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Prince Of The Power Of The Air

Satan is described on several occasions as a prince (John 12:31,14:30; Eph.2:2), and he is called Beelzebub, a name of doubtful origin, but which means the prince of demons (Matt. 12:24); in addition he is the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4). Thus he is in a position of considerable power and authority with a kingdom that was attested by the Lord Jesus, who said "if Satan... is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand" (Luke 11:18). However Satan is never called a king, because nowhere is his authority absolute. His kingdom is not hell, as many have popularly supposed (Dante, Milton), but it is the kingdom of darkness (C 01.1:13), which is in opposition to the kingdom of God. Satan thus rules over both unregenerate mankind and the multitude of demons. When certain angels revolted against God they were cast down to hell, that is Tartarus, and they remain there in bonds until the day of judgement(2 Pet 2:4; Jude 6), so they are restrained from further evil activity. Many other spirits have rebelled, but God in His wisdom has allowed them to retain their freedom, and to act as minions of Satan and assist in his nefarious activities.

"The prince of the power of the air" is a unique expression (Eph. 2:2), and the form of the language in the original Greek is unusual. The phrase is therefore rather difficult to interpret, and various explanations have been given by commentators from the early Church fathers onwards. It would not be profitable to reiterate all these opinions, as many can only be described as ingenious and fanciful. One common interpretation is based on the word used here for air (Gk. aer), which means the lower air or mist, as opposed to the upper clear air (Gk. aither); thus the lower air has been equated with the darkness, but the usage seems more specific. The air does not here mean the ordinary physical atmosphere, nor does it imply that the earth is literally surrounded by the hosts of Satan. "The power" (Gk. exousia) it should be noted means a delegated authority; Satan is not omnipotent The preferred meaning of the expression 'the power of the air' would be the authority over the sphere of activity where the hosts of wickedness operate. This corresponds to the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). Thus the air is parallel in thought to the world (Gk. kosmos), with air representing the spirits, as the world represents unregenerate mankind, both of whom are under the power and influence of the evil one. The prince and all his demons are totally united in opposing the purposes of God, and directing against Him the affairs of the sons of disobedience. The tragedy is that mankind is naturally blind not only to the light of the gospel, but also to the existence of demons and their evil influence. Demons are also called evil, unclean or familiar spirits, and sometimes incorrectly called devils. Since there is no reproduction among spirits it would seem that each one had individually rebelled against God and given his allegiance to Satan; or, it has been suggested, they may have originally been subject to Satan and then defected together at his fall.

The kingdom of Satan seeks to copy the universal kingdom of God. For as the latter has a hierarchy of thrones, dominions, principalities and powers (Col. 1:16), 50 the former seeks to imitate with a rival organization of principalities, powers, world rulers and spiritual hosts of wickedness (Eph. 6:12). It would be difficult and highly speculative to define each of the above terms separately, or even to differentiate precisely their functions, but it is evident that there are two great forces working in opposition, one for good and one for evil. While God has provided the highest good for mankind, Satan is deploying his forces to hold down fallen mankind and encourage men in selfish greed, ambition and the other works of the flesh, and indeed all that is hostile to the will of God.

Nature of Demons

-they are spirits, having no material form, but they seem to desire physical contact, perhaps to give them greater means of expressing themselves (Matt. 12:43; 8:31).

-they are personal and have names (Mark 5:9).

-they are intelligent and possess powers of thought, speech and action, and they can distinguish between true and false (Acts 19:15).

-they believe in God, but show no repentance, and they also recognize the deity of Christ (Jas. 2:19; Luke 4:34).

-they have some knowledge of the future as they are aware of their destiny (Matt. 8:29).

-they exhibit degrees of wickedness, since some are described as more wicked than others (Matt. 12:45).

-they are able to enter human beings and animals, but the mode of access is unknown.

-they can voluntarily leave a possessed person and later return (Luke


-they can afflict both physical and mental disabilities on their victims (Matt 12:22; Acts 16:16 f.).

-they are powerful and can exert supernatural strength in their victims (Matt 8:28).

-they can display emotions, such as fear and rage (Luke 8:31).

-they can be exorcised by the power of God, however some are more difficult to expel than others (Mark 9:28f), but in any case only a minute fraction of His power is needed, as is expressed by the finger of God (Luke 11:20).

-they can influence people without possessing them (1 John 4:1).

Activities of Demons

These activities consist of both opposing the purposes of God and extending the authority of Satan. The scope of their work has varied from time to time depending on the strategy of Satan, who can assume many guises from that of a roaring lion to an angel of light. Perhaps deceit is the most common characteristic. While these activities reached unprecedented levels in New Testament times, as Satan mustered all his forces to oppose Christ, there is ample evidence of the work of evil powers in the Old Testament

The evil practices of the Canaanites were fostered by the powers, and no doubt Satan specially directed his forces to corrupt the Israelites as they came to possess their promised land. There were severe warnings in the Mosaic Law against evil practices and also making sacrifices to idols, which were effectively offered to demons (Deut. 32:17; Psa. 106:36ff). For though the idols were nothing in themselves and completely powerless, they became potent through the demons. Later Paul confirms that offerings to idols are sacrifices to demons (1 Cor. 10:20). The corruption was very extensive involving human sacrifices, soothsaying, sorcery, spiritism, divination and necromancy; those who practised these things were to be cut off from the people, and sometimes condemned to death (Lev. 19 and 20).

King Saul, who had previously removed those with familiar spirits and wizards from the land, turned in desperation to the witch of Endor when pressed by the army of the Philistines, after Samuel was dead and Saul had lost contact with God. The woman, under pressure from Saul, sought her familiar spirit, but she was terrified when instead the spirit of Samuel appeared. This clearly shows that the spirit of a deceased person does not normally appear at a seance even though this may be claimed to take place. The sentence on Saul is a solemn warning to those who would indulge in the occult. (1 Chron. 10:13). Evil spirits were sometimes used by God for His own purposes, which demonstrates His overall power; for instance God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem (Judg. 9:23), and a lying spirit was used to punish king Ahab (1 Kin. 22:23). All departure from God led inevitably to idolatry, as shown by Jeroboam, who ordained priests for high places and for demons (2 Chr. 11:15). Evil spirits were much in evidence in the occult practices of the wicked king Manasseh (2 Kin. 21 :6f). The continuation of these practices led some of the prophets

to give specific warnings against spiritism, as they looked forward to the future cleansing of the people and the day when all evil would be banished from the land (Isa. 8:19; Jer. 27:9f).

The Gospel records present a very clear exposure of the activity of demons, with many references to the healing of those possessed by demons. The effect of demon possession is manifested in different ways as the victims variously exhibit insanity and mental disorders (Matt. 8:28), or blindness, dumbness, epilepsy and other physical afflictions (Matt. 17:15). Some victims appeared to recognize that they were possessed, but they were in fact only acting as instruments of the spirit. Sometimes the evil spirits overruled the whole personality to produce complete mental confusion, as in the case of the Gadarene, who said "my name is legion; for we are many". The legion represented a considerable number of spirits, who changed the man into a maniac, but when they were expelled by Christ the man became completely normal; while the spirits in requesting entry to the swine seem to have vainly hoped to escape their coming judgement (Mark 5:1-20). It is most important to realize that not all sufferings were due to demons, for we are told that the Lord cast out demons and performed cures (Luke 13:32).

Demon possession was very wrongfully attributed by the Jews to John the Baptist because of his ascetic habits (Matt. 11:18), and to Jesus also when He said "If a man keep My word he shall never see death" (John 8:51 f), which they considered to be absurd. Some expositors have maintained that demon possession required at least the initial consent of the person involved, (e.g. A. H. Strong); but while this may sometimes be true it will not always be the case, since young children have been affected (Mark 7:24ff). While the death of Christ on the cross marked the sentence on the powers of evil (Col. 2:15), God has still permitted them to operate until the future day of judgement. The practice of the occult was shown to be a lucrative occupation by three cases in the Acts - (a) Simon the sorcerer, who offered money to the apostles for the gift of laying on hands to receive the Holy Spirit(8:9-24), (b) the girl of Philippi, who brought much gain to her masters by soothsaying (16:16ff), and (c) those who practised magic arts at Ephesus, and whose books were valued at fifty thousand pieces of silver (19:19). Since New Testament times there have been many references to the activities of demons by early Church teachers, such as Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Augustine, but some of the cases seem to be exaggerated. At the time of the Reformation there was a surge of demonic activity, which both Luther and Calvin recorded, and Calvin's treatment of the subject is particularly instructive. The current increasing fascination with spiritism and witchcraft is very disturbing.

We are told that "in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4:1). There can be no doubt that seducing spirits are behind many modern cults, as they were behind the idols of old, so that these cults not only deny the existence of evil spirits, but they also attempt to refute many fundamental Christian doctrines. As Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light, so his minions can appear as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14f), to corrupt the truth and produce most palatable teachings, which are in reality doctrines of demons. The deceit knows no limits for even the fellowship of the Lord's table is counterfeited by the fellowship of the table of demons (1 Cor. 10:21). For believers possession by demons is impossible, as regenerated persons are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). Though we are not immune from the attacks of the evil one, who is ever seeking to bring discredit on the work of God. God has provided us with a defence, and this is the subject of a later article in this series. Paul could write "we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor; 2:11), and we would pray that we all might be the same.