Satan is a brilliant organizer and strategist. He began by deceiving Eve, who then led Adam to sin against God. Since then, Satan has continued through the ages to oppose every step of God’s plan to redeem mankind from the consequences of sin. How does Satan do it? Does he do it alone? No! He does it through his empire of evil.
The Apostle Paul gives us a glimpse into the evil empire in Eph. 6:10-12.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.“
Paul is telling Christians that our struggle is not against flesh and blood — it’s not against people. That’s usually what we think as we fight through the challenges of our days on earth, but it’s not true. Satan controls people. The word “wrestle” comes from the word pallo –“vibrate, shake.” Pale was a contest between two people in which each endeavored to throw the other. Wrestling or Judo is an example of the word. The winner of ancient wrestling matches was decided by which person could hold the other down after throwing him; usually with a hand on the loser’s neck. That was a demonstration of control and dominance.
We all have challenges that we struggle with in life. It may be with our past, it may be with another person, it may be with internal fears, it may be with money, it may be with health. But our real struggle is not with those things. Our struggle, our conflict, is not with flesh and blood. It’s with the spirit world.
Paul says our conflict is “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Keep in mind that one verse earlier (6:11) Paul warns us to take our stand “against the wiles of the devil.” “Wiles” is the Greek word methodeias. It means “craftiness, deceit, a cunning method, scheme or device, a wile, a trick.”
Our struggle in life is primarily with Satan and his evil empire. Ever heard the phrase “he’s a tricky little devil?” There’s more truth to that than people realize. Satan is the master deceiver. He used his skills to trick angels into disobeying the great God Who created them. He deceived Eve. He uses those same skills and techniques to lead the world astray today.
So, how did Satan organize his evil empire? Satan is at the top. He is its supreme leader. He wanted God’s throne but couldn’t get it, so he built his own throne. Under him are layers of other powerful beings who do his bidding. They obey Satan’s commands in the same way the rest of the spirit world obeys God’s commands.
Here’s the structure of Satan’s empire:
- the devil (diabolou)
- principalities (archas)
- powers (exousias)
- the rulers of the darkness of this age (kosmokratoras tou skotous toutou)
- spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (pneumatika tes ponerias on tois epouraniois).
The word for “principalities” (archas) is used nine times in the New Testament. The uses are for people or spiritual beings who have governing powers. The spiritual rulers can be good or evil. The word archas is neutral. We know that the word is used in an evil context in Eph. 6:12. It is also evil in Rom. 8:38-39 and Col. 2:15. It could be good, evil or both in Col.1:16 and 2:10 and Eph. 1:21 and 3:10. Jude 6 is about angels who did not continue their position of rule under God. Titus 3:1 is about human rulers in government.
“Powers” (exousias) means “power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases, the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises, the power of authority and of right, the power of rule or government.” Like archas, exousias is neutral. The context tells us whether the authority is good or evil. (Notice that the authorities have the freedom to do what they do. God has allowed even the evil authorities the freedom to act within God’s limits as we’ve already seen.)
The word (exousias) is used for Jesus Christ in Matt. 7:29, 9:6 & 8, and 10:1 (where Jesus gave His disciples authority over demons), Matt. 21:23-27 and 28:18; Mark 1:22 & 27, 2:10, 3:15 and 6:7 (disciples authority over demons); Mark 11:27-33; Luke 4:32 & 36, 5:24, 9:1, and 10:19 (disciples authority over demons); Luke 20:1-8; John 2:18, 5:27, 10:18, 17:2; Acts 1:7; 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16; 1 Peter 3:22; Jude 1:25; Rev. 2:26-27 and 12:10.
The word exousias is used for Satan in Luke 4:6. He is tempting Jesus in the desert. “And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.'” Notice that Jesus did not contradict Satan’s claim to authority over the earth.” And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.” Satan claimed that he was given all the authority and splendor of the kingdoms of the world and that he can give it to anyone he wants. Apparently, that claim is true (with God’s permission).
Satan shares his authority with “the beast” in the Book of Revelation. See Rev. 13:1-8, 11-17 and 17:12-13 for more about that shared authority. You can find other examples of evil authorities in 1 Cor. 15:24-25; Eph. 6:12; and Col. 2:15.
Exousias is also used for human leaders with authority. Some examples are: Matt. 8:9, 20:25; Acts 9:14, 16:19, 26:10-12; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Titus 3:1; Heb. 13:17; and 1 Peter 2:13-15. The Apostle Paul also writes about the authority he and other Christian leaders had in the formative days of the Church (2 Cor. 10:8, 13:10; 1 Thess. 4:1-2; and Titus 2:15).
“The rulers of the darkness of this age” (kosmokratoras tou skortous toutou) also translates as “world rulers of this darkness.” In Greek literature, Orphic hymns and Rabbinic writings, kosmokratoras signifies a world-lord, ruler of the whole world. Eph. 6:12 is the only place the word is used in the New Testament.
The phrase “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (pneumatika tes ponerias) is also used only in Eph. 6:12. They are a large number of beings filled with and committed to wickedness. Paul says they are “in the heavenly places” (en tois epouraniois). The word is used mostly for the spiritual plane — that which is above, not on earth, in higher places.
These are the real powers with whom we struggle. They are our enemies because they were first God’s enemies. They attack us because they oppose God’s plan and purpose. We are God’s plan and purpose.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
The powers of evil will use every scheme, every trick, every lie, every deceit possible to damage us, make us ineffective, embarrass us. That is how Satan tries to beat God — by beating us. Let us put on the whole armor of God and fight back. “Stand firm!”
Tomorrow, we’ll learn about demons. Are they real? If they are, how do they impact the physical world?
In Christ’s Love and Grace,