I’ve learned a lot in my years as a Christian. One thing I’ve found is that your view of the spirit realm can vary greatly depending on the circles you’re a part of. One side will over emphasize the spiritual to the point that everything that happens in the physical is directly the result of some spiritual force. On the other hand you have Christians who act as if the spirit realm doesn’t exist, outside of the working of the Holy Spirit, but even limiting his influence. My own Christian journey has involved participation in many of these camps, swinging from one extreme to the other. I finally feel like I have a more biblically balanced view of the spiritual world, after many years of study. With that being said, when I was approached with the opportunity to review a book written on this subject by an author I respect, I jumped at the opportunity. The book is The Unseen Realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible by Michael S. Heiser, scholar-in-residence at Faithlife. To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect when I got this book in hand. I’d read some of Dr. Heiser’s work before on his blog and in Bible Study Magazine, but I wasn’t wholly aware of his position on the spiritual. All I knew is that it was going to be a good and challenging read on a subject that I was interested in. So, I dove in headfirst and began devouring it. Like most academic level books, The Unseen Realm begins with some introductory material so the groundwork is laid and you know what to expect. Dr. Heiser starts the book by telling the story of how he even began to study this material. It started with a Sunday at church and a friend asking him to reading Psalm 82 in the Hebrew text. What he found began a fifteen year journey culminating in this book. After telling this story and recalling how it changed his approach to reading the Bible, he challenges the reader to do the same as they embark on this journey through the Scriptures. As Dr. Heiser states in these opening chapters, the key is to look at the Scriptures through supernatural lens employed by the biblical authors, not our modern understandings. If we can do that, we can understand the unseen realm. Once you get through the opening chapters, the remainder of the book is broken down into seven subsequent parts. Each section walks you through the biblical narrative and clearly explains instances where we encounter the supernatural in those passages. The book’s second section walks through the concept of the “divine counsel,” fully explaining what it is and is not. Spoiler alert: the divine counsel is more than the Trinity. Once that groundwork is laid, a discussion on Eden and what it means to be God’s image bearers ensues. The next section covers the Fall and everything that entails, including: Genesis 6, the flood, and the table of nations. If you were able to get with the concept of the divine counsel, this is where a lot of the Bible starts to make more sense if you look at it with a supernatural understanding. I’ll admit that Dr. Heiser’s explanation of the table of nations was mind blowing & enlightening. Parts 4 and 5 deal with the call of Abraham and Israel’s conquest & subsequent failure. The key takeaway from these sections is that God physically walked with his people. I had never considered such a thought before, but it makes perfect sense when read the passages again with the blinders off. Even though the fifth section was a bit difficult to get through because of its density and repetitiveness, how Israel went about their conquest makes a lot more sense, when you understand the spiritual forces they were battling. Part 6 is all about how God used the prophets, and specifically how they saw and spoke with the Lord. The book picks up considerable speed in the latter parts that deal with the ministry of Jesus, the early church, and eschatology. In The Unseen Realm I believe that Dr. Heiser does a wonderful job of bringing the spiritual realm to the forefront. He doesn’t sensationalize or over emphasize the matter at all. Instead, he helps us to understand how Jews, early Christians, and surrounding cultures would have understood these writings. God had a divine counsel, some of which rebelled. He gave the people over to some of these lower elohim (gods) and called out his own portion in Abraham. The rest of the story is how God works to restore Eden, ultimately through the work of Jesus and building of the Church. Even today we still must realize that the spiritual realm is real. We need to read the Bible with this understanding or we will miss a good portion of what God is trying to tell us. That is what this book seeks to drive home. Depending on your Christian upbringing, a lot of what Dr. Heiser says in this book will either confirm & strengthen what you already believe, or it will totally challenge and blow your mind. For me it was the former. For an academic level title, I felt it was very approachable and one I would recommend any student of theology read. I look forward to reading more of what Dr. Heiser writes on this subject in the future because I think he is spot on in his analysis. And if you’re not up for an academic level read, be on the lookout for the more accessible and condensed version titled Supernatural releasing later this year.