The Bible’s Spiritual Realm is in Disarray

Since heavenly beings are also created in God’s image, they too have been granted their own kind of power and authority and have been given their own free will as to how to use it. While we typically think of heavenly beings as being obedient servants of God, that’s just not the picture the Bible paints. The book of Job tells us that, “Even in his servants he puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error” (Job 4:18); and that, “God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight” (Job 15:15). Revelation even tells us that a third of the angels turned against God (Rev 12:4, 9), and who knows if more had turned against Him before that moment or since the book of Revelation was written?

And it’s not just mere angels that have turned against God, but other spiritual beings higher up the ladder of authority as well—for just as God has granted human princes and principalities greater authority, so He has granted spiritual princes and principalities greater authority. Bible writers knew these upper-level spiritual beings by all different kinds of titles: Princes, principalities and powers, the divine council, cosmic powers, demons, sons of God, and yes, even the term, “gods.”

Most people assume that since the false gods of the Bible are false, they are therefore, not real. But that’s not the picture the Bible gives us. While there is only one true “God of gods and Lord of lords” (Deut 10:17) who created all things (Rev 4:11), Deuteronomy 32:8 actually tells us that God empowered some of the spiritual beings He created to rule over different nations. Daniel gives us a closer glimpse at these territorial authorities when he mentions the Prince of Greece and the Prince of Persia which were fighting against God (Dn 10:13, 20).

Don’t get confused here—the Bible completely teaches that there is only one God, Yahweh, who has created everything that exists, both in the physical realm and the spiritual realm. He created human beings and spiritual beings and everything else. Nothing can exist without Him. The little-g-false-gods are nothing like the one and only true God—not even close. But they also aren’t nothing.

Now you’d think that these gods would use their power and authority right because they’re superior beings. Yet it seems that just as power can be a downfall for humanity, so it can also be a downfall for heavenly beings. Psalm 82 informs us that all of the little-g-gods of the divine council are all fallen.

God has taken his place in the divine council; 
   in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 
“How long will you judge unjustly 
   and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; 
   maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 
Rescue the weak and the needy; 
   deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 
They have neither knowledge nor understanding, 
   they walk about in darkness; 
   all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 
I said, “You are gods, 
   sons of the Most High, all of you; 
nevertheless, like men you shall die, 
   and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth; 
   for you shall inherit all the nations! 

Psalm 82

We could further elaborate the fallenness of spiritual beings by looking into Satan’s story. The Bible informs us that he used to be a perfect and beautiful cherubim (Ezek 28:12-19)—that is, a spiritual guardian of sorts that protected God’s sacred space. For an example of this role, think of the cherubim with the flaming sword that prevents Adam and Eve from getting back into the sacred space of Eden after they eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:24).

While such guardians were, “Commonly depicted with the body of a lion, the wings of a bird, and the face of a human”, the Bible also talks about serpentine spiritual creatures known as Seraphim. When we blend all of these elements together, we catch a possible glimpse of what’s going on in the story of the Garden of Eden. Satan was no common snake, but a spiritual being in a known serpentine form that had perhaps been appointed to protect the sacred grounds where the tree of knowledge of good and evil was.

But what is the cherubim doing? Clearly not his job. If he were, he’d be trying to convince Adam and Eve to run far away from the tree. Instead, in his own rebellion he attempts to lead humanity into rebellion as well. He tries to get humanity to achieve wisdom his way instead of God’s way. And when he is successful in doing so, the whole world is thrown into utter chaos. Humanity chooses to exalt the corrupt serpentine cherubim and in doing so, the original framework of an earth where good things happen is morphed into a framework where bad things happen. 

As punishment for trying to usurp God and His reign over the divine council (Is 14:12-15), the cherubim that used to live in the heavens is sentenced to the earth (Rev 12:12), where he is now (as Paul will call him), “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4). He is exalted on the earth, but de-exalted from the heavens.

In fact, he’s so de-exalted from the heavens that he’s sentenced to Sheol (Is 14:15), the spiritual underworld beneath the earth where all the dead in the Bible go. He’s kicked out of the highest place to the lowest place. But despite his great fall, he is not de-empowered along the way. In fact, our sin seems to have empowered him to hold “the power of death”—that is, until Jesus took the power of death from him (Heb 2:14; Rev 1:18).

With all of this in mind, we come to realize that God didn’t make Satan so He could have some kind of powerful cosmic enemy to fight against or so humanity would have the option to follow someone other than God if they wanted. No; Satan, the gods, the angels, and all the spiritual beings were not designed to be corrupt, but became corrupt. Like humans, they too are imagers of God with power, and they too have the free will to exert their power sinfully.

The punishments for their sin vary. Some spiritual beings have been locked up in chains (2 Pe 2:4) and some of them have been kicked out of Heaven (Rev 12:9). But because fallen spiritual beings are by nature immortal beings (Ps 82:6-7), their power and authority will not be discontinued until God brings about Revelation’s “lake of fire,” which was designed to bring Satan and his angels to an end (Mt 25:41).

Because fallen spiritual beings are by nature immortal beings (Ps 82:6-7), their power and authority will not be discontinued until God brings about Revelation’s “lake of fire,” which was designed to bring Satan and his angels to an end (Mt 25:41).

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