A Tale of Two Realms

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The naturalist view now touted in universities and many scientific communities ignores, downplays, or rejects the idea of a spiritual realm. They hold that only what I can experience with my senses exists.

Naturalism demands empirical evidence. I don’t want to get too philosophical, but there are things we know to be reality that empirical evidence cannot explain. Naturalism seriously limits our understanding of the universe.

It can be useful but it tends to distract from everything we know to be reality. Many times in opposition to naturalism the Bible teaches that there is a spiritual realm. More than that, the spiritual realm is essential to understanding our reality.

So what does the physical and spiritual realm have the do with holiness? Understanding the spiritual realm is part of understanding the Bible and its worldview. Without this understanding we cannot believe in God or accept the Bible’s teachings. Let’s take a closer look at these two realms and what they mean for holiness.

The Physical Realm

We are most familiar with the physical realm. This is why naturalists and scientists are so gung ho about our natural world. It is what we know to be the closest reality to us. We use our five senses to determine what is “real.”

It makes sense to us that the physical reality is first in importance. When things happen in the physical reality they have effects in any other reality that may exist. After all, as far as we understand the physical reality is where everyone lives.

There’s a certain concrete nature to the physical reality around us. Nobody I know can pass through walls unless there’s some scientific ability to do this. The concrete nature of our world comforts us. I am afraid of heights and if I were skydiving I would be freaking out.

I like the fact that there is a ground to set my feet on, gravity to hold me there, and anytime the ground is taken away there is always the possibility of falling and injuring myself, or even worse. There are too many dangers in this physical realm without those comforts.

We can’t limit our world to the physical realm. As I mentioned before, there are things naturalism and empiricism cannot account for. For instance, they cannot explain the fact that we have mines, imaginations, are creative, and intelligent. They don’t explain how we make choices.

They especially cannot explain why humans tend to have a spiritual band. Almost every culture, even the most primitive by our standards, have a concept of God in some way. That doesn’t make any sense if you just leave this physical realm is all there is to the world.

The idea of God would only exist in our minds if we could comprehend that we are not the most supreme beings in creation. Even the scientist must admit that our world is much older than the common human lifespan. Someone else created it.

If we’re wrong about that, we’re probably wrong about a lot of things concerning the physical realm. Scientism cannot explain morality. It can’t give us the reason for our reasoning skills. It can’t explain our emotions and relational reactions.

We push off the idea that we are only on this earth for a certain amount of time. There’s no such thing as immortality as far as naturalism is concerned. And yet we have these ideas floating around in our heads. Why is that?

So we must consider that we are wrong about there only being a physical realm. Even within science there are ideas of multiple realities and other dimensions. Naturalism can’t explain how we get those ideas either. So let us turn to thinking about why we have these ideas if this earth and creation is all there is to us.

The Spiritual Realm

The reasons for not believing the physical world is all there is to our reality are only part of the issue. I have not yet mentioned the spirit and the soul which give us the greatest reason to not believe the physical world is all there is.

We believe we are immortal until we are hit with the reality of our time growing short. Physical accidents and debilitating diseases make us realize we are not in control or immortal. A number of circumstances wake us up to the reality that we cannot control our destiny on earth.

But this idea that we could be immortal or live forever comes directly from the fact that we have a spirit and a soul. There are parts of us that do not die when this physical body gives way to the decay of our world. The universal concepts of God, the soul, and the spirit within us challenge the possibility that the physical world is all there is to existence.

People overwhelmingly believe in some kind of afterlife. Different cultures and religions suggest different ideas for an afterlife but almost all religions have this concept. In some form or fashion the soul or spirit, or both, gives us the reason to believe there’s more to life than just this physical existence.

Christians believe in Heaven and Hell. God is in heaven and those who do not know Jesus are in Hell. Believing in existence of heaven, hell, the soul, and the spirit are the basis for understanding the consequences of living a holy life that pleases God.

This is the foundation for Christian doctrine and action. Morality is based on the understanding that the spiritual realm exists. God has spoken to people throughout the ages concerning his expectations for each of us.

But holiness goes beyond morality to wanting to know God. We want to follow his commandments and principles, but our goal is not to be moral. It is to know him and be found in him when we physically die.

The spiritual and physical realms interact with one another. Like amphibious creatures, we have eternal and temporal parts. Our soul and spirit live on beyond the stopping of our hearts and brain waves. This physical body will give way to decay. But God will transform our bodies in the resurrection to be eternal.

Ground Rules

The spiritual realm opens us up to much more than just our physical existence. There are other spirit beings besides us, from angels to demons to the “gods” of the Bible. The divine counsel mentioned in a few of the Psalms and in some other places suggest God made more than just humans and angels.

God himself is a spirit being. So we are not alone in the universe. I’m not talking about aliens. We don’t really know what these other celestial beings are like. We only know that they bow to God and the angels serve him. Satan and his demons rebelled against God and find themselves on the path to eternal destiny in hell.

The spiritual realm makes us aware that there is a spiritual battle going on all around us. We cannot see what is happening in the spiritual realm unless God allows us to. But rest assured as much as the spiritual realm exists there are spiritual battles around us. Satan and his demons want to destroy you and keep you from dwelling with God for eternity.

Paul lays out the principle that we do not fight against other people but against the spiritual forces of evil around us (Ephesians 6:12). So we must be prepared with spiritual weapons of warfare, not physical ones.

We must ask God to see other people as he does. They are lost souls who need to know Jesus. We all start out our lives with good spirits. The Bible teaches we are dead to God until the Holy Spirit regenerates our hearts and spirits. Then we can hear the gospel and receive it and understand the truth about our world.

The Bible also teaches that we were wrong about the physical realm being the main realm. Everything that happens in the spiritual realm has an effect on the physical realm. When the Holy Spirit moves the physical realm responds.

The Psalms are full of images of God moving and creation responded to his presence. God spoke the world into existence. He was here before creation existed. The Holy Spirit works miracles and healing in us, and then the body responds to his work.

The spirit is more important than the body. The body is important to God that he works in our spirits first. When the Bible talks about death it often references spiritual death first. When Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden God told them that if they eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they would die.

But he did not mean physical death first. That was a law that was enacted the moment and Eve ate the fruit. But he said that they would die the day they ate the fruit. They didn’t physically die but they did spiritually.

They were separated from God, the very definition of spiritual death. Everything changed for them in an instant. They fled from God’s presence for the first time and saw something wrong with being naked.

If we physically die before we are spiritually awake to God we remain spiritually dead for eternity, separated from God and unable to have relationship with him. So the spiritual realm is first in importance before the physical realm.

We must reach out to those who don’t know Jesus and are spiritually dead. There’s only so much time before their condition becomes permanent. You may wonder why I am treating spiritual death like some kind of sickness but it is very serious to God. He wants his creation to dwell with him forever. And he has sent those of us who are alive in Christ to show the way to others who need to know him.


As we read the Bible we come to realize that there is more than this physical realm we are so comfortable dwelling in. The spiritual realm draws us to understand God and how this world really works.

The spirits and souls inside of these fleshly tents of our bodies call us to understand the spiritual realm and become part of God’s Kingdom. Let us do everything we can to fulfill the Great Commission and tell others about Jesus. The time is short. Spiritual battles await us. How do you explain the spiritual realm to people around you?

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