"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over the present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." - Ephesians 6:12
You have an enemy. That is not a popular sentiment, I am sure, but a true one nonetheless. As a believer, you have an enemy that wants nothing but the worst for you. He wants control of your mind and body. He wants your allegiance, and he is not holding any punches to get it. You are in a war with the devil. Let's look at this verse and extract some truths about our war with the devil.
First, Paul compares our war with the devil as a wrestling match. Before you go too far, the WWE was not around in the first century. He wasn't picturing John Cena flying off the top rope, so what did Paul mean?! In Paul's day, wrestling was a hand-to-hand combat sport. It was two men grabbing, pulling, prodding, and twisting their way to either pin their opponent or have them quit. This is the picture Paul paints of our war against the devil. It is a push and a pull grind all the time. It is a constant battle that, unlike other wrestling watches, there is no stopping until this life is over. Please remember the devil is not stopping or slowing down in his pursuit of your depravity, and you cannot let up for one second.
What happens next is Paul describes the enemy with whom we wrestle. He begins by saying the devil is not "flesh and blood." Paul is not saying that we do not have people as enemies. We know that the Gospel has always had people as enemies. What is meant here is that our ultimate enemy is not a mortal man. The devil is far superior to any person we encounter on Earth. He and his entourage are powerful and prominent, so Paul begins with what the devil is not, "flesh and blood." He then moves on to what he is and who he controls.
Paul begins with "rulers." This is no doubt a reference to evil spirits. We are not told how many evil spirits there are, but we do know that they get their orders from the devil. He controls their every move and attack. Paul then says, "authorities." That is to say the ones who have authority in the world that we presently live. There is no mistaking that the devil has control of many of those who possess great authority on this Earth. Those in the highest of places are often puppets of the devil.
Then he writes, "cosmic powers over this present darkness." Darkness here is an emblem of ignorance, misery, and sin. Nothing could better describe the world we live in. We live in a society of spiritual ignorance & misery because most are so unfulfilled & rampant with sin. As with the word, "authorities," Paul uses the word "powers" to describe those whom the devil controls. The devil had dominion over this world and those who are of it. Remember, as believers, we are to be in the world, but not of it. We are not at home here. We are pilgrims.
He ends with, "against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." It is amazing the number of people who disagree on what this phrase means. We know it doesn't mean that there is evil in Heaven that is controlling people on Earth. I think this is a description of those angels that rebelled, with Satan, against God.
So what do we do?! We put on the whole armor of God. Given how power the enemy is, we need every piece of the armor. I am immensely thankful that as powerful as the devil and those he controls are, that they just have a fraction of the power God does. God is the only one who is omnipotent. There is no other. I'm thankful Paul gives us this solemn reminder of who the enemy is because he is after us at every turn. Be on guard & stay strong!