THE UNSEEN WORLD OF GOD
Biblical Research Monthly, January 1943
By Dr. David L. Cooper
We are to study together the subject of THE UNSEEN WORLD. In this series I shall discuss the following subjects: GOD, ANGELS, SATAN, DEMONS, SHEOL or Hades, GEHENNA, and HEAVEN. These are subjects of paramount importance. In the mad rush of everyday life, we become accustomed to dealing with the hard facts of reality and lose sight almost entirely of the spiritual realm in which we are moving. A subtle materialism with its deadening and devastating effects has gripped the world and has blinded the eyes of most people. We need therefore to have our attention called to the reality of the spiritual sphere in which we live and move and have our being, not only in time but also throughout all eternity. To this study therefore let us address ourselves.<<<< previous next >>>>
THE Scriptures nowhere attempt to prove the existence of God. On the contrary, they assume it. The reason for this attitude of mind on the part of biblical writers is that the Almighty's existence is an axiomatic truth. We do not have to argue with a small child that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. He knows this fact instinctively and proceeds upon this principle. The same child realizes that the whole consists of all its parts. For instance, if he has an apple and someone takes it from him and takes a bite of it, the child frequently cries, for he realizes that a part of the whole has been taken. Thus all axiomatic principles are self-evident and need no demonstration. Nevertheless we can by scientific methods prove even some self evident propositions. As suggested above, the biblical writers assumed that any honest heart can recognize the existence of the Almighty. In the first chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul presents a picture of the Gentile world of his day and time. Man had sunk to the very depth of sin and degradation. A visit to old Pompeii, which has been brought to light by the spade of the excavator, shows the very things and the abominable practices of evil men which are mentioned by the Apostle in the first chapter of Romans. After telling us that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believeth, Paul shows that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all types of sin and unrighteousness. Hear him:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that knowing God, they glorified him not as God neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things" (Rom. 1:18,23).
According to this passage, God has revealed the fact that His wrath is stirred against all unrighteousness of men who hinder the truth by their ungodliness. He has therefore sent the gospel, offering salvation to all who believe. In this quotation the inspired Apostle shows that there is no excuse for anyone's not believing, "For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse." Only those who are unthankful and puffed up with pride fail to recognize His eternal existence and almighty power.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). A glance at the heavens either during the day or at night will bring the conviction to any honest heart that there is a supreme, intelligent Being who is controlling all things. As a child at five and six years of age, I used to look into the heavens and meditate upon the causes lying back behind the things which I could see in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. In those early years I came to the conclusion that there was evidently a supreme, intelligent, omnipotent Being who was guiding and controlling all things. I was no different from any other child whose mind was not warped by improper teachings. Since the evidence for God's existence is overwhelming, I shall not argue further this question.
IN THINKING of the Creator we usually speak of Him as God, or the Lord, or the Almighty. Some philosophers speak of Him as the "Uncaused Cause of all things." We thus use the word God in the singular and think of the Divine Being as one person. This conception is erroneous. Let us turn to the Word of God and see what it says relative to the nature of the Divine Being. In the first sentence of the Scriptures (Genesis 1:1) we have this statement:
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In the original text, the word rendered "God" is plural, and literally means "Gods". Whenever this term occurs--and it appears hundreds of times throughout the Old Testament--and the context shows that it refers to the Supreme Being, our translators have rendered it as if it were a singular noun. On the contrary, wherever it occurs and refers to idols, it is translated correctly "gods". If it is in the plural, as it is, and is correctly rendered "gods" when it applies to idols, could it not be understood correctly as being in the plural when it refers to the Almighty? Reason answers in the affirmative. But our translators have rendered it as if it were a singular noun in order to avoid the idea of polytheism, many Gods.
This plural noun in Genesis 1:1, as in practically all places, is used with a verb in the singular number. This unusual grammatical construction is without doubt used by design lest a person might be led off into polytheism. By the use of the verb in the singular number, the unity or oneness of God is asserted. The combination of the plural noun with the verb in the singular, therefore, presents both the plurality of the Divine Persons of the Godhead and at the same time sets forth their unity, their oneness.
Israel's great confession--Deuteronomy 6:4--presents a very clear picture of this subject. Rendered literally it reads as follows: "Hear O Israel Jehovah [the Eternal One] our Gods is Jehovah a unity." This statement shows that there is a plurality of Divine Personalities and asserts that they constitute a unity. The word in the original rendered one in the usual translation of this verse simply means a unity.
This usage is seen in such a passage as Genesis 2:24 in the statement, "... and they [the woman and the man] shall be one flesh." Adam was one individual and so was his wife; nevertheless the two, according to this statement, were a unity flesh. They became a unit. In this same manner the three Divine Personalities of whom we read throughout the Scriptures are a unity. They are one in substance, essence, and being, though they are three distinct personalities. They are Jehovah the Father, Jehovah the Son, and Jehovah the Holy Spirit. Being one in nature, substance, and essence, they cooperate in all things and are one in all their designs and works.
In Matthew 3:13-17 we see Jesus at the time of His baptism on earth, God the Father in heaven speaking to Him, and God the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove and coming upon Him. Again we see the Holy Trinity in the baptismal formula as it appears in Matthew 28:19,20: "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the ends of the world."
Throughout both the prophets and the writings of the New Testament we observe frequent references to different persons of the Trinity and at times to all of them; but the passages given will suffice to set forth the doctrine that there are three persons constituting the Holy Trinity.
And we read of the Godhead, which is only another term for the Trinity, in Acts 17:29: "Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and device of man."
We again see a similar reference in Colossians 2:9:
"For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
This triune God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. These are theological terms and express great and marvelous facts.
God is all powerful. He is the one upon whom the entire universe depends. This truth is seen from the fact that He is the creator of all things. He is the beginning and the end. All things consist, or hold together, in Him. Without Him there has nothing been made which has been brought into existence. There is no other Being in the entire universe except Him; that is, there is no other spiritual being who has life, power, or existence beside the true God.
God is omniscient. He knows all things. This fact is revealed by the statement in Isaiah 46:10 regarding God, which states that He is the One, "declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." When this statement is studied in the light of all related facts, it becomes evident that Isaiah was speaking of that part of eternity which we call time, and which began with the creation of the world and will end when the present material universe passes out of existence at the end of the Millenium--the judgment of the great white throne (Rev. 20:11). Since God sees the end from the beginning, it is clear that He sees and knows everything that occurs during time. Since He knows all of these things in detail, we may infer that He knows all things throughout eternity. It is obvious that He knows all things that have occurred in the eternity of the past. From hints here and there, we may be certain that He knows all that will be throughout the ages of the ages of the future.
God is omnipresent. This fact is evident from a study of Psalm 139. From this passage we see that it is not possible to get away from the presence of the Almighty. Through Jeremiah the prophet the Spirit declared: "Am I a God at hand, saith Jehovah, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places so that I shall not see him? saith Jehovah. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith Jehovah" (Jer. 23:23,24).
The Lord speaks of Himself as inhabiting eternity as one lives in a house. See Isaiah 57:15. From these and many other passages we see that God is omnipresent--throughout the universe. We may be unable to understand the full import of such assertions but we can accept them by faith.
THROUGHOUT the Word we learn much about the character of God. One of the fullest statements concerning Himself is found in His own utterance to Moses, which is as follows: "And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth; keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the children's children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation" (Ex. 34:6,7).
This passage is indeed one of the most fundamental of all scriptural statements, because it sets forth most clearly and accurately the character of our God. We praise Him because He is what He is. Because of His real nature and character we who have fled to Jesus for refuge have an anchor that is sure and steadfast and that will hold during the most trying times of this life. May we ever walk and live, being conscious that we are in His presence, that He is keeping the records of our lives, and that He will reward us according to our deeds.