When Jesus was casting out demons, dealing catastrophic blows to Satan’s kingdom, some Pharisees, seeing that they couldn’t refute Jesus’ spectacular authority over unclean spirits, accused him of casting out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. What Jesus said next may surprise you.

Matthew 12.22-28 [NASB]
22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Luke 11.14-20 [NASB]
14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 16 Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven. 17 But He knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. 18 “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 “And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. 20 “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

When the kingdom comes, God will bring his final judgment upon Satan and the unclean spirits who serve him. As a result, those living in the age to come will enjoy harmony with God, without dealing with the temptations and machinations of the prince of the power of the air. Jesus’ contemporaries would likely have agreed with this description of the future. However, Jesus’ point is that this coming kingdom is already somehow present in his exorcism ministry. For Jesus, casting out demons is not merely an act of compassion or grace; it is linked with his beliefs about the kingdom of God. Jesus interprets his own battle with Satan’s kingdom as the encroachment of God’s kingdom.

Some Christians allege that Jesus redefined the kingdom from a political reality to a spiritual one and use this text to make that point. However, if Jesus changes the kingdom from the time when God reestablishes the throne of David in Jerusalem with his Messiah on it forever, then what are we to do with all of the prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures? Should we call Isaiah and Daniel false prophets? Should we dismiss David’s messianic psalms as irrelevant to what the messiah will actually do? Rather than such a radical reinterpretation, a simpler explanation is that Jesus fully expected a future kingdom to come, but in his own ministry he was already bringing forth fresh signs of the kingdom as a way of validating his own role as messiah as well as giving people a taste of what the kingdom will be like.

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