One of the main reasons people misinterpret the “end times” scriptures is that modern Christianity has been virtually cleansed of any understanding of the order of beings that existed before Genesis 1, as well as what existed as a result of Genesis 1. People tend to think that that chapter tells of the creation of a cosmos that did not exist before by a God who was either using the “royal we” to speak to himself, or who was talking to himself in his tripartite being. They have no idea about the existence of the “Sons of God” (ben ‘elohiym in Hebrew), who existed already as of the creative acts of God recounted in Genesis 1.
Perhaps the best introduction to the Sons of God and the Divine Council is the reading of Psalm 82:
Psalm 82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
7 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!
These sons of God had been set up by God as the heads of geopolitical nations on the earth. This happened after the great disobedience at Babel, when many people had refused to spread out across the Earth as God had commanded. Thus did God “divide” the Earth in the days of Peleg. (See Genesis 10:25.) This division is explicitly mentioned here:
Deuteronomy 32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.
9 But the Lord‘s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
This brief account tells of the beginning of nation states under the sons of God (ben ‘elohiym in Hebrew). But the plot thickens, for not only were a great many humans in rebellion to God at this time—so were the sons of God. One of them, known commonly as Satan, had tempted Eve to disobey God, and others had gone so far as to take human wives so that they could have offspring of their own:
Genesis 6:1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
The Book of Enoch, quoted in Jude 1:14-15, gives considerably more detail in its accounts of this same event, showing that the strife caused by the sin of the sons of God was considerable. Here’s one passage:
1 Enoch 6:1. And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. 2. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ …. 7:1. And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. 2. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: 3. Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, 4. the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. 5. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood. 6. Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.
The sons of God, who had previously all shouted for joy when God established the Earth (see Job 38:7), were now in open rebellion. It appears that a great many humans went over to them and joined them in their rebellion at Babel, so God interceded by dispersing them:
Genesis 11:8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
And who were to be the rulers of these dispersed humans? It was the sons of God. These beings, far lesser than God in power, were the “gods” of whom we so often read in the Bible. They were the ones whom Israel was never to worship, for God had taken Israel as his own “portion” or “inheritance” when he divided the Earth. They were to worship him alone as the “most high”—and so were all the other nations.
By the time Jesus had come in the flesh, Satan had persuaded the sons of God to follow him. Three times in John’s gospel, Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world”:
John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.
John 14:30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,
John 16:11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
From these three statements, we see that Satan had already been “judged” (16:11), that he was to be imminently “cast out” (12:31), and that he was “coming”, which was likely a reference to the imminent arrest of Jesus under the supervision of Judas, whom Satan had entered (John 13:27). Jesus had then instructed Satan, “What you are going to do, do quickly.“
It is important to grasp the “big picture” of Jesus’ mission upon the earth. Let us hear these witnesses:
1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Notice that John 1:29 uses sin in the singular, and not in the plural, as is more commonly thought about Jesus’ mission here. It was his mission to remove Satan and his co-conspirators from the Earth. This is among the most predominant themes of the Bible, yet it is missed by so many—largely because they know nothing of the Divine Council, and because they have been sold the erroneous idea that God is infinitely patient with Satan and has not yet removed him from the Earth, these 2,000 years later.
Extensive work has been done on the Divine Council and the ben ‘elohiym by Dr. Michael Heiser. One of his web pages has two must-see videos, entitled “Divine Council Intro” and “Introducing the Divine Council Worldview”. I strongly suggest that you view these videos as soon as possible. (Dr. Heiser seems to believe that the Divine Council is still in operation, where I believe that the original sons of God have been removed from it and tossed into the Lake of Fire, never to escape. This difference has no bearing on what he demonstrates from the scriptures about the origin and nature of the Divine Council, however.)
When Bible readers miss the Divine Council, they tend to miss one of the primary reasons for the judgment and turmoil detailed in the Revelation. It was considerably more about the removal of Satan and his angels from the planet in the First Century than about anything else. It happened in 70 AD and it marked the beginning of the resurrection, coinciding with the emptying out and decommissioning of Hades. No longer would humans go to Hades/Sheol after death, awaiting the coming of the Messiah and his reforming of the old order of things. No, under the new order, they would each face judgment at the time of their deaths, for the new order was already established:
Revelation 21:Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
The Earth had been rid of Satan and his divine cohorts, and was no longer the site of the afterlife for humans. Thus was it made “new”. Likewise, the heaven was now to be the home of those humans who had died faithful, and had been given the right to become “sons of God”:
John 1:12 but as many as did receive him to them he gave authority to become sons of God — to those believing in his name, (YLT)