There are two kingdoms to consider in spiritual warfare: the kingdom of heaven (or God) and that ruled by Satan. The word “kingdom” in NT scripture is translated from the Greek basileia which means a place where a king rules or reigns. Those in the kingdom of God have life marked by “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). Their lives are under the reign of God, submitted to the lordship of Christ in all aspects of life. The glory of God is manifested through their lives so that His authority and power is in evidence against Satan’s dominion. The gospels speak of the kingdom of God being preached, not just any gospel, and in Acts we find God’s authority and power operating through devoted believers with miraculous signs and wonders. There were not only divine healings and miracles, but also the casting out of devils (evil spirits or demons). Jesus told the Pharisees who questioned His authority to cast out evil spirits the following:
“If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come to you.” Matthew 12:28
This was a new authority not in evidence during OT days, and is a signal ingredient of God’s kingdom. While most pulpits present a gospel today only stressing Jesus’ atoning work at Calvary as securing forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father, such is not the full message of the gospel. In fact, John tells that the purpose for the Son of God being revealed in human flesh goes well beyond the atonement for sins. It includes destroying works of the devil, which is why spiritual warfare is so critical for the church to address, especially since scripture warns that activity of seducing spirits and doctrines of devils will increase in the latter days (1 Timothy 4:1).
“He that commits sin is of the devil: for the devil sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8
There is widespread misunderstanding about the kingdom of heaven. Simply having come to a saving knowledge of Christ does not place a person in the kingdom. What we call salvation is entering a door Jesus tells is narrow (Matthew 7:13), a door entered only by grace through repentance and faith. Then He says we are to follow a way of progressive sanctification which is narrow in life (7:14). Furthermore, Jesus tells that “few” find it. The Greek translated “few” is oligos, meaning very, very few. Only by refining in what God calls the “furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10) and through much tribulation does one enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
The question becomes, “Who is the enemy responsible for tribulation in the lives of God’s saints, and what are his ways of afflicting the chidren of God?” To understand the origin of sin, let us return to the OT. Original sin did not occur in the garden of Eden by Adam as commonly taught. A kingdom under the rule of Satan was already in existence and waiting when Adam and Eve were created. We find veiled reference to this in an allegory by God speakng to the prophet Ezekiel about the king of Tyrus.
“You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so; you were upon the holy mountain of God: you have walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniqui-ty was found in you. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you have cor-rupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness: I will cast you to the ground.” Ezekiel 28:14-17
Obviously the king of Tyrus or Tyre was not an anointed cherub. The reference is to an angelic being of high order who was perfect at creation until pride corrupted his heart. This matches another allegory (story having symbolic meaning) about the king of Babylon as told the prophet Isaiah by God.
“How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations. You have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God….I will as-cend above the heights of the clouds. I will be like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:12-14
The Hebrew word shachar translated “morning” has a literal meaning of morning light, corresponding to the term “brightness” in Ezekiel referring to an angelic being that was cast to the ground. After seventy disciples returned from ministry, they told Jesus, “Even the devils are subject to us through Your name” (Luke 10:17). To this, Jesus replied, “I beheld Satan as lightening fall from heaven” (10:18). And we find another reference to the enemy we face being cast out of heaven in the book of Revelation.
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out; that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:7-9
Satan appears to have occupied an anointed position of great stature among the heavenly hosts of angels, only to be expelled because of pride and his desire to become exalted like the Most High. Having led a third of the angels into rebellion against God (Revelation 12:4), Satan’s kingdom is an organized army of evil spirits or demonic beings who work in every conceivable way to oppose God’s mission of redemption. Our conflicts in life are not against what we consider “flesh and blood” such as other people or even ourselves. Our conflicts are in a realm of what is known as spiritual warfare. And let us never dismiss Satan’s deceitfulness, one who was able to convince a third of angels to join in rebellion after they had experienced the majesty of God the Father on His throne.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wicked-ness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12
Satan’s kingdom also includes false prophets who compromise the Word of God. Of such, Jesus warns us fourteen times. Paul also warns of “false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The way to identify false apostles is their failure to preach the same gospel as Jesus and Paul by failing to condemn sin and not demanding repentance from sins for forgiveness as well as salvation. After His resurrection, Jesus told disciples before returning to heaven,
“Thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46,47).
Paul likewise emphasized repentance for salvation, writing that godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Failure to demand repenting for the forgiveness of sins and to receive salvation is a key element of cheap grace preached by many today. It leads to a form of ‘intellectual conversion’ which is a counterfeit of true salvation. Paul also described spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) including miracles and divine healings that false apostles claim are not in operation today. And the apostle makes clear that apostasy or falling from faith is possible in contrast to the false security of eternal security taught by misguided if not false teachers around the world today. So it is that Paul wrote about those who would preac a gospel different than what he preached.
“I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel…But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again. If any man preach any other gospel to you than that you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9
Use of the word “accursed,” inspired by Holy Spirit, is a word translated from the Greek anathema which literally means to ban or excommunicate. Paul says that he would excommunicate from the church those who fail to demand repentance to be saved, who disown ministry gifts of apostles and prophets, or claim supernatural spiritual gifts like miracles and divine healing are no longer operating in the church. In effect, he would excommunicate entire denominations which have developed in more recent centuries as supposedly being part of the true church Jesus left behind.
As mentioned, Satan has an organized kingdom starting with principalities which appear to be assigned authority over large territories. Chapter 10 of Daniel describes a demonic prince over the kingdom of Persia (10:13) and a coming prince over the empire of Greece (10:20). These demonic princes seem to exercise wide influence under Satan’s rule in the spirit realm. The prince of Persia interferred with the angel sent to answer Daniel’s questions about a vision concerning the future of Hebrews. Under these princes are spirit beings described in Ephesians 6 as powers and rulers of the darkness of this world which perhaps are assigned to influence smaller areas such as cities, neighborhoods, or perhaps even particular churches.
It is possible the higher orders of beings under Satan’s command may not be “cast out” in the usual fashion described in the NT. They may act as generals reporting to Satan, given responsibility for directing hosts of wickedness making up the ground troops of Satan’s kingdom. Higher ranking evil spirits may be displaced only when people under their influence live in submission to the lordship of Jesus and are effectively resisting the enemy by overcoming. The usual spirits which directly exert influence on us and are called devils or demons are highly intelligent. Jesus tells in a parable about a demon coming out of a “house” (man) and whose behavior is closely watched. And the evil spirit seeks to return to the place it previously occupied when one’s life is not maintained in godly order and filled with obedience to the Word of God (Matthew 12:43-45).
We also know evil spirits including Satan have emotions. When the demon was cast out of the man in the parable, it “went through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none” (12:43). The demon was at “rest” while manifesting its personality within the man, and the man was in torment from whatever the demon manifested: bitterness, fear, anger, rejection, jealousy, envy, self pity, addiction, etc. When the demon was cast out, the man was no longer in torment, but the evil spirit became tormented as described in going through “dry places, seeking rest.” Other scriptures indicate as well that devils have personalities including emotions, as we are told in James 2:19 that they “tremble” in awareness of God’s presence. So with this background, let us next examine how these evil spirits are able to gain influence in our lives.