... continued from yesterday.
Nevertheless, we do find Jewish literature that located demonic forces in the lowest "heaven," the lowest sky immediately above the earth. This situation is arguably presumed by the New Testament, even though the New Testament does not explicitly spell it out. A writing called the Testament of Levi divides the skies into three "heavens" (cf. 2 Cor. 12:2). The lowest heaven or lowest sky is the place where evil spirits live.
Whenever these evil spirits came into power, Jesus' exorcist ministry indicated their dethronement from control over the earth. Jesus puts it this way: "If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Luke 11:20). By casting out demons, Jesus was signaling the arrival of the kingdom of God over the earth. God's rule over the earth was thus not just political. It was for Jesus perhaps even more centrally spiritual.
Jesus was dethroning the "ruler of the kingdom of the air" (Eph. 2:2), Satan. Jesus was driving out the "prince of the world" (John 12:31). His exorcist ministry meant that Satan was being dislodged from his rule in the sky (Luke 10:18).
Jesus' enemies of course had a different interpretation. They suggested Jesus cast out demons because he was empowered by the prince of demons, Beelzebub (Mark 3:22). His response, of course, is that things don't work that way. Satan doesn't fight Satan. In order to plunder Satan's house, you would have to bind him first. So, once again, each demon Jesus' cast out was an indication of the end of evil's power over the earth.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell of a time just before Jesus' ministry when he was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness. This tempting took place between his baptism and the beginning of his preaching. Matthew and Luke tell of three specific temptations. One is for Jesus to use supernatural power to turn stones into bread. Another is for Jesus to use the angels, the company jet, to save him from a random act of throwing himself from the top of the temple. The most significant, though, is when Satan tempts Jesus to switch his loyalty to him and away from God.
Jesus thus begins his earthly preaching with a clear sense of focus and loyalty to God. He goes on, not to serve the ruler of this world but to cast out the servants of the prince of the lower atmosphere. In this area perhaps more than any other, Jesus began to bring the rule of God to earth in his ministry.
Evil clearly continues to be a powerful force in the world today. As Christians, we believe that the power of evil has been defeated, but that the full manifestation of that defeat is not yet apparent. The gospels leave us with an optimism, that no matter how bleak the forces of evil may look, evil does not get the final word. We must not despair. We must not acquiesce. We must go on casting out demons in faith that evil's back is broken. It's defeat only needs to be played out.