In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This was not just earth and sky. “The heavens” is the biblical name for the spiritual world that exists in parallel to the physical world. God created a multi-dimensional universe. We can only see the three dimensions of physical space plus time, so we assume that is all that exists. The spiritual dimensions consist of many more dimensions of reality beyond what we can see.
We cannot see into the spiritual world due to the effects of sin, so we think that the physical world we see makes up most of the universe. This leads us to assume that the authority systems that we see on earth are important, but we miss the parallel authority systems that exist in the spiritual realms and frequently interact with the authority system on earth. To understand the full working of authority, we need a thorough understanding of the way that authority functions in the spiritual realms, and how it affects events on earth.
Growing up in the modern world, we are taught that the physical world is all that is important. If something cannot be scientifically observed, it is not real. We all imbibe this materialistic understanding of the world during our education and daily lives. We think that the physical world that we live in is all that exists.
The physical realms consist of the earth, the sea and the sky. It includes people and the things they have made. This realm of life can be partitioned into two parts. The people who live according to Gods will are part of the Kingdom of God. Those who reject God’s will belong to “the world” (1 John 2:15-17). In reality, these two groups are mixed up together and interact with each other all the time. I have only portrayed them separately for the purpose of illustration.
Christians need a new worldview, that that sees the spiritual realms operating over and alongside the physical realms. We need an awareness of authority in the spiritual realms, if we are to understand the functioning of authority here on earth.
Part of the problem is that we see God as “way up there” far away from our world. We think of heaven as a distant place that we go to where we die. This is short sighted.
Heaven is not a distant place where God lives. Nor is just a place that we go to when we die. The Bible refers to the “heavenlies” as a label for the spiritual realms that exist alongside the physical world. The spiritual realms are just as real as the physical world that we can see. These two realms overlap and interact with each other.
We live in a multi-dimensional universe in which the spiritual dimensions exist in parallel to our three-dimensional physical world. The spiritual realms operate in continuity with the physical/natural world that we observe. Most humans cannot see into the spiritual dimensions, so we can only observe the physical side of existence. However, events in our physical world are shaped by activities in the spiritual realm. When we look at the physical world in isolation, we miss much of what is happening in the universe.
God operates in the spiritual dimensions of reality, but he also created and sustains the physical world. After the creation, the Holy Spirit remained close to the earth.
The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Gen 1:2).
The Spirit was not in a distant place. The spiritual realms where he operates hover over the earth. The spiritual dimensions of reality are not way out at the edge of the universe, they exist in parallel to the physical world in which we live. These two realms of existence interact with each other in ways that we often cannot see, and fail to understand.
I am not sure how many Christians understand these things. Three hundred years ago, almost everyone understood their world in this way. Many people in Africa still think this way, although they focus to much on the dark side of the spiritual. Now, under the relentless pressure of education and the enlightenment, interest in the spiritual dimension of life is labelled old fashioned and superstitious.
I also wonder how many Christians understand these things, but do not live them. How many live as if the spiritual realms are irrelevant?
Many Christians are looking inward to establish connecting with the Holy Spirit. This is good, but if we ignore what is happening in the spiritual realms that surround us, we will misunderstand much of what happens in the world. Most Christians need a vastly expanded worldview.
The previous picture correctly shows how the spiritual and physical realms overlap each other. However, in the remainder of the article, I will place the spiritual realms just above the physical realms so that the interactions between them can be illustrated, but we must always remember that these two worlds overlap and exist in parallel to each other.
The spiritual realms are not limited to three dimensions like our physical world. The Bible does not tell us how many more, but the fact that it is more complex than our three-dimension world means that it is hard for our minds to understand. The spiritual aspect of life can be thought of as additional dimensions beyond the three core dimensions of length, height and breadth. The spiritual world is not another world in another place, but additional dimensions to the physical world we observe.
An even better way might be to think of the physical world as three additional dimensions tacked on to a multi-dimension spiritual world. The spiritual world is more real than the physical world, so this latter view is most likely correct, but it is very hard for us to handle, because our eyes are calibrated for a physical world. Our eyes are so attuned to seeing a three-dimensional world, that we find anything grander difficult to conceive.
Paul visited the spiritual realms in a vision. He was dramatically affected by what he saw, but he could not describe it (2 Cor 12:2-4). His problem was that human language is designed for describing a physical world, so it cannot cope with spiritual reality. He explained that,
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and no human mind has conceived (1 Cor 2:9).
We need spiritual insight to understand what is happening in the spiritual dimension. That is why Paul prayed that the “eyes our hearts may be enlightened’ (Eph 1:18).
Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve could see into the spiritual world. They were able to walk with God in the cool of the evenings and speak directly to him. They were able to see the devil, when he came to tempt them. His activity in the spiritual dimensions, made him appear snakelike from a physical perspective.
This situation did not last longs. When Adam and Eve sinned, their sight was changed so that they could no longer see into the spiritual realms.
The Bible says their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked (Gen 3:7). This statement is a huge irony. Their eyes were actually closed to the spiritual realms. When they could see the brilliant glory of the heavenly realms, their observation of the physical world was dimmed, and they did not notice they were naked. Once the light of heavenly glory was turned off, their view of the physical world was greatly intensified, so they realised for the first time that they were naked.
After his death and resurrection, Jesus gained a spiritual body, which enabled him to interact more freely with the spiritual world. After death, those who believe in Jesus will be given new spiritual bodies. This will enable us to interact with the spiritual dimensions in the same way that Adam and Eve did before the fall. We will be able to see the glory of the total universe that God created. We will be blown by the glory of the spiritual realms and the wonder of the physical world will be diminished.
Authority is the ability to give a command and be certain that it will be carried out. Originally, God has absolute authority in the spiritual realms. The angels all do his bidding instantly.
Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word (Psalm 103:19-21).
All the angels accepted the authority of God and followed the directions of his Spirit.
At some point, a third of the angels rebelled against God’s authority. We do not know if this was before, or after, humans were created. Satan set up an alternative kingdom, under some semblance of his authority. I presume these angels grew tired of being subservient to God and wanted independent authority for themselves.
God created the earth and placed humans in it. He gave authority over the earth to the people he created, but kept authority in heaven for himself (Gen 1:26).
Satan wrested authority from Adam and Eve by persuading them to believe a lie. This gave his spiritual forces of wickedness a place in heaven and authority over the earth, but it was stolen authority. The devil also wheedled a place in the spiritual realms by acting as accuser /prosecutor of God’s people before the presence of God (Job 1:6, Rev 12:10).
Sin and the fall destroyed the unity that had existed in the spiritual realms. God still dominates the spiritual realms, and two thirds of the angels remained loyal to him. However, Satan drew together the angels that had rebelled with him and squeezed them into an alternative power structure in one corner of the spiritual world.
Division in the spiritual realms extenuated the division on earth. The struggle between the Kingdom of God and the world became more intense. In places where the spiritual forces of evil gained control, darkness prevailed.
The spiritual forces of wickedness are not all viciously evil. A few have a real passion for evil, but most a just looking for opportunities to promote their own power and position. Many of them are deceivers and others specialise in producing anger or fear. Sometimes they actively do nasty stuff to good people, but most of the time the just produce chaos and disorder. There will be time when evil gets a hold in the world by working through an evil dictator like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. Mostly the effect of the fall is chaos and shambles. This contrasts with the peace and wisdom of the Kingdom of God.
Interaction between the spiritual sphere and the physical world are critical to the operation of authority in both spheres. These interactions go both ways. (The picture describes a situation where the influence of the kingdom has increased beyond the dark days of the fall.)
The angels live in the spiritual dimensions, but have the ability to move between the spiritual and physical worlds. The spiritual forces of evil are fallen angels with the same ability to move between the spiritual and physical dimensions. They operate in the spiritual realm, but they can cross over into the physical realm to work evil.
Angels and evil spirits can touch our physical world in only once place at one time. This limits what they can do on earth. In contrast, the Holy Spirit is present everywhere on earth at any time. This gives him unlimited power and makes him far greater than any angel and much greater reach than the devil.
1. Spiritual to Physical
The battle in the spiritual sphere has a strong influence on events on earth. Paul explained this in his letter to the Ephesians.
Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:11-12).
Paul reminds us that when we are dealing with people and events on earth, they are being manipulated by spiritual forces that we cannot see.
The spiritual powers of evil are attracted to authority and people with authority. If they can influence a person with authority, they can amplify their power on earth. When Daniel was praying about the situation of the exiles in Persia, God revealed that the power driving the situation was a spiritual being called the Prince of Persia.
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia (Dan 10:13).
The spiritual power had to be defeated in the spiritual realms, before the situation would change in Persia.
Changes in government, whether by military coup or election, often change nothing. The reason is that nothing has changed in the spiritual realms.
Influences from the spiritual realms explain why economic crises occur, when economist’s thing the situation is improving.
Spiritual influences explain why war breaks out when peace looks permanent, as in 1914.
2. Physical to Spiritual
Interactions between earth and heaven flow both ways. Events in earth often cause changes in the spiritual realms.
Daniels prayers released the archangel Michael to constrain the spiritual being called the Prince of Persia (Dan 10:13). This enabled the other angel to speak to Daniel on Earth. This changed the situation for the exiles in Persia and they eventually returned to the Promised Land.
Angels and evil spirits do not have unlimited authority to move on the earth. God has given authority over the earth to humans (Gen 1:26), so they can only get involved if humans with the relevant authority give them permission (and evil spirits will cheat when they can). This means that beings in the spiritual realms are constrained by people on earth.
I explain how people on earth influence events in the spiritual realms in Prayer and Authority.
John challenged Christians to avoid becoming entangled in the world.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them (1 John 2:15).
The Greek word for “world” is kosmos. It is not just the physical world. John used this word to describe the world system. It describes a system that is controlled by the devil and his forces of evil and the people and things under their influence.
The Kingdom of God is everyone and everything that freely submits to God’s will, whether in the spiritual and physical realms.
History of Interaction between the Realms
The Bible tells the story of interactions between the physical and spiritual realms. During Old Testament times, the interactions were infrequent, because God did not have authority to get actively involved in the world. Following the cross and Pentecost the interaction between the spiritual and physical realms increased significantly.
Jacob was given a clear view of this interaction at the place he called Bethel (house of God).
He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD (Gen 28:12).
In his dream, Jacob saw a stairway between the spiritual realms and the physical realms. God was in the spiritual realm at the top. Jacob was in the physical world at the bottom. They seemed to be really close. The angels were travelling between the spiritual realms with God towards the physical world. They were not able to go out into the physical world, because no one had given them authority to act on earth. That is why they turned and went back up the stairway again.
Jacob did not fully understand what he saw. He assumed that heaven and earth were only close at this place, so he set up a stone pillar, so he could find it again. He promised to give a tenth of what he received to God (Gen 28:22). God did not need his wealth. He wanted him to understand that they spiritual realms are close all over the earth, wherever people seek God with open hearts. God wanted Jacob to pray, so his angels would have authority to go to work on earth.
Moses gained a glimpse into the spiritual realms, before God called him into his ministry.
There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” (Ex 3:2,4).
The Burning Bush was not a miraculous sign to dazzle Moses. God wanted Moses to understand that the spiritual realms were close to the world of a lonely shepherd. God was able to speak to Moses from the bush, because the spiritual realms touch the physical world. Learning this truth enabled Moses to hear God speak wherever he went. Hearing God’s voice was critical for his ministry. This why he was a great prophet (Deut 34:10).
When Moses led the children out of Israel out of Egypt, God travelled in front in a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night (Ex 40:36). He led Moses and his people to Mount Sinai.
Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently (Ex 19:17-18).
The people saw this intervention of the spiritual realms into the physical world. God came close and gave Moses the law. Before they moved into the promised land, god wanted the people to understand that the spiritual realm was close, wherever they went.
When Moses and the people had built the tabernacle, it became a place of connection between the spiritual realms and the physical realms.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35).
The tabernacle was a place where the people of God could go to interact with the spiritual realms.
The book of Job is really important, because it explains why evil occurs on earth. Innocent people often suffer, because the devil has a go at them to prove a point in heaven. When Satan left the presence of God to work his evil on earth:
- Fire came down from heavens and destroyed his flocks of sheep.
- The Sabeans attacked and stole all his oxen and donkeys.
- The Chaldeans attacked and carried off all his camels.
- A wind blew from the dessert and destroyed the house of his youngest son. His children, who were in the house, were also killed.
These events seemed to be natural disasters, so insurance companies would call them Acts of God. However, we know from Job 1 that they were the works of the evil one and his spiritual forces. When Job continued to honour God, the devil decided on a second attack. He afflicted Job with boils. A doctor would say that Job had caught an infection, because he was run down by his grief, but we know something different was going on. The sickness was a direct attack from the spiritual realms by an angry devil.
The prophets are often perceived to be people who could predict the future, but this is a distortion of their true role. The prophets were called to act as intermediaries between the spiritual and physical worlds for people who could not see. Jeremiah said that prophets see in the spiritual realms and convey to the people what they are seeing.
But if they had stood in my council,
they would have proclaimed my words to my people
and would have turned them from their evil ways
and from their evil deeds (Jer 33:22).
The false prophets spoke for their own minds. The prophets could see into the spiritual realms and they explained to the people what they saw.
Ezekiel had an amazing vision at the beginning of his ministry. He saw wheels moving in unison.
When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels (Ez 1:19-20).
Ezekiel did not have an encounter with a UFO of a piece of modern art. God opened his eyes to see into the spiritual realms. What he saw was so amazing, that he struggled to describe what he saw. He used words like jewels and spinning wheels to give his listeners and understanding of what he saw, but these words mostly failed him.
Isaiah’s ministry began when he saw into the heavenly realms in a vision.
I saw the Lord, high and exalted seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were angels, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying (Is 6:1-2).
Understanding that the spiritual realm ran parallel to earth assisted Isaiah to function in his ministry as a prophet.
When their city was surrounded by an army of horses and chariots, Elisha opened the eyes of his servant so he could see what was happening in the spiritual realms.
Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).
The servant only saw the horse and chariots of the enemy army. He needed his eyes opened to see the huge army in the spiritual realms that was ready to support and protect Elisha. They blinded the army, so he could humiliate them by leading them into the centre of the city (2 Kings 18-23).
When Ahab and Jehoshaphat were planning to go to war against Syria, Miciah saw what was happening in the spiritual realms.
I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, “Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there”… A spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, “I will entice him… I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets” “You will succeed in enticing him,” said the LORD. “Go and do it” (1 King 22:19-22).
The false prophets believed that Ahab would win the war. Miciah had spiritual insight, so he realised that Ahab would die. He saw what was going on in the spiritual realms and knew that Ahab was in trouble.
When Elijah was on Mount Carmel, his prophesying released an intervention from the spiritual realms.
Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench (1 Kings 18:38).
The power to destroy the wood and the altar came from the heavenly realms. When Elijah fled to the cave on Mount Horeb, another intervention occurred.
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by” (1 Kings 19:11).
Elijah went outside the cave and saw a great gale, followed by a fire, followed by a gentle whisper. He knew that God was not a fire or a wind, but understood that he had seen into the spiritual realms. God spoke to him and gave him instructions for the remainder of his ministry.
When Jesus came to earth, he was constrained as a man to operating in the physical world. However, he had not fallen into sin, so he still had access to the spiritual realms while on earth (he is the one wearing a crown in the picture.)
- His baptism was an encounter with the spiritual realms. People watching saw a dove descending on Jesus. It was not a real dove, but an intrusion of the Holy Spirit from the spiritual realms. This was confirmed by the voice speaking from there (Matt 3:16-17).
- Jesus temptation was a different kind of encounter with the spiritual realms. The devil spoke to and tried to divert him from obedience to the Father. This was an amazing contest that ended differently from the original encounter with Adam and Eve. It resulted in the devil leaving and the angels caring for Jesus (Matt 3:11).
- Jesus regularly drew aside to commune with the father.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35).
He needed frequent interaction with the spiritual realms.
- Jesus ministry always originated in heaven. He only did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19).
The Father loves the Son and shows him all he does (John 5:20).
He knew what to do because he could see into the spiritual realms.
- Jesus did not respond to what people said and did, but what he saw in the spiritual realms. He was able to tell Nathaniel what he had been doing.
I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you (John 1:48).
- A different kind of spiritual interaction occurred when Jesus was crossing the lake in a boat. When they were in the middle of the lake, a terrible storm struck. This was not an ordinary. Mark describes it as a “great storm of wind” (Mark 4:37). Matthew says a great shaking (seismos) occurred in the sea. (Matt 8:24). The men in the boat were experienced sailors, but they were filled with terror, because they realised they could be destroyed.
This was not just another storm. Most storms are caused by strong wind. This was caused by something stirring the sea. The forces of darkness understood that Jesus was a risk to them. Now he had started his ministry the risk was becoming clear. He was casting out demons, and they were powerless. He was healing the people they had inflicted with sickness. They knew that they had to deal with him, before he really got going. So they stirred up the sea and the wind in an effort to kill Jesus.
When the disciples woke Jesus, he understood what was happening. He rebuked wind in the same way as he rebuked evil spirits that he was casting out. He spoke to the said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still” (Mark 4:39)! Speaking to an “act of nature” is a pointless waste of time, but Jesus knew the storm was demonic. He seemed to be speaking to the wind and the waves, but he was actually speaking to the evil spirits who were at work in both.
The disciples just saw a storm. Jesus realised that in the spiritual realms, a host of evil spirits had stirred up the wind and the sea in an effort to destroy him. There were other boats on the Sea of Galilee that night (Mk 4:36), but the spirits focussed the attack on his boat. Jesus understood his authority, so he rebuked the evil spirits. I presume that when he spoke, a host of powerful angels forced the evil spirits off the lake. That is why the wind and the waves instantly calmed.
Unlike a natural storm, this storm came without warning and ended suddenly. Much is made of the unpredictability of storms on the Galilee, but Jesus disciples knew how to read the weather signs (Luke 12:54) and would not have gone out if a storm was brewing. This storm ended as quickly as it started, because its source was demonic.
- At the Transfiguration, Jesus took Peter and John into the spiritual realms.
Moses and Elijah appeared before them, talking with Jesus (Matt 17:3).
It appeared to them that Moses and Elijah had come down to earth. The reality was that Jesus parted the curtain between physical and the spiritual realms, so could see were these men were living with God.
- Jesus had come from the spiritual realms, so he was familiar with their operation. He knew he could call for a spiritual intention into events whenever he chose.
Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels (Matt 26:53).
Jesus knew the spiritual powers could overwhelm the greatest power political empire on earth.
- When Jesus was on the cross carrying the weight of human sin, he was totally separated from good side of the spiritual realms. They evil forces in the spiritual realms were able to torment him. This was the source of his desolation.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Matt 27:46).
Jesus’ pain demonstrates the importance of understanding the spiritual realms.
At the ascension, Jesus appeared to go up into the air and behind a cloud, but he was really moving back into the spiritual realms from which he had come
Because the eyes of the disciples were calibrated to seeing the physical world, he seemed to go into the sky and disappear. If they could have seen with spiritual eyes, they would have realised that he had simply moved across the divide into the spiritual realms.
Sin closed the spiritual realms off from human sight. Jesus death and resurrection dealt with the problem of sin. His ascension opened up the spiritual realms for those who trust in him. Jesus followers perceived by faith what he had seen naturally. The Day of Pentecost was a massive intervention from the spiritual realms.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4).
The spiritual realms opened up and observers heard and saw a violent wind and fire. The believers were filled with the Holy Spirit, which gave them continuous access to the spiritual realms. They were equipped to speak languages that could be understood in the spiritual realms, but not by people on earth.
Spiritual gifts are an intervention from the spiritual realms into the physical world.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, I do not want you to be ignorant… There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work… All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines (1 Cor 12:1,4-6,11).
Paul said we should be informed about “spiritual gifts”. However, the word gift is missing from the original text. A more precise translation would say, “I want you to know about the spirituals”. Paul wants us to know about the spiritual realms, so we can facilitate intervention from there into the spiritual world by exercising them.
When I speak in tongues, I am speaking a language from the spiritual realms that other humans cannot understand. Receiving a word of knowledge is hearing words being spoken in the spiritual realms. I hear them because I am walking in the Spirit and he enables me to hear what is being said in the “room’ next door. The people who are stuck in this room need me to tell them what is being spoken on the other side of the wall. A word of wisdom is insight received from the spiritual realms. These spiritual gifts support our interaction with the spiritual realms.
Stephen was filled with the Spirit (Acts 6:5), so when he was about to be stoned, he described what he could see in the spiritual realms.
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:54-56).
The Jewish leaders saw a man preaching. Stephen saw Jesus seated at the right hand of God. That was the reality that was shaping events on earth.
When Peter was in prison, he was released by a spiritual intervention.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists (Acts 12:7).
King Herod had locked Peter up. Something different was happening in the spiritual realms, so he was set free.
When John’s life was drawing to a close, he was given a unique ability to see into the spiritual realms.
On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it”… I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me (Rev 1:10-12).
He did not have the words to describe what he saw, so he took words like emerald, crystal, rainbow, glass, sea, thunder, gold, lampstand, snow, that describe some of the most amazing things in this world, and jumbled them up to describe what he saw in spiritual realms. We should not assume these are literal descriptions. John was doing his best with words designed for describing a three-dimensional world, but he was actually describing the indescribable.
The Greek word translated “revelation” is “apokalupsis” (Rev 1:1). . It means unveiling or uncovering. Our focus on the physical dimensions of life hides the spiritual dimensions and gives us a false view of reality. The spiritual world was unveiled for John and he got a glimpse of reality as the angels see it. Jesus gave him this revelation to show that our view of reality is only half the truth.
The world assumes that a visionary person sees something that is half-real. The truth is opposite. The physical world that we see with our human eyes is only half of reality. The spiritual world unveiled to John in his vision is the other half that we usually miss. John struggled to grasp all that his prophetic eyes saw, but he carefully recorded everything for the benefit of those coming after him. The main purpose of the book of Revelation is to increase our awareness of the spiritual realms. To get a true perspective on reality, we must see things in heaven and things on earth together. Revelation gives us the other side of reality.
John gained a massive insight into what was happening in the spiritual realms, but he found it difficult to do justice to the beauty of the spiritual glory.
When Jesus returns at the end of the age, the gap between the spiritual world and the physical world will be completely removed and everyone will be able to see into the spiritual realms. The appearance of Jesus will be a massive interjection of the spiritual dimension into our physical world.
Jesus return will bring a change of seeing. The spiritual realms that are currently hidden from the people on earth will be opened up for everyone to see. Paul wrote of the “manifestation of Jesus’ appearance” (2 Thes 2:8). He was explaining that the spiritual dimensions will open and be visible to everyone on earth.
The limits of our human seeing make the physical world appear bright and real. The spiritual dimension seems distant and dim to us, as it must be perceived by faith. When our seeing is changed, the physical world will fade into obscurity. As the spiritual world comes into clearer focus, we will be stunned by its glory. Jesus does not come back to earth. He appears when the spiritual world is opened and joined with the physical world for everyone to see.
When our spiritual eyes are opened to see clearly, the spiritual dimensions of life will suddenly be real. When the curtain is pulled back, the indescribable glory of Jesus will be revealed. Once they can see reality clearly, everyone on earth will see Jesus seated on the throne at the right hand of the Father. He has always been there, but from a human perspective, he will seem to have appeared.
The appearance of the earth and sky will be totally changed. With the physical and spiritual dimensions merged, earth will seem much less grand. Physical things will not have changed, but we will be seeing them in correct perspective for the first time. We think that space is immense, but when we see the spiritual realms, it will suddenly seem small. As we see the glory of the spiritual realms for the first time, Jesus will be revealed, while earth and space shrink away.
To do God’s will on earth, we must understand what is being done in heaven. We do not need to indulge in occult practices to get this understanding. That would place us in bondage. We learn about events in the spiritual realms by listening to the Holy Spirit. He sees and hears everything spoken in the spiritual realms.
When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. All that belongs to the Father is mine… The Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you (John 16:13,15).
The Spirit knows everything that is happening in the spiritual realms. An important part of his role is telling us what Jesus and the Father are saying and doing. Jesus promised that he would reveal it Gods will to us. Once we know his will, we can declare it and pray it into being.
Hearing the truth proclaimed in the spiritual realms is essential. For God’s will to be done on earth, he needs humans living on the earth to give him authority to do his will here. Paul explains how the Holy Spirit teaches us God’s will.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us (1 Cor 2:10-13).
God declares his will in the spiritual realms. If we listen to his Spirit, he will tell us all that we need to know. The next verse is a key.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words (1 Cor 2:13).
This verse is important. Human wisdom misses half of what is happening in this universe. True wisdom results from being taught by the Spirit. He explains spiritual realities to us in Spirit-taught words.
The Holy Spirits speaks, an tells us what God is saying (John 14:25). He also shows what is happening in the spiritual realms (John 16:14).
People who reject the Holy Spirit’s calling cannot understand the importance of the spiritual realms.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14).
They cannot be seen through human eyes. This is why the rulers of the world are blind to what is really happening.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8).
Herod and Pilate thought they were getting rid of a minor political nuisance. In fact, they were bringing about a massive victory in the spiritual realms that would change the direction of history. They were releasing the Kingdom of God, which would sweep away their kingdoms and continue forever.
Pauls concludes this bit of teaching by saying that we have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). That does not mean that we are theological educated, or even that we understand the truth. We have the mind of the spiritually anointed one, if we can understand the interaction between the spiritual and the physical realms. We receive this understanding by listening to the voice of the Spirit.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul explained why this is important.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:1-3).
We are easily distracted by things that happen in the world. That is mistake. We have been raised up with Jesus, so we should fix our hearts on the things that are happening in the spiritual realms. Paul goes on to explain why.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:4).
When Jesus appears, what we have established in the spiritual realms will be revealed. The houses and businesses that we have built on earth will wither into insignificance.
When Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray, he taught them how to pray in the Kingdom of God.
Your will be done in the earthly realms, as it is done in the spiritual realms (Matt 6:10).
In the spiritual realms, the angels rush to do the Father’s will (Ps 103:20). The kingdom comes on earth when people rush to do his bidding in the same way as the angel in the spiritual realms. When the Holy Spirit prompts and people follow his guidance, the kingdom will come.
Paul said the same thing in a different way when he explained that God’s goal for history is for there to be unity between the spiritual and physical realms.
He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment-to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (Eph 1:9-10).
When the times are fulfilled, things in both the spiritual and the physical realms will come into unity by being submitted to Jesus. His kingdom will have come when all authority in heaven and on earth has been brought back under him.
I often hear Christians say that they are going to change, because God has released angel of victory, or has opened the windows of heaven. Yet nothing really changes. These voices are confused, because they do not understand that God does not have a free hand to do what he likes on earth. He has given authority on earth to humans. He has provided everything we need through the cross and the Spirit. He needs humans with authority to release him to deliver what Jesus established.