Ephesians 6:12: “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.”
Are there evil spirits in heaven? Well, this verse seems to imply so. But we need understand what Paul means when he talks about the “heavenly realms” or “heavenly places” as some other translations phrase it.
This phrase occurs four other times in Ephesians:
• 1:3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
• 1:20: “… which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…”
• 2:6: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…”
• 3:10: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms…”
Dwelling with Christ
So the heavenly realms in Ephesians are the place where God has blessed us (that is, Christians) in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), and where God raised us to be with Christ now (Ephesians 2:6); while also living our lives here in the present world. In other words, the heavenly places are the spiritual realm where believers now dwell with Christ. The heavenly realms are also where Christ has been raised (Ephesians 1:20), and He is now indeed ruling there “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion…” (Ephesians 1:21).
Ephesians 1:20-21, 3:10 and 6:12 all bear the same testimony: that the heavenly realms also contain evil spiritual powers.
So what is going on in Ephesians 6:12? Ephesians 6:10 starts a new, and rather abrupt, section in the letter. Immediately before, Paul has been explaining how the gospel should shape the lives of believers in the areas of marriage, work, and family.
But now Paul talks about “stand[ing] against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11), and the need to put on the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17). The point is that our daily lives, especially in the areas of marriage, work and family are precisely where we’ll face the brunt of the devil’s attacks on us. As we seek to live out the gospel in these areas, we’ll experience the devil’s “flaming arrows” (Ephesians 6:16). This is why our struggle is against the “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).
Christ has more power
However, the good news is that Christ has been raised above all such powers (Ephesians 1:20-22) and therefore He has complete power and authority over them; and also that God equips us with armor to wear so that we can stand firm (Ephesians 6:10, 13, 14-17; the armor listed in the verses 14-17 is the gospel itself).
Paul’s use of “heavenly places” in Ephesians is distinct from “heaven.”
For more about heaven have a read of our article: What is the third heaven?