Do Christians Have Authority Over Territorial Spirits?
Do “Needless Casualties Of War” Come From Going Outside Our Realm Of Authority?
The strategic-level spiritual warfare movement grew rapidly in the 1990’s. Books by authors like C. Peter Wagner and John Dawson turned people’s attention to the spiritual forces at work in nations and regions. Success stories from Argentina and other places inspired many Christians to exercise Christ’s dominion in their cities and regions.
Yet some Christians suffered devastating spiritual attacks after confronting demonic “principalities.” In 1999 John Paul Jackson published Needless Casualties Of War. He concluded that the cause of these needless casualties was presumption. Jackson argued that God has only given the church authority in “ground-level” warfare, but not over territorial spirits or principalities. He taught that the proper way to deal with territorial spirits is repenting of anything that may have given them a “legal right,” and then asking God to remove them.
I initially accepted Jackson’s conclusions as a needed correction, but questions lingered in the back of my mind. After years of considering the teaching and experience of various Christian leaders, as well as my own experience, I’ve concluded that we do have authority over all the power of the enemy, including principalities. I believe that John Paul Jackson addressed a real problem, yet his diagnosis of that problem cannot be supported by scripture. He could have easily misinterpreted the dream he had, which is why the church needs a variety of both prophets and teachers.
I’ve published my findings in What Really Causes Needless Casualties Of War? This new book highlights the problems with concluding that God’s people only have limited authority over Satan. It then goes on to point out some of the real reasons that people become “needless casualties.” What Really Causes Needless Casualties Of War is rooted in both scripture and real-life experience.
Here are two short excerpts from the book. The first is from the introduction, explaining why this issue is important. The second excerpt highlights one of several problems with the conclusion that Christians do not have authority over territorial spirits.
(From the introduction)
Is Disagreement Dishonoring?
I’ve recently heard warnings surfacing again against confronting “territorial spirits.” When I share that I don’t fully agree with John Paul Jackson’s view on the subject, some people feel I’m dishonoring him by disagreeing. Yet I urge you to hear me out and be willing to take a fresh look at this subject.
May we never put someone on such a pedestal that we equate disagreement with dishonor! Take a look at some of the Christian leaders throughout history whom you look up to the most. When you study their lives in greater detail, you’ll probably find that most of them believed something you strongly disagree with. Yet we still honor them and receive from what God has done through their lives.
If John Paul Jackson has blessed you, thank God for it! Let’s learn to discuss teaching without making it personal. Many people realized John Paul Jackson was right about something being wrong. Even if we don’t agree with him on everything, we can honor him for perceiving a problem and speaking up contrary to the status quo of many charismatic Christians. We honor men like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as some of the great names in science. But we now realize that in spite of their contributions, Newton was wrong about some things Einstein got right. And even Einstein wasn’t right about everything.
We as the body of Christ are “growing up in all things into Christ.” The process of maturing always includes corrections along the way. We thank God for those who’ve gone before us. But let’s let their ceiling be our floor, and may we continue to progress in our understanding! I want others to catch a renewed vision for cities and nations coming to God’s light. To catch a vision for what God can do through us, we must understand the authority God has given us.
Scripture clearly teaches that God’s people have authority over all of Satan’s power, not just some of it! God hasn’t chosen to sovereignly deal with evil spirits that influence regions and nations, apart from us. He’s chosen to do it through the church! We need to know this truth if we’re going to do what God has called us to do.
(From Chapter 3 Authority Over All The Power Of The Enemy, Or Only “Earthling” Demons?)
Territorial Spirits Oppressing Regions Through The Influence Of One Individual
…Here’s another problem with trying to make a distinction between a “regional principality” and an “earthling evil spirit.” We see multiple cases where an evil spirit exercises an oppressive influence over a region through the authority and agreement of a single evil person.
Acts 8:9-11 describes Simon the sorcerer, whose influence extended over a region. All the people of Samaria followed him and called him the “Great Power of God” because his sorcery amazed them. An evil power blinded the spiritual eyes of people in Samaria. How was it able to do so? By its partnership with a single individual who had given himself over to evil.
Are we to believe that an evil power gained influence over the entire region of Samaria through the invitation of one evil man, yet God’s people didn’t have the authority to rout that power of evil but could only “ask God to remove it,” because it was a “principality?”
Of course, we know Phillip the evangelist did destroy the influence of that evil power and gain much ground for Christ in Samaria. Phillip didn’t take Samaria by gathering an army to repent of their ancestors’ sins and then asking God to remove the principalities. Neither did he take it by mounting a “spiritual warfare” attack in an attempt to “bind the strongman” and pull it out of the sky. He simply treated Satan as a defeated foe, then trampled on his power as he preached the gospel, cast out demons, and healed the sick.
Acts 13 tells us of a sorcerer named Elymas who was an attendant to the Roman proconsul (ruler). Elymas opposed Paul’s teaching and tried to turn the proconsul away from Christianity, but Paul rebuked him and temporarily blinded him. When the proconsul saw this, he turned to the Lord. Although this account isn’t as clear, it seems to also be an account of an evil power exercising oppressive influence over the whole region through partnership with one evil man.
We see multiple cases today which are similar to these Bible stories. One is that of a warlock named José López Rega, who first advised president Juan Perón of Argentina and then “exercised Rasputin-like authority” over his wife Isabel Perón when she succeeded him as president. He’s said to have cursed Argentina in 1976 when he lost power due to the military coup.
Ed Silvoso shares another warlock story in his account of evangelizing his region. He took a map and drew a circle on it to include towns within a 100-mile radius of his hometown, Rosario Argentina. 109 towns were within that radius, but no evangelical churches. Then they discovered that a Warlock named Merigildo lived in one of those towns and had twelve disciples. Christian leaders got together to pray, then went to Merigildo’s headquarters and declared his power was broken. Within less than three years, 82 of those towns had an evangelical church.
Don Allen shares the story of a powerful witch’s conversion. She owned the town and she shut down three churches. Although her stories sounded incredible, other people in that town confirmed they were true. She was going to kill Don, but ended up encountering Jesus and coming to salvation instead. After her conversion, Don led her to go to the places where she had placed curses on the city and pronounce blessing in their place.
Needless Casualties of War teaches that God has not given the church authority to confront principalities directly, and we can only repent and ask God to remove them. Yet we find multiple illustrations of principalities oppressing nations and regions through the invitation of a single evil person.
If a principality gained its influence by the invitation of a single evil person, should not a single righteous person be able to destroy its influence? Phillip the evangelist did. Does the whole church not have the authority to undo what one evil man did? That’s what we are concluding if we accept the notion that God’s people have no authority to confront principalities.
If that were so, those who serve the kingdom of darkness would have more authority than those who serve Jesus. But they don’t. Jesus really did give us authority over “all the power of the enemy.”
The Kindle version of What Really Causes Needless Casualties Of War? is only $2.99 for the first month of publication.
The Paperback is $12.99