Demonology, the forbidden subject
Note: Although this author was heavily involved in Spiritualism and the Occult decades ago, my intention is not necessarily to draw upon my own actual experiences in presenting information on demons and demonology. Instead, this article will, as much as possible, discuss the topic of the Devil and demons from a Biblical basis. At some future time I may expand this topic to include extrabiblical information and theories, but the Bible itself gives plenty of information on what demons can do, which is far beyond the awareness of most Christians.
Many Christians lack a conscious understanding of the reality of Satan and the demonic realm. Because we cannot see demons any more than we can angels, the average Christian, to his peril, gives them little if any thought, and opinions on how active demons are range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some extremists hold that the Devil was so completely defeated at the Cross that he now has no power whatever, while extremists on the other side of the issue blame demons for their cars running out of gas.
The fact is, the realm of the Demonic is closer to us than the Heavenly realm, for the Bible is clear that Satan is the god of this world, and his minions affect the lives of all living beings, working through not only unsaved people, but even through some carnal Christians, to bring about the Devils goals in opposition to those of God. But beyond that, good Scripture-based teaching on the subject is hard to come by. This is partly because the Bible itself, in the Old Testament, barely mentions the subject and in the New Testament records encounters with demons without offering much in the way of instruction on how Christians are to handle the subject in their everyday lives. Thus, the Bible, while acknowledging the subject, is not a how-to manual. This leaves much open to speculation and so I am going to deal with the subject by tackling the principles that emerge as we examine the Scripture and will offer some opinions and food for thought that go beyond the Bibles limited comments on the issue.
Why should we talk about the Devil? Shouldnt we just focus on how great Jesus is and not glorify the Devil by talking about him?
Paul said: ...Lest Satan should take advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices. (1st Cor. 2:11). Christians are to be aware of and educated on the reality of their enemy, not keep their heads in the sand, naively presuming that God will protect them from the Devil without their standing in whatever capacity their maturity in Christ requires.
What is the origin of the Devil and his demons?
The origin of the Devil and his angels, is clear: Satan, then known as Sammael (and not Lucifer*) was a chief angel who rebelled against the rulership of God and was cast out of Heaven with the angels who followed him (Isaiah 14). These angels, along with their master, have been banished to our physical universe and the earth, and it is here where they operate invisibly, under the command of their master, now called Satan or adversary).
* The origin of the name Lucifer comes from the Vulgate, when Jerome used the Latin term for the Morning Star in translating the Isaiah passage. This caught on and came to be viewed as a proper name, and from this came the mistaken belief that Lucifer was the pre-fall name of the Devil.
The question first arises as to whether what we call demons are actually the fallen angels of Sammael, or something else. Its impossible to know for certain. The strongest Scriptural view would be to presume that they are fallen angels of varying degrees of power and evil. The apocryphal Book of Enoch, which Jude quotes from, claims several origins for demons, including that some are the spirits of human-angelic hybrids slain in Noahs flood. Others believe they are the spirits of creatures who lived on a pre-Adamic earth that sided with Sammael in the Rebellion and was destroyed by God before the earth of Adam was formed. It is impossible to know how much, if any, truth is present in these theories. I personally lean toward the idea that demons are distinctly different creatures from fallen angels, and that the angels who followed Satan in the Rebellion hold positions of authority over demons, acting as Principalities, Powers and Rulers (Ephesians 6). But ultimately, the truth on the matter is unimportant--Christians have authority over all the powers of the enemy (Luke 9)--devils, demons or whatever!
What is the purpose of demons?
The purpose of demons is to accomplish the Devils plans for the earth as a means of self-preservation. Satans minions know that a time has been appointed for them to be judged and cast into Hell (Matthew 8), and they work against humanity in the hope that by using their influence against mortals with free will they may frustrate the plan of God and thereby prolong or guarantee their continued existence.
How do they do this?
By influencing and manipulating unsaved people to act in ways which promote the Devils plans. They do this by influencing thoughts, emotions and actions, which they are apparently able to do--even in the case of some superficial, non-committed Christians (Luke 22:3, Acts 5:3)!
What powers do demons have, and just what are they able to do?
The Bible lists a number of things Satan, and by extension his minions through their masters power, are able to do--at least on occasion:
Turn sticks into living snakes by working through demon-worshipping people using magic spells (Exodus 7:11).
Poison waters, killing the life within them, by working through demon-worshipping people using magic spells (Exodus 7:22).
Summon a plague of frogs upon the land by working through demon-worshipping people using magic spells (Exodus 8:7).
These first three instances occurred when Moses was trying to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Apparently Egyptian priests were able to duplicate these effects to a limited extent through what the Bible says were magic spells. Some theologians--especially in the first case--take the view that these so-called miracles were nothing more than magicians tricks and thus not supernatural in origin. The first problem with that view is that the text does not use language permitting such an interpretation. Terms such as that the magicians appeared or seemed to create snakes, etc., is not there, and it is obvious that the writer believed they duplicated these effects through magic, not trickery. Second, mere trickery would seem insufficient to duplicate the latter two miracles on a scale sufficient to appear comparable with what God did through Moses on a country-wide scale. Also, the point came when the magicians could no longer keep up with Moses, even failing to duplicate a plague of lice (which if these were tricks presumably could have been faked as well.) Thus, to take the view that these were not miracles with a demonic origin compels us to contradict the Scriptures at face value and conclude that the writer was penning the text from a position of human ignorance rather than under the direct inspiration of God. (Skeptics could use the same logic to question half the miracles Jesus did--attributing them to psychosomatic healings, and so on, to delete the idea of their being supernatural in origin as well.) Thus, if we are to take the Scriptures as written, a principle emerges that it is possible for humans who serve false gods (ultimately the Devil) to enact at least some supernatural effects by ritual magic, although the Scriptures also indicate this cannot happen without God Himself allowing it to. Several hundred priests of Baal, for instance, were unable to call down fire to consume a sacrifice when in a contest against Elijah as shown in 1st Kings 18. Was this because the Devil was unable/unwilling to do this? No--clearly it was because God wasnt going to allow it!
Some questions arise in this matter. For one, if we assume the veracity of the Scriptural report of Exodus 7, does that mean the Devil is capable of creating life? Not necessarily. Rather than literally transforming a dead stick into a living snake, it may be possible that what happened was that some sort of conjuration occurred where a real snake from somewhere on earth, through demonic help, was transported to the Pharaohs court. It may be possible as well that what happened was that two demons were conjured and appeared in the form of snakes. All this is speculation, of course; we cant know for certain. All we can do is accept that something did happen and deal with the greater principle that emerges.
Can such demonic miracles be duplicated today? If so, they are not typical of the world of the Occult. In India, mystic Sathya Sai Baba has reportedly produced miracles close to what we see the Pharaohs magicians doing, but the evidence is hardly conclusive.
This is not to say that those who serve the Devil (in whatever guise he may take) in the world of the Occult have no access to demonic power. Be one a Wiccan, Spiritist, Satanist, etc., the power of the Supernatural is available to practitioners to a small extent. Ultimately, the Devils minions can cooperate with deceived human Channelers, Psychics, Mediums, etc., on a limited basis in their own self-interest (never out of constraint or compassion). For the most part, such demonic involvement results in little more than a few carrots of prophecy, or prosperity and good luck being dispensed to one who involves himself with such powers.
So far as using ritual magic to enact a curse on someone, the Bible doesnt specifically mention this. However, if we deal with the principles involved, there is no reason not to believe in the theoretical application of a curse. Demons harass everyone with or without a curse being placed upon them anyway, and if someone involved in the Occult happens to use ritual magic to direct extra demonic activity toward someone, there is nothing (apart from Gods sovereignty) prohibiting the Devil from ordering some of his finite number of minions off one person they may be harassing to affect someone else with extra harassment. The good news for Christians is that the Psalms show that angels also surround us, and even if the demonic activity against us increases, God undoubtedly meets this with an increase of angelic activity on our behalf. (Remember he has twice the number of angels as the Devil has demons.) As will be noted below, the Bible teaches that demons can affect humans physically, so it may theoretically be possible through ritual magic to cause some sort of illness or medical problem to come upon someone. I stress this is not through any power an Occultist has in himself--it is only through the Devils choosing to cooperate in the matter for his own purposes, something he could readily do without ritual magic being involved. At the same time, the Devil clearly has some limitations on him with respect to inflicting illness on people. (Obviously, if he could, the Devil would sic cancer on every Christian he could--the fact this doesnt happen shows that God places limits on him and/or that the Devils capacity to inflict death, apart from in a general sense, is limited by the number of his demons capable of this power.)
Can this be done to a Christian?
This is a difficult question. The Bible doesnt specifically address the subject, but the strongest Scriptural position would be to hold that Christians are not subject to curses (see Proverbs 26:2). Ill admit I am not 100% convinced of that concept based on some things Ive seen and experienced, but the Scriptures lean toward the idea that the Christian is not subject to demonic forces sent against him from outside sources, although all Christians will certainly encounter various demonic harassment in their everyday lives on a general level.
Use unsaved humans to steal property and murder (Job 1:15,17)
Cause fire to fall from the sky and burn to death people and animals (Job 1:16).
Cause a strong wind to destroy property and kill people (Job 1:19).
Cause physical disease and illness (Job 2:7, Luke 13:13).
The four above examples are found in the book of Job. Job is interesting for the fact that the Devil acknowledges that a hedge of divine protection surrounds Gods faithful servant Job. To afflict Job, the Devil must first secure Gods specific permission, and beyond that may have required God to grant him power above that he normally had, in order to generate some of the supernatural effects the book speaks of. This idea is based on Job 1:11 where the Devil asks God to stretch out His (Gods) hand to afflict Job, possibly showing that the Devil himself lacked the innate power to cause fire to fall from the sky without Gods granting it to him, for instance. Presumably the Devil needed no additional power from God to cause a band of Sabean raiders to fall upon Jobs herds and make off with them after killing his servants, illustrating the principle that the Devil exercises control over world governments and leaders (see Matthew 3:8) that do not acknowledge God, being bound only by the constraints of God in manipulating these governments in the direction the Devil wants them to go.
Inspire a servant of God to sin and bring judgment upon himself and those over whom he is in charge (1st Chron. 21:1). This sad event occurred when David apparently was tempted by the Devil (with Gods permission) to conduct a census of the Jews. The Devil may have appealed to Davids pride, tempting him to boast in the power of his kingdom, or the Devil may have tempted David with doubt, causing him to abandon his confidence in God and instead focus his confidence in the size of his armies. The punishment for Davids sin was that God sent a plague upon Israel, killing tens of thousands. (Ironically, the census was not technically illegal for David to hold, however his lack of detailed knowledge in the Law of Moses caused him to take the census without paying a Levitical redemption tax, which resulted in the act becoming sin and judgment following.)
Some principles emerge in the above instance. David was king over Israel, and by his sin otherwise innocent victims endured the judgment of God. To me, this suggests that we Christians need to understand spiritual authority and become aware that when we sin or rebel against God we may place ourselves in a position outside the hedge of protection mentioned in the book of Job, causing judgment of one sort or another to affect not only we, ourselves, but possibly our children, church congregation, employees, etc. In connection with this, I know of a case where a pastor fell into adultery. Soon thereafter, a teenage girl in the church became pregnant and another was raped. The Holy Spirit revealed to another pastor on staff that these events were occurring because a spiritual hedge of protection was (partially) broken because of the pastors sin, allowing the Devil an inroad. The events stopped when the pastor was confronted and repented. Now this story doesnt prove that well-meaning, sincere Christians will suffer for another persons misdeeds, but more likely it shows that Christians on the outer edge of commitment who may, without realizing it, enjoy some hedge of protection from the Devil by their committed elders, can quickly pay a price for their own superficial commitment if that hedge comes down.
Delay ones prayers from being answered, even after God has heard the prayer and agreed to respond (Dan. 10:12). This is a curious event which stands in direct contradiction to the way we usually think God works. In our minds we assume that when God decides to do something--poof--it happens instantly at His perfect time, without the Devil being able to hinder it. On some levels that may be true, but the passage in Daniel shows that God can indeed send forth an answer to a Christians prayer (through an angelic intermediary)--and the manifestation of that answer can be delayed for weeks or longer by some sort of spiritual conflict we arent aware of. One might ask if after the triumph of the Cross this sort of Heavenly struggle between Gods angels and the Devils demons no longer occurs, but I wouldnt take that for granted. And if Daniel had become discouraged and stopped praying, I think we can safely assume he would never have received his answer. The moral: we need to pray and praise until we get the answer.
Cause worldwide spiritual blindness and deception (2nd Cor. 4:4). John Carpenter once made a science fiction movie called They Live. I recommend you watch this movie the next time you get a chance. The premise was that aliens had infiltrated earth society and managed to mask their presence while sending subliminal, semi-hypnotic messages to humans which caused society to act in ways that would ultimately cause its own self-destruction. The movies hero finds a pair of high-tech sunglasses that permit him to see through the various guises of the aliens and detect the hidden messages on everything from billboards to dollar bills that show what they are trying to influence people to do.
This is an example of the Devils greatest accomplishment--world-wide deception on the part of those who do not know Jesus Christ. This deception, brought about through the sin of Adam, causes we humans to naturally have attitudes and think in ways that contradict Gods will, and it takes the power of God in cooperation with our yielding to the Holy Spirit to alter our philosophies to begin thinking Gods way.
Cause physical blindness and muteness (Matthew 9:32, 12:22, Luke 11:14). These incidents show Jesus encountering men who had become blind and/or mute through some sort demonic possession. Interestingly, the degree of possession seems to have been limited to causing physical debilitation rather than causing the men to be under full demonic control.
Cripple someone (Luke 13:11, John 5:5). These are two interesting episodes. In the first, Jesus heals an infirm old woman, whom he calls a daughter of Abraham. In contrast to what some false teachers on the radio say, nowhere does He mention sin, and we are left with no clarification about how the demon came to affect her, and so to dub this woman a sinner when the text does not specifically lead us there is unwarranted, patently unfair, and an example of twisting the Scriptures when ones theology is threatened.
The incident at the Pool of Bethesda stands in stark contrast, however. Here, a crippled man is healed by Jesus who warns him to sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you. Very clearly, then, we can see that through sin--probably sexual--this man, in this particular instance, acquired a crippling debilitation caused by a demon. Additionally Jesus reveals that it is possible, if God delivers someone from such demonic affects, to receive back even worse if he once again falls into the same ungodly lifestyle that got him in trouble in the first place! Interestingly, while these false teachers dogmatically take the position that Christians cannot possibly have demons, Jesus Christ does not step up to support that doctrine by calling on the man to follow Him in order to keep from being brought back under demonic bondage; he mentions refraining from sin which, while not concusive, leads credence to the idea that Christians who drift into sin can indeed become susceptible to at least some demonic affects.
Return once cast out (Matthew 12:43). In this passage Jesus teaches that it is possible for what he calls an unclean spirit to return to the person it was cast out from after a period of wandering about in an unsuccessful search for a habitation. As if this isnt bad enough, the spirit returns with seven other demons** more wicked than itself, and the hapless person is that much worse off.
This somewhat perplexing passage has given birth to a doctrine taught within Christianity that to prevent this one must be filled with the Holy Spirit after having had a demon cast out, the idea being this prevents a demon from re-entrance into its former host. Theres nothing overtly wrong with that concept, however we must note that Jesus doesnt use terms like that, nor does He confirm the idea by stating something along those lines. Instead, as we see in John 5:5, he gives the rather practical advice to one delivered from a demon to merely refrain from falling back into sin. From this we might gather that the strongest hedge against demonic re-intrusion is simply to obey the Commandments and fill our lives with the things of God. But certainly, in the case of an unsaved individual who somehow is delivered from a demonic influence, acceptance of Christ by faith, followed by baptism, is a prerequisite to staying free.
As a side note, we might also speculate as to the theoretical possibility that some people who have received healing who later endure a repeat of their symptoms may first be experiencing a deliverance from illness caused by demons and then a re-emergence of the symptoms as the spirit attempts to return.
** This may be an allegorical reference to the spirits returning with enough power and influence to completely bring its former host under bondage, rather than a suggestion that eight independent entities literally take up habitation in a human host.
Create a deadly storm (Matthew 8:23). The New Testament doesnt specifically state the sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee was demonic in origin, but the Greek text does use language showing it was suspiciously intense, and that Jesus rebuked it, thus it may well have been traceable to an attempt of the Devil to kill Jesus. Keep in mind the Devil caused a strong wind in Job 1 to blow a house down on Jobs children.
Grant supernatural strength to someone they possess (Matthew 8:28, Acts 19). Two instances are recorded that show three demon-possessed men were able, through supernatural strength, to snap chains or throw off as many as seven men trying to restrain them. However, the unfortunates who were possessed in these cases were under the complete demonic control of spirits.
Possess animals (Matthew 8:32). In this instance, Jesus had encountered one or two men apparently possessed by numerous demons, which gave them the ability to snap chains that were used to try and restrain them. When the demons were cast out, with Jesus permission they took control of a herd of pigs, driving them into the water to drown. This doesnt prove conclusively demons are able to possess animals at will, but we do note the incident occurred, which may indicate some demons have this ability. Interestingly, pigs are an unclean animal in Judaism, which causes me to wonder whether demons can inhabit a ritualistically unclean animal at will. There is insufficient Biblical data to speculate further. (If I go beyond the Bible to the world of the Occult, I would say that demons can definitely inhabit animals, but since I am trying to stick to what the Bible indicates on demonology, I must take the position that it cannot be presumed that demons can inhabit animals, and that this must be viewed as a unique occurrence since permission was sought and granted them to do this.)
Possess children (Matthew 15:21, 17:14). An incident is recorded in the Gospels of a Caananite woman coming to Jesus whose daughter was tormented by a devil. From a distance, Jesus heals the child (presumably casts the demon out). Later, a distraught father brings his demonized son to Jesus because the Apostles cannot cast out a demon that appears to be inflicting what look like epileptic seizures on the child. These two incidents show conclusively that in some cases children can be possessed by demons. The first case is relatively simple to dissect: the Caananites were horrible idol- worshippers, and it is easy to believe that at some point this child may have been exposed to some of the ritualistic practices of the people--for instance some sort of dedication ceremony when it was born--and that a demon possibly entered into it at that point. The second case is more difficult to judge. In this instance, a Jew brings his son to Jesus for deliverance. This man would have been familiar with the Torah and presumably would not have been involved in overtly idolatrous practices as would the Caananite woman. Thus the Bible gives no information on how the boy acquired a demon. (Again it should be noted that more liberal theologians deny this incident was one of demonic possession, but only a case of epilepsy. The text, however, clearly says it was demonic in origin, and thats what we must go with.)
Inspire a superficial Christian to lie to God and bring judgment upon himself (Acts 5:3). The Book of Acts records the incident of two Christians, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, who, in imitation of Barnabas and others, sold some of their land and brought the money to donate to the Apostles. However, these two kept back some of the money while claiming to have brought it all.*** Peter rebukes Ananias for this and states that Satan has filled his heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. Annanias, and later his wife, drop dead on the spot after this. This instance reveals that it is possible for the Devil to tempt superficial Christians into acts of selfishness and unbelief that can cause some sort of Divine judgment to fall upon them.
*** Part of the sin in this was that people in the early days of Christianity who gave all their goods in this manner to the Church thereafter were put on a dole and had their needs met from Church funds. Thus Ananias and Sapphira were not only lying about what they were giving, but were also cheating the Church as well, which accounts for the severity of the judgment upon them.
Predict the future (Acts 16:16). Acts 16 tells of an interesting episode in the life of Paul where a slave-girl with a demonic spirit of divination begins following he and Silas, loudly proclaiming some true facts: that they were servants of God who had come to town to preach the way of salvation! The girl does this for quite some time until Paul finally casts the demon out of her, getting thrown in prison for the act. Theres lots of meat in this incident. First, it is evidently possible for demons, despite what some think, to speak truthfully. Second, the word in the text showing that this girl was possessed is different from the standard word for that and suggests that the demon didnt have control of her--she had control of the demon!**** Third, the text asserts that demons have at least limited ability to foretell the future. Primarily this ability for divination traces itself to the Devils ability to process information and make calculated guesswork on future events, rather than some magical ability to actually see into the future. The Devil, through his intermediaries, knows, for instance, what is discussed in the board rooms of major corporations and in the Oval Office, so it is no great feat for him to make a judgment on what general events will transpire based on his own plans and influence over humanity. This is in stark contrast to God, an unlimited being who exists simultaneously in our past, present and future. God sees before him the entire panoply of time, and prophesies to us through that ability. The Devil, who is finite like us, (probably) can only exist from moment to moment, and thus his ability to see into the future is based on little more than speculation based on analysis of information and his own plans. If his powers exceed that--and its not absolutely impossible that they do--then they dont exceed it by very much (the Devil himself wasnt even able to foresee the Resurrection that would defeat him three days after the Crucifixion!).
**** In other words, she had willingly attached herself to this spirit, or entered into a pact with it, rather than unintentionally having come under its domination through sin or Occult practices. Also we can speculate that her purpose in seeming supportive of Paul was to present herself as a supporter of Paul in anticipation of moving into any fledgling church after his departure to bring it under her own influence.
Cause homosexuality (Romans 1:24). While not explicitly mentioning demons, Paul relates that through worshipping idols, it is possible for people to fall into homosexuality. Elsewhere, Paul makes it clear that those who practice idol-worship in fact are making offering to demons (1st Cor. 10:21), and the reasonable inference is that there can be a demonic cause for some peoples homosexual tendencies.
Bind through fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15). This is a difficult passage to understand. The writer alludes to people perhaps being unable to fully enjoy a fruitful life because of a fear of death and dying. Certainly its true that in the ancient world death was by no means viewed as a pleasant experience. Of the few cultures that believed in an afterlife, the majority viewed it as an unpleasant wandering in a shadow world. Perhaps the best point to be drawn from this passage is to keep in mind that Jesus Christ, through his death on the cross, has given mankind an assurance that this life is only the preparation for glory in the hereafter, and that no one need fear death for that reason.
Sift (Luke 22:31). This is a favorite tactic of the Devil--isolate an individual Christian in whatever way possible and single him out for temptation, oppression and ultimately destruction.
Devour (1st Peter 5:8). The Devils most vulnerable target is the Christian who has been sifted out from the main Body of Christ, who doesnt go to church nor establish relationships with other Christians, just as the enemies of the Jews during the Exodus took advantage of stragglers away from the main group, killing or capturing them. Once in this position the Devil continues to attack his victim until he wears the person out and causes him to fall away from Christ through discouragement or sin.
Tempt (Gen. 3:, 1st Chron. 21:1, 1st Thess. 3:5). Were all familiar with this! The Devil knows our weaknesses and uses the world system we live in to tempt us into sin through appealing to the desires we may have that are in contradiction to Gods way of doing things. However, I Corinthians 10:13 reveals that God will not allow the Devil to offer more temptation than we are capable of resisting.
Thwart (1st Thess. 2:18). This speaks to the fact that the Devil, again through the world system he operates and the unwitting humans he has influence over, opposes those who would do the work of God, frustrating their plans and throwing hindrances in their way.
Create lying signs and wonders (2nd Thess. 2:8). This passage by Paul speaks of the coming Antichrist, who will deceive the world by, among other things, some sort of false supernatural miracles. We can go ahead and debate what or whom the Antichrist is, but the point were dealing here is to note that Paul acknowledges that the Devil is capable of enacting miracles of one sort or another through his servants (recall Pharaohs magicians).
Some other traits of demons include: cause jealousy (Numbers 5:14); cause depression (Isaiah 61:3); torment (Matthew 18:34); bring into bondage (Romans 8:15); falsely enlighten (II Corinthians 11:14); seduce (I Timothy 4:1); and cause fear (II Timothy 1:7).
Is there a demonic hierarchy?
Yes. In Ephesians 6:12 Paul provides a difficult-to-define hierarchy of the demonic realm which includes:
Principalities. These are apparent overlords (generals, if you will) over specific nations. If you refer back to Daniel 10, youll see an example of the prince of Persia, one of these overlords, restrained the angel Gabriel for 21 days from reaching Daniel with the answer to his prayer. Principalities are unquestionably fallen angels.
Powers. These may refer to demonic forces in charge of specific territories or cities within a larger state. In classic Judaism, Powers were considered to be the angelic entities through which God worked to accomplish His will. Paul may have concluded there was a demonic counterpart.
Spiritual wickedness in high places. This possibly refers to elemental spirits of the heavens, who in ancient mythology were thought to push the stars around. Or, Paul could be referring to the influences upon unsaved people--like Nero--who influence them to promote the Devils plan for mankind.
The average demon grunt does not appear to be listed in any of these categories.
"Where do things like ghosts or UFOs fit into the scheme of things?"
They don't. There is no Scriptural validation for ghosts or intelligent life on other planets. As regards ghosts, the Bible indicates that once one dies, he either goes to be in the presence of God or else, like the rich man in the parable, he awakens in an unpleasant "holding tank" (usually called hell) in preparation for the Last Judgment, when he will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Certainly, there are legions of reported encounters by people with what they believe to be "ghosts," and I assure you that many of these reports are legitimate. However, what's being seen are not the spirits of the departed, but demons masquerading as such.
In the case of UFOs, they have always gone hand-in-hand with the occult, and the claimed messages from extraterrestrials never harmonizes with the Bible. If such craft really exist (and I tend to believe they do), they either have a terrestrial explanation, are demonic manifestations, trace themselves to fallen angels interfering with humans (as in Genesis 6), or else--as a final slim possibility--are alien spacecraft piloted by fallen, soulless life forms akin to animals with exceptional, demonically-anointed intelligence.
"How do you know there cannot be intelligent life on other planets that God created?"
Because the entire universe fell into corruption and decay through Adam's sin (Rom. 8:20-21), because Jesus took the form of humanity only to save mankind, and not some sort of alien beings (Heb. 2:16), and because the entire universe at Christ's return will be destroyed and re-created (Matt. 19:28, 2nd Peter 3:7, 10-11).
It is an utter impossibility for independent, intelligent life forms to exist outside of earth unless their origin traces itself to Satan's direct interference with, and subjugation over, a fallen creature that God first created. If the day ever comes when extraterrestrials make contact with humanity, they will be acting under the direct orders of Satan himself to deceive and subjugate humanity to their master's control through the Antichrist and his system either by encouraging submission to it, or under the pretext of that man and system "defending" earth against alien invaders.
Who can be possessed?
This is not an easy question. To answer it we must first understand that the word possessed is not in the Bible. Rather, the word we translate as possessed more literally means demonized. Demonized can mean a variety of things whereas possessed really limits us to understanding that a demon(s) has gained full control of a human being, manifesting its purpose and personality through its host. With that understanding, we can speculate that just about anyone is capable of being demonized to one degree or another. Now many theologians will dogmatically state that it is impossible for a Christian to have a demon or to be possessed. I have no argument with the idea that it is impossible for a true Christian to be fully possessed, but my own personal view is that Christians can be subject to some demonic influences and effects in their life depending on their degree (or rather their lack of) commitment to Christ, the amount and type of sin in their lives, and so on.
How does one get possessed?
Demonization and possession occur primarily through sin (including anger and unforgiveness) and/or Occult involvement. How much sin and how much involvement in the Occult are necessary to cause demonic influence to intrude into ones life is impossible to say. One person can use a ouija board for years with no apparent effects, for instance, while someone else can use it once and end up with a demon. Perhaps the best point that can be made is that we Christians need to keep from sin and the Occult however we can to minimize the Devils influence over our lives. (I talk a bit more on the subject of Christians and demons at A New Christians Guidebook in the Q& A section).
At this point I feel it would be good to briefly depart from the Bible to warn Christians of something I cant prove specifically through Scripture but yet know to be true: Any real Christian who is committed to Christ knows that the Holy Spirit speaks to believers every so often. Most often, this is through something in the Word just seeming to come alive as a Christian reads it. But there are also times when God speaks to our spirits in that still, small voice (and I even know Baptists who deny Spiritual Gifts are for today but yet admit theyve heard that voice!). The times we hear from God are wonderful and make us feel closer to Him. However, many Christians--including well-known evangelists--have fallen into spiritual deception through trying to make up hearing the voice of God after praying. I urge you to never try to hear Gods voice or work yourself up into being touched by God (which includes faking being slain in the spirit). If you do, you might get touched all right--but it wont be He touched me; itll be something else that touches you, and youll begin to hear a false voice that will lead you into deception. This is one of the reasons some ministers come out with false prophecies and visions--theyve arrived at a point of spiritual deception through their zeal in trying to hear the voice of God and have unknowingly picked up a familiar spirit in the process (the other reason is that many have a false holiness salvation doctrine that denies salvation comes through faith alone but by faith plus righteous living). If God wants to talk to someone, He doesnt need them to empty their mind to help Him along--hell get the job done on His own!
Does that mean theres spiritual deception in the Church and on TV?
You bet it does. There are well-known evangelists who speak in Gods name and make prophecies that just arent true. Benny Hinn, for instance, prophesied that God would destroy the homosexual community in the US by the mid-90s. Obviously that was a false prophecy because the Gay community is still with us. Does that mean Hinn is himself a false prophet? Not necessarily. In some cases men are outright frauds; in some theyre under full spiritual deception and utter prophesies given them by demons (William Branham is probably an example); but in most cases they get overzealous and merely speak sincerely but presumptuously. I think Benny Hinn, in this instance, got a little too excited and blew it. That can happen to anyone, because the manifestation of prophecy under New Testament Christianity operates differently than the anointing of prophecy in Old Testament days--it is now more of an art than a science.
This is the main reason that we Christians are never to presume that the presence of miracles or Spiritual Gifts in someones ministry legitimizes their theology or is an indication of their right-standing with God. In Biblical times, both Balaam and Caiaphas, who turned Jesus over to the Romans, spoke true prohecies from God.Does that mean they were righteous men whose theology God approved of? Hardly! They spoke these words because of the offices they held which God honored, not because they, themselves, were true servants of God. And the fact that a TV evangelist today can slay half the audience in the spirit is similarly no indication of his own right-standing with God or of his being learned in the Scriptures. So, whenever a minister of this sort brings forth a new revelation that varies from what traditional Christianity teaches, we are to carefully search the Bible to verify the accuracy of that teaching, or we, ourselves, can fall prey to Spiritual deception. Paul, in 1st Timothy 4:1, warns that in the End Times some Christians (repeat: not the sinners--but Christians) will fall prey to "deceiving spirits and doctrines of devils", and clearly the only way to guarantee we keep from this sort of deception is to know the Scriptures and reject false teaching despite the fact that the teacher stands up to say Thus saith the Lord and threatens disbelievers with judgment for questioning his word. There are still, for example, thousands of deceived people who believe that false prophet William Branham was a virtual god for the fact that he evidenced great supernatural signs and wonders in his meetings that made the best of Benny Hinns, Oral Roberts and Kathryn Kuhlmans crusades pale by comparison. Some Branhamites have even gone so far into heresy that they have been baptized in Branhams name! So does the fact that Branham produced miracles mean he was correct when he declared the doctrine of the Trinity to be a Doctrine of Devils? No! Does the fact that miracles happen at Lourdes verify the Catholic idea that the Virgin Mary was the Immaculate Conception? No! Does the fact the Benny Hinn heals someone of cancer mean he is correct when he says God is not a Trinity but a nine-part being consisting of three bodies, three souls and three spirits?***** No!
Bottom line: there is no such a thing as Gods mouthpiece to the Body of Christ, speaking infallible doctrine. Any minister who claims that questioning his theology is questioning God is speaking under the spirit of Antichrist.
***** To his credit, Benny later retracted this assertion after being rebuked from a number of Christian sources.
So how can I know whos right and whos deceived when the TV evangelist says Thus saith the Lord?
The most important factor is to make careful note of the mans salvation doctrine. How close does he come to the purity of understanding salvations being gained and kept through faith alone? Across the board, false prophets--from Branham on down--tie getting to Heaven not indirectly but directly to holiness, sanctification, and obeying Commandments.You can also observe, as a general rule, the more legalistic and rules-oriented these ministers and their churches are, the greater seems to be their ability to speak in Tongues and get up and prophesy that everyones going to Hell who isnt living a life of strict holiness! Now I know how hard it is to imagine that a man apparently displaying numerous Spiritual Gifts while talking about living austere, holy lives and obeying the Commandments can possibly be in deception and used by the Devil, but I assure you this happens often in Christianity--and especially within Pentecost. The line between Biblical holiness and demon-inspired legalism is a razor fine one. Ultimately it comes down to why a man lives a holy lifestyle. If its done to honor God and to live as he believes God would have him to, thats the basis of true Christian holiness. If, however, its consciously done in order to gain or keep salvation, the man has fallen into legalism and may not be Saved. This is why you can have two Pentecostals living and preaching exactly the same lifestyle--but one man is going to Heaven because he is trusting that the blood of Christ covers his sins while--ironically--the other is on his way to Hell because, even though he accepted Jesus in his past, he still believes God judges us by our works, so he lives by a host of Pentecostal rules to guarantee his lifestyle is righteous, to avoid being lost when God reviews him at the Last Judgment. He will ultimately be lost because he is relying on that lifestyle to guarantee his salvation.
In fact I was inspired to write both my web sites after I attended a meeting last year featuring a well-known evangelist whos appeared on TBN and on the cover of a major Christian magazine. Naturally this guy was full of deep revelations from God and functioned on a level so far above we normal Christians that he cant even have a radio playing in the background without becoming ill from the spirits his hyper-discernment detects. (Yeah right.) Well, after listening to him lambaste the audience with the usual Pentecostal doctrine that salvation equals faith plus living separated lives consistent with the legalistic Pentecostal view of holiness, I, and many others, came away with the idea that Gods going to be hard-pressed to find even 144,000 people as righteous as this man was coming off to be worthy of Heaven, and that weaker Christians may as well give up now. (I should point out that, to legitimize his assertions, this Sings-and-Wonders-type minister also quoted St. Augustine, a staunch advocate of holiness, and repeated the legend of how Augustine on his deathbed momentarily revived, speaking to those present that in that instant he had verified all his theology was correct. While that apocryphal tale may set well with this evangelists holiness-based salvation theology, St. Augustine also said there was no salvation outside of the Catholic church, so presumably that point of theology must have been true as well! Ive yet to hear of this evangelist converting to Catholocism, however. This is what I mean by Spiritual Gifts in ones ministry being no proof that he has any in-depth education in either the Scriptures or history.) Another time, I attended a meeting of a now-deceased European evangelist who was renowned for visions, revelations, supernatural encounters with angels, great prophetic insight into End Times, etc. Yet his entire hour-long sermon was spent threatening the audience with Hell for anyone who smoked cigarettes.
Truth is, these ministers, whether or not they are used of God, have a flawed understanding on how salvation is gained and kept, which sadly is typical within Pentecost. The more a minister emphasises righteous living as the means of getting to Heaven the more deceived he becomes, and some of these ministers go so far in falling into the legalistic belief that we are declared righteous by God through obeying Commandments that they are actually unsaved and have become pawns of the Devil because of that. Theyll be the ones spoken of in Matthew 7:22 who will say to Jesus: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? So, the ministers I personally respect most and am willing to listen to in the role of a prophet are not the ones who go on about what a price theyve paid to follow Christ or how Spartan a lifestyle of holiness Gods called them to in order to keep up their so-called anointing******, but the ones who are conscious of what wretched sinners they are and give God the glory for saving them when they didnt deserve it. Three good examples of such men on TBN are Jack Hayford, Mario Murillo and Walt Mills.
Some of you reading this, who in the past got burned by some false prophecy, can now understand what happened. You may have thought that word that said you would be healed, see a loved one get saved, marry someone you had a crush on, or reap a 100-fold return on the money you sent to a minister had to have been from God. When it didnt come true you either got mad at God or got discouraged and blamed yourself for not having enough faith. Well, the truth is, the Charismatic movement is rife with false prophets who give the real ones a bad name. You can know them by their fruits. Listen to what they say about holiness and salvation! If they seem to endorse legalism in the guise of sanctification--I dont say to reject what they say out of hand, but I urge you to beware! I especially encourage any pastors who may read this to require that any guest speakers to their congregations open their sermons with a clear, cogent explanation on how they believe salvation is both gained and kept..
****** Im not denying that these things may be true, but my point is that a minister whose focus is on his unworthiness rather than his holiness is in a superior position to be used of God without his pride getting in the way.
Where do things like ghosts fit into the scheme of things?
They dont. There is no Scriptural validation for ghosts. The Bible seems to indicate that once one dies he either goes to be in the presence of God or else, like the Rich Man in the parable, he awakes in an unpleasant holding tank (usually called Hell) in preparation for the Last Judgment, when he will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Certainly there are legions of reported encounters by people with what they believe to be ghosts, and I assure you many of these reports are legitimate. However, whats being seen are not the spirits of dead people but demons masquerading as such. In the case of Spiritualist medium James van Praagh, for instance, he doesnt receive messages from deceased people as he claims, but from lying demons.
How does one cast out a demon?
Even in my Occult years I was busy being deceived into thinking that demons were actually ghosts or angels, so I am honest to admit I have had no occasion in or out of Spiritualism to cast out a demon from a person (nor do I ever wish to). I have had encounters with demons, but not in the context of casting them out. But there are plenty of ministers who do talk about this, and some of them offer some really weird teaching on the subject. If we look at the Bibles examples of exorcism, we see that Jesus cast them out with a word. In Acts 16, Paul also casts a demon out of the slave-girl by saying: I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. (Interestingly, we note that there is an apparent time-lag between Pauls order and the demons compliance since the text reads that it came out the same hour.) Acts also records that prayer cloths taken from Pauls clothing had the power to drive out demons once they were presented to someone away from the area who was demonized.
From what I have observed and studied, casting out a demon isnt necessarily an instantaneous act. It may take time and require praying and fasting. The apostles were, in one instance weve seen, unable to cast out an epilepsy-causing demon because of their unbelief (and I would speculate further, although the text doesnt state this, that when the demon didnt leave immediately, as they probably expected it to, they gave into fear which blossomed into unbelief and defeated them).
Historically, exorcism existed prior to Jesus and the Apostles. The Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, record an example of an exorcism liturgy written decades before Jesus was born. Interestingly, this liturgy sounds almost Pentecostal, blaming demons for chest pains, fevers and chills.
By the second and third century, exorcism was becoming overemphasized, and in many cases an exorcist attended infant and adult baptisms to cast out any demons that might have entered the child or catechumen. A 4th century exorcism liturgy follows:
Hail God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!
Hail Jesus the Righteous.
Hail Holy Spirit.
Son of the Father, below the seven within the seven.
Come Yaweh Sabaoth!
Direct your power to --
Drive Satan, this unclean demon within him, away.
I command you, demon, whoever you may be, by the power of Sabarbarbathioth, Sabarbarbathiouth, Sabarbarbathioneth, Sabarbarbaphai--come out, demon, whoever you may be
Stay away from --
Hurry--come out, demon!
I bind you with unbreakable chains of adamantine!
I cast you into the abyss of Hell!
--from Margin Meyer and Richard Smith's Ancient Christian Magic. Harper Books
By the Middle Ages, demonology and exorcism became steeped in superstition, although the Catholic liturgy as written had some good, sound theology within it.
I, therefore, charge you solemnly under penalty, Most Evil Serpent, in the name of the Lamb most immaculate who walked unharmed among dangers; who was immune to all Evil Spirit: Depart from this person. Fear and take flight at the name of Our Lord whom the powers of Hell fear, to whom the Powers and Virtues and Dominations of Heaven are subject, whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unceasing voices, saying: Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God of Hosts!
The Word made Flesh commands you. He who was born of a Virgin commands you. Jesus of Nazareth commands you. When you ignored contemptuously his disciples, he ordered you broken and humiliated to get out of that man. And when he tore you from that man, you did not dare in his presence even to enter the swine. Now that you are enjoined in his name, depart therefore from this person whom he created. It is impossible for you to will to resist. It is impossible for you to refuse to obey. Because the more you delay, the more punishment you will get. It is not men you are disobeying. It is he who rules the living and the dead. It is he who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire....
So, admitting my own lack of experience in this field, my recommendation on the means of casting out a spirit is to pray, invoking the Name and Blood of Jesus Christ. Those participating need to be certain that their lives are in order and that they do not have unconfessed and unrepented sin in their lives.
Last of all, I would speak out against those who have made the mistake of talking to demons and creating a theology based on those conversations. In only one instance do we have Jesus asking a demons name (usually he commanded them to be silent), yet many of these exorcists immediately want to hold conversations with demons, asking what their name is, how they came in, etc. That may be interesting to hear, but that sort of pattern is not found in the New Testament, and many of these exorcists have listened to lying demons and then formed an entire theological basis around what these lying demons say! And one need not be an exorcist, for example, to recognize false theology when he hears it, typical of which is the idea that an exorcist needs to find the name of every demon that might inhabit someone and determine which is the Strongman so he can be bound. Well, in reality, there is only one Strongman, whose name is Satan, and hes already been bound and his kingdom is now ripe for the picking (Colossians 2:15). Conclusion: a real exorcist should do what Jesus did--tell them to shut up and come out and leave it at that.
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