Distressing images of last week’s riots in Washington are still appearing in the news media. Investigators are seeking those involved in the violence, destruction of property and desecration of the halls of congress. News analysts are studying the effects of these events on preparations for next week’s presidential inauguration.
If your reaction was like mine, you possibly felt some combination of shock, dismay, anger, embarrassment and profound concern for our nation. How could this happen? Who or what is behind the mayhem, hate-filled rhetoric, criminal sedition and murder we witnessed in our nation’s capitol?
Without excusing politicians, terrorists or social media platforms, all of whom bear some responsibility, I want to call to your attention the role of what the New Testament calls “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). The Bible teaches explicitly that there are sinister supernatural powers at work. They influence events in the material world. Jesus and his apostles, as well as the prophets of the Old Testament taught that these powers are real, not imaginary.
It is these spiritual powers who influence nations to go to war. They instigate genocide, terrorism, assassinations, as well as the spreading of disinformation, racial hatred and all kinds of moral confusion. Where you see these things, you see the work of the father of lies and his evil minions (John 8:40-44, 2 Chronicles 18:21).
The world’s problems are mainly spiritual, not political. God has ordained good governments as human institutions for the protection of citizens and retribution against evildoers (Romans 13::1). But when the leaders of those governments are not subject to the will of God, they leave themselves vulnerable to the dangerous influence of the powers of darkness.
That is why, over and over, scripture tells believers that our ultimate hope for security is not in our economic prosperity (Psalm 49:5-7), not in military might (Psalms 33:16-17, 44:6, 147:10), or in human rulers (Psalm 118:8-9, 146:3).
The prophet Daniel illustrates this. He had been mourning and praying for his nation for three weeks (Daniel 10:2-3). The Lord sent a radiant heavenly messenger (angel) to give him insight as to what was to come in the future. Without trying to discuss everything in this amazing passage, let me highlight just one fact: the angel had been engaged in combat with another spiritual power in the heavens for three weeks! This apparent spiritual warfare was going on in the invisible world. Even though he did not know it, Daniel’s prayers had something to do with the outcome. The angel told him, “Your words were heard and I have come in response to them” (Daniel 10:12).
Then the angel told Daniel, “But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come” (Daniel 10:13-14).
“Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come. … No one supports me against them except Michael your prince” (Daniel 10:20-21). Biblical scholars agree that the “princes” referred to here are supernatural beings, not humans. They seem to hold sway over human rulers who submit to the lust for raw power and conquest. Michael is said to engage them in warfare, defending God’s people and advancing God’s purposes.
Michael is the archangel who protects the people of God (Daniel 12:1). Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7 say Michael engages in conflict with the devil. Daniel 10:13 indicates that Michael is “one of the chief princes.” The New Testament says this high-ranking archangel will accompany Jesus when he comes again (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
The unseen powers of evil also exist in ranks of greater and lesser authority under “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (1 Corinthians 2:6,8, Ephesians 2;2). There are other terms for them: rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, spiritual forces of evil, thrones and dominions (Ephesians 6:12, Colossians 1:16).
Many Bible scholars believe these powers, under the leadership of “the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the world astray” (Revelation 12:9) seek to influence human rulers and governments in the various geographical regions of the world. (If you care to read more on this subject, consult the writings of Mark Bubeck, Merrill F. Unger, and Michael S. Heiser.)
The clear message of the Bible is that our main strategy in this spiritual warfare is not reliance upon mere human power and political influence, but on the power of prayer. We are called to pray in the name of the One who has, by his death on the cross and his victorious resurrection “disarmed the powers and authorities” (Colossians 2:15). He is now seated at God’s right hand “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked” (Ephesians 1:20-21).
Daniel modeled this for us. We would do well to follow his example of humble prayer for our nation, as Daniel prayed for his. It is comforting to read that God gave Daniel the assurance that his prayer was heard. God gave him courage to face the international disruptions of his time. God gave him spiritual strength. God gave him peace to replace his anguish of mind. God assured him of his love. Imagine, having God’s angel tell you that you are “highly esteemed” in heaven (Daniel 10:12-19)!
In addition, God gave him understanding of his time, and of what would happen to his people in the future (Daniel 10:14). God has done the same for us. The prophetic scriptures assure us that our sovereign God holds the future in his hand. The day will come when he will deal in judgment with “the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below” (Isaiah 24:21).
Pastor Randy Faulkner