Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches About the Unseen World—and Why It Matters

Supernatural by Michael Heiser

Get your copy of Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s latest book, Supernatural—now available!

Dr. Heiser believes that as modern Christians we are “selectively supernatural.” Our modern worldview makes it difficult to recognize the full extent of the supernatural fingerprints on our Bible. While Bible scholars widely acknowledge the presence of “the divine council,” nephilim, and numerous other intersections between our world and the unseen realm in Scripture, passages like 1 Peter 3:19–20 rarely make it into sermons because to the vast majority of Christians, they are simply too foreign.

It’s far easier to skirt around difficult passages in Scripture than it is to fully adopt an ancient worldview. While some of us may be comfortable accepting that we’ve “got the gist of it” by accepting the resurrection of Christ, miracles, etc., there is an entire layer of Scripture most of us miss—and that layer matters. Heiser says, “it’s the difference between analog and HD TV.”

Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible helps shed light on the violence of the Old Testament, the Tower of Babel, the Garden of Eden, God’s plan to restore humanity to himself through Jesus, and more—and the implications will affect the way Christians think on a daily basis.

In a recent talk at Faithlife (recorded here), Dr. Heiser shared his hope for you as a reader of Supernatural. After touching on the core ideas of the book, he said:

“If you really believe that, that will change how you get up, how you approach each day. It will train your mind to think, ‘What I do matters’. . . . What I’m asking people to do is take the long look—look at your life the way God looks at it. It’s going to be a series of ripple effects that extend far beyond what you’re ever able to see, but that he sees, and he’s not the only one that’s looking, too.”

For over 20 years, Dr. Heiser has compiled and researched everything Bible scholars know about how the ancient Hebrews understood the supernatural and its influence on our world—which in turn, informed how they understood Scripture (including the passages we consider bizarre). His bibliography, largely comprised of peer-reviewed journal articles, is longer than some books. Heiser claims there is not one point he makes in the book which he cannot support with credible Bible scholarship. The trail is there for you to follow. Still, you will likely encounter new ideas and interpretations you’ve never come across before—simply because you were never exposed to it.

Together, The Unseen Realm and Supernatural represent the culmination of Dr. Heiser’s 20+ year study. So what’s the difference? The Unseen Realm shows you how the ancient Hebrew worldview affects you as a reader of the Bible. Supernatural shows you how it affects you as a believer. Or as I like to put it—The Unseen Realm contains insights and conversations you might encounter in a college classroom, while Supernatural is like chatting with Dr. Heiser over a cup of coffee. It’s a different context for the conversation. Each chapter of Supernatural ends with a “Why This Matters” section so you can take the conversation into your daily life as a Christian. As you can imagine, after 20 years and with a bibliography that long, Heiser has plenty to say about how the ancient Hebrew worldview affects modern Christians.

Here’s what he asks you to think about as you learn to read the Bible like the ancient Hebrews:

“Are you conscious of being God’s agent? . . . Are you living intentionally in ways that advance and restore the kingdom, and that defy the human and spiritual evil around you? If you really believed that you were part of a big program aimed at doing that, you would want to play a role. . . . You want to be useful because your destiny is to be reunited in an edenic, global Eden, not only with God and with Jesus, but with everybody else—divine and human—who have aligned themselves with God.”

Get your copy of Supernatural today and see for yourself what scholars say about the hidden world of Scripture.

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Get the Logos edition of Supernatural to receive the study guide for free!

Comments

    • Ryan Nelson says

      Having read both, I can tell you Supernatural is not an abridged version of The Unseen Realm.

      Supernatural isn’t purely application (Heiser has to introduce a lot of foreign concepts), but it focuses on application far more than The Unseen Realm. Each chapter has a “Why This Matters” section.

      While it is largely similar material, here’s an instance that will hopefully highlight the difference in how the material is treated:

      In The Unseen Realm, Heiser discusses the unseen realm’s role in the desert where Jesus is tempted. He provides backstory using extrabiblical texts and ancient near eastern literature to explore the significance of the desert and the reasons why the Spirit led Jesus there—which all would have been clear to the ancient Hebrew.

      In Supernatural, Heiser touches on the background of the desert but moves towards the implications it has for us as Christians, which includes talking about 1 Corinthians 5:5 (which I’ve always thought to be pretty bizarre).

      If you want Heiser’s full scholarly treatment of the supernatural, you should get The Unseen Realm. If you want a more focused exploration of how the supernatural affects us as believers, you should read Supernatural.

      I read The Unseen Realm first, and it definitely had the greatest impact on me as I’ve read the Bible since then, but Supernatural has made it a little easier to talk about it to other Christians.

      I hope this helps clear things up. Please feel free to ask any follow up questions if you have them.

  1. says

    You have to wonder, we walk by faith not by site as God states our thoughts are not his thoughts, our ways are not His ways, His are much higher, I don't believe while we're in this world that God wants us to know eveything if He did where would faith be, even Solomon wrote that God has put eternity in our hearts so we do not know the beginning or end of His works, to know God is to wonder and be amazed by all He has done, remember in Isaiah it is written that God at times has hardened hearts and minds because the time was not right for people to know the truth. I believe God reveals those things we need to know that will work toward shaping us to the image of Christ.

  2. says

    I can completely agree with the sentiment here, but I have a hard time accepting the implications.

    While it's true that we will never know everything, that shouldn't give us reason to stop learning. Could you imagine if the early church had decided that we already knew everything we needed to know about Scripture? The more we know, the more we have to be in awe of, and the more equipped we are to teach people about what Scripture is saying.

    Supernatural highlights a common thread in Scripture that Bible scholars discuss in peer-reviewed journals, but which rarely makes its way to the pulpit. This knowledge gap leaves us with passages which are "too strange" to preach on. If we can't discuss all of Scripture within the church, how are we preparing Christians to discuss Scripture outside the church?

  3. Randolph R. Harris says

    The thought of our understanding the Battle of the Unseen World is just as real as understanding our faith in God which does not have its place in denominationalism brought about by man, (Divisions in the Church, 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, The Consequences of Divisions, 1 Corinthians 3:1-4:5) .

    Understanding the Battle of the Unseen World, excursus on Daniel 10
    Although Daniel had already experienced angelic appearances, this chapter gives an unusual insight into the unseen world around us. Without much explanation in the text we can still infer that there was a battle going on between good and evil spirit beings in relation to the nations of the world. These verses have been the primary cause for conjecture about what has been termed “territorial spirits”
    and for the alleged importance in dealing with them in what has been called “spiritual warfare.” It is important that we understand the true nature of our spiritual conflict. Allegations from this chapter in Daniel touch many topics: angels, demons, and spiritual conflict. Never-the-less three truths address the
    major errors and misunderstandings about this battle of the unseen world.

    1. Spirit beings, both good and evil, exist in an unseen world around us.
    A materialistic culture denies an unseen world. A newer generation in the West accepts the idea of a spirit world, but does not distinguish between evil and good. Both are wrong.

    a. Regarding their origin all spirit beings were part of the original, good creation of God (Gen 1:31). Evil spirit beings are probably angels who, like Satan, rebelled against God.

    b. Good spirit beings are also called angels in the Bible. Those which are evil are also called demons and unclean (Mat 10:1) or evil (Lk 7:21) spirits.

    c. Both good and evil spirit beings are personal beings. They possess a will, emotions, moral responsibility, intellect, and self-consciousness (2 Sam 14:20; Job 38:7; 2 Tim 2:26). Spirit beings have no physical bodies (Lk 24:39; Eph 6:12), are without gender (Mk 12:25; Mat 19), and do not die (Luke 20:36; 1 Cor 15:54-56). They appear to have ranks ( Eph 1:20-21; 6:12; Rom 8:38). Satan is the first among evil spirit beings (Mt 12:24; 25:41). Good spirit beings worship and serve
    God (Hebr 1:6-7); evil spirit beings are destructive and oppose God.

    2. A battle is being fought in this unseen world affecting both heaven and earth.
    Failing to accept the existence of an unseen world and failing to distinguish good from evil are both dangerous. We need to recognize that a battle is going on which affects the world.

    a. It affects heaven to which Satan at the time of Job had access (Job 1:6) and from which he and his
    host will be cast out (Rev 12:6-9).

    b. It affects the earth globally as seen in the example of Daniel 10:10-21, the role of Satan as a deceiver
    of nations (Rev 20:3), and the connection between idolatry and the worship of demons (1 Cor 10:19-21).

    c. It affects individuals since Satan is an adversary seeking prey (1 Pet 5:8) and believers battle against evil spirit beings (Eph 6:10-20). Compare the Satanic attack on Job (Job 1-2).

    d. As there was a beginning, so will there be an end to this spirit conflict. Satan lost his position in heaven, was cursed after man’s fall (Gen. 3:15), was effectively defeated by the death of Christ (John 12:31; 16:11), will suffer defeat during the tribulation (Rev 12:7-12), be imprisoned during the Millennium (Rev 20:1-3), and cast finally into the lake of fire with all his angels (Rev 20:10; Mt 25:41).

    3. Scripture gives adequate explanation concerning our position in this spiritual battle.
    Awareness of the unseen world and its battle has not delivered multitudes from their fears and oppression. Victory is available in Jesus Christ but even some Christians are unaware of their own position in this battle. They either wrongly estimate the danger, or they may fail to understand what
    they have been given to ensure victory in this conflict.

    a. We should understand the extent of the our danger. Satan is out to devour us (1 Pet 5:8) although the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). No temptation comes upon us for which God does not provide a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13) but we can willingly allow ourselves to be influenced by Satan ( Acts 5:3-4). Our fallen sinful nature and its temptations are
    our greatest drive to sin (Gal 5:16-17; Jam 1:14) but Satan is the great tempter (Mt 4:3; 1 Cor 7:5 & 1 Th 3:5).

    b. We should understand and fulfill our responsibilities. Draw near to God, resist Satan and he will flee (Jam 4:7; 1 Pet 5:9). Put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:10). Pray (Eph 6:18-19). Be aware of Satan’s devises (2 Cor 2:11). Put to death sin in us (Col 3:5).

    c. We should have confidence in the sufficiency of Christ and His Word. In Christ we have all spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3). By His Word we are equipped for every good deed (2 Tim 3:17). Know that Scripture nowhere says that children of God can be demon possessed, that we must bind evil spirits, or that we must determine the names of evil spirits or identify their dominions. Knowing that there is an unseen world and a spiritual battle we should draw near to God and resist
    Satan. We do this first of all by coming to God through Jesus Christ. Only by faith in what Christ has done do we have the basis to draw near. We continue to draw close to God by being hearers and doers of the Word of God. We live truthfully, righteously and in faith. We rest in the peace and hope of our salvation.
    We pray. We put on the whole armor of God. (www.baselfellowship.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/DanielA10.pdf).

    Truly, the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19). God bless, Amen.

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