Not long ago I received the following email:
studying Ephesians 6 about the Armor of God & and there is one
verse that I’m afraid I don’t get the full meaning of. It’s verse 12
our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
A couple of questions I had...
1. What does this verse mean?
2. What does it mean when it says “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms"? Does it mean in Heaven? Or does it mean in all the earth?
3. When it talks about the rulers and authorities is it talking about literally those that rule our countries, nations, etc? Or is it talking about those rulers who are not Christian who have been put in a position of power?
In order to get our hands around this verse, let’s look at it in several other versions:
“We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world” (CEV).
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (NLT).
Here are four facts about our satanic opponents:
- They are numerous. Note the various expressions in verse 12. They are principalities and powers. They are rulers. They are authorities. These different expressions describe the many different ranks and categories of evil spirit beings.
- They are powerful. Don’t think of Casper the Friendly Ghost or of some nice spirit beings who like to play tricks on you. The demons are real and they aren’t on your side. J. B. Phillips calls them “spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.”
- They are wicked. They follow no moral code. They live only to do the devil’s bidding. They are opposed to all that is good and holy and right.
- They are clever. Paul speaks of schemes and diabolical plans. Do not be deceived into thinking the demons are stupid. They are morally corrupt but as spirit beings, they possess enormous intelligence. Like spies working for some lethal enemy, the demons know the weak spots in our armor. They lie in wait, looking for a chance to pounce.
What should we learn from Ephesians 6:12?
First, it reminds us that our battle is not against other humans. We do not struggle against flesh and blood. Sometimes we focus on the abortionists, the pornographers, the godless politicians, the corrupt business leaders, the drug dealers, and the purveyors of filth, as if they were the source of our problems. Yet those people are unwitting dupes of powerful spiritual forces that they know nothing about. They are morally culpable for their choices, yet they are also in the service of evil beings that influence them in ways they do not realize. Or we could make it more personal. When someone has hurt us deeply, it’s easy to say, “That person is the source of all my problems.” But our struggle is not with flesh and blood even though it seems that way most of the time.
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