Angels, Aborigines, Australians and the Hope of All Nations
2. The Aboriginal peoples – a key to the inside


The first part of this series ended with an emphasis on hope. Hope is a motivating force that propels the whole of the creation, including God’s angels, towards its goal under the headship of Christ. Since the angelic host and the church are intimately related in the purposes of God’s kingdom, it must be possible to be spiritually aware to a degree of the interaction between God, angels and the church. This paper addresses these matters, particularly in the Australian context.

Mission minded Christians speak of reaching out as Jesus did to “the least, the last and the lost”.  In this country the people group[1]who fits this category best is the aborigines. On every possible social indicator the state of this people group is appalling. Violence, unemployment, alcoholism, chronic illness, sexual abuse etc. are endemic[2]. The historical forces involved in this grievous state of affairs are complex, and the tens of billions of government dollars dispersed to solve these problems seem largely ineffectual.  In terms of spiritual forces however the matter is much clearer. A vital key to the long term spiritual transformation of Australia[3] is the impartation of hope to our indigenous peoples. This has nothing to do with race as such, but the tendency of the kingdom of God to gravitate to those with the greatest need[4].

Indigenous People on the Outside

Taking our cue from Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.””[5], God sovereignly placed the aboriginal peoples in Australia to have dominion over the land. They did this with great success. In the arrangement of God ruling the land imparted a sense of dignity, integrity and identity to the first peoples[6]. In their traditional cultural setting[7] there was uprightness amongst the tribes with clear moral boundaries[8]. Like all indigenous societies, God’s “common grace” was manifestly at work[9] and the aboriginal communities had a deep sense of belonging in/to the land. Aboriginal communities at a psychological level, and in their familiarity with the landscape and its seasons, considered themselves to be “insiders”. The impact of enforced white settlement across the continent needs to be set against this foundational background.

In the broader biblical perspective, the invasion of a nation(s) by another is both a judgement of God upon the conquered peoples AND something for which God holds the victors responsible[10]. The impact of European settlement was directly responsible for placing those whom God had created to be “insiders” in the land into the position of “outsiders”. By involuntary dispossession of land, loss of language, custom, ritual etc. the dominion given the first peoples by God was invalidated by the new waves of settlers. The original peoples were largely disinherited, not simply of material things, but of the land and those parts of culture and custom which God had sovereignly given them for survival and prospering.

The result of losing the gifts of God is a sense of the loss of the glory of God; this inner state of non-belonging so characteristic of displaced indigenous peoples everywhere[11] is shame. Australian aboriginal communities experience what a lifelong missionary to central Australia called “toxic shame”[12]. This leaves masses of indigenous people with a sense of hopelessness[13] that they seek to drown with a host of addictions and social vices[14].  Many indigenous peoples have entered into a state of feeling “without hope”, as if they had been abandoned by God (Eph 2:12).

What is our Problem?

Whilst agencies of the church were instruments often employed by government to forcefully assimilate aboriginal people into majority society[15], Christian denominations are now amongst the most vocal institutional supporters of aboriginal rights. Despite this the question must be asked, “Why aren’t things getting better?[16]” “Where is the healing power of God to change indigenous communities?”[17] Why haven’t all the prayers offered up so passionately by some many earnest loving believers for our suffering aborigines been so seemingly ineffective? No doubt the answers to these questions are multiform, but I believe the Lord has directed me to one crucial stronghold that must be directly addressed[18].

My awareness of this stronghold began when I was casually inquiring of a neighbour about his recent holiday; he proceeded to share positively about the scenery but complained severely about the accommodation. My secret thought was, “Why are (white/affluent) Australians such whingers[19]?” A few days later I attended a large breakfast where the guest speaker was Andrew Forrest, a Christian mining magnate and, extraordinarily, someone who grew up in the bush surrounded by aboriginal friends[20]. Andrew’s greatest passion is to see indigenous people reach their full potential. His life experience has totally persuaded him that black people are as fully capable as whites[21]. Forrest’s attitude is highly exceptional.

If blatant racial superiority no longer so broadly exists, cynicism is a natural part of mainstream Australian society, particularly with respect to the future of Aboriginal people. Our society, and many individual believers, possesses large scale unbelief that this race of people can have a different future. Cynicism is the direct opposite of hope, it breeds hopelessness! This sceptical attitude is intimately connected to the central theme of these studies, hope for all the nations.

Jesus our Sole Hope

To deny another people group has the same future hope as us is to commit two serious spiritual errors[22]. The first error is “dualism”.[23] Many sincere Christians fall into this trap when they deny indigenous people the potential for socio-economic growth on a par with the rest of society whilst affirming that Jesus died for everyone in the same way (John 3:16). To hold these two views simultaneously is dualistic because it sets up an unbiblical separation between the “spiritual” and the material realm. Jesus does not just “save a soul”[24], he saves and redeems a whole person in the context of all their relationships. This means that in terms of socio-economic prospering the indigenous peoples are as capable of flourishing as the rest of Australians, and our attitude should reflect this.

The second error is even more disastrous. The general expectation of believers that the problems besetting the aboriginal population are past hope, betrays a hidden conviction that total life transformation[25] is somehow racially or culturally dependent[26]. To think cynically about aboriginal people as “no-hopers” and “dole-bludgers”[27] is to submit to a spiritual stronghold (2 Cor 10:3-4) that resists the power of the new creation in Christ. It is to practically imply that there is a future and a hope other than “Christ in you (plural) the hope of glory” (Col 1:27)[28]. The apostolic message however is that hope is tied to God alone, “4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call” (Eph 4:4). To deny this in any way deeply grieves the Spirit of God.

Paul fervently prays for the nations to receive the revelation of “the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18). In Christ, a new hope is opened up for all humanity. The essential content of the gospel is that Jesus brings those on the “outside” to “the inside”. This was clearly visible as Christ embraced tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, women, children[29] and a general collection of sinners; but it is the cross which most potently turns aliens into friends.

Inside Out

My first theology teacher once authored a book called, “God on the Inside”[30].  As an exposition on the trinity it aptly conveys Jesus usual intimate experience of the Father and the Holy Spirit[31]. The one great exception to this constant communion is the ordeal of the cross.

Jesus cry of dereliction is well known, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34). Here, bearing our sin (2 Cor 5:21), the Son of God experiences the ultimate in exclusion, Fatherlessness. He who was always “on the inside” is now “cast into the outer darkness” (Matt 8:12) “away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess 1:9). This is what it means to bear the wrath of God against all our sin and unbelief. What is not so well known however is that Christ’s death is an act of an essentially corporate nature.

Paul teaches, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—” (Gal 3:13)[32]. A “cursed” person was crucified was a covenant breaker and as such someone without an inheritance from God. The author of Hebrews reinforces this image, “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” (Heb 13:11-13). For Jesus to perish “outside the camp”[33] meant for Jesus to die in a state of uncleanness[34], in other words to die as if he had the status of a Gentile – one of us “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). In this sense, Jesus became, as Australians so colloquially would put it, the ultimate “no hoper”.

Christ necessarily did not remain in this state. By resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven he returned to the glory he had with the Father “from before the foundation of the world” (John 17:5). The ultimate outsider became the ultimate insider.

The effect of the cross is to turn outsiders into insiders through faith, “13 But now in Christ Jesus you (gentiles) who once were far off have been brought nearby the blood of Christ…. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”(Eph 2:11-22). The climax of the biblical message of salvation is not that I can be saved, but that there is no people group left outside of the plan of God, all ethnic groups are able to call God their “Father”.

The Hope of the Father

To be without a father is to be without a hoped for inheritance, to have a loving Father is to inherit all things[35]. God’s final word concerning the new heaven and earth is, “The one who conquers will have this inheritance, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7). The united hope of all nations (people groups) is to share together in the inheritance of the Father in reigning on the new earth[36]. This vision alone has the penetrative power to impart a dignity strong enough to wipe away the tears of dispossession, toxic shame and cultural destruction to which subordinate peoples have invariably been exposed by their conquerors[37].

It is the sons of God who are ultimate insiders in the eternal reign of God that imparts dignity, integrity and identity to all peoples and cultures are, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3: 25-27)[38]. Such a oneness of family life should lead to maximum mutual cooperation and unity between all racial and people groups. One enormous and forgotten obstacle however seems to be stopping the release of this era ending dynamic, and it involves the heavenly powers.

Angels of the Nations

In Deuteronomy we read, ““When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders/territories of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God[39].”” (32:8). As nations did not exist in Eden, this would appear to be a reference to how the people groups were assigned an angelic power[40] to care for them after the Fall[41]. This may have reflected God’s original intention in creation for the good of his creatures. In practice however in a sinful world territorial limitation always leads to competition for resources, division and hostility. This is part of the unredeemed mind-set of humanity. God’s purposes for his chosen people Israel and worked out in the midst of such a divided world.

The Israelites and the Canaanites cannot both occupy the land. The old covenant period thus repeatedly sets Israel against the nations in a constant struggle for space. God himself, especially in the case of “holy war”[42], fights supernaturally to preserve the status of his chosen people. As the God of Israel is “the LORD of hosts”, the angel armies do battle on behalf of the Hebrews[43]. This perspective on heavenly conflict extends to events beyond the borders of Israel.

When God with his angelic assistants and executioners[44]uses the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and take Israel into exile, the community of faith encounters a wider spiritual arena. This is clearest in tenth chapter of the book of Daniel. Here we encounter “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” “the prince of Greece” and “Michael, one of the chief princes” engaged in combat over the future course of events in the ancient near east (vv.13, 20). The context makes it clear that these “princes” are angelic beings and that the issue is the future of Israel[45]. The first two “princes” are demonic while Michael is on the side of God[46]. This scenario reinforces the picture that under the old covenant dispensation angelic forces are arrayed in relation to people groups. A radical change occurs however when we come to the new covenant era.

When Paul looks back at the giving of the law he sees angelic involvement, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.” (Gal 3:19-20). The Old Testament law was mediated by angels[47], rather than directly given by God[48].  The result was that Israel was bounded by the law, which defined it as a nation starkly different from other peoples. The gospel promise however unites all peoples as one because it is mediated not by created powers, but by Jesus who is one with God, “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). Under the one Fatherhood in Christ all peoples are “insiders” together.

Under the sole Lordship of Christ angels are no longer set over peoples or territories[49] but only in relation to churches as distinct communities[50]. This is why the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 all begin with, “To the angel of the church in city x”. To think that there could be an angel of Australia, or of America, or an aboriginal, European or Chinese angel would be to practically deny the sole Lordship of Jesus.

Why then do we live so much in our separate cultural and racial camps? We are deceived! The church is widely deceived by evil angelic powers into living as we still are under a system of relating to God that depends upon externals such as what to eat, how to wash, which days are holy and so on. Evil spirits[51] emphasise the “supremacy and inferiority” of systems of cultural and racial thought and so keep the people of God trapped in a framework of good and evil (rather than grace) and in bondage to law[52]. The battle against these powers is fierce for they fear that great day when the church will image the one universal Fatherhood of God in the midst of the nations[53].

Hoping for a Conclusion

The vision of God is to see all peoples, assisted by the holy angels, praying in hope and expectation for the transformation of all things. The unity which will eventually fill heaven and earth, encompassing both celestial and terrestrial beings, is to be imaged as “people …from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9) work together in unity to proclaim Jesus Christ as the one hope of the nations.

When the most disinherited, the aboriginal peoples, image the power of Christ’s redemption to uplift all spheres of life, they will occupy a dignified place of leadership as part of a spiritual spearhead signalling the inheritance of the Father is for all who have lost hope. Through the revelation of the unity of the entire family of the one Father, the powers of evil will forced to recognise they have no ultimate authority in the universe, for their father can give them no inheritance[54].

When this begins to happen, “the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matt 24:29; Eph 6:12) and the forces of evil will lose their grip over vast masses of humanity. It is not the children of mean, but the demonic powers, stripped of their pretentions that will be exposed as fatherless, shameful and in a “hopeless” condition. It is in this is way that the spiritual strongholds that hold back the great end-time harvest of God will be broken down.

This paper has sought to present something of the cosmic scale of the inheritance set before us[55]. Seemingly paradoxically[56] I must end as I began, with a focus on those forgotten people, the aborigines. The Lord is calling for a much deeper level of partnering between indigenous and non- indigenous Australians, not only in church matters, but in working together to see “the last, the least and the lost” recover the dignity which God willed from the beginning and which is his gift to us all as our Father. On this, the salvation of the world depends.

[1] This term is used intentionally here because of its relation to mission. English translations of the Bible have tended to use “nation” for ethne, as in “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:10). This sense is misleading, because we immediately think in terms of our modern nation states. It is neither implied in the key word, ethne, nor representative of the political state of affairs in the Roman Empire at the time the NewTestament was written. Ethne, from which we derive “ethnic”, is best rendered “people group”. In terms of cultural distinctiveness and language (particularly in inland Australia) aborigines are definitely many “people groups”. At the time of European settlement (1788), it is estimated there were over 400 discrete sovereign nations in the continent, groups with distinct territories, laws etc.

[2] They are less likely to meet minimum literacy and numeracy standards or continue their schooling to Year 12. They are more than 6 times as likely to be in the child protection system and 14 times as likely to be under juvenile justice supervision. Indigenous Australians are more than twice as likely as non-indigenous Australians to need help with core daily activities because of disability. They make up 10% of homeless people but only around 2.5% of the total Australian population.  Life expectancy is close to twenty years below average.;

[3] There have been numerous revivals in Australia, characteristically local and short-lived.

[4] Clearest probably in the theology presented in Luke-Acts, e.g.

[5] Similarly Acts 17:26, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place”.

[6] Without the Fall, dominion would have been a sign and witness of royal sonship. Through sin this was attenuated in human experience.

[7] I am not being idealistic here, all “traditional cultures” are idolatrous (Rom 1:18ff.) and demonised (just as much as our own). For example, there is no known aboriginal word for “forgiveness”.

[8] Theft, adultery, unauthorised physical assault, and insult and neglect of family and clan obligations were offences that were considered unlawful and strictly punished.

[9] “Common grace” refers to the general preserving and guiding grace which God freely bestows on all humanity.

[10] E.g. God will punish the arrogance of Assyria (Isa 10:5-19) and Babylon (Isa 13 etc.) and cruel nations in general (Amos 1:3-15). There is no sense in scripture that the invading peoples are in any way superior to those they conquer.

[11] For example, chronic alcoholism, sexual abuse, community violence etc. are present amongst the Inuit peoples of North America and the first peoples of the United States.

[12] For a similar analysis about the impact of colonisation in general, see,

[13] Although many aboriginal people are Christians, they are far from free from the social evils that traumatise the wider indigenous population.

[14] Compare, “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress;
7 let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” (Prov 31:6-7).

[15] I personally know middle aged aboriginal folk who were taken from their families under conditions that would not be tolerated today and placed in church missions.

[16] The latest data I have obtained suggests that 72% of indigenous people are in poverty.  In some rural areas up to 70% of indigenous students do not regularly attend school and 3 times as many in the 15-24 year old age group are neither studying nor employed compared to the non-indigenous population.

[17] The emphasis here is on communities, the Nullagine revival is one recent example of community revival which did not persist,

[18] I am using the term “stronghold” in the sense that it is employed by Paul in 2 Cor 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”. Here, a “stronghold” is a stubborn mindset that functions as a spiritual obstacle impeding the growth of God’s kingdom.

[19] “To whinge”, for those unfamiliar with the term, is to complain or protest, especially in an annoying or persistent manner.

[20] There are many white Australians who would have never had an aboriginal friend or work colleague. Similarly, the overwhelming majority of indigenous Christians would attend an “aboriginal church” where there may be no white faces.

[21] For some of Andrew Forrest’s initiatives see, and

[22] I am not attempting here to discuss racism per se or to deny that this error is also spiritual.

[23] “Dualism” is a belief system that divides reality into two separate parts, such as sacred/secular, matter/spirit, body/soul, yin/yang.

[24] In the Bible, “soul” can simply mean person, e.g. “the man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7); Matt 11:29; Acts 2:41; Rom 2:9; 1 Cor 15:45; 1 Pet 3:20; Rev 16:3 etc.

[25] Particularly at a community level.  Contrary to our individualistic society, It is this level that is the focus of salvation in the Bible e.g. the terms people, flock, house, church, temple, bride, body are all corporate. .

[26] This sort of attitude often implicitly extends to groups like homosexuals, drug addicts, street people and so on.

[27] A “no-hoper” is a person who will never improve, a “dole bludger” is a person who deliberately chooses to live off government unemployment benefits.

[28] Paul’s point here in Colossians (see also Rom 1:5; 16:5-6; Eph 3:6-8) is that the eternal mystery of God revealed in the gospel is that “the gentiles” (Greek ethnoi see note 1 above) share the same hope as God’ s first covenant people, Israel. “Christ in you”, means “Christ among you Gentiles/people groups”.

[29] It is easy to forget that Christ’s attitude to women and children brought about a revolution in their dignity of which we remain heirs. They were “semi-persons” in the Graeco-Roman world.

[30] Charles Sherlock, God on the Inside : Trinitarian spirituality, 1991.

[31] Most apparent in John’s Gospel, e.g. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:10).

[32] The quotation is from Deuteronomy 21:21-23, where the cursed person is symbolically placed outside the inheritance of the land by means of the manner of their death, hanging and exposure, rather than stoning.

[33] The background is the disposal of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, the animal bodies were burned on unclean ground (Lev 16:27-28).

[34] Not that he was personally unclean,  but ceremonially unclean.

[35] Compare Paul’s counsel to the fractious Corinthians, “21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor 3:21-23).

[36] ““Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they reign on the earth.”” (Rev 5:9-10).

[37] I am not being naive here, whoever has the most power, whatever the colour of their skin, dominates  -whether militarily, linguistically, culturally, politically or economically, this is simply human nature.

[38] See also Colossians 3:9-11. Peter likewise proclaims the impact of such restored honour, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

[39] Some, mostly older translations, have “sons of Israel”. This appears in the so-called Masoretic Hebrew text. The other major versions and translations, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, have “sons of God”.

[40] For angels as “sons of God” see the first study.

[41] Compare the principle, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26).

[42] This is a technical term used by Old Testament scholars to refer to the supernatural intervention of Yahweh on behalf of the armies of Israel and to bring about the mass extermination of Canaanites e.g. 1 Sam 11:7.

[43] E.g.  Ex 14:19; Judges 5:20.

[44] This situaa title=”" href=”#_ftn23″ divliving hope tion is symbolically and graphically described in Ezekiel 8-10.

[45] Much has been made of these passages in recent times in terms of the teaching of “territorial spirits”, this description is misleading, as these angelic powers somehow represent peoples, not geographical zones.

[46] He appears as “your prince” (Dan 10:21; 12:1) and in the New Testament contends with the devil (Jude 1:9; Rev 12:7).

[47] See also, “you who received the law as delivered by angels” (Acts 7:53) and Hebrews 2:2.

[48] The background may be Exodus 32:34; 33:2-3 where an angel, rather than God’s personal presence, will lead the people into Canaan because of the sin of the Golden Calf. This is received as a “disastrous word” (33:4).

[49] Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, this truth necessarily applies to all nations, including the modern nation-state of Israel.

[50] E.g. the church in Ephesus, Rome, Smyrna, Perth.

[51] Paul calls these “elemental spirits of the world” (Gal 4:3; Col 2:8; 20)

[52] By this I mean cultural laws, not God’s law.

[53] This will be taken up in my third and final study. The power of the blood of Christ over evil forces is that it makes God accessible as Father through the forgiveness of sins (Eph 2:11-17).

[54] They have only a false “father”, Satan, who rules over them only by power and never by love and whose destiny is hell (Matt 25:41).

[55] I anticipate that the next paper will be even more expansive.

[56] But according to the nature of the kingdom of God, for  “many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matt 19:30)

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