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.

What’s wrong with the Shack?

Ten years ago The Shack was published. The story wrestles with one of the most pressing questions of Christianity. The book grabbed people’s attention and soon became one of the bestselling books of all time. One reviewer declared The Shack was the greatest book written since John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Last week the major motion picture The Shack was released. Based on the book the movie had a decent opening weekend. It more than the doubled the opening weekend revenues of the 2014 movie Left Behind. The Shack also had a better opening weekend than other recent, popular Christian movies like Courageous and God’s Not Dead. The book seems set to continue exerting its influence over Christians.

The Shack is a work of fiction. Though the book is a work of make believe it claims to be an instrument for teaching Biblical truth. Like a Biblical parable the story seeks to communicate great truths through the medium of a believable and gripping story. I have not seen the movie, but have read the book. My understanding is that the movie follows pretty close with the book in the essentials.

The Shack is filled with problems. Because it is intended to teach, Christian’s cannot disregard the substance of the message. In wrestling with the problem of evil the book and the movie teach about the nature and character of God, the relationship of evil to God and the nature of salvation. The Shack’s view of God is horribly deficient and its understanding of salvation is tragically errant.

In attempting to address the problem of terrible suffering in this world The Shack presents a god who is limited. The God of The Shack is not in control of world events. He responds to tragedies and through His love brings good out of them. Instead of tragedy being a part of the perfect plan of God tragedy is something that God is unable to avert. God has relinquished some control of the world to give men genuine freewill. In a sense both God and man are powerless to prevent evil. God’s love will eventually win but only when men have chosen to follow God.

The Old Testament book of Job is the story The Shack tries to tell. In Job the readers learns of a father who suffers great loss and life shattering tragedy. He insists he did nothing to deserve such pain. He blames God and demands a chance to prove God’s injustice. When God speaks to Job at the end of the book He does not pass on cutesy witticisms and cryptic truths. God confronts Job with His power and control. God doesn’t shrug His shoulders and say there was nothing He could do about it because He gave man freewill. God declares His sovereignty and justice. The God of the Bible is a God in control of all things.

Genuine comfort in life’s sorrow comes from knowing God. The Shack offers a false comfort built on a modern construct of a god who looks like God but is not. The book, and the movie, have rejected the Word of God. In doing so all that is offered is sentimentalism masquerading as wisdom.

Is Evil Necessary?

Certain religions and philosophies see evil and good as eternal forces that will always exist in the universe. Both are necessary for the right operation of the universe. Evil and good are opposites that require each other. If there were no evil, there could be no good. The yin and yang is a classic picture of this viewpoint.

A more modern version of this concept is the idea that evil is absence of good. Just like dark is the absence of light and cold is the absence of heat so evil is the absence of good. Since there is light dark must also exist. Since good exists, there must also be evil. But must it?

Evil is not necessary. God existed for eternity before creating the universe. God existed without evil. God continues to exist without evil. God will exist through all the eternity to come without evil. Evil is not necessary to God, but what about to men?

When God created the universe everything was perfect. Satan had not rebelled and man had not sinned. How long things lasted before sin is unknown. The universe functioned just fine without sin.

Evil is not just the absence of good. Evil is the rejection of God. Sin originated in Satan when he determined to rebel against the rule of God. Sin came into the world when man doubted the goodness of God and chose to reject God’s commands in favor of a promise to be like God. Evil is always the rejection of good and rebellion against God.

Evil is not necessary. Evil is sand in the gears of creation. Evil is a destructive influence that hinders the proper working of all things. Evil and all the consequences of sin- death, pain and sorrow- are not necessary. They will not last. The present age is marred by evil but this age is short.

A time is coming when all evil be removed from the universe. All of wicked humanity, all the rebel angels and Satan himself will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. The influence of evil upon the universe will be removed.

The universe that now exists is entirely corrupted by sin. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together.” (Romans 8:22) God will destroy this universe. “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10) God will create a new universe which will be as perfect as the original creation. Revelation 21 and 22 describe the coming universe as eternally unstained by sin.

Evil is not necessary. Evil exists for a brief time, but the eternal universe which is coming will be forever free of sin and all its consequences.

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.”

Is Satan Real?

Surveys in America have revealed that a majority of Americans believe in Satan. When questioned further it seems that most Americans believe Satan to be an evil force and not a personal being. Is Satan a real, personal being or is he a symbol that personifies evil in this world?

Evil exists. Even the most die hard of atheists would be reluctant to deny the reality of evil in this world. The question regarding Satan is not if evil exists, nor even is it if evil people exists. The question is if there is a spiritual being actively working to accomplish his evil purposes in this world? The existence of Satan cannot be proven based upon any empirical evidence. That is, Satan has not been and cannot be video taped, recorded, interviewed or subjected to lab tests. The Bible presents Satan as an angelic creature. Because he is a spiritual being, we do not expect Satan to be perceptible to the physical senses.

What does the Bible say that leads us to conclude Satan is a real being, not just an evil force? Ezekiel 28 describes Satan as the anointed cherub. A cherub is a type of angel. Satan was at one time a powerful angel entrusted with great responsibility in the worship of God. In the book of Job, Satan stands before the throne of God and has a conversation with God about the man Job. The Old Testament describes Satan in very personal terms, presenting him as much more than just a force. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke describe the temptation of Jesus. After Jesus spent forty days fasting in the wilderness, Satan appeared to Him and tempted Him. The account of this temptation is clearly the account of a personal being engaged in conversation with another personal being. If Satan was merely a force of evil, one would have to conclude that Jesus was having some kind of hallucination in which He carried on a conversation with a force. This would be as nonsensical as someone having a discussion with electricity about how lights work.

Other indications of Satan being a real being are found scattered throughout the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Satan is the god of this world who actively works to prevent men from believing the gospel. In Ephesians 2:2 Satan is the “prince of the power of the air” who holds dominion over unsaved men and is actively at work in them. In John 8:44, Satan is described as a murdered and a liar that has spiritual descendants who follow in his footsteps. In the book Revelation Satan is described as coming under God’s judgment, being bound and then cast into imprisonment. Evil exists in this world, but Satan is not just a personification of evil. Satan is a real being, created by God. Satan rebelled against his Creator and is now bent on the spiritual and physical destruction of man. Satan is a mighty angelic creature who stands in rebellion against God and seeks to oppose the plan of God.