Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Discerning the Angelic Presence


This is a excerpt from the forthcoming book Angelic Encounters by James Goll. It was published on March 10, 2010 on Elijahlist.


Discerning the Angelic Presence

Have you ever seen or felt an angelic presence—or a demonic one? When we "see" or "sense" or "feel" a spiritual entity nearby, we have discerned its presence. This chapter is devoted to the topic of discerning the angelic presence, because it's vital to be able to distinguish spiritual origins and outcomes when you're dealing with supernatural realities. Both good and bad (fallen) angels are spiritual beings, and we need the gift of discerning of spirits when we encounter them.

In general, discernment always involves the evaluation of some kind of evidence. We can only accomplish this by using our five bodily senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch. We notice something; then we start sifting quickly through the incoming data. We discriminate between the pieces of evidence and we detect patterns. Then we decide what to do, based in large part on what our discernment tells us.

Discerning (or distinguishing) of spirits is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:10). This gift is a little different from the gift of the word of knowledge, in which facts are simply dropped into our minds or hearts. With discernment, you have to consider what is happening around you. Did what just happened make your skin prickle? Did the room just get brighter or darker? Did you hear a noise? Did you perhaps smell or taste something? Is what happened from a good source—or a bad one?

To discern spiritual realities, we need spiritual perception. We need to know what we're dealing with. Is this thing just my imagination, or is it coming from someone else's human spirit? Is it demonic? Is it in fact an angel? Is it the Holy Spirit?

God doesn't just take the gift of discerning of spirits and plug it into you, fully developed. Normally, it takes a lot of practice to get good at it, and some of your "discernment lessons" will involve making mistakes. That's also true of the learning process for your general discernment, which is part of your maturation as a disciple and which stems from Bible study, experience, and discipline. You will need both kinds of discernment when you find yourself involved with supernatural happenings. It's important for each of us to want to be one of "the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14, NASB). Don't forget—you can always ask God to give you more ability to discern spirits and more mature discernment in general.

Discerning Spirits With Your Five Senses

In cooperation with the Word of God, the name and Blood of Jesus, etc., the other primary "discerning equipment" we possess is our Holy-Spirit-anointed human spirits (which can sometimes be called our "sixth sense"), consisting of our five bodily senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch. None of us ends up using all of our senses to the same degree. We tend to "specialize" because of our God-given personalities and types of experiences. At the same time, we need to remember that if we find ourselves in the midst of an unusual spiritual experience, it might be one of our less-used senses that can best contribute to our discernment.

For example, for many people, sight is the biggie. What if, one day, one of these vision-oriented people begins to smell something. That's it, just a smell. Nothing else is happening. It's not a good smell; it's the acrid smell of ammonia. "Ah, a bad smell!" he thinks. "So therefore a bad spirit must be in the room." He scrutinizes the place, but his eyes tell him nothing. He does notice that he doesn't feel bad. On the contrary, he feels fine, merely curious, somewhat "prophetic."

Basically, discernment is perception. Sometimes it is as simple as an inner knowledge, a "gut feeling" that we cannot explain. That kind of spiritual perception is often so subtle that we can easily miss it or dismiss it as a mere hunch. But the more we yield our natural senses to the Lord, the more God can anoint them and make them more sensitive to discern. It's a progressive unfolding.

I Saw...

You see things with your two eyes wide open. You also can see things with your eyes closed, you know—visions are often seen this way. You also see things when you're sleeping—unless you are physically blind, almost 100% of your dreams will be memorable because of their visual content.

It's no wonder that, with so many ways of seeing, we so often rely on our sense of sight when we're discerning supernatural events. Our sight—both external and internal—is one of our most valuable senses. Sometimes it may be no more than a flash of light that brings a strong sense of a spiritual presence into the room. Other times, we may see an outline form or even a kind of fog of God's glory filling a room. We may observe a kind of shimmering presence or, of course, a fully defined vision, perceived in our mind's eye or with our wide-open physical eyes.

The prophet Ezekiel was overwhelmed with visual input. "In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the Heavens were opened and I saw visions of God" (Ezekiel 1:1, NIV). He goes on to describe in detail what he saw in Heaven: a fiery windstorm, four living creatures with four faces each and four wings and four hands, four wheels full of eyes, and much, much more (see Ezekiel 1-3).

Apparently, John the beloved disciple saw with his physical eyes what he received from the angel in his book of Revelation, although, interestingly, he first heard a voice like a trumpet, and...

...then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.—Revelation 1:12-14, NASB

In other words, John quite naturally looked with his eyes to see what had made the loud sound. And there was plenty to see, including a number of angels:

I saw another strong angel coming down out of Heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land.—Revelation 10:1-2, NASB

Seeing and hearing are often intertwined, aren't they? Let's look at some Scriptural examples of how people discern spirits through hearing.

I Heard...

Later in the New Testament, we read about how Cornelius, who "clearly saw in a vision an angel of God." Cornelius hadn't expected that. He was jolted even more when the angel spoke his name in a commanding voice, "Cornelius!"

And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea."—Acts 10:3-6, NASB

Those were pretty specific directions. Cornelius didn't waste any time. He gathered his men and went to Joppa. No one had to teach him about discerning what he had heard. He knew he had received a message from God.

Even though hearing is one of the most common ways of receiving a heavenly message, it's not limited to hearing spoken words or sentences. People can hear the sound of wind, such as occurred on the day of Pentecost. That happened to Michal Ann and me that time when a supernatural wind came blowing through our closed bedroom window and woke us up to receive angelic visitors.

People hear bells, thunder, a telephone ringing, heavenly music. The variety of options is endless. I know a woman who was awakened from sleep by a small noise, only to overhear a short conversation between two angels, whose illuminated faces she could just make out as they stood next to her bed. "Is she really going to do it?" said one, referring to a very difficult undertaking that the woman was feeling led to initiate the next day. "Yes," said the other. That's all she saw or heard, but that snatch of conversation assured her that she could expect angelic help in the morning.

Keep looking, keep listening, and keep tuning in with all of your other senses to distinguish God's envoys from counterfeit messengers.

I Smelled...

As noted in an earlier example, spiritual discernment can sometimes come through our sense of smell. Many people have testified to sensing the presence of the Lord accompanied by the smell of roses.

At times, it is possible to identify the enemy's presence in the same way. A particular place just may not "smell right," even if we don't quite know why. Sometimes we can identify a rotten-egg odor or other noxious smell. If there is no logical, natural explanation for the unpleasant odor, it may be an indicator that an unclean spirit is present.

I have found that I am able to discern a certain form of addiction in a person's life by using my sense of smell. I can smell a type of smoke that I associate with the addiction, and then I know how to proceed in ministering to the person involved.

The sense of smell is not prominently portrayed in the Bible accounts of discernment, in spite of the fact that we ourselves, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are described as carrying His "sweet savour" to the world around us:

But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph (as trophies of Christ's victory) and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere, for we are the sweet fragrance of Christ unto God, among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.—2 Corinthians 2:14-15, AMP

I Tasted...

What about discerning a spiritual presence through the sense of taste? Have you ever heard someone say, "That just leaves a bad taste in my mouth?"

The prophet Ezekiel (whose extensive experiences could be used to illustrate all five senses in overdrive) was treated to a spiritual tasting incident. Remember the scroll he was told to eat?

"But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you." Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which He unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe. And He said to me, "Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and He gave me the scroll to eat. Then He said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.—Ezekiel 2:8–3:3

Another supernatural scroll was consumed by John, who recorded what it tasted like:

So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour , but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey." I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.—Revelation 10:9-10, NIV

I Felt...

It's certainly true that we can feel or "sense" spirits, but here I want to refer strictly to physical touch, the kind of feeling that happens through the nerves in your skin. This is the area of sensitivity that is the strongest in my own life. And, yes, angels do touch people to get their attention, to communicate with them, and sometimes to hurt them, if they're bringing God's judgment. Here are a few Scriptural examples, with the "touch words" in italics:

Then the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep.—Zechariah 4:1, NASB

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.—Acts 12:7, NIV

Your sense of touch comes into play when your skin or scalp tingles, and also when you feel pain that is meant to communicate a message to you. At times I receive physical pains in my heart that indicate to me that some kind of heart-wound has occurred in another person's life. These pains alert me to be ready to minister freedom and healing to the other person.

So we see that we can discern spirits (angelic, human, and demonic) by various means, if we are anointed with the Spirit of God. At different times, people see, hear, smell, taste, or feel the touch of another spirit. Our Holy-Spirit-filled spirits are our ultimate sensors, and we can continue to grow and mature in this realm for as long as we live here on earth.

Closing Prayer of Consecration

Holy Spirit, we present to You our eyes (our natural eyes and the eyes of our hearts) and we ask You to anoint them to perceive, to distinguish, to differentiate. We present all of our senses to You and we ask You to keep us on track. Anoint our senses to perceive heavenly realities. Help us to steer clear of counterfeit spiritual experiences. May complete access be given to the Word of the Lord in our lives. We are covered with Jesus' Blood, Amen.

Blessings to Each of You!

James W. Goll

Email: info@encountersnetwork.com



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