All the Things We Cannot See: Christians and the Spirit World
October comes with boots and sweaters, fall leaves, and everything pumpkin, but it also ushers in a piqued interest in the spirit world. As the store shelves fill up with ghoulish costumes and decorations, many Christians find themselves debating whether or not Christ’s followers should participate in Halloween. This issue, though, is only a small piece of a bigger picture that affects us daily. If there is an unseen world around us, as the Bible teaches, how does it really affect us and how are we supposed to relate to it?
There are several prevailing attitudes among Christians when it comes to the spirit world. Because it’s an uncomfortable topic, many choose to ignore or oversimplify it. They’ll give a nod to the existence of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps of angels, but they refuse to go any further. Others take the supernatural lightly, even finding entertainment in distorted representations of witches, ghosts, and demons. Still others go to the opposite extreme, claiming to command angels and demons, praying special “faith phrases” like magic spells which they believe can protect them or bring them extra blessings. Their vehemence brings awkward confusion and can even make Christianity look like a circus.
What’s a true disciple of Jesus supposed to think?
What the Bible Tells Us About the Spirit World
There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the supernatural. The Bible tells us in this current life, we see “through the glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). That’s the perfect image. We’re peering through windows into a house where the lights aren’t on, catching only glimpses of what’s happening inside. Come Heaven, we’ll get to see the whole picture, but for now we can only go by what’s in the Scriptures.
Here’s what God’s Word tells us:
The Spirit World
- There is a world invisible to humans (Colossians 1:16, 1 Kings 6:16-17).
- God is the ultimate power and authority of the seen and unseen worlds (Colossians 1:16, 1 Chronicles 29:11-12).
- Spirit beings influence, even control, what is going on in the visible world (Ephesians 6:12).
- Humans are lower in rank than spirit beings (Hebrews 2:7, Psalm 8:5).
- In God’s time, all evil will be defeated and removed from the earth (1 Corinthians 15:24, Revelation 19:11-21).
- They are spirit beings created by God (Colossians 1:16).
- They serve two purposes: they worship God (Revelation 5:11-12), and they are also referred to as ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14).
- In their role as ministering spirits, angels protect (Psalm 34:7), war against evil spirits (Revelation 12:7-9, Daniel 10:13), and carry messages (Luke 2:9-11, Daniel 10:5-11) as well as fulfilling whatever command God gives them (Ezekiel 9:3-5, Revelation 16:12).
- The Bible describes different kinds of angels including the six-winged seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), cherubim with either two or four wings (2 Chronicles 3:11, Ezekiel 1:6), archangels who lead mighty battles (Jude 1:9, Revelation 12:7), and angels who appear as wingless, shining men (Luke 24:4).
- Angels sometimes interact with us in human form (Hebrews 13:2).
- Angels are not to be worshiped. In every instance in the Bible where awe-struck humans started to worship them, angels emphasized God alone was worthy of such honor and stressed they are our fellow servants (Revelation 19:10).
- The Bible does not describe angels as beautiful, winged women (those would be large fairies) nor as chubby babies with wings (that would be a modern representation of Cupid).
- Angels do not have romantic relationships (Matthew 22:30).
- Nowhere in Scripture did humans command angels. Instead, believers prayed to God who then sent angels to intervene according to His direction (Numbers 20:16, Acts 12:5,11).
- Demons are evil angels sometimes also referred to as spirits (Matthew 25:41, Matthew 12:45).
- Satan, also called the Devil, is the ruler of the demonic kingdom (Matthew 12:26).
- Satan has been given temporary control of the earth (Luke 4:6, Job 1:12, Romans 16:20).
- All humans who do not follow Christ are under Satan’s control (Colossians 1:13-14, Ephesians 2:1-2).
- Evil can appear as good (2 Corinthians 11:14).
- Evil spirits manipulate people’s minds through lies (1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Corinthians 4:4).
- Demons can affect people physically (Matthew 9:32, Mark 9:25, Mark 1:26).
- Demons can possess (live inside) people and animals (Luke 8:30, Matthew 8:31).
- While evil spirits are powerful, they are limited (Revelation 12:12, Job 1:10).
- Believers have the power to cast out demons in Jesus’ name (Matthew 10:1, Mark 16:17, Matthew 7:22).
Christians and the Spirit World
Okay. So there’s a spirit world filled with powerful, invisible beings, some good and some bad. What does that mean for us?
The best news is, when we chose to follow Jesus, we were delivered from Satan’s power (Hebrews 2:14-15, Hebrews 12:25). Sin no longer has control over us, and we have been given the promise of a beautiful eternity with God. This truth, however, does not make us immune from Satan’s attacks. Temptations still come, and our enemy will still whisper lies to our minds, trying to manipulate our emotions and lure us from the safety we have in Christ. At times, he may cause others to come against us, but whatever the circumstance, God will take care of His own (Hebrews 13:5). He has even promised the constant, watchful presence of angels around His people (Psalm 34:7).
In addition to God’s constant care, we have been given instructions for combating evil. Top on the list is to be watchful (1 Peter 5:8, 1 Corinthians 2:11). It is crucial for us to be aware of evil forces, to understand their lying and manipulative ways. When temptation comes, when discouragement tries to pull us away, when unbelievers (and sometimes believers) rise against us, we must recognize the true source and hold that much closer to Jesus.
We’ve also been given spiritual weapons, the first and foremost of which is prayer. Prayer gives us a direct line to God who will help us when we call (Matthew 26:41). Ephesians 6:10-18 lists other weapons – salvation, righteousness, truth, peace, faith, and the Bible. In earthly terms, these things seem odd, but in spiritual battles, they’re exactly what we need (Ephesians 6:12). Having the infilling of the Holy Spirit also gives us power (Acts 1:8).
Sin leaves us wide open to the enemy, and the Bible warns us about giving the devil room to operate in our lives (Ephesians 4:25-28, 2 Peter 2:20). If we make mistakes, we must turn to God in repentance, closing the door of influence (1 John 2:2). James 4:7 tells us to submit to God (meaning to be obedient to Him in everything) and to resist the devil who then has no choice but to run away.
Christians, too, should avoid taking evil things lightly. Throughout the Bible, God warned His people to stay away from fortunetellers, witches, and anyone else who claimed to have spiritual powers (Leviticus 19:31, Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:6, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 21:8). But we should also refuse to entertain ourselves with evil, steering clear of books, programs, or anything else that makes light of or falsely represents evil forces (Psalm 101:3, Acts 19:19).
This Side of Heaven
Talking about the supernatural, about powerful, unseen beings can be unsettling. There’s so much we don’t know, so much we can’t know, and so much that is beyond our control. This is perhaps why many people prefer to ignore the spirit world or to oversimplify it.
As Christians, however, it’s important that we be realistic. Ignoring spiritual matters doesn’t take away their power, but rather gives evil more room to operate unchecked. If we are to be the disciples Christ calls us to be, then we must resist the evil around us, shining light into the darkness, and drawing others into God’s kingdom. We don’t have to understand how it all works. We do need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the one who is in control. He knows how to direct the battle, and He knows how to use us for greater good. There may be some fierce battles this side of heaven, but when all is said and done, we will stand at His side, victorious.