By Dr. Thomas R. Horn
There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.
—C. S. Lewis
During our formative years in ministry, few people more profoundly influenced our theology and practical Christianity than pastor and theologian Dr. Robert Cornwall. Bob—or simply “Cornwall,” as his friends knew him—had a photographic memory, and in order to pay his way through Bible College as a young man, he had gotten a job proofreading books for a publisher of scholarly works. As a result of maintaining this job for years and having an uncanny propensity for recalling facts, Cornwall retained the majority of material he read and became one of the most well informed and brilliant thinkers we ever had the privilege of knowing or being mentored under. Cornwall was also a great storyteller and could thrill audiences at churches and in conferences by weaving details of true-life events with deep theological propositions. A particular story that raised profound spiritual-warfare implications (and eyebrows at the time) revolved around one of the first churches he pastored as a young minister in a sleepy little town near the Oregon coast. As described by Cornwall himself at Redwood Family Camp meeting in the 1970s, he had barely settled into leadership at the church when strange things began to happen for which he had no explanation. Objects in the building seemed to move around on their own, especially overnight when the building was supposed to be unoccupied. He would hear the piano playing and go into the sanctuary to find nobody there. Doors would slam, pews would be discovered positioned backward against the wall, and his notes would disappear—then reappear. Members of the church reported similar phenomena, and Cornwall eventually learned that the activity had been going on for years.
One night, hours after he had gone home to bed, Cornwall’s telephone rang and the police chief was on the other end of the line. He wanted to know what kind of party Cornwall was sponsoring at the church.
“What do you mean, a party?” Cornwall asked.
“Neighbors are calling. They say it’s so loud they can’t sleep. We thought maybe the youth group was having an overnight event that was getting out of hand.”
Assuring the officer that nobody was supposed to be in the building, Cornwall agreed to meet him at the church. On arrival, they noticed the lights inside the auditorium were going off and on, the piano was banging loudly, and what sounded like shouting of some kind could be heard throughout the edifice. The officer drew his sidearm while Cornwall unlocked the front door. As they pushed the entrance open, all activity inside the facility abruptly ceased. The lights were still on, but the noises had suddenly gone silent. Cornwall moved through the building with the officer and found every entryway locked, with no signs of break in. This experience was documented in the police report—which, at the time, Cornwall was happy to let us confirm with the chief along with other unexplained events.
Together with his board members and ministry leaders, Cornwall began a series of special prayers over the building in what today some might call a “cleansing” ceremony to purge the house of worship of malevolent spirits mimicking trickster ghosts or poltergeists (German poltern, “to rumble or make a noise,” and geist, meaning “spirit”—invisible entities that manifest by creating noises or by moving objects around). But the results of these prayers were mixed, and Cornwall could not understand why. Whenever members of the church were inside the building and prayed, the phenomenon stopped. As soon as they would leave the facility, it would start up again. This went on sporadically for some time, until one day the chief—now a member of the church—called Cornwall and asked if he could meet him downtown at the police department, saying he had found something important and wanted the pastor to see it. Arriving on schedule, Cornwall was handed an envelope that contained a copy of the original deed to the church property and other interesting documents. One of these records was very enlightening. It revealed that the structure—which was nearly one hundred years old and had been boarded up for over a decade before the organization Cornwall was a member of purchased it and turned it into a church—had originally been constructed by an occult group as a meeting place for their “order.” It had been dedicated as a residence “for spirits of Lucifer as they move to and fro upon the earth.”
Cornwall was shocked. Legalese existing within the building’s first title and deed provided lodging for satanic spirits. Equally disturbing, the experiences at the church suggested demons were operating under some legal claim to be there.
As soon as possible, a new church was erected across the street from the old one, and subsequently the original building was torn down and an asphalt parking lot was poured over the plot of land on which it had sat for nearly a century. From that day forward, all paranormal activity on the property ceased, and a powerful and important theological proposition was born in Cornwall’s mind—that under certain conditions, Satan and his spirits have legal rights to property and people.
While some may step back at this point and ask what comparable authority over earth Satan continues to hold following the redemptive work of Christ, most scholars agree that until the Second Coming of Jesus and the final judgment of men and angels, this planet remains under limited jurisdiction of Satan as “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and under the influence of “the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12). During this time, contracts and covenants with such spirits allowing access or entry into one’s property or life do not have to be officially recorded as in the story of Cornwall’s church above. They can be oral or assumed agreements, not to mention “adverse possession,” or what laymen call “squatter’s rights.” In the physical world, this is when a person openly uses somebody else’s property without contractual permission over such a long period that eventually the “squatter” gains legal claim to the land, due to the original owner not taking legal action against him or her. These are ancient statutory principles that pertain equally to material and spiritual dynamics. They imply that wherever activity favorable to malevolent spirits occurs by consent, is tolerated, or action is not taken to force the “squatter” to cease and desist, footholds and even personal rights can be surrendered to hostile forces over people and locations. This is similar to the contract some Internet trolls are making with dark forces.
TO BE CONTINUED…