One aspect of spiritual warfare that we must be aware of is satanic counter attacks. So often we can see great things happening spiritually and even politically, but suddenly things can take a turn for the worse.
There is a reason for this — satanic counter attacks.
There were healings — Simon’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31), the leper (Mark 1:40-43) and the paralytic lowered through the roof (Mark 2:1-11). Demons were cast out (Mark 1:32-34). Many became disciples of Christ, including one very prominent tax collector called Matthew (Mark 2:13-14).
To explain what was happening, Mark talks about Jesus’s teaching on the strongman:
“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)
When Jesus cast the evil spirit out of the man in the Capernaum synagogue, He had bound the demonic strongman over the area and the revival that followed was the spiritual plunder.
But in His teaching on binding the strongman, Jesus warned that there will be spiritual counterattacks, as satan tries to regain his lost territory:
24 “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26 NASV)
Jesus intimated that the vanquished evil spirit will seek seven spirits more evil than itself to try to regain what was lost.
Do we have any indications of a counter attack after the fall of the strongman over Capernaum?
Herod was the Tetrarch over Galilee where Capernaum was located. He had arrested John the Baptist because he denounced Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife Herodias (Luke 3:18-20). In fact, Herod had gone to visit his half-brother Philip for the sole purpose of stealing his wife.
Herodias was also the daughter of Herod’s other half-brother, meaning she was actually Herod’s niece. This was why John the Baptist spoke against the marriage. It was bad even by Roman standards.
In Mark 6:14-29, we read that it was Herod’s birthday and he organized a big celebration. He invited the Lords, military commanders and leading men of Galilee to the occasion. The Greek words used here megistanoi (power elites) and protoi (leaders) refer to the political and economic power hierarchy that existed in Herod’s region.
Rulers of the day often used banquets to reinforce their positions of authority and as a way of rewarding those key leaders under them.
There would be lots of drinking and entertainment. The party probably took place in Herod’s castle of Machaerus overlooking the east coast of the Dead Sea. You can still see the dungeons, and the chains where John the Baptist must have been held.
For Herod it was an excuse for a drunken orgy, but sinister, satanic forces were lurking in the background:
21 A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; (Mark 6:21 NASV)
Notice how Mark called it a strategic day. This implies a strategy. The hordes of hell were planning their counter attack. Herod was just a pawn and he was about to be played. His wife Herodias was the black Queen.
Herodias pressured her daughter Salome into dancing before Herod at the party. Prostitutes usually performed these solitary dances which gives you some idea of what was involved. .
Inflamed by the dance and the wine, Herod rashly promised his step daughter/niece up to half his kingdom. But after consulting with her mother, the girl asked for only one thing — the head of John the Baptist.
Herod was shocked. Though angered by John’s attacks against his marriage to Herodias, Herod secretly feared and respected the Baptist (v 20). But with all his cronies around him, he had no choice but to fulfill his promise or his word to them would be meaningless.
Jesus later described the death of John the Baptist for what it really was, a satanic attack:
12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. (Matthew 11:12 NASV)
We need to understand that we are involved in a spiritual battle. There will be challenges. There will be counter attacks. There may even be casualties, but ultimately victory.