The Bible tells you in Ephesians 6:12 that your struggle as a believer 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. But what exactly does this mean? What are these “spiritual forces of evil” that the apostle Paul is referring to?
In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at what the Bible teaches about these dark spiritual forces, where they come from, how they operate, and why it’s so important that you put on the full armor of God to stand against them.
- Satan and demons are real spiritual beings set against God’s purposes.
- They operate in the “heavenly realms” – the supernatural dimension that undergirds the physical world.
- Their aim is to steal, kill, and destroy through deception, accusation, and temptation.
- Jesus has already defeated them through his death and resurrection.
- Believers have authority in Christ to resist demonic influences in their lives.
- Putting on the full armor of God is essential to stand firm against their schemes.
What are the “Spiritual Forces of Evil”?
When Paul talks about “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” he’s referring to demonic spirits that operate in the supernatural dimension. Let’s break this down:
They are spiritual beings
These forces are not mere metaphors – they are actual non-physical personal beings. We know this because the Bible presents Satan and demons as having intellect, emotions, and a will. They can speak, scheme, feel anger and joy, and make choices.
Some key verses that demonstrate this personal nature include:
- Satan speaking and scheming in Genesis 3:1-5 (NKJV)
- Demons speaking to Jesus in Matthew 8:29 (NKJV)
- The demonic spirit who identified himself as “Legion” in Mark 5:9 (NKJV)
- Satan’s desires in John 8:44 (NKJV)
- Demonic teachings referred to as “doctrines of demons” in 1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV)
Because they are personal spiritual beings, these forces of evil have a degree of supernatural power – yet they are limited in space and power compared to God.
They are forces of evil
These spiritual forces stand in direct opposition to God’s purposes. They manifest evil attributes such as deception, temptation, accusation, and destruction.
The Bible tells you that the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44), and that he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Demons deceive and enslave people under their influence (2 Timothy 2:26). Satan is called the “accuser of the brothers and sisters” (Revelation 12:10).
The ultimate goal of demonic spirits is to “steal and kill and destroy” God’s good plans (John 10:10). Anytime something is twisted away from God’s design – such as deception, addiction, perversion, hatred, disease – demonic influence is likely involved.
They operate in the “heavenly realms”
What does it mean that these forces of evil work in the “heavenly realms”? This refers to the supernatural dimension that undergirds the physical universe. It is the realm of God’s throne (Isaiah 66:1), where angels serve him (Luke 2:15) and human prayers are heard (Revelation 8:3-4).
This heavenly realm intersects with and influences earthly realities. For example, when the prophet Elisha prayed for his servant to see the heavenly forces protecting them, the servant’s spiritual eyes were opened (2 Kings 6:17).
Likewise, demonic forces can influence people and situations on earth through this spiritual dimension. That is why Paul emphasizes the importance of spiritual armor to stand against their unseen attacks (Ephesians 6:12-18).
Now that you understand what these forces are, where they come from, and how they operate, the next question is…
How Did These Forces of Evil Arise?
To understand the origin of demonic forces, you have to go back to the rebellion of Satan and the angels who followed him.
The Bible reveals that Satan was originally an angel named Lucifer, a beautiful and exalted angelic being (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19). However, pride caused Lucifer to sin against God and attempt to exalt his throne above the stars of God (Isaiah 14:13).
Because of this rebellion, Lucifer – now known as Satan or the Devil – was cast down from heaven along with the angels who followed him (Revelation 12:4,7-9). Jude 1:6 refers to this as the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling.
These fallen angels who rebelled with Satan are now known as demons.
Satan’s ongoing rebellion
Satan and the demonic forces under his command continue to rebel against God and his purposes. The book of Revelation describes this “war in heaven” that then spilled over to the earth:
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9 NKJV)
Satan’s failed rebellion in heaven led to his fury being directed at earth. Rejected by God, he now schemes against God’s highest creation – humans made in his image. That is why you must be aware of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). The battle is ongoing until Satan and his forces are finally judged and condemned forever.
How Do these Forces Operate Against Believers Today?
While Satan and demons have been defeated by Christ through his death and resurrection (Colossians 2:15), they still carry out schemes against believers today until their final judgment:
Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), and demons propagate false teachings (1 Timothy 4:1). This includes false religions, cults, and unbiblical worldviews. They can also deceive through sorcery, witchcraft, false miracles, and visions (Exodus 7:11, Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Revelation 16:14). Stay grounded in God’s Word to avoid deception.
Demons tempt people into sin, addiction, and corruption. They look for footholds in your life, whispering lies, stirring up fleshly desires, and enticing your natural appetites (Ephesians 4:27, 1 Corinthians 7:5). Resist temptation by trusting God’s promises and fleeing from compromising situations (James 4:7).
Satan is called the accuser of believers (Revelation 12:10). He accuses you directly in your thoughts, dredging up past sins and failures. Ask God to rebuke him, remembering that all accusations were nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14).
Demons can inflict disease, suffering, and spiritual oppression on people. Examples include the woman who was crippled by a demon for 18 years (Luke 13:10-17) and the boy who was mute, epileptic, and suicidal due to demonization (Mark 9:17-29). Through faith in Jesus, we have authority to cast out afflicting spirits in his name (Mark 16:17).
Demons love sowing discord, gossip, and dissension within groups and churches. They inflame pride, jealousy, and selfish ambition to divide people against each other. Maintain humility, patience, and honest communication to thwart the enemy’s efforts to isolate and attack (James 3:13-18).
As dreadful as their schemes are, the good news is that Jesus has already defeated these forces of evil through his death and resurrection. Believers have authority to resist demonic influences in their lives. But how do you stand firm and walk in this authority?
How Do Believers Have Victory Over These Forces?
If you are in Christ, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, guaranteeing ultimate victory (Romans 8:11, 1 John 4:4). Through his cross, Jesus disarmed the demonic forces, making a public spectacle of them (Colossians 2:15). But we must learn how to walk in this promised victory.
Submit to God and resist the devil
You can’t fight spiritual forces in your own strength. But when you humbly submit to God and take your stand against the devil – resisting his lies and temptations through scriptural truth – Satan will flee from you (James 4:7).
Be filled with the Holy Spirit
As you seek the Spirit’s control and direction daily, he will lead you away from compromise and equip you to discern demonic deception (Galatians 5:16, Acts 5:3).
Put on the full armor of God
The believer’s armor includes truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer (Ephesians 6:10-18). Know your position of protection under Jesus’ blood.
Bind and cast out demonic spirits
Through Jesus you are given authority to cast out demons who afflict people (Matthew 10:1, Mark 16:17). The keys of the kingdom allow believers to “bind on earth what is bound in heaven, and loose on earth what is loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19).
Maintain unity and pray for other believers
Stay joined together in the Spirit so that you are not isolated and vulnerable to attack (1 Peter 3:8, James 5:16). Corporate prayer releases God’s power against strongholds.
By residing in Christ through the Spirit, wearing God’s armor, resisting the devil, and binding/casting out demons in Jesus’ name, you can walk in victory over the powers of darkness seeking to steal, kill, and destroy.
The spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms are very real – but so is Christ’s victory on the cross and his authority given to believers. Make sure you stay alert and close to Jesus. Take up your spiritual armor daily. And don’t hesitate to cast out demons afflicting others or influencing your environment, knowing that God fights for and with his holy people.
The battle belongs to the Lord! With the authority of Jesus’ name, the gates of hell shall not prevail against the advance of God’s Kingdom through his church!