The Doctrine of Creation (part 24)

February 07, 2009     Time: 00:39:31


Angels and Demons continued. The conclusion of the study of the Doctrine of Creation.

We are going to be wrapping up our lesson today on angels and demons. We’ve been looking at the doctrine of creation over the last several months and now come to the work of demons.

We’ve talked about the nature of demons. Now we want to talk about their work, that is to say, what do they do?

1. They are involved in tempting the servants of God.

[Opening prayer]

1 Thessalonians 3:5 says, “For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you and our labor should be in vain.” Paul was concerned that these converts in Thessalonia may have been tempted by Satan to apostatize, to abandon their faith and abandon Christ, and go back to their pagan ways. He refers to Satan as the tempter and refers to the work in tempting the saints.

Also 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul in the context says, “I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” Here he talks about how it is part of Satan’s scheme to take advantage of you and to overcome you and so to destroy you.

Finally, 1 Timothy 3:6-7. This is in giving the qualifications for someone to be an elder in the church. He says he must “not be a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” Here is speaks of Satan as laying snares for the saints of God like traps that they would fall into and be caught and made a prey of by Satan.

So one of the chief works of Satan and his cohorts is to tempt the servants of God, to catch them, to take advantage of them, to make a prey of them.

2. It is the work of Satan and demons to blind men’s eyes. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Paul writes, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Here the work of Satan is described not toward the believer but toward the unbeliever – those who are without the Gospel, who are perishing.[1] And he says Satan’s work is to blind the minds of unbelievers so that they don’t see the truth of the Gospel and come to be saved. So not only does Satan work to destroy those who are Christians, but he also tries to prevent people from becoming Christians by blinding them spiritually.

In 2 Timothy 2:25-26, talking about how the Lord’s servant must behave, he says, “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” Here, again, he is talking about unbelievers – people who are now in opposition to the Gospel. He characterizes them by saying they are deluded, they haven’t come to their senses, they are caught in the snare of Satan, and they are held captive by Satan to do his will. The hope here is that perhaps God will grant them repentance so that they might escape.

Again we see the activity of Satan and demonic beings with respect to the unbelievers – to hold them captive, to blind them, to keep them from repentance and from salvation.

3. Satan seeks to destroy the Word of God. Mark 4:15. This is the parable of the sower where you remember the sower throws some of the seed on the way. Some of it falls on the rocky ground, some of it falls on the shallow soil where it springs up but doesn’t have any root and dies, some is thrown into the good soil and bears fruit. In verse 15 in explaining the parable he says, “These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown [the seed of the Word is the Gospel]; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.” So one of the things that Satan seeks to do is to destroy the message of the Gospel; that is to say, the Word of God and to render it null and void by somehow removing that seed lest it bear fruit in the lives of those who hear the Gospel. When the Gospel is being preached Satan is also active to take away that Word so that it will be ineffectual.

4. Satan reigns in people’s hearts. In certain people Satan reigns in their hearts. John 13:27. This is the example of the betrayal of Judas during the Last Supper. Jesus gives to Judas a morsel of food thereby identifying him as the betrayer, and in John 13:27, “After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly.’” Here is a case where a man, Judas in this case, was actually possessed by Satan in his act of betrayal. Having chosen to betray Jesus Satan actually takes control of him which is certainly a frightening prospect.

Another example: Mark 1:32. This is when the crowds come to Jesus. “When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed.” Notice there is the distinction there in Scripture between those who were just sick and those who were demonically possessed.[2] Those who were demon-possessed weren’t just epileptics or had seizures or psychosomatic illnesses. These were distinct from the people who were ill. There was also this class of people who were actually possessed by demons.

Luke 9:42 is an example of a healing that Jesus is involved in. It says, “While he was still approaching, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father.” This would be just another example of someone who is literally demon-possessed. Of course there are lots of examples in the Gospels of exorcisms by Jesus of people who are demon-possessed. This would be one more activity of Satan in reigning in the hearts of certain people, taking possession of them.

5. Satan accuses believers. Revelation 12:10. John says, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.’” One of the activities of Satan that is described here is this constant accusation before God of the saints. You can imagine the kinds of accusations he might bring, like how unfaithful we are, how sinful we are, how much we disobey God, and other things that he might accuse us of before the throne. Fortunately we, of course, have an advocate with the Father in whose blood and whose righteous robes we stand completely forgiven and with the imputed righteousness of Christ. We will talk more about that when we get to the doctrine of salvation.

6. Satan harasses God’s servants. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18, Paul says, “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us.” Here Paul describes his desire to visit the church in Thessaloníki. He wanted to come back and encourage the congregation and see them face to face rather than just exchange letters but he said Satan thwarted his plans. While Paul, of course, isn’t possessed by demons or anything like that, nevertheless Satan tries to harass him, tries to frustrate him, by thwarting his plans and preventing them from coming to pass.

Also, 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.” Satan is on the prowl. He is harassing believers, trying to thwart the work of God in their lives, and to frustrate especially our efforts to do God’s will.

I think you can see that the work of Satan and demons is very multifaceted. As I said the other Sunday, it is clear that we are living behind enemy lines, and that we live in a universe or a world that is in the control of Satan and his hordes. We are at war. So when things go wrong in your life, when disaster and failure and problems enter into your life, don’t think that this is just always natural. There is an invisible supernatural battle going on as well that we need to be aware of. We never know how all of these things may fit in to the conflicts going on in the unseen world.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is a good point that you are making, I think. The way in which Satan, for example, could snatch the Word out of people’s hearts that has been sown will not be perhaps through occult practices or some overt demonic kind of thing.[3] It may be through the eroding acid of biblical criticism and secular presuppositions or overwhelming secularism that would be one way of snatching the Word out of people’s hearts when they hear it.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is a good point. Physical afflictions, even illnesses, could be something that Satan could cause.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I wouldn’t be afraid to talk about it, but it frankly doesn’t come up because when I am doing evangelism on a campus much more basic issues arise like “Does God exist?” or “Did Jesus exist?” or “Did he rise from the dead?” or things of that sort. It is pretty rare that someone would want to talk about angels and demons in an evangelistic context. Usually it doesn’t. But that is just a peculiarity of the kind of evangelism that I am involved in.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is, I think, a very good point. Remember a couple of Sundays ago we read the verse from Corinthians where Paul says that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it isn’t surprising that his servants might appear as messengers of light. It is not overt untruth, but subtle half-truths that can be even more dangerous because they are all the more subtle and therefore more easily believed by the uncritical. I think the prosperity gospel is a good example of that. I think that those people are preaching a different gospel frankly, not the Gospel of Christ.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: My personal experience – I think in academia that would certainly be true because the overwhelming view in academia is naturalism. Therefore the only sentient beings that exist are physical organisms. We would probably be about the highest that there are of these physical sentient organisms. There aren’t any non-physical conscious beings out there. But I don’t get the impression in popular culture that that is the case at all. On the contrary, when you look at movies today, it seems like the reality of the supernatural, and especially evil and demonic forces, is all the time in popular culture and movies. At least on the popular level I don’t think people are so hostile to the idea that there could be demonic beings.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is just my impression of where popular culture is.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I am not suggesting that our culture is in any way discerning in terms of discerning where Satan might be at work. But I was just thinking that it seems to me that in popular culture (films and so forth) the reality of demonic-type beings isn’t really denied. You find it affirmed all the time, it seems to me. In fact, some of these rock groups and so forth are overtly satanic. I take it that they are serious about that. Certainly they are not discerning in terms of finding the lines of influence. I think that is certainly true.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I couldn't agree more. I think you are absolutely right about that.


Let me go on to the next point, which is the destiny of the demons.

The first thing that we want to say is that they are defeated beings. John 12:31-32. Jesus says, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” So in the ministry, and especially the crucifixion and death of Christ, Satan is soundly defeated. He is destroyed. His work is destroyed. He is the defeated being.

Colossians 2:15, speaking of Christ and the crucifixion, Paul says, “When he disarmed the rulers and authorities he made a public display of them, having triumphing over them through him.”[4] This is speaking of the crucifixion as you see in verse 14. He has taken it out of the way having nailed it to the cross when he disarmed the principalities and authorities. The image here is of the Roman conquering general leading a train of defeated captives behind him. As he would come into Rome with these captives in his train publicly displaying for all to see the defeated captives of the opposing army. The picture here is that on the cross Christ has disarmed these principalities and powers and leads them, as it were, in his train as his defeated captives just as a Roman general would.

So in the crucifixion of Christ, that point at which Christ seemed the most defeated, the most beaten down, the lowest point, was actually the point of his greatest victory. This is the wonderful paradox of Christianity that it is in the lowest condescension and submission and seeming defeat that Christ actually is the conqueror and the one who triumphs over Satan, death, and hell in his victory on the cross.

Ultimately their destiny will be the lake of fire. Revelation 20:10 says, “the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are also, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” So there Satan and the demons will be ultimately destroyed and punished forever in the lake of fire.

We also have this mentioned by Jesus himself in Matthew 25:41 where he describes the great judgment scene before God. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.’” There is this final place of destruction where Satan will be removed from the world, removed from all influence upon others, and he and his cohorts will be cast into this place that is described as this eternal lake of fire where they will be tormented forever, and their influence will come to an end.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I have to say that I am not a student of the book of Revelation. I prefer not to take a sort of position on the identity of the beast and the false prophet – whether these are actual human persons or symbols I am not sure. I would merely have to beg off on that. My interest here was the destiny of Satan. In terms of the interpretation of the book of Revelation, that is not one of my areas that I would care to make a pronouncement on.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is a good point. Witches, too, have sort of changed their image, haven’t they? To think in the early Americas they actually burned some people for witchcraft. Today witches are sort of regarded as noble figures in many cases – white witches and so forth. Yeah! Right, Bewitched!

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Would there be sin if there were no devil? It is a good question. Obviously we don’t know the answer to that because we only know what did happen.[5] But if you think about it, in principle I don’t see why man couldn’t have chosen to disobey God in the same way that apparently Satan chose to disobey God. I take it that angels were originally created good but that there was a fall away because they used their creaturely free will in an inappropriate way and so fell away from God. Why couldn't that have happened on a purely human level? That Adam and Eve or somebody else was created in the image of God – they were innocent – God gave them a command, and they chose not to do it, to disobey. I don’t see any in principle reason why the freedom of the will which led to the origination of sin had to be an angelic will rather than a human will.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is certainly true. You can never say the devil made me do it because that would to deny your free will and therefore your being created in God’s image.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: You are raising some deep questions. Let me say with respect to the first one, we did see in a previous lesson that they do know their end. Yes, I think we can say that with confidence. Remember when Jesus is confronted by the one demon-possessed man who is possessed by the legion of demons and they say to him, Jesus, Son of the Most High God, what have you to do with us? Why have you come to torment us before the time? They know their end, but they say to Jesus, Why are you here in advance? Why are you bothering us now? I think the demons definitely know their end ultimately, and know that they are not going to win. But they are going to bring down as many people with them as they can.

I take it with respect to your other question about why couldn’t the demons repent, this gets into the question of why there isn’t any atonement for demons. There is an atonement that has been offered for human beings so that they can repent and be saved, but we don’t have any suggestion in Scripture that there is any sort of atonement that has been offered on behalf of demonic creatures. That suggests that their will has been sealed in some sort of way that having chosen to rebel against God they are now so reprobate, so fallen, that repentance is impossible for them, and therefore no atonement is offered. So their fate is sealed. They are stuck. Remember I used that as a suggestion for dealing with the question of whether the blessed in heaven could fall away having once been saved and gone to heaven. I suggested that perhaps in heaven our wills are similarly sealed by the overwhelming vision of the beauty and grandeur of Christ such that the freedom to fall away would be removed at that point. So we would have freedom of the will in our intercourse with others, but not with respect to fundamentally falling away from God. I take it that with respect to the demons that they don’t have the opportunity to repent and be saved.

It is interesting that Scripture also says something like that about apostates. It talks in Hebrews about those who have once been saved – once been Christians – and fall away. He says it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift if they fall away. That would be another example in Scripture where it seems to suggest that there are classes of people who are so hardened and reprobate that it is now impossible for them to repent.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is an interesting question. Help me here – off the top of my mind, nothing immediately comes to mind about a demon impersonating a human being, which is what I am taking you are asking. Not that a person is possessed by a demon, but it is a demon in human form, like an angel in human form. I can’t think of any example in Scripture of where what appears to be a human being is actually a demon in human form. Can anybody think of an example?

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: And you think that he didn’t actually bring Samuel back?[6] That could be the closest example, though even in that it is not a kind of normal experience. It is in a magic or visionary sort of thing.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Right. As we saw with angels and that they can take on human form and some have entertained angels unaware. But it may be that God won’t permit demons to do this. Remember that although they are on the loose, they still are under the ultimate sovereignty of God. Even with Job, he got permission from God to afflict Job in this way. So it may be that God won’t allow this to happen. I don’t know, but that is an interesting question I hadn’t thought of.


Let me move to our last points lest we run out of time. And that is how the Christian should react. What should our reaction be to demons? I think the advice that was given earlier was quite good here – a healthy respect but not a fear. Not a morbid interest in them, and yet not apathy either. Let’s see what Scripture has to say.

1. Scripture says that we should resist the devil and submit ourselves to God. James 4:7 says, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” There is a dual thing there – you submit yourself to God (you are filled with the Holy Spirit – your will, yourself is in submission to God), and then in his power you resist Satan and he will flee. So we don’t have to give in. Notice it is a dual thing. It is not enough to resist him in your own strength. First is the command to submit to God and then resist the devil and he will flee.

2. We should watch and pray. Jesus advises the disciples in Matthew 26:41, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Remembering that Satan is the one who tempts us, who is the source of temptation, one thing to do in order not to enter into temptation is to watch (that is to say to be on the alert and be at attention and not just kind of sliding through life in a non-alert status) and then be in prayer in order not to fall into temptation.

3. We need to take the shield of faith as Paul prescribes in Ephesians 6:16. Let’s back up to verse 13 to get the context.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

So faith is our protection against the attacks of Satan. Whatever is conducive to building up our faith, to having that shield of faith, that is going to protect us against the satanic missiles or arrows that are launched against us. That ties in nicely with what Bryant talked about in the worship service today – the importance of spending time with God, of prayer, devotional reading, meditation on his Word. Anything that will help to strengthen us in our faith is going to thereby provide a shield about us to extinguish these flaming arrows of Satan.

That completes what I wanted to say about Satan and demons.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I don’t think you are saying – and we wouldn’t want people to get the impression that you are saying – that these false apostles are not human beings. These messengers. These are clearly Judaizers.[7]

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Mohammad actually thought he was seeing a demonic vision.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: No, of course. I thank you for that balance because I wouldn’t want to give that impression. We live in a world governed by natural laws, so there are going to be natural evils that occur. That is just part of life. Moreover, I firmly am convinced, and I know some people might be shocked at this, that God sends calamities into your life. I think that God causes suffering sometimes because it is through suffering that we are perfected and tried like metal in the fire and the dross is burned away and the pure metal will emerge from that. I think we have to be very careful about too quickly attributing disasters to Satan. Certainly they could be from his hand, but this might be God testing you as well. It might be from him. He might have things to teach you through suffering that you could never learn through an easy life. The Christian life is not a bed of roses. It was never promised to be such. That is a good and healthy reminder that we shouldn’t just ascribe all bad things to Satan.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I don’t know that that is true. That is a speculation. But I don’t have a problem with that frankly. I don’t see that a progressive development of God’s revelation in Scripture is inconsistent with saying that people learned about things from other sources or other influences. To me that is just unproblematic. In fact, there is a fallacy that philosophers talk about called the genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy is trying to invalidate something by showing how it originated. For example, somebody might say, “You just believe that because you are an American and you were born in this country.” Or, “You believe that just because your parents taught you that.” That commits the genetic fallacy. It may quite be true that that is why you believed it – because your parents taught you or because you were born in America. But that doesn’t make the view false or untrue. The view and its truth stands or falls independently of how you came to acquire the belief. I guess I am just not very troubled by the idea that, say, the Jewish belief in Satan might have sources that are extra-biblical or something of that sort. Whether or not he exists isn’t going to depend upon how people came to acquire the belief in his existence. But having said that, I don’t know that that story is true. In the Bible dictionaries that I consulted in preparation for this lesson, including non-evangelical ones, there wasn’t anything in these that suggested that we really know where the idea of Satan originally came from. He appears in the Old Testament, but we don’t really know the origins of this idea. So I don’t think that that speculation is anything more than just a conjecture.


To step back now, if you look back on the class over the last several years we have studied several broad areas of Christian doctrine. We’ve studied the doctrine of revelation, then we looked at the doctrine of God, which led us then into the doctrine of Christ. Now we’ve just completed the doctrine of creation. What we will turn to next in the class is the doctrine of man – who is man, what is man, and what does the Bible have to say about the nature of human beings. That will be the subject that we will turn to next week.[8]

[1] 5:14

[2] 10:03

[3] 15:09

[4] 20:27

[5] 25:03

[6] 30:01

[7] 35:00

[8] Total Running Time: 39:32 (Copyright © 2009 William Lane Craig)