Preparing for Heaven

Building the Eternal Phase of Your Life

View Transcript
Scripture tells us to test the spirits, not individually, but together. God wants us to sort out from one another’s lives those things that bombard us from an evil perspective, generated at some point in time by evil spiritual forces. Then, like Jesus, we are to point out that these things are not from God.

Testing the spirits together means seeing if something comes from the Holy Spirit or the work of unclean, unholy, evil spirits presently or from past influence on our world. Testing the spirits will cause us to specifically understand what should direct our lives and what should not. This will help us more clearly see the strategy of Satan and the efforts of his demons against the truth.

Listen to this warning from the Apostle John in 1 John 4:1-6: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

We must not jump immediately to think that testing the spirits always means identifying evil spirits. The Apostle John in the passage just quoted was talking about people – false prophets. Humans can be influenced by the Holy Spirit or an unholy spirit, and then human spirits will compete with the Holy Spirit in attempting to influence believers. The safest way to test spirits, whether people or evil angels, is to do it together with other Christians.

We Christians in our Inner Circles need to put our heads together to identify the spirits not representing God hidden in our cultures, both secular and Christian. We must test what comes from God and what comes from those not aligned with Him. Almost any situation, any choice, can be infiltrated by evil, and testing the spirits together is the answer.

This author is not sufficiently knowledgeable to address demon possession and demon oppression, so our focus will be restricted to what most of the Bible passages speak of – testing spirits in order to identify the goals of evil spiritual powers so that we can battle in both the spiritual and physical dimensions. There should be no doubt based on this passage from Ephesians 6:10-13 that we are to battle at the spiritual level. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Carefully notice that our fight is not against people, called “flesh and blood” in this passage. There are various views about the other things we do fight against in this passage. My inclinations are only opinions. But, I see rulers as the evil propagated by national leaders, and authorities as governmental officials and their policies. Cosmic powers over this present darkness are cultures and norms opposed to God and what He has communicated in the pages of the Bible. The spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places refers to fallen angels; we know them as Satan and the demons who follow him. These are the angels who rebelled against God in heaven and were exiled from God’s home before the creation of Adam and Eve.
Together Christians are to be able to know the “Spirit of truth” (the Holy Spirit) from the “spirit of error”. Those people we know and love who do not have regenerated spirits live from a worldly perspective, so their spirits can often be erroneous. They believe what they believe wholeheartedly, just as we know, with the Holy Spirit residing in us, what we believe with certainty. When we talk, we sound like we know what we are talking about. But, so do they.
This is why we test the spirits together. A loved one without belief will with all sincerity tell us what they believe. Because that person is cherished by us, we may be vulnerable to trying to find truth in what they are saying so that no discord develops. Testing the spirits with other believers is God’s way for us to be cautious of things that sound believable or that we want to believe.

An example that most all of us have witnessed is when a believer falls in love with an unbeliever. The believer is blinded by love and will often give the other person “believer status” based on something said that connects with what true Christians believe. The lover might say that he or she believes in God, and that will be enough to keep going toward marriage. That James 2:19 tells us that the demons believe in God is conveniently forgotten. Or the unbeliever will be a really good person who loves and serves others selflessly. Since there is strong but understandable resistance to recognizing inadequate belief, the Christian at risk needs his or her Christian Inner Circle to actively test the spirit of this good-hearted suitor. Does his or her good works come from true belief in God or in good deeds apart from a thankful love for God that He saved from condemnation?

Those Christians who love a person do not want to see heartbreak in the future. They do not want a believer to be stuck in an unequally-yoked relationship which is advised against in Scripture. This is a challenge for that person’s Christian Inner Circle which must test the spirits to protect the person and the church. These close Christian friends and relatives are the ones who can test the suitor’s spirit. They can carefully watch behavior and listen to words. They can also review a person’s history which might reveal discordance with current courtship behavior.
The other reason the Christian Inner Circle should want to test the spirit of a suitor is that they are the ones who will have to live with the consequences. If the person turns out to be hostile or uncooperative to the friend’s faith after marriage, the misery is going to spread to all of them. The person’s Christian Inner Circle will deal with the pain and disappointment for years and years. They have a stake in the future marriage and must get involved.

This one situation represents hundreds of situations faced by believers. And, many of them are more subtle than a questionable suitor. Both Christians and unbelievers are targeted by evil powers. Let’s not be naive about this. It is not really debatable. The Bible clearly speaks of demonic involvement in the lives of people.

When we enter heaven there will be angels, and we will be able to see them. Can you imagine how wonderful that is going to be?

Testing the spirits now when they harass us either personally or in relationships or through culture will prepare us to appreciate angels in heaven. Paying attention to unclean, unholy evil spirits that are really angels exiled from heaven before the creation of mankind helps us grow in appreciation of good angels who have never sinned or been disloyal to God since the moment they were created.

We will be fascinated by angels all of our lives in heaven forever. They will come in different shapes, and who knows what else will be wonderful about them. However, the most amazing thing about them will be their loyalty to God. Since angels do not procreate, the very angels we will live with will have been ones who resisted betraying God before the creation of Adam and Eve. They will have been tempted by Satan to follow him and did not. For their steadfast loyalty to God for more years than we could possibly count, we will honor them and feel privileged to be in their presence.

In heaven we will appreciate angels more if we have tested the spirits and seen the damage unclean spirits do to others. Therefore, we should not want to turn our attention away from the dark spirit world because it is uncomfortable. We want to be able to contrast the holiness of angels in heaven with the unholiness and awful character of demons and other evil spiritual forces.

When we have contact with an angel in heaven, we will be able to not just understand that they are clean and pure of ever having sinned, we will be able to feel joyful appreciation that they have never, ever influenced a person to lie or a culture to ignore its poor. Hundreds of other sinless qualities will come to mind in heaven if we tested the spirits in the contaminated world we lived in before death.

This specific appreciation of angels cannot be developed as finely in heaven. It is likely we will remember evil, yet feel no pain in heaven. But merely remembering sin in heaven does not have the power of revulsion as does testing the spirits and fighting evil powers up close and personal now. This heartfelt appreciation of the purity of the good angels in heaven will not be able to grow in heaven to match the depth of growth we can have now by becoming convinced that each specific evil has had behind it some evil power in the unseen world.

Let’s help one another think in terms of battling evil in spiritual warfare as well as physical intervention. Let’s give money to relief organizations – but not forget to blame evil spiritual forces for the terrible things displaced people go through. Let’s test the spirits, not just recognizing the situation of hunger, but also see in our spirits the spiritual forces causing the horrendous situation. Let’s do this because we must stand against those evil spirits with the force of our own spirits in prayer.

Let’s prepare to eventually experience more joy in the presence of angels in heaven. Here is a little story of mine to help us look forward to heaven and its angels with great excitement. It takes place in heaven.

Whew! It took the wind out of me. I just met an angel who battled against demons who long ago when I was a child on earth urged my father to physically abuse my mother. The angel’s sadness was obvious at not having been able to stop all of my father’s aggression, especially when he broke my mother’s arm.

I always stand in awe of the heavenly angels, that Jesus did not have to die for them to cover any sins. You’ll be delighted too, when you get here, to fellowship with good angels and see how different they are than the evil spiritual forces that affect you now.

Imagine the joy in meeting an angel who has never, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt any person or thing. That will be different than every other meeting of humans, save perhaps those citizens of heaven who died in the womb or in infancy and never had the chance to hurt anyone. But even this will be different. Every single angel has been alive since before the creation of mankind and never hurt anyone, but could have if they had chosen to follow the powerful angel Satan.

One further thing: Testing the spirits should help us to feel great sadness for God, now and also in heaven. Satan and his evil followers first defiled His home, that is, heaven, and then His creation Earth. We should feel sadness for God that so many angels turned against Him.
It is not too unreasonable to think we might be able to feel sad in heaven. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and that sadness was not sin. Here’s another story from heaven:
There are times here in heaven when I am reminded how God has been opposed by the evil powers that once felt His love and then rebelled and were tossed out of heaven. At these times, I feel a sadness that God was treated that way. And, strangely, at those times I feel in my spirit closer to God. And, when I feel sadness remembering that evil crucified my Savior, I feel that Jesus is closer. Although I am feeling sad, I cherish these moments of heightened closeness with God.

Hopefully, if someone in our Christian Inner Circle uses the Lord’s Name as a swear word, we feel sad that he or she treated Jesus so disrespectfully. It is not that Jesus can’t “take it”, but that He did not deserve to be treated so badly in light of His great love for mankind. We can probably have much impact on the swearer if we do nothing more than tell him or her how sad for God we are that he or she would use our Lord’s name so carelessly.

Testing of spirits makes us take a closer look at evil until we see more clearly the vicious behavior of fallen angels. While we might want to avoid experiencing evil at such close quarters, there can be value in doing so. With relation to God, perceiving demons helps us see the derision and hostility they threw at God when they were citizens of heaven. And, they have kept it up for thousands of years. Our response should be sorrow.

The question is if feeling sad for God will develop more closeness in our relationship with God in heaven. It is hard to think that it would not. In heaven, when communication with God is less hindered and more spontaneous, it is plausible that He will feel closer to us if our earthly encounters with those angels who turned against Him generated sadness for Him in our hearts.
It is probably true that in the more difficult situations requiring discernment of spirits, only those Christians with some biblical breadth in knowing “the whole counsel of God” and have a life of connection with God through prayer are most qualified to test the spirits. Each Christian Inner Circle needs at least one such person.

Within contemporary Christianity there is one huge controversy that requires testing of where each belief comes from. That is the divide between salvation by works and salvation through faith. The false belief that one must be good enough to get into heaven is preached by some but practiced by many. How many Christians celebrate Easter and communion but reply, “I hope so” when asked if they are going to heaven? The Holy Spirit in the Bible tells us we are saved by Jesus’ death and never by our own goodness. We must be able to test people’s spirits to identify if they are trusting in their basic goodness or not at all in their goodness but instead in their faith that Jesus died for their sins.

Once we determine that something is not from God, and this includes all evil, then we can further analyze the evil spiritual powers at work and determine Satan’s scheme. Finally, we can go into battle correctly.

Some Christians object to the way demons are identified specific to a person’s struggles. For example, it might be stated by some of our brethren that a drug addict has a demon of addiction. If we can get past the way it is said, identifying that a drug addict is spurred on by Satan’s powers takes us into warfare at the spiritual level to augment what we are doing at the material level. At the non-spiritual level we can isolate the addict from drugs. But, Ephesians 6 makes it clear that other evil forces are always at work, what the Apostle Paul calls “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”. These “schemes of the devil” powered by non-flesh and blood authorities, cosmic powers and spiritual forces are the reason we don the whole armor of God and fight.

Acknowledging that we struggle with unrighteousness enticed by evil spiritual forces does not take away individual responsibility. It is not a way to excuse ourselves by saying, “The devil made me do it.” The devil tempts us, but we have power together to not respond sinfully if we face it with the Together of “Battle Temptation Together” The devil creates situations that force us into choices, but those are merely powerful temptations. The point is that we do not create our struggles all on our own, even if it appears so, but we cannot use that as an excuse to remove ourselves from responsibility to live righteously.

However, here where the spirit world is dismissed or even naively presumed beneficial by some, demons find only limited places to manifest themselves openly. Like spies, they operate covertly. Not being so obvious, they can wreck their havoc unhindered because we act like they don’t exist just because we can’t see them.

We all wish it was as simple as commanding demons to leave. If that worked at a high percentage, we would all quit our jobs and go around commanding evil spirits to leave everywhere. Unfortunately, the biblical instruction to put on the whole armor of God implies a more difficult struggle against evil spiritual forces. Often the demon is long gone, having wrecked havoc in one life and already gone on to impact evil on someone else. Sometimes the evil spirit or more than one are still with the afflicted person, in which case we demand they leave in the power of Jesus’ Name. But, that is not the end of the spiritual warfare. There is much sanctification needed to fill the void lest the demons return.

After we determine what evil spirits are up to, we implement other Togethers of Battle such as taking up the armor of God, warning one another, battling temptation together, and standing up to the devil at one another’s sides. Let’s analyze the troubled situations of those in our Christian Inner Circles to determine the specific strategy of Satan. And then as declared in 1 Tim 6:12, “fight the good fight of the faith and take hold of the eternal life to which we have been called.”