What to Make of the Demonic?
There is so much out there today about demons. Some say that there are no such things as demons and certainly none around today. They ascribe all the worlds problems to the natural and scientific. Demons are written off as superstition and should be treated as such. Others see demons lurking behind every corner. All physical manifestation of disease or problems are from demonic attacks. Demons are the reason your car doesn’t start or you are feeling grumpy in the morning, for examples. They often spend a lot of time and effort casting out demons and declaring their victory. They also tend to accuse others of being influenced by demons. The media’s fascination with the subject further complicates things. Movies, books, and art create terrifying images that bombard culture but are inaccurate. It is difficult to determine what to believe about this important subject.
So what is the deal? Are there demons around today? If so, do you have to worry about them?
I have Something Inside Me
Why is this an important question? Well, let me tell you about an interesting Sunday a few years back. I am honestly somewhat of a skeptic. I believe God completely. I know His words are true and He is powerful. It is just when I see services where people are being knocked down or “delivered” on command, I tend to question it. I think this is healthy as we are told to not believe every spirit and test things against the Word. So though I understood the Bible on demons, I was skeptical of the TV version. It was a theoretical understanding.
This issue became very real that day at church. I first noticed something odd with the person in front of me. He was acting strangely. His facial expressions were changing rapidly – cycling from happy to very sad in a moment. He appeared to be in great distress as the music praising Jesus played. It looked like he was in intense pain at one moment and calm the next. I was not judging the guy. New people come to Church from all backgrounds. Some have physical and mental conditions with varied presentations. Strong emotions are also not unusual. I don’t hold that against people who step foot in God’s church.
This was just…different and noticeable. No conclusions, initially, just wondered what was going on.
The message then began. It was extraordinarily timely. It was about the man possessed by a mute demon from Luke 11. The pastor explained why the demon being mute was significant in Jewish culture. They believed the name of the demon was necessary if you want to expel it. So the pastor said, “The Demon being mute was a problem…” He did not get to finish his though. The man in front interrupted and said:
“I am not mute, I can speak”
I got chills when I heard this, as you can imagine. I wanted to lean over to my wife and whisper “Honey, I think it is time to go.” No time to do so, though, as the man continued speaking and offered:
“There is something inside of me and I need to get it out.”
Boy, did he get my attention!
Before you draw any conclusion, please know this church is not a Pentecostal one. Signs and wonders were not part of service. There was never an interruption of the message before that day. There has not been one since. There was no casting out demons or knocking people down with the Holy Spirit time like you see on TV. Just a guy teaching from the Bible line by line, verse by verse. This was not at all part of the service. It was the idea of the one speaking.
He had something inside him and he wanted to get it out.
The Pastor talked with the man and explained the Gospel. He also went over the point of that day’s Bible passage: You need to accept Jesus to be saved from any prior demonic problems. If you did not, the demons would return all the more emboldened. Read Luke 11 for this passage. We laid hands on the man and prayed for him. His response was initially good. He was frightened but the facial expressions stopped. He repeated his desire to be healed. But he hesitated and then withdrew. The man declined the invitation of the Gospel. His whole demeanor changed when he did so. He began looking extremely pained again. It was like the opening passed. The man left the service and never returned.
Is this demon possession? Honestly, I am not sure. Only God can answer that question. There could have been other things going on. It sure looked like it, though, and the Bible supports the presence of demons today.
They are just as much battling against freedom in Christ and the work of Jesus as they were 2,000 years ago.
The Bible and Demons
The Bible contains many accounts of demon possession. The sheer number tells you something. Jesus and His followers regularly encountered people who were possessed. Jesus and the disciples cast out demons. One dramatic example was when Jesus encountered the man possessed by a Legion of demons in Mark 5:
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A Roman Legion consisted of 6,000-12,000 soldiers. The demonic forces state that they are Legion for they are many. Is this is literally 6,000 or 12,000 in that man? I do not know. But it is clear, though, there are many impure spirits referenced. They also made that poor man act according to their plan for him. They have a certain amount of control over him. They have led him away from other people and to harm himself greatly.
The Bible says that Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy and that is evident in the life of the man Jesus encounters. He is living among the dead in a graveyard hurting himself in great pain. This is life with Satan.
Jesus is not surprised the man is possessed by many demons. He does not comment on the existence of many demons as unusual. Jesus also never points to the possession by a demon in any of His encounters as an aberration. Jesus simply exercises His authority as King of Kings and casts them out. He also gives His disciples authority to go do the same. What does that tell you?
Jesus and His disciples treated demon possession as a real thing and are not surprised by encountering demons. According to the Bible, demons are a real thing. They also seek to steal from you, kill you, and destroy you.
This should be a chilling thought. But it is not the end of the story. It never is with Jesus.
Are Demons Around Today?
But what about after Jesus is crucified and ascends to heaven? Are there still demons around?
The answer is quite clear, again. The disciples run into demons on a consistent basis.
Paul casts out a demon from the girl who was following him in Philippi in Acts 16:
16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days.
But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.
The Bible translates the spirit’s title as “of Divination” here. It is literally “of the snake” or “of the python” in the Greek. It referred to Greek worship of a snake idol. Paul states that those who are sacrificing to false gods in Corinth are actually sacrificing to demons and there will be seducing spirits after people.
1 Corinthians 10:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy,
The Sons of Sceva somewhat comically run into trouble with demons. They try to cast out demons in the name of Jesus without faith in Jesus in Acts 19:
But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
The Biblical account makes it clear demons were in the world at the time of Jesus. It then shows they continued to be present after He ascended into heaven.
The Bible never states that these demonic forces would cease their efforts to oppose the work of the Lord. What does that tell you?
We have Powerful Enemies
There is an active force working behind the scenes against God’s plan and people. This is very clear from the Scripture. Paul’s letters to the churches reference being on the lookout for the work of these enemies of the faith as well. His armor of God directions from Ephesians 6 specifically tells us that the armor protects us from the arrows of the enemy and:
“against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
James, Peter, Luke, John, and Jude all mention demons or evil spirits and their ongoing existence. There is no reason to think that the same demons are not present and active today.
This does not mean every disease or bad action experienced by people is a result of demons. The Bible also references diseases as natural results of the fall. Sin is also in the world and does more than enough damage on its own. People’s choices lead to bad consequences and things break. Mental illness is also a real thing with neurological causes that can be documented.
So not everything is demonic. Not everything is natural.
The man who showed up at church that one Sunday morning may have natural reasons for his choices. He may have supernatural. It seemed like the rulers of the darkness of this age were at work. I will likely never know for without a doubt. There are certainties you can rely on, though. Like the fact that God is bigger than anything else in all of creation. He arranged it so that poor lost man heard the exact message he needed that day…whether he heeded it or not.
We have an All-Powerful Father
Demons are not to be taken lightly. On your own, you would be greatly outmatched taking them on. The Book of Jude says the Archangel Michael did not take on Satan himself. Rather, he invoked Jesus’ name to fight the battle – The Lord Rebuke You. The demonic Prince of Persia also detains the angel due to his strength in opposition to God. Angels are hugely powerful beings. It seems fallen angels still retain some of that power. They are nothing like the limited physical depictions of them.
They are nothing close to God.
You as a Christian are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. God lives in you. There is no struggle for dominance in a Christian, as a result. Greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world. So demons are not to be feared by God’s people.
You are sealed permanently by the Holy Spirit upon conversion and no created being can ever change that. God chose you before the foundation of the earth. Jesus died to set you free from the enemy. The same power that raised Jesus also lives in you.
So Christians should not fear being taken over by demons. You can rest in the freedom that Jesus gave you. Jesus also defeated His enemies when He rose from the grave. It is now just a matter of time before they are rounded up and thrown into an eternal prison.
So demons are real and around you. They inhabit the earth looking to do the work of opposing God. They are powerful and resist the work of the Lord in the world. You are not their equal…if you stand alone.
You are never alone. God never leaves you or forsakes you. A believer has nothing to fear from them.
You are protected by a Good Shepherd who promised that no one will take you out of His hand. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.