Written by 10:27 am Longer Teachings

Binding the Enemy

Is the practice of binding Satan or binding his demons something we draw from Scripture? Or is it an over-realized eschatology where we overstep our authority in Christ? I have to be honest. I’ve not made it a normal practice for when I pray over people, and more honesty, when I have done it, I felt awkward. I’m sure that’s partly from my lack of experience, and partly because I’m not settled about the efficacy of such prayers. My unsettled mind over this is a mix of theological questions and witnessing believers “bind” the enemy to no avail.

However, I will readily admit that I’m no expert on this subject, and hence, I’m perfectly willing to be persuaded. So this article is part of my exploration of this subject.

Over the years, I’ve heard primarily two verses used as support for the idea of binding the devil and demons: Matthew 12:29 and Matthew 16:19. I’ve heard others, but these two rise to the top and, in my opinion, are the most explicit regarding the subject.

Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. – Matthew 12:29

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. – Matthew 16:19

In his book, Understanding Spiritual Warfare, Dr. Sam Storms addresses the use of these verses for binding the devil. In both cases, Storms casts doubt on whether these verses provide a solid case for believers to bind the enemy. He says that in Matthew 12:29, Jesus is making reference to his victory over Satan in the wilderness. The study notes from the ESV Study Bible draw the same conclusion. In His victory, Jesus bound Satan in the wilderness to make way for His ministry.

Matthew 16:19 is a parallel verse with Matthew 18:18. Both speak of the authority given to the church to loose and bind things on earth. But Matthew 18 gives a little more context of what that means. Loosing and binding are concerned with church discipline – declaring right and wrong conduct within the church. Of course, those declarations cannot go beyond what is written in Scripture, so when the church looses or binds, it is (should be) in agreement with the Scripture.

Neither of these verses gives believers carte blanche to bind the enemy. Their contexts don’t support it. However, that doesn’t close the book on this subject. I don’t think these two verses are the only avenues to arrive at the conclusion that believers are supposed to bind the enemy. We might be able to arrive at that conclusion by taking in several passages that would give us a sound reason.

I want to divide the remainder of this discussion into three sections: 1) Our Authority, 2) New Testament Practice, and 3) Satan’s Current Status.

Our Authority

This is what I’m most sure of. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” – Matthew 28:18

What does that mean? Did Jesus not have all authority prior to his death and resurrection? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, in the ultimate sense that He is the LORD, the Creator of heaven and earth (Hebrews 1:2). Of this, there is no dispute. All authority has always been His. But, no, in that He delegated authority over the nations to the sons of God at the tower of Babel. It may surprise you to know that Babel was more than the confusion of languages.

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God. – Deuteronomy 32:8

Two things from this verse are key. When he divided mankind. When did the LORD divide mankind? Answer: the tower of Babel.

So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:8-9

Next, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. Some English translations say sons of Israel, which arises from the Masoretic Hebrew text. However, the oldest manuscripts found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, both older than the Masoretic text, say sons of God. This tells us that at some point, Masoretic scribes elected to change the text to read sons of Israel rather than retain the older phrase sons of God. The motivation for that change isn’t really my aim here, but suffice it to say that the Jews who lived between the testaments and during the first century – including Jesus and the Apostles – were taught that Deuteronomy 32:8 said sons of God.

Who are the sons of God? The book of Job makes very clear the identity of the sons of God.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. – Job 1:6

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. – Job 2:1

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy? – Job 38:4,7

The sons of God are supernatural spiritual beings who form God’s entourage, or his council, hence why they are presenting themselves before him.

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: – Psalm 82:1

In Psalm 82:1, the Hebrew word elohim appears twice, both for God and for gods. Elohim is a Hebrew word that is used both as a name for God and as a broad reference word to all members of the spirit realm. It’s not a proper name, except when used in reference to the LORD. Think of it like this. We use the word man to broadly describe all humans. It also can be used to represent the male gender of the human race. Neither of those uses would be considered proper names. But when we say, Superman, we add the word man to a proper name to draw a distinction about this particular man. There are many men, but only one Superman.

The Bible does the same thing with elohim. Elohim is used to describe all manner of spiritual beings, even the spirit of Samuel when the witch of Endor called him up for King Saul. But, when you see the phrase LORD God, you are reading YHWH Elohim. There are many elohim, but only one YHWH Elohim.

Why the Hebrew lesson? It’s important to understand that the tower of Babel was a two-pronged judgment where the LORD confused the languages of man, AND he gave authority to the sons of God – the elohim of His council – to rule over the resulting nations.  When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance isn’t a happy thing, like when we receive some money as an inheritance from a family member. Their inheritance was judgment. Because of mankind’s disobedience, He chose to give them up to the elohim of His council whom He knew would rule them unjustly. Psalm 82 is about the LORD judging the elohim of His council because they rebelled by leading the nations astray and ruling them unjustly.

This is the delegated authority that the LORD gave away at Babel, but Jesus took it back via His death and resurrection. And this has major implications for our remaining discussion about binding the enemy.

New Testament Practice

I’ve searched for it. As best as I can tell from the English translations I compared, no apostle, no deacon, no believer ever “binds” the enemy. Paul never binds a demon. Peter never binds the devil. It’s just not there. After Jesus drops the word bind, in the context of binding the enemy you don’t see it again until an angel binds Satan in chains to cast him into the bottomless pit.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. – Revelation 20:1-3

I think that should lead us to a question. If there is no Biblical record of any New Testament believer binding the devil or demons, should we? Let’s keep examining because the absence of that language doesn’t necessarily equal a prohibition. However, if Peter and Paul never felt the need to bind spirits, there must be a reason worth exploring. And it has everything to do with authority.

Christ has all authority in heaven and earth. By the Holy Spirit, Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20), and therefore to the degree that I put to death the old self, Christ can live through me, and all of His authority will be available to me. Inherent in His authority is the wonderful truth that He is Victor. So, again, inasmuch as I put off the old self, I walk in Christ’s victory over the enemy. Do I need to bind the enemy? Do I even need to say a word to an evil spirit? Isn’t he already bound where Christ is concerned?

Maybe. But then we read passages like Acts 16:16-18

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. – Acts 16:16-18

If no words were necessary, why did Paul need to speak to this evil spirit of divination and command it, in Jesus’ name, to come out of the slave girl? Walking in the light with Jesus doesn’t equal an automatic subjugation of evil spirits. Words are necessary. Why? That is simple. Evil spirits are in rebellion. Their nature is to act and speak in defiance to the LORD as long as they are able. Hence, this is why Paul and Silas’ ministry and presence weren’t enough to bring the spirit into submission. The name of Jesus had to be invoked to compel its obedience to their command to leave. So, even as victorious, Spirit-filled Christ-followers the enemy doesn’t just bow down the moment we come in close proximity. In rebellion, they refuse to submit until they must.

Did Paul say, “I bind the spirit of divination in this young girl!”? No. He simply said, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” Different words. Same intent. But, it would appear that instead of binding the enemy, the more Biblical language would be to simply say, “In Jesus’ name, get out!”

Before I move on to the next portion, I want to point out that every act of casting out spirits in the New Testament is with individuals. There is never an instance of believers casting out evil spirits that are over cities or regions. One reason, I believe, is that demons who demonize people are of a different class of spiritual being than spirits who influence entire cities, regions, and nations. Has Christ defeated all of them? Yes. But even the Apostles never cast out the principalities who had authority over Rome or over Greece. Those kinds of spirits definitely exist, as they are referenced in the book of Daniel (the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece in Daniel chapter 10), yet all we see cast out in the Gospels and Acts are lower-level demons who afflict individual people, not entire territories. But, even with that said, we also must admit that Paul tells us that we wrestle with all levels of spiritual darkness.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

It should be noted that there seems to be levels of priority given for spiritual warfare. Starting with each individual believer, we are told to resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). All victory over spiritual darkness begins with individual resistance, period. If you are unsubmitted to God and giving in to the devil, you most definitely aren’t walking in the authority that Christ shares with us, and are spiritually compromised, hindered in your prayers, and unarmed for spiritual warfare. This is where most of our spiritual fight exists. If there are greater battles where the LORD might work through us, we must first be fighting well in our own backyards.

In other words, don’t worry about wrestling with forces of evil in heavenly places if you can’t resist the devil in personal sin issues.

Satan’s Current Status

We can reduce this to one phrase: defeated and dangerous. Revelation chapter 12 explains this with vivid imagery.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” – Revelation 12:7-12

To save space I didn’t include the first six verses, but this is a vision of the cosmic events that surrounded the entire life of Jesus, from birth to ascension. The dragon is Satan, and verses one through six describe the birth of Christ, the dragon’s failed attempt to devour Him, and Christ’s ascension. What happens after the ascension is in verses seven through twelve. There’s a war in heaven, the dragon is cast down to the earth in defeat, and what’s pertinent to us is in verse twelve. But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short! He is defeated – cast down to the earth – and he is dangerous – he has great wrath because he knows his time is short.

The Apostle Peter helps us understand the danger.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

The Apostle Paul reminds us that Satan has plans.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. – Ephesians 6:11

So, Satan is absolutely defeated, but his defeat has enraged him. As his time runs out, he is actively engaged in crafted schemes to destroy people in general, but specifically God’s people. On one hand, Satan blinds the whole world to the truth of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4) through a multitude of schemes, ranging from false religions to the occult to greed and envy. On the other hand, he very particularly pursues the people of God and targets them for destruction. Revelation 12:17 says that he makes war against those who keep God’s commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

He blinds the unbeliever. He makes war against the believer. Defeated? Yes. Dangerous? YES!!!

But even as this dangerous, fallen guardian cherub, because Christ has been given all authority, he is easily overcome. The Apostles gave us simple instructions for overcoming Satan.

James says that just our resistance will cause Satan to flee, which highlights his defeated nature. Do we need to bind an enemy who can be set to flight by simple resistance?

Let me rephrase that question. Since Satan can be overcome through simple resistance, is that not evidence that he is already bound? If that is the case, then walking in the victory/authority that Christ shares with us is all one must do to resist effectively. As I pointed out earlier, that doesn’t mean our mere proximity to Satan makes him flee. He is in rebellion, and he will defiantly hold his ground as long as he can until he is compelled in Jesus’ name to depart. But our resistance against him isn’t made effective by particular words. Saying, “I bind you, Satan,” isn’t what makes him leave. What makes him leave is the authority of Christ that flows through us as we walk in the light as He is in the light. What makes Him leave is the word of God, not contrived phrases. Looking back at Matthew 12:29, Christ’s binding of Satan wasn’t by virtue of Him declaring with a loud voice, “Satan, I bind you!” The binding of Satan in the wilderness happened as Christ consistently refuted each temptation with God’s Word.

The weapon is God’s word. The effect is Satan’s binding.


As I said upfront, this article has been part of my exploration of this subject. I can’t say conclusively that Christians don’t need to bind the enemy in some circumstances. The fact that they are in rebellion means that they don’t submit willingly, so they will resist our efforts to clean house. However, as I’ve grown into a more Biblical understanding of Christ’s authority, how He shares that authority with His people, and what that means for the devil and his angels, I’ve also come to see that in many ways, Satan is already bound. Bound in the sense that when he was cast down to the earth, his authority was severely diminished. I don’t believe, as some do, that he is bound in the bottomless pit already. 1 Peter and Revelation 12 give us a fairly clear picture that he is on the earth, not bound in the pit. Being bound in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3) happens after Christ returns. But his position in the heavens has been taken, and along with that, his authority.

Satan’s authority extends only as far as each believer allows it. I talked about resisting the devil in fairly simple terms. But in real life, believers give Satan so many inroads into their lives that it is a long process to close off every avenue of access. Why do we do that? For one, Satan is crafty and disguises himself as an angel of light. We are often deceived by things that seem good but are really carefully disguised traps so that we’ll become ensnared. But, Peter gives us instructions: be sober-minded, be watchful. If we are students of the Word, praying without ceasing, and walking in the light we can see through the deceptions.

So, if you regularly follow the practice of binding the enemy, I’m not telling you to stop. But I would suggest that you do so as an informed believer. You’re dealing with a defeated and dangerous enemy. Defeated, therefore in a broad sense, already bound, already demoted, already robbed of all meaningful authority. Dangerous because he’s enraged by his defeat, therefore perhaps more rebellious than ever, more unwilling to submit than ever, and more determined to destroy believers than ever. Believers remember it’s not you who compels the enemy to flee. It’s Jesus, always Jesus.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. – 1 John 4:4



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Last modified: February 1, 2023