At the end of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes the nature of our spiritual battle.

For our struggle is not 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 spiritual realms (Eph 6:12).

I dislike the common translation of this verse because the terms used do not mean much in the modern world.

It is common for people to talk of "principalities and powers", but it is not clear what that means. Some people use the term to describe worldly political systems, but that does not make sense, as Paul is referring to spiritual realities. Even for those who understand the spiritual side of life, these terms do not make sense, because we do not have principalities anymore. In medieval Europe, a principality was a small territory ruled by a prince. They have now all been absorbed into nation-states, so principality is not a helpful word.

Ruler is another anachronistic word that is not used much these days. Power is too vague to be useful. Greek has a different word "dunamis", which is used for raw power. This word is applied to the force used by the spiritual powers of evil in 1 Cor 15:24).

Cosmos Dominators

The third expression that Paul uses is "rulers of darkness". The Greek word is "kosmoskrator". To capture the sense of this word, I prefer the expression "Cosmos Dominators of this Darkness". These are the really big spirits that rebelled against God and rule over armies of follower spirits. These archangels want to control the entire cosmos.

Archangels (arche = ruling; angelos = messenger) are big ruling angels/spirits with the ability to instruct other angels. Michael is the name of one who serves God (Jude 1:9). I am not sure why God needed them, because the Holy Spirit can speak to any angel and tell it God's will. I presume that he needed archangels to control large groups of angels working together on tasks needing concentrated power.

A big spirit called Accuser (satan) tricked Adam and Eve into disobeying God. He is also called Slanderer (devil) because he slanders God's name. I do not like the names satan and devil, because it makes this spirit seem greater than he is. I prefer to name him according to his character. He gets no glory from these words.

Once Adam and Eve had sinned, Accuser and a few of his powerful mates could claim legitimate authority over the earth. The others took on new roles as Death, Wrath, Destruction, Beast, and False Prophet. These big spirits worked together, but they also struggled with each other for power.

Most of the other spirits that stopped serving God are listeners and followers, so they obey anyone with authority over the place where they are operating. They naturally obeyed the big spirits who had seized authority on earth.

About a third of the angels were operating on earth at the time of the rebellion. They were waiting for Adam and Eve to give them instructions to care for the earth. When the archangels who had rebelled began to give them instructions, they obeyed because that is what they were created to do. They recognise authority, but they cannot distinguish between good and evil. The big rebellious angels had gained legitimate authority on earth, so they naturally obeyed them.

Political-Spirit and Government-Spirit

The first two Greek words that Paul uses are "arche" and "exousia". These are words that are associated with politics and government. To make this clear, I translate them as political-spirits and government-spirits. These spirits are traditionally called "principalities and powers", but political-spirit and government-spirit are more informative names.

Although the Cosmos Dominators were defeated by the cross, they maintained their authority on earth by using political-spirits and government-spirits to control political systems, governments and empires on earth. A political-spirit or government-spirit in the spiritual realms controls every town, city, nation and region on earth. Their authority on earth is perpetuated by a hierarchy of power.

This hierarchy of power allows the big controlling spirits to exercise authority on earth, despite their defeat by Jesus.

Paul used the Greek words " arche" and "exousia" to describe spiritual powers (Eph 3:10; 6:12). The same words are used in the New Testament for government agencies on earth. Luke and Paul both referred to Roman governors and magistrates as " arche" and "exousia" (Luke 12:11; 20:20; Tit 3:1). This confirms the link between political-spirits and government-spirits and human government.

The Prince of Persia is a government-spirit that controlled the Persian empire during the time of Daniel (Dan 10:13). The Prince of Greece is another political-spirit operating at that time (Dan 10:21). The King of the South and the King of the North are government-spirits that will arise in the future (Dan 11).

Most modern nations and cities are controlled by a government-spirit or political-spirit. They gain control because people trust in political power for their salvation. The greater the faith in political power and government, the stronger the political-spirits and government-spirits will be.

The political-spirits and government-spirits controlling a city, region or nation rule over all the spirits living in the city, region or nation they control. They direct them where to go and what to do. The follower spirits listen and obey the commands of the political-spirit that controls the area that they are operating in.

According to the New Testament, Jesus has been raised up in the spiritual realms, far above all political-spirits and government-spirits (Eph 1:21; Col 2:10). He will use his church to demonstrate his wisdom to them (Eph 3:10). They will be fully defeated at the end of the age (1 Cor 15:24).

Spiritual Forces of Wickedness

The fourth term that Paul uses in Ephesians 6:12 is literally spirituals of wickedness ( pneumatikos pomeria). To makes sense, this expression needs a noun. Either "forces" or "powers" can be used. I mostly refer to the spiritual powers of evil, but spiritual forces of wickedness is also fine. These are all the bad spirits that attack humans in various ways. They are controlled by the Cosmos Dominators or the political-spirits and government-spirits that control their nation or city.

The spiritual forces of wickedness were created to listen and obey, so they just do what they are told by the closest legitimate authority. They do not have the capability to evaluate plans, or make moral assessments, so they just implement any suggestion that is given to them. Unlike humans, they do not know the difference between good and evil. All they know is the difference between legitimate authority and illegitimate authority. They do whatever a voice of authority tells them to do.

These follower spirits are not very innovative. They were created to be doers, so they often do the same thing over and over again, until an authority tells them to do something different. Unlike humans, who are made in the image of God, and have inherited his creativity, they just do what they have always done.

Bad spirits find it hard to come up with new ways to do things. They are not creative because they were created to follow instructions and obey authority. If they are told to harass a person, an impure spirit just keeps on doing it until someone with authority tells them to do something different. For example, a spirit of fear is not different from other spirits, it is just a spirit that has been told to do fear. If it gets cast out of one person, it just finds another and keeps on creating fear in them.

When Christians cast out impure spirits, they often do not know where to send them. Some command them to go to hell, but others are uneasy about this because Jesus did not tell us to do it.

Casting out Bad Spirits

Jesus never told impure spirits where to go. He simply commanded them to leave the person they were harassing.

When Jesus cast the evil spirits out of the Gadarene man, they begged him not to send them to another place.

He begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area (Mark 5:10).

They were desperate to stay in the place where they had operated for many years. If they had been sent somewhere else, they would lose control. Place is really important, as bad spirits tend to operate in one place. Jesus allowed a legion of spirits to go into a herd of pigs. The bible does not say where they went after the pigs drowned (Mark 5:11-13). I presume that they stayed in the same area and carried on attacking people without spiritual protection.

When impure spirits are cast out, they wander around looking for a voice of authority to tell them what to do. They are followers, so they become confused if no one tells them what to do.

When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it (Luke 11:24).

In most situations, the area will be controlled by a political-spirit or government-spirit. I presume this spirit tells the impure spirit what to do. It will usually send it to harass another person in a similar way.

Jesus could not do anything different, as the political-spirits and government-spirits working through the Roman and Jewish authorities still dominated the region. Once an impure spirit left his presence, it fell under their authority again.

The same is true now. If we cast out a spirit now, it comes under the authority of the political-spirit that controls the region where we live.