For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. (Ephesians 6. 12, MEV)
When Jesus, the Christ, our Lord was crucified, buried, rose from the dead and then sent his Holy Spirit in power on the Day of Pentecost, he claimed the fundamental, strategic victory over Satan and all powers of darkness. The war between God and the forces of darkness, sin and death was in essentia over; nevertheless, battles and skirmishes have continued on since that time.
One possibly appropriate analogy to this would be the victory the Allied forces won at the Battle of Normandy. Nazi Germany had already, in many ways, been pushed back, but with the strategic victory at Normandy, the war was essentially over for the Axis. Many in the German high command recognized this awful truth: Following the successful June 1944 assault, there was simply no realistic way that Germany could turn the tide and win.
Of course, battles tragically continued. Germany continued its resistance; Allied forces continued fighting … one bloody battle after another, on to the bitter end. Yes, strategically speaking, Normandy ensured Allied victory … but the enemy did not so easily capitulate, even though they realized they’d lost the war. And as Christians, our enemies are no different.
We continue to fight “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.” The tragedy of it all is, we all too often fail to recognize when we’re actually engaged in battle! Praise God, our Lord Jesus has won the victory, but the Adversary and his minions still attack; thus, we are still called upon to fight!
In some parts of the world — perhaps most parts of the world — this is more easily recognized. In some parts of the world blatant demonic activity is common and very (frighteningly) obvious. In the Western world, perhaps specifically North America, our enemies are more insidious, and they are more insidious because they can so often achieve their goals without being at all obvious.
We in the West make this very easy for our unseen enemies of darkness because of our oh-so intellectual, naturalistic approach to life. Many (most?) of us tend to pooh-pooh the whole idea of spirits and wraiths, demons and angels, principalities and powers, and whatnot. We tend to view this as something of Medieval superstition, and so any problem or affliction that might be attributed to the spiritual realm is medicalized or psychologized or both. The priest, pastor or rabbi is called in only to pray and give emotional comfort.
Of course, the apostle St. Paul has an ardently different view on this matter, which is why he tells us, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6. 11 RSV) Because, as St. Peter warns us, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter 5. 8 RSV) For he “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10. 10a RSV)
Thanks be to God that Jesus has won the victory, and “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15. 57 RSV) But let us also “not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober … since we belong to the day … having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation, (I Thessalonians 5. 6.8 ESV) and fight the good fight” (I Timothy 6. 12 ESV) with vigilance and courage in our God, who gives us victory by the power of his Spirit, in and through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.