Question: How can evil exist in the heavenly realms?
This question is a follow-up of Biblegems # 78: “What Are The Heavenly Realms?”
The phrase “heavenly realms” is a term found only in Ephesians, and the word “realms” is actually not found in the Greek New Testament. The Greek word is e˙pourani÷oiß (Lit. “heavenlies”). “The heavenlies” refers to the spiritual dimension of existence, not exclusively to heaven as a place. It might actually be better translated as “spiritual places” rather than heavenly realms.
This spiritual dimension refers to that unseen plane of reality where angels and demons are at war, a struggle in which followers of Christ are actively engaged in through our life in the Spirit, through prayer, and through the use of spiritual gifts:
Eph. 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Christians have been given the ability through the Holy Spirit to function in this spiritual dimension because of our spiritual union with Christ:
Eph. 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Spiritual experience, by definition, takes place in the spiritual dimension—“the heavenly realms.” Temptation is a spiritual experience, even though it has very tangible results in the “flesh and blood” plane of existence. Worship is also a spiritual experience that takes place in the spiritual dimension—“the heavenly realms”—even though it, too, has very obvious expression in the “flesh and blood world.”
It would be incorrect to think of the heavenly realms as being like a separate room from the earthly, material realm. The two realms are interwoven and they interact with one another. That’s why the apostle Paul could rightly say of the human interaction with God, “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Because that is true, Satan could confront God face to face and have conversation with Him without contaminating heaven in any way. Heaven is God’s Kingdom, where God reigns supreme. God does not have to hide from evil as if evil could somehow tarnish His holiness. Rather, God rebukes evil:
Zech. 3:1-2 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Evil exists in the heavenly (i.e., spiritual) realms because evil is at its essence a spiritual reality. But the day is soon coming when all evil will be purged from God’s creation, both on the earthly and on the spiritual plane:
Rev. 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.