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17 | What in the world are territorial spirits?


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Hi my name is Dean Smith, and in this podcast I ask the question: “What in the world are territorial spirits?” Territorial spirits involves the controversial Biblical concept that Satan has set demonic angels over each country, who the try to influence and control both the political and spiritual life of that nation.

Several years ago, I read an unusual story in World Map, a missionary magazine, which caught my attention. It involved a missionary who was ministering in Uruguay near the Brazilian border. He was doing some tract distribution one Saturday morning in a town where the main street sat on the actual border between Uruguay and Brazil.

The missionary started out on the Uruguayan side of the border and found people very resistant to the Gospel. They either refused the tract or if they took it after quickly reading it tossed in on the ground.

But then something very strange happened!

Since the missionary had spent a couple of hours with essentially no response, he decided to cross to the Brazilian side. He was immediately struck by the difference in response. When he handed people a tract, they not only thanked him, but began to intently read it.

Surprised, he returned to the Uruguayan side of the border and was immediately confronted by the same cold response he received earlier.

This really puzzled him, so when he saw a woman, who had just rejected his tract, cross to the Brazilian side, the missionary crossed the street putting himself in position to intercept the woman as she walked down the street.

As soon as the woman came close, the missionary handed her a tract, but instead of refusing it as she had done on the Uruguayan side, the woman took the tract and even thanked him for it.

Stunned by the response, the missionary tested this a few more times. He would offer people tracts on the Uruguayan and if they crossed the street, he purposefully moved to the Brazilian side to offer them the tract again.

And he found in most instances these same people willing accepted the very same tract on the Brazilian side of the border that they had rejected while in Uruguay.

The missionary was a man named Robert Miller and he wondered why people were so closed to the Gospel on the Uruguayan side of the border and then so open on the Brazilian side.

The only thing that made any sense of this was an incident that happened at a Bible school in Argentina, where Robert Miller had been teaching. A revival broke out at the school that quickly swept across Argentina in the early 1970s. But during the early days of that revival, a prophetic word had come out at the Bible school declaring that the Lion of Judah had prevailed and the strong man over Argentina had been pulled down.

This revival then spread into neighboring Brazil, but abruptly stopped at the Uruguayan border.

What happened?

We get a bit of an idea by a teaching found in Mark 3 during a curious confrontation between Jesus and the Scribes who accused Christ of casting out demons by the power of Beezelbub, who they described as the “prince of demons.”

Jesus countered with the obvious question why would Satan want to do that? Why would he want to weaken his own kingdom?

Jesus then states that in order to plunder a strongman’s house, by implication this was Satan’s realm, we must first bind the strong man or the satanic spirit ruling this house. Jesus adds that once you do that, then you can plunder his house.

Does this suggest that the strong man had been pulled down or at least weakened in Argentina and neighboring Brazil, but not in Uruguay?

Possibly.

I remember years ago while I was at seminary, I took a course on the Book of Daniel. We were discussing Daniel 10 where Daniel during a time of prayer and fasting sensed a time of conflict. As soon as Daniel started praying, God dispatched an angel to answer Daniel’s prayer.

But the Bible says this angel was delayed for 21 days.

Why?

13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. (Daniel 10:13 NASV)

The angel stated that he had been unable to deliver this message to Daniel because the prince of Persia had hindered him. But then the Arch Angel Michael joined the battle and together they pushed back the Prince of Persia allowing the message to be delivered.

So who was the Prince of Persia?

Well in my seminary class, you would have thought I kicked over a hornet’s nest when I suggested the Prince of Persia was in fact a demonic angel set over the nation of Persia. I believed this was one of the principalities and powers that the Apostle Paul refers to in Ephesians. They are fallen angels intended to influence governments, oppress people and as well blind the citizens of that country to the Gospel.

When I suggested this, my fellow students accurately concluded that I was proposing some type of hierarchy in the spiritual realm where Satan has put fallen angels put over nations. Instead, some adamantly argued that these two Godly angels were in fact fighting the human ruler of Persia.

But they never explained how a human king could stop a godly angel from delivering an answer to prayer?

And in fact, we see that very same concept coming out in satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness where Satan offered Christ all the nations of the world if Jesus would worship him.

But notice what else satan says:

Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9 NASV)

Notice how the devil first said all the nations of the world had been given to him and this was a fact that Jesus never challenged. And in 2 Corinthians 4:4, the Apostle Paul describes Satan as the god of this world.

But it is important that we catch what Satan said next. He added that he can give the nations to whomever he wants. Is it possible Satan hands out nations as rewards. If so, who would be the beneficiary of this?

I have no doubt once he took control of earth, Satan gave the nations to angels who joined in his rebellion against God.

While this passage hints of Satan putting fallen angels over the nation, there are several other verses that say it more directly.

Let’s look at one found in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, from the New English Translation:

When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
when he divided up humankind,
he set the boundaries of the peoples,
according to the number of the heavenly assembly.
For the Lord’s allotment is his people,
Jacob is his special possession. (Deuteronomy 32:8-9 NET)

Notice how it says that the national boundaries of people or nations were set according to the number of angels in the Heavenly Assembly. Other versions say it was done according to the Sons of God, which we know from the Book of Job is a reference to angels (Job 1:6).

The Jerusalem Bible actually cuts to the chase and says the nations were divided according to the Angels of God and adds as a footnote “the angels, meaning guardian angels of the nations” and cites Daniel 10:13 as evidence and then adds: “But Yahweh himself takes care of Israel.”

Now it’s true that some Bible versions say that the nations were allotted according to the sons of man, and maybe your version says that, but many are gradually changing it to angels.

Even the online NIV is footnoting this verse stating that several older Hebrew and Greek manuscripts read “sons of God” a clear reference to angels.

So if the nations were allotted according to the angels what does this mean? Famed Biblical Scholar FF Bruce says:

“This reading implies that the administration of the various nations has been parceled out among a corresponding number of angelic powers.”

From the beginning it was intended that angels would be guardians of nations.

We see that referenced in Daniel 12:1, where we read that the Arch angel Michael was put over Israel and his job is to guard the Jewish people. The verse also states that Michael will play an important role in the end times.

But that all changed when Satan fell and took control of the world. The satanic angels set over the nations are no longer there to guard the people, but terrorize, oppress and blind.

So this helps us understand what the Apostle Paul is referring to when he says that our battle is not physical but spiritual:

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of [a]the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV)

And this is also why the Apostle Paul urges us to pray for kings and those in authority.

  • Credit Lead image: Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro Credit: Rafa Bahiense/Flickr/Creative Commons
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2 Comments

  1. John Conte says

    Very interesting podcast, I was familiar with these ideas due to watching Michael Heiser’s videos. I will tell you that I’m not certain just what you mean by the angels were once meant to control the nations? We need to be careful we don’t assign too much credit to angels because that’s what some of them want. Some of them still want to be worshiped.

    Like

    • Thank you very much for your comment. I agree I probably shouldn’t have said control as it is a poor choice of words. The Godly arch angel Michael is described as the one who stands guard over Israel (Daniel 12:1), so protector would have been a better choice of words. Though I don’t think satanic angels are protectors and I think they are trying to establish some type of dominance and control in human affairs as in the temptation of Jesus, satan said all the kingdoms of the world had been given to him.

      “5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” (Luke 4:5-6)

      But you are absolutely right I think the godly angels have more of a protecting role than one of control.

      Like

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