We are often unaware of the unseen invisible component to our world. I sometimes picture this as being like an extra dimension. For example, if we lived in a flat 2-dimensional world and someone visited us from a 3-dimensional world, then we would only see their footprints.
According to the Bible the unseen world is made up of various personalities: the divine God comprised of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; God’s angels who help believers; Satan who opposes God; and Satan’s demons who are rebellious angels. We are only partially aware of these personalities; like the footprints of a 3-dimensional being in a 2-dimensional world. Let’s look at the human spirit and soul which is another part of the unseen world that can be influenced by these divine and satanic personalities.
The Bible describes human beings as being comprised of spirit, soul and body: “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th. 5:23NIV). The meanings of these Greek words are given below and their relationship is shown in the schematic diagram.
‘Pneuma’, which means ‘wind’, something which is invisible, is used to describe the spirit. The human spirit enables our conscience, intuition, God consciousness and communication with God (Mk. 2:8; Jn. 4:24; Rom. 8:16; 9:1). It is the spirit which distinguishes us from animals; they do not have such an eternal spirit. It is a way in which people are “made in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27; Jn. 4:24). We can view the human spirit as our innermost world.
‘Psuche’ (the origin of the English word ‘psyche’), which means ‘breath’, something which is invisible, is used to describe the soul. It is our self consciousness, personality and ego. It includes the mind (our intellect, Acts 14:2, 22), the will (our desires, decisions and morals, Mt. 22:37) and the emotions (our feelings). We can view this as being between our spirit and our body. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between the spirit and the soul (Heb. 4:12).
‘Soma”, which means the body. It is sense consciousness, which relates to the physical world. We can view the spirit and soul as living within the body.
The processes of death and resurrection reveal important aspects of the components of human beings. The Bible describes these aspects as the body (which is visible) and the spirit and soul (which are invisible). At death, the visible and invisible aspects are separated: the spirit and soul leave the body and go to Hades or paradise, while the body decays to dust (Eccl. 12:7; Lk. 23: 43,46; Acts 7:59; 2 Cor. 5;8; Jas. 2:26). After death the spirit and the soul are fully conscious with feelings memories and emotions (Lk. 16:23-31). Also, Paul was fully conscious when he was translated to paradise (2 Cor. 12:2,3). So death is not the end of a human being. The Bible teaches that all the dead will be resurrected back to life. Resurrection is the opposite of death, being the reunion of the spirit and soul with a new body (Dan. 12:2; Jn. 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:5,6,13).
The first people, Adam and Eve were each created as a body in union with a soul and spirit. All these parts interrelate and depend on each other; this is essential for healthy physical life. For example, the brain (part of the body) is like computer hardware and the mind (part of the soul) in like computer software that programs the brain. People need both. You only have one without the other in death.
Adam and Eve’s soul and spirit were in union with God. They freely spoke with God in the Garden of Eden. They were in paradise on earth where there was safety and security (all their needs were catered for); significance (they ruled over the creation); and authority (Adam named the creatures). They had a sense of belonging, with fulfilling relationships with God and with each other.
The fall into sin
Adam and Eve’s rebellion and disobedience began in their mind (Gen. 3:5-6). Satan sowed doubt in their mind and they desired more knowledge and wisdom. This led to a radical change in our world (Gen. 3:8-4:9). Some of the consequences in our unseen world are described below.
Their spirit was dead to God. They lost their close relationship with God and came under Satan’s influence. They died spiritually when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). Consequently, they were banished from the Garden and lost their safety and security and their sense of belonging (Gen. 3: 23,24). Just as we have inherited physical life from our first parents, we have also inherited this spiritual death from them (Eph. 2:1-3). Today the unbeliever is without God and separate from Christ (Eph. 2:12; 4:18).
Their mind lost knowledge of God. They thought they could hide from God (Gen. 3:8). They were the first example of the ungodly who “are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Eph. 4:18).
Their will made a wrong choice. They failed the first test of obedience (Gen. 2:17). They refused the rule of the spirit and became the slave of the body (Gal. 5:16-17). All choices have consequences. The choices made by the ungodly affect all areas of their lives.
Their emotions were characterised by negative feelings. Adam hid because he was afraid (Gen. 3:10). They felt shame and guilt and Cain was angry and depressed when his offering was not accepted by God (Gen. 3:7; 4:5). The ungodly are characterised by “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy” (Gal. 5:19-21).
The Bible describes unbelievers as being “psuchikos”, which means “governed by the soul” (1 Cor. 2:14; Jude 19). As there is no adjective for “soul” in English that is equivalent to this Greek word, some have suggested we call it “soulish”. This means that that they are largely driven by their minds and emotions. But what influences their minds and emotions? As they are spiritually dead, it is not God. The only other active personalities in the unseen world are Satan and his demons. This results in “soulish” behaviour such as jealousy and selfish ambition (Jas. 3:14-16).
“Psuchikos” is also used to describe our bodies (1 Cor. 15:44,46). This means that we were born with a body that is governed by the soul and not by a spirit that is alive to God.
The spiritual believer
God’s plan of salvation is to restore His relationship with people that was destroyed by their fall into sin. This begins at conversion when the human spirit changes to become united with God’s Spirit. This is like a new creation, which changes the soul (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). It leads to the following changes within a believer, who is described as being spiritual, not soulish (1 Cor. 2:15).
Their spirit is alive to God. Their spirit has been made alive by the Holy Spirit, the Lord is with their spirit and they live according to God in regard to the spirit (Jn. 3:6; 2 Tim. 4:22; 1 Pt. 4:6). They are “led by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:18). This is associated with forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38), safety, significance and belonging because they are accepted as children of God (Rom. 8:16; 15:7).
Their mind is renewed and transformed. They should be transformed by the renewing of their mind (Rom. 12:2). They have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) and should be single-minded thinking of things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).
Their will chooses to live by the Spirit. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). Now we face many choices each day: whether to pray or not, read the Bible or not, go to church or not, talk to another or not, and follow God or not.
Their emotions are the fruit of the Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).
The spiritual believer is the ideal, the model of maturity to which we should be growing. Of course, Satan opposes the believer’s growth to maturity. Some Scriptures use the words “soul” and “spirit” in similar senses, which can be confusing. Maybe this is because in the mature Christian the spirit should be ruling and leading the soul. So in a sense they are similar.
The soulish believer
Unfortunately this is not always the case in practice because when we become a Christian the “clear” button in our brain is not always pressed: our mind is not completely renewed. We have ingrained “soulish” habits and patterns of behaviour that still appeal to our mind to operate independently of God. This is because Satan and sin are still around in our world. As shown below, this can affect all the parts of our being.
Their spirit is alive to God, but quenched. The Holy Spirit indwells all believers, but He can be quenched. Paul wrote “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Th. 5:19).
Their mind is double-minded and selfish. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” (Jas. 1:5-8). We can be caught between God’s plans and our plans when we are not following God’s Spirit. Our plans can be influenced by sinful habits and Satan.
Their will chooses sinful behavior. They will not always be walking after the Spirit but choosing to be involved in sinful activity.
Their emotions are unstable and they rely on their feelings. They are plagued with negative feelings of guilt, worry, doubt, inferiority, insecurity and inadequacy. If fear is controlling our life, then faith is not.
In this case, their life is not being controlled by the indwelling Spirit of God. Instead, as shown below, the soul is governing the life through the mind, will and emotions. It is self-centred. We can only tell which is controlling their lives by its fruits (Mt. 7:16-17).
The soulish mind, will and emotions
The mind. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual (‘psuchikos’ or ‘soulish’), demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (Jas. 3:13-16). In this case the human mind is being influenced by Satan. It is characterised by selfish ambition and rivalry and leads to disorder and evil. It is a great contrast to the spiritual believer who is peace-loving, considerate and impartial (Jas. 3:17-18).
The will. “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings” (1 Cor. 3:3-4)? They are described as being “sarkikos” (v.3), which means “of the flesh” (or body) rather than being spiritual. Here we see that people were following other people rather than the Holy Spirit within them. Those with strong wills and strong personalities can dominate others. This can lead to jealousy, quarrelling and factions within the church (Jude 19).
The emotions. We should live by faith, not by feelings. Emotions should not dominate our life. We should follow the Holy Spirit and not attempt to lead the Holy Spirit by our emotions. Are we always seeking spiritual experiences? Do we always need to feel the presence of God with us?
Our mind and our emotions are important parts of our being. We need to use them for God. Who ever influences our mind, influences our whole person. The Bible is the best influence as “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Here the word “heart” means the “seat of thoughts” (Vine), which is the mind.
Lessons for us
Each of us is a spirit who has a soul and lives in a body. Let’s not fall into Satan’s traps, but let God direct our ways so that we can be strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being and renewed inwardly day by day (2 Cor 4:16; Eph. 3:16). Finally, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th. 5:23).
1 In Scripture, the Greek word ‘pneuma’ (spirit) is also used for evil spirits or demons (Mk. 6:7; Acts 19:16). Words convey a variety of meanings; the context determines a word’s meaning.
2 In Scripture, the Greek word ‘psuche’ (soul) is also used for ‘life’ (Mt. 16:26) and the will (Mt. 22:37).
God’s invisible agents
Many think that angels are just a myth, a product of one’s imagination. However, in the bible God has explained their role as inhabitants of the unseen world. There is more to life and the universe than what the eye can see. Our eyes only sense the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Scientists use gamma rays, X rays, ultra-violet rays, infra-red waves, microwaves and radio waves to probe parts of the universe that are not visible to the eye. But even they cannot sense the presence of angels. There is more to life and the universe than what can be detected using the whole electromagnetic spectrum.
The Unseen World
The bible is the only reliable source of information about angels. It teaches that God’s creation has two components: that which is visible and that which is invisible (Col. 1:16).
The “unseen” or “invisible” part of God’s world is inhabited by personalities with intelligence, emotions and wills – not by “forces” or “influences”. These personalities comprise two categories: the divine (God); and the created, such as angels, demons and human spirits (Jn. 4:24; Rom. 8:38-39). Note that angels are not divine and they are not human spirits
What is this unseen part of the world like? In the New Testament,“spirit” is the same Greek word as “wind”. It is used for things that are invisible and powerful. Forces with these characteristics are electricity that flows through a conductor, or gravity that acts across space, or nuclear forces that hold us all together. But angels are invisible and powerful personalities, not forces. Their power is under God’s control.
The unseen world can be visualised as being like a fifth dimension to our four dimensional world of space and time. It is always present, but we can’t sense it directly and we do not know how it interacts with our physical world of space, mass and time.
The unseen world is eternal, it will never end; “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18 NIV). Angels are immortal (Lk. 20:36). Also, the two natures of good and evil, or the divine and the sinful, are both in the unseen world. The two great leaders of these domains are God and Satan, and their purposes are carried out by angels and demons.
Between the time of the Old and the New Testaments there was much speculation about angels by Persians and Greeks. Detailed hierarchies of different types of angels were constructed. They were viewed as “mediators” between God and humanity. Here we will see that “servants” is a better metaphor for the role of angels.
Although angels are always spoken of in the masculine gender, they do not marry, so it appears as though there is no equivalent to gender in the unseen world (Mt. 22:30).
The New Testament emphasises that Christ is superior to angels (Heb. 1:4-14). This passage mentions the key roles angels play: they worship Christ (v.6), they are God’s servants and ministers (v.7), and their service and ministry is directed towards believers – they are “ministering spirits sent to serve” (v.14). The same two Greek words for “service” and “ministry” are included in 2 Cor. 9:12. Consequently, there is a similarity between angels helping Christians and Christians helping each other.
We are to worship God, not angels (Col. 2:18). They do not know everything, but God does (Mt. 24:36). When John fell at an angel’s feet to worship him, the angel said “I am a fellow-servant with you … Worship God!” (Rev. 19:10; 22:8,9).
Angels are God’s invisible agents, whose mission is to help Christians (1 Pet. 3:22, Heb. 1:14). Five of their main tasks are described below.
The Greek word “angelos” means messenger. God uses angels to proclaim important messages. There are many examples of this in the Bible.
Gabriel interpreted a vision and gave insight and understanding in response to prayer (Dan. 8:16; 9:21). He also announced the conception of John the Baptist and of Christ (Lk. 1:11-20; 26-38).
Angels revealed that Mary’s baby was to be named “Jesus” and announced His birth (Mt. 1:20,21; Lk. 2:9-14). They also rolled the stone away from His tomb, and proclaimed His resurrection and His second coming (Mt. 28:2-7; Lk. 24:4-7; Acts 1:9-11). Michael, the chief angel, will announce the rapture, when Christ comes for believers (1 Th. 4:16).
Angels sent Philip to the Ethiopian treasurer and told Cornelius to send for Peter (Acts 8:26; 10:3-7). They also revealed the future to Daniel and John (Dan. 9:20-12:13; Rev. 1:1).
Angels watch eagerly as spectators of God’s drama of salvation and actually express joy when a sinner repents (1 Pet. 1:12; Lk. 15:10).
We are not alone, the angels are present with us (1 Tim. 5:21). They watch us individually and collectively. Paul felt he was on display like a spectacle to the whole universe, including angels (1 Cor. 4:9). Angels can see God’s wisdom through the church, which has unity and order although comprising different members (1 Cor. 11:10; Eph. 3:10).
Angels can be God’s agents of judgment. When two angels went to rescue Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, they told him, “we are going to destroy this place” (Gen. 19:13).
After Hezekiah’s prayer, one angel killed 185,000 in the Assyrian army and delivered Judah from an enemy (2 Ki. 19:35). Another angel killed King Herod Agrippa I after he accepted worship as a god (Acts 12:23).
In the coming period of global tribulation and punishment, angels will inflict seven trumpets and seven bowls of God’s judgement on the earth (Rev. ch. 8-16). They will also accompany Christ when He is “revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels” (2 Th. 1:8). The word “dynamite” is derived from the Greek word used here for “powerful”. This will be an awesome display of angelic power.
At the end of the tribulation, angels will separate the righteous from the wicked who will be sent to the fiery furnace where they will suffer (Mt. 13:41-50). They will also bind Satan for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-3).
Angels praise God. Many angels praised Him at Christ’s birth: “A great company of the heavenly host appeared … praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom God’s favour rests’” (Lk. 2:13-14).
After they have finished their earthly ministry, numerous angels will encircle God’s throne and sing in a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and praise!” Then all creatures in the physical world and the unseen world will praise the Lord, who rules and who died for the world (Rev. 5:11-14).
The climax of God’s drama of salvation involves all the angels, together with all God’s people, praising and worshipping God. Thousands of angels will share in this great celebration (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 7:9-12).
Angels are God’s security agents. They provide help and protect His people wherever they go and keep them safe (Ps. 91:11,14).
Our difficulties in life originate from the unseen world, where the angels battle against Satan and his demons (Eph. 6:12). In the final war, Satan’s forces will be defeated and cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-12). Angels will also protect God’s people from the coming judgement (Mt. 24:31).
An angel went ahead of Moses and guarded him as he took possession of the promised land (Ex. 23:20-23). When Elijah was in despair as he fled from Jezebel, an angel strengthened him so that he could travel for 40 days (1 Ki. 19:5-8).
Elisha, surrounded by the army of the king of Aram, said “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them”. After praying “O Lord, open his eyes that he may see”, the protective angels were revealed as horses and chariots of fire. (2 Ki. 6:16-17).
An angel shut the lions mouths to protect Daniel, released Peter from prison, and encouraged Paul during a storm (Dan. 6:22; Acts 12:7-11; 27:23-25).
Angels helped Jesus after Satan’s temptation and as He faced His betrayal and crucifixion (Mt. 4:11; Lk. 22:43). In fact, He could have called on thousands of them (Mt. 26:53).
At death, the spirits of believers are carried by angels into God’s presence (Lk. 16:22).
The Bible seems to support the concept of specific “guardian angels” as children have “their angels in heaven” and the early church believed in them (Mt. 18:10; Acts 12:15).
Angels help Christians
Christians serve an invisible God, and angels are His invisible agents. They inhabit the eternal unseen world and are mentioned from the beginning of time in Genesis through to the end time of Revelation. Sometimes God uses them to achieve His purposes, although we are usually unaware of their work.
They are ministering spirits that serve believers. Here are five ways:
- Angels proclaim God’s messages. Are you waiting for the shout of the archangel?
- Angels are always present. We are not alone. They watch our individual and collective behaviour. Do we give them much cause for rejoicing?
- Angels execute God’s punishment with awesome power. Trust God and avoid the fiery furnace!
- Angels praise God. Will you be there to join in the heavenly choir?
- Angels protect believers. They are stronger than Satan and his demons. Like Elisha, don’t be afraid; those who are with us are more than those who are with them.
Believers have a security that is not based on things that can be taken away; “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Angels can strengthen us inwardly, as they did the Lord. One day we will know the full extent of the care and protection the angels have given us (1 Cor. 13:12).
Let’s praise God as the angels do. Who knows when they protect and strengthen us?
Published, December 1999
See the other article in this series:
– The unseen world of demons