Is there demonic activity today?

The reader of the Gospels and Acts is given the impression that Jesus and the apostles regularly encountered demon possessed people. Today things seem very different. Demonic activity in America appears to be non-existent. Demon possession and other obvious demonic misdeeds do not seem to take place now like they did in the New Testament. What is going on? Are demons still active today?

Demons are very real beings who posses great power and intellect. They are evil spiritual creatures who rebelled against God and were cast out of their positions of heavenly service. They exist now in opposition to God and in hatred of all men. Demons do not have physical bodies but can take control of physical creatures to accomplish their purposes. The New Testament indicates that demons give people supernatural strength (Mark 5:3-4), cause people to do harm to their own bodies (Mark 9:20-22), speak prophecies through the people they possess (Acts 16:16) and manipulate people to oppose the work of God.

Violent acts today are often blamed on drugs or mental illness. Many tragedies have multiple contributing factors, but why don’t Christians give serious consideration to the possibility of demonic activity behind some horrific events? It is overly simplistic to say demons are responsible for every tragedy of humanity, yet it is also dangerously naive to say demons have no role in any terrible event. The Bible mentions demonic influence in some diseases and mental disorders. Not every sickness or mental disorder can be traced to a demon. But why not some? Why disregard a demonic role in any addiction, disease or mental illness just because a medical explanation is (sometimes) available.

More important than the influence of demons over the physical body is the spiritual role they play. Demons are intent on war against God and the spiritual destruction of mankind. Their goal is to hold people in spiritual condemnation (2 Corinthians 4:4), facilitate spiritual destruction (1 Peter 5:8), hinder the Christian’s obedience (Ephesians 6:12) and oppose the working of God in this world.

The Bible does not say much about how demons go about their nefarious spiritual work. The book of Daniel tells of a demon that held off an angel of God and hindered the revelation of God’s truth to the prophet. (Daniel 10) In Daniel and the book of Ephesians are hints that demons are involved in manipulating the governments of the world. (No, this does not mean that politicians are demon possessed, not even corrupt politicians.) 1 Corinthians 10:20 says that those who worship idols are making sacrifices to demons. In 1 Timothy 4:1 false doctrine is described as the product of demons. This does not mean false teachers are demon possessed, but false teaching and false religions originate with demons.

Demons are still actively at work in the world today. They are battling to keep the hearts and minds of men in spiritual darkness. The work of demons does not require big displays of demonic power. They move behind the scenes combating the work of God, tempting men to sin, spreading lies and opposing the truth of God’s Word. This activity of demons is far more dangerous than causing individual humans to do terrible things to others. Demons are still at work in the world seeking the eternal destruction of men.

Are the people in heaven watching us?

A popular country song from the 80’s says there are holes in the floor of heaven. Our loved ones in heaven are peering down through heaven’s (apparently) half rotten flooring to see what we are doing on the earth. (By the way, I can say with absolute certainty that no one in heaven is wishing she could be here on earth with us.) What does the Bible teach about those in heaven? Do they know what is happening on the earth? Are they watching their friends and family?

The people in heaven appear to be aware of some events that happen on earth. In Luke 15:10 Jesus tells the Pharisees that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” It seems like Jesus is saying that believers who have died rejoice when someone on earth is saved. If so, then they are aware of some of what is going on in the earth.

This does not mean our loved ones in heaven spend a great amount of time watching us. Deceased Christians do not become guardian angels for their loved ones. That notion is more spiritistic than Biblical. The Bible has very few references to believers in heaven now. In Luke 16 Jesus tells of a man who died and went to heaven. In heaven he was receiving comfort and would not return to the earth.

The book of Revelation says the most about Christians in heaven. Everything it says describes believers as surrounding the throne of God worshiping Him. It seems that those in heaven are focused entirely on the glory of God.

Hymn writer Fanny Crosby described the focus of all in heaven with her hymn “My Savior First of All”.

Oh, the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come,
And our parting at the river I recall;
To the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home;
But I long to meet my Savior first of all.

Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepare for me a mansion in the sky.

Aside from rejoicing at the salvation of souls nothing in the Bible indicates deceased believers are watching or are even deeply interested in what is going on in the lives of family and friends on earth.

 

Can the fallen angels be saved?

The righteous angels have no need of salvation because they never sinned against God. Satan and the angels that followed his rebellion have sinned. Can they be saved?

The Bible only speaks about the salvation of man. Scripture does not teach of pardon for the evil angels. The purpose of the Bible is not to answer every question we may have about spiritual beings so it says very little about angels. When God’s Word speaks of the fate of Satan and the fallen angels it points to an inescapable judgment.

The Bible is most specific about the fate of Satan. He has no chance of redemption. Revelation 20 describes Satan’s final judgment. After Satan is released from his thousand year imprisonment, he will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Satan will be eternally tormented in the lake of fire. If Satan were saved the prophecies of God would be untrue and God would be a liar.

Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. In the second letter from the apostle Peter God says He did not refrain from bringing judgment on the fallen angels. He cast them down from their position in heaven and holds them captive under condemnation. (2 Peter 2:4) The letter from Jude speaks of certain angels reserved for everlasting judgment. (Jude 1:6) The two passages are parallel. They both speak of the same subject using very similar language. Peter and Jude are speaking of all angels who sinned. They were all cast out of their position in heaven and are being kept by God for everlasting judgment. God does not offer salvation to the fallen angels.

Other passages in Scripture lead to the conclusion that the rebellious angels are confirmed in their unrighteousness. The fallen angels have no chance of redemption because Jesus did not become an angel and die in their place. Salvation is only possible through another bearing the consequences of sin in place of the sinner.

The nature of man’s sin allows for a single substitute to act in place of all mankind. Essential to the Biblical doctrine of salvation is the truth that all men sinned in Adam. Because all mankind was found guilty Adam it is possible for men to be justified by Christ. Jesus is able to stand in the place of each man because He stands in the place of the human race.

The fallen angels sinned individually in themselves. They sinned with Satan but not in Satan. An angelic forefather did not commit the first sin and corrupt all his descendants. Every fallen angel chose to reject his perfect nature and rebel against God. Jesus did not take on the nature of angels. (Hebrews 1:5-8) Jesus was not made the substitute to bear the angels judgment in stead of them, consequently no angel can be saved.

The angels knew the glory of God. They saw His perfection and holiness in all His heavenly glory. Those who rejected God to pursue their own proud desires will not be forgiven.

Are Angels Saved?

The Bible teaches the existence of righteous angels and fallen angels. Fallen angels are those which followed Satan in his rebellion against God and fell under the condemnation of God. The righteous angels are those who continued to faithfully serve God. The Bible says much about salvation, but all of it is about the salvation of men.

Salvation is necessary for every person. All the unsaved are under God’s condemnation and will find themselves sentenced to eternal punishment in the place prepared for Satan and his angels. (Matthew 25:41) Being saved does not mean getting to go to heaven. Entrance into heaven after death is the result of salvation but it is not salvation. Salvation is reconciliation to God, forgiveness from sin, deliverance from the bondage of Satan and transformation of the heart that results in eternal life. Those who are saved will enter heaven when they die but going to heaven is not the same as being saved. Satan and the rebel angels have access to heaven right now, but they are not “saved”.

Since salvation relates to forgiveness of sin those angels who never sinned are not saved because they do not need to be saved. Man needs salvation because he carries within him the taint of Adam’s sin and continues to sin against God. Angels are not descended from a small group of parent angels. They are not inheritors of their forefather’s disobedience. Each angel was created directly by God. Every angel was created without sin. Those angels which did not join Satan in rebellion against God still retain their righteousness. The righteous angels never fell into sin and do not ever disobey God. The righteous angels are not under God’s judgment and thus have no need of salvation.

Though they do not need salvation, the righteous angels desire to know more about it. The angels watched the means of salvation with great interest. They looked on as God the Son became man, died on the cross, bore the wrath of God, was buried, restored to life, ascended back to heaven and regained all His previous glory.

Some of the angels have played a part in announcing the message of salvation. Angels announced the birth of Jesus. In the book of Acts an angel told Philip to go speak to the Ethiopian eunuch and an angel told Cornelius to send men to find Peter. In the book of Revelation an angel preaches the gospel to every nation on the earth. Though God does not normally use angels to preach the gospel, He does at times give them a role to play in announcing the message of salvation.

They do not experience salvation for themselves but the righteous angels are deeply interested in God’s redemption of men.

Is Satan the Ruler of Hell?

Modern folklore presents Satan as the ruler of the underworld. He stands on a high cliff bathed in the red light of infernal flames and oversees the torments of the damned. He sends his demons out into the world to accomplish his abominable purposes. He is the lord of the underworld. Or is he? What does the Bible say is the current role of Satan?

Satan does not rule hell. Hell is not a kingdom. Hell is a prison. Satan is not the warden of the underworld, like a Christian version of the Greek god Hades. Nor is Satan the top dog in hell, like a gang leader running a prison from the inside. Satan’s relationship to hell is that of a convict out on bail waiting for sentencing.

Satan is not yet in hell. At this time he is free and roams the earth. “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).

Satan does not rule in hell, but he does have great authority. Satan is the chief of the fallen angels. Jesus speaks of “The devil and his angels”. Revelation 12 speaks of Satan being cast out of heaven “and his angels were cast out with him.” Satan is represented as the greatest of the rebellious angels. The Bible hints at a hierarchy of leadership among fallen angels (Ephesians 6:10; Colossians 1:16), but it is silent on how Satan exercises his supremacy over the other fallen angels.

Satan is also called “the prince of the power of the air”. (Ephesians 2:2) Satan has a significant power over the affairs of men. Satan’s rule is not limited to Satanists or those who have sold their soul to the devil. All the unsaved are described as under the kingdom of darkness with Satan as the spirit actively at work in them. Because of mankind’s sin, Satan exercises holds great authority and influence in this earth.

Despite his great power Satan is not the ultimate ruler of the affairs of earth. God remains sovereign over all things- including Satan. The devil does no more than he is allowed to do. Though Satan is a rebel bent on opposing God he is, in fact, accomplishing God’s purposes. Satan is the enemy of God who is still subject to God.

Satan is not God’s equal or opposite. Satan is the first of sinners, the chief of rebels and the father of lies. He is a vicious, powerful creature, but creature he remains. How can the creature become as great as the Creator? Satan is greatly inferior to God and must yield to the commands of God.

Though Satan is not in hell he will one day be cast into the lake of fire. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10) The Lake of Fire is not his domain of rule but his place of punishment. Satan’s end will be an eternity of suffering the unending wrath of God.

Where did Satan come from?

The Devil, Beelzebub, the prince of darkness, Apollyon, Lucifer, the evil one. Satan.

In the Christian worldview Satan is seen as the chief enemy of God, the first rebel and the instigator of sin in humanity. Those with a Biblical background see Satan at work in the serpent that tempted Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden, as the spiritual being working through the antichrist in the last days and as an active agent for evil throughout history. Satan accuses Job, afflicts Jesus and prowls about like a roaring lion seeking for his prey.

Where did this evil being come from? Did God create the father of lies?

Satan first appears on the Biblical stage in Genesis 3 in the guise of a serpent. Though Satan is not named in the book of Genesis, the book of Revelation states that the serpent in the garden was the Devil. John sees “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world:” (Revelation 12:9) I believe Satan possessed the serpent, like demons would later possess men and beasts (Matthew 8:31), and used that creature to deceive Eve.

The Bible does not specifically tell of Satan’s origins. Other statements of the Bible direct us to an answer. Satan is a created being. Everything that exists owes its existence to God. Colossians 1:16 specifically mentions the creation of angelic beings, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” Because nothing exists that was not made by God we can be certain Satan was created by God.

Everything God created was perfect. Genesis 1 describes God’s act of creation. Though the opening chapter of the Bible does not describe the creation of angels (and in fact, the Bible does not anywhere describe the creation of angels), the reasonable assumption is that God created all angelic beings sometime during the creation week. I believe God created the angels on the first day when He created “the heaven and the earth”. Regardless of when God created angels, He created them and He created them perfect. Psalm 18:30 says all that God does is perfect. At the end of the creation week God examined all His work and declared it “very good”. All of creation, including the angels, was perfect and exactly as He intended it to be.

Satan was created by God as a perfect creature. The Bible speaks of Satan’s sin and rebellion. In Ezekiel 28 God pronounces judgment on the King of Tyre. The judgment includes the earthly ruler of Tyre (vs. 1-9) and the spiritual power behind the wicked king- Satan. (vs. 11-19) Satan sinned, was cast out of his exalted position and condemned to God’s judgment.

Ezekiel 28:15 sums up the origin and sin of Satan, “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.”

Do demons require physical bodies to do their work?

The previous article began to answer the question “do demons need to possess living beings to do evil? The Bible does not speak of demons for the purpose of teaching about their nature or limitations but some deductions about demons can be made from the Biblical references to them. A reasonable inference can be drawn from the Bible that at least some demons prefer to inhabit physical beings. This preference does not necessarily mean demons require a physical body to accomplish their diabolical purposes.

Demons are angelic creatures who rebelled against God and were cast out of their positions of service in heaven (Revelation 12:3-4, 7-9). God created them spiritual beings who have the same nature as angels. There is no instance of a righteous angel requiring or desiring to inhabit a physical body. The demons desire to inhabit a body is not a part of their created nature.

As evil angels following in the path of Satan it can be surmised that demons are actively fighting against the will of God and are actively working for the harm of mankind. The gospels and the book of Acts show a real physical component to this malicious activity. Demons possessing a human body cause seizure like symptoms which cause the possessed to fall into fire or water, instigate the person into cutting themselves, drive the person into unsafe living conditions and causing tearing pains in the body of the person.

The physical harm done by demons is only part of their activity. Their work has a physical effect but not is limited to physical means. Ephesians 6 describes the Christian life as a spiritual battle. Paul says we do not fight against flesh and blood. The battle is against “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) The tools for the Christian in this battle are depicted as armor but not of leather and steel. The Christains’ armor is spiritual not physical. His armor is truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation and the Word of God. Such an armament will not defeat a physical enemy, but it will stand against evil spirits.

Daniel 10 gives a glimpse into what the spiritual activity of demons may look like. An angel of God came to the prophet Daniel to explain the meaning of a vision he had seen. The angel told Daniel the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” fought against his coming to Daniel. The angel Michael, “one of the chief princes” came to the assistance of the first angel and allowed him to reach Daniel. Though the details are limited this passage provides a glimpse into the spiritual battle that is taking place. These angels and demons were not warring together through humans they controlled. Daniel probably would have noticed a swordfight on his front doorstep. They were engaged in a spiritual battle in their own spiritual forms. A physical form is not necessary for the evil work of those angels which followed Satan.

Demons can do possess individuals even in America today. Nothing in the Bible would imply demons are limited to only working by controlling a physical body. Demons are powerful spiritual beings actively at work in a spiritual battle against God. Christians need not fear demons for, “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Do demons have to possess physical bodies?

Demons are always a compelling topic of popular entertainment. Demons are not only a subject of imaginative and terrifying storytelling, they are mentioned multiple times in the Bible. One popular portrayal of demons, promoted by preachers and popular media, is that they require a physical host to perform their malevolent deeds. Do demons require a physical host, whether a person, an animal or an object, to work their deviltry?

The four gospels and the book of Revelation contain the majority of the Biblical references to demons. The New Testament epistles and the entire Old Testament only contain a few mentions of demons. No where does the Bible discuss demons for the purpose of teaching about them. For example, when the gospels tell of Jesus casting out demons, it does not do so to teach about demons. It tells of Jesus casting out demons to teach about Jesus and His power as God. The Bible’s discussion of demons is always secondary to the main point of the passage. This does not mean what the Bible says about demons is inaccurate, merely that the discussion of demons is always incidental to the Bible’s purpose. The reader can draw inferences about the nature of demons from these descriptions, but must be careful to keep in mind the purpose of the information is not intended to teach about the characteristics, power or abilities of demons.

The Gospels contain the most information about demonic activity in the world. In every instance demons are presented as possessing physical beings. The Gospels never present demons as possessing objects nor does it present them as being nothing more than evil forces. The account of Jesus casting a Legion of demons out of a man living in Gadara is important to answering this question.

When Jesus commanded the demons to leave the unfortunate man they asked, “Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.” The desire of this Legion of demons to enter the herd of pigs is offered as proof that demons must have a physical body to possess. However, this conclusion does not line up with the reason the demons themselves give for wanting to be sent into the swine. In Luke’s gospel the demons Legion ask that they not be sent into the abyss, but into the pigs instead. The abyss is a place of imprisonment for fallen angels. (Revelation 9:1-3, 11; Revelation 20:1-3) The demons were fearful of being imprisoned and so desired to be sent into the pigs instead.

Another passage pertinent this discussion is the parable of Jesus found in Luke 11:24-26. Jesus describes a demon as going out of a man and wandering through desolate places but finding no rest. The point of the parable is not to teach about demons but about the futility of self-righteous self-reformation. The description of the demon leads to the conclusion that at least some demons prefer to possess a physical body.

It seems reasonable to deduce that at least some demons prefer to possess living beings, but the preference to possess living creatures does not mean demons require a physical body to perform their infernal deeds. The Bible presents the activity of demons as that which does not require a physical body to accomplish. More on that later.

Do Christians have guardian angels?

When the topic of guardian angels comes up I imagine an angel assigned by God to a particular person to protect him from harm and temptation. Guardian angels are familiar to many because of their inclusion in popular movies and television. Guardian angels are a popular idea with many, but what does Bible say about guardian angels?

The Bible tells that angels were created by God, but doesn’t say exactly when. (I think angels were created on day one of the creation week.) We know there are a myriad of angels, but the Bible doesn’t tell us how many. It tells how some angels rebelled against God and lost their heavenly position. The Bible says that angels are the servants of God who reside in heaven always worshiping Him. The prophetic passages of the Bible show angels as the agents of God’s wrath. They carry out some of the punishments wreaked upon the world, call forth other judgments and gather people together to stand in judgment before God. Angels are messengers of God sent from Him to reveal God’s Word to certain prophets. Angels are heralds of God announcing the return of Jesus and His triumph over the world.

Three Bible passages refer to angels playing a role in the life of individual believers. Psalm 91:11, “For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Hebrews 1:14, “Are not (angels) all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” The other passage is often understood to describe angels assigned to children. However, the context of Matthew 18:10 makes it clear that the little ones in view are not children but the followers of Jesus. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my father which is in heaven.”

In all three passages the people under angelic care are the people of God. If there are guardian angels one must conclude they are assigned to believers but not to every person on earth. Unfortunately the passages are all very brief and somewhat cryptic. While they may teach an angelic guardianship, there is enough uncertainty in the correct understanding that reaching a definite conclusion about the nature of the ministry of angels to believers is very difficult. We can conclude some things are definitely no longer a part of angelic minsitry. Because God’s revelation is completed in the Bible, we can conclude angels do not appear to people as special messengers with prophetic words from God for men. Because God is now working in the church, we can conclude that angels are not actively involved in aiding God’s people in military conquest over nations. It seems likely that angels are actively involved in the work of the ministry, the encouragement of the saints and the spread of the gospel. What that activity looks like the Bible does not tell.

Most of our ideas about the ministry of angels today are speculative. While we know there is a great spiritual battle going on, we need to be careful to not speculate too much about what God has not revealed. We especially must remember to not pray to angels or trust in them for safety. Angels are the servants of God. They do not want, nor will they accept, human worship. They do not act on their own initiative, but are the agents of God going out at as He commands to do His bidding. Whatever the role angels play in the believers life God is the One who deserves our worship, praise, adoration and thanks.