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 places.

Ephesians 6:12 ASV

In this verse, Paul described the spiritual enemy. He had already mentioned the “devil”; but Satan has many allies, “the spiritual hosts of wickedness.”

It is an unpardonable error to suppose that Paul here had any reference to the mythological gods of the Greeks and Romans, or to any of the complicated theories of vain speculators regarding the unseen creation.

Of them, Paul affirmed nothing.

It is a fact beyond denial that the ancient pagan world was organized along patterns of evil, and the whole pagan complex of antiquity was fitted together, dovetailed and interwoven in Such a manner as to forbid the notion that such a sprawling, powerful, effective and arrogant pagan society was merely accidental.

Satan had organized it.

Furthermore, evil is still organized; and organization presupposes an organizer.

Regarding “Principalities” there are various dominions of evil, that is, certain classifications of it. Paul’s use of some of these words here appears to be figurative; nevertheless, there were and are genuine realities behind them.

“World-rulers of this darkness” is a poetic expression of the idea conveyed by the expression `prince of this world,’ applied by Jesus himself to Satan.

The power of Satan is limited to them who yield themselves to do evil; and in no sense does Satan share ultimate authority with God.

This whole passage, including the discussion of the armor, is figurative, setting forth the Christian’s struggle against evil as a warfare; and this passage is a description of the foe.

“In heavenly places” is an expression, as Paul used it, sometimes means “in the very presence of God,” but in others it is limited to what might be called, loosely, the Christian religion; and it is so limited here.

Satan is not conducting any war in heaven against God!

However, religion, in the broad sense, provides a very extensive and convenient field of satanic operations, the great apostasy itself having been produced in the church herself.

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

John 12:31 ASV

The crisis of all ages had arrived.

Jesus would die on the cross to redeem men from the curse of sin, enabling them to be saved eternally, and to restore the fellowship with God, broken such a long while before by the disaster in Eden.

The head of Satan would now be “bruised” in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.

This great victory is here called the casting out of the prince of this world.

That the cosmic victory over Satan would be won by such a thing as the death of Christ on Calvary is the mystery hidden before times eternal.

The victory came through death itself, and that at the very moment when Satan might have thought that he had won (Hebrews 2:15).

The words Jesus spoke here were in anticipation of that victory.

“The prince of this world” refers to Satan, called also the “god of this world,” and “the prince of the powers of the air.” The casting out will be accomplished by the cross, as verse 32 shows:

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.

John 12:32 ASV

I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in me;

John 14:30 ASV

The prince of the world … is another reference to Satan as in John 12:31.

Hath nothing in me …

There is a hint here that Satan might have expected to have something in Christ; but the Saviour calmly announced that he would do what the Father had commanded, that is, die on the cross; and how, it may be wondered, had Satan hoped to thwart that?

Satan had already exhausted every resource in vain efforts to kill Jesus; but with the announcement that Jesus would lay down his life of his own accord (John 10:17,18).

Since it was impossible for any man to take his life away from him, Satan changed his strategy, thereafter exhausting every satanic resource in making Jesus’ death such a shameful, repugnant, and humiliating thing, that the Lord might finally abort the mission of redemption by refusing to die such a repulsive death for such a people.

That such a temptation came to Jesus is certain from Matthew 26:53.

Jesus here announced that Satan’s strategy had failed.

The price of human redemption would be paid by the Saviour.

And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged.

John 16:8‭-‬11 ASV

Convict the world … The means of the Spirit’s convicting the world…

He will convict the world, not by direct work upon their hearts, but as the event shows (Acts 2:37), through the life of the apostles, declaring the wonderful works of God. The Holy Spirit came not “unto the world” but “unto the apostles.”

The world could not receive the Spirit directly (John 14:17), and never can, AS THE WORLD.

The apostles received him, and through their testimony he reaches the world.

And HE …

Personal pronouns referring to the Holy Spirit throughout these pages emphasize the personal nature of the Spirit.

The Trinitarian concept of three persons in the Godhead is in these verses. See under John 16:14-15.

Convict, involves the conceptions of authoritative examination, of unquestionable proof, of decisive judgment, and of punitive power.

He who “convicts” another places the truth in a clear light before him, so that it must be seen and acknowledged as truth … He who then rejects … rejects it with his eyes open and at his peril.

The issue of whether the world will or will not receive the truth is not treated here.

The Spirit will “convict” the whole world by witnessing the truth to the whole creation; but every man, through the exercise of his own free will, will determine his own destiny by his reaction to the truth, either receiving it or rejecting it.

Sin … righteousness … judgment …

The comprehensiveness of these terms is boundless.

Here are the two fundamentals of man’s spiritual condition and the two options, or alternatives, open to him.

The Spirit convicts of sin, revealing man’s fallen estate and bondage to Satan, and showing his total helplessness to achieve through his own efforts any healing of his condition.

The Spirit also convicts of righteousness by revealing the mystery of how a man may acquire a righteousness not his own, that being the righteousness of Christ, available to all who receive and obey the gospel, thus being inducted “into Christ,” and identified with Christ as Christ.

“Sin … righteousness … judgment …”

Over against these three words stand three proper names: Adam, Christ, and Satan.

Through Adam came sin; through Christ came righteousness; and upon Satan the penalty of ultimate judgment shall fall (John 16:11).

The “world” acting through its representatives, had charged Christ as a sinner (John 9:24).

Its leaders trusted that they were “righteous” (Luke 18:9), and they were at the point of giving sentence against the “prince of Life” (Acts 3:15) as a malefactor (John 18:30).

At this point the threefold error (Acts 3:17), which the Spirit was to reveal and reprove, had brought at last its fatal fruit.

Any human intelligence capable of understanding the phenomenal connections of these three words (sin, righteousness, and judgment) with all that was previously written in John, and as encompassing in their total significance the entire history of Adam’s race from Eden to the Great White Throne – any mind which sees all that can only marvel at a critic’s conclusion that such words “do not fit.”

The sun, moon, and stars do not fit any better than these words fit the context.

The soul that does not believe in Jesus Christ is convicted of sin.

Of righteousness …

The world is convicted of this by:

  • Christ’s return to God.
  • The absolute finality of Christ’s work – “ye behold me no more.”

Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to God were irrefutable proof that his total message was from God; and his remaining thus at God’s right hand signaled the total completion of the righteousness which he wrought.

This revelation once given was final, because nothing could be added to it (I go to the Father); because after Christ was withdrawn from human eyes (Ye see me no more), there was fixed for all time that by which men’s estimate of righteousness might be tried.

Of judgment, because the prince of this world … Calvary was intended by Christ’s enemies as their judgment of him; but God made it the judgment of his enemies, particularly of Satan, the prince of this world.

The cross indeed bruised the heel of the seed of woman, but it bruised the head of Satan. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection condemned the value-judgments of men.

Wicked men, living lives of conformity to the will of their prince (Satan) behold in Christ the rejection by Almighty God of their principles of judgment.

The way of Christ was declared by his resurrection to be the right way.

The Spirit of God would never cease from Pentecost and ever afterward to convict the world of what righteousness really is.

The world’s traditional values were set aside by God’s judgment of the cross; and the prince of this world has been summarily judged and condemned, and all who follow him shall partake of his judgment and destiny.

Turning, now, from the work of the Spirit as it concerned the world, Christ spoke of the work of the Spirit within the apostles.

This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare; holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith: of whom is Hymenæus and Alexander; whom I delivered unto Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme.
1 Timothy 1:18‭-‬20 ASV

It's Your Turn. Write Something. Say Something.