The idea of a Kingdom of Darkness attempts to describe the ongoing reality of the devil’s work on earth. This includes demonic activity and the sinful thoughts, words, and actions of humanity. We are a fallen people always being led astray by fallen angels. Yet, most of us will never actually see the evil forces that oppress us. The reason for this is that evil works best when it is not recognized. That is why St. Paul informs the Ephesians about the hidden forces that war against them and all of creation. This is best demonstrated in Ephesians 6:12. Paul writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” These forces desire to operate in the background, concealing the manipulation and destruction they bring upon God’s creation.
Why do they hide? Because the most effective tools that the devil and his demons have at their disposal are the power of fear and lies. They run a deception campaign that can only be understood as we are enlightened by the Word of Holy Scripture. If God had not revealed these things to us, we would have no chance of defending ourselves against such powerful tools. These evil forces sometimes come out of hiding by taking different forms—such as disguising themselves as “ghosts” or through the lies of mediums and fortune-tellers. Yet, while taking a more visible form, they still function within the realm of fear and lies. Indeed, they are the only tools that are needed to accomplish their destructive plans.
The demonic use of fear is focused explicitly on the original sin within all of us. The essence of this original sin is a lack of trust in God’s Holy Word. We wish to avoid pain and suffering; therefore, we do things we know we should not do (e.g., steal from our neighbors, keep quiet when we should be speaking out against evil, etc.) Fear has been a motivator due to our sinful condition since our first parents fell into sin. When we have a fear of poverty, we might steal. Maybe we have a fear of loneliness, so we are unfaithful to our spouses. Many have a fear of having a child, so they seek out abortions. There are too many examples to explore in this short article. Suffice it to say, if we are honest, we can recognize how fear is behind many of the bad decisions we have made in life. Behind this fear and the decisions we make as a result, lie doubt, sin, and death. However, when fear and lies are combined into a single strategy, it can be devastating to our spiritual well-being. At the essence of any fear is the lie that is behind it.
The lie is the most potent weapon that the demonic world uses against us. If we believe a lie, it becomes our reality, even though it is still a lie. Think about how the devil brought sin into the world. The story is found in Genesis 3:1-5.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
This shows the effectiveness of the devil’s lie. While much of what he said to Eve could be understood as the truth, the devil “bent the truth” to create doubt in Eve. So she took the fruit and touched it, but she did not die. She looked at it, saw that it was “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom…” (Genesis 3:6). However, the only wisdom that she or Adam, who also ate from the fruit, gained was the knowledge of sin and death. This is just the first of many examples that Scripture provides of the devil’s deceit. Jesus makes this point clear when he tells the Pharisees that they are children of the devil and then explains the devil’s origins. “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b).
The problem we face is that we live in a world full of lies. Many people feel as if there is no one who can be trusted these days. This leads to a distrust in our institutions and churches. It turns people away from confessing their sins by telling them they have no sin. The Bible becomes something less than the Word of God because we let our desire for the lie overshadow the truth. Yet, the truth is found in Jesus. John tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus says of his Father, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
While the devil and his demons continue their campaign of fear and lies, we have the truth. John summarized this when he told us, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). The crucifixion of Jesus undid the Kingdom of Darkness by casting the devil from his throne. While the devil once had other tools to afflict us, his defeat left him with only the weapons of fear and lies.
The only way to overcome the fear and lies of this world is in the presence of the One who is full of “grace and truth.” When we immerse ourselves in the Holy Scriptures, and the promises of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, these fears begin to lose their control over us, and the lies are illuminated so that we can see the truth—the truth of God’s love for us and the promise that the devil and his demons’ powers over us are removed in Jesus. Fear not, for the Lord is with you. He has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).
Dr. Robert H. Bennett is the Executive Director of Luther Academy and also serves Concordia Theological Seminary as International Missions Specialist and visiting professor of missiology.