This is a good clarification question that one of our elders received after the service last Sunday via text from a member of our congregation. The question had to do with Ephesians 2:2, which says…
in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
The question asked: Is Ephesians 2:2 talking about separate entities or are they one and the same? And is it referring to the current here and now?
First, “the prince of the power of the air” and “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” are two different entities. The first entity, the prince of the power of the air, is a reference to the god of this world, Satan. The reality is that cultural trends in countries around the world are instigated by the careful planning of this ruler of darkness, the father of lies, but we must always remember that Satan is a finite creature. He cannot be in more than one place at a time. Our adversary is not omnipresent. Therefore he uses his army of cosmic powers, demonic forces, to influence the sons of disobedience, humanity.
The second entity, or rather entities, “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” is referring to humanity. The “spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” is saying that human disobedience is just like Satan’s disobedience. Human disobedience is of the same mindset, the same spirit, which is a spirit that questions the truth of God’s promises and revelation. “Did God really say?” And this is the spirit (think mindset) both in humanity and demonic forces that embraces Satan’s lie, “You will become like God.”
In other words, it’s the epitome of human autonomy, that spirit in humanity that says, “I will decide. I will determine good and evil. I will define reality, truth and error.” That is the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience through their own sinful nature and the influence of the prince of the power of the air.
And the little adverb "now" tells us that this is referring to the current state of things in the world, both then and now. The prince of the power of the air is at work now in the mass of humanity that says no to their Creator, because they are the subjects of the enemy's domain of darkness by default.
Thank God that through his Son he has transferred you from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son. (Colossians 1:13) The Christian has authority over all these demonic forces. (Luke 10:19)