The Truth Project: Spirits and Demons... oh my!

With Halloween right around the corner, it seemed most appropriate to discuss the Biblical understanding of spirits and demons. According to recent surveys, the majority of the American population (63%) believes in some form of demons or demonic possession. For American Christians, 86% believe in the existence of Satan and 72% believe in demonic possession. These numbers have actually increased in recent years, and can be linked to the popularity of shows such as Supernatural and American Horror Story. These shows bring about an awareness of the supernatural in the world, even if the events in these shows do not accurately represent how the Bible describes spirits and demons.

The Bible does speak about the “spirit-ness” of God. John 4:24 reads: “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Genesis 1:2 tells us that the earth had no form and was empty, but “the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters.” God Himself is spirit: something unseen and not created within our ordered world. Angels would also fall into this category of beings created by God but who are not naturally seen within our world. Since Satan came from the angels, he also would fall into this category as well as demons and/or spirits as some people call them. The Book of Job is the oldest written book in the Bible and in the first chapter of Job we can read about an interaction between God, Satan, and the heavenly counsel, which some scholars speculate is the angel realm. That is the earliest recorded occurrence of the supernatural in the Bible. Genesis was not written until later, which showed the miracle of God’s creation of the earth.

So, in order to grasp what the Bible says about demons or spirits, we need to look at various cases involving demons and spirits. In the books of Law, God gives warnings against those who would talk with dead spirits or engage demons. Deuteronomy 18:10-13 reads, “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:31 says, ““Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”

In 1 Samuel 28, King Saul was going to engage the Philistines in war, but Saul grew afraid of the vastness of the enemy’s army, and so he sought out help from a medium (someone who speaks to the dead). Saul wanted to speak with the prophet Samuel, but Samuel was already dead, so Saul decided to go to a place where he knew mediums hid (Saul killed every fortune teller and medium he found so they had to live in hiding) and he asked the woman he found to bring back Samuel from the dead so that he could speak to him. The woman, scared for her life, refused until Saul promised to spare her life. She brought back Samuel to this world as a spirit and he cursed Saul for bringing him back and disobeying the law of God by coming to a medium. Samuel told Saul that God would not bring him victory and that the Philistines would conquer the land of Israel and Saul’s sons would die in the battle because of Saul’s refusal to obey God’s law. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 sums up this incident with, “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.”

In the New Testament, the writers focus primarily on Jesus and His interactions with demons. In Matthew 12:22-28, Jesus heals a man demon possessed man.

The most famous demonic story in the New Testament would probably be the story of the man possessed by the legion of demons. This story, told in Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; and Luke 26-39 reads, 

There are several more accounts of Jesus casting out demons that you can read in Matthew 17:14-23; Mark 9:14-29; Mark 3:11-12; Matthew 10:1; John 8:44; or even Luke 11:14. What can be observed in these stories, is that many of the possessed people also showed signs of illness or disease such as blindness or foaming at the mouth, but not everyone who was ill or disabled in the Bible also suffered with demon possession. What these stories also show is that demons respond to the power of Jesus and that Jesus bestowed that power onto others. He promised to send that power to believers through the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus made clear in these verses that only the power of God can counter any kind of power of Satan and that God’s power will always triumph over Satan, such as the story found in the book of Acts.

Acts 19:13-17 tells the story of the seven sons of Sceva who tried to cast out demons without the power of God. 
The Bible even tells us right now what the outcome of Satan and his demons will be. 

 Even before this verse, the writer of Revelation, John, tells us that the Lamb (Jesus) is victorious.

The Bible seems to indicate the great power of God to triumph over the darkness of Satan and his demons. The Bible does not go into elaborate detail about what kinds of demons are in the world or how powerful they are or what their ranks are in hell, but the Bible does tell us that there are supernatural beings in this world and it does not seem to indicate that they have left just because we have advanced in science and technology. The Bible does seem to show us that demons possess human beings and not inanimate objects (if you have a verse on that, please share it with me), and that Jesus’ power will always triumph over the powers of darkness!

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