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Stranger things = Those fringe[1] subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

Why we are discussing these kinds of subjects = So that we are viewing of our world in the same way Jesus and those living in the ancient near east (the bible’s authors) viewed their world since this is not only the real world but also vital to proper biblical interpretation (or the avoidance of projecting on the text/reading into the text our modern ideas and assumptions [eisegesis] – e.g., Gen 2:18-20).

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Previously discussed: Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send/receive things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal). BIG TAKEAWAY: In Christ’s churches, we have access to a heavenly portal that allows us to give and receive from God those persons (e.g., receive angels for help – Heb 1:14) and things (e.g., give praise to God, receive forgiveness through the sacraments – 1Pe 3:21; Joh 13:5-15 [context is the LT – v26]) important to our saving relationship with Him.

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.[2]

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand taking His stand(participle -singular) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (or gods) (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods). See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” (again, elohim). [3]

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? Considering the options:

2.1. other members of the Trinity (Jesus and the Holy Spirit) (Heb 1:8; Act 5:3-5)

Why this is not a viable option: God not only condemns the elohim (“rulers”) of verse 1b of judging unjustly and walking in darkness but also promises they will one day “die like men” because of such behavior (2-7).

2.2. other deities (or the gods of other religions) 1) (Exo 20:3; 1Ki 11:33)

Why this is not a viable option: Other deities do not exist (Deu 4:35, 39; Isa 45:5-6)

2.3. Dead people – particularly dead saints (1Sa 28:13)

Why this is not a viable option: 1) Dead people play no role in governing or judging the affairs of those currently living (2-4). 2) Though communication with or by them is possible, God strictly prohibits such interaction as punishable by death (Lev 20:27).

2.4. Angelic beings (the view of Michael Heiser)

Specifically: Satan and the other fallen angels who are identified as “sons of God” before His throne (Job 1-2) and are responsible not only for the Fall but mating with humanity and promoting global rebellion against God leading to the Flood (Gen 6 w/1Enoch 6-11). God placed these demons over the Gentile nations as their divine council (or spiritual authorities) after their rebellion at Babel (Deu 32:8-9 w/17 = “Sons of Israel” sb “sons of God” referring to “demons”, who inherited the Table of “Nations” as God’s judgment against the Gentiles for the Tower of Babel event [Gen 10-11]). God’s rebuke and condemnation of this council in Psalm 82 is the result of their poor oversight. Though wicked they were still expected to rule righteously.

Why this is not a viable option:

1) God never gives angels authority positions over humans – including archangels (Jud 8-9). Rather, it is humans who function as judges (rulers) over the angels (1Co 6:3). Angels exist to serve humans – specifically, those inheriting salvation (Heb 1:14). [4]

2) The idea that angels had sex with women infers not only that angels have the ability to procreate. Yet Jesus makes it clear that angels possess no such capability given they lack the proper context for such activity, marriage (Mat 22:30). To assume sexual activity were possible by angels is to therefore equally accuse God of sin – or providing moral creatures with natural desires and capabilities that possess no righteous application or solution. The fact that giants existed after the global flood (Gen 6:4) lends additional support. They are the mutated offspring of men – not angels[5].

3) Viewing the word “nations” in Deuteronomy 32 as a reference to the 70 nations of Genesis 10 is not only a false assumption – one leading directly to Heiser’s change of the phrase “sons of Israel” (MT) to “sons of God” (DSS), but a failure in reading comprehension.[6]

The entire context and focus of the Deuteronomy 32 (Moses’ Song) is God’s inheritance for the people of Israel, a group made up of twelve nations (Gen 17:4-6 w/16) which means the phrase, “sons of Israel” found in the MT is correct.

Regarding the reference to “demons” in (v17), Moses is simply recounting the idolatrous acts of the first generation (e.g., Exo 32:1-6; Lev 17:7; Act 7:43 [Amo 5:26-27]) since this is what prohibited them from receiving or realizing this land inheritance.

4) Jesus applies (6) to humans not angels (Joh 10:34 = Jesus’ defense only makes sense if the Jews understood Psalm 82 – including verse 6, as referring to humans).

2.5. the anointed priests/judges of the covenant community (Deu 17:8-9 w/Deu 21:5 = Priests/levites are the judges in the CC)

1) the place where the elohim carry out their office as rulers/judges is on earth (not heaven), the same place as the priests/judges of the covenant community (1-4; hence why God will also judge them on the earth – v8 “Arise O God, judge [the unrighteous judges] on the earth for it is You [God] who possesses [owns] all the nations”).

2) the judges (priests and levites) of the covenant community are also referred to as elohim (e.g., Exo 21:6 [See “God” Fn]; Exo 22:8-9).

3) the word translated “earth” in (5,8 [eretz]) can also be translated as land – as in the land of Israel (i.e., the covenant community) (e.g., 2Ki 5:2 “land” [eretz]).

4) the word translated “nations” in (8) can refer to the tribes of Israel (i.e., the covenant community) (e.g., again Gen 17:4-6).

5) The predominant concern and scope of Scripture is justice in the covenant community and among its leaders – not the other leaders or nations. To therefore assign a context bigger than God’s people to Psalm 82 (as Heiser does – the 70 nations of the Gentiles from Gen 10-11), is to assume an interpretive position or approach contrary what is most common in the OT – including its largest literary portion, the Prophets (e.g., Jer 22:1-17; Eze 45:9; Amo 5:10-24)[7].

6) Paul uses divine council language to speak of Old and New Covenant priests and levites:

1] (Eph 2:6) “seated us” = Paul’s audience according to 1:1-3, is the church (“Paul” along w/the “saints…and faithful…in Ephesus”) not the individual. At the very least then, the “us” of ch.2 refers to the covenant community – most specifically, her priests and levites (“faithful” = Or “faithful ones” – most likely a reference to her priests and levites – See Phi 1:1[8]). This is further supported by Paul’s connecting phrase “with Him in the heavenly places” – a direct allusion to (Psa 89:5-7) = The leaders of God’s assembly/covenant community are viewed as existing in heaven. IOW: this is the origin of their office and authority (Eph 3:10).

2] That Paul is indeed referring to spiritual leaders in the covenant community when using the phrase “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”) versus spiritual beings such as angels or demons (again, Heiser’s view) is confirmed by the role of the church in explaining and proclaiming the “mystery” and “gospel” of God’s Messiah [Jesus] – most especially to the Jewish nation (Act 1:8; Rom 2:10) – including its spiritual leaders (Eph 3:1-10) = Assuming Heiser’s view, why would the gospel need to be preached to demons or angels – those with no hope of salvation? These verses therefore have to be referring to a human occupied divine council – most specifically those in the OC community. Why the OC divine council (priests and levites) and not those under the NC? Because of (Eph 3:11-15) = Paul’s preaching this gospel (as the ambassador of the “church”) to the aforementioned rulers and authorities has caused him “tribulations” that will bring the Ephesians “glory” (or “glory in the church”). It can’t therefore be New Covenant priests and levites Paul is referring to since not only would they not be guilty of persecuting him, but by such tribulation, bring glory to the church (such actions – if true, would bring shame to the church). How then will Paul’s preaching to OC divine coucil bring glory to the church (one that makes the tribulation/persecutions suffered bc of it worth it)? Through their conversion. They remain a part of “God’s family” (again, vv14-15) and therefore the field of final harvest for the church before Christ’s return (Rom 11:11-12). Consider (Rom 11:11-12).

3] What Paul says about these heavenly rulers or authorities in his letter to the Colossians confirms this is who Paul has in mind (the OC divine council/priests and levites) (Col 2:15-16) “When He (God) had disarmed (or defrocked and dismissed) the rulers and authorities” (through Jesus’ atoning death that removed our debt before God – v14), He made a public display of them having triumphed over them through Him” = IOW: Christ was able to make us righteous before God without the OC priesthood which in turn made them essentially obsolete (Heb 7:12 w/8:13). Additional support: (v16) = B/C the priests of the OC community have been defrocked and dismissed, we are to no longer recognize them as our spiritual authorities (our divine council).

4] Lastly, consider how Paul uses this phrase (“rulers…in the heavenly places”) at the end of his Ephesian epistle. Close cross examination of this phrase with earlier portions of the letter and other Scripture also points to Old Covenant priesthood.

(Eph 6:11-12) “schemes of the devil” = Schemes accomplished thru the “deceitful scheming” and trickery of men (4:14) = More than likely a reference to the Jews since this was – once more, the main antagonist in Paul’s ministry – and the apostolic church[9]. Additional support (1Th 2:14-18) = Notice Paul views the Jews “hindering” his mission in the gospel as satanic [“Satan hindered us”]). Paul’s point (then) in verse 12 of Ephesians 6: “Our struggle is not (only) against flesh and blood but against the rulers…in the heavenly places” (i.e., the OC divine council) who – though they have been defrocked/dismissed from their former poisitons, are now being empowered by “the powers” related to “the world forces of this darkness…the spiritual forces of wickedness” (i.e., Satan). That Paul is in these verses referring specifically to the Jewish rulers and authorities (“in the heavenly places”) is also supported by the fact that the Greek term Ioudaioi (v14, “Jews”) was the common way to refer to the Jewish priesthood and its levites (e.g., Joh 2:13-18).

7) If the anointed leaders of the Old Covenant community possessed spiritual authority (i.e., represented God’s divine council), how much more this would be true for the New Covenant community given:

1] the biblical evidence of priests and levites (judges) existing under the New Covenant just as they did under the Old (Isa 66:21; Deu 17:8-9 w/Mat 18:15-20; Consider also 1Co 6:1-4 = The church will appoint her own judges who will not only be competent enough to make righteous decisions concerning “matters of this life” but also one day judge the angels. How is that possible unless they like their predecessors have been anointed and/or deputized as God earthly vice-regents?).

2] the Body of Christ has also been given the indwelling Spirit to help her leaders – something not present under the OC.

3] We possess the “perfect” or completed corpus of God’s revelation for securing justice in the covenant community (i.e., the completed canon of Scripture – 1Co 13:10).

8) In the ANE, the spiritual realm and humanity were inextricably linked. To believe in the spiritual realm meant also believing that its supernatural power had also been given to certain humans who functioned as authorities within specific spiritual communities. Those communities were identified as religions (or the old term, cults) and the dispensers of this power, their priests (e.g., Psa 132:16). To assume then that no such power or authority existed – or still exists today, would have been for those in the Bible, the same as believing the spiritual realm itself was fantasy. The question should therefore never be, are their human beings functioning as God’s divine council today? But rather, who are they?

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE/CONTEMPLATION: What are the practical implications and application associated with the divine council being God’s anointed leaders in the church (the New Covenant community)? List as many as you can and discuss with others.

 

[1] Subjects not part of the mainstream; topics or understanding that are unconventional and/or uncomfortable to modern culture and thinking.

[2] “All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council.” – Michael Heiser (“So What Exactly Is an Elohim?”)

[3] That the office of this assembly or council is indeed located in the heavens is supported not only by the fact that it is identified as “divine” – a word implying heavenly or spiritual origins, but also passages such as Eph 3:10 and 6:12.

[4] Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that this was the reason for Satan’s initial rebellion. Though stronger and more knowledgeable, God placed humans above the angels in authority and made them their servants. It should be mentioned also that though Scripture speaks of Satan as the ruler of this world (1Jo 5:19; also 2Co 4:4 “god”/elohim), his office and authority are illegitimate – having no appointment by God. To assume God did give such appointments/authority to angels (including Satan) would mean as humans we are required to submit to them and all rebellion against them would be viewed as rebellion against God (Rom 13:1-2).

[5] The purpose of Genesis 6:1-4 is to communicate the level of devastation produced by the global flood. At the time it took place, the earth was covered by human beings – including their mutated offspring, the giants (“the sons of God [human males] came into [procreated with] the daughters of men” [human females]; See 1Co 11:7).

[6] Though I do believe that the intention of God’s language confusion – or the forfeiture of His divine language (Hebrew), was a means of judgment that would ultimately send Babel’s rebels further into the direction of spiritual darkness and false religion (i.e., worshipping and serving demons – Deu 4:19-20 “beware not to…be drawn away and worship them [the moon and the stars] those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”), such conclusions are of no import to our understanding of Deuteronomy 32 whose concern are the nations of Israel not the world.

[7] The Prophets (major and minor) contribute 250 chapters to the Old Testament’s total of 929 chapters – almost as many as the entire New Testament (260 chapters).

[8] The Ephesian church is made up of Christians (or “saints”) including also “faithful ones” (priests and levites). See similar in Col 1:2.

[9] This only changed after 70 A.D. and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Neronic persecution – influenced, aided and abetted by the Jewish priesthood, ultimately back-fired, turning Rome’s destructive forces against them and their religion.