How Are We to Understand the Nature of Princes of the Night?
As a follow-up, and in some sense a prequel, to last week’s post about ghosts we are going to expand a little bit into the world of principalities and powers. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are ready and willing to hear and listen to the word of God. Yet, it is certainly the case that it can be difficult for us when we approach it first with our sense of how we think the world works instead of coming at it from the right route of letting the Bible be the norming norm of reality.
Even though we style ourselves to be conservatives there can be a tendency, if we are being honest, towards reading the Scriptures with liberal eyeglasses on. We do this when the archetype of modern teachings of science are the waters in which we swim and from which we then get our framework for understanding. I’ve said before that there is no battle between science and faith. They are not opposites nor are they in competition against one another. Science is a method of investigation. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. To say these two are a polarity would be like making the argument that football and playmaking are in struggle for supremacy. The latter only makes sense in the context of the other. Faith is not an emotion or an adjective modifying something else. Science is not an objective deity on its own, but subjective to its own forms and measures.
The way many use the word faith is misguided to be sure as well. The phrase you gotta have faith is not in keeping with how Paul, Isaiah, or Jesus would define it. Faith is an absolute knowledge of truth, grounded in something outside itself. The sense in which we should be using it is characterized for us by Heidelberg Catechism Q. 21:
Q. What is true faith?
A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation. These gifts are purely of grace, only because of Christ’s merit.
As the HC reminds us all the knowledge that believers have is sure. How is that possible? Because God has revealed it to us in His word. Can God lie? Can He mislead? Can He falsify what He made? All of that we know to be untrue. How? Because God is God, and God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. To make a joke it is ironic that In God We Trust is on our money in America since we cannot trust our money, yet it is a perfect picture for us in regards to why we only trust the living God, because He does not lose value, nor is His domain based on the ever-changing decisions of the Federal Reserve. This may seem like an odd move away from the subject at hand. However, it is central that we start any discussion about the supernatural world with coming to terms with the presupposition that it does exist. Proving the existence of spirits would be like proving the existence of air. We know it because it is. It is not an assumption Christian’s make and it is not an understanding that only comes by the regenerating work of the Holy Ghost. All men know it, even if they have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. When Elisha prayed for the Lord to open the eyes of the servant to see the angels surrounding the Assyrian army they didn’t come into reality when the man saw them. They were always there.
To get back then to the bigger question about principalities and powers we need another bit of theological remembering. There is nothing in this universe that God did not make. We do not see any witness of Scripture testifying to any idea that there is some eternal cosmic battle going on between good and evil. Evil is an interloper into God’s good creation. It was a not there at the beginning.
So where did the principalities and powers we are seeking an answer for come from?
To quote our Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 2, Section 2:
[God] is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleases.
And Ch. 5, Section 4:
The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.
In both of those portions of the common confession of our personal faith we are prompted to see two things, 1) That evil is the absence of good, 2) God does not create evil, since He is good. Evil is not a substance or a thing. It is an action which moves a creature to abandon the being of God for the emptiness of non-being. In other words when Satan did the deed of rebelling in Heaven, and was then cast out (Rev. 12:7-10) he brought, in a sense, the teaching of sin with him. It is his hope of course that all men then would become as him, to inhabit the darkness of evil. Yet in the midst of this we have to keep in our hearts the truth that none who are of Christ, and therefore of the light (John 8:12), will enter into the blackness of Hell forever (Matt. 22:13), but will exist in the place where the sun is not needed (Gen. 1:3, Rev. 21:23).
What again does this have to do with whether angels and demons, the “ghosts” of our experience, are around us and affect us from day-to-day? Well, that subject will have to wait until next week. For our purposes today we have defined what the substance of the question is and the nature of the fallen world in which we live. We are going to spend more time with answering how we are to live in light (no pun intended) of this ever-growing reality. To close this morning: Angels and Demons are real and the people of God must come to terms with this reality if we are to deal with the actual war going on in 2023.
Here is a word more on evil and its existence:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church