• Lori

Dealing with the Dark Side

Updated: Jan 19

Stephano Pollio on Unsplash

If you thought my previous posts about spiritual beings were weird, hang on. This one is weirder.

The Bible is full of metaphors, similes, symbolisms—all sorts of literary devices designed to draw pictures in the mind when logic is unhelpful. In some cases, they leave the mind wide open for all kinds of imaginations. But some of the strange stuff in the Bible is presented so many times and in so many ways it’s evident that there’s reality behind the rhetoric.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)

This is a snake like none other, yes? He talked (verse 1). Weird. He was able to take the words of God and twist them for his own devious purposes (verses 4-5). Weird and scary. But the big question is, "How did he get there?"

It’s a long, strange story, and given there’s no marking of time in the spirit while the earth clocks ticks on, we may never understand it all, at least not until the end. And then we may not even care. But I find it helpful to understand what’s given us to know in the here and now.

Enter the prophets. In this case, Ezekiel.

In chapter 28, God tells Ezekiel to address two rulers: the prince of Tyre and the king of Tyre. Some scholars make the argument that the two are one and the same. You decide.

It appears the ruler addressed in verses 1-10 had become prideful to the point of thinking he was a god, and God, with just a bit of sarcasm, reminds him he is but a man. God goes on to address the king of Tyre. The prince’s father? Well, yes, in a way. But read on and you’ll find that this ruler is no human. He was wise and beautiful to the point of perfection. (That narrows it down dramatically.) He was present in the garden of Eden. (Who but Adam and Eve and the animals were there?) He was clothed with precious stones and gold while Adam and Eve were naked. Who could it be?

Verses 14 and 16 say he was a beautiful guardian cherub, a spiritual being who was in the sacred space of God until wickedness was found in him. He, like the prince, had become prideful, and he, like the prince, lost his place.

In Paul’s letters to believers throughout Asia Minor, he talks of principalities—realms or territories—in both heaven and earth. (Ephesians 2:2, 3:10, 6:12; Colossians 1:15-16 , 2:15; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8; 15:24-26; Romans 8:38-39. I encourage you to read all of these passages, but if you only have time for a crash course, Ephesians 3:10 and 6:12 make it pretty clear.) Evidently, there are spiritual powers outside of God who direct activities on earth. The “king of Tyre” was not the physical father of the prince but a spiritual “father“ operating behind the prince’s earthly rule—none other than the devil himself.

This is more than a bit weird to the natural mind, especially here in the Western world where most Christians give little thought to what’s beyond the physical realm. If our minds can’t grasp it we cast it off as a myth. But according to the Bible, just as there are heavenly beings in the service of God, there are heavenly beings in the service of hell. And not just one or two.

The weirdest, in my opinion, are “the sons of God.” Read about them in Genesis 6:1-4 and Job 1:6-7, and you’ll see the authors are definitely not talking about you and me and Jesus. These are otherworldly creatures, called “sons of God” simply because they were created by God. Some of these bad boys took the “daughters of Eve” as wives—spiritual beings procreating with earthlings, blurring the boundaries between things designed for heaven and things designed for earth. The result? Nephilim—hybrid giants living on earth causing all kinds of trouble for men (Numbers 13:31-33). Generation after generation of hybridization meant the end of the Nephilim, but their legacy of violence lives on.

Not to worry, though. The New Testament book of Jude tells us their fate: "And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. (Jude 6)

II Peter 2:4-9 elaborates:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

So why all this talk about the dark side if their days are numbered and their leash is short?

Good question.

As a Bible nerd, I find these odd and obscure accounts interesting. And although I sometimes share them to wow and impress, the real reason I do is because I think it’s important information. If the apostle Paul thought it was necessary to share, who am I to argue? Ignorance is never our friend.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said the ruler of the kingdom of the air is still at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2). Meaning, wherever there is disobedience, there will be dark spiritual beings at work. The good news is that if you are no longer dead in your trespasses and sins, they can’t be at work in you. The bad news is they may still be at work in those around you. But the good news is that since God has put His Spirit in you, you have an abundant supply of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to deal with them. Right?

Besides, “all of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:3-5).”

But don’t stop reading there! If you think God has lavished His grace on you to keep you safe and hidden, by all means, read on.

“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:6-10)

That’s why you’re in this big, weird world.

There’s another spiritual being I haven’t talked about yet; I saved the best for last. He is called “the angel of the LORD.”

He appeared to Hagar in the wilderness to announce she would have a son (Genesis 16:7-13) and called out to Abraham when he was about to sacrifice his (Genesis 22:9-19). He accompanied the Israelites as they trudged through the desert (Exodus 16-19) and appeared to Balaam (Numbers 22:24-38) and Gideon (Judges 6:11-22) when they were found in places they weren’t supposed to be. He visited Sampson’s parents (Judges 13:13-22) and the prophets Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-8) and Zechariah (Zechariah 1:7-17), and he scared the pants off King David when he failed to trust the Lord (I Chronicles 21:14-27).

In each account, this being is identified first as “the angel of Yahweh” and then as Yahweh himself, and in some accounts, his ID switches back and forth. Like when he met with Moses at the burning bush:

The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When Yahweh saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “ I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:2-4)

See what I mean?

So this messenger wasn’t just a messenger from God, but God Himself appearing with a message. Once again, eternal truths mess with my earthly understanding. Can a being be Yahweh and yet be distinct from Him? These accounts would indicate it’s so. And so does the gospel.

The apostle John tried to put it into words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3)

The Nicene Creed does a bang-up job of trying to explain it: We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father; through Him all things were made.”

This “angel of the Lord,” the most-high messenger from heaven, appeared in Old Testament times to prepare His people for the enigma of the New—Jesus, at once appearing as God and man.

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” (Hebrews 1:1-4)

Our God is a complex being who, fortunately for us, can remain transcendent, a consuming fire, while at the same time being present and accessible to men. This is the mystery of Jesus—holy God, wonderful Savior, and friend.