• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

What are Evil Spirits in the Heavenly Places?

If you accept the possibility that supernatural beings exist, then the Bible makes it clear that evil spirits are those beings that inhabit the Second Heaven and routinely travel here on earth through the First Heaven.


Competing perspectives of Evil Spirits by four eminent authors

Modern people don’t believe in Evil Spirits…but maybe they should.

Most people think they know a lot about Satan, demons, and the “principalities and powers” described by the Apostle Paul. However, there is a lot of information about this subject that is rarely, if ever, covered in Western churches, and what we find is likely to surprise you.


The Bible mentions “evil spirits” eight times in the New Testament. A more common term is “unclean spirits,” found in over twenty passages. The word “Demon” is only used once, in Matthew 8:31. However, according to Heisler (2020), all three terms are used interchangeably.


There is a frequent discussion that these same terms do not appear in the Old Testament. Henrike notes that “there is no equivalent expression for the word ‘demon’ in the Semitic languages” (pp. 38-52). However, Heiser explains that the Hebrew language employs many terms to describe beings who opposed the will of God, including: “Rephaim,” meaning giants, shades, or spirits of the dead. “Death” or “Mot” as a being (we can think of the Grim Reaper). “Spirits,” meaning those who have passed over. “Knowing Ones,” or beings that spiritualists would contact to learn forbidden knowledge. Finally, the “Hidden One” is an often controversial term that leads to a later idea of a devil figure. From this perspective, the Old Testament is just as loaded with references to evil spirits as the New Testament!


What are the Heavenly Places?

The phrase “Principalities and Powers” is found nine times in the New Testament. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul writes:

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (NIV)

John Hagee (2015) explains that the worldview of the Biblical authors contained three heavens. “The First Heaven is located in the realm we see with our naked eye…The Second Heaven is where Satan has his throne and rules over fallen angels that followed him in the rebellion against God at the genesis of time… The Third Heaven is where God has His throne and rules the universe” (pp. 18-19).


Do Evil Spirits inhabit the Heavenly Places?

Jesus clearly stated that Satan has a kingdom:

If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? (Matt. 12:26, NIV).

Since Jesus makes this claim while on earth, and while he was casting out a demon, it is safe to assume evil spirits inhabit the Second Heaven and travel freely here on the First Heaven.


So are there Evil Spirits here on earth?

According to the Bible, yes.


However, a large segment of the Western population views the entire subject of supernatural beings and evil spirits as nothing more than superstitious nonsense. They argue that, at best, “evil spirits” may represent a mythologized representation of human evil. Gregory Boyd (in Beilby, 2012) counters that “the Western academic assumption that spirit agents do not exist apart from humans can justifiably be judged to be a prejudiced, myopic, chronocentric, and ethnocentric perspective” (p. 82). He points out that for nearly all time, and across all continents, the vast majority of people have no trouble whatsoever contemplating the existence of evil spirits.


In the chart above, four well-respected authors, each stating their unique perspectives and then carefully and respectfully responding to each other’s point of view, developed a framework in which a modern reader can assess their own location on the spectrum of supernatural apprehension of evil spirits. According to Beilby (2012), a pattern emerges:

  • The existence of Spiritual beings has been accepted in the vast majority of human cultures and religions

  • Since the modern era, science has put to rest any notion of taking such things seriously

  • For a sizable number of scholars in modern times, the naturalistic approach has not been the final word on the subject

  • It is untenable to accept the idea of a theistic God yet deny the existence of the devil

  • The moral objection to spiritual warfare language is motivated by very important concerns regarding the propagation of intolerance and violence

  • It is crucial that Christians employing spiritual warfare language take responsibility for being explicit about its meaning and maintaining constant sensitivity to situations and contexts

(Paraphrased from pp. 2-43)


Does that mean that Evil Spirits are real?

I don’t see it as my job to tell you if evil spirits are real or not. The purpose of strategic foresight is to offer multiple, competing, plausible futures for you to explore. If one accepts only the Western academic perspective, then evil spirits are not real. The naturalist perspective asserts that nothing exists that is supernatural. However, on the other side of the spectrum is the vast preponderance of human religion, society, and history that offers a much broader view.


If you accept the possibility that supernatural beings exist, then the Bible makes it clear that evil spirits are those beings that inhabit the Second Heaven and routinely travel here on earth through the First Heaven.


Let’s just say evil spirits are plausible. In my novel, the hero is possessed by an evil spirit. The antagonist is also a territorial demon named Tiānlóng. By portraying characters such as these in a science fiction novel, I have also taken on the responsibility for being explicit about my meanings and maintaining constant sensitivity to situations and contexts to avoid propagating intolerance and violence. This is a responsibility that I do not take lightly, and I would appreciate your prayers for me to be diligent and responsible in my work.


If you would like more information about evil spirits in the heavenly places, follow the links below in my reference section. I've done several book reviews - these books are mind blowing!


Explore the Spiritual Warfare Curated Library

About the Author


References

Beilby, J.K. (2012). Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. Baker Academic

Hagee, J. (2015). The Three Heavens. Worthy.

Heiser, M. S. (2019). The Unseen Realm. Lexham PR. Bellingham, WA.

Heiser, M.S. (2020). Demons. Lexham PR. Bellingham, WA.

Henrike. F.A. (2008). Concepts of ‘Demons’ in Ancient Israel. Die Welt des Orients 38.

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