This is a pretty wild topic. It seems exotic and niche, but the reality is every single person faces these battles every single day.
The word “psyche” simply means “soul.” It relates to a person’s beliefs, feelings, values, attitudes, and behaviors. Psychological warfare would be when one party tries to influence these things against the interests of another. Human nature has been around much longer than psychological terminology, and people have referred to these same things in different ways. People are rediscovering insights that have been understood and solving problems that have already been solved a long time ago.
For thousands of years, humans have fought and faced an invisible war for their souls. Warring factions from within and without a person threaten to redefine what it is to be you. Navigating these currents are two sides. Two fundamental principles to follow. Truth, or lies.
The war for the soul is the subject of the Bible. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, to address the topic of spiritual warfare from the Bible seems to pretty much reprint the whole book. The reason why the Son of God gave his life was to save people from the corrupted state of their soul—their beliefs, values, feelings, and choices, which flow to their actions and relationships. Who we are matters to God.
Let me start with some background information. A single supernatural God comprised of three beings who existed forever into the past, who has an infinite amount of power, who is brilliant beyond our ability to understand, and who has a perfect character, created a perfect world, and placed in it two beings who He breathed life into. Humans are uniquely made in the image of God. This gives our lives innate value. We are sentient. We have emotions. We have the ability to relate to each other. And we have free will.
God created many other species as well. Many with more power than humans. These we call angels, and they are God’s servants.
God created an angel who was “the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” However, this angel became proud because of his beauty, and “corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.” (Ezekiel 28:12, 17) The angel became filled with violence, and he was cast from God’s holy mountain. That angel is known as Satan, or the Devil. He was in the garden of Eden, a paradise on the perfect earth where the first humans were. What Satan wants is to take God’s place. He wants control, and he wants worship. (Isaiah 14:14)
Satan started a rebellion of angels in heaven. He took a third of them, and they became corrupted as he had been, and we know them as demons. (Revelation 12:12:4) He also enticed the humans to rebel against God. The spirit of man was no longer pure, and the natural world became a world of decay. (Genesis 3) Right now Satan can go to heaven or earth (Job 1:6-7). In the future he will be cast down to earth where he will do great damage (Revelation 12:10-12) before being imprisoned for a thousand years (Revelation 20:2) and finally being thrown into hell (Revelation 20:10).
Now, there is a war going on. It doesn’t matter whether you want to fight or not. You are under attack, simply because there are beings who want to conquer.
Angels and Demons
While demons and angels are powerful beings, they may operate in disguise. We are told to remember to be hospitable, because some have entertained angels unaware. (Hebrews 13:2) One angel killed 185,000 men in one night who were encamped around Jerusalem and taunting God (2 Kings 18-19). Angels have been ministers (Matthew 4:11, Luke 22:43), protectors (Daniel 6:20-23, 2 Kings 6:13-17), rescuers (Acts 12:7-11), guides (Matthew 1:20-21), messengers (Daniel 9:22-23) providers (Genesis 21:17-20, 1 Kings 19:5-7), and are here to assist believers (Hebrews 1:14). The angels of children always see the face of God (Matthew 18:10). Though right now they are a little higher than us (Psalms 8:4-5), they do not want our worship (Revelation 22:8-9), and in the future believers will be their judges (1 Corinthians 6:3). Angels and demons battle each other (Jude 9, Dan 10:12-14).
Demons are creatures of evil who exist to devour. Unlike angels or God will, demons can sometimes possess unbelievers and control them against their wills (Luke 11:24-26, Mark 5:9). They can inflict distress (Matthew 15:22), disability (Luke 11:14), illness (2 Corinthians 12:7), insanity (Luke 8:27), and self-harm on their hosts (Mark 5:5) among other things. They can give the host extraordinary physical strength (Mark 5:3-4). They can tell fortunes (Acts 16:16) which is forbidden (Deuteronomy 18:9-14). They are in a strict hierarchy under Satan (Luke 11:18). Demons propagandize (1 Timothy 4:1), and they seek to have people worship them (Psalm 106:37, 1 Corinthians 10:20). Before the flood, some demons were attracted to and mated with humans, and were punished by being kept in chains till judgment day (Jude 6). We are told to take demons seriously (Jude 9).
Jesus Christ is the demonstration of God’s character. Those who believe in him follow his character as a model for their own. On the other end of the spectrum is the character of Satan. The “children” of Satan embody his character instead. “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
The Kingdom of Satan
What is it like?
The following is my opinion.
[opinion]It seems to me in our modern terminology, the character farthest from the character of Christ and closest to Satan is a psychopath.
Based off of Dr. Hare’s checklist of traits of psychopaths, they are self-important, need constant stimulation, find pleasure in manipulating people, lie to get their own way, are not remorseful, are charming or persuasive, show little emotion, feel no empathy, have unstable relationships, have promiscuous sex, are impulsive and irresponsible, take as much as they can from others, do not have self-control, have early behavioral problems, lack long-term goals, and are criminally inclined.
Now examine what scripture says about sinful behavior in general, and the depraved and the scoffers in particular.[/opinion]
The Character of the Scoffer
“A proud and haughty man—“Scoffer” is his name; He acts with arrogant pride.” (Proverbs 21:24)
To do evil is a sport to a fool. (Proverbs 10:23) They do not understand justice (Proverbs 28:5) or human rights (Proverbs 29:7). They are self-deluded (Romans 1:28; John 8:43).
They are irreverent, unreasoning animals of instinct. Self-destructive. Their principles are up for sale. They are empty promises, appearing confidant, but are self-interested. They are driven about by the currents, erratic and unstable. They are impulsive and not productive. They are malcontents. They show favoritism to gain advantage. (Jude 10-16)
They are hypocrites, creating high standards for others that they will not fulfill. They are shallow and self-indulgent. They falsely portray themselves as innocents while they attack good people. (Matthew 23:1-36)
“They revel in their deceptions while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained for greed.” (2 Peter 2:13b-14a)
“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
“While evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:2-7,13)
“They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them, but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29b-32)
Sin in General
“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9b-10)
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21b)
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelations 21:8)
Causes of Sin: the Flesh, the World, and the Devil
The flesh is the natural instincts that come with our physical bodies that may prompt us to do things that are wrong. Every human being is born with a tendency to do wrong (Romans 5:12). The flesh is contrary to God and cannot obey Him (Romans 8:7). Even when presented with the right thing to do, its natural instinct is to rebel, and so it can become even more destructive (Romans 7:8). It is as though sin through our flesh is “crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7) The result of indulging in those instincts is destruction (James 1:13-15).
The world is the social system that is built out of the flesh of many individuals. It is the inertia of bad customs (Titus 2:12). It presents us with expectations that are to be taken for granted about how to think and feel about ourselves and each other, about how to act, and about what to expect out of life. It provides enormous pressure to be “normal” and do what is expected without thinking for yourself. (Romans 12:2, Colossians 2:8) It provides a system of distractions and rewards for cooperation. (Matthew 13:22) It is often however a bad influence. (James 1:27) Scripture even says that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17)
People are entirely capable of acting with the character of Satan just through the influences of the flesh and the world. But it is to Satan’s advantage for people to be under the influence of these two things. Satan wants to control people, and this makes them easy pickings. If they are already at the mercy of their own impulses, or if they are dependent on the approval of others, they are already easy to take over, and are just waiting for their orders, even if they don’t realize it. They are lost. Enslaved. (John 8:34)
Satan often accomplishes his will indirectly, whether through a serpent in the garden (Genesis 3:1), a band of marauders (Job 1:17), or the close companion of Jesus (Luke 22:3).
What are the tactics of the Kingdom of Darkness?
Satan is described as having schemes (Ephesians 6:11). In Genesis 3:1 the serpent is described as being more crafty than any other beast of the field. In Luke 16:8, the sons of this world are called more shrewd than the sons of light in dealing with their own generation. You should expect conniving and ulterior motives. That is inherent in their nature as we shall see.
The name Satan means “adversary.” It says of him, in 1 Peter 5:8 “Your adversary the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” The wicked “cannot rest until they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.” (Proverbs 4:16) The phrase often used is “lie in wait,” or continue to watch for an opportunity to bring someone harm. (Proverbs 24:15) When Satan left Jesus after tempting Him in the desert, he did so until a “more opportune time.” (Luke 4:13) Satan is an opportunist.
Satan has his demons under strict control, so that they act in concert with each other. (Luke 11:17-18). While this is not as true when it comes to their human counterparts, it still is true that their nature is to form strong hierarchies, where the more powerful tyrannize the less powerful. (Matthew 20:25). In a very real sense, these humans want to “possess” others just as much as demons can.
Satan is called the “father of lies,” and that when he lies he speaks out of his own character, because there is no truth in him. (John 8:44) Even though he is filled with violence (Ezekiel 28:18) he disguises himself as an angel of light. “So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) Though “a lying tongue hates its victims.” (Proverbs 26:24-28) They often put up a bold front (Proverbs 21:29) They are calloused to the damage their lies cause (Proverbs 26:18-19).
Satan is involved in a propaganda war. In the parable of the sower, when anyone hears the news of the kingdom (of God) and does not understand it, Satan snatches it away before it can take root. (Matthew 13:19) 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 tells us that Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel. Satan tries to lure believers out of the kingdom of light, and it says of them in 1 Timothy 4:1 that those who fall away pay attention to deceitful spirits and the teaching of demons, “through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.”
I have known people who were pathological liars. It seemed to me to them reality wasn’t a fixed thing. It was like they had been lied to so many times, every “fact” they heard was just another manipulation, or it interfered with their manipulations. They seemed like they didn’t want to be tricked into any convictions. They adopted their beliefs like they were tools to survive, to make or persuade the right friends, to project the right amount of confidence, to contrive some meaning. But the root that I see of every psychopathic or similar person I have known is despair. They have lost faith in everything “out there.” They wear themselves out coming up with an inspirational way to view themselves, but they are adrift.
Flattery pretends to esteem someone with the ulterior motive of getting them on your side to give you other things. It is manipulative because of the inherent deception, it is insulting because the compliments were not truly given based on merit, and it is a betrayal because you presented with a false friendship and are left unable to be sure of the real one. “They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.” (Galatians 4:17) It is a baited trap. (Proverbs 29:5)
“When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies for they are deceptive food.” (Proverbs 23:1-3) These “gifts” may be ways for someone to make you more dependent on them, or there may be hidden strings attached.
“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 I will give you, if you fall down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8-9) Satan tempted Jesus with ambition.
Bribery is a problem if it influences a choice that needs to be made on a basis other than the bribe. For example, a judge should not accept a bribe when making a ruling. It is a common thing to purchase followers with possessions, success, jobs, access, support, etc. It can be the counterpart to flattery. Things are given to purchase admiration and support. But love ought to be sincere, (Romans 12:9) and actions should have integrity (Matthew 4:10).
Gossip discloses private information, usually derogatory, about someone in such a way that it may damage their relationships or influence, and is unlikely to get back to them for them to have a chance to defend themselves. It can easily contain false or highly exaggerated information. It is also easily weaponized—used to deliberately harm someone. “With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.” (Proverbs 11:9) 1 Timothy 5:14-15 describes the women who gossip as straying after Satan.
In a similar way, a person’s relationships may be damaged, friends may turn to enemies, if they can be made to see the person as worse than they are. Satan, who constantly seeks the condemnation of believers, is called the “accuser of the brethren” in Revelations 12:10. He does so day and night. Jesus was frequently faced with people asking him controversial or difficult questions to turn people against Him. When they did that, Jesus would call them out on it. “Why do you test me, you hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:18) Disgrace is called a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:7)
As God’s expression of love should be done from one person to another, the kingdom of Satan seeks to destroy those bonds. Being isolated from aid can make a person more desperate to accept whatever deal they are offered. It can remove protection in case of attack. It can remove sources of critical judgment for the lies to be fed. And the bonds a person may have towards another is a threat to Satan’s desire for arbitrary control. It is only natural for those who serve him to be the “one who sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:19b) Christians are told to have nothing to do with those people after two warnings. (Romans 16:17-18, Titus 3:10)
Creating obstacles in an enemy’s path or doubt in their minds are classic ways to weaken their resolve. It may take the form of painting the goal as unworthy, as Peter did with Jesus when he suggested Jesus should not go to the cross. Even though Peter had good intent, Jesus understood the underlying attempt by Satan to convince him even through his friend to not continue. (Matthew 16:23)
The kingdom of Satan may use natural disasters (Job 1:19), illnesses (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), or many other things to hinder God’s ministry and people. (1 Thessalonians 2:18)
Enticement to do Wrong
It is evil to try to make someone else do something evil. It is sinning by proxy. But it is also a direct attack against the sanctity of someone’s soul. As Romans 14 puts it, “do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:15b) It is hard to imagine anything more Satanic.
To cause someone to sin injures their relationship with God, and demoralizes and shames them. This is besides all of the natural consequences to the sin itself, which is the destruction of self and relationships. To cause someone to break a law jeopardizes their lives and their standing in society. To cause someone to act foolishly weakens them in the same way theft or sabotage might. These acts of war on an individual level break up what makes up both people and society.
People may be enticed across many aspects of their personality. Judas was tempted by greed to betray Jesus (John 13:27). Ananias and Saphira were tempted by greed and the desire for admiration to lie (Acts 5:3). Eve was tempted with the desire for wisdom, “knowing” (perhaps experiencing) good and evil (Genesis 3:6). A prophet was tempted to disobey a command God had given him directly, simply because he trusted that another prophet was telling him the truth (1 Kings 13:18-24). People can be motivated to act by a variety of means.
We are told not to take advantage of someone’s vulnerabilities, as in Leviticus 19:14, “You shall not curse the deaf or place a stumbling block before the blind.”
Sexual sins are a serious danger. In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, we learn that the sexual sin cuts closer to the heart than other sins. Rather than being joined in spirit with Christ, people had been joined with prostitutes. God warned Israel not to marry foreign wives as they would turn their hearts towards their own gods (1 Kings 11:1-2). Some sexual immorality was called the “deep things of Satan” (Revelations 2:20-24). The scoffers have “eyes full of adultery,” (2 Peter 2:14a) and actively “creep into households and capture weak women… led astray by various passions” (2 Timothy 3:6). You will find perversion and sexual predation among these types.
The natural end to sin is death. (James 1:15) And that is the goal of Satan. It is contrary to life, and something most of us can’t quite wrap our minds around. But we are told clearly, “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” (John 10:10) He is “seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) “Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.” (Proverbs 29:10) There is no negotiating. No middle ground. When you understand that the only thing the enemy will settle for is every part of your soul, or your annihilation. Every compromise you make is only ground lost that will be used against you to grasp at even more ground. You must choose your master carefully.
“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason… but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” (Proverbs 1:10-11,18)
There are many more tactics used by the kingdom of darkness. Often these are the contradiction of the Kingdom of God.
What happens to the people inside?
They live as though dead. (Ephesians 2:1) They are blinded. (Proverbs 4:19) They live destroying themselves and each other. (1 James 1:15, Titus 3:3) They live enslaved by fear, without hope of life after death. (Hebrews 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 4:13)
Without the strength of God to resist, people are ensnared and taken captive by Satan to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:26) They are slaves to sin. (John 8:34) They have to be rescued. (Acts 26:18) Their soul is a puppet, a series of unanswered questions and unmet desires that can be driven about, incomplete to run on its own. They are puzzles missing pieces. A reason why. Hope. A future. To know love. Until the riddle of their being is solved, they will continue to be lost, at the mercy of torrents around them. They will continue to surrender themselves to the kingdom of darkness. They will cling to the “tender mercies of the wicked” (Proverbs 12:10) until they are delivered. (Colossians 1:11-14)
While the invitation stands for them to escape, each person will have to answer for every action he does, and will stand in judgment before God. (Romans 2:6) Even if he hopes to defer blame to the one holding his leash, “If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked.” (Proverbs 29:12)
How far reaching is it?
When Satan took Jesus up on a high mountain, he offered to Him all of the nations of the world as though they were his to give. (Matthew 4:8-9) It may be shocking to think of this as literally true, but it says clearly in 1 John 5:19 that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” He is referred to as the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31) and “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). It says that that spirit is now at work in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:2)
One should not think that the approximately two billion people who call themselves Christians are exempt from this. We are told that many go to destruction, and few will be saved. In fact, many will try seek to enter the kingdom of heaven and will not be able to. (Luke 13:24) Some will say to Jesus, “’Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” The label we apply to ourselves is not important. The reality is important. You will know them by their actions. (Matthew 7:20-23)
God is not a humanist. He hasn’t seemed to buy into the idea that people are basically good. “And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18) To put it more poetically:
“All have turned aside;
together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
There is an ebb and flow from bad to horrible in societies. The invisible border between the two kingdoms shift as hearts are won and lost. When they are lost, life becomes a nightmare for every living soul.
“Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night for the slain daughter of my people!
Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place,
that I might leave my people and go away from them!
For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.
They bend their tongue like a bow;
falsehood, and not truth has grown strong in the land;
for they proceed from evil to evil,
and they do not know me, declares the Lord.
Let everyone beware his neighbor,
and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver
and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
they weary themselves committing iniquity.
Heaping oppression upon oppression,
with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor,
but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.
Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord,
and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”
The scoffers set a city aflame. (Proverbs 29:8) They can work their way into positions of power, leaving chaos in their midst.
“for they deal falsely;
the thief breaks in,
and the bandits raid outside.
But they do not consider
that I remember all their evil.
Now their deeds surround them;
they are before my face.
By their evil they make the king glad,
and the princes by their treachery.
They are all adulterers;
they are like a heated oven
Whose baker ceases to stir the fire,
from the kneading of the dough
Until it is leavened.
On the day of our king, the princes
became sick with the heat of wine;
He stretched out his hand with mockers.
For with hearts like an oven they approach
All night their anger smolders;
In the morning it blazes like a flaming fire.
All of them are hot as an oven,
And they devour their rulers.
All their kings have fallen, and none of them calls upon me.”
Wheat and Tares
Jesus tells a parable of a man who sowed seeds in a field. While his men were sleeping, an enemy came in and sowed weeds among the grain. When the servants saw the weeds they told their master, and he said “An enemy has done this.” The servants asked if they should gather the weeds, but the master told them to wait, because they might accidentally uproot the grain along with the weeds.
The grain in the story are those in the kingdom of heaven, and the weeds are those in the kingdom of darkness. The enemy is the devil. The children of the devil are left to grow up and mature among the children of God. We are given opportunities to choose which kingdom we will belong to. When our nature is fully revealed, everyone who sins, and all causes of sin will be removed. (Matthew 13:24-43)
What was spoken about then is the reality now. We are in a war. It will define us. There are people who want to possess your soul. They want control. They want you to be willing to sacrifice everything right and precious. If you are a Christian, and were raised in the church reading your Bible, you have been training this whole time to know how to face what might come.