What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Four of Christ's thirty-three miracles concern the casting out of demons. Satan always tries to counter God's work, and thus the years surrounding Jesus' ministry saw a marked rise in demonic activity. Scripture shows that exposing and casting out Satan and his demons is the responsibility of Christ (I John 3:8).
Evidently, some demons crave embodiment, and so demon possession consists of one or more demons inhabiting a human or even animals (Luke 8:32-33). Mental diseases, with their erratic or even insane behavior, along with physical diseases, often accompany demon-possession, for demons perversely desire to destroy even the bodies they inhabit.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Exorcism in the Synagogue
Are the Devil and his demons real? The gospels leave no doubt that Jesus believed that the Devil and demons exist and that they have evil influence in and over human beings. Knowing that these powers of darkness are dreadful forces of evil, Jesus spoke of them with a serious intensity and authority. He also did not hesitate to declare openly the evil manifested in people's minds and bodies as coming from the source of evil, Satan the Devil.
Demons are angelic beings who rebelled with Satan and were expelled from heaven with their master. According to examples in Scripture, the Devil's power is exercised in a three-fold way: 1) directly by himself, 2) by the demons who are subject to him, and 3) through human beings whom he influences and/or possesses. People who have rejected God's authority and love are in subjection to the supernatural power of Satan and his wicked way of life. A person's personality and will is taken over by these deceiving, lawless spirit invaders.
When possessed, the human body and mind are intruded by a spiritual parasite, causing conflict and disharmony. Like hypnosis, demonic possession cannot take place without a willing subject. Satan entered Judas because the man opened up an entranceway for the Devil by betraying the Son of God. Judas first entertained a thought from Satan before Satan himself entered, as the apostle John explains, "The devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot . . ." (John 13:2, 27; see I Samuel 16:14; I Kings 22:21-23).
When a person loses control of himself, Satan can take control, and evil spirits have the opportunity to enter suddenly. In addition, immorality often precedes demon possession. When a person gives in to his sensual desires or to hatred and greed, he sets himself up for possible possession, or at the very least, strong demonic influence.
Most people are at least somewhat demon-influenced through Satan's broadcast of his evil attitudes and are enticed to sin (see Ephesians 2:2; Revelation 12:9). A quick glance at society reveals a perverse influence to pursue wickedness. An evil thought is introduced into the human mind, and human desire is motivated to pursue the yearning: "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). Demon influence begins with subtle suggestion and enticement, but it can later lead to a person's becoming demon possessed, captive to the Devil, and as his slave, sinking into deep degradation.
Evil spirits can take possession of human bodies. People sometimes invite demons to do so, and they become intimately acquainted, even friendly, with them. They are then called "familiar spirits" (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27). God instructs ancient Israel to put to death anyone who intentionally invites a demon to enter him. Once possession takes effect, sensuality and violence become more evident, as the person finds it difficult to resist the demon's will. Physical, mental, and spiritual disorders increase exponentially during possession, and the confusion, anguish, and mental filth caused by unclean spirits can result in insanity.
Not all disorders are the result of demonic possession (Matthew 4:23, 24; 10:1; 11:5). However, insanity, epilepsy, blindness, fevers, and various mental illnesses are frequent accompaniments and symptoms of demon possession (Matthew 12:22; 9:32; Mark 9:17, 25; Luke 11:14-16). Even so, Scripture does not necessarily identify these disorders with demon possession, though they may have been aggravated by these dark powers.
In the case of the demon-possessed man in Matthew 8, he obviously suffered from some sort of insanity. Demon possession is not just another name for madness, as they are clearly distinguished in Matthew 4:24. The Gadarene demoniac's disease was the result of his own wickedness, and the extreme demonic element added to his madness.
The apostle Paul mentions that the Gentiles sacrificed to demons (I Corinthians 10:20; also Leviticus 17:7; II Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:37), and demon possession is still an undoubted fact in many areas of the world. The Devil, as the prince of the power of the air, regulates the present way of life of the world, working in children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). People yield themselves to his authority, and as a result, they become slaves to this evil power (Romans 6:16).
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Two Demon-Possessed Men Healed (Part One)
In the beginning, Adam and Eve were not created with the evil nature we see displayed in all of mankind. At the end of the sixth day of creation, God took pleasure in all He had made and pronounced it "very good," including Adam and Eve and the nature or the heart He placed in them. An evil heart cannot possibly be termed "very good." They were a blank slate, one might say, with a slight pull toward the self, but not with the strong, self-centered, touchy, and offensive heart that is communicated through contact with the world following birth.
Following Adam and Eve's creation, God placed them in Eden and instructed them on their responsibilities. He then purposefully allowed them to be exposed to and tested by Satan, who most definitely had a different set of beliefs, attitudes, purposes, and character than God. Without interference from God, they freely made the choice to subject themselves to the evil influence of that malevolent spirit. That event initiated the corruption of man's heart. Perhaps nowhere in all of Scripture is there a clearer example of the truth of I Corinthians 15:33: "Evil communications corrupt good manners."
Comparing our contact with Satan to Adam and Eve's, a sobering aspect is that God shows they were fully aware of Satan when he communicated with them. However, we realize that a spirit being can communicate with a human by transferring thoughts, and the person might never know it! He would assume the thoughts were completely generated within himself.
Following their encounter with the evil one, "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked" (Genesis 3:7). This indicates an immediate change in their attitudes and perspectives. It also implies a change of character from the way God had created them, as they had indeed willingly sinned, thus reinforcing the whole, degenerative process.
This began not only their personal corruption but also this present, evil world, as Paul calls it in Galatians 1:4. All it took was one contact with, communication from, and submission to that very evil source to effect a profound change from what they had been. The process did not stop with them, as Romans 5:12 confirms, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." Adam and Eve passed on the corrupt products of their encounter with Satan to their children, and each of us, in turn, has sinned as willingly as our first ancestors did.
When we are born, innocent of any sin of our own, we enter into a 6,000-year-old, ready-made world that is permeated with the spirit of Satan and his demons, as well as with the evil cultures they generated through a thoroughly deceived mankind. In consequence, unbeknownst to us, we face a double-barreled challenge to our innocence: from demons as well as from this world.
Six thousand years of human history exhibit that we very quickly absorb the course of the world around us and lose our innocence, becoming self-centered and deceived like everybody else (Revelation 12:9). The vast majority in this world is utterly unaware that they are in bondage to Satan - so unaware that most would scoff if told so. Even if informed through the preaching of the gospel, they do not fully grasp either the extent or the importance of these factors unless God draws them by opening their eyes spiritually (John 6:44-45).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)
In Genesis 15:8-17, Abraham asks for evidence that God will follow through. He receives a command to prepare a sacrifice and an additional prophecy concerning his family's future. Genesis 15:12 shows that he made the sacrifice during the daylight part of the 14th. By this sacrifice, God ratifies His promise to Abraham.
Many have wondered why Christ was sacrificed during the daylight portion of the 14th, in the afternoon, rather than at its beginning and more in alignment with the Passover service in the twilight portion of the 14th. This reveals why. Even as He ratified His covenant of promise with Abraham by this sacrifice, Christ's sacrifice provides the ratification of the New Covenant. Christ's sacrifice, by God's decree, had to align with the ratification of His covenant of promise with Abraham. In Christ's sacrifice, death, and burial, God's draws together in one event the main elements of both the covenant of promise with Abraham and the Passover.
Notice especially how close this chronological alignment is. Verse 12 specifically states, "When the sun was going down." Thus, this sacrifice, like Christ's, took place in the afternoon. In the late afternoon, a great darkness and horror fell upon Abraham, allowing him to experience a small taste of the horror Christ faced in His crucifixion when God forsook Him. In addition, Moses inserts a detail that is not so readily apparent at Christ's crucifixion: that Abraham had to beat off some vultures. Vile birds are a Bible symbol of demons. This detail suggests that a great spiritual battle occurred, during which the demons taunted and persecuted Christ to induce Him to give up. He had to fight them off alone because the Father had forsaken Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001
1 Kings 22:19-23
Did the false prophets see a ghost? Did something cause them to have a dream? There is no indication of that. Because so many of them were involved—four hundred—it must be that the demon somehow stirred up the men's spirit and put the thoughts into their minds, making them think it was theirs. When they all came up with the same answer, surely it must have been right. But, alas, they were unanimously wrong, being led by a lying spirit.
We can see by this example that spirit beings can and probably are influencing mankind. It is not enough for us just to understand that they are capable of it. God's Word shows that they are actively doing it—good ones and bad ones—and some people are so unaware of what is going on that they give themselves over to the bad ones and become possessed—the slave, the tool, of a spirit being that will use them for its own ends. We are beginning to see established proof that Satan manipulates our minds.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)
The demons are a kingdom divided against themselves. Jesus is addressing a challenge that the demon He had just cast out of this person had been cast out by Satan. Jesus' argument is, "No, Satan would never cast out Satan." It would be stupid for Satan to cast himself out. He is not saying that under every condition Satan or other demons will not cast out other demons. Indeed, that does occasionally take place. They are very capable of doing signs and lying wonders. They can make it look as though somebody has been healed, when God has not done the healing at all, but simply by the removal of one demon by a demon of greater power.
One of the things that saves us is that the demons are divided against themselves. Because they are a kingdom divided against themselves, they cannot stand—they cannot get their act together because their character is such that they are always in competition with each other.
We can understand this when we recognize that the governments and most of humanity has been subject to and deceived by demons. Carnal, human nature, is a reflection of the nature of Satan and his demons. What fruit does that produce among men? Can men get along? No. The other side of the coin is that the beings who inspire, guide, direct, or motivate men not to get along with one another cannot get along with themselves either! The only thing that keeps them unified is that at the head of this organization is a demon of such awesome power that he is able to whip them into line from time to time to carry out his bidding. He does it by sheer force. They do not serve in love of him.
They are a kingdom divided against themselves. They will fall and that is an advantage to us. Being rebellious, they are disorganized. They cannot get their act together. Far more important is they know God exists, and they tremble before Him. They are therefore restrained.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 1)
These verses show how easily a disciple of Christ can become the means of communication from demons. Peter did the speaking, but Jesus spoke to Satan, attributing the source of the disciple's action. His verbal outburst was against God's will that Jesus suffer and die. Without recognizing it, Peter permitted himself to be a willing conduit for Satan's will!
Several years ago, I clipped an abstract of a book, Wrestling with Dark Angels, which was advertised in a book catalog. The abstract reads:
They're those inner "voices of reason" that try to convince you that wrong is right, that evil is good. They're Satan's dark angels, and you fight them every day. Some of today's most respected theologians help you better understand these supernatural forces so you can combat them effectively—and win the war for your mind.
There is a time coming, represented by the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day, when these dark forces of reason will no longer be free to influence mankind as they can now. Those who are now facing them without understanding what is happening will have died, been resurrected, and will live again with the knowledge of why life was so difficult before. God will not make them face these dark angels' subtle but powerful influence again. It will have had its effect, which will still have to be overcome. However, the possibility of that influence being refreshed each day will not exist.
The solution for us today is to combat that influence by means of the continuous influence of God's Holy Spirit flowing from our relationship with God through Bible study, prayer, meditation, occasional fasting, and obedience. Being in the spiritual presence of God and His Son Jesus Christ is the antidote. It is our shield and the means to flee Babylon.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part One)
The great archangel who later became Satan and his legions of angels were once clean spirits until they rebelled against the Most High God. In the ages before human history, they dwelled in the preincarnate Christ's presence, and thus they are very aware of His attributes. Thus, the demon in the synagogue does not hesitate to acknowledge "the Holy One of God."
Jesus does not let it speak of Him because He would not receive testimony from such a lying, diabolical source. For the same reason, Paul refuses the public witness of a fortune-telling spirit in Philippi (Acts 16:16-18). There can be no association between Christ and Satan. Jesus does not even carry on conversations with demons, but He commands and instructs them by the power and authority of His heavenly Father (Matthew 8:31-32; Mark 1:34).
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Exorcism in the Synagogue
Jesus commands the demon to leave, giving it a short, direct order backed by God's authority. He does not rebuke the man, because the unclean spirit had possessed him, yet each of us must resist the influence of demons (I Peter 5:8-9). Jesus tells the demon, "Hold your peace," which actually means "be gagged or muzzled," a phrase He also uses to calm the storm in Mark 4:39. The unclean spirit does not speak again, but obeys in rage and anguish.
By his own power or authority, no man can cast out demons. Even the archangel Michael, not daring to revile Satan, called on the power and authority of God to rebuke him (Jude 9), setting a right example for us. Similarly, in rebuking the "spirit of divination" at Philippi, Paul says, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her" (Acts 16:18).
Because of Christ's authority in performing this miracle, the people in the synagogue are "amazed," a word meaning "to stupefy" and "to dumbfound or flabbergast." They express their astonishment in questions: "What is this? What new doctrine is this?" (Mark 1:27), as well as by immediately rushing away to tell everyone they can. The word translated "amazed" also can mean "to terrify" and "to be frightened." The people are not only astounded but also fearful of God's power through Jesus.
The focus of the testimony is on how Jesus exorcises the demon: simply by His command, which shows the power of God's Word. Contemporary Jewish doctrine for casting out demons was much different, as exorcists among them sometimes appeared to cast out demons by prayers or chants. Christ, however, does not cajole or request demons to leave, but authoritatively commands them to come out. The world has its weak and useless methods to appease evil and entice it to surrender, but Christ commands its defeat.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Exorcism in the Synagogue
It is not normal for a man to be able to break chains! Even if a man had great strength, and he pulled on the chain, he would likely do terrible damage to his wrists and ankles in breaking them off. This man was able to break chains and go on in his abnormal way, apparently without injury. While we know that Samson performed these remarkable feats of strength and endurance through the agency of God's Spirit, demons can influence human beings to do supernatural things too.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Four)
History shows that the primary enemies of the church arise from humans influenced by Satan and his demons - and history continually repeats itself. The clearest examples of where these enemies lie are shown in the lives and ministries of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Did not the established religious and governmental leaders of their day, such as Caiaphas, the Pharisees and Sadducees, Pilate, the Herods, etc., willingly cooperate in persecuting them?
Searching into God's authority over these enemies will help us to see how complete and all-encompassing is His power over everything. Past events show that civil governments and false churches are always the true church's most dangerous adversaries.
Here, "power" refers to civil authority, and Jesus informs us that Pilate, a powerful Roman governor of Judea, who had authority over life and death, derived his authority from God. The authority would not be his if God had not given it to him directly. We can infer that Pilate was specifically given his particular civil authority. Why is this important for us to know and believe?
Proverbs 21:1 adds an important truth: "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes." The Living Bible paraphrases this as, "Just as water is turned into irrigation ditches, so the Lord directs the king's thoughts, He turns them wherever He wants to."
This fact helps us understand God's sovereignty and much of history too. If the thoughts of a king - representing the highest, most influential, and most powerful person in the nation - are in God's hand, and He has the power to influence his decisions toward the outcome that pleases Him, are not all human governors completely under the Almighty's sovereign control? Clearly, God has the power to move all history in the direction He wishes it to go. His desire will always be done. Romans 13:1-2 makes this deduction certain:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Not only does God have the power to move those already in office, but He appointed them in the first place! Since Paul writes this directly to Christians, and Christians have lived throughout history and in virtually every place on earth, the wording suggests that this command has timeless, universal application. Thus, God reveals that, in the final analysis, all civil magistrates, from the emperor on down to the lower authorities - and religious authorities as well - owe to God their appointments and rights to govern.
However, when it comes to a question of obeying the laws of God or the instructions of men which are contrary to those laws, then we must always obey God (Acts 5:29). Then we must be ready to pay the consequences for our actions in faith, always looking to God even when unfairly paying for it in ways like losing our jobs, our freedom, or even our lives.
In John 5:17, Jesus provides insight into God's activity throughout the millennia of this creation: "Jesus answered them, 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.'" God's labors are the continuous managing and ruling over the affairs of men. He has not gone "way off somewhere," but is actively involved in bringing His purpose to pass at all times. By His will and in His providence, authorities are appointed to maintain order, to encourage good conduct, and to punish wrongdoing.
Thus, anyone who believes God is confronted by a matter of biblical truth and clear logic. How will any of our enemies "get around," deflect, or nullify the real unseen Power who stands behind and above the visible powers that be? His will will stand. So, to whom do we turn in time of need?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)
In this chapter's first ten verses, Paul is showing that the children of God—us—who were once objects of God's wrath, are by His grace legally and spiritually freed from the clutches of Satan's dominion. However, the influences of the world Satan has fashioned remain to be dealt with and overcome.
Satan is described as a spirit who is "prince of the power of the air." This phrase has a familiar ring to it, but alternative translations may be better suited to understanding. The New English Bible calls him "commander of the spiritual powers of the air now at work among God's rebel subjects." The Concordat Literal New Testament renders it as "chief of the jurisdiction of the air, the spirit now operating in the sons of stubbornness."
Webster's gives as one of the usages for jurisdiction, "the limits, or territory within which authority may be exercised." This particular jurisdiction is where air exists, tying in with the word "heavenly" in Ephesians 6:12: "[We wrestle] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Here, "heavenly" refers, not to the place of God's throne, but to the first heaven, the air surrounding the earth in which birds fly. This also links with Revelation 18:2 and its "unclean and hated birds," symbolizing demons. Birds operate in the same heaven Satan commands.
Prior to the rebellion, God gave Satan and his demon assistants substantial authority over everything from the earth's atmosphere on down to the earth itself, which includes us, its inhabitants. We must never forget that, in large part, our wrestling, as Paul terms it, is with these spirits. We inhabit the same space they do.
These evil spirits indeed use deceived people to carry out their plans to destroy those in whom God lives. These people are likely under the strong influence of those spirit authorities, and because they are deceived, they are unaware that they are being used! They are not necessarily possessed, as the Bible shows some are, but influenced by demons to act against our best interests.
A factor God wants us to realize more completely and fully is that we are not alone in this ocean of air. Even as vicious sharks and barracuda prowl the water, their demonic counterparts, symbolized as foul and unclean raptors and carrion-eaters, inhabit the ocean of air right along with us. It is essential to our spiritual well-being to heed Paul's warning in Ephesians 6:10-12 that our battles are against these creatures, and they are fighting tooth-and-toenail to hang on to what they believe is theirs by first-occupancy rights. Earth, the Bible plainly tells us, was "their first estate" (Jude 6, KJV). They hate us because we are becoming like the Father and Son, and because they know this earth, our inheritance, will be taken from them and given to the sons of God, those who are in His image.
On the surface, they have advantages over us because they are invisible to our eyes. In addition, they can, without our even being aware, communicate their thoughts and attitudes to our minds through the very air that supports our lives. Most people in this world do not know they are deceived or how they became deceived. Satan and his demons have not sat us all down to tell us, "We are here to deceive you." We know only because God's Word reveals this truth to us, and we believe it. Despite this happening in our lives, deception can still be communicated to us unless we are astute enough to take care that it does not happen again.
Nevertheless, deception and its resulting behaviors have been communicated to us through the culture we were born into. The culture, the world around us, is the medium of this corrupting communication. We have been freed from deception by God's revelation of Himself, but the urgent admonition from our Lord and Savior is, "Don't be passive concerning the responsibilities your liberation has imposed. Take action because the communication can be reabsorbed, enslaving you once again."
John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part One)
Ephesians 4:1 contains an interesting principle hidden within the Greek word translated as "worthy." The word includes a dimension that relates to health issues and is something we should strive for in our relationship with God.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his commentary on Ephesians, tells us the word has two basic ideas, and both are important to this subject. The first is that of "equal weight." Imagine a scale with objects of equal weight on opposite sides so that it does not tilt. The scale balances perfectly; it is "worthy." If it tilts, it is "not worthy." In context and in practical application in life, Paul is saying that doctrine must perfectly balance with practice for us truly to walk worthily of our calling. However packed one's head may be with truth, if it is not being used, he is unbalanced—he is not walking worthily. It is equally true that, if one says that Christianity is no more than living a good life and that learning other truths is not important, and thus he fails to search and expand his understanding of truth, he is also walking unworthily.
Hebrews 6:9-11 provides us with an example:
But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.
These people were in trouble because they were failing to maintain the balance. In this case, they had apparently been diligent at the academic level, but their practical application of truth had declined drastically. They had become unbalanced and poor witnesses of God and were falling away.
The second idea in the Greek word rendered "worthy" is the sense of "becoming." The translators could have translated Ephesians 4:1 as, "I . . . beseech you to walk in a manner becoming the calling with which you are called." The same word appears in the first phrase of Philippians 1:27: "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ. . . ." The King James translates "worthy" as "as it becomes."The basic idea is of matching. It is similar to a person adorning himself with clothing or accessories that are suited to him or match.
Thus, Paul is saying that our doctrine and our practice must never clash, just as the colors or patterns in our dress should not clash. Much of modern music and art perverts this principle. The very heart of true beauty is the central idea of balance, harmony, and congruity. Things of beauty match; a cacophonous clash of discordant color or symbols jar the senses.
Titus 2:9-10 helps to demonstrate this principle: "Exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things." Paul's metaphor is that doctrine is the basic garment of God's way of life, and the way we live it is the adornment that complements it. Life has to match, be balanced and congruous with, the doctrine, making it attractive and causing people to admire it and gravitate toward it.
The vivid picture Mark 9:20-22 paints may help us understand:
Then they brought [the demon-possessed boy] to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."
Herbert Armstrong, commenting on demon influence, said that demons reveal themselves by influencing people toward extremes of human behavior. He did not mean that the people were necessarily possessed but certainly influenced toward that manner of conduct.
This influence has affected all of us to some degree. Has this world influenced us to do certain things? If so, we have been influenced by demons. This is not God's world; Satan and his horde of minions created the system and govern it. They are the principalities and powers we wrestle against (Ephesians 6:12). Their influence permeates the entire system from top to bottom. Thus John warns, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. . . . the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—[are] not of the Father" (I John 2:15-16). This is why we must be so careful about who and what we are following.
Think of anything extreme, things that are foolish and unbalanced, unbecoming to God or man—and demons are behind it. They influence people to excesses of anger, violence, depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, asceticism, hermitism, alcoholism, drug addiction, voyeurism, fetishes, cannibalism, anorexia, bulimia, and any other form of behavior that is destructive of the self and divisive of relationships.
Demons, the principalities and powers of Ephesians 6:12, will do whatever they can to keep our life from matching the truths God has given us in doctrinal form. Working toward improving and maintaining our health is an effort toward balancing what we believe with what we do. It is an adornment to God and His way; it is a stewardship responsibility. Demons will attempt to convince us to do nothing. They will put discouraging thoughts like, "It doesn't really matter"; "There is so much information out there. It is so confusing"; or "My grandfather broke every law of good health and lived to be a hundred!"
There might be scores of such arguments, and every one of them is nothing more than pressure to accept this world's lies. Each of them essentially and completely leaves out of the picture God's leadership and influence to help our efforts succeed, which is the whole reason for the demons' efforts. Undeniably, God's Word provides the balance we need to walk worthily in this physical area of life, as well as in the spiritual.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Six)
This verse tells us that our warfare is against demons, and they—angels who rose up against God—look upon us as invaders. As any invaded people would, they see themselves as rising to defend their home and territory despite the fact that they probably know that God has given this earth to us as an inheritance.
This is a spiritual parallel of Israel coming out of Egypt, going through the wilderness to their inheritance in Canaan, but Canaan was already inhabited. The Canaanites rose up to defend themselves against those they saw as invaders. Who knows if the Canaanites knew that God had promised their land to Abraham and his descendants? Rahab seemed to understand this in Jericho, so it is likely that the Canaanites also knew these things.
God does not do things in a corner; He witnesses to people when He acts. The demons are well aware that they are defending themselves from those who will take over their estate—and they are going to fight to hold it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What I Believe About Conspiracy Theories
Colossians 2:8-10 gives another general definition of Gnosticism, as well as how to combat it. Paul is writing about a philosophy like Stoicism, not a specific religion, such as Judaism. This is important to recognize, since in verse 16, Paul mentions the Sabbath and holy days, and it is commonly assumed that Paul condemns their observance. Yet, he does not - he warns against a philosophy that disparaged the feasting and joyous observance of the Sabbath and holy days. This is why Paul tells the Colossians to "let no one judge you" with regard to eating, drinking, or observing the weekly and annual Sabbaths - rather than what is commonly read into Colossians 2:16: "There is no reason to keep the Sabbath or holy days." Christians in Colossae were being pressured by the ascetic society around them, which would have looked down on their feasting.
This is confirmed in the rest of Colossians 2, which deals primarily with asceticism (see especially Colossians 2:21-23). Some branches of Gnosticism adhered to asceticism as a way to free the eternal spirit by living regimented, plain, and insular lives. (Conversely, some Gnostics went to the other extreme - practicing hedonism - believing that what they did with their bodies did not make any difference since only spirit mattered.)
Paul says that this philosophy and its associated doctrines were plausible, but they were not based on solid arguments. He calls them "vain deceit" (KJV) or "empty deceit" (NKJV). They may sound good, depending upon one's inclination, but they endanger church members. The apostle writes that they would be "spoiled" (KJV), which does not necessarily mean being "corrupted," but rather of being "plundered," hence the NKJV's use of "cheated." This empty philosophy would rob or cheat them of their faith, their hope, their understanding of God, their relationship with God, their vision, and the purpose that God is working out. Once introduced, it would begin to steal away all of their true, spiritual riches.
Paul also provides two possible sources of this unsteady philosophy: "the traditions of men" and the "rudiments of the world." Examining the "rudiments of the world" first will help to explain the traditions of men. Other translations call them the "elements of the world," the "basic principles of the world," or "the powers of the world." In using this term, Paul is referring to the demonic powers that make this world, this cosmos,what it is. The source of this philosophy of salvation through special knowledge is Satan and the demons.
This explains why, when we read the histories of various religions and their branches, the same patterns arise time and again. Man does not have it within himself to pass along accurately and dependably ideas that go back to the very beginning. With an incessant drumming, the powers of the world keep prompting men and women in the same vain deceits that directly contradict the truth about God and His purpose for mankind.
Humans certainly play a role in handing down these traditions. Sunday school teachers and theologians perpetuate the Gnostic myths of the immortality of the soul, of eternal consciousness, of progressive revelation, of each person having a spark of goodness within that just needs to be fanned into a flame, and of each soul or spirit existing before in heaven and returning there upon death. Men pass these traditions on to other men, but the powers of the spirit world keep these messengers on their track and blinded to the truth.
The last phrase in Colossians 2:8 - "not according to Christ" - is a simple one, but it encapsulates what this is all about. Not a single branch of Gnosticism had the truth about Jesus Christ. That knowledge can be found only in God's Word.
David C. Grabbe
Whatever Happened to Gnosticism? Part Two: Defining Gnosticism
They know God's awesome power, and they, unlike man, tremble! Maybe a better English word would be shudder. They recognize His power and are terrified at the thought of God. They are thoroughly convicted that God is!
This verse helps us to understand that saving faith is not the intellectual acceptance of a theological proposition, that is, that God is, but rather a belief that expresses itself outwardly in a changed life. The demons believe. They tremble in fear, but they will not obey God. We, too, can believe that God is—we can give intellectual assent to a theological proposition: "Yes I believe that God is." But we may not even shudder, and most assuredly, most of mankind will not submit.
The faith that saves is one that not only believes that God is, but also changes a person's life according to that belief. That is saving faith. If we believe that God is, that puts us only on the same level as the demons.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 1)
1 Peter 3:18-20
This passage in I Peter 3, particularly verses 19-20, is quite difficult to translate from Greek to English. This is so because each of the nine Greek words in verse 19 can be translated in various shades of meaning, making interpretation tricky. We probably do best by translating them in their most basic meanings, thus: "in which also He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison . . ." (author's paraphrase).
The "which" ("whom" in NKJV) in verse 19 probably refers back to "Spirit," its closest antecedent, in verse 18, suggesting that Jesus was no longer in the flesh but by this time had been changed into spirit. This follows the historical chain of events in order from the preceding verse: He suffered, died, was resurrected, and was thus changed to spirit, leading to the next key words, "He went."
What happened next in the gospel record after His resurrection to spirit? What did Jesus do after arising from the dead? Some might suggest that He revealed Himself to His disciples, which He did, but not by any stretch of meaning could it be described as going and proclaiming to imprisoned spirits! No, John tells us through the words of Jesus Himself to Mary Magdalene what the next momentous occurrence was: "[G]o to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God'" (John 20:17). When Jesus "went," He ascended in glory to the right hand of the Father in heaven!
At this point, we will skip to the phrase "spirits in prison." First, let us note that the Bible does not refer to human beings who have died as being imprisoned in any way, not even those who have rebelled against and rejected God. They may be said to be "destroyed" or "killed" or "cut off" or sent to "Sheol," which is a pit or grave, but they are never imprisoned. As we saw, humans who die return to the dust of which they are made (see also Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:19-20).
However, the Bible speaks in several places about spirit beings - angels or demons - being imprisoned (see II Peter 2:4-5, where Peter again refers to Noah's time; Jude 6; and Revelation 20:1-3, 7). Rebellious angels, unlike mortal humans, must be imprisoned because angels or demons, being composed of spirit, do not die as humans do. The "angels who sinned," Peter and Jude say, were cast down to Tartarus ("a place of restraint," a prison) where they are bound until God judges them. This Tartarus, this "hell" where the demons are restrained, is none other than their "first estate," their "proper domain," earth (see Ezekiel 28:17; Revelation 12:7-9)!
Second, Peter's use of "spirits" is consistent with its use in the gospels (see, for instance, Matthew 8:16; 12:45; Mark 3:11; 5:13; 6:7; Luke 11:26; etc.). In the gospels, "spirits" consistently denotes "evil spirits," "demons," "wicked spirits." It is highly likely that Peter refers to demons in I Peter 3:19.
This is confirmed by the first phrase of verse 20, "who formerly were disobedient" (NKJV) or "who disobeyed long ago" (New International Version, [NIV]). Peter is speaking of a time in deep antiquity, a time before the Flood. Perhaps he does not intend us to think of Satan's original sin of rebellion against God (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28), although it may be included, but specifically of the demons' corruption of mankind between the Creation and the Flood.
This would explain his time marker in the next phrase, "when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built" (NIV). In Satan's sin, only the demons themselves were affected, but when they corrupted mankind, human beings who were potential sons of God were affected. Once men and women began sinning under the influence of Satan and his demon horde, the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ became necessary.
Peter's point, then, is that, though the wicked spirits seemed to be so successful in corrupting mankind, God patiently waited during Noah's 120-year ministry to save only eight people by bringing them through the Flood, delivering them through a kind of baptism. The demons had failed to destroy mankind. So also, by having Jesus crucified, the demons thought again they had won, but through the resurrection, Jesus had the victory instead. Baptism is a type of this same victory, as it is a symbolic death of the old, wicked man and of his resurrection to newness of life (see Romans 6:4).
This brings us back to the word in I Peter 3:19 that we skipped: "proclaimed" (or in many Bibles, "preached"). Most objective commentaries will note that this word in the Greek (ekêruxen from kêrússô) means in general "to be a herald," "to proclaim," "to announce," "to publish," "to preach." Although it can be used as such, it does not necessarily mean "to preach the gospel to" or "to preach salvation to." Because Peter does not specify what Jesus "proclaimed" or "announced," to assume the preaching of the gospel is not warranted. The only clue we have of what He proclaimed appears in the immediate context: that He was "made alive by the Spirit."
If this is the case, verse 19 says simply that, after Jesus was resurrected, He ascended to heaven, proclaiming to the imprisoned evil spirits that He lived! The demons, once again, had failed!
Verse 22 backs this interpretation: "who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to him." This agrees with many scriptures that speak of His exaltation over all things, for instance, Philippians 2:9-10: "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth." Jesus' ascension to the throne of God proclaimed His victory over death and over Satan and his demons!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jesus and 'the Spirits in Prison'
1 Peter 5:8
The great deceiver, more often than not, works under cover of darkness. As a skilled and experienced hunter, he patiently stalks his prey, invisible to them (invisible is about as camouflaged as one can get!). His night vision is acute, his senses much sharper than ours. He sees us when we do not even know he is there!
Even now, he is stalking us.
Lifted up in their pride, he and his demons had the gall to hunt God's throne, but they were soundly routed (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:16-17; Luke 10:18). Now, as our adversaries, they hunt God's people, trying to pick off the weak, the ailing, and those who have grown weary and dropped back from the herd. He is always looking for a way to maneuver us into a position by ourselves where he can leap out of nowhere to maul us. Once he attacks, he causes great pain—but he does not go immediately for the kill. He pins us down and wounds us first. Even while in his grasp, though, we can call out for help. "The LORD is near to all who call upon him, . . . He also hears their cry, and saves them" (Psalm 145:18-19, RSV).
Stalked by Satan
1 Peter 5:8-9
Satan is a formidable enemy, to be sure, but in a personal sense, he is not as directly dangerous to us as the world or our own human nature. The chances of his confronting us individually are small in comparison to the influences of our ever-present hearts and the world in which we conduct our lives. Certainly, as our Adversary, he "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8), but unlike God, he is not omniscient. While he can be only at one place at one time, he has many assistants.
We are far more likely to be confronted by one of his demon assistants than the Adversary himself, which is bad enough. However, he and his demons have constructed attitudes, institutions, systems, and entertainments into the course of this world, which they effectively use against us, even when they are absent from the scene. Most of their evil influence comes from the system.
We need to remember, though, that God has put a wall of protection around us, so demons can go only so far in their attempts to corrupt us and destroy our loyalty to God and His truth (Job 1:6-10). Their major responsibility before God at this time appears to be to provide tests for us to meet and overcome, in the same way God used Satan to test Job and to tempt Christ (Matthew 4; Luke 4). In this respect, they play a large role in helping us to recognize evil.
God gives us advice regarding them in I Peter 5:8-9: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." In essence, His advice is, "Be self-controlled, be alert, and resist him!" Peter's first term, "be sober," urges us not to let fear of him fluster us to the point that we cannot think clearly. The second term, "be vigilant," charges us to be fully awake, to set ourselves in a state of watchfulness and readiness. The third term, "resist him," is a command not to turn and run but to stand firm.
This instruction lets us know that Satan is not all-powerful. With the protections God provides, including His continuous presence and alert regard for His children, Satan can be beaten. The same Jesus who has already defeated Satan is on His throne, overseeing our well-being. His protection is not something we flaunt, but is power we can rely on.
James 4:7 adds additional advice: "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Again, the charge is to resist, but it is directly coupled with submission to God. Submission is the voluntarily act of placing oneself under the authority of another to show respect and give obedience. If we submit to God, Satan will flee.
Ephesians 6:11 parallels the other two instructions. "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." "Stand against" is yet another way of saying "resist him." "Stand" in the Greek indicates that one must hold fast a critical position as an army must do in warfare. However, it is not a passive term, describing something like an unmoving brick wall, but an aggressive, attacking term. In other words, we are to hold the ground we have already gained by going forward.
How, then, do we resist? How do we hold our ground by going on the offensive? We must return in thought to I Peter 5:9, where the first phrase is better translated as, "Resist him, standing firm [or solid] in the faith." Putting this into military terms, a soldier would be likely commanded, "Do not surrender! Do not give up any ground! Do not back down! Move forward with all you've got! Reinforcements are right behind you."
We have the God-backed promise that Satan will flee! Who can resist God's will? The key words here are "standing firm" and "faith." "Standing firm" or "solid" is used in the sense of "unmovable." When linked with faith in practical terms, it means we are absolutely sure or immovably convicted in the face of a strong test.
Overall, the apostles' instruction suggests that what we experience vis-à-vis Satan is common to this way of life. Their advice does not say that he will flee immediately, but flee he will. As used here, "faith" can be understood as either a personal trust in God or confidence in Christian doctrine, as either one fits the context. Ultimately, if we use our relationship with God properly, the confidence in Christian doctrine becomes trust in God Himself.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)
Find more Bible verses about Demons:
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