In my series on Territorial spirits, I have been talking about the hierarchical structure in the demonic realm where satan has put evil spirits over countries and even provinces or states within a country and I suspect cities as well.
In his classic explanation of spiritual warfare, Mark says to plunder a house you must first bind the spiritual strongman (Mark 3:22-27).
As we explained earlier, the region of Palestine ruled by Pontius Pilate was broken up into three provinces or states ruled by a Tetrarch.
Having just dealt with the ruling evil spirit in Capernaum (the Tetrarch of Herod), the next encounter with a territorial spirit takes place in Mark 5: 1-20 in a region called the Gerasenes.
In a very unusual way, this second encounter shows the demonic’s connection to territory on earth.
The story actually starts a few verses earlier. The disciples were on the shore of the sea of Galilee, when Jesus said “Let us go over to the other side” (Mark 4:35).
By crossing over, the disciples had actually entered the country called the Gerasenes.
They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. (Mark 5:1 NASV)
This loosely knit alliance, also known as the Decapolis (Mark 5:20), was made up of ten free Greek cities wedged between the Tetrarchs of Philip and Herod Antipas. Subject to the Governor of Syria, this group of Greek cities had joined together to form a powerful economic union which the Jews strongly resented.
This was completely new political territory that would have its own ruling spirit. One Jewish writer sarcastically stated that Decapolis was a favorite haunt of demons because of the number of backslidden Hellenistic Jews living there.
In fact, the spiritual battle (pulling down of the strongman) in the Gerasenes started long before Jesus’ boat hit the beach. As the disciples were crossing the lake they were broadsided by the sudden appearance of an enormous storm.
After the disciples woke Jesus, Mark tells us the Lord rebuked the wind (Mark 4:39) and uses the same Greek word as he did to describe Jesus’ “rebuke” of the unclean spirit in the Capernaum synagogue (Mark 1:25).
The word means to censure, accord blame and to reprove and is a technical term used to describe God’s powerful divine rebuke and threat.
According to Jewish tradition, the authority to “rebuke” belongs to God and a select group included Abraham, Elijah, Enoch and David. Even the Archangel Gabriel when contending for the body of Moses did not directly adjure satan but said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 9).
Then Jesus takes the unusual step of ordering the storm to “be still” which literally means “be muzzled” as if He was addressing the source of the storm itself.
Why did He do this?
The answer is found in the book of Job. We know from this ancient sacred text that Satan has the power to control the weather and the Lord recognized the storm for what it was – satan’s frantic attempt to repulse the Jesus invasion.
As a new political territory with its own territorial spirit overseeing it, Jesus and the disciples were about to be paid a courtesy call by the area’s irate demonic landlord.
As soon, as Jesus and the disciples’ boat touched the shore, a deranged man charged them from out of the tombs located nearby.
2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, (Mark 5:2 NASV)
About a quarter of a mile south of the ruins of Gersa, one of the 10 cities in this economic union, is a steep bluff that plummets to the shore. This area is covered with limestone caverns and caves where people buried their dead and is no doubt the area referred to in the gospels.
Because of their inability to control this homicidal and suicidal man (Mark 5:3-5; Matthew 8:8), the terrified people drove him into the tombs.
After approaching Christ, the man fell to his knees and Jesus began to deal with the unclean spirit inside him.
The first thing we notice is the power struggle taking place between Christ and the demonic.
8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” (Mark 5:8 NASV)
The verb tense implies that Jesus had already ordered the unclean spirit to come out several times and to this point the evil spirit had resisted Christ’s command.
These types of power confrontations should not surprise us. In Ephesians 6:12, the apostle Paul describes the conflict with satan’s realm as a wrestling match — two foes pitted against each, struggling to throw their opponent to the ground.
Then Christ commanded the evil spirit to reveal its name.
9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” (Mark 5:9 NASV)
Perhaps, the Lord was puzzled why it had been able to muster such a vigorous, though ultimately hopeless, defense.
The spirit answered “Legion,” naming itself after the brutally efficient Roman army, which terrified and subdued the then known world. A legion was a regiment of 6,000 troops — a mighty army in those days, suggesting this was a battalion of demons.
This term hints at an organizational structure in the demonic realm.
But then an incredible thing happens.
10 And he (the evil spirit) began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. (Mark 5:10 NASV)
What a puzzling statement, the evil spirit pleads with Jesus not to be sent out the country.
They were not beseeching Jesus to remain in the man, but were desperately negotiating to stay in Decapolis.
Why was it so important to stay in this country?
Because this was the territorial spirit for this political jurisdiction. It was in charge and being cast out of this territory would translate into a humiliating defeat for satan’s kingdom and the dethroning of another strongman.
It shows, that the strongman’s house was not the possessed man but a specific political region or territory and that evil spirits simply use these individuals as their central command from which to enforce this rule.
But like Capernaum, this demonic stronghold would be pulled down as well.
When the spirit asked Jesus for permission to enter a herd of 2000 pigs feeding nearby, Jesus allowed it. Presuming just one pig for each unclean spirit, it represented a substantial force, reflecting the numbers needed to control a territory not one individual.
Moments later this frenzied group of squealing hogs swarmed down a steep embankment, hurtling themselves into the sea, and effectively out of the country (Mark 5:13).
Robert Peterson, a missionary in Borneo, also noticed a similar connection between evil spirits and a geographical location. In his book, Roaring Lion, Peterson says he was personally involved with a young boy who was declared insane and sent to a hospital, a long distance away.
When the boy arrived the doctor found nothing wrong with him and declared him sane. Peterson says everything was fine as long as the boy stayed in the area around the hospital. But once he returned home, the villagers were almost immediately forced to put him in chains to control his violent outbursts.
Peterson said, “experience points to the fact that some demons are forbidden to leave their assigned areas, thus when the possessed leave the area assigned to the demons, the demons have to leave the victim.”
Read more in this series: