Are Demons in the World Today?
Why do demons sometimes receive so much attention from the media? Are the reports biblically correct, or are they just the musings of uninformed people who see a demon behind every bush and under every rock? Has demon activity accelerated in the world? How can one know which concepts are biblically accurate and which are not?
This subject deserves a full-length book, but it will only be summarized here. Consider several preliminary, general observations:
- We affirm the historical reality of Satan and demons, both in the past and in the present, as verified by the Bible.
- We affirm that the Bible admonishes Christians to expect Satan and demons to operate now much as they did in both Old Testament and New Testament times (1 Pet. 5:6–11).
- We affirm that the Bible teaches that, in living out the Christian life, one will experience real spiritual battle with Satan and his army of demons.
- We affirm that Scripture alone, independent of personal experience or clinical data, will truthfully determine the reality of demonic experiences and provide an understanding of encounters with Satan and demons.
- We affirm that instructions in the New Testament Epistles on how to conduct spiritual warfare were not limited to the first century (Eph. 6:10–20).
In Scripture, Satan and demons prominently involved themselves with spiritual darkness (Eph. 6:12), deception (2 Cor. 11:13–15), and death (John 8:44). They thrive in these kinds of environments. The United States has rapidly accelerated toward these conditions over the last decades, as witnessed by increases in false religion and idolatry, sexual immorality and perversions, drug use, occultic activity, interest in Satanism, godlessness, shamelessness over sin, lawlessness, devaluation of human life, and societal attempts to suppress biblical truth.
Demons possess the great power of angels (Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 15:24), greater than humans but far less than their Creator. They have the power to carry out the following actions:
- Indwell humans and animals (Mark 5:1–16)
- Physically afflict people (Mark 9:17, 22)
- Terrorize humans (1 Sam. 16:14–15; 18:10; 19:9; Acts 19:13–16; 2 Cor. 12:7)
- Initiate false worship (1 Cor. 10:20–21)
- Promote false doctrines (1 Tim. 4:1)
- Perform false signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 16:13–14)
- Deceive prophets (1 Kings 22:19–23)
- Encourage idolatry (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37)
- Engineer death (Judg. 9:23, 56–57)
Demons work from a powerful heavenly hierarchy to execute their evil deeds. Words such as “angels,” “authorities,” “cosmic powers,” “dominions,” “powers,” “rulers,” and “thrones” can be used to describe the hierarchies of either holy or evil angels. In context, Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 2:2; 6:12; and Colossians 2:15 most likely refer to various ranks or levels among the evil angels, that is, the demon hierarchy. In context, Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16; and 1 Peter 3:22 most likely refer to various ranks or levels in the holy angel hierarchy.
Scripture never elaborates on the specifics of these hierarchies to explain their order or function. Since Satan imitates and falsifies God’s character and kingdom characteristics, it is most likely that there is both an authoritative functional hierarchy for holy angels who worship God and a parallel counterfeit hierarchy for evil angels who give their allegiance to Satan.
The Ultimate Victory of the Lord
However strong demons might be, they also have serious weaknesses and vulnerabilities:
- They unwittingly serve God’s purposes (Judg. 9:23).
- They were terrified of Christ and the gospel (Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; James 2:19).
- They obeyed Christ (Matt. 8:32).
- They obeyed the Twelve (Matt. 10:1–8) and the Seventy-Two (Luke 10:17–20).
- They cannot separate believers in Christ from the love of God (Rom. 8:38).
- They can be restrained by the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:6; 1 John 4:4).
- They have been judged already by God (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6) and will be again in the future (Rev. 20:10).
This article is adapted from Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue.
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