Satan, Demons, Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual warfare, what is it and how do we engage in it? The Bible has a lot to say about spiritual beings, both good and evil. However, many of us are very uncomfortable thinking about spiritual forces, especially demons and “the satan.” This episode of the Radically Christian Bible Study Podcast aims to address these perplexing issues and provide biblical insight into this often-misunderstood aspect of the Christian faith.

Eric Ramsur and Wes McAdams the biblical narrative, starting from the creation account in Genesis, and explore the concept of the divine council, where God interacts with other spiritual beings called “Elohim.” The conversation also examines the rebellion of some of these beings against God’s authority and their subsequent influence on humanity and the nations. Furthermore, the episode sheds light on the role of Satan, the accuser, and the reality of demonic forces as presented in both the Old and New Testaments. Practical guidance is offered on how we can engage in spiritual warfare by aligning ourselves with the Holy Spirit.

The guest for this episode is Eric Ramseur. He and his wife, Brianna, have four children. They reside in Virginia Beach and love working with the church for its growth and mending relationships in their community. Eric’s deep understanding of Scripture and his passion for exploring the often-overlooked aspects of the biblical narrative make him an excellent guide through this complex and fascinating topic.

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Transcript (Credit: Beth Tabor)

Welcome to the Radically Christian Bible Study Podcast. I’m your host, Wes McAdams. Here we have one goal: Learn to love like Jesus. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about spiritual warfare. What is it, who are we fighting against, and how is it that we go about engaging in spiritual warfare? My guest today is Eric Ramseur. He and his wife and four children live in Virginia Beach. They love working with the church for its growth and mending relationships in their community. I know that you are going to be incredibly blessed by the things that Eric has to share. He is a brilliant theologian and a wonderful disciple of Jesus, and I know that you’re all going to be blessed by his thoughts. 

I want to start today by reading Ephesians 6, starting in verse 10. Paul says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” 

I hope that you enjoy this conversation today and, as always, I hope that it helps all of us learn to love like Jesus. 

WES: Eric Ramseur, welcome to the podcast, Brother.

ERIC: Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

WES: I am so excited to have this conversation. We were talking before we hit record, and we could have just, I think, kept on talking. This is a subject that I’m incredibly fascinated by, I have a growing appreciation for, but I feel like my mind is constantly being bent by some of these factors. In fact, we started this conversation via message because I wrote an article on idolatry, and that kind of ‑‑ I used the phrase “false gods” and you wrote to me. We kind of went back and forth on some of that, and I said, hey, let’s get on the podcast and talk about it. So let’s kind of paint a picture for people about the story of the Bible and the worldview that we should have when we think about not only scripture, but when we think about life and the world.

ERIC: Yeah, sure. So I think we have to start at the beginning. I think most stories work out better that way. So what I want to do is paint a picture of what God’s intention was for creation and then bring it forward to where we are and then, ultimately, where it’s going. So God’s original intention, from Genesis 1, was to work with a partner. And so, in the first chapter of Genesis, we have the creation story, and you’ll see that creation story mirrored in other places and told in different ways. One thing that I think people should really look into is Psalm 104 and how the creation narrative is kind of flipped on its head and it turns more into an anti‑Babylonian story. 

But we start in Genesis 1 and we have the creation, and we find that we have the creation of the light first, but then we’re going to have the creation of the stars and the moon and the sun, but they’re called the great light and the lesser light, and so those lights are to rule in the skies. And so whenever we see that ruling language, that’s kingship language, and that’s going to also follow on to the creation of mankind, and so male and female, we are to rule, but we’re all delegates of Yahweh, of God the Creator. We don’t have rule of ourselves; we’re delegated rule. And we ‑‑ most of us know the story of what happens in Genesis 3 with what we call “the fall,” but there, there’s a spiritual and a human rebellion that take place, and we find that there’s an exile. And the story of the Bible turns out to be that God is trying to bring us back from exile to what Isaiah and what Peter are going to call the new heavens and the new earth.

And so we have another rebellion in Genesis 6, and we’ll probably get more into this, where the sons of God see that the daughters of men are beautiful, or they see that the daughters of men are good, and they take them for themselves, and from there, chaos ensues. God says I’m wiping everything clean, and there’s another exile that ends up taking place, but it’s an actual death. And so we have Noah, whose name literally means “comfort,” or “rest,” and God wants someone to bring rest to not just the land ‑‑ it’s the reason Noah is named Noah, according to his father, and God wants someone who can finally bring rest. 

And so we find this narrative throughout the Old Testament of David, Solomon, even Daniel ‑‑ these are all people who are supposed to bring rest to the land, but there are these players in the background, and we’re going to see them every once in a while. We’re going to refer to them as maybe those things that are unseen. We’ll call them sons of God, things like that. And so you have these players in the background, both on God’s side and the side of who we’re going to call “the Satan” or just some kind of spiritual evil. And so this story, of course, progresses, and the people of Israel go after these other gods, these other sons of God who were delegated authority all the way back in Genesis 1, but they’re also going to be given authority in the Tower of Babel story, and we can look more into that. 

And so the story of the Bible is bringing us back from exile, but also God reclaiming what he had let go, and I know that’s a strange thought for people, so hang on ‑‑ we’ll get to it ‑‑ but that’s ultimately what Jesus is about whenever you get to the Great Commission. He says go into all the nations. Why do we need to go into all the nations? Because we’re going to make disciples. And then Paul’s going to pick up on that and talk about the principalities and the powers and how the Gentiles are under them. And the message of the gospel, the good news, is to bring those people back into the fold of God. When Jesus says, I have sheep that aren’t of this fold, that’s who he’s talking about, but they’re under powers that have to be taken out of the way, and we do that through spiritual warfare, which we can talk about more.

WES: Yeah. Oh, you laid it out so beautifully. And I think where I was struggling until fairly recently was the idea ‑‑ not necessarily the story or even how we play into the story, because as anybody who’s listened to this podcast for very long knows, I don’t subscribe to this God’s going to destroy everything physical and whisk us away to some spiritual, ethereal realm, and

God doesn’t care about this physical planet and all of his creation. I very much have always believed ‑‑ or not always, but for a very long time have believed in the redemption of creation and that we were created to rule and reign with God over creation and all of these things. But what I have dismissed or ignored in the storyline is the forces of evil that have been aligned with the Satán. And you pronounced it that way, so maybe give people an idea of what is the Satan, and why add the word “the” in front of it and, you know, who is this character and how does he play into the story?

ERIC: Yeah. So this is one of those things that I wish I had learned all the way back in preaching school, but it’s a wonderful discovery along the way, and it just deepens your understanding of the forces that are against you but also the forces that are for you, per Elisha. So the Satan ‑‑ the reason I say “the Satan” is because I think only one time in the New Testament are you going to find the word “Satan” without the definite article. And so what happens in the Hebrew language, also the Greek language, is that you never find a personal name with a definite article, so I wouldn’t be referred to as “the Eric” or “the Chuck.” You would just call me “Eric” or “Chuck.” And so the question is, why does this word, “Satan,” have to have a definite article? And, really, the answer is plain. It’s because he is an accuser, and so that’s the role that this spiritual being, who John is later going to tell us it’s the dragon, it’s the serpent that was in the garden ‑‑ that’s the accuser. And we later find this accuser, the Satan, actually performing this role in the book of Job, in Job chapter 1, where we have this divine council there, the sons of God coming up to Yahweh, and the Satan also comes and accuses Job, and from there, you get the story of Job.

WES: Yeah. So let’s ‑‑ you’ve mentioned this phrase “the sons of God” several times, and this is where it may get a little controversial for people, and this is one of the ones that I’ve really struggled with. You have this sort of bizarre story in Genesis, and you’ve already kind of alluded to it, that the sons of God have children with the daughters of men and there’s the Nephilim and, you know, what is this all about? I have tended towards interpretations over the years, although obviously I’m getting away from that ‑‑ but I’ve tended towards interpretations over the years that define “sons of God” as just, well, these were the spiritual descendants of Seth as opposed to the descendants of Cain, and these were the good men having children with, intermarrying with the bad women, and that’s what the story is about. But there is a very longstanding tradition that there’s a whole lot more going on here, and what we’re talking about is spiritual beings and not human beings.

ERIC: That’s right. Whenever you get into books like First Enoch ‑‑ I’m not claiming that First Enoch is inspired, but I do believe that it’s important. Jude seems to think that it’s important. Paul regularly references it. Jesus quotes from the book of Enoch, as well as the book of Hebrews. And so I’m not claiming that it’s authoritative or inspired, but it seems to pick up on something that Peter’s going to say, “You know, you’re right about that.” And then we get 2nd Peter 3, where Peter alludes to both the book of Enoch, but also Isaiah, with the destruction of the elements. I know that it’s often taught ‑‑ and there may be some recordings of me in the past where I’ve taught ‑‑ that it was the elements of this earth are going to be burned up. But Enoch and Isaiah seem to be saying that, per Isaiah 34, it’s actually those hosts of heaven who had rebelled against God who are going to be destroyed. 

And Enoch talks about, you know, there’s this pit of fire that’s been prepared for Azazel. We also get Azazel back in Leviticus 16, and that’s a real interesting story. And so this pit’s been prepared where he’s going to burn and be ultimately destroyed, as well as all of the angels who rebelled with him and taught men all things like metallurgy and music and things of that nature. And so Peter picks up on that and uses that to talk about the rebellion in Genesis in 2nd Peter 3, and John does the same thing with the Satan, putting him in the Azazel seat.

WES: So when we hear this phrase “the sons of God,” we’re supposed to picture ‑‑ I think that most people would say angels, although that’s probably not the best word. So how should we think of the sons of God?

ERIC: So whenever we say you are ‑‑ let’s just take Jesus with the Jews in John 8. That’s an easy one for us to wrap our minds around, and then we can apply it back to sons of God, where they say that “We’re children of Abraham,” and Jesus looks at them and tells them to examine their works. And he tells them, “No, you aren’t a son of Abraham. If you were a son of Abraham, you would do the things that Abraham did, but instead, you are a son of the devil because of your works.” And so the sons of God ‑‑ it’s not that God procreated with women, as the sons of God do in Genesis 6, but it’s that they are of a like nature with God. They are also called Elohim, and “Elohim” is just the Hebrew word for god, but it’s also a plural word for god, or gods. And so whenever we see the words “Son of God” in the New Testament, it’s mostly referring to Jesus as the Son of God in the sense that he’s the one who was given kingship, per Psalm 2:6‑7 and other places, but “the sons of God,” it’s that they are of a like nature with God. 

There are also spiritual beings, and kind of an interesting side note ‑‑ and we can go there if you want ‑‑ in Exodus 24, where Moses is giving the law ultimately to the children of Israel and they say, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and we will be obedient,” and then he writes them down and they say, “All that Yahweh has said we will do, and we’ll be obedient” ‑‑ after that, Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and 70 of the elders, they go up onto this mountain, and it says that they saw Elohim of Israel, and we know that’s God, that’s Yahweh.  But then it says that they saw Elohim. But you just told me that before. Why are you telling me again that they saw Elohim?  And the answer actually lies in Deuteronomy 33:1 and 3, but particularly, in the Septuagint, it lays out that it wasn’t just Yahweh up there on the mountain; there were also myriads of angels. And so whenever they see Elohim, or the sons of Elohim, they’re actually eating and dining with Yahweh and angels, which is how covenants in the ancient Near East took place. The people would agree to a covenant, and then it wouldn’t be just normal people, it would be the king who would go up on a mountain and eat with the god and his divine council in order to ratify the covenant, and then the people would get one of the tablets with the law on it and then the god would keep one. And it’s interesting that both tablets end up in the Ark of the Covenant because God wants to have that free‑flowing relationship with mankind. 

So we shouldn’t be afraid when we see the words “sons of God.” God isn’t doing something underhanded. It’s just that the sons of God are of a like nature. So that’s a long way of answering your question.

WES: No, I think that’s really helpful. So kind of to sum up where we are, I think, so what you’re saying is that, in the creation, that there is the world that we can see, there’s the earth, but there’s also the heavenly realm, the unseen realm, as Michael Heiser puts it in his book.  And in the unseen realm, in the heavenly places, there are Elohim, plural. There is the chief Elohim, the Elohim, the Lord of Lords, the God of Gods, and so Yahweh is the Elohim who is unlike any other Elohim. He is in a category of his own. But scripture doesn’t dismiss the idea that there are other Elohim, and I think that that’s what is really kind of shocking for a lot of people, because sometimes people, I think, use or think Elohim is specific to Yahweh rather than this general word similar to our English word “god.” We could talk about “the God,” and for Christians, we worship only one God, but we also acknowledge that other peoples worship gods, lower g, but it’s different because our word “God” is singular, whereas this word Elohim is ‑‑ in its natural state, it is plural. And I think what is interesting is you have to pay attention to the context ‑‑ the translators, rather, have to pay attention to the context in interpreting is this the Elohim, singular, or is this Elohim, plural? And sometimes there’s disagreement. 

I was thinking about a passage, Deuteronomy 32:17. It says, “They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,” that were no Elohim. Now, that’s how the ESV translates it. It translates it “that were no gods, to gods they had never known.” So the ESV is kind of self‑contradictory because you stop and say, well, wait a second. “They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods that they had never known.” Well, wait a second. Are they Elohim or are they not Elohim? Well, the other translations probably do a better job with it. NIV, New American Standard say, “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently whom your fathers had never dreaded.” 

So the Bible affirms that there are other gods, that there are other Elohim. Not to say that they are ‑‑ that they are God in the same way that Yahweh is God, but there are other spiritual beings in the unseen realm, and our worship and devotion belongs exclusively to Yahweh, just as Israel’s was supposed to belong exclusively to Yahweh, but that there are other Elohim in the heavenly realms. Kind of walk us through that. Maybe expand on that or clarify anything I’ve gotten wrong.

ERIC: Okay. Well, I think you got all that right, but I think the thing to remember here is, one, that even passages that say ‑‑ and I know people listening are thinking, well, doesn’t it also say that Yahweh is God and there is no other? And yes, absolutely. Whenever we look at phrases like that ‑‑ and we also have phrases that say Yahweh is the God of gods ‑‑ what happens is, especially when I was in preaching school, we would just kind of wave that away and say, well, what they mean is idols, and idols aren’t really a thing, there aren’t really other gods. But ask yourself the question: Would I say that God is the God of nothing? Absolutely not. And so there has to be some kind of way to rectify those two things that seem opposing. 

And so phrases like “there is no other,” that’s also what Babylon says about itself as far as being the city above all cities in Isaiah 47. And Yahweh is actually saying this is what they say about themselves, and they’re not just placing themselves as the city of all cities, but they’re also placing themselves in the place of Yahweh. And so what we see there isn’t necessarily that God is saying “I am the only Elohim,” but it’s that “I am above all other Elohim,” and that’s the claim from chapter 1 of Genesis to the very end of the Bible, when we get to Revelation.

I find Deuteronomy 32 very interesting because it’s kind of the summation of Moses’ life, but it’s also a song. It’s him writing poetically about something that has already happened in the past and is going to be the narrative of the book of Joshua, where, in Deuteronomy 32:8‑9, if we back up a couple of verses ‑‑ and we’ll probably get more into this ‑‑ it actually lays out that Yahweh gave possession of the nations to these sons of God, these other Elohim, so that they would rule, but there was a way that he wanted them to rule that they didn’t. They didn’t rule with mercy and with good judgment. And so it lays out that Yahweh’s portion ‑‑ or out of all of the nations, out of all of the 70 nations that were named in Genesis 10, Yahweh’s portion is Israel. And so, if you want, we can dive more into that.

WES: Yeah, yeah. I think, just to kind of clarify just a little bit and to kind of go back to what you said, the way that you read it in preaching school ‑‑ and it tends to be the way that I’ve always read it ‑‑ is I’ve read it, you might say, as accommodative language, where the authors, whether it be in the Psalms, or whether it be here in Deuteronomy, that they were just accommodating the idea of these, quote‑unquote, so‑called gods, and that they weren’t actually affirming that these gods existed.

There’s actually a scholar, John H. Walton ‑‑ I tend to really appreciate Walton’s work and I really appreciate his perspective on things, but he and his son did a book on demons and on these other Elohim and just spiritual beings in general, and he and Heiser kind of went back and forth on these different perspectives. And, at first ‑‑ I kind of went down a rabbit hole, and, at first, I really thought, yes, Walton, he’s saying what I’ve always said, is that these gods don’t exist. These other spiritual beings don’t exist, that God is really the only spiritual being, other than these lesser beings of angels and, you know, whatever. But he almost went so far as to deny the demonic forces, and I think that that’s where I was like, okay, well, I can’t hang with you anymore, and I really ‑‑ I’m starting to see things more from Heiser’s perspective, that there really is something going on, that when these nations, or Israel themselves, are sacrificing to these other Elohim, they’re sacrificing to ‑‑ Deuteronomy says to demons, and Paul agrees in 1 Corinthians.  He says in chapter 10 that they are sacrificing to demons. There are actual spiritual beings. Satan is an actual spiritual being. These other angels, demonic forces, these other Elohim are actual spiritual beings, and we have to be really careful that we don’t so demystify the world and the story of scripture that we deny the existence of spiritual forces and powers and rulers in the unseen realm.

ERIC: That’s right. One of the things that I like to do ‑‑ it’s kind of a social experiment within the church ‑‑ is talk to preachers and see, “How many times have you preached on the armor of God?” And everyone will say “Yes.” And I say, “Well, what is it and why do you need it?” Like, “Well, uh, I don’t know.” But whenever you look back in Isaiah, at Isaiah 59, it’s God’s armor, and it’s not God’s armor to go to battle with just Babylon, physical people in Babylon; it was about a spiritual battle that was going to take place between himself and the other Elohim. And so back in chapter 58 the people needed to take up fasting and Sabbath again, and God says I’m going to be the rear guard for you as you exit Babylon. And then chapter 59, he says, there’s no one to go to war for you and so I’m going to do it myself. I’m going to put on the helmet; I’m going to put on the chest plate. And from there, there’s really no question that God saw a real battle in the spiritual realm that was going to affect what goes on on the earth. 

And then Paul picks up on that, and he says, you know, you families, husbands and wives, you need to love each other and respect each other and be subject to each other. You need to be singing and making melody in your hearts, and you need to be filling yourselves with the Holy Spirit so that you can take up this armor. Fathers, don’t provoke your children to anger.  Children, you need to make sure that you obey your parents.  Masters and slaves, all of that, that’s not just so that we can have good lives. It’s because there is a spiritual battle that’s going to take place, and he says the battle isn’t with anyone who looks like you. It’s not flesh and blood. It’s a spiritual battle.

WES: Yeah. Let’s come back to that in just a second. Let’s kind of flesh out just a little bit about this idea of the spiritual rebellion, that there was or is a divine council. Even that phrase we could kind of work on if we wanted to, but that God is in the midst of this divine council. I like the way that Heiser specifies God doesn’t need a council, you know, but God also doesn’t need human beings. He doesn’t need us, but he chose to partner with us and work with us just as he chose, apparently, to work with a divine council and often he asks their opinion. He asked for them to weigh in on how he goes about things. He allows them to participate. But, apparently, there was a rebellion in this divine council. There was a rebellion with these Elohim that rebelled against the rule and reign of God. So kind of walk through maybe the rebellion and the dividing of the nations amongst these other Elohim.

ERIC: Okay. So, again, let’s go back to Genesis 1. Yahweh says that there needs to be a light in creation, and he divides the day and the night. But then he says, you know, there needs to be something to rule the day and the night. And so, from there, we see the stars and the great light and the lesser light. And what these stars end up being is a representation. He says let them be for a sign, signs of festivals and of seasons. Whenever we see the word “season,” sometimes we think of spring, summer, fall, winter, but seasons are actually having to do with the seven festivals that Israel is going to celebrate, and so these lights in the sky, essentially astrology ‑‑ I know that’s kind of a sore topic, especially within the churches of Christ ‑‑ but for Israel, it was how they made their living. It’s how they knew when the seasons were going to change. It’s how they knew when to harvest, when to stop, and things of that nature, when to celebrate, and so that’s what these stars are going to do. 

But Jeremiah, as well as Moses, are going to say the stars are not just signs for those things, but the nations are going to look at the stars as something to fear, as something to worship, but Israel, you don’t do that.  And we find this in Deuteronomy 4, verses 15 through ‑‑ I think it’s 15 through 17, where Moses says don’t look up there, don’t look under the sea, don’t look at any of the animals, don’t pay attention to the stars because there’s something there that you all want to worship, but Yahweh is your God. Those other things in the sky, those are for the other nations. And so we find this rebellion, not just on ‑‑ I like to call them pages ‑‑ page 6 and Deuteronomy ‑‑ or, sorry, Genesis 6, with the sons of God. As Peter is going to say, they left their proper abode.  They saw that ‑‑ well, let me not speculate. There’s something that they saw that they wanted that God wasn’t giving them, and so it’s this abundance‑versus‑scarcity theme that happens throughout the Bible. It’s not just a human problem; it’s also a divine problem, and so they take on responsibility that wasn’t given to them. They take the place that man had to reproduce and to fill the land, and they take it upon themselves. 

And then we find, in Genesis 11, another rebellion. This is the third rebellion, where ‑‑ there are different theories on this, whether or not the tower of Babel was being built so that gods could come down, so that man could go up, so that man could ascend back to this garden‑like existence ‑‑ because at the top of mountains were gardens; that’s where the gods lived. But there’s also a theory that this mountain, or this tower, was supposed to be more of a watchtower because that’s the word that’s used. It’s a tower for watchers, which is interestingly another name for the sons of God that we’re going to find in the book of Daniel, as well as in Enoch and other second‑temple literature.  

But all of these rebellions ‑‑ we have human rebellion and then we have spiritual rebellion, and then, at one point, in Genesis 11, there’s a co‑rebellion where it seems like man wants to go up and the sons of God want to come down. And so Yahweh says, let us go and see what’s going on. And the whole “let us” thing, that’s another conversation. Is it the Trinity talking to itself or is it Yahweh talking to his divine council? I’m not necessarily decided on that one, so I don’t want to go too far into that. But all of these rebellions point to mankind disavowing our own place in creation, where God wanted to rule, with us, the things on the earth and in the skies and under the water. And the divine council, or at least the sons of God, those who are ‑‑ we might call them angels today, but we can talk more about that language ‑‑ they saw that there was something God was holding back from them, and they wanted to take it for themselves, and Yahweh punishes them.

WES: Yeah. Well, then even when you get to the New Testament ‑‑ I’m preaching a series right now on the kingdom of God, and it’s really occurred to me here recently how, again, we have sort of taken the rulers and powers and authorities of evil out of the story of the Bible, out of the story of the gospel. But if you just read the gospel accounts, just sit down and read the gospel accounts, you will see how, over and over again, it begins with Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness. He goes head to head with the Satan. And then, throughout the entire gospel account, he is casting out demons. He is healing people who are said to be in bondage to the devil, in bondage to the Satan. And so over and over again, what he’s doing is going to war against Satan’s kingdom in order to reclaim territory for Yahweh so that Yahweh can rule and reign. This is kingdom language. It’s ruling and reigning language. And then he gives that authority to his disciples to step on the scorpions, to crush the head of the serpent, to go and to cast out demons, and he gives that authority to them. And then we see that even carrying on ‑‑ you mentioned Ephesians 6 earlier ‑‑ in Paul’s language, that we are now ‑‑ and it’s amazing when you go back to Isaiah, as you pointed out, that God allows us to wear his armor and to also participate with him in wrestling against the authorities and the powers and the principalities of darkness, that we’re not going to war against human beings, but we very much are in a spiritual battle with demonic forces. 

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how do we engage in spiritual warfare, and sort of, maybe, what are the extremes that we want to avoid? Because I do think that there are sort of the extremes of, on the one hand, just some pretty bizarre ideas about how you engage in spiritual warfare, and then, on the other hand, just a total dismissal that there is any spiritual warfare in which to engage.

ERIC: Yeah. So something ‑‑ or a book that I would recommend is the Celebration of Discipline. Let me see. I have it on my shelf.

I can’t reach it, but it’s the Celebration of Discipline by ‑‑ I can’t remember his first name. His last name is Foster. But if we’re going to fight a spiritual war, we have to be in tune with the spiritual disciplines. And my family, every single week, we gather around the table for Sabbath. And it’s not a ‑‑ it’s not about following law. I want to make that clear. I don’t believe that we’re receiving any kind of grace through keeping something that we see as law, as Torah. It was a gift given to Israel where they got to commune not just with each other, but also spend that time with God reflecting upon the Exodus, but also the creation and the new creation to come. 

And so, as a formative sort of thing, my family, we engage in this Sabbath where we reflect upon our previous week, those times where we fell victim, where we gave ourselves up as prey. And then we talk about the things that we want to do in the next week and how each of us is going to be a part of that spiritual warfare for the others. And that was a journey with kids, let me tell you. They didn’t necessarily see the value of it until we actually got into a rhythm of it. 

So, you know, not just Sabbath, but also prayer, silence and solitude. That’s a huge one, where it’s just you and God having a conversation, and you may not hear him audibly, but as you go throughout your week, after talking to God, and you find those moments where you’re confronted with the thing that you were fearing in your prayer, you know that God was there and that God’s with you in that moment. And so, you know, reading scripture, reading scripture communally, that’s huge. I love sermons, I love classes, but I would replace it all in a heartbeat to listen to scripture and to read scripture with my brothers and sisters. No sermonizing on top of it; just listen. We’re listening for not just context, but also the content that’s going to walk us throughout our Christian journey together. 

The communal aspect of the church ‑‑ I believe we could do better, where we’ve become so individualized. We take Paul’s words, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” and we say, oh, that’s just me. But we forget Philippians 4, where he’s talking about these two women that the whole church has to help get right. It’s not an individual endeavor; it’s a communal experience. And so I really believe that if we were all dedicated to those spiritual disciplines, if we had ‑‑ I’ll say the dreaded two words ‑‑ small groups that were dedicated to walking daily with each other, searching the scriptures together, praying, breaking bread together ‑‑ I think that’s a very biblical concept, where we can extinguish the fiery darts of the Satan.

WES: Eric, man, this can’t be the last time I have you on the podcast because this has just been so rich, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts. I remember I was speaking to some college students recently and I was talking about some of the same stuff that you were just saying about spiritual warfare and alignment with the Holy Spirit, that we have to ‑‑ yes, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us when we become Christians, but over and over again, the apostles tell people to walk by the Spirit, to keep in step with the Spirit. There is this language that you have to be intentional about aligning yourself with him, and you have to be intentional about engaging in this warfare so that you don’t give Satan a foothold, so that you don’t give him space, so that he doesn’t tempt you. 

But the things that we actually do to engage in spiritual warfare, as I went through the list of Ephesians 6, I kind of

jokingly said, well, Wes, it sounds like what you’re saying is, you know, go to church, read your Bible, say your prayers. Really? And it’s like, yes, really, the things that we’ve been doing for 2,000 years. It’s not any of this sort of wacky stuff that you might think of when you think of spiritual warfare. It is these disciplines, it is this rule of life where we are walking with Jesus. And I think, so often, even the spiritual armor that we see in Ephesians 6 ‑‑ when I was a kid, in Bible class there was often a poster on the wall that would have, you know, somebody in armor, and I think, so often, we focus on the metaphor rather than what Paul was saying. We focus on the helmet and the breastplate and the shield and the sword and the belt, and it’s like, wait, but what he’s talking about is the word of God and prayer and salvation and the gospel and righteousness. These are the things that protect you from the evil one, and it’s the gift that God gave you. And when you have this spiritual armor, you don’t have to fear evil. You can resist the devil and he will flee from you. You don’t have to be afraid of him. And I think if we read Ephesians 6 and we walk away from it afraid of the evil one, we’re reading it wrong or we’re just not practicing it, because if we’re walking by the Spirit and we’re practicing these things, then we don’t have to be afraid.

ERIC: That’s right. My mind often goes to Hebrews 10 as far as what the gathering actually does and what we’re supposed to be doing in our gatherings, whether it’s Sunday or Monday morning, getting together for coffee with a brother or sister who’s struggling, or maybe they’re at the highest place they’ve ever been spiritually and I’m not. It’s about stirring one another up to love and good works and encouraging one another all the more as we see the day drawing near. And when we read through Hebrews ‑‑ Hebrews is kind of my preaching hobby horse so I have to be careful, but back in chapters 3 and 4 he’s talking about this ultimate Sabbath that’s going to come this day. He says today, as long as it’s still called today, we need to be convicted. We need to be watching out for each other. Don’t fall into the same temptation that Israel did in the wilderness. And that’s also kind of along the lines of this spiritual warfare that Israel fell prey to. He says, but there is a day coming, a day of rest, that you all need to be prepared for, and that’s what our coming together is about. It’s about this future day. It’s not just about, you know, punching the clock. “Well, I’ve led this many sermons this year; therefore I’m good.” Or “I made it through my sermon series,” or “My kids sat perfectly, like little angels.” It’s about what we do in that moment to prepare us for the eternal rest, and that begins with week after week. Sometimes it’s a drudge, but once we get into a rhythm with each other, it’s a blessing.

WES: Yeah, amen. I think that’s a great place to stop because you have stirred me up. You have encouraged me, Brother. Thank you for this conversation. I hope that people find it encouraging.  What resources, maybe Michael Heiser or others, would you recommend? If people want to study this more, where would you encourage people to turn?

ERIC: I would go to, as well as pick up Michael Heiser’s book. I’m not being paid to say this. Unfortunately, Michael Heiser passed away almost a year ago today. So pick up his book, The Unseen Realm. That’s more of his scholarly take. It more aligns with his dissertation. He also has more accessible books called Angels; he has a book called Demons, and a book called Supernatural. I have some of his other books here. One’s called The Bible Unfiltered. It’s really accessible. It’s three pages about one topic, and he’s really just asking us ‑‑ and this is something that I think we could do really well, is let the Bible be what the Bible is. Don’t try to color it with our modern interpretation, with our interpretations of science today, or even our understandings of science, because that’s not what the Bible was trying to convey. And then one last one, it is a dissertation. It’s called The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature. It’s by E.T. Mullen. This is his dissertation, so it’s difficult, but if you want to see how Israel’s divine council ‑‑ how that idea is also found in Canaanite cultures and Ugaritic cultures, Assyrian cultures, it’s a fantastic book.

WES: Awesome. I’ll link to all of that in the show notes so that people can access it. And I would say, too, that the Bible Project has some very simple videos that are really helpful explainers that, even for kids, could help them to understand exactly what we’re up against, I want to say, but also, at the same time, the power that is with us. Jesus has overcome the world, and so we have nothing to fear, but we do need to know what Jesus has done, what he is doing, and what he will do.

ERIC: Yeah, absolutely. Those Bible Project videos were very helpful for our youth group. They have a podcast series that’s just called God ‑‑ if you download the Bible Project app and find their series called God

But also, if you don’t mind, I want to encourage people to really dig into their Bibles, not just for quirkiness, but this has real‑life, everyday consequences because we’re talking about your spiritual life, which isn’t separated from your work life, it’s not separated from your family life. Paul is very clear in Ephesians 5 and 6, that it’s your whole life, and if our whole life is spiritual warfare, we need to be looking in scripture for examples of how Jesus dealt with spiritual warfare, how Daniel dealt with spiritual warfare, with the princes coming to him ‑‑ the princes over the nations. That ought to cause us a little bit of pause whenever we are talking about the world powers and how all of that works. God is over all, so our everyday life matters. Every decision we make is spiritual warfare.

WES: Yeah, amen. And in addition to dig into your Bible, don’t skip over the parts that seem weird or the parts that you don’t understand or that don’t line up with where you currently are or what you currently understand. I think we have such a tendency to do that, to say, well, that seems strange or I don’t know that I understand that, or that doesn’t fit with the paradigm that I already have, and so we just dismiss it, and we’re leaving a lot on the table. A lot that we don’t understand, we do that.

ERIC: That’s right. Heiser said, “If it’s weird, it’s important,” and that has guided me through my Bible study.

WES: I love it. Well, Eric, thank you so much again, Brother. Thank you for this conversation and for all you’re doing in the kingdom, Brother.

ERIC: Thank you so much. This was awesome.

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