Who is the Real Enemy
Practical Applications of Ephesians 6:12
by Dave Brown
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[This article is a work in process. It contains some of the author’s perceptions of reality that may not be totally accurate. We ask you to contact us if you see any way that this article can be improved, and we thank you in advance for your concern for the truth. Believe only what is verified by the Bible.]
The apostle Paul tells us who the real enemy of Jesus is, and at the same time he gives us the weapons to fight that enemy.
12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual (hosts) of wickedness in the heavenly.
13 Wherefore take up the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil (one).
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints,
19 And on my behalf, that utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Let us begin by considering the weapons at our disposal, since that will be helpful in identifying the enemy. Note in verse 17 that the ONLY offensive weapon that we have is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” I am sure that sounds quite weak to the worldly-minded, but please consider one of the final battles that will take place before the final judgement:
20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone:
21 and the rest were killed with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, (even the sword) which came forth out of His mouth: and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
While much of Revelation is “signified” (see Revelation 1:1), it seems quite clear that the sword that came forth out of Jesus’ mouth is the sword of the Spirit, and its power is the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; 19:15). It is the weapon that we must use by faith. Any other weapons, be they spiritual or physical, are not based on faith, and thus could well cause you to lose your personal victory (1 John 5:4). For example, one spiritual weapon that we are constantly tempted by Satan to use is deceit. Although there will be great temptations from Satan for Christians to stretch the truth, deceit is a weapon that the Christian is never permitted use.
With this in mind, let us parse out what Paul gave us in verse 12 to determine who the real enemy is. Before getting into Ephesians 6:12, please take a minute to review some other passages where Paul used some of the same terminology, e.g., Romans 8:38; Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 1:16 and 2:15. Some commentators want to put all of these jurisdictions into the satanic spiritual realm. It should be clear from the context of these passages that all but the last one in the list are human political realms, although we do not doubt that these realms are populated by human agents of Satan.
Ephesians 6: 12: For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood…
This is totally counterintuitive and against almost all common beliefs. When you think of the enemy, what comes to mind? Paul is saying that those who we most often regard as the enemies are not the enemy at all; instead, they are merely agents of the real enemy. Consider a World War Two analogy. American GIs laid in their foxholes 20 yards from German soldiers. No doubt if you asked the American who the enemy was, he would point over the no-man’s-land to the German soldiers. But they were flesh and blood; human, so were they really the enemy? Stories have been told of Christmas Eve parties that took place when a temporary truce was proclaimed and the soldiers gathered together and enjoyed each other’s company. Not that this proves anything, but generally when the truce over the battlefield was proclaimed at the end of the war the “enemies” almost immediately recognized each other as friends? This has taken place to some degree taken place after all major wars.
In this analogy, the (flesh and blood) foot soldiers are merely “agents” of the real enemy. While this analogy is not perfect, it does help us to understand our world today. The police, the rioters, the politicians – even at the highest levels – these are all “flesh and blood” and they are, by Paul’s statement, NOT the real enemy of Jesus or the Christian. In fact, Christ has commanded that we regard every one of these humans are prospective converts to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, His church, and our common salvation. “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you …” (Matthew 28:18-20, ASV). If we are commanded to work for their salvation, how can we regard them as enemies?
But, as we move forward, let us not think that these individuals cannot become the foot soldiers in our analogy. It is clear that when they act for the enemy, they become the agents of the real enemy. These are typically the people we see “out front” so to speak. At the lowest levels they may appear as demonstrators, rioters, police and military. That said, now let us turn back to Paul as he provides the identity of the true enemy.
… our wrestling is:
- …against the principalities – those who are the immediate supervisors of the “foot soldier” agents. They are not nearly as visible as the rioters or the police, but behind the scenes they determine the tactics that are being employed, whether those tactics be for good or evil. They are often considered by many to be the real enemy. Potential contradiction: Someone might ask, “But are these not human agents, and thus flesh and blood?” Yes, they are agents of the enemy in the sense of who they represent; but No they are not to be seen as the enemy in the sense that we fight them with flesh and blood weapons. Our weapons are not to destroy these agents, but to love them and do what we can to benefit them, the ultimate of which would be to convert them to Christ. This is true of all of the human agents we will define below. The true enemy here is the spiritual lies that have captured their bodies and their souls. That is what the sword of the spirit can defeat.
- …against the powers – this takes it to the next higher level and here is where things tend to become dark, covered up, and nearly impossible to tell who is really “calling the shots.” Is it the mayor? or perhaps the political operative that keeps the mayor in power with campaign funds and other bribes under the table? Is it the advocate organization? or perhaps someone (another agent) who is feeding money to that organization to keep it viable and growing in order to constantly promote hatred and strife. Is it the false religious prophet? or perhaps the agents who keep them afloat in wealth and favor with the media as long as their political viewpoint is promoted in their churches? That the viewpoints and rhetoric among these organizations are not at all consistent should give us no pause, since the promotion of a single unified religious or political position is not the goal. The goal is to keep the two (or more) sides fighting against each other so as to keep the world in as close to a total state of mayhem as possible. Open your eyes and see their great successes in this regard, both currently and throughout history. Why should the real enemy fight when his enemies are doing all of the physical fighting for him?
- …against the world-rulers of this darkness – now we are really getting up the ladder. Are these the national rulers? Presidents, prime ministers and dictators who we all think are in control? Or is there still a higher level of “world rulers” who rule by controlling the various money supplies of all but less than a half dozen countries of our world. They use this virtual endless money supply to constantly manipulate the apparent rulers (presidents, prime ministers, dictators, etc.). And since they are most often in the dark places, well behind the scenes, they never suffer any significant losses regardless of who wins or loses the wars, whose stock goes up or down, or how the values of the various currency markets go up and down in comparison to each other. Recall who it was that Jesus threw out of the temple. While they are in darkness for the most part, once in a great while one of them will be overcome by pride to proclaim something like the following: "Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws." (Supposedly made in 1790, the source can easily be found by a Google type search on this combination of words; it is not our intent here to accuse anyone who is still at the flesh and blood agent level.)
- …against the spiritual (hosts) of wickedness in the heavenly – this is the true (non-flesh-and-blood) enemy and source of evil on this earth. It is Satan, and he is referred to in multiple passages as the prince, or ruler, of this world (e.g., John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1 John 5:19). It is clear from Paul’s description that these “spiritual hosts” are not physical and thus do not occupy space on earth. They are spiritual, and he describes them as being “in the heavenly.” [Most translations add the word “places” after “heavenly,” but since Paul did not (and he well could have), we see no reason to. The word “places” contradicts the fact that these forces really do not need a physical place to exist, as their human counterparts do.] This term “in the heavenly” (which appears ONLY in Ephesians) is used by Paul in four other places: Ephesians 1:3, 1:20, 2:6 and 3:10. It is used in a positive sense in all places except this one (6:12), and so, in the positive uses, it might be thought to be talking about heaven itself. However, its usage here makes it more of a neutral spiritual state of being that is not physical. Some translators have used the term “the spiritual realm,” which we feel to be quite descriptive.
So where does this lead us? Remember, the goal here is to determine who the real enemy is so that our weapons are not deployed meaninglessly. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, so who or what is it against?
We can envision a hierarchy where Satan and his demons, totally dedicated to all things evil and wicked, are at the very top. To the extent that God allows them to be, they are in control. However, both God and Christians can further limit their influence. God continuously places physical restraints on Satan (and his hosts) as indicated, for example, in Revelation 20:2. Christians also have the power to restrain Satan spiritually by refusing to allow him into our hearts. This is done by using the truth of God’s word to fill ourselves with such an overwhelming measure of the Holy Spirit that Satan does not have a chance to influence us in any way.
Now a great question has to be: how does Satan in this spiritual realm influence his human agents in the physical realm? Clearly, if Satan can influence humans at the very top of the hierarchy, these agents can, in turn, influence all who are below them. While this might be effective in controlling world events, no doubt Satan has his influence at even the very lowest levels. It should be obvious that this is taking place at the higher levels through the use of money, and at the lower levels by what seems to be much dirtier tactics of organized crime, gangs and riots (i.e., physical force).
Use careful discernment here, since it well could be that organized syndicates are invisible forces behind much of what goes on. In other words, giving order to as opposed to taking orders from, those who covet the limelight out front. They could be pulling the strings of, as opposed to taking orders from, those who we see to be so prominent. If so, it would explain many things. The forces of darkness may well be doing whatever is necessary to keep their puppets (and thus themselves) in power.
Fortunately, it is not essential for us to identify who is really in control in order to use the sword of the Spirit effectively. It does seem clear from Ephesians 6:12 that Satan’s primary strategic directives influence those who are at the highest levels. In this regard, it is no secret that those at the highest levels tend to be largely satanic as far as their religious beliefs are concerned (using the word “religion” in a very general sense to include all things superstitious).
In this regard, can Satan communicate directly with his human agents on this earth? This is a moot question because it really does not matter. In fact, his power would be quite limited if he could and did operate in an overtly supernatural way. How can we say that? Quite simply, let us consider the only other alternative. Suppose that Satan had the supernatural powers to both communicate and perform confirming miracles of his power. Of necessity, God would limit that power, resulting in his being able to demonstrate relatively little. His supernatural feats (e.g., demonic possession) in the first century were somewhat impressive, but even there they were limited, and they were nothing compared to the spectacular things that Jesus did. If they existed at all today, they would be even more limited since there is no miraculous righteous counter-forces as there were in the days of Jesus, and to a limited extent in the days of the apostles.
So then, are Satanic forces to be discounted? NOT AT ALL! The fact that Satanists believe that Satan (and his demons) have supernatural powers gives Satan extreme power over his agents, far greater than if this belief were true, forcing Satan to be constantly performing his meager demonstrations. The imaginations of Satan’s agents easily control them, and they are fully capable of creating havoc without Satan’s direct intervention. His evil influence lives on.
But if Satan has not direct physical presence, how can this evil be linked to Satan at all? The answer is quite clear if we understand how the diametrically opposite influence works. Do we need Jesus to be physically with us for us to trust in Him every step of our lives? No! As long as we have the Holy Spirit, who gives us the total influence of Jesus, we are more than adequately protected and guided. Satan works by his teaching and influence the same way as the Holy Spirit -- but in reverse. His terrible sinful influence in the past, extending to the cruel and brutal crucifixion of Jesus Christ, lives on. Today, for example, many Satanists claim that they are serving Molech, who was infamous for torturing infants by fire. Since the physical presence of Satan is not necessary for him to influence his agents to evil, it is certainly right for Paul (and for us) to attribute these extreme degrees of wickedness to Satan (spiritual hosts in the spiritual realm). It seems that his influence will be in this world until he is cast into the lake of fire (that recorded in Revelation 20:10).
So, of what practical value is knowing all of this? Let us try to provide some useful applications that might influence our thoughts and behavior in this world:
- The enemy is not flesh and blood. The people who you disagree with are under great delusion to believe that you are the enemy. All of our problems would be solved if everyone would believe what Paul states in Ephesians 6:12. Without hatred we could put aside our differences and work together for the common good. Hearing this, Satan is terrified, and he will do whatever is necessary to prevent that from happening. Does this not explain much of what we see going on today?
- The spiritual weapons at our disposal can provide spiritual benefits to the human agents of the true enemy (Satan). So when we use the sword of the Spirit, we are not fighting against the human agents; in fact, we are fighting FOR their freedom from satanic enslavement. Let us love them and fight for their freedom from ignorance and sin. Let us fight against the lies that are consuming their souls.
- Satan is the father of lies and deceit (John 8:44; 1 John 5:19; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; Rev. 12:9). He is extremely clever in sowing seeds of discord among people who would otherwise be friends and mutually supportive of each other. The hatred in this world is caused totally by Satan. When you become part of it, you become one of his agents. It is difficult to continue loving everyone in a hostile world, but that is what our Lord commanded of us (Matthew 5:43-48), and it is the only way that Satan can be beaten. Use the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Fight hatred first within yourself with all of your being, and ask God for His help. Then use your example to fight hatred in the world.
- The highest level puppet-masters control those who we perceive to be our rulers, and they are all (with very few exceptions) in the clutches of Satan. They have caused wars in the past in which hundreds of millions of people have been killed, and similar numbers of children have been made homeless. They have no remorse about it. In fact, in many cases they traffic and profit from these children as well as the demand for physical weaponry. All wars could be avoided if those who are being manipulated into war would come to a realization of who the real enemy is. This has to have been the rule from the first century; or else, how would the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write Ephesians 6:12, which was as true in the first century as it is now? Since most people are obsessively deceived into thinking that good people of other races and nationalities are their enemies, there is little prospect for this pattern changing. However, WE DO NOT NEED TO BE PART OF IT.
- Other heinous sins are being perpetrated by those who are serving Satan for the purpose of obtaining his favors. Among these are sins against children seized from war torn and other vulnerable areas. Those who perform these sins often do it to prove their commitment to the satanic cults that own them. People of the highest levels are blackmailed by their handlers and totally controlled by their past heinous deeds. When you see officials at all levels doing irrational things that make no sense, you might suspect that it is the people who own them who are pulling the strings. [I wish I was wrong in this paragraph, and I would love to be corrected by anyone who can provide evidence to the contrary.]
- There are even some cults today who believe that they must commit all possible (and the most heinous) sins in order to provoke Christ to come again. While this seems to us to be a ploy, i.e., an excuse for their intolerably sickening antisocial behavior, once they get into such a totally upside-down philosophy, there is nothing that they will not do to hurt others, especially those who are most vulnerable and innocent, and those trying to live honest and godly lives. Isaiah well prophesied of them in Isaiah 5:20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Few Christians know such people directly, but it is our responsibility to know that they exist.
- It is extremely difficult for good people to believe that such things exist, and in their state of denial, they are often unwilling participants in the cover up that is essential to Satan’s control. There are subcultures that are given to things that ordinary people cannot even imagine. Unfortunately, these seem to be growing and having their effect on a variety of influences that sway those who are trying to do right. In many cases political correctness hampers efforts from exposing Satanic influences. But they can easily be seen in the news media, the schools, the medical centers, the political systems, and most especially, in the entertainment industry. When you participate in supporting things that you know are of Satan, you become part of the responsibility for this growth. Draw the line and stop participating in any and all of it now. The fact that you cannot control others is not an excuse for not controlling yourself.
So, what can we do? Nothing but what Jesus has authorized us to do – go into all of the world and either preach the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20) or support its being preached. Use the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Evaluate what you support and preach religiously, and make sure it is total Bible truth. When you do this you can have faith that you can bring down principalities, powers, world rulers and the vilest spiritual hosts that exist. Jesus did it; let us follow His steps.
What are the conditions of salvation given by Jesus?
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