Jon: If you pick up the Bible, you don’t have to read far before you meet the main character, God1.
Tim: Yeah. He appears in the Bible’s first sentence. And then later on page one, you meet the humans2.
Jon: And there you have it. The two main players in the Bible––God and humans on the stage of our world.
Tim: Well, not quite. In the Bible, there’s actually a way bigger cast of characters than just humans and God.
Jon: Like who?
Tim: I mean the figures called the elohim in the Hebrew Scriptures––angels, the satan, demons. They’re all over the story.
Jon: Oh right, spiritual beings. To be honest, I’ve never really known what to do with them. It’s all kind of weird.
Tim: And unfortunately, almost all of our modern conceptions about these beings are based on serious misunderstandings.
Jon: Alright, so let’s talk about spiritual beings in the story of the Bible.
God Creates the World [00:46-01:15]
Tim: So first thing we have to do is reorient ourselves to how the ancient biblical authors saw the world. On pages one and two of Genesis, God brings order to a watery wilderness3, separating the skies above from the land below4.
Jon: Right. This is earth, where we live. And then there’s the heavens, high above, which they saw as God’s domain.
Tim: But in the Bible, these spaces are not separate––they overlap. And in fact, the garden of Eden is described throughout the Bible as a high mountain-garden, where heaven and earth are one5.
God Creates Creatures [01:16-02:16]
Tim: So that’s the world. Now it needs some creatures. God first creates and appoints the sun, moon, and stars to rule the day and night6.
Jon: You mean the giant flaming gas balls in the sky?
Tim: Well, that’s how you think about them. But the biblical authors, like all ancient people, saw them as heavenly creatures that are glorious, shining bright, and high above7.
Jon: Which is strange. I don’t think of stars as creatures.
Tim: Well you don’t. But for the biblical authors, the stars formed their categories for thinking and talking about a spiritual reality that exists alongside ours. And it’s a different kind of reality, just like the sky is different from the land. And it’s populated with creatures that have different kinds of bodies––shiny, spiritual bodies.
Jon: Okay, so almost all ancient cultures thought of the stars as divine beings, including the ancient Israelites.
Tim: But the biblical authors made clear that these beings are not God. Rather, they’re images of God. Their glory and high status is a reflection of the Creator’s glory and status, and they exist to serve his purposes8.
Jon: So the stars symbolize beings who are like God’s heavenly staff team9.
God Appoints Humans [02:17-03:11]
Tim: Right. Now let’s go back because after God appointed the heavenly hosts, he also appointed another type of creature.
Jon: The humans.
Tim: Yeah. In Hebrew they’re called adam, which sounds like the Hebrew word for dirt because that’s what they’re made of.
Jon: So glorious rulers above and hairy sapiens below.
Tim: But then comes the great twist. God tells the lowly humans that they are to rule all of creation. He invites them to rise above their dirty origins and share in God’s glory as his partners10.
Jon: So God wants to rule the world through humans and not the spiritual beings?
Tim: Exactly. This is how the poet of Psalm 8 understood the stories of Genesis. He looked up at the stars and says:
Jon: “What is humanity that you consider him? You made him lower than the spiritual beings but crowned him with glory and divine majesty.”11.
Tim: This is humanity’s high calling, to rule creation in the love and power of God.
Jon: Very cool.
The Bad Guys [03:12-03:53]
Tim: But not everyone’s happy. We’re introduced to a spiritual being who doesn’t want humans to rule. So he tricks them into thinking that they can get divine power on their own terms12.
Jon: They’re deceived, and they take the opportunity13.
Tim: So they’re banished from the Eden mountain, exiled to wander the earth and return to the dust14.
Jon: This snake is bad news.
Tim: Yeah, and as you read on, you discover that he’s part of a spiritual rebellion that follows the humans outside of Eden. And things get worse from here15.
Jon: The humans still desire to rule, so they start a new project16.
Tim: Yes. In the Bible this is called Babylon. It’s the anti-Eden, where human and spiritual rebels join together to elevate themselves back to their former glory.
Series Overview [03:54-04:34]
Tim: And so with all that in mind, we can now appreciate the full cast of characters that we meet in the biblical story.
Jon: God, and humans, and all of the spiritual beings.
Tim: Exactly, and so here’s a preview of what we’re going to explore. We’ll learn more about God’s heavenly staff team, called the Divine Council. Then, we’ll talk about angels and cherubim, key figures in the spiritual realm, and then one particular angel called the Angel of the Lord. We’ll also look at the spiritual rebels in the Bible connected with the Satan and demons. And finally, we’ll see how this whole story leads to Jesus, the one who overcomes evil and reunites heaven and earth, so that a new humanity can partner with God.
Jon: You just watched a video introducing spiritual beings in the story of the Bible.
Tim: And what’s fascinating is how they all belong to a class of beings that in Hebrew are called elohim. This is a hard word to translate, and so that’s what we’re going to explore next.