This article has come out of a personal desire to understand the demons and the power of Satan in relation to the Christian. I have to say here at the outset that I am writing mainly for Christians (those who have put their faith and trust in God alone for their salvation). I am not addressing exorcism in this article because I do not believe that Christians can be possessed by demons.
My goal is very simple: to encourage Christians to live their lives in freedom which Christ purchased for His people on the cross of Calvary. I don’t intend to provide all the answers on this subject. I have much to learn about this subject, but what I simply intend to do is to put down my thoughts and reflections on this matter in light of what I believe Scripture teaches.
First of all, it is good to remind ourselves that Scripture teaches us that we have “an adversary, the devil” who “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). He is the king of all demons. It is important for us to acknowledge the presence of demons and demonic forces. They operate in a realm that is inherently foreign or unfamiliar to us. Even though man is both a spiritual and a physical being, by God’s divine design, he naturally functions and operates in the physical realm.
Demons are fallen spiritual beings (angels). When Satan (also called Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12) rebelled against God and introduced sin into a universe that was once sinless, he drew with him a great number of lower celestial beings (Mat. 25:41; Rev. 12:4). These demons roam freely in the heavenly (spiritual) realm under the leadership of Beelzebub, the prince of demons (another name for Satan according to Mat. 12:24).
Demons operate as Satan’s subjects (or helpers) carrying out his evil schemes against God and His people.Their great number allows Satan to operate in multiple geographical locations at the same time even though he (Satan) himself is not omnipresent. God is omnipresent but Satan is not. Satan’s army of demons is not only large, but also very strategic in the way it goes about its activities against Christians.
This is why the Bible in Ephesians 6:11 urges Christians to “put on the whole armor of God…” in order that they may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. The Bible goes further to say, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
It is not very clear when Satan was cast out of heaven. However, it seems that Christ’s ascension (Rev. 12:5-13) cast him out of heaven where he had been up to that time as the accuser of the brethren (see Job 1:6-11 and Rev. 12:10). Jesus Christ conquered Satan by His death and resurrection. He now sits at God’s right hand “in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…” (Eph. 1:21). Christ came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Satan is defeated and there is no reason for you to live in fear of him and demons. .
Why then should we even discuss this subject? Simply because the power of evil is still real and present in this world and is constantly working against the people of God. There is a battle going on between the forces of light and the forces of evil. There is a battle between God (the Source of all good and life itself); and the Devil (the source of all evil).
Tragically, the idea of demons and the spiritual realm is regarded by many in our day (even Christians) as fiction and not reality. This is very common among the elite of society all around the globe. The devil’s cleverest trick is to make men believe that he does not exist. Christians however, need to understand that denying the existence of the devil is in essence denying the very existence of God and our need for Him. Donald Grey Barnhouse put it so well when he wrote in his book entitled, The Invisible War,
“To deny the existence of Satan leads to the denial of the existence of God as He presents Himself in the Word. To deny the existence of the true God is to deny the existence of pardon and to leave the sinner in the midst of his sin. It can readily be seen, therefore, when the enemy does not want men to think he exists. If there is no enemy, there is no preparation for defense. If there is no preparation for defense, the enemy can attack wherever he will. Conversely, of course, the denial of the existence of God carries with it a denial of the existence of Satan. The result is the same by whichever avenue the question is approached.”
Every Christian needs to be well equipped with enough knowledge about this vicious dragon but also of his tactics and thereby prepare to face him when he comes with his tricks and temptations.
Just a word of caution here: I don’t think that Christians should be so obsessed in trying to understand the devil and studying his ways and in order to get an upper hand on him. He is vicious indeed. He is dangerous and will tear down those who do not take him seriously. Nevertheless, Christians should not get too obsessed with him or be too afraid of him. Yes, he is cunning and very deceptive, but he has no victory or claim upon our lives.Barnhouse writes:
“Although he is the wisest of all the creatures that ever came from the creative word of God, Satan is strictly limited in wisdom. It does not appear that Satan has originated any new ideas, plans, or methods since the time the Scripture unveiled his portrait and showed all his lineaments. It was Tertullian who wrote, about the end of the second century, Diabolus est Dei simian – the devil is God’s monkey. Certainly all that Satan can do is to imitate and copy or ape the things which he has seen God do or which he finds in the Bible as a part of the plan of God.”
This reminds me of an illustration that I heard a preacher use in a sermon one time. He said that those who are being trained to detect fake money do not spend a lot of time studying all the different kinds of fake bank notes that are out there. Instead, they spend a lot of time and discipline themselves to know and study all the different features of the real ones.
Once they have all the features of the real bank notes down, it’s very easy for them to detect what is fake and identify what’s real. I think that fits in very well here. In as much as we need to be aware of the devil and arm ourselves accordingly for battle against him, we don’t need to spend too much time trying to figure out what the devil looks like, his tricks, etc. Instead, we need to spend a lot of time with God and discipline ourselves to really get to know Him. Those who know God well and have been trained by the Word to know His ways and acts will not have a hard time detecting Satan and his works when he comes to attack and tempt them.
One of the greatest ways through which the devil has affected the church of Jesus Christ today and led many believers astray is through doctrinal errors. This is a very powerful tool that the devil has used in very vicious ways time and time again in the history of the church. Through the spreading of false doctrine about God, man, salvation, etc, he has advanced and continues to advance his wicked agenda in this world which is “…steal, kill and destroy…” (John 10:10).
Merrill F. Unger, in his book entitled, Demons in the World Today writes,
“Every believer should realize that Satan can use doctrinal errors to his advantage, but he cannot overcome the Christian’s defenses in God’s Holy Word!…In the measure that we neglect or abandon the Word of God, demonism flourishes. Ignorance of biblical truth breeds gullibility. Deception is easy when the Word of God is not taught accurately. We are ready to believe anything when we cannot evaluate it in the light of biblical truth (1 John 4:1-6).”
Thus it is very important that every Christian guards him/herself from false doctrine and that the appointed leaders in the church of Jesus Christ (pastors, elders, etc) be very diligent in making sure that the spirit of the antichrist does not invade the church and spread false doctrine to the detriment of the people of God.