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The following passages seems a bit unsettling:

Ephesians 6:12: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (emphasis added).

Does the highlighted clause imply that our world is "darkness"?

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Ephesians 6:12

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, 
                    but against the rulers, 
                        against the powers, 
                        against the world forces       of this darkness, 
                        against the spiritual forces   of wickedness in the heavenly places

Paul's emphasis here is not the visible but the invisible. The darkness parallels the wickedness in the heavenly places.

Is Ephesians 6:12 characterizing this world as “darkness”?

Yes, in terms of being controlled by invisible evil forces.

Does the highlighted clause imply that our world is "darkness"?

No. The darkness does not refer to the visible world but refers to the invisible wickedness in the heavenly places.

The entire sentence has only one verb: the verb to be. Paul used 5 against-phrases to characterize the one human struggle. All five focus on the invisible aspects of this struggle.

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  • Your answer is a good one (+1). However, note what the fourth clause explicitly states: "against the world forces of this darkness". I agree that the next clause then seems to clarify that: "against the spiritual forces of wickedness" but I'm not certain the first clause directly relates to the second. That is, there absolutely does appear to be evil forces at work everywhere around us in this world. Perhaps if we could peer for a moment into that spiritual reality, we would be astonished by the degree to which this planet is consumed?
    – Xeno
    Jul 7 at 19:56
  • These are not clauses. There is only one verb in the entire sentence.
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 7 at 20:11
  • Thanks for that. I use the word "clause" a bit loosely because I'm trying to identify the precise words in longer passages. I wonder, would it be correct to label them as 6:12d and e? Or, maybe that would just repeat the error?
    – Xeno
    Jul 7 at 20:16
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The world is in darkness. You can find (literally) hundreds of passages reflecting this truth.

Example ...

JOHN 12:46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. (New Living Translation)

But, why do you see this passage as ‘unsettling’? Because .... You can find (literally) hundreds of passages reflecting this truth.

JOHN 12:46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness (NKJV)

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  • You make good points (+1). I actually do find this world to be incredibly dark. We find a beautiful rose, then prick our finger on it. Or, we breathe the scent, and spend the rest of the day sneezing. We may love the smell of perfume until we discover it consists of whale vomit and skunk urine (generalizing) . Death is everywhere around us; perhaps as many as 100 billion people have already died. We plant our food in death, we eat and breathe death. I'm not personally unsettled by it, but most will spend their lives oblivious to these realities. BTW: I'm an optimist. :-)
    – Xeno
    Jul 7 at 20:40
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In Eph 6:12, the word, "world" does no occur but MIGHT be implied. The operative phrase is:

πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου = against the cosmic powers of this darkness

The real matter here is, what does "this" refer to? Grammatically, we have the following possibilities:

  • darkness of the cosmic powers
  • darkness of the [world, implied] as per some versions, eg, NIV, NLT, BSB, KJV, NET, etc
  • darkness of rulers and authorities, etc

Of these, the most credible appears to be the first option - darkness of the cosmic powers, presumably, spiritual forces of Satan and his minions (Job 1:6, 7, 1 Chron 21:1, Rev 12:9, etc).

Elsewhere we see that Jesus is portrayed in the opposite sense as the source of light, John 1:4, 8:12, that is, Jesus is "the light of the world". Therefore, on an individual level, we are either in light or darkness depending on the one we choose to follow.

Ellicott expands on this point by observing:

The rulers of the darkness.—Properly, the world-rulers of this darkness. This phrase is simply a poetical expression of the idea conveyed by the title “the prince of this world,” applied to Satan in John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11 (on which see Notes). For “this darkness” is obviously (as our version renders it, following an early gloss on the passage) “the darkness of this present world,” as a world overshadowed by sin, and so kept, wholly or partially, from the light of God. The title “the prince of this world,” was applied by the Jews to Satan, especially in reference to his power over the heathen, as lying outside the safety of the covenant. St. Paul applies it in a corresponding sense here to those outside the wider covenant of the gospel; just as in 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Timothy 1:20, he speaks of excommunication from the Church as a “delivery to Satan.” The spirits of evil are therefore spoken of as wielding the power which the Tempter claims for himself (in Luke 4:6) over such souls as are still in darkness and alienation from God. This is a power real, but limited and transitory, able only to enslave those who “yield themselves” to it, and destined to be overcome; and it seems to refer especially to the concrete power of evil, exercised through physical and human agency.

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Ephesians 6:12 characterizing this world as “darkness”?

Ephesians 6:12: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (emphasis added).

Does the highlighted clause imply that our world is "darkness"? YES -- in spiritual darkness

The expression"spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" Refers to Satan and his Demons. Their intention is to keep mankind in spiritual darkness, alienated from the light of true God.

Satan and his “wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places” act as the invisible “world rulers [form of the Greek word ko·smo·kraʹtor] of this darkness.”​ Eph 6:11, 12

Ephesians 6:11-12 NET

11 Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.

From the footnotes Eph. 6:12 NET

Ephesians 6:12 in BDAG 561 s.v. κοσμοκράτωρ suggests “the rulers of this sinful world” as a gloss. sn The phrase world-rulers of this darkness does not refer to human rulers but the evil spirits that rule over the world. The phrase thus stands in apposition to what follows (the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens); see note on heavens at the end of this verse. Ephesians 6:12 tn BDAG 837 s.v. πνευματικός 3 suggests “the spirit-forces of evil” in Ephesians 6:12.

How do the "world rulers of this darkness" might influence the behavior of human beings all over the world -

Yes - The "world rulers of darkness " influence the behavior of governments, humans, false religions including Christian-(Christians in name only). The commercial system to mislead the world.(Rev 12:9)Satan also promotes lies through the commercial system. For example, this system often teaches people that the best way to be happy is to pursue money and gather many possessions. (Prov. 18:11) Those who believe this lie spend their lives serving “Riches” rather than God. (Matt. 6:24) Eventually, their love of material things can choke any love they had for God.​—Matt. 13:22; 1 John 2:15, 16.)

Another effective bait that Satan uses is curiosity about the occult. Today, he promotes interest in the demons not only through false religion but also through the entertainment industry. Movies, electronic games, and other media make spiritism seem exciting.

By means of his spirit organization, Satan exerts authority over all human governments. That fact was made plain when Satan showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth” and said: “I will give you all this authority and their glory because it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” (Luke 4:5, 6) Despite Satan’s evil influence, many governments do a measure of good for their citizens. And individual rulers may have noble intentions.

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  • Do you believe it would be incorrect to suggest these invisible, "world rulers of this darkness" might influence the behavior of human beings all over the world -- and that we see such influence playing out every day of our lives?
    – Xeno
    Jul 8 at 18:49
  • Xeno@ Yes I do, have added three more paragraphs to my answer above. Tks for you query Jul 8 at 19:30

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