Doctrine of Creation (Part 25)

March 24, 2013     Time: 00:19:11

We have been talking about angels and demons and last time we discussed some of the nature of these demonic beings. They have intelligence and seek to deceive believers. They are, like angels, spiritual beings; that is to say, they are minds without bodies. They are, however, malevolent. They are called unclean spirits; they are extremely evil.

In addition to that, they also, like the angels, form supernatural dominions and levels of authority. We see this in Ephesians 6:12. There Paul says, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood.” That is an idiom for mortal creatures – human beings. He continues, “. . . 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.” Wow! When you read that, it makes you realize what we are up against. We are not just fighting against human beings or human persecution or obstacles but this whole panoply of spiritual powers and dominions that are arrayed against God and against his church.

Also in Jude 8-10, a verse that we have come back to again and again, is the story about Michael which 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, again, we have an indication of this sort of authority structure (I believe) that exists even with these demonic beings.

Also 2 Peter 2:10-11 says something very similar. He speaks of “those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a reviling judgment upon them before the Lord.” So these foolish human heretics are not reluctant to revile what they don’t understand and to speak out against authority where angels, even though they are greater in strength than these human beings, are more circumspect in being careful to not speak out against these demonic principalities and powers that are over them.

Finally, 1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.” This indicates Satan’s authority over this planet. The whole world lies within his sphere of authority.

So there is this supernatural realm – dominions, powers, principalities, rulers – that are arrayed against God and his church and seek to undo God’s work.

The next point is that these demonic creatures can possess people and exhibit supernatural strength. Mark 5:1-4 is the story of the Gadarene demoniac.[1] Mark says,

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.

Here you see this demoniac who has as a result this incredible superhuman strength that was a result of his being possessed by this demon.

Another example would be Acts 19:13-16. Here Luke says,

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits,

[So they tried to imitate Paul by casting out spirits in Jesus’ name even though they weren’t believers in Jesus!]

saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom 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.

This is just another illustration of the kind of superhuman strength that comes as a result of demonic possession.

The next point is that these demons must submit to the authority of Jesus’ name. Mark 5:7-13 – this is the sequel to the story of the Gadarene demoniac. The demoniac sees Jesus,

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.

In this encounter, you have the practice of naming someone as an attempt to control them. If you know the person’s name then you are in the position of authority. So the demon says, “What have you to do with me” and he identifies Him, “Jesus, the Son of God, I adjure you, don’t torment me.” He tries to have a one-upsmanship on Jesus. Why? Because Jesus had said to him, “Come out of the man” and then Jesus turns the tables and says, “What is your name?” And the demon says “Legion, for we are many.” He was possessed by multiple demons. Then Jesus casts them out. Here we see the authority of Jesus’ name over the demons and his authority to cast them out.

Take a look also at Luke 10:17 for another example. Here the seventy go out on their mission to heal and cast out demons and proclaim the kingdom. Luke 10:17 says, “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’” So with the name of Jesus they have the power to cast out these evil spirits.

Now this doesn’t mean that there is something magical about the name of Jesus. After all, the name “Jesus” is different in different languages, right? Jesus is the English pronunciation of the name.[2] It is not as though this is an incantation or a magic formula that just anybody could utter to cast out demons. That is the lesson of Acts 19:13-16. If you turn back to that passage again, these Jewish exorcists don’t believe in Jesus but they try to use the name of Jesus like a sort of formula or an incantation. “I adjure you by the Jesus that Paul preaches to come out” and the demon just mocks them and overpowers them and beats them up. Why? Well, because they didn’t really have the power of Jesus’ name. When we talk about the power of Jesus’ name, whether it is praying in Jesus’ name or casting out demons in Jesus’ name, it doesn’t just mean the verbalization of some kind of a formula or an incantation. It means doing it in the power of Jesus’ name with his authority. These Jewish exorcists didn’t have that sort of authority. For them, these were just empty words. But of course Jesus and his disciples did it in the authority of Christ and with his power to rule the demonic realm.

Finally, these demonic creatures know their own end. Look at Matthew 8:29. Here the demoniacs say to Jesus, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Before the time. What are they talking about there? They are talking about that time when, on the Judgment Day, they will be judged and eternally cast into hell. We see this in Matthew 25:41 where Jesus says, “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.’” This is their fate – the eternal fire has been reserved for them. I think this is interesting, too, because you notice this eternal fire isn’t prepared for human beings. This is prepared for the devil and his angels. In one sense, it is a travesty that any human being should ever go there. This isn’t designed for them. This is designed for the devil and his angels. The only reason that some people end up in hell is because they consciously reject God’s grace, the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and his every effort to save them. The Scripture says that God is not willing that any should perish but all should reach redemption.[3] God wants all persons to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. So this eternal fire is not prepared or intended for human beings. No human beings should be there. It is intended for the devil and his angels and their punishment and not for human beings. The demons know ultimately that they will be consigned there at the end of the age.

Discussion

Question: Would you comment about the Pentecostals who say that Christians can have the devil in them? They will say you have the devil of this or the devil of that or the spirit of evil.

Answer: I thought you were speaking about whether or not a Christian can be demon possessed.

Followup: I am.

Answer: There is also the tendency on the part of some Charismatics to identify demons of something – like a demon of fear or the demon of inferiority complex or something of that sort. I don’t see any basis in Scripture for that latter characterization where whenever anything goes wrong you identify it as being demonic. I don’t see that at all. We live in a fallen world that is full of natural evils and all sorts of suffering and there is no reason to think that all of this is demonic in nature. Now the more difficult question would be: could a genuine Christian be possessed by a demon?[4] It seems intuitively crazy that a person who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and regenerate could be possessed by a demon. Yet, folks who deal with these kinds of ministries will tell you over and over again that they have encountered this. They have encountered Christians who need to be exorcised and have these demonic beings cast out. It is difficult to find anything in Scripture that would say a demon could not possess a Christian. That is an inference that is naturally made from his being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and being regenerate. The inference would be that he couldn’t also, then, be possessed by a demon. But that is an inference. I don’t find anything in Scripture that says this is impossible. When you look at the Scripture, though, and it talks about these demons, it doesn’t really say that they are possessed by a demon or that the demon has somehow taken control of them. Sometimes it will call them demonized – they are demonized people. So some people have found it useful to distinguish between demon possession and demon oppression. What one could say in the case of a Christian who is having problems with demonic forces in his life that maybe he is demon oppressed but not demon possessed. Maybe that would help. I think as Christians we have to be extremely circumspect in this area. For example, I think we ought to shun any connection with occult activities whether this be seemingly innocent like Ouija boards or going to fortune tellers or being involved in Spiritism. We ought to keep that at arms length – just stay away from these kinds of occult activities. Because if there are demonic beings involved in these then even though you are a Christian you could maybe get yourself linked up with one of these demonic beings in a way that begins to be oppressive and could really hurt you and impair your personality. I don’t know the answer to your question, I guess, is the result but from what I read of folks who have these kinds of ministries, whether you call it oppression or possession, it is certainly true that there are born again Christians who have become entangled somehow with these sort of demonic beings and who need to have a ministry of casting these out, rebuking them in Jesus’ name and ridding them of these sorts of creatures.

Question: From the Mark 5 passage, what do you make of the demons requesting to go somewhere else and he casts them into the swine? What do you make of that request? It almost seems like they needed a home.

Answer: Yeah, I don’t know. They wanted to be embodied, didn’t they? Even in the animals it was better than being somehow just cast out. I don’t know what to make of that. But it is very clear that, for some reason or other, they felt they needed to be somehow in some sort of embodied living creature. In a sense, Jesus tricks them by sending them into the swine but then they are destroyed and so they wind up being unembodied anyway.

That brings us to the end of that section. We will close out next time by talking a little bit about the work of demons and their destiny and how we as Christians ought to respond to them.[5]



[1] 5:07

[2] 10:01

[3] cf. 2 Peter 3:9

[4] 15:01

[5] Total Running Time: 19:11 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)