What the Bible Says about the Unseen Spiritual Realm

“Believe. No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”- Helen Keller

What does the Bible say about the spiritual realm and whether spiritual beings are operating within our earthly realm? Some may be surprised, but the Bible says quite a bit, even though some Christian sects and many in modern times have downplayed its message. The intention of this blog is to shed some light on the matter.

The Divine Council

Genesis 1:1 tells us that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” and in the passages to follow, we learn of the way creation on the earth arose. In Genesis 1:26, He calls our attention to a plurality when He says, “Let us create mankind in our image,” which suggests the presence of other spiritual beings. He makes His own role within His heavenly host clear in Genesis 1:27, where He shows He is the one doing the creating.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

After human civilization began to populate the earth, Deuteronomy 32:8 states:  

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.”

God divided all mankind at the Tower of Babel when He disinherited the people of nations other than Israel and confused them with different languages.[1] Much of the rest of the Old Testament indicates He retained Israel for himself.

Sons of God

Who are these “sons of Israel” who were divided when God divided all mankind, during a time when Israel hadn’t even existed?[2] One only needs to look at other English translations, the original Hebrew, and the Dead Sea Scrolls to discover the answer. The English Standard Version refers to them as “sons of God,” which is consistent with the cross-reference in the original Hebrew and in the Dead Sea Scrolls.[3] Other versions point to the “people of Israel,” the “children of Israel,” “a heavenly being,” and “a heavenly court.” Given the fact that Israel was not yet a nation in Genesis 11, the passage suggests the presence of spiritual beings who were given authority over various nations of the world.

Psalm 82 also refers to the sons of God within God’s Divine Council (or “great assembly”). They are the Elohim, which refers to any spiritual being. The Divine Father is also Elohim, but He is distinguished from them as being the only one who creates and is to be worshipped as the Most High God. He presides over them and renders judgment upon them, while they walk in darkness. He granted them authority over the kingdoms of the earth and He will one day remove their authority, as revealed in the book of Revelation.

Who was given the highest earthly authority to rule over these various earthly kingdoms? You guessed it. After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, He went into the wilderness to fast. At the end of 40 days and at the peak of his hunger, Satan approached Him.

“The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”[4]

Some have claimed Satan is an invention in the New Testament and demons and an unseen spiritual realm within our realm were never mentioned in the Old Testament. At issue are some of the English translations. Michael Heiser, who’s authored numerous books on the unseen realm, angels, and demons, has pointed out that some of the English translations of the Old Testament do not adequately convey the original intentions of the Hebrew passages concerning the spiritual realm. He cites Psalm 91 where God rescued men from the “fowler’s snare” and “pestilence that stalks in the darkness,” which were references to the gods people worshipped at the time, or demons.

The prophet Daniel spoke of the “prince of Persia” in Daniel 10. This prince prevented an angel (or spiritual messenger) from visiting Daniel for 24 days. He was finally halted by the chiefly prince (the archangel) Michael, who overcame the prince of Persia.

“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”[5]

These passages are consistent with the 10 plagues God sent to Egypt to free the Israelites from the Pharaoh. Each “plague” directly responded to a god that the Egyptians were worshipping at the time, so God’s choices of plagues were a means to destroy the credibility of those gods. 

New Testament Cross-References

Jesus referenced Psalm 82 in John 10 in an encounter with the Pharisees.

“’We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’”

“Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are ‘gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?”[6]

In Ephesians 6:12, St. Paul also cites an unseen spiritual realm.

“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.”

The Tower of Babel and the Pentecost

As noted, God disinherited the nations of the world at the Tower of Babel, handing authority over them to the sons of God, which were imperfect spiritual beings who were not to be worshipped. The nations were unable to communicate well with one another as their languages had been differentiated.

God retained Israel for Himself. He chose Israel to be the means by which He would pave the way for the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Following Jesus’ three-year ministry, Jesus suffered, was crucified, and was buried for our sins and our salvation. On the third day, He rose from the dead, unlocking His children from the grasp of Satan. No longer did Satan have a hold on Jesus’ children, many of whom had been trapped in the underworld under his dominion. Jesus made known His authority over Satan, the spiritual world, and the earth in the Great Commission.

The Great Commission

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”[7]

40 days after Jesus’ resurrection, He ascended into the heavens and the gates of heaven were opened to all of the world. On that day, we celebrate the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came as what appeared to be tongues of fire. Jesus’ apostles were given the ability to speak all of the languages of the land, causing those who witnessed this event to marvel.

Over the next decades, Jesus’ apostles and disciples traveled all over the ancient world, spreading the Good News. They traveled to all places that had been disinherited at the Tower of Babel.[8] As Michael Heiser has pointed out, Spain was one of the final outposts of God’s disinherited nations. For this reason, Paul made plans to travel to Spain.[9]  

Summary

Taken together, these passages tell us that (1) a spiritual unseen realm exists; (2) sons of God have been given dominion over principalities and nations of the world, with Satan at the top of the hierarchy; (3) the sons of God are spiritual beings; (4) the worldly sons of God have evil and dark intentions; (5) the sons of God not associated with the world, such as the chiefly prince Michael, serve God with loving intentions; (6) God is the Most High Elohim who is the only one with the ability to create and judge; (7) at Babel, God disinherited the nations and sons of Gods who had been given power over them; (8) God reserved Israel for Himself and (9) God disinherited the nations at the Tower of Babel and reclaimed them at the Pentecost and via the missions of Jesus’ apostles and disciples in the earliest years of Christianity.


[1] Genesis 1:11-9

[2] Genesis 11:1-9

[3] Heiser, M.S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural View of the Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Luke 4:5-8

[5] Psalm 91:5-6

[6] John 10:33-36

[7] Matthew 28:16-18

[8] Heiser, M.S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural View of the Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[9] Romans 15:24

3 Replies to “What the Bible Says about the Unseen Spiritual Realm”

  1. Wow! This is really good and explains so much. This explains very well Matthew 28 where the resurrected Messiah plainly states that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

    I’ll keep coming back to this one for reference.

    Liked by 1 person

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