Growing up in the Pentecostal/Charismatic world I heard a lot about the ‘powers’ and ‘principalities’ of evil that ruled this current age (Eph. 6:12). Most of the time it these terms would be used when engaging in prayer walks or prayer meetings… Or, as the case may be, when someone was commenting on the darkness or evil of a particularly city, country, or geographical location (Daniel 10:13 was usually quoted at that time).
Yet in spite all the talk about “them”, I never fully comprehended what in the world St. Paul was talking about…
Accordingly, it was bated breath that I started reading Derek Morphew’s ebook “South Africa and the Powers Behind.” Derek, as a lot of you know, is a Vineyard South African pastor, scholar, theologian and practitioner who, in my opinion, is one of the best voices on Kingdom Theology in the world (yeah, I’m a huge fan!).
The book itself arose from a sermon series delivered by Derek in the late 1980’s to a predominalty white congregation struggling with the growing violence and tension within Apartheid South African. The sermons sought to provide an answer for some of the questions facing the congregation and help open their eyes to what was really happening behind the scenes in the spiritual world. After the fall of the apartheid, this book helped bring Derek to the attention of the The Evangelial Alliance of South Africa (TEASA), a covering body for all evangelical denominations and structures in South Africa, where he then served on their national board. He also represented the TEASA to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) chaired by Desmond Tutu. Derek’s primary statement to the TRC is included in the appendix of this book.
This information is of crucial importance as it provides the backdrop for how Derek approaches the biblical concept of powers and principalities and how these forces of evil manifests themselves in visible social structures (political, economic, cultural, etc.). It probably goes without saying, but while the book is dealing with a particular ideological struggle in a particular country, the concepts and biblical analysis contained in the book is useful to Jesus followers the world over.
The beginning of the book starts with broadening the worldview of those in the Western world to include powers and spirits that exist outside (or in addition to) the materialist powers of the state, money, legal system, military, etc. Once Derek establish this ‘new’ worldview, he then dives into the Bible – Old and New Testaments – and brings to light the “biblical terminology” used to describe this “visible world and the invisible world.” While I know quotes can be confusing out of context, I feel that the following three quotes will serve to give you all an understanding of what Derek is doing:
“The Old Testament pictures the heavenly powers as an oriental court or cabinet meeting (Psalm 82:1; 89:6-7; 103:19-22; 1 Kings 22:19-21; Job 1:6). These heavenly rulers were initially ordained by God as part of his government over earthly nations. However, just as human society has progressively become corrupt because of sin (Romans 1), so these heavenly rulers have progressively perverted their original authority. Consequently, biblical terminology for them becomes steadily more negative.”
“When a national ruler is referred to in scripture, one is never quite sure whether the visible or invisible counterpart is being referred to or both. Because of this connection between earthly and heavenly powers, earthly religious, political, cultural and economic structures are usually the incarnation of heavenly rulers and their control of human society.” [underline added for this post]
“The culmination of the evil that heavenly rulers manifest in earthly structures is described in Revelation 12 – 13. Here the Roman Empire, the precursor of the final earthly power to wage war on the saints, is possessed by the devil. John sees a dragon (satan) and warfare in heavenly places (Revelation 12). This is then reflected in the beast, the earthly counterpart (Revelation 13:1). This beast represents the power, throne and authority of the dragon. His power is manifest in a political (13:4,8), religious (13:11-15) and economic system (13:16-17). John is shown in the Spirit that what the early Christians experienced in the visible realm as the power of Rome was actually the incarnation of invisible powers of darkness.” [underline added for this post]
After looking at the Scriptures, Derek turns his focus to modern times and begins the journey on exposing different ideologies that imprison and possess people, often to the point that one’s philosophies on social structures (government style, economic structures, etc.) overrule their commitment to Jesus.
“In fact, “born-again” Christians, truly committed to Jesus Christ as Lord in their conscious thoughts and intentions can unknowingly be controlled by a different spirit when it comes to their social ideas and reactions, especially on the issues that are so emotive for South Africans. They can even believe that their bondage to the ideology is supported by scripture. In such cases some kind of deliverance is required, not in the literal sense of an exorcism but in the sense that the controlling power of the ideology can only really be broken by another power, the power of God. At this point we move beyond education into the realm of spiritual warfare.” [underline added for this post]
As you can probably tell by now, this is a hard hitting, controversial book that exposes the powers and principalities behind a lot of what we take for granted. For example a lot of us in the USA take Capitalism for granted, thinking it the best economic structure out there. What we don’t realize however is that Capitalism IS a spiritual power that seeks to control the mindset and actions of it’s followers just like Marxist-Leninism, Fascism, and Nationalism.
“…it does not help to confuse church and state or to become associated with a particular ideology for the sake of “joining the struggle” or “defending our civilization”. Real demonic powers are waging war over the country. The spiritual weapons of the church are enormously powerful, provided we rediscover what it means to wage spiritual warfare.”
I prayerful hope that each of you reading this blog post will pick up this ebook and read it as it brings clarity to a misunderstood portion of Scriptures. And, seeing how we in the USA are in the middle of an election year…well, this clarity is needed more than ever.