Free Bible Study Magazine
The opening words of Genesis are like a Big Bang explosion of truth: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Three realities confront us: God, the heavens, and the earth! They form the triune environment in which we humans live. We came from God, we are creatures of the earth, and we are destined for the heavens.
God made the heavens and the earth as the two sides of Creation – the invisible and the visible – in a single act. God Himself is invisible because He is spirit (John 4:24). But He also made an invisible realm that is very real. At times we seem to sense and experience it – both for good and evil – which reminds us that it is there.
The Mystery Beyond Ourselves
Creation transcends all science and human understanding. What our eyes can see is not the whole picture. There is something else – a mystery beyond us. And our spirit reaches out to that realm beyond the earthly and material sphere. But not everything in that invisible world is good. Even angels have sinned and fallen from grace (2 Pet 2:4). Perhaps to our surprise we read that, “the heavens are not pure in His sight” (Job 15:15) or “from [His] face the earth and the heaven fled away” (Rev 20:11). Yet one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13).
Humankind belongs to God, to the earth, and to the heavens. People do not consist only of flesh, but also of spirit. Animals, on the other hand, are not made of spirit and flesh like humans; therefore, they are not morally responsible. But we are. We are the only creatures that sin – the only creatures on this earth that have a true spiritual nature combined with their flesh. This combination will remain till death, when the spirit separates from the flesh. But even that is not the end of the flesh. For we receive a resurrection body – a whole new physical existence, perfectly fused with our spirit for immortality (Luke 24:39; Phil 3:21; 1 Cor 15).
Therefore, the work of Christ related to both realms. He came to deal not only with spiritual evil, but also with physical evil. 1 John 3 makes this clear. First it proclaims our spiritual liberation: “He was manifested to take away our sins” (1 John 3:5). Then it declares our physical release: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). What are these “works of the devil?” Acts 10:38 explains: Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” Jesus came with concern for people as they were – to be a Saviour for sinners and a Healer of those afflicted by Satan. He forgave sin, healed the sick, and expelled devils.
Evangelists in the New Testament were called to continue His work. In fact, Christ commanded them – and us – to continue His work. His work is our work. Pentecostal and charismatic evangelists have carried out the command to address both the visible and invisible from the start. They have recognized and emphasized the Scripture’s teaching about both the spiritual and natural realms. We must carry on this legacy!
Some ministers have ignored the evidence of the invisible world manifesting in the visible. Others even say that scriptural manifestations like miraculous healing and tongues are demonic. Yet, biblical faith is filled with miraculous and supernatural signs occurring on earth. People throughout biblical history knew they were dealing with a miracle-working God. “You are the God who does wonders,” the Psalmist wrote (Ps 77:14). So we have a right to ask as Gideon did, “Where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about?” (Judges 6:13). The same is true in the New Testament. Jesus performed signs, wonders, healing, and deliverance. Then His apostles and followers did the same. Acts 2:4 describes them speaking with tongues, displaying a unique example of the Spirit working in the natural world – through the flesh of people. Tongues are a spiritual and physical work of God: “They began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
God has not retired or set His miracle-working powers aside. Neither has He “pensioned off” the angels, even if we, like Elisha’s servant, do not see them (2 Kings 6:17). Too often the same people who declare their faith in the Bible – with its many references to angels – treat modern reports of angels with skepticism. Or they treat the devil and demons as mythical figures. Yet, in Scripture, Christ and His followers would never deny these realities. People’s lives were at stake!
For example, a demon once interrupted a synagogue service (Luke 4:31-37). (Perhaps because there was something worth interrupting.) Today they rarely upset the order of church worship, with hymn numbers on a board and sermons without fire. But if one did interrupt, how many ministers would know how to handle it? Yet the clash of good and evil in the spirit world is still real today. Devotees of voodoo work hard at becoming possessed; they want special powers to carry out spells and curses. And when we preach Jesus in the power of the Spirit, they become extremely distressed. It is common in CfaN’s African meetings to minister to sixty demonized people at a time, expelling the unclean spirits.
A Continent Steeped in the Supernatural
Recent times have enthroned reason and encouraged ignorance of heavenly realities. Education and knowledge have been secularized, dismissing demons as medieval nonsense. The great maxim has become “seeing is believing.” Only the visible is real. In Europe, science has become the judge of all truth, and has denied what it cannot control. New authorities have appointed themselves above the Word of God. Faith in natural reason has usurped faith in divine reason. Secularism is the modern worldview, and nobody escapes its influence. We in the West were born and raised in the naturalist tradition. We live in secular waters like fish live in the sea. In my early days as an evangelist in Africa, I observed missionaries taking a non-supernatural Gospel to a continent steeped in the supernatural. Africa was – and still is – a different world from the West. But those missionaries were strongly orientated to the sphere of the visible. Meanwhile, Africans took full account of the invisible world in their day-to-day life. Africans lived in an environment of witchcraft, demonism, possession, spirit worship, ancestor worship, tribal gods, and animism. They feared haunting, curses, spells, and dark forces living in trees, rivers, and graves. Missionaries believed it was all unscientific and primitive, while Africans shared their world with spirits.
So while missionaries suffered from naturalistic tunnel vision, Africans accepted the reality of the spirit realm. But their belief in the invisible realm was not a positive experience. To them the spirit world was unfriendly, even dangerous – a dimension of ever-present terror. Now, even today, witchcraft continues to flourish. The press reported that the President of Zimbabwe supports witchdoctors – alongside western-style physicians – as part of the African culture. Apparently people still seek witchdoctors for protection from spirits, spells, and curses. They need deliverance from this oppression! And the full, supernatural Gospel of Jesus Christ has the answer!
This article reproduced with the kind permission of Christ for all Nations.