by Guest Contributor Don Brooks (bio at bottom of post)
As stated in the first part of this article (read it here!) it is important I describe some caveats or guiding principles of my approach. These caveats will describe in general terms how I understand the metanarrative of the invisible realm and its involvement in the story of what God has done and is doing in this world in Christ.
- All passages regarding angels are taken as literally true. Although genre and the contemporary culture may have value for good interpretation, it is my conviction that what Scripture says regarding these creatures is true.
- Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 are understood as passages that describe the actual rebellion of Lucifer.
- Not all aspects of this Metanarrative are held with equal conviction and certainty.
- Some aspects are understood through implication. Speculation is not intended to be part of this narrative.
The Messiah’s Forerunner is Announced
God’s silence broke with the announcement of the Messiah’s forerunner, John the Baptist. The long wait was over.
God sent His angel Gabriel to a priest named Zechariah. His priestly division was on duty. Priestly divisions were only on duty two times per year. Zechariah was chosen by lot to enter the Holy place to burn incense. This service would be the highlight of his whole priestly ministry. With the people gathered outside praying, Zechariah enters the holy place and sees an angel of the Lord on the side of the altar of incense.
The angel Gabriel speaks,
Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you will name him John. 14 Joy and gladness will come to you, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go as forerunner before the Lord . . . Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is old as well.” 19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
The Messiah is Announced
Gabriel was sent again.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting. 30 So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! 31 Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1)
A vast heavenly army appears to announce Jesus’ birth,
8 Now there were shepherds nearby living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: 11 Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, that the Lord has made known to us.
Following Jesus birth wisemen from Babylon come to see Jesus the King of the Jews. Herod heard this and was greatly disturbed. He arranged with the wisemen to tell him where this king was. Jesus was about two years of age at the time. When the Babylonian wisemen left the new family they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.
Then an angel came to Joseph in a dream.
13 After they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to kill him.” 14 Then he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and went to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (Matthew 2)
Herod was enraged when the wisemen secretly left. So he ordered every boy two and under in Bethlehem to be killed. This is certainly a work of Satan in the heart of this evil ruler.
An Angel warns Joseph again,
After Herod had died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up and took the child and his mother and returned to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. After being warned in a dream, he went to the regions of Galilee. 23 He came to a town called Nazareth and lived there. Then what had been spoken by the prophets was fulfilled, that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2)
Jesus inaugurates His public ministry by baptism under John. At the baptism the Spirit of God descends like a dove and the voice of God declares, “this is my well loved son. In Him I take great delight.” (Matthew 3)
Jesus is then led by the Spirit to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Just as Satan tempted the First Adam in the Garden of Eden, he now tempts the Second Adam in the Wilderness.
2 After (Jesus) fasted forty days and forty nights he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Once again it is written: ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Satan will now offer Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Kingdoms that were his to give as the prince of this world. Kingdoms where Satan’s demonic subordinates influenced and ruled.
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. 9 And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and began ministering to his needs. (Matthew 4)
Satan’s activity did not end here. His demonic subordinates increase their destructive activities on God’s fallen image-bearers (Matthew 7:22). Jesus has authority over Satan’s subordinates and cast many out of the people they were seeking to destroy. The delivered are at peace and want to follow Jesus (Luke 8). Jesus gave His disciples authority over demons as well. They were not always successful as some possessions require greater preparation. There were others outside of Jesus circle that also cast out demons.
Angels and demons are familiar to those in Jesus’ day (Jn 12:29, Acts 23:8). Jesus’ encounters with demonic forces are of great interest to the authorities. His reputation for casting them out is so well known that religious leaders accused Him of being empowered by Satan (Matt 9:34, 12:27). Jesus was even accused of being demon possessed (John 8). One of His closest women followers, Mary Magdalene was delivered by Jesus from demon possession (Mk 16:9).
Demonic activity is ubiquitous during Jesus’ ministry. Demons knew Jesus and they knew that their time of judgment had not come yet. “What have you to do with us Son of God? Have you come before the appointed time?” they would ask. (Luke 4:41, Matt 8:29)
Jesus teaching included much about Satan, angels and demons. Jesus teaches that Satan uses strategies and influence to blind those who hear the truth of the gospel (Matthew 8:19,39). In the parable of the weeds Jesus identifies Satan as the one who sowed the seed that produced the weeds which were to be burned- a figure of judgment. Jesus told the religious leaders that their father was Satan, not Abraham.
Jesus almost immediately began to teach his disciples about angels. While calling Nathanael Jesus demonstrated that He had special knowledge about Nathanael’s whereabouts. Nathanael was amazed and declared Jesus to be the Son of God and the king of Israel. Jesus responds
Because I told you I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 He continued, “I tell all of you the solemn truth—you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (Jn 1:51)
Angels will participate in the coming judgment. Jesus warns that His followers are not be ashamed of the Son when He comes with His holy angels (Matthew 16:27). And those who disown the Son will be disowned by God in the presence of angels (Lk 12:9). Angels will separate out the wicked from the righteous (Matthew 8:41). They will gather the elect from the four corners of the earth (Matthew 24:36, Mk 13:27). When the Son ascends the throne the holy angels will be present (Matt 25, Mark 8:38). Angels do not know the precise timing of these events, but they will be full participants in the last days. Angels who look into God’s redemptive plan of His image-bearers, rejoice over one sinner who repents (Lk 15:10). Angels do not marry and they do not die (1 Pe 1:12, Lk 20:35).
Jesus Sets His Face Toward Jerusalem
As Jesus public ministry is coming to a close He sets his face toward Jerusalem and the cross. Jesus feeling the full weight of His mission prays in anguish at Gethsemane to the Father. An angel appears to Jesus to strengthen Him during this most difficult time (Luke 22:43). Later, Jesus is betrayed by Judas with a kiss and is arrested. Peter pulls out his sword to defend Jesus, but Jesus reminds him that if the Father willed there could be more than 12 legions of angels that would come to his defense (Matt 26:53). Following Jesus arrest he was found guilty and sentenced to death on a cross.
Angels are conspicuously absent from the arrest forward. There is no sign of angels appearing, helping, or strengthening Jesus during his trial. They did not help him during his torturous preparation for the cross. No angels appeared during the hours on the cross. When Jesus cries out to the Father, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me” the absence of the holy angels must have been a stark reminder of the Father’s abandonment. Jesus died without the Father and His heavenly host. As prophesied in the Garden, Satan would bruise the seed of the woman.
On the third day Jesus arose from the dead, conquering death and sin (Hebrews 2:14). The holy angels return and are present throughout the resurrection and the days that follow.
Two angels clothed in gleaming white appeared and frightened the women (Luke 24, John 20). Matthew records the Resurrection announcement like this . . .
Now after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a severe earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were shaken and became like dead men because they were so afraid of him. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has been raised, just as he said. Come and see the place where he was lying. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead. He is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there.’ Listen, I have told you!” (Matt 28)
Jesus ascended to heaven in the presence of his followers. He promised that he will return. The two worlds, visible and invisible will continue to collide. During the early days of the Church angels continue to help God’s people. They release apostles from prison (Acts 5,12). Phillip is guided by an angel to an Ethiopian (Acts 8). An angel appears to Cornelius a devout soldier in the Roman army (Acts 10). Paul on a prison ship is visited and guided by an angel.
Demonic activity also continues.
But some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were possessed by evil spirits, saying, “I sternly warn you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 (Now seven sons of a man named Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were doing this.) 15 But the evil spirit replied to them, “I know about Jesus and I am acquainted with Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who was possessed by the evil spirit jumped on them and beat them all into submission. He prevailed against them so that they fled from that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known to all who lived in Ephesus. (Acts 19).
According to Jude, a brother of James, there are angels who did not keep their proper place and are bound in chains in the invisible creation until the final judgment.
6 You also know that the angels who did not keep within their proper domain but abandoned their own place of residence, he has kept in eternal chains in utter darkness, locked up for the judgment of the great Day (Jude 1, 2 Pe 2:4)
Paul tells the Corinthians of a time when he was in a place that he called the Third Heaven. This seems to indicate that Paul was given special access to the invisible realm and perhaps the unique presence that angels and even Satan at times are granted.
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know that this man (whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows) 4 was caught up into paradise and heard things too sacred to be put into words, things that a person is not permitted to speak (2 Cor 12)
Paul warns the Ephesians,
Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. (Eph 6)
Paul demonstrates Satan’s use of ideas …
For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments 5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey.
(James the brother of Jesus warns that natural, earthly wisdom is demonic in source.)
Paul tells of Jesus final victory
as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be eliminated is death. 27 For he has put everything in subjection under his feet. (1 Co 15).
God gives John, the last living apostle a vision while on the Isle of Patmos. The vision is of things to come. In this vision God’s victory is certain. Satan’s war against his Maker will be brought to an end. Satan, his demons and all those who rebel against God will one day be judged.
Satan is Bound for One Thousand Years
Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chain. 2 He seized the dragon—the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan—and tied him up for a thousand years. 3 The angel then threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the one thousand years were finished. (After these things he must be released for a brief period of time.) (Rev 20).
Satan’s final attempt to take God’s Throne involves an army of rebels from both realms, the demonic hordes and the deceived from all nations.
7 Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea. 9 They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely. 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever. (Rev 20)
God’s Throne is manifest in unimaginable glory.
11 Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened—the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death—the lake of fire. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.
The Lake of Fire is the final place of Judgment for all who reject God and His Son Jesus Christ. It is a part of the original invisible/spiritual creation. The Lake of Fire was created specifically for Satan and those who joined with him.
God’s New Creation
God then creates a third dwelling place for the Redeemed and his holy angels called the New Heaven and New Earth. This creation will not be cursed. The two previous realms of creation distinct and not accessible by God’s image bearers without assistance is now integrated. All things will be new. Right order will be restored. The laws of the physical world are changed. And God will dwell with His people.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. 2 And I saw the holy city—the new Jerusalem—descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.”
5 And the one seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new!” Then he said to me, “Write it down, because these words are reliable and true.” 6 He also said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
9 Then one of the seven angels . . .came and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb!” 10 So he took me away in the Spirit to a huge, majestic mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 The city possesses the glory of God. . . 22 Now I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God—the All-Powerful—and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their grandeur into it. 25 Its gates will never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there). (Rev 21)
The Final Chapter
1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life—water as clear as crystal—pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. 3 And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, 4 and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.
6 Then the angel said to me, “These words are reliable and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.”
8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things, and when I heard and saw them, I threw myself down to worship at the feet of the angel who was showing them to me. 9 But he said to me, “Do not do this! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets, and with those who obey the words of this book. Worship God!” 10 Then he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy contained in this book, because the time is near. 11 The evildoer must continue to do evil, and the one who is morally filthy must continue to be filthy. The one who is righteous must continue to act righteously, and the one who is holy must continue to be holy.”. . . 16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say: “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge. (Rev 22)
Encouragement for Today
31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Don Brooks holds a Bachelor’s in Bible from Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary (now Cornerstone University) as well as a Masters of Religious Education from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He has over 30 years of Pastoral and Ministry Experience. He has served as a Ratio Christi Chapter Director and Regional Director. Now, he lives in Newaygo, Michigan. He co-founded and teaches at Northern Discovery Academy as well as serving in his local church.