That there is a struggle, a “battle of life,” must be assumed at once by all who look at the world as it is; the question is whether it is against flesh and blood, or against a more unearthly power of evil.
Against the rulers . . .—“Principalities” and “powers” describe simply angelic powers, whether of good or evil. But in the following clauses St. Paul defines them as powers of evil, and appears to indicate two different aspects of this evil power. The original phrase is striking and powerful, “against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual powers of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
“spiritual hosts” of wickedness; and the phrase “in the heavenly places,” corresponding to “the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2
The spiritual hosts of evil are described as fighting in the region above the earth.
Ephesians 6:12. For we wrestle not — Greek, ουκ εστιν ημιν η παλη, our struggle is not; against flesh and blood — Not merely against human adversaries, however powerful, subtle, and cruel, nor against fleshly appetites; but against principalities, against powers — The mighty princes of all the infernal legions: and great is their power, and that likewise of the legions which they command. Against the rulers of the darkness of this world — Greek, προς τους κοσμοκρατορας του σκοτους, του αιωνος τουτου, against the rulers of the world, of the darkness of this age. Dr. Whitby explains this of “those evil spirits that ruled in the heathen nations which were yet in darkness,” and of “those that had their stations in the region of the air.” “Perhaps,” says Mr. Wesley, “these principalities and powers” (spoken of in the former clause) “remain mostly in the citadel of the kingdom of darkness; but there are other evil spirits who range abroad, to whom the provinces of the world are committed.” By the darkness of this age, that spiritual darkness is intended, which prevails during the present state of things. “Evil spirits,” Macknight thinks, “are called rulers of this world, because the dominion which, by the permission of God, they exercise, is limited to the darkness of this world; that is, this world darkened by ignorance, wickedness, and misery, and which is the habitation or prison assigned them, until the judgment of the great day, Jude, Ephesians 6:6.” Against spiritual wickedness — Or rather, wicked spirits, as the Syriac translates the expression. The word πονηρια, rendered wickedness, properly signifies malice joined with cunning, and is fitly mentioned as the characteristic of those wicked spirits with whom we are at war; and it is a quality so much the more dangerous, in that it exists in beings whose natural faculties are very great. And it must be observed, that they continually oppose faith, love, holiness, either by force or fraud, and labour to infuse unbelief, pride, idolatry, malice, envy, anger, hatred. In high places — Greek, εν τοις επουρανιοις, in, or about, heavenly places. Those who translate it in the former way, think the expression refers to those places where they rebelled against the God of heaven, and drew in multitudes who were before holy and happy spirits, to take part with them in their impious revolt. But it seems more probable the sense is, about heavenly places; namely, the places which were once the abodes of those spirits, and which they still aspire to, as far as they are permitted; labouring at the same time to prevent our obtaining them.
But against principalities – There can be no doubt whatever that the apostle alludes here to evil spirits. Like good angels, they were regarded as divided into ranks and orders, and were supposed to be under the control of one mighty leader; see the notes on Ephesians 1:21. It is probable that the allusion here is to the ranks and orders which they sustained before their fall, something like which they may still retain. The word “principalities” refers to principal rulers, or chieftains.
“Against the world rulers of this (present) darkness”
On Satan and his demons being “world rulers
Though they be “world rulers,” they are not the ruler of the universe; and their usurped rule of the world is soon to cease, when He shall “come whose right it is” (Eze 21:27).
for we have not the wrestling with feeble men, but we have to contend with the diabolic powers.