A DISPENSATIONAL APPROACH TO SPIRITUAL WARFARE
I believe that when God scattered the nations as recorded in Gen.11, He assigned to each nation a spirit being to rule that nation under Him, and that Satan then corrupted some of those spirit beings in an attempt to thwart God’s plans concerning the nations. In other words, there were spirit beings in heaven, some of which were under God’s rule and others under Satan’s rule, i.e. a spiritual warfare. But in the dispensation of the mystery there is a spiritual warfare that is not centered on nations, but rather it is centered on individuals. This difference is perfectly consistent with how God works in the dispensations in which there is a chosen nation, as opposed to how He works in the dispensation of the mystery in which God has temporarily put aside His chosen nation. This paper presents the Scriptural evidence for that belief.
The following topics will be discussed:
SPIRIT BEINGS AND THE WARFARE ON EARTH
WHY DID GOD SCATTER THE NATIONS?
SPECIFIC BATTLES BETWEEN SPIRIT BEINGS
SPIRITUAL WARFARE IN THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY
APPENDIX I: A CONSIDERATION OF THE TERM “DIVINE COUNCIL”
As stated above, I believe there is a dispensational aspect to the issue of spiritual warfare, but there is, loosely speaking, also a universal aspect. That is to say, there is one aspect of this question that is applicable to all believing individuals in every age and dispensation. But I say “loosely speaking” because the universal aspect centers on angels, whereas, as will be proved below, the spirit beings having to do with the dispensational aspect are not necessarily angels.
But let us consider Heb. 1:14 which reads, “Are they not all ministering spirits (angels, see verses 7 and 13) sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”. All believers of every dispensation are “heirs of salvation”. That makes the ministry of angels a universal truth.
Consider also Ps. 34:7 which reads, “And the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them”. Is this a universal truth or a dispensational truth? I believe that question is answered in the following verse. Verse 8 reads, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him”. All believers of every dispensation can trust God because He is good. So the context concerns universal truths.
As will be discussed in the last section of this paper, the believers of the dispensation of the mystery will be given “weapons” with which to combat spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. Does that mean that God will not also send His angles to minister to the “heirs of salvation” in the present dispensation? I do not believe that to be the case. That belief is based on the fact that the “weapons” spoken of in Eph. 6 are to be used by the believer, but that is a much different scenario than God sending His angels. That is to say, the former has to do with man’s work as he “wrestles” against spiritual wickedness, but the latter with God’s work as He sends His angles to minister. In short, God will never forsake His own, even as He has given them weapons with which to fight spiritual wickedness.
As mentioned above, there is also a dispensational aspect to this issue which will be discussed below.
SPIRIT BEINGS AND THEIR WORK ON EARTH
Let us begin with Gen. 11 which records man’s plans to build the tower of Babel. We read in Gen. 11:6-8, “And the Lord said, ‘Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do. Go to, let Us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech’. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city”. (See also Acts 17:26).
Deut. 32:8 also speaks of the nations that had been scattered; in this verse it is their inheritance that is the subject. That verse reads in the KJV, “When the MOST HIGH divided to the nations their inheritance He set the bound of the People according to the number of the children of Israel”. A consideration of the KJV translation is required if we are to correctly understand this verse.
Let us first consider the phrase, “set the bound of the People”. The word “People” in this phrase is in the plural in the Hebrew, so that phrase should read, “set the bound of the Peoples”, i.e. the nations as opposed to Israel. This translation is further proved by the fact that the next verse, i.e. verse 9, contrasts “Peoples” with Israel. Verse 9 reads, “For the Lord’s portion is His People; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance”. In other words, this passage speaks of the Gentile nations being given their inheritance, and it also speaks of Israel being God’s inheritance.
The other phrase that requires consideration is the phrase “the number of the children of Israel”. The ESV and other more modern translations have “according to the number of the sons of God”. The reason for the difference in translations is that the KJV translators based their translation on the Massoritic texts, whereas the ESV based their translation on the dead sea scrolls. But many scholars do not believe that the dead sea scrolls are to be trusted in this matter. How then, are we to determine which translation is correct? I believe the context will give us the answer to that question.
Let us begin with a careful consideration of verse 8 as it reads in the KJV, “…….He set the bound of the Peoples according to the number of the children of Israel”. We learn from this verse that God determined the boundaries for the nations that He had scattered as recorded in Gen. 11. Further, the KJV tells us that those boundaries were set “according to the number of the children of Israel”. How are we to understand the phrase “according to the number of the children of Israel”? In my opinion, it means that the land that God will promise to Abraham and to his seed, will not be allotted to the nations, i.e. it will be reserved for Israel. In other words, the boundaries that God set for each of the nations will not include the land that He would, in due time, promise to Abraham.
But the land that had been promised to Abraham had been allotted to those nations. How do we know that? We know that from the fact that when Israel had finally come to that promised land after Her 40 years of wandering in the desert, they had to battle those who were already there in order to occupy that land as recorded in the book of Joshua. That is to say, there was no land allotted to Israel when God gave each nation their inheritance. So that is one of the problems with the KJV translation of boundaries being set “according to the number of the children of Israel”.
But let us continue with verse 9. “For the Lord’s portion is His People; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance”. We may understand Deut. 32:9 to say that Israel is God’s part and that Jacob/Israel is God’s inheritance. It is clear that verse 9 is put in contrast with verse 8. That is to say, verse 8 speaks of God allotting boundaries to the Gentile nations which, in verse 9, is contrasted to God’s inheritance, i.e. Israel.
But verse 9 begins with the connecting word “for” in the KJV, which implies that verse 9 is the reason for what was written in verse 8, not a contrast with it. That is to say, “for” is used in the sense of “because”, it is not a word that is used to indicate a contrast. Because, as discussed above, the context has shown that the dead sea scrolls were correct with regard to the phrase “sons of God” in verse 8, I believe we may accept the dead sea scrolls version of the connecting word of verse 8 which is “but”. So that would read, “But the Lord’s portion is His People; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance”.
In short, because the boundaries God set for the nations did not allow for a land for Israel, and because there is a disconnect in the use of the word “for” in verse 9 of the KJV, I believe we may conclude that the translation “sons of God” is correct. Let us consider this passage with the correct translation. “When the MOST HIGH divided to the nations their inheritance, He set the bound of the Peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the Lord’s portion is His People; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance”. So Deut. 32:8 tells us that God set the boundaries of the Gentile nations according to the number of the sons of God. And verse 9 contrasts that truth (i.e. “but”) by speaking of Israel as God’s own inheritance.
“Sons of God”
To whom does the phrase “sons of God” in Deut. 32:8 refer? In order to answer that question let us consider Job 38:6-7 which also speaks of the “sons of God” That verse reads, “Whereupon are the foundations thereof (i.e. the earth) fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” This verse is obviously speaking of the creation of the earth; therefore, the “sons of God” cannot refer to men because man was not created until the sixth day of creation. If not to men, to whom then does the phrase “sons of God” refer? I believe we may answer that question by considering the phrase “morning stars” as used in Job 38:7. That is to say, because the sons of God were spoken of in the same context as were the morning stars, by determining to whom the phrase “morning stars” refers, we may then have a better idea of to whom the phrase “sons of God” refers.
We read in Rev. 2:26-28, “And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works, unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And He shall rule with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father. And I will give him (he “that overcometh” vs. 26) the morning star”. And we read in Rev. 22:16, “…..I, Jesus……am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright and morning Star”.
The morning Star, as we read in Rev. 22:16, is Christ Himself. Does verse 2:28 tell us then that the overcomer shall receive Christ Himself? I believe not. Rev.22:16 speaks of Christ as the “Root and Offspring of David”. The term “Offspring of David” is used to indicate that the King of Israel must come from the seed of David. So the term “Root and Offspring of David” points to Christ as the Ruler of nations. We read in Rev. 3:21 that “he that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne”. So the overcomer will reign with Christ (see also Rev. 20:4). I believe therefore that we may conclude that the overcomer receiving the “morning Star” means that the overcomer will reign with Christ. So in Rev. 2:28 the morning star symbolizes the reward of reigning with Christ, the King of kings, in the millennium.
But to whom does the phrase “morning stars” refer in Job 38? Note that “stars” are plural, so in Job 38 the phrase “morning stars” does not refer to Christ. And because Job 38 has to do with those at creation, i.e. before man was created, the phrase does not refer to men and certainly not to overcomers of the tribulation. So what is the commonality of the phrase “morning stars” in all its occurrences? All three occurrences of the phrase have to do with reigning. That is to say, Christ will reign as King of kings in the millennium, and as discussed above the overcomers of the tribulation will reign with Him.
It is clear that the phrase “morning stars” of Job 38 (“morning stars sang together “) is not to be understood literally. That is to say, literal stars do not sing, therefore, the “morning stars” were not literal stars. As is true of all figures of speech, the use of the phrase is used to enhance a truth. What truth is being enhanced with the phrase “morning stars”? I believe the phrase is used to enhance the truth that this passage concerns those who will reign.
We are now prepared to consider the phrase “sons of God” as used in Job 38. Again, that verse reads, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” I believe we have in this verse the use of the figure of speech Hendiadys”. That figure of speech is defined by Dr. E. W. Bullinger as, “Two words used, but one thing meant”. So that phrase should read, “the morning stars, even the sons of God”. So the term “morning stars” was used to bring attention to the fact that the sons of God were given the authority to reign. In short, the spirit beings, i.e. the “sons of God”, who were present at creation were created to reign. Because it was God Who set in place these spirit beings to reign, I believe we may conclude that these spirit beings were meant to reign under God’s authority.
There are other scriptures that speak of spirit beings in heaven reigning. Consider for example Dan. 4 which speaks of Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment for his pride (vs. 16, “let a beast’s heart be given him”). Verse 13 reads, “I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven”. Then in verse 17 we read, “This matter (Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment) is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones; to the intent that the living may know that the MOST HIGH ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men”. Note the phrase that tells us that an “holy one” came down from heaven. Because this being “came down from heaven”, I believe we may conclude that the watcher of Dan. 4 was a spirit being. But what is a watcher? The note by Dr. Bullinger in the Companion Bible on the word “watcher” reads, “suggests that we have in this verse the figure of speech Hendiadys”. Again, that figure of speech is defined by Dr. Bullinger as, “Two words used, but one thing meant”. So that phrase should read, “a watcher even an holy one” (Heb. “kodesh” a separated one). In other words the watchers were holy, separated ones. It is important to note also that the punishment of Nebuchadnezzar was “demanded by the word of the holy ones”. That speaks of reigning. So the watcher was a spirit being who reigned.
Now let us consider Ps. 89:5-7, “And the heavens shall praise Thy wonders, O God: Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. 6) For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? Whom among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints. And to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him”.
To begin we must understand that the Hebrew word translated “saints” in the phrase, “the congregation of the saints”, and in the phrase “assembly of the saints”, is “kodesh”, and is usually translated “holy” which means “to be separated”. So those phrases are better translated “Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the separated ones”, and verse 7, “in the assembly of the separated ones”. Note that the context in which we read of these separated ones has to do with beings in heaven, i.e. “the heavens shall praise” God. And please note the very important word “for” in verse 6 which connects that phrase to the previous ones, “for who in the heaven”. My point is that Ps. 89:5-7 speaks of separated ones, in heaven, i.e. spirit beings.
Before we consider the phrase “sons of the mighty” I would like to call the readers’ attention to the Hebrew word translated “assembly” in the phrase “assembly of the holy ones”. That Hebrew word is “sohd“. It is used 21 times in the Bible and in 10 occurrences it is translated “secret”. Let us consider just a few of the verses in which the word is translated “secret”. We read in Prov. 25:9, “….discover not a secret to another”. And in Ps. 64:2 we read, “Hide me from the secret council of the wicked”. Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary defines the word as, “a session, i.e. company of persons (in close deliberations); by implication intimacy, consultation, a secret”. I believe that we may conclude that even when translated “assembly” the word implies a secret assembly. So that phrase in Ps. 89 should read, “God is greatly to be feared in the secret assembly of the separated ones”. I believe we may conclude from the fact that the heavenly assembly is a secret assembly, that there are heavenly enemies in view from whom God’s assembly is being kept in secret. (This concept will be considered further in the section below).
The Hebrew word translated “mighty” in Ps. 89:6 is “el”. In the majority of the occurrences it is translated “God”, in other words, “El” is one of the many titles of Jehovah (see for example, Gen. 14:18 and 19). As is true of all the titles of Jehovah, the title “El” has a specific significance. Consider for example, Job 36:22 which reads, “Behold, God (Heb. “El”) exalteth by His power”, And in Ps. 50:1 we read, “The mighty (Heb. “el”) God (Heb. “Elohim”), even the Lord (Heb. “Jehovah”) hath spoken”. My point is that the title “El”, when used of Jehovah, is used to make the point of His power, thus His authority.
A further study of the Hebrew word “el” will support the suggestion that it means “power” and “authority”. Consider for example Gen. 31:29, “It is in the power (Heb. “el”) of my (Laban’s) hand to do you (Jacob) hurt”. Consider also Deut. 28:32 which reads, “Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people,….and there shall be no might (Heb. “el”) in thine hand”. In short, the core meaning implied in the Hebrew word “el” is “might”.
We are now prepared to consider the phrase in Ps. 89:6, “the sons of the mighty”. I believe that the phrase “sons of the mighty” as used in Ps. 89 refers to spirit beings in a secret congregation that have been given might to reign under God’s authority over the nations of the earth.
Let us pull together what has been discussed thus far. We learned from, Dan. 4 which speaks of Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment that the watchers/separated ones were given the authority to reign in that it was they who determined Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment. And we read in Ps. 89:5-6 of the “secret congregation of the separated ones”, i.e. the spirit beings, even the “sons of the mighty”. So the phrase “sons of the mighty” refers to the power of the spirit beings. In short, there is in heaven a secret “congregation” of mighty spirit beings who reign under God so that “the living may know that the MOST HIGH ruleth in the kingdom of men”.
For the sake of clarity I will list the things we have considered in the paragraphs above:
When not used of men, the phrase “sons of God” refers to spirit beings.
The phrase “morning stars” is also used of spirit beings, and the term is used to indicate reigning.
The phrases “holy ones” and “watchers” are used of spirit beings who reign under God’s authority.
God has a “secret assembly” in heaven, implying enemies are in play.
The phrases “the congregation of the holy ones” and “sons of the mighty” are used of spirit beings.
As discussed in the section above, I believe that as God gave up the nations as recorded in Gen. 11, He assigned spirit beings over each of those nations to reign under Him. In other words, Jehovah reigned over Israel, but He had put “elohim”, i.e. “gods” to reign over the Gentile nations, some of those were corrupted. I believe that Satan corrupted those spirit beings and used them to his own advantage in his attempt to reign over the world. Further, I believe that part of that corruption was in Satan putting it into the hearts of men to build idols which, to them, represented the physical appearance of the very gods that God had assigned to reign over them. This suggestion is consistent with the fact that Satan has often corrupted that which had been good. This also adds great weight to the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3).
Let us consider the worship of idols. As mentioned above, idols are the supposed physical likeness of spirit beings, i.e. gods. The questions I would like to pose in this section are: 1) were those idols the assumed likeness of gods that did indeed exist? And 2) as suggested above, were the idols the physical representation of those gods whom God had put over each of the nations as He gave them up as recorded in Gen. 11, many of whom were subsequently corrupted by Satan?
Before we answer these questions from Scripture, I believe we must take a moment to reflect on the truth that there is, of course, only one true God. What distinguishes Him from all others that are called “gods” is that He alone is eternal, while in contrast to that eternity, all others were created.
Let us begin our search for the truth with respect to whether these idols were the supposed physical images of existing gods with a further consideration of the Hebrew word “El” and its plural “Elohim”. El” is, as shown above, one of the titles of Jehovah but it is also used of gods in, for example, Ex. 34:14 which reads, “For thou shalt worship no other god (Heb. “el”). If this god did not exist the command would have been an empty one. The Hebrew “elohim” is the plural of “el”. ”Elohim” is another title of Jehovah. We read, for example in Gen. 1:1, “In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth”. But “elohim” is also used of gods as in Gen. 35:4, “And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods (Heb. “elohim”)….”.
Let us consider Ex. 12:12 which reads, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn……and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment….”. If these gods of Egypt did not actually exist this pronouncement of judgment would be meaningless. Note also that this verse speaks of a god associated with a specific nation which, in my opinion, suggests that the gods of Egypt were those that had been put in place, as recorded in Deut. 32:8, to reign over the Gentile nations. Obviously, they were at that time not doing the will of God, which leads us to conclude that they had been corrupted.
Ex. 18:10-11 is another passage which contrasts the God of Israel with the gods of a nation other than Israel. That passage reads, “And Jethro said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, Who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh ……..Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods; for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly He was above them”. Again, to say that the Lord is greater than non-existing gods is meaningless. Therefore, I believe that the gods of Egypt did indeed exist. Note also the phrase, “wherein they dealt proudly”. To whom does the pronoun “they” refer in this passage? I believe the most obvious reading is that it refers to those last mentioned, i.e. the gods of Egypt. Once again we have a contrast between Jehovah, the God of Israel, and the corrupted gods of another nation.
Deut. 29:18 reads, “Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations…”. This verse speaks of the gods of other nations. I believe this context suggests that these gods did indeed exist, i.e. they were created to reign over the nations apart from Israel.
Deut. 29:26 also alludes to the gods that God had created to reign over the Gentile nations. That verse reads, “For they (Israel) went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom He had not given unto them”. In other words, this verse speaks of gods which had not been given to Israel. That implies that they had been given to other nations. But in this context it is clear that because Israel was serving them, those gods given to other nations had been corrupted and worked in the interests of Satan in getting Israel to disobey God’s commandment and serve them.
We read in Judges 9:46, “And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that (Abimelech’s victory), they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith”. Note that the Holy Spirit did not write of the house that the men thought was the house of Berith, rather He wrote that they entered into “the house of the god of Berith”. I believe that tells us that Berith was indeed an existing god, i.e. one who had been corrupted. Again, given that this was a god of a specific nation, I believe we may conclude that it was one of the gods that had been set over the Gentile nations as recorded in Deut. 32:8 and later corrupted.
Let us consider Judges 19:6 which reads, “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord, and served not Him”. Note that there is a contrast between serving God, i.e. the God of Israel, and serving the gods, i.e. created beings, as opposed to the only eternal God .The contrast is meaningless if the other gods did not exist. Therefore, I do not believe that these gods were merely physical images of non-existing spirit beings, I believe that they were the supposed physical images of existing gods’. Given that these gods are associated with specific nations, I believe we may conclude that they were the gods that Jehovah had set over the Gentile nations, as recorded in Deut. 32:8 and later corrupted.
I Sam. 26:1-20 records Saul’s search for David in order to kill him. Verses 17-20 is a record of a conversation between the two men and we read in verse 19 David saying, “…..they (those pursuing him) have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying ‘Go, serve other gods”. The “inheritance of the Lord” is, of course, the land of Israel. This inheritance is put in contrast with the phrase “serve other gods”. In other words, by serving the Lord one inherits from Him the Land of Israel, but to serve other gods, is to inherit that which comes from these other gods, a different inheritance, a different nation. My point is that both the Lord and the “other gods” are, in this context, associated with that which would be inherited.
And we read in I Kings 11:1-2,”But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; 2) Of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, ‘Ye shall not go in to them neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods; Solomon clave unto these in love”. The phrase, “their gods” refers to the gods of the specific Gentile nations mentioned in this context, i.e. the gods which Jehovah had set to reign over each Gentile nation which, I believe, Satan corrupted.
I Kings 11:33 also speaks of specific gods of specific Gentile nations. That verse reads, “Because that they have forsaken Me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, …..”.
Consider also Ps. 95:3 which reads, “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods”. If these gods did not actually exist this verse would make no sense. That is to say, if God is said to be greater than beings who do not exist, that statement would be meaningless.
And we read in Ps. 96:4-5, “For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, But the Lord (Heb. “Jehovah”) made the heavens”. I believe the point of the phrase “the gods of the nations are idols” is that idols are created, which is put in contrast to Jehovah Who alone is eternal. But what is also significant in this passage is the phrase, “the gods of the nations”. Once again, this leads us to conclude that the phrase is used in reference to those gods who had been set in place to reign over the Gentile nations as recorded in Deut. 32:8 and later corrupted.
And we read in Ps. 97:7, “Confounded be all they that serve graven images; That boast themselves of idols: Worship Him, all ye gods”. I do not believe that the Psalmist was asking beings that did not exist to worship God. In short, I believe these spirit beings were existing gods.
Let us also consider Is. 14:13, “For thou (Lucifer) hast said in thine heart, ‘I will ascend into the heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north”. Ps. 75:6 helps to prove that “the north” in Is. 14 refers to heaven, i.e. the dwelling place of God. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south, But God is the judge”. Note that Is. 14 speaks of Lucifer’s congregation in heaven. In other words, God has a congregation in heaven, and Satan has a congregation in heaven.
For the sake of clarity I will list the things we have considered in the section above:
Corrupted gods are existing spirit beings in the “congregation” of Satan.
The corrupted gods in the congregation of Satan do Satan’s bidding.
We read of several spirit beings who were the gods of different nations.
WHY DID GOD SCATTER THE NATIONS?
I believe that as we consider the question of why God scattered the nations, the subject of this paper will be more easily understood. Let us begin with Satan. That is to say, what was Satan’s purpose in corrupting the gods? In order to address that question, let us consider another question, i.e. what was Satan’s uppermost ambition? We need not guess as to the answer to that question because it is given quite plainly in Is. 14:13-14 which reads, “For thou (Lucifer, vs.12) hast said in thine heart, ’I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the MOST HIGH”. The New Testament also speaks of that ambition. We read in II Thess. 2:4, “Who (“the son of perdition”, vs 3, i.e. the antichrist serving Satan’s ambitions) opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called god, or that is worshipped: so that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God, shewing himself that he is God”. In short, Satan’s ambition is to be God. And that was Satan’s purpose in corrupting the gods that God had set in place as He scattered the nations as recorded in Gen. 11. That is to say, Satan corrupted some of the gods that had been put in place in order for him, Satan, to reign over those nations as God.
I believe we are now prepared to address the question, why did God scatter the nations as recorded in Gen. 11? Most believe that it was a punishment for what they see as disobedience to God’s command recorded in Gen. 9:1 which reads, “….Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”. There may have been an element of a punishment, but I suggest that in answering this question we consider the immediate context of Gen. 11:6 which speaks of the building of the tower of Babel. We read in verse 1, “The whole earth was of one language and of one speech”. And in verse 4 we read, “….Let us make a name lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth”. And verse 6 begins, “and the Lord said, ‘Behold the people is one, and they have all one language. And in verse 8 we read, “so the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the fact of all the earth”. I believe we may conclude that the basic reason for God scattering the people was centered on the fact that the people wanted to be united as one, while God wanted them to be scattered and speak different languages in order that they not be one.
So God scattered the nations, according to Gen. 11:6, to prevent the nations from being unified and to prevent them from doing that which “they have imagined to do”. What was it that they had imagined to do? It was to build a city and a tower in which they would all dwell and worship as one. My point is again that, in my opinion, the basic reason that God did what He did was to prevent the oneness of the people.
Why did God not allow the oneness of the nations? Let us consider that question in the context of Deut. 32:8 which also speaks of the nations, but in relation to their allotted boundaries. Deut. 32:8 describes God allotting each nation its own boundaries and its own spirit being through which He would reign over them. In my opinion, God foresaw Satan’s ambition to rule the world, and by separating the nations through different languages and by geographic distances, and by allotting them separate spirit beings to reign over each nation, that ambition would be more difficult to fulfill. That is to say, if there had been one people and one language and one spirit being reigning overreach nation, Satan’s ambition of corrupting that spirit being would have been made much easier than if they had been divided which was, of course, what God determined would be the reality.
SPECIFIC BATTLES BETWEEN SPIRIT BEINGS
Let us consider Dan. 10:13 and 20-21.We read in Dan. 10:13, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and remained there with the kings of Persia”. And in verses 20-21 we read, “Then said He, ‘Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? And now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come. But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince”.
There are several important truths to be learned from this passage. To begin, the phrases “Michael, one of the chief princes” and “Michael your prince” refer to the angel Michael. It is important to know that Michael is a spirit being, i.e. an angel. To whom do the pronouns “me” (“withstood me one and twenty days”) and “I” (“I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture..”) refer? Let us, as always, take our answer from Scripture.
We read in Dan. 10:5, “Then I (Daniel) lifted up mine eyes, and looked and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphas; His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes are lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude”. Who was this “man”? Let us compare this passage with Rev. 1:13-18 which speaks of “the Son of Man”. Note the phrase in Rev. “girt about the papas with a golden girdle” and compare it with Dan. 10:5, “loins were girded with fine gold of Uphas“. Compare also Rev. 1:14 “His eyes were as a flame of fire” with Dan. 10, “his eyes are lamps of fire”. Also compare Rev. 1:15, ”His feet like unto the fine brass”, with Dan. 10, “his feet like in colour to polished brass”. And let us also compare Rev. 1:15, “His voice as the sound of many waters” with Dan. 10, ” voice of his words like the voice of a multitude..”.
The reader will see that the “Man” who appeared to Daniel, as recorded in Dan. chapter 10 is the same “Man” Who appeared to John as recorded in Rev. 1. If there should be any doubt as to Who this “Man” is, Rev. 1:18 puts that doubt to rest, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death”. That Man is, of course, Jesus Christ.
So chapter ten of Daniel records Christ speaking to Daniel. Verse 13 records Christ saying to Daniel, “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood Me ……but lo, Michael, one of the chief princes came to help Me; and I remained there with the king of Persia”. Michael is of course, an angel, i.e. a spirit being as opposed to a human being. And as we read in Jn. 4:24, “God is spirit”. In short, Christ is God, Whose basic nature is spirit. (The fact that Christ assumed visible forms does not change the fact that He is God, and therefore, His basic nature is spirit). Both Christ and Michael took on a physical appearance for this battle recorded in Dan. 10.
Now that we understand that Dan. 10:21-22 speaks of Christ battling with Michael the angel at His side, let us review who was on the other side of this battle. We read of “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” and “the prince of Grecia shall come”. Given that the combatants i.e. Christ and Michael on one side were spirit, I believe we may conclude that the combatants on the other side, i.e. “the prince of the kingdom of Persia”, was also a spirit being. So this battle was between Christ with His spirit beings, against spirit beings who were His enemies. In short, I believe we may conclude that the battle recorded in Dan. 10 was fought between spirit beings, i.e. Christ Whose basic nature as God is spirit, and with Him Michael the angel, against the spirit beings aligned against them. I believe those spirit beings who were aligned against Christ were of the congregation of Satan.
Note once again that this passage speaks of spirit beings associated with specific nations. My point is that this gives credence to the suggestion that they were spirit beings who had been put in place by God when He scattered the nations (Gen. 11) to reign over each nation, and were later corrupted by Satan.
Let us include one more passage in this discussion, i.e. Ezek. 28:12-14 which reads, ”Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, ‘Thus saith the Lord God; ‘Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been to Eden, the garden of God…..Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth…..” . This passage is an obvious reference to Satan who was in the garden of Eden. Note that he is called “the king of Tyrus”. I believe it is important to bear in mind that Persia, Greece and Tyrus were literal places. So just as there were spirit beings, i.e. gods, associated with Egypt and other named nations for which God had allotted bounds, so too were there spirit beings associated with Persia, Greece and Tyrus.
The New Testament supports the suggestion that there will be warfare between spirit beings in heaven. That is to say, in the end times there will be a war in heaven between spirit beings. The ones who had been true to God will war against those sprit beings who had been corrupted by Satan. Let us consider a few verses that may throw some light on that suggestion. We read, for example in Jn. 12:31 Christ’s statement that, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world (Satan) be cast out”. Indeed we read in Rev. 12:7, “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels”. And in Rev. 12:9 we read, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan….he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him”. Consider also Rev. 16:13-14. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty”.
In short, I believe that as God scattered the nations, He assigned to each nation a spirit being to reign over them to accomplish His will. But Satan brought to himself a congregation of spirit beings that he had corrupted in order to try to thwart that plan, and to set in motion the realization of his ambition to be God and as such, to reign over the nations.
SPIRITUAL WARFARE IN THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY
In the sections above, we considered the fact that there are spirit beings representing the nations of the earth who do God’s bidding, and some of those spirit beings were corrupted and did Satan’s bidding. But as the reader will see in this portion of the study, there is no mention of nations in the scriptures concerning the dispensation of the mystery with regard to a spiritual warfare. This is consistent with the fact that in the present dispensation God’s plans and purposes for the nations of the earth, as such, have been set aside with the setting aside of His chosen nation, Israel, and His plans and purposes for the heavens and heavenly beings have come to the fore. Please see the paper An Introduction to Dispensational Truth for a more complete explanation of this statement.
Let us consider Eph. 3:8-10, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God”.
Paul was given the ministry to preach the dispensation of the mystery “to the intent”, i.e. in order that, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. I believe we may conclude that when the mystery was revealed to Paul, God’s wisdom in regard to His knowing and planning for all things that would happen, was revealed to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church. So in one sense, I believe it is the church as an entity that manifests God’s wisdom. That is to say, it was the church as a whole that, when revealed, showed God’s wisdom to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.
But as we consider once again Eph. 6:12 we will find that it is not only the church as an entity that is the witness to principalities and powers, it is also individual members of the church that witness to principalities and powers in heavenly places. That verse reads, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”. Note the pronoun “we” in the phrase “we wrestle”. This suggests a warfare between individual believers against spirit beings in heavenly places. And then Paul goes on to tell us of the armor that God has given to individual believers of the present dispensation to protect us from the wicked spirit beings in heavenly places. Was this armor given to protect believers from spiritual wickedness, or was it given to manifest God’s manifold wisdom?
In my opinion, the armor was given to both protect believers and to show God’s wisdom. Let me explain the reason for that belief. We read in Eph. 3:10 that the manifold wisdom of God was made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. The note in the Companion Bible by Dr. E. W. Bullinger on the word “manifold” reads, “implies infinitely diversified“. But if we take that “manifold wisdom” to refer only to that which was made known by the revelation of the mystery, as profound as that revelation is, it does not in itself, as far as I can tell, show God’s “infinitely diversified” wisdom”. It shows that God had known that Israel would reject Her risen Messiah and that She would be put aside. I certainly do not mean to minimize that great plan, but I do not see that it shows God’s “infinitely diversified” wisdom”.
On the other hand, if we include the victories that are attained by each individual member of the church with the help of the God-given armor, it does indeed show a great deal more of that diversity. That is to say, there have been myriads of believers in the dispensation of the mystery, all who have had many of their own individual battles, each answered in an “infinitely diversified” manner by using the armor given them by God. So we have this armor both protecting believers from wickedness in heavenly places, and at the same time showing God’s infinitely diversified wisdom to heavenly beings.
In summarizing this section, I would say that as each individual believer in the dispensation of the mystery uses the God-given armor to wrestle against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places, God’s manifold wisdom is being manifested.
We are now prepared to focus on the dispensational difference between the work of spirit beings in previous dispensations and the work of spirit beings in the dispensation of the mystery. I believe the main difference is that in previous dispensations the work of spirit beings was in relation to the nations of the earth whereas the work of spirit beings in the dispensation of the mystery is in relation to individuals. This is perfectly consistent with the main difference between the dispensations in which God had a favored nation and the dispensation of the mystery in which that nation has been set aside as His favored nation. That is to say, with the exception of the dispensation of the mystery, God’s plans centered on the earth, whereas in the dispensation of the mystery, God’s plans center on heaven, but, of course, include those on earth.
APPENDIX I: A CONSIDERATION OF THE TERM “DIVINE COUNCIL”
The term “divine council” comes from the ESV translation of Ps. 82:1 which reads, “God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment”. The term is used by some to describe a council composed of God and those spirit beings that He had created to reign over the nations.
However, the English word “council” is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as, “An assembly summoned for consultation, advice etc.”. I do not believe that God summons anyone for consultation and/or advice. Neither do I believe that Scripture will support the translation of that term.
To begin, of the 26 translations I could find on the inter-net, only one, i.e. the ESV, had “council”. The Hebrew word translated “council” in the ESV in the phrase “divine council” is “gehdah “. “Gehdah” is used well over 100 times in the Old Testament and is never translated “council” in the KJV, it is translated “congregation”, “assembly” “people”, etc.. The English word “council” is found only one time in the KJV of the Old Testament, i.e. in Ps. 68:27 which reads, “There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council…”. . The Hebrew word translated “council” in that verse is “rigmah”. It is obvious that the two Hebrew words are in no way connected. In short, I see no reason for the ESV translation of “council”.
Now let us consider the Hebrew word that the KJV has translated “mighty” and the ESV has translated “divine” in the phrase, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty” (or, as in the ESV, “divine”).That Hebrew word is “el”. The reader may recall that there are several scriptures quoted in the body of this paper which show that the basic meaning of “el” is “power” and “authority”. That is to say, it does not mean “divine” nor does it always refer to deity. In order to leave absolutely no doubt as to how this Hebrew word is used, I will quote several other scriptures which prove that its basic meaning is “power and authority”.
Job 36:22, “Behold, God (Heb. “el”) exalteth by His power (Heb. “el”)”. This verse is particularly helpful in that the Hebrew word “el” is used as one of the titles of God, and is also translated “power”. That is to say, when “El” is used as one of God’s titles, it is used to emphasize God’s power and authority.
Ps. 36:6, “Thy righteousness is like the great ((Heb. “el”) mountains…”.
Prov. 3:27, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power (Heb. “el”) of thine hand to do it”.
Mic. 2:1, “Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light they practice it, because it is in the power (Heb. “el”) of their hand”. See also Job 36:5, Ps. 29:1, Ps. 56:1, Is. 10:21, and Ezek. 31:11.
The point is that while it is true that “El” is one of the many titles of God and is often translated “God”, that does not mean that every time the word is used it refers to deity. So when we read that “’Elohim stands in the congregation of el”, we may understand it to say that God stands in the congregation of the mighty, just as it is translated in the KJV. (The question of to whom the term “el” i.e. “mighty”, refers in Ps. 82 will be discussed below).
In other words, there is no reason to translate the Hebrew word “gehdah“ as “council”, and, as proved above, the Hebrew word “el” does not always indicate deity, and in point of fact, its basic meaning is not “divine”. The determination of to whom it refer must be taken from the context.
Now let us come back to the question of to whom the term “the mighty” refers in the phrase, “standeth in the congregation of the mighty”. Let us consider the next phrase, i.e. “He judgeth among the gods”. As is often the case with the Hebrew poetry of the Old Testament, it is written in couplets, each part of the couplet clarifying the other. So in this case we have God standing in the congregation of the mighty, judging among, or in the midst of, the gods. As we picture God standing in the congregation of the mighty to judge in the midst of the elohim, we see how the couplet equates the mighty (Heb. “el”) with the gods (Heb. “elohim”). And the Hebrew words themselves translated “mighty” and “gods” in the couplet are also connected. That is to say, the Hebrew word translated “mighty” is “el” and the Hebrew word translated “gods” is “elohim”, which is the plural of “el”. In other words, the term “mighty” and the term “gods” as used in Ps. 82:1 refer to the same beings.
With that in mind we are prepared to address the question of to whom the terms “mighty” and “gods” refer in Ps. 82:1. Are these elohim spirit beings who judge the nations over which God had set them to reign, or are they men who had received their authority from God to judge other men? There is not one scripture that speaks of the elohim “as spirit beings”, or in fact of any spirit beings judging, but there are a few scriptures quoted below that do speak of men as elohim judging other men.
Let us consider a few passages in which “elohim” Is used of men. Consider for example, Ex. 7:1 which reads, “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘See, I have made thee a god (Heb. “elohim”) to Pharaoh”. Moses was not turned into a spirit being at that moment, so how was he made a god to Pharaoh? The Hebrew word “el” which is the singular form of “elohim” and, as has been proved above, has the basic meaning of power and authority. So we learn from Ex. 7:1 that God made Moses as a power, i.e. a god to Pharaoh. Let us also consider Ex. 22:28 which reads, “Thou shalt not revile the gods (Heb. “elohim”), nor curse the ruler of thy People”. Is Moses speaking of spirit beings, and the “ruler of thy People”, or is he speaking of those men who are in authority and the ruler of Israel? In my opinion, the most likely reading is that he is speaking of those men who are in authority and the ruler of Israel. These passages do not speak of judging, but my point in quoting them is that they do refer to man as “elohim” having power.
Let us consider those passages which speak of men as “elohim” who judge. For example, we read in Ex. 22:8-9, “If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges (Heb. “elohim”), to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods. For all manner of trespass whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges (Heb. “elohim”)……”.It seems to me that the fact that some will be “brought unto” the elohim, and “come before” them” suggests that in this context, the elohim were men.
And we read in I Sam. 2:25, “If one man sins against another, the judge (Heb. “elohim”) shall judge him; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?…..”. In my opinion, the point of this verse is to contrast that which the elohim will judge, with that which God will judge. That is to say, elohim will judge a man who has sinned against another man, but who will intreat for a man who sins against God. Spirit beings are not part of this context, and the contrast is not in evidence if we assume that the judges are spirit beings. But if we see these elohim as men, then the contrast is preserved.
In short, I believe that the elohim who are spoken of in Ps. 82 are men, not spirit beings.
But the argument is made that it is the “divine council” that is implied when we read, for example in Gen. 11:7, “Let Us go down and there confound their language….”. It is argued that the pronoun “Us” must refer to God and His divine council. Because, as proved above, the Word of God does not speak of a “divine council”, I would like to suggest an alternative to that presumption.
We read in Gen. 1:26-27, “And Elohim said, ‘Let Us make man in Our own image….. .So Elohim created man in His own image….”. But we read in Deut. 32:15 of Jeshurun, “he forsook Eloah which made him“. This verse tells us that Eloah created man. “Eloah” is another title of Jehovah. And in Deut. 32:18, we read, “….And hast El (yet another title of Jehovah) that formed thee…“. This verse tells us that El created man.
These are all titles of one God. So when we read in Gen. 11:7, “Let Us go down…” there is no reason to assume a divine council when the first occurrence of the pronoun “Us” when used of God is used of One Person with several titles. So too in Gen.11 the pronoun “Us” refers to God in several offices or titles.
It has also been suggested that I Kings 22 speaks of a supposed “divine council”. We read in I Kings 22:19-22, “….Hear therefore the word of the Lord; ‘I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right hand and on His left. And the Lord said, ‘Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said; ‘I will persuade him’. And the Lord said unto him, ‘Wherewith?’ And he said, ‘I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And He said, ‘Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so’”.
There are several reasons for my disagreement with the suggestion that this scene is one of a “divine council”. 1) There is no mention of a “council”. 2) It is clear that God did not seek “consultation” or “advice” which is how the word “council” is defined in Websters’ Dictionary. God’s only question was, “who shall persuade Ahab?”. That is not asking for advice, it is asking who will do His will. 3) The spirits in this context are not referred to as “gods”, or as “divine”.
In short, I Kings 22 does not speak of a council and it does not speak of any who are divine.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: email@example.com