The Doctrine of Creation (part 23)January 30, 2009 Time: 00:49:08
SummaryAngels and Demons continued. The study continues at minute 2:54.
I forgot to mention that next Sunday is a significant date for the class because August 13 is the date that we are going to be launching the new ministry Reasonable Faith which many of the class members are either volunteers with or on the board of. This is going to be an extension in a sense of the ministry that Jan and I are involved in in order to have an even broader and more visible impact on American society and on university environments. So next week I’d encourage you to come. We are going to be sharing a Power Point presentation, taking questions, and explaining how you can be involved in helping to launch Reasonable Faith. I hope that you will be talking with your spouse or thinking about how you might be involved in the launch of this new ministry outreach. That is what we will be doing next week.
We want to look now at the nature of these demonic beings. You will remember last week we talked about the origin of Satan and the demons and said that although Scripture is very ambiguous about this it made sense and there is suggested in the Scripture the notion that God originally created these angelic powers and creatures and that some of them through sin fell away and became irrevocably separated from God relationally and opposed to him and to his work. These are beings that we now call demons led by the prince of demons who is called Satan.
Let’s say something more about their nature. Obviously if these are angelic beings then they will share many of the characteristics of angels. So, for example, the Scripture affirms that they are spirits. These are not physical beings. We shouldn’t think of the devil or demons as cartoon figures with a forked tail and cloven hooves and a pitchfork. Those kind of medieval caricatures do a disservice to the greatness and the power of Satan and these beings. But they are, rather, spirit beings – unembodied spirit beings.
Matthew 8:16. If you have your New Testament, we are going to be looking up a lot of verses, so I would encourage you to get it out and look up these passages with me. Matthew 8:16: “That evening they brought to him [Jesus] many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick.” Here they are specifically referred to as spirits which had possessed these people.
Also, Luke 10:17-20. This is the report of the seventy after they’ve gone out on their mission preaching. They say,
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Here Jesus himself refers to these demonic creatures as spirits.
Finally, Revelation 16:14, talking about these curses at the end times: “for 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.” There they are referred to as demonic spirits. These are unembodied spiritual beings akin to angels.
Secondly, they have, therefore, intelligence. They are minds. They have intelligence. Acts 16:16-18. This is an interesting story of Paul’s ministry in Philippi where they are dogged by a young girl who has a spirit of divination – of clairvoyance or foretelling the future. It says,
As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. She followed Paul and us, crying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
Here we see not only that she was possessed by this spiritual being, but this spirit being had enormous intelligence. It had some sort of clairvoyant or prophetic powers to be able to divine things that would not be normally known by human intelligence.
Also 2 Corinthians 11:3,13-16. Paul says, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” There he expresses how cunning the serpent is in his temptation. Then in verse 13 he says, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” Here in chapter 11 we see the cunning and the deceitfulness of Satan referred to. He is a formidable foe because he will even appear under the guise of an angel of righteousness. So again it shows the intelligence of Satan and these demonic beings by their cunning and deceitfulness.
Finally, Revelation 12:9. It says, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” There you have a powerful title for Satan: the deceiver of the whole world. This again shows his cunning and intelligence.
So we must not underestimate our enemy. These beings are of enormous intelligence and cunning.
Thirdly, the are malevolent. Matthew 12:43-45. Jesus is speaking and he says,
When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. So shall it be also with this evil generation.
Here he describes someone who has apparently undergone an exorcism and had the demonic spirit cast out, but the spirit then returns bringing others with him more evil than himself and they repossess this person. His end is worse than it was to begin with. I think this shows the malevolence of these creatures that they would be so bent on destruction of an individual human being as to do this to someone. It shows how malevolent and evil they are that they would be bent on the destruction of a human person in this way.
Mark 1:27 says, “And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’” Here is the notion of their being unclean – they are not righteous before God, rather these are unclean spirits. Also, of course, the context there is that they have possessed this man – they said he is a man with an unclean spirit – and if you look in, for example, verse 26 what it does to this man: “The unclean spirit convulsing him and crying with a loud voice came out of him.” This is something that was a horrible state for this person to be in that was destroying him.
Also over in Mark 3:11 we have the same thing just reiterated. “And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’” Again, there the description of them is unclean spirits – that is what I wanted to focus on. Acts 8:7 has the same thing: “For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.”
Also, 1 John 3:8 says, “He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” There, again, it associates the devil with this inherent sinfulness right from the start of creation. He has been in sin.
Back in the Gospel of John, John 17:15, “I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one.” Here one of the names of Satan is “the evil one.” In fact, in the Lord’s Prayer, if you look at Matthew 6:13 this can be variously translated - “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” That can also be translated “deliver us from the evil one” which may be Jesus’ meaning. Here Satan is referred to as “the evil one.” That is one of his titles. That speaks of his malevolence and evil and sinfulness.
Next, demons (like angels) also form spiritual or supernatural dominions – various ranks and powers. We have this referred to in Ephesians 6:12 where Paul talks about our Christian struggle. He says, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” There Paul refers to these principalities and powers, spiritual dominions as it were, which are controlled by Satan and against which we struggle.
Dr. Craig: I don’t know what he says about that, frankly. I haven’t read that part of the Summa to know what Aquinas says about the ranks of angels. But as we indicated in our previous lesson on angels there certainly is biblical basis for thinking that the angels do have ranks. Michael, for example, is called an archangel. There are others that are simply angels. We saw examples of where angels were invested with different degrees of authority and power so that there definitely seems to be a hierarchy. With regard to Satan, there is clearly a hierarchy in the sense that he is the prince of demons, he is clearly in charge. There is no equal to him among these demonic hordes. They serve him. Here we see, as I say, reference in Ephesians to these spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places that form principalities and powers. So I think both among angels and demons you do have hierarchical orderings.
Jude 8-10 also indicates this. This is a story we read before. It talks about these apostates against whom Jude is writing. He says,
Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these men revile whatever they do not understand, and by those things that they know by instinct as irrational animals do, they are destroyed.
Here he actually rebukes these non-Christian apostate people because they don’t have sufficient respect for these demonic beings. He contrasts that with Michael who didn’t dare to rebuke Satan himself but said “The Lord rebuke you!” He said these foolish people revile what they don’t understand. They treat this trivially when in fact they ought to be (I think he would agree) in fear and trembling before such demonic creatures. Which again shows we must not caricature Satan and demons as these sort of red creatures with pitchforks and horns and things like that. As an aside, I thought that was one of the disservices of Frank Peretti’s book This Present Darkness. When I read the description of the demons in there it reminded me of Beastly in the Care Bears cartoons. I don’t know if any of you have young children, but it is kind of clattering up the sidewalk with his clawed bat wings and things. That is not what these beings are like. These are to be taken much more seriously than that.
Finally, 1 John 5:19 sort of sums it up. This is such a sobering verse: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.” Remember we saw that Satan is called “the ruler of this world.” He is in charge of this world. That is not to deny God’s sovereignty, of course, over everything. But still it does show that the world as we live in it is something that is under the control and the rulership of Satan. It is no wonder that bad things happen to good people. It is no wonder that you see wars and evil and suffering and destruction. We are living behind enemy lines, and we shouldn’t expect life to be a bed of roses. It is not like that. This is warfare, and we are living in occupied territory. It is not to be surprised at, I think, when we see terrible things happen and awful suffering occur in this world, because it is under the control of Satan.
The next point: these demons know their own end. They know that they are defeated. They know what is coming to them. Matthew 8:29. This is an exorcism that Jesus is about to perform on two demoniacs. It says, “And behold, they cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’” They know their end. They know what they are destined to. They say to Jesus, “Have you come here to torment us before the judgment day when we will get what’s coming to us?” They know their end. They know they are defeated.
Also Matthew 25:41. This is the great judgment scene of Christ on the judgment throne. Christ says from the throne, “Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” The eternal fire into which those who have disbelieved in Christ and rejected him are thrown wasn’t prepared for them. In that sense hell is a foreign place for human beings. It wasn’t prepared for them. Human beings ought not to be there. They are there only because of their irrevocable rejection of God and his plan for them. But it is not for them. It says that this eternal fire is prepared for the devil and his angels. And they know it. They know their end.
Next point: these beings are also endowed with supernatural strength. Mark 5:1-4 gives a good example. This is the story of the exorcism of the Gerasene Demoniac.
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.
This man possessed by these demonic creatures had a supernatural strength such that he was uncontrollable by human means.
Another example would be Acts 19:13-16. This is an almost humorous story in the book of Acts when some Jewish exorcists, seeing the success of the apostles in exorcising demons, attempt to imitate them by invoking the name of Jesus as though it was a sort of magic formula by which to exorcise these demons. It says,
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” [Not the Jesus that they know, but we are commanding you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!] Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Here he overcomes all seven of these Jewish exorcists and leaves them naked and bleeding, running out of the house. Again, it just illustrates the kind of supernatural strength that these demonic beings can give to a person once they take possession of that person and inhabit him and make their home there.
Finally, they must submit to Jesus’ name. Mark 5:7-13. This is the continuation of the story of the exorcism of the demoniac that had the supernatural strength. It describes him saying,
and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” And he begged him eagerly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; and they begged him, “Send us to the swine, let us enter them.” So he gave them leave. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.
Here you have this very typical encounter between Jesus and this demonic being where, in Jewish thinking, to know a person’s name is to have power over that person. So the spirit tries to do this with Jesus. He says, “What have you to do with me, Jesus Son of the Most High God?” He names Jesus attempting to exert power because Jesus had said to him “Come out you unclean spirit.” Jesus at first didn’t use his name, but then Jesus asks, “What is your name?” Now he reveals his name, and you find out there is not one demon here but there is hundreds, maybe thousands. Two thousand swine rush down the hill. This man was inhabited by a horde of these demonic creatures. Once Jesus knows their name then they are under his authority and he is able to cast them out.
Look also over at Luke 10:17. This again is from the mission of the seventy. “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’” Here we want to highlight the phrase “in your name.” It was through the name of Jesus that they were able to cast out these demons.
Then, once again, just to hit that Acts passage, Act 19:13-15, we saw there remember that the Jewish exorcists tried to do this through the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches. There was something about the name of Jesus that they recognized as being powerful. We don’t need to read the passage again but it was through the name of Jesus that they were casting out these demons. That is why they tried to pronounce his name over them. But of course they didn’t have the power of the Spirit of the God working with them. For them it was just like a magic formula or incantation. So it wasn’t just the verbalization of the name Jesus. To do it in the name of Jesus means to do it in the power of Jesus and the power of Christ. Obviously these Jewish exorcists didn’t have that power.
Dr. Craig: I don’t think so. Because these are spiritual beings. So they wouldn’t be destroyed when the body that they inhabit is destroyed. This is just my view but I think that the demons had no idea that being cast into the swine would cause them to perish. I think Mark and his readers probably smile when they read this story that Jesus has outfoxed the demons, in a sense, by sending them into these swine which then go mad. They go insane and rush down the bank into the sea and are drowned. Ultimately Jesus outsmarts them; he tricks them in a sense. That is the way I read the story. Of course, it is also interesting to notice that swine are, in Jewish religion, unclean animals. Jewish people wouldn’t herd swine. There wouldn’t be swine herds because these are not to be used for meat and to eat. So he sends them into these animals and they are destroyed.
Dr. Craig: I don’t know. This is the big question. When we see cases of severe mental illness, is it insanity or is it demonic possession? I think that part of the clue to demonic possession would be persons who have been fiddling around with the occult and thereby have opened a window for these demons to come into their lives. I don’t think that, as long as you stay away from occult activities or demonic sorts of activities, any of us need to be worried about, “What if some demon should take possession of me?” It would only happen, I think, through someone beginning to dabble in the dark arts so to speak. I don’t know if Andrea Yates had any kind of association with that or whether she was pathetically schizophrenic. There are mental illnesses that are not demonic. I don’t know enough about that case to judge. One very interesting film on a similar case was, if you've seen it, it is called The Exorcism of Emily Rose. This movie was actually made by a Biola University grad. It is made by Christians. It relates a true story that happened in Germany, but the movie resets it in the United States. A priest is called in to do an exorcism on a young girl who appears to be demonically possessed by several demons, but he is unsuccessful and she kills herself. He is tried for negligent homicide because he tried exorcism rather than allowing medical practices to take place. The whole movie is a debate on that subject: is this mere insanity or is this actual demonic possession? The movie leaves that question open at the end. It leaves it to the viewer to decide, but it is very thought-provoking.
Dr. Craig: The Catholic Church has official exorcists, and they’ve developed, as you say, a procedure for doing this. But this would be something that would grow out of church practice rather than something that is right, as you say, in the New Testament. I think you are right in saying that although you have cases of satanic oppression and perhaps possession in the Old Testament (one thinks of the spirit that troubled Saul, for example, as well as the suffering that Job experienced, though that wasn’t possession, it was a satanic attack) there does seem to be a sort of outbreak of this in an unusual way that is associated with the advent of Jesus. I think it is not at all implausible to think that just as Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness for forty days, that there was this tremendous onslaught of spiritual warfare going on during the period of his incarnation. It is the same with miracles. You really don’t see all that many miracles in the Old Testament. They are clustered around these great redemptive events like the Exodus, and then also the ministry of Elijah and Elisha. But then there are hundreds of years that go by with no miracles. Then all of a sudden in the ministry of Jesus you have this outbreak of miracles again. I think it is, again, part of the advent of Christ into the world that it would be accompanied with this tremendous spiritual warfare, both on the part of Jesus in miracles and signs of the in-breaking of the Kingdom, but then also tremendous opposition to the Kingdom in demonic possession.
Dr. Craig: No. That is right. As I say, it may be that during the lifetime of Christ, during his earthly sojourn, that there was a kind of extra-heightened eruption of demonic possession and so forth. You hear from missionaries about how this still goes on a lot in the third world where dark arts and occult practices take place. One will hear stories of that sort. But I suspect that in our Western culture the way in which demons get the victory over us is much more through things like materialism, consumerism, narcissism, and things of that sort than by possessing people in the way that we see described here. He is cunning, and he will conduct his warfare in the ways that will be the most effective. Certainly he has been effective in, say, Europe and in North America in hindering the work of the Kingdom of God. So it may be that the kinds of demonic possessions that we have here described could be more frequent in areas where you have paganism that is involved in the worship of demons and opens the door to demonic activity. Paul says to the Corinthians that he doesn’t want them to go to the pagan temples and eat the sacrifices there because he says what the pagans offer they offer to demons and not to God. So Paul thinks of these pagan deities as, in fact, demonic sorts of creatures, and he wants Christians to shun these and to keep away from them. So it wouldn’t be surprising if in places in the world today where paganism is more rife that you might not have perhaps this kind of demonic activity more overt.
Dr. Craig: This is a real controversial question: whether or not a Christian can be possessed by a demon.
Dr. Craig: Oh. I think certainly. I think that is on the right track – there needs to be some sort of opening of the door to these spiritual powers, either consciously (as you suggest) or maybe naively by participating in dark arts and things of that sort that will open the door unknowingly to what is beyond there. Maybe a fascination with the occult or something?
Dr. Craig: I am not familiar with that passage in the book of Enoch. What you are referring to here is part of what is called the pseudepigrapha, which are intertestamental writings or sometimes contemporaneous with the New Testament, which are Jewish writings that aren’t in the Old Testament. They are non-canonical Jewish writings. These can be very, very interesting to give us a kind of insight into the religious thought of people during the day. The Nephilim that you are talking about are these people referred to in Genesis where it says that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were desirable and they came down and mated with them and sired this race of offspring. I never heard this before that these evil spirits were thought to be these Nephilim now still roaming the Earth. I think in a couple of the passages we read it was clear that they were referred to as demonic spirits. I don’t find that attitude in the New Testament. In the New Testament these seem to be demonic beings and not sort of spirits left over from these early giants.
Dr. Craig: Yes. Absolutely. As we will see when we get to the next section on the work of Satan, one of the tasks or one of the activities of Satan is to try to tempt the believer, to try to destroy God’s work in his life, to try to destroy him. That is why I emphasized how malevolent these creatures are. They hate you intensely and will do everything in their power to destroy you. Certainly there is that kind (as you put it) of oppression. But that is very different from someone who allows this demon to actually get into his body and take over control and become possessed by a demon in the way that the Christian is to be possessed by the Holy Spirit. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be controlled and empowered by him. That is why I say it is controversial whether or not a Christian (who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit) could possibly be possessed by a demon. Some would say no, but many others who have first-hand experience in exorcisms and dealing with the occult will say most certainly yes this happens. They see it. I simply maintain a sort of open mind about this. I think we can all agree that Christians can certainly be oppressed by demonic spirits, if not possessed by them.
Dr. Craig: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Yeah. Certainly there is an emphasis there on asking for God to protect you and to keep you from the devices of the evil one who would destroy you and tempt you. I think of the verse in James where he says God tempts no one. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’ . . . because God tempts no one.” But he says each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. It is those evil desires that Satan can quicken and use to try to tempt us to do things that are wrong or not the best. We are to pray for deliverance from temptation.
Dr. Craig: What was it about Screwtape Letters that you found particularly helpful or insightful?
Dr. Craig: It shows that the ways in which Satan can get the best of us doesn’t necessarily involve the kinds of possession that we’ve seen here, but it can be attitudinal, getting us to do other things that would be prideful perhaps or inappropriate.
Dr. Craig: That is the argument. I think that is a powerful argument, I think.
Dr. Craig: This is a question that folks often ask, and it is hard to know how to answer it. His question was: is there any evidence in Scripture that Satan can put a thought in our minds or read our minds? I am not sure how to answer that. You have the example here of this slave girl, for example, who had this spirit of divination that had possessed her and was able to do things through her. But does that mean that Satan external to me (I am not possessed by a demon) can he read my mind and know what I am thinking? I am not sure that he can. Perhaps the best way to think that he could would be to say that because these angels and demons are pure minds (they have no bodies inherent to them though they could take on a bodily form) the only way that they could communicate amongst themselves would be telepathically (by mental telepathy). If that is the case then maybe they would be able to read our minds and communicate a thought to us in that way in virtue of their being unembodied minds who normally act in that way. But I can’t think of a sort of scriptural text that would support that. Can anybody? On that same point, does anybody have anything? Did you want to address that point?
Dr. Craig: You can deceive someone without putting a thought in their mind in the way that this gentleman was describing. They could observe our external behavior and see that we intend to, say, share the Gospel with our neighbor, so they cause things to happen that will divert us from sharing with our neighbor and so forth. I could see how demons could do their work of deception and temptation and all of that without being clairvoyant, but they would be a lot more powerful and serious if they did have these kind of clairvoyant powers, wouldn’t they? Because then they would know exactly what you are thinking and they would know your inner thought life which would be even more scary.
Dr. Craig: Yeah, that’s right. Or he is called that. It is not like a proper name. It is more like a title that Scripture gives to him.
Dr. Craig: I think not. We talked about this – was it last week? - where we looked at the passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel where you have these taunts that are given against the king of Babylon and given against the king of Tyre (which is the city, of course, that has been in the news lately as Israel has been shelling Tyre). Some people have tried to say this is not just applicable to those earthly kings, but that they are talking about Satan himself. But I don’t see any basis in the text for saying that. I am very cautious about misusing those texts to say things that the author didn’t intend them to say.
Dr. Craig: I think they are the same individual. The first part of this section dealt with the various names given to Satan in the Old and New Testament. I think that was about three weeks ago. We had a whole lesson on these various names. Beelzebul is certainly a biblical name that is given to Satan, as well as adversary, the god of this world, the serpent, and so forth. I am skeptical that Lucifer is a biblical title given to Satan. That is something that the church picked up on the basis of Isaiah 14 and then began to call Satan Lucifer, or Day Star. But originally, as you say, it seemed to have been a title that was given to the king of Babylon.
Dr. Craig: I don’t think that we should think that that is Satan because he also refers to the prince of Greece in that same passage. I take it that those are referring to these demonic hierarchies that are somehow intimately connected with the fate of those nations. It seemed that Greece had one associated with it. So did Persia. We can well imagine that other countries did as well. So when there is conflict among nations in the world it may also be going on on this spiritual level.
Next time we will talk about the work of Satan and the destiny of demons and how we should then respond in light of this knowledge. Next week be sure to come back. We’ll be launching Reasonable Faith next week as well as continuing our lesson and taking any questions you might have.
 Total Running Time: 49:08 (Copyright © 2009 William Lane Craig)