Both popular culture and religion bombard us with references to the spirit world. But is it real? What’s it all about? Where can you turn to sort out fact from fable?
Have you ever wondered about the spirit world? Almost everyone is curious about the subject. Perhaps you know of friends or relatives who have even dabbled in it.
Does the spirit world truly exist, or is it just a figment of fertile imaginations? More importantly, is it beneficial or dangerous to delve into this area?
These are important questions. And whether we like it or not, we are constantly bombarded by issues about the spirit world from newspapers, TV, radio and movies. If you look up the 10 top grossing pictures or fictional books at any given time, chances are several will deal with the subject of the spirit world. TV programs with "channelers," those who claim to communicate with the dead, are becoming more popular.
In this technological age, it might seem that more interest would be given to scientific subjects, but the fact is we see a fascination with all facets of the spirit world —both good and evil.
Moreover, this subject is so vital that one day the right information about it could spare you and your loved ones untold grief and suffering!
So what do we need to know about it? And where can we go to find accurate information?
Finding the true source
Can we go to science to find the answer? If the spirit world exists, it would be, by its very nature, not composed of matter or atoms. A dictionary definition of spirit is "a supernatural being or essence." And the scientific community has little to say about things that can't be seen under a microscope or through a telescope or that can't be examined in a laboratory. Science admits it deals best with the physical world and is highly skeptical of anything dealing with the spiritual realm.
What about religion? Certainly most religions have something to say about the spirit world. But how reliable are they? Eastern religion, for instance, speaks of the spirit world, but its numerous books often contradict themselves on the subject. The Bible of course has a lot to say about the spirit world, but can it be trusted?
After studying Eastern religions for 42 years, M. Montiero-Williams, a former professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University, compared the Eastern religious books with the Bible. What did he conclude?
"Pile them [the books on Eastern religion], if you will, on the left of your study table; but place your own Holy Bible on the right side—all by itself, all alone—and with a wide gap between them," he wrote. "For, there is a gulf between it and the so-called sacred books of the East which severs the one from the other utterly, hopelessly, and forever . . . a veritable gulf which cannot be bridged ever by any science or religious thought" (quoted by Sidney Collett, All About the Bible, 1958, pp. 314-315).
This is true not only for the mystic Eastern books, but for virtually all of the literature dealing with the spirit world—so much is confusing and unconfirmed.
Is the Bible a reliable source?
Of all the books that deal with the spirit world, only the Bible has been shown throughout the centuries to be a reliable source of information, separating the good from the bad of the spirit world—for certainly there are two opposite sides to it.
Unlike other books, the Bible declares that it was inspired by the One who inhabits and is over the whole spirit world—God! It states, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy:3:16-17, emphasis added throughout).
The Bible is also the only book that consistently describes the spirit world without contradictions in a logical, historical manner. It is the one lasting source that has given trustworthy information about the spirit world and has served as a faithful counterweight to the evil spiritual forces.
In fact, close to 2,000 years ago, its influence caused many to repudiate books dealing with the evil side of the spirit world. When the apostle Paul visited the city of Ephesus and preached from the Bible about God's truths, the reaction of those using books on witchcraft and magic was to renounce these sources of spiritual darkness.
We read: "Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed" (Acts:19:19-20).
Likewise, we see today that the Word of God is still the most powerful force against the powers of evil. Thanks mostly to the Bible, we live in a world where so much that was prevalent in the ancient world of magic, idolatry and superstition has been eliminated—although from time to time, these false beliefs try to make a comeback, as they are presently doing.
So, what does the Bible say about the spirit world? How can it help us?
A spirit world filled with angels
First, there is a side of the spirit world that the Bible describes as wholesome and beneficial. It has to do with the realm of good and righteous angels. God tells us that it was He who created these spirit beings. We read, "And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire'" (Hebrews:1:7). Yes, it was God who created all the angels.
God's Word gives a few descriptions of the realm inhabited by millions of angels. The apostle John was shown in a vision this angelic world: "Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands" (Revelation:5:11).
God also reveals that He created the angels before the existence of the physical earth. Giving Job a glimpse of that time, He asked, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? . . . When the morning stars [a biblical symbol for angels] sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job:38:4, 7). Here, the "sons of God" is a reference to angels who shouted for joy when they saw the earth being created.
These angels are composed of spirit and, according to the Bible, cannot die (Luke:20:36).
The purpose of holy angels
What was the purpose for creating angels? Here is another question for which only the Bible has a reliable and definite answer. It says, referring to angels, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews:1:14).
So the angels were created to aid human beings in fulfilling God's plan of salvation. This angelic help includes protecting God's people in numerous ways. As Psalm:34:7 states, "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them."
So God uses the holy angels to protect and take care of His own. This is the part of the spiritual realm we shouldn't fear. In fact, we should be very thankful to God for having created these powerful angels for our benefit.
We also should constantly ask God to place these angelic servants around His people to protect them from harm. Psalm:91:11 tells us that God "shall give His angels charge over you, to keep [preserve or protect] you in all your ways."
But what about the other side of the spirit world that the Bible also describes—the dark realm? It is, sadly, a reality we must face. But the Bible provides us with valuable information to protect ourselves from it and make us aware of its deceitful ways.
The origins of an evil spirit world
If God created the spirit world to be good, how did the dark side arise? And why would a good and loving God have allowed it? Again, the only true and reliable source of information is the Bible, written under the inspiration of the supreme spirit being called God, who is eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing and who best knows the story—for He was there from the very beginning.
He says, "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done . . ." (Isaiah:46:9-10). Thankfully, He has chosen to reveal to us how and why this evil side of the spirit world arose.
God first discloses to us that evil began with one of those created angels, called Lucifer in Latin (later called Satan ), who rebelled against Him.
God addresses this being in Isaiah:14:12-14: "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount
of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.'"
God adds more information in His Word about Satan and the beginning of sin and evil. In Ezekiel:28:14-17 He again addresses this being: "You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God . . . You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you . . . You became filled with violence within, and you sinned . . . Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor . . ." (Ezekiel:28:14-17).
Yes, angels were created with free will, able to choose between good and evil and thus capable of sin.
Satan's domain on earth
This angel, a cherub, one of the mightiest of angels, sometime in the distant past led a rebellion against God and was cast down to the earth with those angels that followed him. Scripture says that "God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment" (2 Peter:2:4).
The term "hell" in this verse is tartaroo in the Greek and means a place of confinement. (For more information, request our free booklet Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? )
Where is this place of confinement? The Bible reveals it is here on earth! When God asked Satan in Job:1:7, "From where do you come," Satan replied, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." This is his dominion and where his angels also dwell.
Furthermore, when Jesus was tempted by Satan, the devil showed Him the world's kingdoms and said, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish" (Luke:4:6).
It was therefore the rebellion of this powerful angelic being that began the reign of evil and sin here on earth, long before human beings were created. By the time Adam and Eve were formed, Satan was already here on the earth, and either presented himself as a serpent or spoke through it to deceive Eve (Genesis:3:1-5).
The Scriptures also reveal these fallen angels will attempt one more time to storm heaven, but they will not succeed. This is described by the apostle John in Revelation:12:7-9: "And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
Thus we see that God's Word explains that sin and evil originated with an angel, Lucifer. He rebelled along with other angels and became Satan, the "Adversary," as this name means, of both God and mankind. This was also the origin of the dark side of the spirit world.
Satan is the great deceiver "who deceives the whole world" (Revelation:12:9) and, along with his angels, is an expert in disguising himself as an apparent doer of good. As the apostle Paul writes: "For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians:11:14-15).
The fallen angels, hostile to God and men, are called demons in the Bible. They share with Satan, their leader, the goal of deceiving people with false doctrine, generally making human life miserable and, if possible, even destroying people. As the Bible says, "In latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy:4:1).
The battle for our minds
So, whether we are aware of it or not, a spiritual battle is going on— a battle for our minds. The apostle Paul says of this spiritual warfare: "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" (Ephesians:6:12).
As we mature, we will inevitably notice struggles in our own minds where good and bad thoughts and attitudes battle for dominance to shape behavior. Satan has the power to transmit attitudes and tries to persuade us to do evil. One need only look at some of history's most murderous tyrants—men like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot—to realize the menace that arises when evil thoughts come to totally dominate one's thinking. It is real, and it is deadly and dangerous.
The apostle Paul explains how Satan operates by transmitting invisible but powerful negative attitudes: "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others" (Ephesians:2:1-3).
Thankfully, the Bible foretells a future time on earth when Satan will no longer be able to transmit his evil attitudes and the world will finally be at peace (Revelation:20:2-3). But in the meantime, we must be careful to guard our minds as this unseen spiritual battle rages around us! GN