Is this physical world all that there is? Or is there an entire other dimension which most people are completely unaware of, but which is every bit as real? While there are many agnostics and atheists who scoff at the idea, the Bible teaches us that there is, indeed, something else—something called the spiritual realm.
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…” (Ephesians 1:17, 18a)
We experience the physical world through our senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. We see the world around us; we hear its sounds. We smell it, we touch it, and can even try to taste it. But understanding the spiritual world is understandably difficult for us, because we are physical beings. The Bible says, “But the natural [unregenerate] man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [understood].” (I Corinthians 2:14) People who have not experienced the new birth cannot make sense of spiritual teaching; it makes absolutely no sense to them, because we need the Holy Spirit to help us see. A Christian, however, is in a different position.
Today’s verse speaks of “the spirit of wisdom and revelation”, which we get “in the knowledge of Him [Christ],” with the goal of “the eyes of our understanding being enlightened.” There is so much that we do not naturally comprehend that God is capable of causing us to see!
Most people who are Christians can attest to a time when they read a particular verse which they’ve read perhaps a hundred times before, and suddenly felt a light bulb of new understanding of insight go off in their minds. This is the beautiful and, quite honestly, marvelous thing about God’s Word. Because the Bible is divinely inspired, and because it deals with spiritual issues (which overlap the physical), there is depth in it. I can read a passage and feel I understand it, yet years later I can re-read it and see something so much more.
The other night I was listening to a sermon on the radio. I couldn’t even tell you who the preacher was, but he presented the transfiguration of Jesus in such a way that even though l knew the story well, it finally hit home for me that Moses and Elijah were really present with Jesus on that mountain. Not as some kind of vague images, but as real, existing beings. Certainly, not in the bodies they occupied in this life because they had been dead for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years, yet nonetheless, they were there talking to Jesus. God truly is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—He is, not was. There is life after death—a very real and genuine existence! This is an example of the eyes of our understanding being enlightened in the knowledge of Christ.
We must realize, however, that this wisdom and revelation is only given “in the knowledge of Him.” It is not some special mystery that God has not chosen to reveal before to any of His followers throughout history. God’s heart is for all to come to a knowledge of Him; He will not hide Biblical truth from us–and He is not in the business of allowing only a select few “illuminati” to truly understand His Word. When we spend time in God’s word humbling trying to genuinely know Him and what He says, however, He will reward us. And while this wisdom and revelation is given only in Christ, I am convinced that there is so much that the modern church fails to comprehend simply because we don’t spend enough time in prayer and Bible study.
There is a spiritual realm and Biblical truths of which many people are genuinely ignorant. It is hard to understand how angels can exist—not some kind of “spirit guides” to whom we idolatrously pray, but spiritual beings, invisible to us, who are God’s messengers. I am amazed at 1 Corinthians 6:3 which says, “Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” I struggle to humanly perceive—not to understand intellectually, but to actually comprehend—what my existence will be like after death, and in eternity with God. Even the concept of eternity is hard to understand—exactly how incredible it will be in God’s presence forever—perhaps because I so foolishly seek His presence in this life too rarely.
Finally, we must also realize that there are demonic forces intent on contorting our understanding of truth and attempting to deceive us. Ephesians 6:10-13 warns us, “ Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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 [in the spiritual realm]. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Satan and his demonic forces are every bit as real as angelic beings, and they are alive and at work in the modern world. They occasionally show themselves to human beings, typically to reveal some “truth” not previously known, which may or may not incorporate portions of Scripture, but which contradict it as a whole. According to Wikepedia, “Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Muhammad by God through the archangel Gabriel;” Mormonism was established after a revelation from a “Personage” to Joseph Smith. A friend of a Facebook friend recently identified himself as an adherent of Thelema, a lesser-known religion which sprang from a revelation by a non-corporeal [not in a human body] being who called himself Aiwass.
Jesus warned His followers, “Therefore be wise as serpents [understanding the true nature of things, discerning; not naïve] and harmless as doves [yet innocent of any wrongdoing ourselves].”(Matthew 10:16b) I Peter 5:8 warns, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” And 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us,“Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light”. The spirit world is, indeed, active and we must be alert, but we must also be diligent to seek out the incredible truths clearly and graciously presented to us in Scripture!
Thank You that You do not hide Yourself from us. Thank You that You give us wisdom and understanding, as well as the ability to increasingly recognize false doctrine, through Christ. Open the eyes of our understanding to recognize how great You are, and how great our inheritance in You is. Amen