Who are demons? Do they really exist? What are they like? What do they do? Should we fear them? Should we care about them at all? How should we respond to demons? These questions and more will be answered in this three day series on what the Bible teaches about demons.
With all of the evil in our world, from time to time I will talk with people who blame things like mass murders, serial killers, ISIS, and other forms of terrorism on Satan, demons, or demonic possession. Sociopaths and psychopaths are often said to be demon-possessed. Some people see demons in everything. While I believe much of the evil in the world is the result of the depravity of man that resulted from the fall, totally neglecting the existence, presence, and activity of demons is just as bad as seeing demonic activity in everything.
So, what does the Bible teach about demons? With the help of various biblical scholars, I have observed 18 biblical realities about demons. I will take up nine of these realities in this post and will reveal the other nine tomorrow.
1. Demons exist and are real
Baptist theologian Wayne Grudem has written, “There is no reason to think that there is any less demonic activity in the world today than there was at the time of the New Testament” (Systematic Theology, 420).
Make no mistake, demons are very real. In fact, we are living in the same time period in God’s overall plan for history as those who wrote the New Testament (between the two Advents) and should gather information about demonic activity in our day by looking at the presence and activity of demons in their day. There are many examples in both the Old and New Testaments.
Old Testament Examples
- Demon worship was behind idol worship (Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:36-37)
- Demons were sent by God for specific purposes (1 Sam. 16:14-16, 23; 18:10; 19:9)
- Demons are under the dominion of God (Ps. 82)
- Demons will be eternally punished (Isa. 24:21-22; cf. 2 Pt. 2:4; Jude 6)
- Demons influenced men under the will of God. God used demonic forces for his glory (1 Kings 22:19-23; 2 Chron. 18:18-22; Job 1; Judg. 9:23)
New Testament Examples
- “Demon” is used 63 times (54 times in the Gospels).
- “Spirits” is used to describe demons (Lk. 10:17, 20)
- “Unclean spirits” is used 21 times (Lk. 11:19-26)
- “Evil spirits” is used 8 times in the Gospels and Acts (Lk. 8:2)
- “Angel” is used to describe demons as well (Matt. 25:41; 1 Pt. 3:22; Rev. 12:7)
The Bible clearly indicates that demons exist, are very real, and have specific purposes in the world; all under God’s sovereignty.
2. Demons are fallen angels
With the activity of the serpent in Genesis 3, we can safely assume that Satan rebelled against God and was followed by a band of angels who would then be referred to as demons.
How you are fallen from heaven,O Day Star, son of Dawn!How you are cut down to the ground,you who laid the nations low!13You said in your heart,‘I will ascend to heaven;above the stars of GodI will set my throne on high;I will sit on the mount of assemblyin the far reaches of the north;14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;I will make myself like the Most High.’15But you are brought down to Sheol,to the far reaches of the pit. (Isa. 14:12-15)
John Milton gives an imaginative look at what the initial angelic rebellion against God might have looked like in his classic work, Paradise Lost. You should check it out.
3. God created angels
God did not create demons in the sense that they were evil when he created them. Angelic beings became evil (and therefore demons) when they rebelled against their creator and God.
4. Demons probably have names
There is no evidence for this except for what we see in Luke 8:30, but we can safely assume that just as the angels have names (i.e. Michael and Gabriel) the demons have names as well.
5. Demons distort the truth
Satan and his host of demons blind the minds and hearts of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4). This is why John warns us to test the spirits and what separates these demonic spirits from the Holy Spirit is truth (1 John 4:1-6).
6. Demons have emotions
Demons experience a variety of feelings. Luke tells us the story of an unclean spirit that cried out to Jesus when he was calling him out of a man, “I beg you, do not torment me” (Lk. 8:28; cf. Jam. 2:19). Clearly, demons truly fear Jesus and his power over them.
7. Demons differ in their degree of strength and sinfulness
Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation” (Matt. 12:45, emphasis added).
8. Demons can appear in various forms, both spiritual and physical
13And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs.14For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty (Rev. 16:13-14).
Another point worth considering is that it is entirely within the realm of possibility that if elect angels can visit us without our knowing, then so can demons (Heb. 13:1-2).
9. Demons are not restricted by normal physical barriers
A legion of demons inhabited one man and later two thousand pigs (Mark 5:1-13). They can move swiftly through space unlike humans (Dan. 9:21-23; 10:10-14).
Part 2 to this post will be published tomorrow.
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.