Welcome to Day 1521 of our Wisdom-Trek, and thank you for joining me.
I am Guthrie Chamberlain, Your Guide to Wisdom
The Unseen Realm: God and the Gods – Worldview Wednesday
Wisdom – the final frontier to true knowledge. Welcome to Wisdom-Trek where our mission is to create a legacy of wisdom, to seek out discernment and insights, and to boldly grow where few have chosen to grow before.
Hello, my friend, I am Guthrie Chamberlain, your captain on our journey to increase wisdom and create a living legacy. Thank you for joining us today as we explore wisdom on our 2nd millennium of podcasts. Today is Day 1521 of our trek, and it is Worldview Wednesday. Creating a Biblical Worldview is essential to have a proper perspective on today’s current events.
To establish a Biblical Worldview, you must have a proper understanding of God and His Word. This week, we will expand on the past course work as we continue reviewing the book from Dr. Michael S Heiser titled Supernatural. The book is an abbreviated version of his more comprehensive book The Unseen Realm. I highly recommend one or both of these books. Creating a Biblical Worldview based on how the Old and New Testaments connect with God’s overall plan for humanity is essential. This book review will help us understand what the Bible teaches about the unseen world and why it matters.
The Unseen Realm: God and the Gods
People are fascinated by the supernatural and the superhuman. Just think about the entertainment industry in recent years. Thousands of books, television shows, and movies have been about angels, aliens, monsters, demons, ghosts, witches, magic, vampires, werewolves, and superheroes in the past decade. Many of Hollywood’s blockbuster franchises feature the supernatural: the X-Men, the Avengers, the Harry Potter series, Superman, and the Twilight saga. Television shows like Fringe and, of course, Supernatural and X-Files have dedicated followings even long after filming new episodes end. Haven’t these things always been popular—in tales, in books, in art? Why?
One answer is that they’re an escape from the ordinary. They offer us a world that’s more interesting and exciting than our own. There’s something about good versus evil, magnified on a cosmic scale, that thrills us. The epic struggle by the heroes of Middle Earth (Gandalf, Frodo, and company) against the Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings trilogy has captivated readers (and now movie-goers) for over a half-century now. The more otherworldly the villain, the more spectacular the triumph.
On another level, people are drawn to other worlds because, as the book of Ecclesiastes 3:11 puts it, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” There’s something about the human condition that longs for something beyond human experience—something divine. The apostle Paul wrote about this yearning too. He taught that it comes from just being alive in the world God has made. The creation bears witness to a creator, and therefore to a realm beyond our own (Roman 1:18–23). In verse 18, Paul said the impulse to know more about God was so powerful that the wicked willfully suppressed that knowledge.
Yet we don’t seem to think of the epic story of the Bible in the same way we think of our own tales of the supernatural in books, movies, and legends. There are reasons for that, and they go beyond the lack of special effects. For some, the Bible’s characters are too ordinary or grandfatherly. They don’t feel dynamic or heroic. After all, these are the same people and the same stories we’ve heard since Sunday school as kids. Then there’s the cultural barrier. It’s hard for us to identify with what seems like an endless parade of ancient shepherds and men wearing robes, like so many actors in your church’s nativity play.
I think an even more significant factor in why science fiction or supernatural fantasy captures our imagination more easily is how we’ve been taught to think about the unseen world of the Bible. What I’ve heard in church over the years doesn’t just miss the boat—it makes the supernatural boring. Even worse, the church’s teaching emasculates the unseen, supernatural world, rendering it powerless.
Many Christians imagine what is true about the unseen world isn’t. Angels don’t have wings. (Cherubim don’t count because they are never called angels and are creaturely. Angels are always in human form.) Demons don’t sport horns and a tail, and they aren’t here to make us sin (we do that just fine on our own). While the Bible describes demonic possession in rightfully awful ways, intelligent evil has more sinister things to do than make sock puppets out of people. On top of that, angels and demons are minor players. Church never seems to get to the big boys and their agenda.
The Gods Are Real
I asked you last week if you really believe what the Bible says. Consider this a pop quiz. The Bible says God has a task force of divine beings who carry out his decisions. It’s referred to as God’s assembly, council, or court (Psalm 89:5–7; Daniel 7:10). One of the most explicit verses about it is Psalm 82:1. The Good News Translation puts it well, “God presides in the heavenly council; in the assembly of the gods, he gives his decision.”
If you think about it, that’s a startling verse! It certainly made me ponder when I understood it. What the verse means is what it plainly and simply says. Like any verse, Psalm 82:1 has to be understood in the context of what else the Bible says. In this case, what it says is about the gods and how that term should be defined.
The original Hebrew word translated “gods” is elohim. Many of us have thought of elohim for so long in just one single sense, as one of the names of God the Father. It may be hard for us to think of it in its broader meaning. The word refers to any inhabitant of the unseen spiritual world. That’s why you’ll find it used of God himself (Genesis 1:1), of demons (Deuteronomy 32:17), and the human dead in the afterlife (1 Samuel 28:13). Within the Bible, any disembodied being whose home address is the spirit world is an elohim.
The Hebrew term doesn’t refer to a specific set of abilities only God has. The Bible distinguishes God from all other gods in other ways, not by using the word elohim. For instance, the Bible commands the gods to worship the God of the Bible (Psalm 29:1). He is their creator and king (Psalm. 95:3; 148:1-5).
Psalm 89:6-7 says,
For who in all of heaven can compare with the Lord?
What mightiest angel is anything like the Lord?
The highest angelic powers stand in awe of God.
He is far more awesome than all who surround his throne.
Other similar passages are 1 Kings 8:23; Psalm. 97:9; Deuteronomy 10:17; and Psalm 136:2 . The Bible writers are pretty blunt about the God of Israel having no equal—he is the “God of gods.”
These beings in the “council of the holy ones” are real. Last week I quoted a passage in which God met with his heavenly host to decide how to get rid of King Ahab. In that passage, the members of this divine group were called spirits. Suppose we believe the spirit world is real and is inhabited by God and by spiritual beings he has created (such as angels). In that case, we have to admit that God’s supernatural task force, described in the verses I’ve quoted above and many others, is also real. Otherwise, we pay mere lip service to spiritual reality.
Since the Bible identifies these divine council members as spirits, we know the gods aren’t just idols of stone or wood. Statues don’t work for God in a heavenly council. People in the ancient world who worshipped the rival gods did indeed make idols. They knew the idols they made with their own hands weren’t the real powers. Those handcrafted idols were just objects their gods could inhabit to receive sacrifices and dispense knowledge to their followers, who performed rituals to solicit the gods to come to them and take up residence in the idol.
Council Structure and Business
Psalm 82:6 is very clear about the other heavenly inhabitants, “I say, ‘You are gods; you are all children of the Most High.'” The
“sons of God” appear several times in the Bible, usually in God’s presence (Job 1:6; 2:1). Job 38:7 tells us they were around before God began to fashion the earth and create humanity.
That is very interesting. God calls these spiritual beings his sons. Since he created them, the “family” language makes sense, in the same way, you refer to your offspring as your son or daughter because you participated in their creation. Besides being their Father, God is also their king. In the ancient world, kings often ruled through their extended families. Kingship was passed on to heirs. Dominion was a family business. God is Lord of his council. His sons have the next highest rank by virtue of their relationship with him. As we’ll discuss throughout this book review, something happened—some of them became disloyal.
The sons of God are also decision-makers. We know from 1 Kings 22 (and many other passages) that God’s business involved interacting with human history. When God decided it was time for wicked Ahab to die, he left it up to his council to determine how that would happen.
The divine council meetings in Psalm 82 and 1 Kings 22 are not the only ones related to us in the Bible. A couple of them determined the fate of empires.
In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, was punished by God with temporary insanity. That sentence was handed down by “the decree of the Most High” (Daniel 4:24) and “the decree of the watchers” (Daniel 4:17). Watchers was a term used for divine beings of God’s council. It referred to how they were ever watchful over the affairs of humanity; they never slept.
These biblical scenes of divine council sessions tell us God’s council members participate in God’s rule. In at least some cases, God decrees what he wants to be done but gives his supernatural agents the freedom to decide the means.
Angels participate in God’s council as well. In the Bible’s original languages, the terms translated angel in the Old and New Testaments mean messenger. The word angel is a job description. Angels deliver messages to people. We’ll learn more about angels and their duties, as well as the other responsibilities of God’s council members in subsequent weeks.
Why This Matters
reaction to everything which we have reviewed in this book up to this point may be something like, “Fascinating stuff—I’ve never seen that in the Bible before. But what implications does all this information have, if any at all, for our daily life and the way the church functions?” The answer is, the truths presented in this book review have everything to do with our understanding of who God is, and how we relate to him, and what our purpose is on earth. To help clarify that, I’ll conclude each week with a section like this one that unpacks the practical implications of that week’s truths.
This week, we’ve discussed how the Bible describes God’s cosmic administration and what insights those descriptions give us into God, and, ultimately, how God relates to us.
First, God’s heavenly family business is a template for how he relates to his earthly family. We’ll discuss that further in the next week, but here’s an example: You might have been wondering why God needs a council anyway. God shouldn’t need help doing anything, even in the spiritual world. He’s God! The Bible is clear that he uses lesser beings to get things done.
He doesn’t need a divine council, but he chooses to make use of one. God doesn’t need us either. If he decided, God could speak out loud to all the people who need the gospel, give everyone all the encouragement they need to turn to Him, and call it good. God could persuade people to love others by putting his voice into their heads. But he doesn’t. Instead, he uses people—you and me—to get the job done.
Second, God could predetermine events to make everything turn out the way he wants. But he doesn’t. In King Ahab’s story, God let his heavenly assistants decide how to carry out his will. In other words, he let them use their free will. That tells us that not everything is predetermined. That’s true not only in the unseen world; it’s also true in our world.
In the Bible, the unseen world has structure. God is the CEO. Those who work for him are his family. They share dominion. They participate in how the company runs.
Amazingly enough, the Bible talks the same way about humanity. From the very beginning in Eden, God created humanity to rule the earth with him. God told Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28, “Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.'” Adam
and Eve were the children of God—God’s earthly family. God wanted to live with them and let them participate in making the whole world like Eden.
That’s a familiar concept to most readers. What isn’t so apparent is that Adam and Eve weren’t the only members of God’s family in Eden. His divine family was also there. Eden was where God lived—and where God lives, so does his family. We think of heaven as a place where we’ll live with God and his angels—his divine family. That’s the way it was originally intended to be, and the way it will be. It’s no coincidence that the Bible ends with heaven come back to earth in a new, global Eden (Revelations 21–22).
To understand our destiny, we need to go back to the time when God’s two families occupied the same space. We need to go back to the garden.
That will finish our study for this week’s Worldview Wednesday. Join us again next week as we continue building our Biblical Worldview. Tomorrow we will enjoy our 3-minute humor nugget that will provide you with a bit of cheer and help you to lighten up and live a rich and satisfying life. So encourage your friends and family to join us and then come along with us tomorrow for another day of our Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.
If you would like to listen to any of our past 1520 treks or read the Wisdom Journal, they are available at Wisdom-Trek.com. I encourage you to subscribe to Wisdom-Trek on your favorite podcast player so that each day’s trek will be downloaded automatically.
Thank you for allowing me to be your guide, mentor, and, most of all, your friend as I serve you through the Wisdom-Trek podcast and journal.
As we take this trek together, let us always:
- Live Abundantly (Fully)
- Love Unconditionally
- Listen Intentionally
- Learn Continuously
- Lend to others Generously
- Lead with Integrity
- Leave a Living Legacy Each Day
I am Guthrie Chamberlain reminding you to Keep Moving Forward, Enjoy Your Journey, and Create a Great Day Everyday! See you tomorrow!
 Heiser, M. S. (2015). Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World—And Why It Matters. (D. Lambert, Ed.) (pp. 21–25). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.