INTRODUCTION:

    1. Satan is the “god of this world” and the “ruler of this world,” reflecting his tremendous power and influence over the earth – 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31
    2. However, he has limits. He is not all-powerful, all-knowing, or omniscient. In fact, he is severely limited to only what his Creator allows him to do.
    3. How does he then do all that he does? The Bible indicates that he has under his direction a large number of other spiritual beings, variously identified in Scripture as “his angels” (Matthew 25:41), “demons” (Mark 3:22), “evil spirits” and more!
    4. As with the angels and Satan, we are quite limited in what the Holy Spirit has chosen to reveal to us concerning these beings associated with the devil. I accept that there is quite a bit of room for different opinions and views even within the limited documentation and teaching we have in the Bible on this topic. What I present here is what I presently believe the Scriptures teach.
    5. Some religions and media just confuse this subject with movies, TV shows, faith healings, exorcisms, sensationalist books, etc.

WHO / WHAT ARE DEMONS?

    1. “Media Theology” – letting modern (or even ancient) stories, legends, books, movies, and TV shows shape or mislead our view of this subject.
    2. Most cultures down through history have a belief in invisible evil beings working to harm or influence people.
    3. Many recent books of all kinds provide vivid and frightening descriptions. Various movies and TV series ramp up the imagery even further. Fortunately, or unfortunately, much of this imagery has no basis in the Bible, nor is supported by actual human experience.
    4. Nowhere in Scripture do we have any actual description of what demons look like, or of human seeing one. In this regard they are like Satan, invisible on the human plane.
    5. Terms describing those spirit beings with allegiance to the devil:
      1. “His angels” – Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7-9. Our assumption is that these are “fallen” angels, possibly joining in Satan’s sin at or before the beginning of time as we know it. Some see Revelation 12:4 as saying 1/3 of the Heavenly Hosts were affected. But one third is used 24 times in Revelation, and probably only meant a “large number.”
      2. “Demons” (about 63 times in NT) – from Greek daimon and daimonion, and mostly in the Gospels. Originally meant “lesser powers or deities.”
      3. “Evil spirit” and “unclean spirit” – different translations vary, but the emphasis is on both moral evil and on that which is unholy.
      4. “Rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces of evil” – Ephesians 6:12. May indicate different levels of beings ranked under Satan.
    6. Where did these beings come from?
      1. I believe that they are former members of the Heavenly Host which rebelled along with Satan and joined them in his sin. See II.B.1. above. I realize this is far from “proven” from the Biblical text. And some objections and difficulties are unresolved with this view. It is just the most reasonable to me.
      2. Other views and explanations:
        1. The spirits of some of the wicked dead of earth
        2. Spirits of pre-Adamic beings who lived in a world God destroyed before Genesis 1:2
        3. Offspring of angels (sons of God?) and earthly women from Genesis 6:4
        4. Not real, but an ancient, superstitious way of trying to explain mental illness, insanity, etc.
      3. They are spirit beings by nature, created, powerful, invisible, intelligent. They are devoted to the same goals as Satan himself – rebellion against God; harming mankind; dominating this earthly realm; robbing the Creator of worship; and using temptations, accusations, lies, deception, camouflage, and blasphemies to accomplish their ends.

DEMONS IN THE BIBLE:

  1. Their appearance in the Biblical story
  2. Seldom mentioned or identified in the Old Testament
    1. In and behind idol worship – Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37
    2. High ranking “rulers and authorities” influencing nations – Daniel 10:13, 20 where the “prince of Persia” and “prince of Greece” are in a struggle with Michael and other angels
    3. Demons are much more visible in the Gospel story
    4. Most information we have about demons are in the Gospels
      • Was this Satan positioning his minions to oppose Christ? Unknown.
      • Were they also present and just as active both before and after Jesus’ earthly ministry, but just less visible? Possibly, but also unknown.
      • Is it possible that “demon possession” was a maximum effort on Satan’s part both to control and manipulate mankind? We know he has used false religion, untruths, fear, prejudice, persecution, and even death to promote his agenda.
  3. Demon possession during ministry of Jesus
    • At least 7 of the 22 detailed miracle accounts were about Jesus and demons (not counting his miracles of nature and creation):
      • Gadarenes – Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-15; Luke 4:38-39
      • Mute – Matthew 9:32-34
      • Blind and mute – Matthew 12:22
      • Canaanite woman’s daughter – Matthew 15:22
      • Deaf and mute boy with seizures – Matthew 17:14-18; Mark 9:17-29; Luke 9:38-43
      • A man in the synagogue – Mark 1:23-26
      • Woman bent over – Luke 13:10-17
      • Called by Peter as “under the power of the devil” – Acts 10:38
    • Many others were also healed of demon possession – Matthew 4:24; 8:16; Mark 1:34; 6:13; 16:9; Luke 8:2; 4:41
    • Jesus clearly distinguished by words and actions healing the sick and freeing the demoniacs, indicating they were distinct from each other.
    • He also empowered his disciples to “cast out” demons – Matthew 10:1,8; Luke 10:17; Mark 16:17
    • Harmful manifestations of demon possession:
    • Deaf and mute – Matthew 9:32-33
    • Blind – Matthew 12:22
    • Insanity – Luke 8:26-29
    • Self-inflicted injuries – Mark 9:17-27
    • Physical deformity – Luke 13:11-16
    • Superior strength – Luke 8:29
    • Occult powers – Acts 16:16-18

4. Demons after the Gospels

    • Probably… Simon the sorcerer – Acts 8:9-13
    • Probably… Elymas the sorcerer – Acts 13:6-12
    • Girl with spirit of divination in Philippi – Acts 16:16-18
    • Jewish exorcists in Ephesus – Acts 19:13-16 (One of the few examples where they harmed anyone other than the one they inhabited.)
    • Demons unable to separate the believer from the love of Christ and of God – Romans 8:35-39
    • Still behind idolatry – 1 Corinthians 10:19-22
    • Appear in Book of Revelation in the Battles of the Ages between Christ and His Church and Satan and his world powers.
    • Other possible direct or indirect references to demons in the New Testament – Romans 8:38-39; I Corinthians 2:8; II Corinthians 2:10-11; 3:3-4; 11:13-15; I Timothy 4:1-3; II Timothy 2:25-26; Ephesians 1:20-21; 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16; 2:10, 15; I Peter 3:22.
    • The Power of the Son of God Over Them:
    • Several confess His identity and power of Jesus over them
    • The emphasis of the Gospel writers was not the power of Satan, but the total power of the Son of God over both Satan (in his temptations) and his demons. His power could drive them out, heal their physical and mental brokenness, and keep such evil power away – John 12:31
    • Prophesied beforehand – Isaiah 61:1-2; Zechariah 13:1-2.

FINAL OBSERVATIONS:

  1. No specific instructions for exorcism or otherwise directly confronting demonic forces are provided for us in the New Testament. This leads many to conclude that we are no longer dealing with the same level of satanic activity as pictured in the first century church, particularly in the ministry of Jesus.
  2. As believers we have been assured that even demonic forces we may face today are not powerful enough to separate us from our relationship with Christ – Romans 8:31-39.
  3. Even if we do not have all the information we would like about the extent of Satan’s activities in our world today, we know that the One we serve is far greater and more powerful and protects us.
  4. Some recommended Resources:
    1. Satan and His Dark Kingdom, by Richard Cravy, Sunset Bookstore
    2. Angels / Demons, by Knofel Staton & Leonard Thompson, College Press
    3. Angels, Demons and the Devil, by F. LaGard Smith, Cotswold Publishing

© 2014, 2020 Richard Cravy – From Satan and His Dark Kingdom, chapter 6. Available in my bookstore.