“Spiritual Wickedness in High Places”
© C. O. Bishop 2010
Ephesians 6:12, Proverbs 15:8, 9, 26
In the past, we have read in Ephesians 6:12 that the forces we wrestle against are those of “Spiritual Wickedness in High Places”, specifically not the human adversaries that seem to be the enemy (“…we wrestle not against flesh and blood”). What is “wickedness” from God’s point of view? Is it always a crime, for instance? Do some of the things that are perfectly legal in man’s sight, still qualify as wickedness in God’s sight? What is wickedness, anyway?
Evidently it covers a wide range of ideas, from the primary “My way is better than God’s way” to the outright blatant evil that permeates society in general. Probably Cain’s offering of the fruit of the cursed ground, in Genesis 4, as opposed to the blood of a substitutionary sacrifice for sin would be the first clear demonstration of human wickedness, with its parallel action being the murder of Abel. (I’m not sure that I would count Adam’s sin in the same way, as he started off innocent, not with a sin nature, and still chose to sin.) But God clearly stated in Ephesians that it is not human wickedness that is the source of the problem. Step back from Genesis 4, and the murder of Abel, to Genesis 3:1-7, and what effectively was the murder of the whole human race.
Satan’s attack was based upon
- Misusing, misquoting, or not believing God’s Word
- Doubting or casting aspersions upon the character of God
- The lure of usurping the attributes of Deity.
The final lure was the desire to be wise in one’s own self—to be self-sufficient, apart from the wisdom and rule of God. This is the root of sin, wickedness, and false religion. Cain was not doing anything wrong, specifically, by raising vegetables, nor was there anything intrinsically good about keeping flocks, as his brother Abel chose to do. The whole of creation had been placed under a curse, so there was nothing to offer God that had not been touched by the curse. Why then, was the offering of Cain not acceptable?
In Genesis 3:15 God had promised a coming deliverer, the “Seed of Woman”, who would undo the damage done by the evil one. Adam and Eve believed that promise. In verse 21, He established the blood covering for sin, by clothing Adam and Eve in the skins of slain animals. Abel understood the concept, as apparently did Cain. (Notice that God reasoned with Cain, that he should do right; He did not offer new instruction as to what constituted that “right” action.) Cain was angry and shed Abel’s blood, not that of a sacrificial animal. In Hebrews 11:4, we see that the sacrifice Abel brought was what was better…not Abel’s life in general, nor his attitude, or anything else.
The willingness to set one’s own standards, in opposition to those of God is the source of wickedness. It results in a life that is opposed to God, even if set in trappings of religiosity.
False religion is frequently associated with wickedness. The scene in Zechariah 5:5-11, where the angelic instructor shows a vision of a sealed vessel with a woman inside, and a leaden top, transported by women with stork’s wings, stated that “this is wickedness”, and then the thing was flown off to Shinar (the place of the Tower of Babel) as being “her own base.” The false religion of Babylon may be what was in view here…it seems to tie in with religious “Babylon” in the Revelation.
Jezebel, the decidedly wicked queen (wife of Ahab, 1st Kings 18, 19) was closely associated with false religion, as well—the prophets of Baal and Asherah who were executed at Mt. Carmel were all her associates, and it was for their deaths that she was determined to be avenged on Elijah. Prior to this time, the false religionists had killed all the prophets of God upon whom they could lay hands, and had sought the life of Elijah for the past 3-1/2 years. There have been brief respites in history, when evil was driven out, and righteousness flourished. But they have been brief, as a rule.
Nebuchadnezzar, in his self-aggrandizing religious sin, had established the rule that all must worship his idol or die. This is the norm for false religion. It begins peaceably, but culminates in absolutism.
Judaism, though founded by God, had become a mockery of the truth, by the time Jesus walked in Jerusalem. The high priesthood was a political post, the priesthood in general a political force, the scribes the paid propagandists of that political faction, and the Pharisees its strongest adherents. When confronted with the truth of God, the way of God, and the sacrifice of God, in the person of Christ, they rejected Him and sought to kill him, in order to silence his voice.
Christianity, first so-called in Antioch, began as a pure relationship between God and believers. The church was comprised only of believers, and the unity was unmatched in history. Before the end of the apostolic age; indeed, before the end of the book of the Acts, error had begun to be sown by unbelievers. By the end of the life of the Apostle John, there was a false prophetess introducing false doctrine and practice (Revelation 2:20-23), and who was condemned by Christ. She was not the only source—there was also a movement referred to as “the Nicolaitans” which possibly was the source of the modern division between “clergy and laity” (which is NOT recognized by God). There was also the “doctrine of Balaam”, evidently referring to the corruption of good morals, and weakening of God’s people by temptations. (Revelation 2:14, 15)
Historically, we can see that in the end of the third century, “Christianity” became the state religion. Once it made that turn, it instantly became a false religion, only usurping the name of the real faith. All the pagans of the Roman Empire instantly took on the name “Christian”, and it became nearly impossible to tell the real believers from the counterfeits. From that day forward, the false church has persecuted the true believers (among others) and has not ceased to this day. Regardless of name, false religion will always war against God and the people of God.
Today we see examples of that, with cults that usurp some biblical name of the true church, as if the Scripture referred to them by name, and then demand that all worship through them, saying they alone possess the only approach to God.
Currently, the great example is Islam, with a false prophet that walked this earth 1500 years ago, and advocated the worship of a new God who looked suspiciously like the old Moon God of that locale…shared the same holy places, etc. It began rather small, but evangelism by the sword, predicated upon promises that feed the sin nature, makes for rapid growth. (Funny that the Bible makes no promises of sexual gratification in Heaven…quite the opposite—it seems it will be a passé desire). Islam is the greatest visible threat to believers today, but the real threat is still our old Enemy, Satan.
Biblically, in the future, the culmination of human wickedness can be seen in the person of the Antichrist. His actions will harm all others, but are motivated by his indifference and animosity toward God. He attacks Israel, Jews wherever they are found, and the gentiles who place their trust in the God of Israel. He caps his crimes by entering the Holy of Holies and demanding that he be worshipped as God. (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 9; Revelation 13:3, 4, 11-16) This act is called the “abomination of desolation”, or the “abomination that makes desolate”.
It seems that the source of wickedness is the “I will”. Satan made his five “I will” statements in defiance of God. (Isaiah 14:12-14) Ultimately, it says, “I will be like the most High”…not in a sense of imitation and admiration, but a counterfeit, with a desire to usurp His authority, to counterfeit His attributes, and, most specifically, to supplant Him as master. We want to be our own boss. Satan began the motion, and it culminates in the Antichrist, but it has existed in every human in history, with the exception of Christ. It exists in me. It exists in you.
The writer of the Book of Proverbs makes three interesting statements in Proverbs 15:8, 9, 26. He says that
- “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to God,”
- “The way of the wicked is an abomination to God”, and
- “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to God”.
There are other passages, of course, that spell out other aspects of God’s complaint against the wicked. If I use the above verses as an outline, I can see, then, that the primary problem God has with those He calls “the wicked”, is their religious stance. We have seen from Biblical history as well as world history, that false religion evicts the Deity, and installs either a counterfeit deity, or self, in His place. That seems to be the underlying principle, and unfortunately, no human is immune to its lure. We all have the desire for self-determination. When we relegate God to the position of lifeguard, paid observer and benefactor, we have elevated ourselves to Deity, and excluded the Grace of God and His Wisdom from our lives.
The second thing is the result of the first. God says the “way of the wicked” is an abomination. Their way of life, the choices they make, and even their routine actions that are seen as completely inoffensive, are all tainted by the underlying stance of rebellion against God. In another passage, Proverbs 21:4, God states that “the plowing of the wicked is sin”. (Plowing?? What could be wrong with plowing?) The action is not the issue—the fact is that their every action is tainted by their stance toward God, so even the daily, normal activities are seen as sin. When I only had one nature, my old Sin nature, I could do no righteousness, since my only motivator was corrupt by definition. If I behaved religiously, my “sacrifice” was an abomination to God. If behaved morally, my action was corrupted by my self-view that revealed my motive: pride. If I simply existed, doing nothing especially good or bad, it still reeked of contamination by my sin nature.
So, some might argue it at least requires that I do something, for me to be in sin. No; God concludes (Proverbs 15:26) that my thoughts, while still in the grip of self-will, are sin as well…and, of course, thoughts give rise to actions. But the point is that they are sin, even before the action. That is what Jesus addressed in Matthew 5:27, 28, saying “if a man looks upon a woman to lust after her, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. So then someone might argue that the “looking” was the sin. The heart was the problem, my friends—and always will be.
How can we escape the death-grip of our fallen nature? Ultimately, we only escape through death. We are caught in a human body that is irremediably attached to our sin nature. When this body dies or I am given a new body, I will no longer have my old nature.
But in the meanwhile, the only escape is to be born again…to receive a new nature, the true offspring of God. As a child of God, I have two natures, and, while I can still manifest my old nature (and frequently do), I do have a new nature that is free from corruption and sin. I can confess my sin, and approach God in confidence, as a member of the Body of Christ, and be confident that He receives me. My worship need no longer be tainted. My way need no longer be corrupt. My thoughts need no longer be contaminated with sin.
In Psalm 119:9, 11 David states that we can “cleanse our way” by taking heed thereto according to God’s Word. He goes on to say, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against Thee.”
Perhaps a good place to begin is 1st Corinthians 6:19, 20—“…you were bought with a price…you are not your own”. We tend to shy away from this concept, because it smells of human slavery. Please bear in mind that the person claiming the authority to rule is NOT a human, but God. The creator became a human in order to redeem us to Himself, but He did not lose his authority, nor was he tainted with our sin, our wrong motives, etc. When one human claims the right to rule another, it is usually for the gain of the ruler, not the ruled. God has nothing to gain from us, or by our service. We are the ones to gain. He is the true master—without him we are as crippled as puppets that have severed their own strings in hopes of breaking “free” to self-determination.
Self-determination does NOT produce freedom. It produces slavery to sin, and ultimately, to Satan. That is why Satan is referred to as the “prince of this world” by Jesus (John 14:30) and the “god of this world” by Paul (1st Corinthians 4:4). Once a man separates himself from the true master, the false, counterfeit master is free to take control. The world is truly under the mastery of the evil one, whether they know it or not. We are given the task of reconciling the people of the world to God. But we can do nothing if we ourselves have given in to Satan’s lure, just as they have. Jesus said that we were to bear fruit, but he also said we could do nothing apart from Him. He used the vine as an object lesson: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches…apart from me ye can do nothing.”(John 15:5) Jesus didn’t say, “apart from me, you’ll be less effective”. Nor did he say, “apart from me, your fruit will be stunted”. He said “…apart from me ye can do NOTHING.”
I have a need, daily, to draw close to God, and to deliberately confess my sins, and allow him to fill me with His presence. By His Holy Spirit, He can then direct my path, and make me fruitful.
We tend to only think of wickedness as being something “bad guys” do. What we see from the scriptures is that it is something in the heart of every human, and that can find itself manifested in any human life—even that of a believer.
What God has cautioned us about is the force of spiritual wickedness in “high places”. While the specific warning is regarding the unseen world (specifically not flesh and blood), the Enemy is not stupid: he wants high-level human politicians who are willing to stand against God. And, increasingly, they do. We live in a fallen world, and the arrogance of human leaders seems to know no bounds.
We are given the entire Word of God by which to know right from wrong. We are given the spiritual armament in Ephesians chapter six to guard against evil and pray for God’s intervention. Be sure to use that armor in your daily stand against evil.
We are also given, in this country, a vote. One vote. Be sure you use it, and that you use it in a manner consistent with God’s Word.
God help us to stand for Him, not against Him.