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Territorial Spirits: Plundering the strongman’s house

Bodian Castle, East Sussex, England Credit: Antony McCallum/Wikipedia

Bodian Castle, East Sussex, England Credit: Antony McCallum/Wikipedia

In our series on Territorial spirits, we are discussing how satan has a hierarchical structure in the satanic realm and has put evil spirits over countries (Daniel 10:13) and I suspect provinces or states within those countries and even over major cities.

These evil spirits often align themselves with natural political divisions as they seek to influence the political agenda throughout the nation.

Both Mark (Mark 1:21-27) and Luke (Luke 4:31-37) talked about Jesus delivering a man of an evil spirit in a synagogue in Capernaum, a major administrative center for the District of Galilee, a state within Palestine.

It was an unusual encounter because it was only one of a handful of times that an evil spirit spoke to Christ during a deliverance. I suspect this ability to speak represented its power in the demonic realm.

I am also convinced that evil spirits represent higher ranking fallen angels while demons represent the foot soldiers. But the word demon is also a generic term that describes the satanic realm, much in the same way the word ‘soldier’ can refer to both privates and higher ranking officers.

After casting out the evil spirit, Mark explains what happened in Capernaum by writing about another incident that followed closely on the heels of this deliverance. To try to diffuse Christ’s growing popularity, the pharisees accused Jesus of casting out evil spirits by the power of Beelzebub, a higher ranking evil spirit (Mark 3:22-27)..

Jesus responds to this absurd claim by asking how could satan’s kingdom stand if higher ranking evil spirits were casting out lower ones. By this Jesus implied that casting out spirits weakens the satanic realm over an area.

Then Jesus adds:

“But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.” (Mark 3:27 NASV)

He says to plunder a strong man’s house you must first bind the strongman.

In the parallel teaching in Luke (Luke 11:14-28), the strongman is portrayed as being “fully armed” guarding his house (v. 21) and  Jesus adds that only when you take away “the armor on which he had ruled” (v. 22) can his home be plundered.

This military imagery certainly falls in line with what we know to be the role of territorial spirits.

Then to avoid any confusion of who the strongman was, i.e. it was not Herod who was the tetrarch over the District of Galilee, Jesus clarifies that when an evil spirit is driven out of a man, it gets seven spirits, more evil than itself, to try to recapture the house (Luke 11:26).

The strongmen are certainly ruling satanic angels. Even in this we see a ranking based on evilness, which by implication meant more power. It also shows that satan is prepared to marshal together a significant spiritual force to retake lost spiritual territory.

But one aspect of this teaching that sticks out is Christ’s claim if we bind the strongman his house can be plundered.  Though Capernaum was not the capital city of Galilee, it did serve as a regional capital within Galilee and would have a ruling spirit in charge of this particular city and the administrative area it controlled.

Spiritual plunder

But what does it mean to plunder the house of a territorial spirit? Because of the spiritual nature of this kingdom, we are obviously not talking about silver and gold.

After the evil spirit was cast out of the man in the Capernaum synagogue (Mark 1:21-27, the spiritual strongman was effectively bound and Jesus plundered the area.

In rapid succession, the next few verses in Mark list Christ’s spoils (Mark 1:28 – 2:15).

First came the miracles of healing. Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law who was sick with a fever (Mark 1:29-31).  Next was a leper (Mark 1:40-43). Then there was a paralytic lowered through the roof in the house where Jesus was ministering (Mark 2:1-11).

There were also other healings to many to list.

Secondly we see demons being cast out (Mark 1:32-34). Though we have no record of exactly how many there were, the text clearly implies a several deliverances. With the high-ranking angel gone, the lower level demons quickly fell.

But perhaps the most significant event was when Jesus preached the gospel and a number of tax collectors and sinners followed him (Mark 2:13-14).

One in particular stood out.

Matthew worked for the IRS and may have been one of Herod’s key men in the area. He would have collected the road tolls as well sold the fishing rights to the fisherman in Capernaum. Having Matthew give all this up to follow Christ symbolized the utter collapse of the spiritual stronghold for the region.

Jesus was plundering every aspect of Satan’s kingdom. What we see happening in Capernaum was basically revival as people were being healed, delivered and saved.

It shows for revival to take place, the spiritual strongman for the area must first be bound through prayer.

Read more in this series:


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