10 Key Bible Verses on Demons

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. 1 Corinthians 10:19–22

What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? Read More

Paul knows that demons delight in the worship of any “god” but the one true God and therefore take a special interest in idolatry. In Deut. 32:17–18 sacrifice to false gods, called “demons” there, is contrasted with worship of God, who is called “the Rock” (cf. 1 Cor. 10:4). False religions are not merely the result of human imagination and human energy but generally have demonic power behind them. Not everything that seems “supernatural” is from God.

God’s jealousy is not the sinful emotion of envy that characterizes human jealousy. It is God’s righteous concern to protect the truth that he is the Creator of the universe and that he alone, not “gods” of human invention, deserves human praise. Those who worship idols provoke God’s jealousy and receive his wrath, as Israel had experienced in the wilderness. (See Ex. 20:4–5; Deut. 4:23–24; Deut. 5:8–9; Deut. 6:14–15; Deut. 29:18–20; Deut. 32:16, 21.)

2. Matthew 12:43–45

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” Read More

Demons were often associated with waterless places, apparently because deserts were thought of as being devoid of the blessing of God that came with rainfall and abundant crops (cf. Isa. 13:19–22; 34:13–14; Jer. 17:6; 22:6; 50:12; 51:43; Zeph. 2:13; Mal. 1:3).

my house from which I came. Demons are persistent in seeking ownership of a person’s entire material and immaterial self.

seven. Linked in Scripture with completion or perfection, here perhaps signifying the completeness of demon possession once the demon returns. If this evil generation continues to reject Jesus, even after witnessing his divine authority over demons, their condition will be worse than if they had never seen him.

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3. Revelation 12:3–4

And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. Read More

The great red dragon is “that ancient serpent, the devil and Satan” (Rev. 12:9; cf. Rev. 20:2; Gen. 3:1–15; Isa. 27:1). Its seven heads with seven diadems and ten horns symbolize great power (cf. Dan. 7:6–7). Cf. the description of the beast (Rev. 13:1).

His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven. Evil spirits (demons) in league with Satan share his defeat and downfall before the forces of God (Rev. 12:7–9). Some interpreters think this refers to the original fall of Satan, taking one-third of the angels with him (cf. 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; perhaps Isa. 14:12–15). The dragon’s intent to devour the woman’s child at birth recalls Gen. 3:15, which predicts that the woman’s offspring will bruise the serpent’s head as the serpent bruises his heel.

4. Deuteronomy 32:17–18

They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,
to gods they had never known,
to new gods that had come recently,
whom your fathers had never dreaded.
You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you,
and you forgot the God who gave you birth. Read More

As throughout Deuteronomy, idolatry is the key sin of and threat to Israel (see also Deut. 32:21). God, the Rock, has redeemed and provided for Israel, whereas idols or false gods have no real existence or track record (Deut. 32:17).

5. 1 Timothy 4:1–2

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared . . . Read More

The means by which the Spirit . . . says is not made clear. It may have been something the Holy Spirit revealed directly to Paul (cf. Acts 20:29–30) or a prophecy that came through others. expressly. Explicitly, clearly. The later times (Gk. hysterois kairois) in view here clearly include Timothy’s day (see the similar phrase in 2 Tim. 3:1). As is typical in the NT, “later times” refers to the time that began with the outpouring of the Spirit after the work of Christ. Those who hold to the false teaching depart from the faith, which shows that this teaching is outside the bounds of true Christianity. Furthermore, the source of the error is demonic, for these teachers follow deceitful spirits. The false teaching and resultant apostasy are no surprise. God said this would happen, so his church should not panic but should carry on in faithfulness (see 2 Tim. 2:17–19).

The consciences of the false teachers have been seared (that is, desensitized and rendered ineffective) by their rebellion against the gospel. Cf. “good conscience,” 1 Tim. 1:5.

6. 1 John 4:1–3

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Read More

do not believe every spirit. Christian faith is not spiritual gullibility. test the spirits. The unseen spiritual influences that guide people’s speech and actions can be “tested” by observing their doctrine and conduct as well as by the gift of spiritual discernment (cf. 1 Cor. 12:10; 14:29). False prophets are people who claim to speak for God but are actually speaking by demonic influence (1 John 4:3–4). In today’s age of “tolerance,” discriminating discernment can be viewed as being judgmental (cf. “Judge not,” Matt. 7:1). Yet Jesus also taught, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

By this you know. John establishes a doctrinal standard, specifically a Christological one, for testing spirits (see 1 John 4:1). If a spirit (or a person moved to speak by such a spirit) does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, that spirit or person is misleading God’s people. Apparently many false teachers were saying that Jesus only “appeared” to be human. This was probably based on a false idea that the material creation was inherently evil and therefore physical bodies were evil.

every spirit that does not confess Jesus. That is, whoever refuses to acknowledge that Jesus is God the Son, “who has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2). Anyone can talk about Jesus and even believe that he lived on earth, as other religions, cults, and philosophies often affirm. But unless such people affirm both the full deity and the full humanity of Jesus, they are not truly “confessing Jesus,” but, as John states in unequivocal terms, they are under the influence of the spirit of the antichrist.

7. James 2:19

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Read More

God is one. This affirmation of monotheism stems from the core Jewish creed called the Shema (Deut. 6:4; see Mark 12:29; Rom. 3:30). But James stresses its inadequacy, since even the demons believe this, and they shudder. Mere mental assent to the Christian faith does not save anyone. The faith that saves, as both Paul and James affirm, embraces the truth of the gospel and acts accordingly.

8. Acts 19:13–16

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 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. Read More

itinerant Jewish exorcists. There are records of extensive ceremonies and spoken formulas that Jewish people in the first century used to try to free themselves from the influence of evil spirits, but it is unlikely that these were very effective, since the people were astounded when Jesus was able to cast out demons with “authority and power” (Luke 4:36).

Not only was the name of Jesus important in casting out evil spirits, but so was true faith in Jesus on the part of the one uttering his name. Here, a “reverse exorcism” occurred, with the demon driving out the exorcists. Their nudity enhanced their humiliation.

9. Mark 1:23–27

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Read More

An unclean spirit tries to resist Jesus’s power and his teaching on the kingdom of God, but he correctly fears that Jesus has come to destroy him. The act of naming Jesus as the Holy One of God may display the demon’s attempt at exercising power over Jesus. But Jesus resists and tells the unclean spirit, “Be silent.”

they were all amazed. Casting out this demon reinforces Jesus’s authority to teach.

10. Ephesians 6:10–13

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Read More

be strong. Because Christians cannot stand on their own against superhuman powers, they must rely upon the strength of the Lord’s own might (see Eph. 1:19), which he supplies chiefly through prayer (Eph. 6:18).

The Greek word for whole armor (panoplia) refers to the complete equipment of a fully armed soldier, consisting of both shields and weapons like those described in Eph. 6:14, 16–17. Paul’s description here draws primarily on OT allusions, yet the terms used also overlap well with Roman weaponry (esp. the terms for the large, door-shaped shield and the short stabbing sword). Visible portrayals of such weaponry can be found on the numerous military reliefs (esp. on sarcophagi) throughout the Roman Empire. schemes. Here the diabolical origin is exposed, regarding the “deceitful schemes” of those teaching false doctrine (Eph. 4:14; see also 1 John 2:18, 22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 7).

This list of spiritual rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers (see Eph. 3:10) gives a sobering glimpse into the devil’s allies, the spiritual forces of evil who are exceedingly powerful in their exercise of cosmic powers over this present darkness. And yet Scripture makes clear that the enemy host is no match for the Lord, who has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15; see also Eph. 1:19–21).

Therefore. Because the Christian’s enemies are superhuman spiritual forces, he cannot rely upon mere human resources but must take up the whole armor of God (see note on Eph. 6:11). The divine armor and “sword of the Spirit”—which belong to the Lord himself and to his Messiah in Isa. 11:4–5 and 59:17—are made available for believers. withstand. Along with “stand” in Eph. Eph. 6:11 and stand firm later in Eph. 6:13, Paul portrays Christians as soldiers in the battle line holding fast against the enemy’s charge. evil day. In Eph. 5:16 Paul identifies this whole age as “evil days,” yet the outbreak of the Satanic onslaught against Christ’s people ebbs and flows throughout this era until the final day when the Lord of Hosts will return in power and great glory (Luke 21:27) to rend the heavens and rescue his people forever.

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