The biblical story of man unfolds in a garden in the East, in Eden. At the centre of the garden, near the tree of life, stand the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, of which the fruit is out-of-bounds.
Eve created from Adam and, as his wife, hears her husband’s warning about the tree in the centre of the garden. Eve tastes the forbidden fruit of that tree, includes her husband in the act of disobedience. Now the space that had been theirs to roam innocently transformed into hostile territory – banished from the garden.
Mankind’s space becomes cursed ground of earth outside paradise. In the intervening years of his earthly existence, he has to toil to make the planet produce fruit.
Apart from a sprinkling of hopeful promises throughout the biblical revelation, it is not until the closing vision of Jesus as Alpha and Omega – in the final chapters of the Bible – that an alternative living space provided for recreated humanity. There, room for a renewed humanity is found.
Such is the ultimate, biblical setting of humanity in space. The story that unfolds between creation and re-creation frequently underlines place in man’s relationship with the supernatural.
The places of God’s self-revealing take on His quality of holiness. Encounters with the living God occur in an aura of contagious holiness, affecting everything around.
When the completed Tabernacle is finally set up in the desert, the glory of the Lord so fills it that no one can enter the Tent of Meeting. The ark of the Lord displaces all powers, devilish or human, wherever it moves.
When Solomon finishes his prayer of dedication over the newly built Temple at Jerusalem, fire falls from heaven to consume the burnt offering and sacrifices. The priests cannot enter the building because the glory of the lord completely fills it.
Every now and then, the Bible unveils some of the dominant spiritual occupants of space. Yet, while this unveiling of evil is being cautiously conveyed, the ultimate lordship of Yahweh over all space is strongly insisted upon.
Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, grows frustrated with the supposed spy in his camp who keeps revealing his military plans to the Israelites. He finds that it is Elisha that God is telling his secrets to and sends an army to surround the city. Elisha’s servant tells his master about the threat, Elisha suggests that the army on their side is far greater than that arrayed against them. With opened eyes, Elisha’s servant sees the space around him very differently – the hills ringing the armies of Ben-Hadad, which surround the city containing the prophet Elisha, are full of horses and chariots of fire. Space, in a larger dimension, filled with Yahweh’s servants of fire.
In the ancient world of OT times, gates into the cities were often dedicated to various gods. Space was definitely given over to spirit-beings. Rebekah’s relatives bless her with ‘gate-god’ words as she leaves to find and marry Isaac –
“Our sister, may you become
the mother of many millions!
May your descendants be strong
and conquer the cities of their enemies.” – Genesis 24:60
The Lord’s promise to His ‘anointed’ Cyrus couched in terms of breaking down gates of bronze, cutting through bars of iron —
This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one,
whose right hand he will empower.
Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear.
Their fortress gates will be opened,
never to shut again. – Isaiah 45:1
Yahweh will humiliate nations opposed to Him, no matter to whom they dedicate their city gates.
Mark’s Gospel especially highlights significance of Jewish and Gentile ‘space’ in its account of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The spirit of those possessing that space exposed and dealt with in terms of exorcism (Mark 1:21-28). Jesus’ invasion of Roman space, on the edges of the empire, where imperial armies – legions – hold people in bondage, related in similar terms. ‘Legion’ is expelled by exorcism and the local man delivered (Mark 5:1-20). Throughout the four Gospels, Jesus Christ depicted as walking into areas seen by the Jewish leadership as contaminated and transforming them. Christ’s victory wins Him access to all space on earth and in the heavenly realms.
Part of the good news of being ‘in Christ’ relates to space. Places identified as strongholds of evil, but Christ’s followers are to capture them.
The exorcism of places tends to take on significance in Christian mission to Muslims. There are areas that need redemption by cleansing and maybe exorcism if the Muslim freed from fear in moving around his own home or in the community at large.
In the OT, Yahweh revealed defilement of people would quickly lead to pollution of the land where they lived —
Because the entire land has become defiled, I am punishing the people who live there. I will cause the land to vomit them out. – Leviticus 18:25
The exile of the people of Israel delivered by barrenness of natural soil, locust plagues and occupation by wild lions —
But since these foreign settlers did not worship the Lord when they first arrived, the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. – 2 Kings 17:25
In consequence, the land, as much as the nation, needed reclamation for Yahweh —
“The time will come,” says the Lord,
“when the grain and grapes will grow faster
than they can be harvested.
Then the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel
will drip with sweet wine! – Amos 9:13
Part of Yahweh’s constant promise through the prophets concerned such reclamation —
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14
In Nehemiah’s leadership of the returned remnant, the issues of first fruits, tithes and Sabbath rest were constantly being highlighted. Nehemiah’s concern was to hold the Israelites to their agreement. That agreement included a new attitude to the spacious and fertile land which belonged to the Lord defiled by the people’s previous sins.
Among Muslims who see toilets, graveyards and sorceresses’ homes as residences of jinn, disciples of Jesus Christ need to reclaim those places in His name. For such believers, the ritual is not a form of magic, but a service of transfer and dedication. No matter how persecuted or denigrated in an Islamic country, the message and love of Christ cannot be eradicated by human (Muslim) hands.
A significant saying of Jesus Himself, in view of such ministry, concerns the binding of the strong man, as preparation for the despoiling of his territory.Power encounters at the level, in the space falsely claimed by the devil, s a vital element of Christian witness among ordinary Muslims.