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.
In yesterday’s post, I examined nine biblical realities about demons. Today I take up nine more biblical realities about demons from Scripture, though there are far more.
10. Demons can physically assault people
There are examples of demons causing physical ailments such as blindness, muteness, and epileptic episodes (Matt. 9:32-34; 12:22-24; Luke 9:39; 11:14-15). Jesus did heal those who were blind or mute who were not possessed by demons. All cases of physical affliction do not result from demonic influence, though it is possible that some do.
11. Demons inspire false wisdom
14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic (Jam. 3:14-15).
12. Demons energize all non-Christian religions
False worship is equivalent to demon worship, since falsehood is the M.O. of Satan and demons. Paul warned the Corinthian believers, “I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons” (1 Cor. 10:20)
13. Demons may have been partially responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus
6Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.7But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:6-8).
The interpretation of this verse lies in the phrase “rulers of this age.” Is Paul referring to human rulers like Herod and Pilate, or could he be referring to demons as well? Paul uses “ruler” to speak of both Satan and human rulers in his writing (see Eph. 2:2 and Rom. 13:3). Also, it is worth noting that the Greek verb katargeo (“doomed to pass away”) is key in understanding this passage. This same verb is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:24 to refer to Christ’s ultimate defeat of the principalities and powers, which is language for evil spiritual forces like demons.
So, while Paul could have solely been referring to rulers like Herod and Pilate, it is possible that he was referring to demonic rulers. Hence, it is possible that demons worked to crucify Jesus in ignorance of what his death meant for their future. I tend to lean toward this interpretation of this passage because of the phrase “doomed to pass away.”
14. Demons oppose and try to destroy every work of God
We see this in the initial temptation of Adam and Eve from Satan (Gen. 3:1-6). We also see demonic opposition to God’s work in this world in the temptation of Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11). How fitting is it that Satan tries to attack God’s work to fill the earth with his glory in the temptation of the first man and the God-man. Praise God that the second Adam resisted and fulfilled God’s purposes for man.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
The primary work of Satan is to destroy God’s work and to seduce mankind to join in this cosmic rebellion (Matt. 16:23; Gal. 4:8; Rev. 12:9).
15. Demons have limited power
Make no mistake, demons clearly have power. But this power is limited by God. Satan had to ask God permission to afflict Job and Satan’s power was extended as far as the hand of the Lord allowed (Job 1:12; 2:6). The power of demons is also limited by their rebellion against God. They do not possess the same power they once did as holy angels. Sin has weakened them. Demons cannot read your mind or know the future (Isa. 46:9-10).
How would you then explain this to someone experiencing the influence of witch doctors and fortune tellers who claim demonic forces give them the ability to read your mind or see into your future? For example, how would a witch doctor or fortune-teller accurately know what you ate for breakfast this morning?
The power of demons is limited to observation and gaining insight. Demons can observe what we do and they have insight into what happens in the world, but they do not even begin to approach omnisciency.
16. Demons are subject to the will of God
This is similar to the previous point and is brought out primarily in Job 1-2. Demons fear God and shudder at the presence and power of Christ. They are not countering God’s moves, but rather are used by God for his glory. Demons cannot escape the will of God, which includes their ultimate defeat and destruction.
17. Demons can have influence on human sin
This is totally compatible with the fact that humans are still fully responsible for their sin. For an example of this, check out 1 Samuel 24:16-21 as it connects with Saul’s confession in 1 Samuel 26:21.
18. Demons are conquered in the cross of Christ
Pastor and author Sam Storms writes,
The defeat of the hosts of hell does not come by our efforts or energetic shouting or wild gesturing, or by turning up the volume when we worship, as if demonic spirits cannot tolerate loud music! (Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions, 165)
It is only through the demon-defeating work of Christ that demonic rulers and authorities are disarmed, shamed, and triumphed (Col. 2:15). Satan and his demons are very real and they carry power with a vile motive to destroy the work of God. Oh, but in the cross of Christ we have a victor who is far greater than any demonic power. Demons cower in the presence of Christ and are defeated in the cross of Christ.
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.