My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the most fascinating book I’ve read in a very long time.
Michael Heiser is a respected scholar, and the material in this book has been peer reviewed and is widely accepted among scholars. I begin with that because the assertions in the book may strike the reader as fringe ideas. They are not. But most readers will find them unfamiliar.
The primary thesis is that that Scripture affirms the existence of a “divine council” made up of powerful spiritual beings, higher than angels, that bear God’s image and were God’s family prior to the creation. They are called sons of God, powers of the heavens (or simply “powers” in the Epistles), and the heavenly host. Some of them rebelled and became evil. At the tower of Babel, God punished the people by dividing them up into nations and allotting the sons of God to rule over the various nations. These beings are responsible for a great deal of the evil in the world and play a very significant role in God’s dealings with people throughout the Bible. God’s plan is to judge the fallen powers, reclaim the nations for himself, and elevate Christians to take their place in the divine council.
Heiser goes through the whole Bible, section-by-section, clearing showing the role these beings play at every point. As I listened to the audio book, Heiser dealt with one passage after another that has always confused me and showed how they made perfect sense with these beings in view. This includes insights into messianic prophecy, the day of Pentecost, the Transfiguration, and many end times prophecies.
There are some interpretations I don’t’ agree with. The most significant is Heiser’s view of predestination. He argues that not everything that happens is ordained by God. His argument is that since God foreknows some things that don’t happen (as seen when God says things like, “Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented if …” He knows what would have happened in different circumstances, even though it didn’t happen), therefore not everything God foreknows is ordained. He then assumes that even some things that do happen, while they were foreknown by God, were not ordained by him. This strikes me as terrible logic. The fact that God didn’t ordain things that didn’t happen does not prove that he didn’t ordain things that did happen. Heiser gives no explanation for the many passage that speak of even negative things coming from God, such as Acts 4:28, Ecclesiastes 7:14, and Amos 3:6.
I should also point out, however, that his ideas about predestination have very little to do with the thesis of the book, which stands just as firmly regardless of whether the reader agrees or disagrees with his view of predestination. It is not a problem that the powers of the heavens are capable of choosing evil any more than it is a problem that human beings can choose evil.
Another point I’m not sure I’m convinced of is his view that the angel of the LORD is the pre-incarnate Christ. He argues that since that being is identified with Yahweh, he must be God. It’s true he is identified with Yahweh, but he is also called an angel, even in the New Testament. For me, it seems easier to explain why an angel would be identified with Yahweh (messengers sent by kings were often identified with the sovereign who sent them. I would find it much more difficult to explain why God himself would be called an angel (although I must admit, Heiser’s explanation is the best I’ve heard, and I am considering it. But as of yet, I remain unconvinced.)
My disagreements aside, this book has revolutionized my understanding of Scripture. I highly recommend it.