We are continuing to work through these battlefield trainings for the Spiritual Soldier in Christ. Spiritual warfare wages all around us but Jesus has given us all the weapons we need to fight and win the spiritual battles for the unsaved people around us.
I mentioned in a previous battlefield training that I would study territorial spirits and present my findings to you so you are fully prepared to handle territorial spirits. I found the third chapter of Arnold Clinton’s 3 Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare extremely helpful. So let’s dive in!
- What are territorial spirits?
The term territorial spirit refers to demons, false gods, and other celestial or spiritual entities that rule over a certain geographical area like a region or country. These spirits attempt to hinder the spread of the gospel message, brings spiritual darkness and blindness to God’s light, and oppress and influence the people living in that area.
After the war in heaven Satan was cast down to the earth along with fallen angels, or demons, who supported him in the war (Revelation 12:7). It makes logical sense that since Satan is only one entity that demons and other evil spiritual powers would coordinate with him.
Satan is called the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). If Satan and his demons have the same range in wickedness and depravity it would be hard to imagine they would get along or coordinate with one another. Demons would be just as envious and selfish as people who don’t know Christ.
So it would make sense that Satan rules his demons with an iron fist and that they would rather have territories. There could be a hierarchy of demons like a basic military structure so that you could have demons over nations or ethnic groups with regional demons under them. Much of this is speculation.
- Is there evidence in the Bible for territorial spirits?
While the Bible does not give us a complete picture of how Satan and his demons operate on the earth it does give evidence for the possibility of territorial spirits. Daniel 10 is often cited as the beginning of such evidence.
Daniel is praying for his people for twenty-one days but received no answer (Daniel 10:2-3). Later in the chapter an angel explains that it was hindered by the “Prince of the kingdom of Persia” for twenty-one days (Daniel 10:13-14).
We would naturally assume this is a human prince until we hear that Michael, one of the chief princes, helps this angel in its battle. We know from elsewhere in the Bible that Michael is an archangel (Jude 9; Revelation 12:7). So these are celestial forces fighting, not mere humans. Furthermore, the Prince of Greece is mentioned (Daniel 10:20).
This passage gives us evidence of territorial spirits in the form of “princes” and some may make the connection to “principalities” mentioned by Paul (Ephesians 6:12). It appears there is a celestial war happening between angels and demons around us.
Advocates of territorial spirits also cite Scriptures about binding the strong man (Mark 3:37) along with other Scriptures (1 Corinthians 5:24; Ephesians 1:21; 6:12; Colossians 1:16). So there is scriptural support for territorial spirits.
- How do I approach strategic level spiritual warfare?
Strategic level spiritual warfare is a strategy employed by those who advocate that Christians can have an effect on territorial spirits. C. Peter Wagner is the chief proponent of strategic level spiritual warfare. His three-tier strategy is as follows:
- Discern the territorial spirits assigned to a city or area. Through several different methods a Christian moving into an area for God’s Kingdom and the gospel message discovers the names and assignments of territorial spirits in control of that area.
- Deal with the corporate sin of a city or area. Through several different methods Christians address the sin of the people groups in these areas. This frees the people from darkness to receive the gospel message.
- Engage in aggressive warfare prayer against the territorial spirits. This third step wages spiritual warfare through prayer against any territorial spirits in this area.
Some Christians who accept the existence of Satan and demons, the understanding that there are territorial spirits, and that there must be some type of spiritual warfare happening choose to adopt one or two of these. Others adopt all three.
If you accept these principles you may settle with discerning these spirits in your area for more effective ministry and witnessing. Or you may think this is not enough and add the practice of dealing with the corporate sins in your area. Finally, you may be of the mind that you need to fight the territorial spirits through spiritual warfare prayer.
Much of your decision will be based on how you view the Scriptures and your experience of these territorial spirits in your area or city.
- Should I use spiritual mapping?
Spiritual mapping is usually part of the first step in which you discover the names and functions of the territorial spirits in your area or city. There are different ideas of spiritual mapping. The first person to provide extensive information on spiritual mapping, George Otis Jr., applied spiritual mapping to understanding the spiritual forces at work without having to know the names of specific territorial spirits.1
Peter Wagner says that knowing the names of the spirits is important to the mission of freeing people to hear the gospel.2 There is a pagan practice of knowing the names of the gods to have power over them. And this practice is not mentioned in Scripture.
I personally am fine with spiritual mapping if it is done in a way that doesn’t support pagan practices. For instance, one of the techniques of spiritual mapping is to discover the “lay lines” of a region or city. These lay lines are when a person draws lines between religious and cultic centers to see where demons are moving and asserting their power the strongest. This also seems like a pagan practice to discern the powers and take power over them.
Otis Jr.’s method is to uncover and understand the research on the religious history and background, full history and myths, practices and culture of the area. He seeks to understand the functions and practices of these territorial spirits. I believe this is not an umbilical practice.
- Should I use identificational repentance?
Identificational repentance is a term given to the practice of identifying with the sins of the area and confessing these sins and repenting of them to bring reconciliation and freedom to the area. This practice is advocated by John Dawson.3 It is part of the second step of dealing with the corporate sin of an area.
The scriptural idea behind the practice happens many times with the prophets where they identify with the sins of Israel and confess them to God. But the difference is that these prophets are members of the nation of Israel.
Moving into an area for spiritual warfare and identifying with the sins of that region is not the same thing. Unless you are part of that culture, nation, or region you cannot take on the sins of the place. It’s an unbiblical practice to think that you can have God forgive the sins of other people in a region just by identifying with them and confessing them for others.
God deals with the sins of individual people. We cannot stand in place for another person (Ezekiel 18:4-18). The problem with this approach is that if these territorial spirits are present in an area they are welcomed by the people of that area through their sins. Unless those people repent of their sins the territorial spirits are still welcome there.
- What are the benefits of strategic level spiritual warfare?
One of the greatest benefits of the strategic level spiritual warfare approach is that it makes us in our Western culture aware of demonic activity. Often times we don’t consider the possibility of a deeper level of the tribulations and difficulties of spreading the gospel to a region in the spiritual realm.
Our schooling teaches us to understand the natural world and its laws rather than learning the spiritual realm’s laws. We tend not to attribute the trials we face, especially with helping the unsaved to know God, with some natural law blockage rather than looking at the spiritual realm around us.
Strategic level spiritual warfare makes us aware that there is a whole different level in the spiritual realm to the trials and tribulations we face in spreading the gospel. It makes us aware of the enemies of people’s souls and their strategies against us.
Another advantage of the first level of strategic level spiritual warfare is that we gain an understanding of the demonic forces in the area we are ministering. I don’t believe you need to know the names of the demonic spirits.
But understanding the functions and historical religious strongholds of the area is an asset. It allows you to know what you’re up against as you bring the gospel to your region. You will know when their strategies and tactics are deployed against you.
- What are the drawbacks of strategic level spiritual warfare?
One of the drawbacks of strategic level spiritual warfare is that we try to get too involved with studying demons and demonic activity. The more time and effort we give to the enemies of our faith the more we validate their presence and give them power they don’t have.
While Jesus talked about Satan and demons, delivered people from demons, and presented the reality of their existence, He never outlined exactly how they work and spent much time talking to them or about them. Most of the time he wouldn’t even allow them to speak as he was casting them out.
Satan and his demons are defeated foes. Jesus has already put them in their place and had victory over them. We wage war against the enemy from a place of strength. We must be aware of their strategies and tactics. But we must not give them more time than that.
Second, some practices of the strategic level spiritual warfare movement may be pagan in origin. The practice of using lay lines in spiritual mapping and naming the spirits to take power over them originate with pagan practices. These are by nature unbiblical practices and we would be safe to steer clear of them.
In the second level of strategic spiritual warfare it can also be an unbiblical practice to identify with the sins of a region. We cannot get God to forgive the sins of the people in the region by standing in their place. Since we have not committed these sins or are part of these people groups identificational repentance has no biblical support. Each person is responsible for his or her own sin.
Third, advocates of strategic level spiritual warfare speak much of the spirit of a sin. They talk about the spirit of alcoholism, spirit of lust, spirit of infirmity, and any number of spirits specializing in these areas. But let’s quickly look at how the Bible uses the phrase, “Spirit of.”
Overwhelmingly the Bible talks about the Spirit of God or Spirit of the Lord. This affirms that God is talked about much more than demons and evil spirits. There are good spirits and evil spirits throughout the Bible. The evil spirits mentioned are
- spirit of jealousy (Numbers 5:14, 30)
- spirit of judgment and burning (Isaiah 4:4)
- spirit of confusion (Isaiah 19:14)
- spirit of deep sleep (Isaiah 29:10)
- spirit of a destroyer (Jeremiah 51:16)
- spirit of whoredom (Hosea 4:12; 5:4)
- spirit of uncleanness (Zechariah 13:2)
- spirit of your fathers (Matthew 10:20)
- spirit of an unclean demon (Luke 4:33)
- spirit of divination (Acts 16:16)
- spirit of slavery (Romans 8:15)
- spirit of stupor (Romans 11:8)
- spirit of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 2:8 [pl.], 20 [pl.])
- spirit of the antichrist (1 John 4:3)
- spirit of error (1 John 4:6)
None of these is a spirit of a sin. Spirits of sins leave room for us to claim we didn’t commit a sin. “This spirit of whatever made me sin.” We must take personal responsibility for our sins, confess them, and repent of them. As Christians, we choose to sin against God.
My mentor mentioned in one example that they call alcoholic beverages “spirits” for a reason. His point was that when we allow ourselves to continually sin in a certain area we open ourselves up to the demonic influence in that sin area. So there may be spirits that use these temptations to lure us away from Christ.
But biblically I would avoid talking about the “spirit of” something unless it is a spirit mentioned in Scripture. Demons may use temptations and sins to keep us distracted or powerless on the spiritual battlefield but we should not use spirits as an excuse to sin.
- What’s a good strategy to handle territorial spirits?
It’s good for us to realize that there are territorial spirits in regions of the world today. We can minister more effectively for God when we are aware of and of the specific strategies these spirits are using in those regions.
Knowing and understanding the history of religious oppression in the region where we minister and witness for Christ gives us an upper hand against these spirits. When we see the wickedness of the people we understand where it comes from.
The first level of the strategic level spiritual warfare approach can help us accomplish this. However, we don’t need to know the names of the spirits, just how they behave and operate in our regions.
I think this is the only valuable step of strategic level spiritual warfare. Asking God’s forgiveness for the people’s corporate sin and identifying with it when we have not committed these sins or been part of that nation or region are not effective.
Spiritual mapping can be extremely effective as long as we avoid the pagan practices of mapping out the lay lines or using the names of these spirits to take power over them.
I don’t see any use for trying to fight these territorial spirits through spiritual warfare prayer. Even in the example of Daniel 10 God’s angels are fighting these territorial spirits. Daniel is not told to get involved with this battle.
We will be more effective spreading the gospel and praying for people. The light of the gospel overcomes any darkness in people’s hearts. The Holy Spirit makes people alive to the message of the gospel and the love of Jesus.
Let us be Jesus’ ambassadors and representatives and win the spiritual battles of darkness around us by spreading the gospel. Have you ever been involved in this type of warfare? What are your insights on how to deal with territorial spirits?
Now that we have addressed the enemies of territorial spirits in spiritual warfare, we turn to the idea of generational curses and how to face this next strategy of the enemy.
- Gaining Perspective on Territorial Spirits
- Territorial Spirits: Some Biblical Perspectives
- CRI Article by Eric Villanueva