The Nature of the Spiritual Dimension

According to the Bible, there is another realm, another dimension that is parallel to our earth-based dimension; it is a dimension filled with beings. Though we can’t know all there is to know about that realm, Scripture still gives us many clues to be able to stitch together a descent mosaic of what it looks like.

First of all, we need to define terms – we will start with our dimension since we (generally) understand it intuitively. In the beginning God created the earth which for simplicity we will just refer to as dirt. God then took some very fine particles of that material (known as dust) and formed Adam. We now understand that all living things are fundamentally composed of carbon atoms. We are earthly because we are made from the earth – dirt if you will. God even pronounces Adam’s fate after the fall that he would return to dust because he was made of the dust. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return,” (Genesis 3:19).

When it comes to things in the other dimension, we cannot say what they are made of other than that the nature of their composition is spirit. What exactly is spirit? Unlike dirt, which we can put under a microscope and see the individual atoms in it, spirit already seems to be the most fundamental state. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines pneuma (πνευμα) as: “a spirit, i.e. a simple essence, devoid of all or at least all grosser matter, and possessed of the power of knowing, desiring, deciding, and acting,” (Thayer’s pneuma). Ultimately, Scripture itself will serve as the best method of ascertaining the true meaning of things that are of a spiritual nature.

Perhaps the first and most obvious thing that can be said about spirit is that it is non-material – it is not made up of dirt (carbon atoms) or any other material from this dimension. The substance of the spirit is completely from that dimension (the spiritual realm). Jesus said after His resurrection: “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have,” (Luke 24:39). Beings that are of that realm are not comprised of matter. Psalm 104:4 gives a general description of angels as spirits and their composition: “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire,” (Psalms 104:4). Beings from that dimension, however, are able to interact with ours.

Spiritual Beings Can Touch Us

A number of verses in Scripture describe spirits (angels or demons) touching, moving, throwing or disrupting a human in some way. In the book of Job we read that a spirit passed by that could not be seen with the eyes but could be felt by the body:

​​​​​​​​Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form [t’munah תְּמוּנָה] was before my eyes; there was silence; then I heard a voice saying: ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? If He puts no trust in His servants, If He charges His angels with error, how much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before a moth? (Job 4:15-19).

In this example the spiritual entity brushed by so closely that the hair on the body stood up and there was a form that was indiscernible. Then the contrast is made between mortals, who are of dust, and angels who are spirit. Even though the angel was spirit, there was a particular form that the witness could not make out.

The following verses demonstrate that angels, which are spirit, in some way interact with our physical dimension. The action words in the verses are highlighted:

  • Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw [them,] he rose to meet them, (Genesis 19:1).
  • Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, (2 Samuel 24:17).
  • Then as he lay and slept […], suddenly an angel touched him,” (1 Kings 19:5).
  • An angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria, (2 Chronicles 32:21).
  • My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, (Daniel 6:22).
  • For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water, (John 5:4).
  • An angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, (Acts 5:19).
  • Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands, (Acts 12:7).
  • Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God, (Acts 12:23.)
  • For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light, (2 Corinthians 11:14).
  • Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so [doing] some have unwittingly entertained angels, (Hebrews 13:2).

What we see is that angels, who reside in the spiritual realm, have bodies and can materialize themselves in our dimension on occasion. Thus we can conclude that spiritual things are not nebulous abstractions. In other words, things that come from the realm of the spirit are every bit as real and tangible as things here but they are not of material (earthly) substance.

Spiritual Food and Drink

This conclusion is proven by Paul in his retelling of the children of Israel passing through the Red Sea. He states: “brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,” (1 Corinthians 10:1). Here Paul is stating a historical fact which is easily verifiable from the book of Exodus: “And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left,” (Exodus 14:22). Paul then states that: “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,” (1 Corinthians 10:2). As the Israelites went down along the sea floor with walls of water on both sides of them, they were completely under the water level and were in a way immersed in the sea.

Having started with historical, literal and verifiable events, Paul then mentions that they: “all ate the same spiritual food,” (1 Corinthians 10:3). He is talking about the manna that rained down from heaven which the people lived on during their stay in the wilderness. The manna was food with taste and texture which they collected, turned into various dishes and then ultimately eaten. “It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey,” (Exodus 16:31). It entered the stomach being converted to energy necessary to power the body; it was in every way real, “physical”, and edible food.

So in what way was it spiritual food? It was spiritual in that it did not originate from the earth; its source was the spiritual realm. The psalmist even authenticates this: “Men ate angels’ food; He sent them food to the full,” (Psalms 78:25). Next Paul says: “and all drank the same spiritual drink,” (1 Corinthians 10:4a). Again, he is referring to events that are verifiable from the book of Exodus where God instructs Moses: “’you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel,” (Exodus 17:6). The action was instructed by God who also brought it to pass and it was witnessed by the people. The water was, like the food, real, physical, and potable water that was able to satiate their thirst. Again, in what way then was it spiritual drink? The origin of the water was not earthly; it originated from the other dimension. There was no hidden spring under the rock as many would like to argue – for if that were true then there would also need to be some hidden source for the manna in the sky. Rather, the spiritual drink and food came from the other dimension (by God’s providence) and did not originate on the earth. Nehemiah confirms this “You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger, and brought them water out of the rock for their thirst,” (Nehemiah 9:15a).

We then come to the last part of his retelling where he makes an important and yet shocking statement – they not only ate the spiritual food (manna) and drank the spiritual water, but the actual rock was of a spiritual (not of this world) nature and what’s even more, the rock followed them! “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ,” (1 Corinthians 10:4). Not only did the rock follow them but the rock was Christ, Paul says. At this point we begin to feel uncomfortable with the conclusion. How could a rock follow them throughout the desert and how could it be Christ? Certainly Jesus is more than a rock! First of all, our job is not to decide if it is possible or not; God can certainly do as He pleases. If He was able to part the waters, cause a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to protect the people and even rain down food from heaven, how hard could it be for Him to move a rock? Secondly, Jesus Himself said:

I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world, (John 6:51).

Could it be that there is something that we can’t quite comprehend? Is it possible for Jesus to be saying that He really was the manna that came down? This question is not easily answered; however, we ought to at least consider that there most certainly are truths that we are not aware of that appear to be impossible to us, but are possible for God. Nevertheless, in light of our study of DNA, if Jesus meant that His seed (data/DNA) will be incorporated into ours, then perhaps the passage can be interpreted literally, physically and spiritually all at once. Therefore, while we may not be able to conceive how the rock could literally be the Lord Jesus, we should not deny what the text says. In fact, accepting what Paul is saying literally versus figuratively makes the pieces fit quite well. If we go back to Exodus we note that God said:

‘Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel, (Exodus 17:6).

God says that He would be before Moses on the rock which he was to strike, which is clearly a picture of the cross. The next time Moses is just to speak to the rock (though he fails to do so).

‘Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals,’ (Numbers 20:8).

The interpretation that the rock (or at least the waters from the rock) did in fact follow the Jews throughout their wanderings in the wilderness is confirmed by ancient Jewish interpretation. They see the rock which they call the “well” going with them. Targum Onkelos says:

And from thence was given to them the well, which is the well whereof the Lord spake to Mosheh, Gather the people together, and I will give them water. Therefore sang Israel this song: -Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it. The well which the princes digged, the chiefs of the people cut it, the scribes with their staves; it was given to them in the wilderness. And from (the time) that it was given to them it descended with them to the rivers, and from the rivers it went up with them to the height and from the height to the vale which is in the fields of Moab, at the head of Ramatha, which looketh towards Bethjeshimon, (Targum Onkelos 21:17).

The Targum of Jonathan speaks of the same phenomenon,

The living well, the well concerning which the Lord said to Mosheh, Assemble the people and give them water. Then, behold, Israel sang the thanksgiving of this song, at the time that the well which had been hidden was restored to them through the merit of Miriam: Spring up, O well, spring up, O well! sang they to it, and it sprang up, (Targum Jonathan 21:17).

Commentator John Gill also notes the waters of the rock followed them in the wilderness:

the waters out of the rock ran like rivers, and followed them in the wilderness wherever they went, for the space of eight and thirty years, or thereabout, and then were stopped, to make trial of their faith once more; this was at Kadesh when the rock was struck again, and gave forth its waters […] And this sense of the apostle is entirely agreeable to the sentiments of the Jews, who say, that the Israelites had the well of water all the forty years [Jarchi in Numb. xx. 2.]. Yea, they speak of the rock in much the same language the apostle does, and seem to understand it of the rock itself, as if that really went along with the Israelites in the wilderness. Thus one of their writers on those words, “must we fetch you water out of this rock?” makes this remark: “for they knew it not, לפי שהלך הסלע, “for that rock went”, and remained among the rocks,” And in another place it is said (Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 177. 2) […] when the standard bearers encamped, and the tabernacle stood still, the rock came, and remained in the court of the tent of the congregation; and the princes came and stood upon the top of it, and said, ascend, O well, and it ascended.” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Corinthians 10:4)

We therefore conclude that when the Bible speaks of the spirit or things of a spiritual nature, it is not speaking allegorically or figuratively. Spiritual things are not nebulous abstractions; rather, reference is being made to beings or things that do not originate (or perhaps reside) in our dimension. Those entities have their origin in the other dimension known as the spiritual realm. That realm is able to interact with ours in ways that we do not fully understand. Nevertheless, angels and demons having the ability to materialize in our realm and being even able to produce some kind of genetic material is consistent with the pages of Scripture. Should we then find it surprising that all of the ancient (ante-Nicene) Jewish and Christian commentators believed that the sons of God in Genesis six were fallen angels who had the ability to procreate and thereby father the Nephilim?

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