“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1 NKJV)
We have considered in previous lessons some aspects of the creation of the natural world. In this lesson we turn our attention to the creation of the invisible elements of God’s created order – the spirit realm – or, as the Bible calls them, the heavens. It is in this realm that spiritual beings live and operate, and where the authority of the church is exercised.
Two Realms, Three Heavens, Two Kingdoms
Essentially the creation can be described as comprising two realms: The Natural realm and the Spiritual realm. The following table compares some of the main characteristics of these two realms:
Mankind, as a spiritual being living in a natural body, spans the two realms, existing and operating at once in both. Many in our modern materialistic society, deny the reality of the spiritual realm. It is however, the superior realm, and all that we see in the natural realm first found its existence in the spiritual realm. God, who is a Spirit, spoke the worlds into existence. All that we see proceeded from the realm that we do not see.
“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Heb 11:3 NKJV)
The Scriptures also reveal that there is divine order within this realm. The Bible in Genesis 1:1 speaks of the creation of heavens, plural. The suggestion from scripture is that there are essentially three heavens: The natural heavens of this world, the spiritual heavens of this world, and the heaven of heavens where God dwells. Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 1:4 concerning this truth:
“It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (2Cor 12:1-4 NKJV)
The following table outlines some of the main characteristics of these heavens as mentioned in Scripture. Later in this session we will expand upon the second and third heavens, and some of the applicable truths concerning them in relation to humankind.
The Bible also makes it clear that within the spiritual realm there are two kingdoms in operation: the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness. These Kingdoms influence the events in the natural world to a much greater degree than most people realise. John goes so far as to state that the whole world lies under the authority of the spiritual world:
“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1John 5:19 NIV)
The following chart contrasts these two kingdoms:
The Kingdom of darkness has a limited sphere of influence, and is worldly (limited to this world and its inhabitants). God’s Kingdom, like Himself, is limitless and encompasses all other realms. Ultimately, all other kingdoms will become subject to the Kingdom of God, either by choice or by spiritual force:
“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”” (Rev 11:15 NKJV)
“until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom…Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’” (Dan 7:22,27)
These two kingdoms are presently in combat with one another. The kingdom of darkness has no authority other than that which it derives from mankind’s rejection of God’s law and rule. Satan’s power is diminishing, suffering the inevitable effects of sin, death and destruction. God’s Kingdom is all powerful, and its authority and power is underived, flowing from the Sovereign nature of its King, Jesus Christ:
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt 28:18 NKJV)
At creation Adam was created in the very image of God. Essentially, man is a spiritual being, having a soul and living in a body. In this original estate the divide between natural and spiritual realms was so indistinct that Adam would not have even been aware of any distinction. On the one hand he could enjoy the delights of the garden around him, the scents, the sights and sounds of nature. He could make love with his wife as commanded by His Creator; and in the same day walk openly and intimately with God in the very same garden. All was one to them, and the distinction between the two realms (or at least the awareness of any distinction) essentially did not originally exist as it did subsequent to the fall.
It was only with the fall of man, and the separation that entered his spirit, cleaving him from the life and light of God, that brought the blindness that clouded his/her perception of the invisible realm. On the one hand their eyes were closed to the realities of God (to the point of believing that they could hide from Him behind a bush), and on the other their eyes were opened to the limitations and constrictions of the material world. We witness Adam and Eve becoming shamefully aware of the natural world around them, more than the higher realities of the spiritual world:
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” (Gen 3:7 NKJV)
This spiritual blindness is the state of every man or women apart from God:
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Eph 4:17-19 NKJV)
When we accept Christ as our Saviour, our eyes are opened to again perceive much more clearly the spiritual realm.
“to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26:18NKJV)
It must be clarified however, that just because a man or woman is unredeemed, it does not mean that they cannot operate or perceive activity in the spiritual realm. A man’s unredeemed spirit partakes of death, which means separation from the life of God, not a cessation of existence. A man is still a spiritual being, and capable of spiritual activity, even though alienated from God. Spiritual blindness however, leads such people into deception and bondage to spiritual powers other than God’s Spirit. It is through these powers that witches, warlocks and other ‘religions’ receive their influence.
Spiritual Perception restored in Christ
One of the main purposes of redemption was to pull down the veil between the natural and the spiritual realm, so mankind could again walk with their God, who is a Spirit.
“For this is why the good news (the Gospel) was preached [in their lifetime] even to the dead, that though judged in fleshly bodies as men are, they might live in the spirit as God does.” (1Pet 4:6 AMP)
Peter here declares that the good news is preached in order that man might live again in the spirit as God does. To understand this is essential if we are to enjoy the reality of our redemption. God is seeking those who will worship and walk with Him in spirit and truth:
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”” (John 4:24 NKJV)
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25)
If we fail to recognise this truth we may well fall into the same trap as Adam and his wife in the garden, when they sought to cover themselves and their sin by natural means. This is essentially how worldly religion can be defined. It refuses to accept the covering of God’s grace and glory through the blood of Jesus, instead sewing fig leaves of good works and vain philosophies together to hide their spiritual nakedness.
Paul rebuked the Galatian church strongly because they departed from spiritual truth and divinely imparted righteousness, seeking to establish their spirituality by natural means:
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:1-3 NKJV)
As we learn to live and walk out our Christian life in the spirit realm, the natural realm will automatically yield to this superior reality. Spiritual works will follow a life lived in fellowship with God in the spiritual realm. We are to work out in this world what God is working in us, through fellowship in prayer:
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13)
It is here, in the spirit, that we are at home as spiritual beings. To seek to live out our Christian life in any other realm can lead only to confusion and frustration.
“It is the Spirit Who gives life [He is the Life-giver]; the flesh conveys no benefit whatever [there is no profit in it]. The words (truths) that I have been speaking to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63 AMP)
In the universe there are only two Kingdoms at work, and they are entirely contrary to one another: The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness.
The kingdom of darkness
We will first consider the Kingdom of darkness.
This ‘kingdom’ is ruled over by satan. It is inferior, and Christ’s victory through the cross has entirely stripped it of authority:
“[God] disarmed the principalities and powers that were ranged against us and made a bold display and public example of them, in triumphing over them in Him and in it [the cross].” (Col 2:15 AMP)
“He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.”
(Col 2:15 MESSAGE)
Prior to the cross the kingdom of darkness held genuine authority in the earthly realm, having been handed this authority by Adam, earth’s ruler. In the garden of Eden, Adam submitted his will to the will of the evil one, and in doing so forfeited his God given dominion over the earth to satan, whom he obeyed. In doing so he transferred his allegiance from God to the power of darkness, and became a slave to the same sin that holds the fallen angels in bondage unto judgement:
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom 6:16 KJV)
At this time all of Adam’s authority over the earth and its kingdoms was transferred to satan, Adam’s new ruler. This is why Paul describes satan in 2 Corinthians 4:4 as the “god of this world”:
“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2Cor 4:4 KJV)
This is why satan was able to say, quite legitimately, in his temptation of Christ:
“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” (Luke 4:5-6 KJV)
At the cross however, the last Adam, the second Man, Jesus Christ, wrested back from the devil any authority that had been lost by the first man, stripping satan completely of any authority, and making an open show of him.
With this in mind, we conclude that the kingdom of darkness has no authority in the earth other than that which is given to it by earth’s inhabitants, namely mankind. If satan is able to deceive people, and prevent them from repenting, availing themselves of Christ’s victory on their behalf, they remain in darkness and bondage to a ruler who has no legal right over them. Satan’s authority is entirely derived. By deception he seeks to take the free will of mankind, and subjugate them to himself, thus investing himself with a secondary authority to operate in the earthly realm. His tactics have proved so successful that John declares that the world largely lives under his illegitimate authority:
“We know [positively] that we are of God, and the whole world [around us] is under the power of the evil one.” (1John 5:19 AMP)
If satan can keep people deceived, he can continue to hold them in his power. We quote again from the Apostle John and then Paul:
“We know that we are held firm by God; it’s only the people of the world who continue in the grip of the Evil One.” (1John 5:19 MESSAGE)
“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2Cor 4:3-4 NKJV)
Illegitimate Spiritual Governments
In order to do this, and maintain his control, satan has erected in the spiritual world over the earth a ‘kingdom’ and structures of government through which to rule over the kingdoms of the world:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12 NKJV)
We will consider this revealed truth concerning the working of satan’s kingdom in greater detail later in this session, and then further in the module when we look at the doctrine of satan and demons.
Despite his best efforts however, as soon as a man or woman turns from the power of satan to the power of God, that person is instantly transferred from one kingdom to another. All the demon powers and authorities cannot prevent this from taking place, a clear display of their impotence apart from a subjugated will:
“[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,” (Col 1:13 AMP)
The kingdom of the Son of God’s love is an almighty Kingdom holding all authority. We transfer this authority to the believer, who becomes a partaker of God’s nature through the new birth:
“by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2Pet 1:4 NKJV)
Transfer of kingdoms
Where, prior to conversion, a person was subject to their wicked master, satan and his demons are now subject to the believer.
“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”” (Luke 10:19-20)
We become Ambassadors of God’s Kingdom to the world, proclaimers of liberty to those still in bondage, deliverers of those who are bound:
“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2Cor 5:20 NKJV)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19 KJV)