Fantasy IRL. You can also check out my three-part miniseries on the topic of this post on the 1208PODCAST: (1) My Social Justice Journey, (2) Spiritual Social Justice, and (3) The Clash of Kingdoms.