You Are Being Watched. Do You Know Why?
Did you know that you are being watched? Saint Paul says that the apostles are “a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men” (1 Cor. 4:9 NIV). In other words, not only do other human beings in our world watch what those who belong to Jesus do on this planet, other beings not of this world are watching as well. Sounds like a plot for a science-fiction movie, doesn’t it? But it is truth, not fiction, and this truth is confirmed in Scripture.
In the book of Job, Satan is described as having roamed through the earth, going back and forth through it, the implication being that he was observing all that was happening in the affairs of men (Job 1:7). Elsewhere in the same book (38:7) God tells Job that at the creation the angels sang for the joy at seeing what God had done; they were heavenly witnesses. Other spiritual beings are actually called watchers in Daniel 4:17 (KJV, RSV, ESV).
Scripture further states that “angels long to look into these things” (1 Ptr. 1:12 NIV). What things? According to this passage, they are the things involving the death and resurrection of Jesus and the eternal destiny of human beings. And just why should this issue so captivate angelic beings that they are described as not just curious but longing to look into the matter? There are at least two reasons because there are two types of spiritual beings who are watching what we do, good spiritual beings and evil spiritual beings. Naturally, their different characters, good and evil, reflect why they watch.
Scripture tells us that there once was a rebellion in heaven in which Lucifer led some of the angels against God, for which they were cast out of heaven (Is. 14, Ezek. 28). There is a third such reference in the book of Revelation (12:7-9), but some interpret that battle to lie in the future, in which Satan and his followers will be removed from their current dwelling place in the second heavens and be cast down to earth and thus causing much of the tremendous suffering that accompanies the end times. Whatever the case, we know that God created all things and that he created all things good. Therefore, however and whenever it occurred, there was a rebellion which accounts for the present evil which we see in the universe. There are now both good and evil beings. Not surprisingly, these two types of beings see things differently.
Applying this knowledge to the matter of why spiritual beings watch us, we can say that the angels who remained faithful to God are interested in what we do and watch us because they, like we who believe in Christ, want to see God glorified and want to participate in the great war between good and evil in such a way that glorifies God.
The evil spiritual beings have much different reasons for watching events unfold here on earth among human beings, two of the most important of which are these: First, being evil and opposed to God, they want to do their utmost to deny God glory and to ruin his purposes for the human race. There is nothing surprising or unexpected about this.
But the second reason may indeed come as a surprise to some, for it is personal and yet, at the same time, so vast in scope that it stands as one of the foundational causes of evil in our present world: These evil spiritual beings, Satan and all his followers, view the existence of human beings as a personal slap in the face to them, a stinging reminder of their great folly and sin in rebelling against God in heaven. It is this second reason for watching what we human beings do on earth that will be the focus of the rest of this article.
The passage referenced previously from Job is a good place to start any inquiry into this deep subject. That passage mentions that Satan had been roaming about the earth, observing what was taking place. This confirms the first part of the question of the title of this piece, that we are indeed being watched. But what about the second, the question, about why we are being watched? This too is addressed in the Job passage. Notice that God asks Satan if he has considered his servant Job. Considered. That means more than just “noticed”, more than just watching; it means, “Have you learned anything from what you have observed?”
This is the real question with which we should be concerned. Life is full of many things–so many that it is easy to become distracted from focusing on what is important. We can become so busy just watching that we forget to learn from what we see. “You will listen carefully yet will never understand, you will look closely yet will never comprehend” (Mt. 13:14 NET).
Satan is the ultimate example of this failure to understand. He has roamed over the entire earth, seeing all that is taking place, yet he is unable to draw the correct conclusions from what he has seen. We know this because twice in the book of Job he challenges God, claiming that it is God, not he, who has the wrong understanding and perspective (Job 1:8-11, 2:3,4).
In this self-justified, mistaken attitude of blaming God for his own failures, Satan illustrates the biting truth of Proverbs 19:3: “A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.”
This is the key truth underlining the real reason the evil spiritual beings are so obsessed with watching what human beings, especially believers, do on earth. These spiritual ones once enjoyed the blessing of continually standing in the presence of God in heaven and enjoying his great blessings and glory, only to rebel against him and be cast out of heaven. Not only that, but they also know that God plans to let human beings who believe in his Son Jesus Christ into heaven, their former dwelling place. These lowly human beings will be allowed to go where they themselves have been cast out. And not only that but these same humans will judge them; human beings will judge angels. “Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” (1 Cor. 6:4 NIV).
In these words of Scripture, we see the twofold arena in which all of this takes place, the spiritual and the material worlds. Spiritual beings watch what we do here (the things of this life) because there is a connection between what we do here and what will happen to them in God’s final court of law where they will receive final judgment–with human beings as their judges! That connection is this:
They, the evil spiritual beings who rebelled against God in heaven, had the absolute best possible circumstances for serving God and remaining loyal to him–and they still failed to do so. They rebelled against God anyway. When they try to justify their imagined grievances against God, however, and claim that he was unjust in expelling them from his presence, God keeps pointing out to them human beings on earth, just as he did in the case of Job, who, despite having to live in semi-darkness, never seeing God directly as they did, and having to go through many trials of their faith and many sufferings–despite all this, they remain true to God.
So the case of these dark ones falls flat. The daily lives of believers on earth is a stinging rebuttal to all their railings against God. No wonder they hate us so much! And no wonder they watch our lives here on earth so closely: They seek some way to turn us away from God so that they can justify their own lack of loyalty to him. Failing that, they seek to destroy us, both out of sheer hatred and in order to destroy the evidence against themselves.
This is strikingly reminiscent of the story of Cain and Abel. We learn from Scripture that Cain slew Abel out of jealousy and hatred, because God accepted Abel and his sacrifice while rejecting that of Cain. Cain may have tried to destroy the evidence also but he could not, for God heard the blood cry from the earth (Gen. 4:10).
God still hears the cry of his righteous ones from the earth. They are a living witness against the evil spiritual beings whose sin, like that of Cain, caused them to be banished.
“Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you” (1 Jn. 3:12,13 NIV).
“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (Heb. 11:4 NIV).
That is what so galls our opponents who watch what we do here on earth: that, by faith, we still speak against their folly. We are living witnesses against them–so they seek to destroy us, to destroy the evidence against them. Therefore, Scripture warns us, “Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings” (1 Ptr. 5:8,9 WEB).
Now we are getting close to the very heart of this mystery. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of the mystery of God’s plan of salvation for all people, in chapter three, verse nine, and then in the next verse says this about God’s purpose in this astonishing plan:
“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory” (Eph. 3:10-13 NIV).
There you have it, the plan and purpose of God for why we are on this earth at this time. So many facets are mentioned here in this brief note about a plan so vast and deep and awe-inspiring that even angels and demons long to look into these things. It mentions the fact that it is an eternal plan, that it all revolves around Christ, that it involves suffering for those chosen to participate in this plan, that rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms must watch this plan unfold despite their desperate attempts to thwart it, and, finally . . .
Finally, there is that one, last aspect that I have saved for last, not because I think that it is the most important, for it is not; another fact is supreme in importance, that it all revolves around Jesus Christ and what he has done. But there is this one, very personal aspect that is mentioned first in the revelation of this Scripture passage: that little phrase right at the beginning of the verse that says, “through the church . . .
Through the church! . . . That’s you and me! We are granted the astounding privilege of sharing in this great plan. In fact, it is through us, the church, that God intended from all eternity to carry out this rebuke and rebuttal to Satan and all those who follow him in his rebellion. This gives tremendous significance to our lives.
Any believer who sinks into depression or feeling of little use in God’s kingdom or who thinks his or her life is of little value or significance should read this passage from Ephesians three and meditate on it until its deep meaning sinks into the soul. We are not insignificant, we are not bystanders in the cosmic drama being played out on the stage of this earth. We are, in fact, some of the main characters in the play. Knowing this should lift us up in spirit as well as humble us at the same time. Humble us because the play is really all about Jesus. History is his-story. But also lift us up in spirit that God would allow us to participate in such a major way in this performance for the watchers above.
The fact that our part in this divine play involves suffering, as it did for Job and countless others, only makes the significance of our role all the greater. As was mentioned, we are not comfortably sitting in the audience, watching the play; we are totally involved in the performance–and that performance does involve suffering. We don’t just act out our parts, we live them out–and life does hurt at times. The play revolves around the main character, Jesus, but we have been joined to him so that we share in the privilege of suffering with him for this world. That is why Paul ended the section quoted above with these words: “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory” (v. 13).
Paul understood the significance of his role in carrying out the gospel message to this world. Therefore, he was not overwhelmed when he suffered; he knew it was part of the plan, having been joined to Christ in his suffering. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Ph. 1:29 NIV).
Paul understood the cost of involvement in this grand drama. We participate in this cosmic play at the cost of suffering. “In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24 ESV).
Make no mistake about it: The play is not just pretending, but a real drama played out in the lives of real people. Just as Satan fulfills his role as villain with real harm inflicted upon real human beings, so must we also be willing to fulfill our role to the full, even if the role assigned to us by God is a death scene. Those who are faithful to God are those described in Revelation: “They loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11 ESV).
We are to play out our assigned roles in the grand play of God “without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God” (Ph. 1:28 NIV).
We who believe in Christ are a sign to the world. If that were not a big enough assignment, we are also a sign being watched by the whole universe, of human beings and spiritual beings. We are a sign to the watchers who are evil. We will be saved, they will be destroyed.
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” (2 Cor. 2:14-16 NIV).
Who indeed? Not I. No believer is equal to such a gigantic and awesome task. But as the passage says at the beginning, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”
Thanks be to God. He is the one who wrote and directs the play and assigns to each his or her part. How awesome to know that as we perform the part assigned to us, it is part of this profound, living demonstration to those who watch us. We need to wake up to this profound realization.
Zechariah experienced this awakening and described it thus:
“Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. He asked me, ‘What do you see?’ I answered, ‘I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights'” (Zech. 4:1,2 NIV).
God gave him a message to give to the people who may have experienced this feeling of insignificance of their lives. He reminds his people that there are no small things with God; he watches all that we do–and that gives everything we do significance.
“”Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. (These seven (lights) are the eyes of the Lord, which range throughout the earth.) (Zech. 4:10 NIV).
What, then, should be our response to all of this, now that we, like Paul and Zechariah and God’s people of old, have had our eyes opened to this awareness of our being watched by evil spirits and angels and God himself? Just this:
“What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives . . . as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Ptr. 3:11,12,14 NIV).