What Is Real?
By Allan Turner
A blind man lives in total visible reality but cannot see any of it and so he must grapple in darkness. A spiritually blind man lives in total reality without being aware of vast and powerful elements in it. This robs him and disarms him with respect to good and evil, but changes nothing except his own ability to deal adequately with reality. Consequently, it is important to know what is real.
According to the materialistic or atheistic world view, there is nothing beyond this physical world. Man is simply matter in motion. On the other hand, according to the pantheistic world view, the material world is really not real. He believes everything is spirit and that matter is simply an illusion. In contrast to both these world views, the Bible teaches there is both a spiritual realm and a physical realm, and that neither of these realms is more or less real than the other. In fact, both the spiritual realm and the physical realm are very real and encompass all of reality. What this all means is that unless one knows the word of God, one does not really know what is real.
Four Levels Of Reality
The Bible student needs to realize that uncreated and created reality includes four levels of existence: (1) the Godhead, made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, (2) angels and demons, the latter of which have a leader called satan; (3) the spirits of believing and unbelieving dead human beings in hades, and (4) living human beings, both believing and unbelieving. The materialist does not factor into his thinking levels one, two, or three. According to him, these levels cannot exist (see Madalyn Murray O'Hair's statement, The Fourth Question, page 21). The materialist, of course, is wrong, and, as we have already stated, foolishly so. They would have us believe 1) everything came from nothing, 2) order came from chaos, 3) harmony came from discord, 4) life came from non-life, 5) reason came from irrationality, 6) personality came from non-personality, and 7) morality came from amorality. These materialistic presuppositions are anti-God and anti-intellectual. Not only do they go against everything that is taught in the Bible, but everything that can be observed with the five senses as well. In other words, materialism is not just unscriptural, which would certainly be enough to make it wrong, but it is also irrational.
The four levels of reality articulated in the Bible can be further broken down into two divisions: (1) the kingdom of God, which consists of God, angels, spirits of the dead in Christ, and living disciples of Christ, and (2) the kingdom of darkness, which consists of satan, spirits of unbelieving dead, and living people who are in rebellion against God. We are citizens in one of these kingdoms or the other—there is absolutely nothing in between! Although these two divisions are basic to a Biblical world view, too many today seem to be ignorant of this truth. Nevertheless, from the Garden of Eden, with its two trees (one allowed, and one forbidden), to the eternal destiny of the human being in heaven or hell, we learn from the Bible that there are two—and only two—ways: God's way, and all other ways. According to the word of God, people are said to be saved or lost; they belong either to God's house or the world; there was Gerizim, the mount of blessing, and Ebal, the mount of cursing; there is the narrow way and the broad way, leading either to eternal life or destruction; there are those who are with us and there are those who are against us; there are those who are within and those who are without; there is life and death, truth and falsehood, good and bad, light and darkness, love and hatred; and, finally, there is the wisdom that comes from above and the wisdom that comes from below. Without the Biblical discernment that tells them the differences between these things, worldly Christians will miss the way, the truth, and the life, and, in doing so, will miss all there is!
The smudged line that in too many instances exists between the church and the world today must be made as clear as our Lord demanded. This can only be done when Christians develop a Biblical world view. As we said in the introduction to this series, two keys to developing a Biblical world view are repentance and revival. If we are going to be the salt that savors a lost and dying world, and if we are going to be the light that shines out of the terrible darkness all about us, then worldly Christians, who will not repent and renew their minds, must be withdrawn from (II Thessalonians 3:6; I Timothy 6:3-5; II Timothy 3:1-5). There is simply no other valid alternative. We must not be conformed to this world. Instead, we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so as to prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1,2).
Influenced by the materialistic/atheistic mind-set that is so prevalent in our society, many Christians, like the Sadducees of old, no longer reflect a Biblical world view (cf. Acts 23:8). Consider, for instanc e, the subject of angels. Angels are real. They are spiritual beings created by God (Psalm 148:1,5), who are on a higher order than man (Hebrews 2:7), and neither reproduce nor die (Luke 20:35,36). They are mentioned some 273 times in the Bible and often function as agents of destruction or blessing (Genesis 19:13,16). As such, they were involved in God's providential care for His people (II Kings 18-19). It is our firm conviction that angels still function in this capacity today.
Unfortunately, many have assumed that, because miracles have ceased, angels are no longer in business today. This view would seem to be an obvious contradiction of Hebrews 1:13,14, which says angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”
Although it is true that we are not living in an age when God operates miraculously through men, this must not be taken to mean that God is not still exercising control over His creation. In Matthew 5:45, the Bible teaches the general providence of God, and in Matthew 6:33, the child of God is taught to trust in God's specific providence toward His children. In Romans 8:28-31, we are taught that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Does this not suggest God's continued providential care? If so, is there any reason for us to think that angels are not still involved in this providential care?
God's Providence Is Real
As we have already pointed out, both Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:17 make it clear that God's creation has not been left to mere chance, as the materialistic/atheistic world view proclaims. God is still in control. He still rules in the kingdoms of men and this is verified by such passages as Romans 13, Acts 17:26, and Daniel 4:17,32. To believe, as some do, that God takes a “hands-off” position with reference to the affairs of mankind is not only a contradiction of Scripture, but it is tantamount to dethroning Jesus Christ, who now reigns as King of kings (Revelation 1:5; Ephesians 1:20,21).
Actually, when one develops a Biblical world view, he or she recognizes there is a great battle going on in this world—a battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. Consequently, it is comforting to know that angels are sent forth by God to minister unto us, because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:13). There is great consolation in knowing that our prayers to God are not exercises in futility, but are, in fact, requests based on a faith that God can and will help us, and that angels are His agents in these matters.
It is unfortunate that many Christians living in the last decade of the 20th century are more comfortable with naturalistic rationalism than they are with the supernaturalism taught in the Bible. As we have already pointed out, there is a real battle going on today, although spiritual in nature (cf. Ephesians 6:10-20). But just because those who fight against us are spiritual beings does not mean they are not real. Christians must snap out of the worldly thinking that causes them to equate the material, physical world and its inhabitants as being real, while at the same time thinking the spiritual world and its inhabitants are somehow unreal. Such thinking does not reflect a Biblical world view. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are supernatural but real. So are the holy angels and satan and his angels. If the Bible says we fight against “principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and a spiritual host of wickedness,” then let us believe God rather than man in this matter.
Supernatural, But Not Miraculous
Some erroneously believe that in order for God to be actively at work in His creation today He would have to be performing miracles. This is just a failure to appreciate the fact that most of God's activities in both the Old and New Testaments were non-miraculous. The story of Joseph is but one of the many examples of God's non-miraculous activities. Although men, with all their lusts, jealousies, and deceptions, were exercising their free wills in the matter of Joseph, he could say, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20; 45:5-8). The Scriptures attribute David's success against the lion, bear, and Goliath to the help of God (I Samuel 17:37,45-47). Are we to label these as miraculous? The Lord was able to work a great victory through Shammah (II Samuel 23:11,12). When we stand in our own bean fields today, cannot God work victories through us without performing miracles?
The Bible tells us that God can deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13; II Thessalonians 3:3) and can open doors for us (I Corinthians 16:7; Colossians 4:2,3; Revelation 3:8). Does He? By faith we can answer, “yes.” Does He need to perform a miracle to do so? Certainly not! Therefore, we can confidently sing: “Lord I believe, yes, I believe, I cannot doubt or be deceived; the eye that sees each sparrow fall, His unseen hand is in it all.” Just because we cannot see God's providence does not mean that it is not real.
The apostle Paul prayed that Christians would have the eyes of their understanding enlightened so they could see “the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:18,19). If we will, by faith, open our eyes, we can see the spiritual reality that says, “they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (II Kings 6:16).
What is real? More than the atheistic or pantheistic world views tell us. How do we know? The Bible tells us so!
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