I started this book just before I was accepted into the ThD program and, of course, it was used quite frequently in that research. But, I never actually finished reading it until a week ago, so I figured it was high time I write up a review on it, especially since it is part of my DTS Angelology course I recently finished.
This book as well as the course are part of my Unschooled Master of Theology Program. You can check all of my assignments for the program here.
In actuality, especially now that I’ve had a minute to review the notes I took, I have to say this book contains a wealth of information and covers a wide area of research.
So, let’s jump in because there is a lot to cover in this review….
How I Was Introduced to Dr. Heiser’s Work
Shortly after my heart attack, I came across the Bible Project and it was through one of their podcast episodes that I discovered the work of Michael Heiser. Once the guys on the BP started talking about the Divine Council it immediately sounded an alarm in my head. I had known for quite a number of years there was something peculiar going on with Angels in the Bible. The traditional narrative typically mentions angels whenever it has to, but usually this is shrouded in cryptic language and not much else is discussed other than Satan used to be an angel, but he rebelled.
Usually this placates about 80% of the Christian population in America today. The remaining 20%, who are typically biblically literate, though, recognize there is more to the story. Revelation 12 talks about the war in heaven where Michael and his angels fought or fight against Satan and his angels and Satan loses and is cast to the earth along with 1/3 of the heavenly inhabitants. Reminiscent of Jesus’ off-handed comment, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk 10:18), it is clear, much more has occurred in this narrative of ours than has been revealed to us.
This is why I was so excited to discover Heiser’s work, as he was the first person to present an alternative to the orthodox view of angelic beings and the spiritual realm in which they inhabit. Certainly some of this topic for me was incited by Chuck Missler, who was a supporter of the angelic view of Genesis 6:2. But, his material never really discussed what the “Sons of God” really were, or why they saved would one day become the same, like the angels in heaven. But Heiser’s work on the Divine Council filled in many if not most of those nagging questions I had, and has helped put shape to what was otherwise a worldview mystery.
Now my questions focus on what comes after former things have passed away, after a new heaven and a new earth are formed, what becomes of us? Is our redemption narrative the only one in the sum total of God’s existence? Were there other redemptive narratives, such as with those we classify as Angels now? What about in the future, after we take our seats on the council, will that be it or will there be a subsequent redemption narrative with another race of beings God creates (or has already created) on another earth somewhere in the universe? Will the saved only inhabit God’s new city on earth? Wil the earth be repopulated with new Adams and Eves as was originally intended? What of the multitude of books that contain the record of everything that everyone has ever said or done? Are there supernatural libraries with researchers on God’s staff who are tasked with recording the transactions of history? Will that all end or will more need to be done to present the official transcript of God’s feats?
My hope is if able, if I manage to gain entrance into the Kingdom at all (only by the blood of the lamb would this be possible), that I can be granted the task of being responsible for a portion of God’s library (and granted access to all of his repositories), that I might be able to devote my eternity to reading and discovering the many wonders and works of our King and Savior and Father (my hope is this will be a solo gig in a far flung corner of the universe on some distant planet or, second best, a community of brothers who are devoted to the same task).
The Use of Elohim
It is an error to assume the Israelites to be polythesists because of the use of Elohim to indicate other gods, such as Psalm 82:1, “God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.” These are the many gods of the nations, but never is Israel permitted to worship any god but YHWH.
As Heiser points out, the “biblical writer would use elohim to label any entity that is not embodied by nature and is a member of the spiritual realm. This “otherworldliness” is an attribute all residents of the spiritual world possess. Every member of the spiritual world can be thought of as elohim since the term tells us where an entity belongs in terms of its nature.”
I would, again, take issue with the idea that just because the elohim are by nature members of the spiritual realm in no way and certainly does not automatically conclude they are disembodied. In many passages we see God described in bodily form, as are the angels. They are well enough material to procreate with mortal women and produce offspring (hybrid). Likewise, Jesus, after the resurrection, was indeed tangible enough that he not only encourage them to touch and handle him, but differentiated himself from from what we would consider the spiritual realm to consist of – spirits or unclear spirits or even ghosts. Jesus stated “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”” (Luke 24:39).
We are correct in asserting that spirits, appiritions, and ghosts have no material or tangible form. They are ethereal and exist somewhere between life and death, disembodiment and afterlife. But, at no point are angels or God or Jesus or even the future resurrected saints identified as being synonymous with these.
Tangible is actually the best word to use, since physical or material are not. The flesh, the material, that which matter that makes up our reality cannot enter the heavenly places, if we are to take Jesus at his word (John 3:5). But if he remains tangible after his resurrection and he is the firstfruit of what is to come (Romans 8:29), and we are to be like him (1 Jn 3:2), then it stands to reason that our resurrected bodies, after putting on immortality, will, in essence, be tangible as well.
This was an argument from Tertullian, where he states “Who will deny that God has a body, even though God is spirit? For spirit has its own unique kind of body and form.”
It is an issue of substance and God and the angels as elohim do have their own particular substance and their own particular capacities, just as humans in the material plane of existence have their own capacities and abilities and fundamental natures. Tertullian goes one step further, stating “Everything that exists is corporeal in a unique sense (sui generis); nothing is incorporeal except that which does not exist.” Of course, this is counter to what Jesus asserted, that there are spirits and they certainly would qualify under our definition of incorporeal.
The reality of the term is, elohim is not used as a rank or to define a position in a particular hierarchy. Rather it is used to distinguish sentience between the physical and non-physical dimensions.
As Hieser points out, the biblical writers were careful to assign unique terminology to YHWY that differentiate him from other elohim (Jer 32:17, 27; Pss 72:18; 115:3; Psa 95:3; Dan 4:35; 1 Kgs 22:19; Psa 148:1–5; Neh 9:6; cf. Job 38:7; Deut 4:19–20; 17:3; 29:25–26; 32:17; Jas 1:17; Psa 29:1).
Nehemiah 9:6 points to the explicit position of YHWH as not only the “Lord alone” but also as the creator of the heavens, the creator of all the host of the heavens, and the earth, the seas and all life on it.
Hierarchy of Spirit Beings
This hierarchy appears to be the formation and organization of the divine council. All members are elohim, or more specifically, other than God the Father, they are all “bene ha elohim” or “sons of God.”
Heiser points out a multi-tiered system: prince (assigned to nations of the world to level judgment), angel (messenger) minister (servant). There are also watchers (specialities), hosts (warriors), mediator (intercessor), cherubim (protectors), and seraphim (protectors).
In addition, I was elated to read his point on Genesis 1:26 and the “Let us Create humankind in our image and according to our likeness” being a reference to the presence of the divine council at creation and not singularly referring to the trinity. During my Master’s program, I was chastised by a professor for presenting this same argument and was told I had no authority to question established orthodoxy concerning the interpretation of this verse.
Michael points out that the terms angel, cherubim, and seraphim (as well any of the others) are not interchangeable. They are job descriptions, based on function not trait or similarities of kind. It is true cherubim and seraphim are never sent to deliver messages, but I have to argue that these terms are function oriented alone. Is it not quite possible that they also identify distinct segments of redemptive creation events or narratives, much like our own? We know nothing of the origin of the cherubim. Maybe they are the result of a long forgotten race of beings that underwent a redemptive story similar to ours and they took their rightful place in the divine council during their time just as we will in our time.
It is clear that cherubim have wings, but Heiser makes a quite flimsy case that Zechariah 5:8–11 does not establish wings nor the gender of angels. Though I would agree that a one off verse such as this in no way establishes female supernatural beings as part of the heavenly host or the divine council, this issue will need to be address at some point after the resurrection. Either Heiser’s assertion is true that angelic beings have no gender (I disagree), or there as of yet have been no females appointed to the council, or women undergo some sort of gender reassignment, remains to be seen. If women do enter the Kingdom of God, it will be a unique and new event when the first women steps foot into the heavenly realms.
Do angels not have a separate/opposite gender as humans do? There is evidence in the animal kingdom of a singular gendered creature. Multiple in fact. But, angels are close enough in substance to humans, if the angelic view of Genesis 6:2 be true, that they can interbreed with us. Does that mean that it is biologically possible for a human male to breed with a female angel? If such a creature even exists? If not, why not?
The assumption that angels do not have a gender because they do not need a gender is perposterous in light of Genesis 6:2. There was apparently enough forethought put into their design to at least give them the plumbing necessary to procreate. They were capable of lusting after human women. Satan has illustrated that angels are capable of harboring pride and are able to lie. Who are these inexplicable creatures and why did God not stop at their creative act? Why continue with humanity and the material realm?
Angels do not assume visible form or flesh to interact with humans. At least there is no record of this kind of transformation. There is no record of Jesus transforming from spirit to human form after the resurrection either. I would argue there is something very fundamental about their tangible forms, and their ability to interact with both spiritual and physical realms.
The Status & Purpose of Angels Today
Interestingly, Heiser’s book leaves a great deal for further study, especially in the realm of angels today and their purposes and future as well as our futures in relation to Romans 8:19 and the “revealing of the sons of God.”
How is it that we will become like them? In what ways? By substance? By function? According to hierarchy? Not to mention the questions of free will and autonomy and the potentiality of sin in the heavenly realms. It was possible at one time for Satan to rebel, for a third of heaven to follow him, for the watchers to make a choice based on the lust of their (substance?) and fall from (grace?), leaving their place within, we can only assume to be, the superset that is the preternatural dwelling place of God.
The view that sin is impossible in God’s presence or in the futures of humanity after the resurrection and the reading of the Book of Life is simply unsupportable. Logic would necessitate, though, that beyond the judgment at the day of the Lord, there would no longer be propitiation for sin as there is now (He 6:6; 2:16).
Heiser spells out several purposes for these spiritual beings still today. The governing of the world as they patrol the earth and report on the dealings of men (Zech 1:10-11). In Psalm 82 we see some or all of the divine council under indictment for improper administration. They are, after all, curious creatures, without full knowledge of human behavior or endeavor (1 Pe 1:12).
Their function is not the receiving of obeisance from human hands, but they are fellow servants of Old Testament saints, of the mystical Church, of all who “keep the words of this book” (Revelation 22:9). There is evidence of some kind of angelic worship at Colossae (2:18-23) and Qumran literature frequently mentions those who offered sacrifices to angels (cf. 1QSb 4:25, 26; 1QH 3:20–22). They claimed to have joined in the angelic worship of God, entered the heavenly realm and received visions of divine mysteries (of course, we know from Paul that these individuals were only worshiping demons in disguise – Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37; 1 Cor. 10:20).
One issue of contention, of course, is Heiser’s insistence that angels do not share in the ruling authority of Christ as will the Church. But, such claims are inconsistent with statements about human saints becoming “like the angels” and how we are “fellow servants” with them and the very fact that we will join the same council as they.
Personally, and speculatively, I don’t think angels are the focus during this (our) redemption narrative simply because they already had theirs. Once we complete ours, then the focus will shift again to a new, distinct, and separate creation, maybe on a repopulated earth or on a different planet altogether or a different sphere of reality, a foreign dimensionality, and we will humans now revealed as joining the ranks with the other Sons of God will serve in their same capacities to bring about another narrative to full fruition.
Can Angels be Saved? Rebel Again?
While reading on this subject in the book, I did some cross reading and discovered a fascinating section in the Pulpit Commentary on Hebrews 2:16 (the Pulpit Commentary has turned out to be an excellent purchase) . It is a detailed and indepth analysis of the state of angels, on their fall, on their ability to commit sin, on their natures and their dispositions. I will need to read it in more depth at a later date.
Suffice to say, though, angels, these illustrious creatures, have an existence unlike any other imaginable. Capable of as much or more evil as man, yet equipped with seemingly unimaginable powers and abilities.
One question that should be talked about that is at least brought up in the book: can angels rebel? Will they rebel again some time in the future? Once we become “like them” will we have the potentiality to rebel against God? If so, what then will be our fate?
So many questions and so few answers.
Overall, I thought the book was a well designed synopsis of the issues pertaining to angels and their natures and functions as far as we have information concerning them. Unfortunately, there were few answers to the myriad of questions I hope to one day answer. I realize that most of my questions simply have no answers at all. In fact, much of humanity today would question the very existence of angels in the first place, and whether or not angels have a similar nature to humans or if we can actually interbreed with them, really has no bearing on the true focus we should have, the hastening of the day of the Lord.
Until my next review…..
Excerpt from The Light Aurora:
The door’s lock released and Dr. Lewis looked around at each of them.
“Stay close, and be ready for anything. I’m not sure if they’re all in the Command Center or if they are trying to secure Level 4. Hell, they could all be evacuating.”
He stared at Scott as he came up onto the landing.
“Let’s go,” Scott said.
Dr. Lewis pushed the door open and walked out into the hall, followed by the others – in ones and twos.
Level 2 was similar to the other level, with a long corridor, doors on either side, all with security displays recessed into the wall next to them.
But, as they entered the corridor, Scott’s breath caught in his throat.
As he stood there with the others, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
In front of them, probably no more than a few yards away, were three bodies lying on the floor. One was sitting up against the wall, the side of his face melted, exposing his right eyeball and a good portion of his right skull.
Another one was laying face down, his entire back opened up at the spine, as if his spinal cord had been ripped out of him from behind.
The last one was a few more feet away from the others, on his back, his eyes seared from his head, black, burnt flesh where his eyes used to be.
The intercom came back to crackling life.
Derrick said over the intercom.
“Don’t worry. You can answer,” he said. “I can hear you.”
Scott looked up, then fixed his gaze on the security camera at the end of the corridor.
“Yes?” Scott finally asked.
There was a pause, static.
“What are you doing, Derrick?” he asked. “Did you do this?”
“Indeed,” Derrick said, coming back on.
“They refused to help me.”
“What are you trying to do, Derrick?” Scott asked.
There was another pause.
“I want to go home, Professor,” the boy said.
“Yes,” Derrick said, his tone soaked with some other-worldly confidence that did not belong in an innocent, ten year old boy.
“I want to go home, Professor,” he said again. “Would you be interested in coming home with me?”
Buy the entire story The Light Aurora today and get ready for the thrill ride of a lifetime! What is this foreign and hostile place these strangers find themselves in? What does it all mean? Will all of them survive?
Click here and grab your copy today! All three books in one!
But, trust me when I say, reading this book will change your life forever.