Book Review: The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael Heiser

I received a copy of Dr. Michael Heiser’s The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible.  It will be released on September 1 and I highly recommend it and the companion book that will be released in December.

Dr. Heiser provides an ancient understanding to the supernatural world of the Bible and lays the foundation for understanding the now/not yet nature of the Kingdom of God.

If we had an ancient Israelite sitting with us here in the room, and if we asked each other and that fellow, ‘What does this or that passage mean? How do we read it? What goes off in your head when your read these words?’

His answer’s going to be a lot different than what our answers would be. Especially when we’re in some text that we think is really strange, or odd, or just plain weird or even scary, because of the supernatural presuppositions behind it. – Michael Heiser, in the trailer to The Unseen Realm

If you take the Bible seriously,  then you should read this book. It’s geared towards Christian pastors, clergy, teachers, and people who have a love of the Bible and don’t mind jumping into a journey through the Bible through fresh, supernatural eyes.

It’s heavily sourced and has a companion website that will have thousands of additional references.

The companion book, Supernatural, will present the same information, but will be geared more towards regular people who don’t need the sources or explanations.

On My Journey to Understand What Seers See

Years ago, when I started on the journey to understand why my daughter and some other people could literally see demons and angels and other things in the spirit realm, I figured I should look at what the Bible said about these things.

I knew the Bible quite well, but actually did not understand it from the perspective that it was written. I tended to interpret the Bible through modern, naturalistic eyes, filtered through the theology of my church’s denomination.

I required a worldview change when reading this ancient text.

Unseen Realm Quote

Studying Scriptures Afresh

Dr. Michael Heiser is a Bible scholar who has a mission to help people understand the Bible from the perspective of the biblical authors and their intended readers. He explains that the biblical authors wrote from their worldview, not one developed later by St. Augustine or Catholics or Protestants or liberals or cesassionists or charismatics or even atheists.

The ancient biblical authors had a supernatural worldview.

When we approach the Bible and our own supernatural reality, I believe we should attempt to do so from their perspective, not ours. God, after all, chose to reveal something about himself to them.

Later Christians often distorted their meaning or adapted theology from bad translations, often unintentionally. Often with tragic consequences.

Reread the Bible for the First Time

Read This Book.

Read This Book.

Today, we can jump back into the worldview of the ancient biblical writers to understand what it is they meant.

Well, we cannot literally do that, … we often have a hard time understanding what our friends are thinking when they send us text messages, and we have a lot more in common with our friends than we do with writers that produced the biblical text 2-3000 years ago.

But thanks to the work of scholars, we can better understand their thinking today than anytime since the 1st Century.  Unfortunately, most biblical scholars’ discoveries remain in the castles of seminaries and expensive journals, rarely making it down to pastors or teachers, let alone to us regular often biblically-illiterate people trying to make sense of the Christian faith and applying it to the supernatural world we live in.

And that’s equally tragic because the Bible offers explanations for why the world is the way it is and why some people see spirits and what to do about it.  The answer isn’t necessarily an easy or natural one.

The answer is entirely supernatural and absolutely exciting! 

In the past, scholars like CS Lewis and George Ladd helped us invade the biblical text afresh, with profound affects on how we practice Christianity.  Today, scholars like John Walton and N.T. Wright still do so.

And with The Unseen Realm, so does Dr. Heiser, to profound levels. He’ll help you reread the Bible for the first time.

Not About Seeing into the Unseen Realm

This book is not about seeing spirits and demons and doesn’t approach the topic of seers or other spiritual gifts. (I’ll do so in my Kingdom Conflict book next year!)

Dr. Heiser provides an “unfiltered look at what the Bible really says about the unseen realm,” which is populated by spiritual entities that are real and that interact with our physical realm.

  • What are angels and demons?
  • Where did they come from?
  • Are there different kinds of angels? Is there a hierarchy?
  • Why did God make humans? What does it mean to be human?
  • Do we have free will or is everything truly predestined by God? Or is there a better explanation?
  • Why did God destroy the world in the flood? Isn’t that unjust?
  • Why did God order genocide in Canaan? Is God a homicidal maniac?
  • What are Rephaim? And Nephilim? And the sons of God? And the Bulls of Bashan?
  • Did Eve really talk to a snake? Why wasn’t she freaked??
  • Why does this matter?

I had struggled with these and other tough questions in the Bible, relying on one theology or another to explain them through my scientific materialist eyes, often to dissatisfying results.  The Unseen Realm jumps into the biblical text and reveals how the authors of the Bible understood the answers to all of these questions and more.

As Above, So Below. Now and Not Yet.

Much of my teaching on the spirit realm and biblical understanding began with my studies under Dr. Heiser (about the same time I discovered the works of George Ladd and John Wimber, who reshaped my view of the Kingdom of God).

The bottom line is, understanding the supernatural message of the Old Testament lays the groundwork for understanding the nature of the Kingdom of God, on Earth, as it is in Heaven, now and not yet. Dr. Heiser’s last two chapters delve into that.

You will have a new and profound experience of just
Who Jesus is and
What Jesus did,
From the Creation to the Cross,
From the Cross to the Grave,
From the Grave to the Throne,  and
From the Throne to the Earth.

I was an early reviewer of a very rough draft of this work a few years ago, and even reading the finished product, I feel like I’m rediscovering the Bible again and again.

Truly, it’s alive.  It’s the revelation of God to the ancient Hebrews and it’s the revelation of God to us.

Nowadays, whenever I open my Bible, I feel like I’m reading it for the first time each time.  Truly amazing.

I strongly recommend adding this to your reading list.

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