For the next few weeks we are going to be talking about spiritual warfare. By "spiritual warfare," I mean battling with "spirit beings," who are non-physical, non-humans. They are supernatural beings. Paul put it this way:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NASB
This is speaking about a battle with spiritual forces, who are not flesh and blood. When it comes to spirit beings such as Satan, the devil, demons, and unclean spirits there are basically three positions. 1) Some believers don't believe in a personal devil or demons; to them there is no such thing. 2) Some believe that Satan, demons, and unclean spirits are real beings that are still very active today. 3) Some believe that Satan, demons, and unclean spirits are real beings, but were all defeated and destroyed in AD 70 at the return of Christ when judgment took place.
Those who hold to view 1) hold the idea that Satan is not a real spiritual being, but instead is merely referring to a personification of sinfulness in the human heart, or to wicked human beings. They would say that Satan is merely our own internal sinful human nature or inclination to sin. How would that view fit with Scripture? Let's start by looking at a verse from the Tanakh:
"They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread. Deuteronomy 32:17 NASB
Here "demons," the Hebrew word shed, are called gods, this is the Hebrew elohim. Here "God" is Eloahh, and "gods" is also elohim. So demons are also called elohim. If you remember our study of Ephesians 5:1-2, I said that among other things Elohim is used of the gods of foreign nations. Michael H. Heiser says, "Elohim is a place of residence term." He meant that elohim is only used of those in the spirit world. So in this verse "demons" are called elohim, meaning they are spirit beings, they are not sinful human nature.
Let's move to the New Testament:
Then Yeshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1 NASB
Is this Yeshua being tempted by His own sinful nature? To go there is an attack on the deity of Christ. The Bible teaches that Christ was sinless:
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7 NASB
Here the word "likeness" is homoioma, which suggests similarity, but difference. Though His humanity was genuine, He was different from all other humans in that He was sinless. We see this same Greek word in:
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, Romans 8:3 NASB
Christ came in the "likeness" of sinful flesh likeness is from homoioma, meaning "similar, but different." The difference was that He wasn't sinful. Yeshua had real human flesh He felt pain, sorrow, wept, died, but He was sinless:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB
Christ knew no sin:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 NASB
Yeshua can't be tempted by His own sinful nature, because He didn't have a sinful nature. Is Christ being tempted by wicked human beings? Most would say that Christ's adversaries were the Jews. Could Satan here represent the Jews?:
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." Then Yeshua said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'" Matthew 4:8-10 NASB
Would the Jews ask Christ to worship them? No! Is Christ carrying on a conversation here with Himself? Throughout the context "the tempter" or "the devil" is given personal attributes and clearly distinguished from Yeshua as being another person. Nowhere in this context do we get the idea that the devil is merely referring to a sinful human nature of Christ. It's kind of ridiculous to think that a sinful nature within Christ demanded Christ to worship Christ, and if He did, Christ would give Christ the nations. Satan offering Christ the nations is not an empty promise. Satan was ruling the nations. Sinful human beings could not make this offer to Christ.
Those who deny the existence of Satan or demons want to make everything the result of natural occurrences. Bishop Lightfoot writes, "Unclean spirits and demonic possession seem to be no more than physical and mental illness":
And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. Mark 6:13 NASB
Here we see a contrast between demons and sickness. They were not casting out mental illness.
I think that this first view is unbiblical. I think that modern science has caused many believers to question or down right deny the spiritual. To those of the ancient Near East everything was spiritual, to us nothing is. If someone believes in God and angels why is it so hard to believe in Satan and demons?
View 2) says, Satan, demons, and unclean spirits are real beings who are still very active today. As you read through the Gospels you see many encounters with Satan and demons:
And just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, "What do we have to do with You, Yeshua of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are the Holy One of God!" Mark 1:23-24 NASB
"Unclean," is from the Greek word akathartos, which, in this sense, refers to evil. "Spirit" is from the Greek pneuma and here refers to a spirit being; spirits don't have physical bodies:
"See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Luke 24:39 NASB
Back in Mark 1, there was an unclean spirit in this synagogue, and he disrupted the service. Notice the possessive pronoun "their synagogue." This indicates that this man was not a regular member of the Capernaum synagogue. This unclean spirit is what we would call a demon. Demon comes from the Greek daimonion, which, according to Thayer, means: "a divine power, deity, divinity":
saying, "What do we have to do with You, Yeshua of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are - the Holy One of God!" Mark 1:24 NASB
Notice that this demon recognizes both Yeshua's humanity and His deity. "Yeshua of Nazareth" speaks of His humanity; "Holy One of God" speaks of His deity. It's interesting to me that here we are 2000 years later, and we're still arguing about who Yeshua was. The demons got it right, they knew who He was. This was God in the flesh. They knew that. And they also understood that there was nothing they could do to keep Yeshua from taking authority over them.
The phrase "Holy One" is used in the Tanakh of Yahweh. Who is the Holy One of Israel:
How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert! Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel. Psalms 78:40-41 NASB
It is Yahweh who is called the "Holy One" or the "Holy One of Israel." Caling Christ, "The he Holy One" is a clear reference to the deity, by no less than the demons themselves.
In the NASV it appears that this demon asks a question, but this is more of a statement in which he tells the facts, the reason Yeshua has come to earth:
saying, 'Away! what to us and to thee, Yeshua the Nazarene? thou didst come to destroy us; I have known thee who thou art the Holy One of God.' Mark 1:24 YLT
This demon understood that Yeshua had come to destroy them:
"Then He will also 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; Matthew 25:41 NASB
We'll talk about this more in a few minutes.
And Yeshua rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!"And throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice, and came out of him. Mark 1:26 NASB
This demon obeys the words of Yeshua. Here Mark is demonstrating Yeshua's authority over the fallen spirit world. Yeshua will Himself later point out what this proved: that Satan in his strength was being defeated, and that this could only be by the Spirit of God:
"But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Matthew 12:28 NASB
In order to really understand how these people would have processed this, you have to understand that in the first century they saw demonic spirits involved in everything bad. If you had a disease, it was a demonic spirit; if you had a tragedy, it was a demonic spirit; if you had a mental illness, it was a demonic spirit. The demons were under every rock. They were responsible for everything. They understood there is nothing they could do about it; they just had to live with it. And it tortured these people.
Just to help you understand how desperate they were, they entered into a practice called "trepanning." Basically that meant while the person was alive, if they reached a point of torture where they couldn't stand it any longer, they would take a drill and literally drill a hole into their skull hoping that the demonic spirits would escape out the hole. Now that doesn't sound very pleasant. But it gives you some idea of the level of desperation they lived with.
Historians have dug up the cemeteries from the first century and found about five percent of the skulls had a hole drilled in them. This was a significant thing to them. Along comes Yeshua and now there's the solution! Demon gone. End of problem. And they were just stunned with that. Suddenly Yeshua identified Himself as the One who could solve their problems; as the One who could remove the demonic spirits; the One who could deal with the issues in their lives. Mark says that the word about Yeshua spread immediately.
What about demons today? Do we need to be worrying about demons? I'm sure that you understand that the answer to those questions will be different depending on who you ask. For example:
In the book, Exposing Satan's Devices, Betty Miller says, "Some children are born under a curse and have demons that cause their erratic behavior. Parents are in ignorance as to why some children beat their heads on the floor in rages, scream and yell uncontrollably, bite themselves, or have continual nightmares. Many children do have demons and need to be set free."
I would disagree, it is not some children, but all children that are born under a curse. And it has nothing to do with demons, it is the Adamic sin curse:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned- Romans 5:12 NASB
Miller also says, "One of the deadliest misrepresentations of the truth of God is that a Christian should not be concerned with thoughts that a demon could be their problem. This is taught within many churches and gives the devil a "field day" to bring fear, mental torment, jealousy, hatred, lust, pride, self-pity, addiction, gluttony and many other forms of bondage, oppression, and defilement."
Well, I guess that your bad behavior is not your fault, you have a demon. So you don't need to repent, you need to see an exorcist.
Televangelist, Bob Larson, said, "I have had my physical appearance duplicated by demons." Really! I like that one. When I act in a rude and thoughtless manner towards my wife, I can tell her, "That wasn't me, it was a demon impersonating me to get me in trouble."
When you think of the Charismatic Movement, you think of speaking in tongues, or Benny Hinn knocking people down, and things like that. But there are some underlying things in the Charismatic worldview that are really very, very terrifying. They have a preoccupation with Satan and demons: A woman who came out of the Charismatic Movement wrote this:
"You know we lived all our life in this movement and one thing dominates that movement, and it is that Satan is sovereign. If you get sick, it was the devil. If your child gets sick, it was the devil. The devil made your child sick. And even if your child dies Satan somehow got the victory. If your spouse, your husband or your wife gets cancer, that's the devil that did that. If you had an accident, the devil did that. If you lost your job, the devil did that. If things didn't go the way you wanted them to go in your company or your family and you wound up with a loss of job or a divorce -the devil did all of that. The devil has to be bound and so you have got to learn these formulas, because you have got to bind the devil or he is really going to control everything in your life."
She went on to say, "The devil dominates everything, and he is assisted by this massive force of demons who also have to be dealt with, and you have got to do everything you can to try to overcome these spiritual powers, and they are invisible and they are fast and they are powerful, and they are really impossible for you to deal with on any permanent basis, so it is an ongoing, incessant struggle with the devil."
She basically said, "We lived our whole lives thinking that everything that went wrong in the entire universe was basically because of the devil. The devil is really sovereign in everything, and even God, along with us, is really struggling like crazy to overcome the devil."
She also wrote, "I lived with heart palpitations, panic attacks, anxiety, frightening dreams waking up in the middle of the night terrified that the devil might be doing something to my child while he's lying in his bed. Just living in this constant terror of what Satan was doing; that when the wrong guy gets elected Satan put him there. That when the society goes a certain direction, it is all under the control of Satan. Satan is really the sovereign of everything, and it is really difficult to get control of him -even God is up there wringing His hands trying to get control of this deal."
Is this what the Bible teaches? No, it teaches that Yahweh is Sovereign. The Scriptures show us that God exercises sovereign rule over all the physical universe, over plant and animal creation, over the nations of the earth, and over all individuals and angles, including Satan (Job 1:8-12).
A common myth is that Satan is the source of all our trials, problems, and difficulties. Back in the late 60's and early 70's, Flip Wilson had a saying: "The Devil made me do it." And more recently Andrea Yates, the mother that killed her five children, said the same thing. She said that the devil made her do it. Is the devil the cause of all our problems?
Yahweh used Satan in the Old Covenant to carry out His will, as we see in Job. But Satan never did anything apart from the will of God. If Satan could act independently of God, God would not be sovereign.
Alright, so some people don't believe in the devil or demons at all. And then others believe that they are real and are still in battle with them. Then there is the view that I hold:
View 3) Satan, demons, and unclean spirits are real beings, but were all defeated and destroyed in AD 70 at the return of Christ when judgment took place.
The view of many today is that what ever happened in the Gospels and the book of Acts is intended to describe Christianity as it ought to be in every age. So is it normal for us to have problems with demons? I've been a Christian for 40 years, and I have never encountered a demon, not one. So how normal is it to have problems with demons? Let's talk a little about demon possession. This is a big issue today, and something we need to have a grasp on.
The first thing we need to understand is that most of the New Testament references to demon possession appear in the Gospels and represent the outburst of satanic opposition to Yahweh's work in Christ. We have no reference to demon possession after the book of Acts, and we don't have much reference to it in the latter half of the book of Acts. We encounter occult practices, magicians, and others who dabble in dark power, but seldom an evil spirit that has taken over a life. We have no reference whatsoever to demon possession in the Epistles, not in any of them. We have no reference in the Old Covenant to demon possession either.
Demon possession seems to be something that happened only during the time of Christ and the apostles for the purpose of manifesting the power of Christ over the demonic world.
What about all those today who claim to be casting out demons? Do they fit the biblical pattern? The exorcisms in the Bible concerned those clearly recognized as possessed. The signs of demon possession in the New Testament include: speechlessness (Matt. 9:33), deafness (Mark 9:25), blindness (Matt. 12:22), fierceness (Matt. 8:28), unusual strength (Mark 5:4), convulsions (Mark 1:26), and foaming at the mouth (Luke 9:39).
And when He had come out onto the land, He was met by a certain man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. And seeing Yeshua, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, "What do I have to do with You, Yeshua, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me." For He had been commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard; and yet he would burst his fetters and be driven by the demon into the desert. Luke 8:27-29 NASB
Notice the supernatural strength he exhibited. This man had been bound with chains and fetters, but he had snapped the chains and torn off the fetters, and no one had the strength to subdue him a remarkable demonstration of demonic power.
The exorcisms in the Gospels and in Acts were not nebulous cases of the demon of drugs, alcohol, postnasal drip, or nicotine demons like we see today. In his book, Diary of an Exorcist, Win Worley describes a woman who was possessed by two demons: the demon of "dry hair" and the demon of "oily hair." When she would try to treat her oily hair, the demon of dry hair would take over and vise versa thus tormenting her. Does this fit the Biblical pattern?
You can blame all of your problems and all your sins on demons. You could have the demon of pornography or lying or stealing. This seems to be the trend of our day to blame our problems on someone else. We all seem to want to escape from personal responsibility. Earnest Angley is constantly helping people to quit smoking by casting out the nicotine demon. He says, "You don't need Nicorette gum or the patch, you need an exorcist. It's not your fault you smoke, it's the demons."
We saw in the text in Mark that the demons are to be destroyed. We see this same idea in:
And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. And behold, they cried out, saying, "What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" Matthew 8:28-29 NASB
The demons understood the mission of Yeshua to destroy them. Notice the final words in this verse "the time" presumably the time of judgment at the consummation of the ages. The destruction of Satan and demons was prophesied from the beginning:
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." Genesis 3:15 NASB
This is a prophecy of Christ overcoming Satan. Peter spoke of this judgment that the demons were to experience:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 2 Peter 2:4 NASB
Christ came to destroy the devil:
Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; Hebrews 2:14 NASB
One of the aspects of Christ's earthly mission was to destroy the devil. The Greek word for "render powerless" is katargeo, which means: "to be entirely idle (useless), lit. or fig.: abolish, cease, destroy, do away, make of no effect, bring to nought." Was Christ a failure in this mission? Most Christians act like He was, they're still worried about the devil. I think we want him to still be around so we have someone to blame for our sin:
the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 NASB
The Greek word for "destroy" is luo, which means: "to loosen, destroy, dissolve, put off." Christ is said to have destroyed the devil and his works. Do you believe the Bible?
When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Colossians 2:15 NASB
According to my Bible, Satan is a defeated foe. Yeshua the Christ has conquered the Devil.
All Christians believe that Satan and his demons will be destroyed, but when does it happen? Most Christians look for this event to happen at a future day when the earth and everything physical is destroyed. Perhaps a review of the Scriptures will help clarify the matter:
And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Yeshua be with you. Romans 16:20 NASB
The Greek word used here for crush is suntribo, it means: "to crush completely, i.e. to shatter." When is it that Satan is to be crushed completely? It's at the end of the Old Covenant, when the Lord returned in judgment on Israel. Paul said here to the Roman Christians that it would happen "soon." The Greek word translated "soon"' is tachos. According to Arndt and Gingich Lexicon, tachos is used in the LXX and certain non-canonical writings to mean: "speed, quickness, swiftness, haste."
Remember the hermanutical principle of audience relevance! Do you think that the believers at Rome could have conceived of 2,000 plus years as soon? If it was to be some 2,000 plus years, how could He crush him under "their" feet? The people to whom this was written are dust now, they have no feet.
Paul told the first century Roman Christians that Satan would soon be crushed completely. If Satan is still around, then we have a problem with inspiration, which is a huge problem, because if the Bible is not inspired by God, it is of no value to us. I believe that Satan is a defeated foe. I believe this because I believe in inspiration.
The Bible talks about the judgment at the end of the age, not the end of the world:
"Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. Matthew 13:40 NASB
So, Yeshua is here talking about something that will happen at the "end of the age" He was living in, the Jewish age. Notice what was to happen at the end of the age:
"So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:49-50 NASB
Notice that judgment was to happen at the "end of the age." I believe this speaks of the Judgment of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The "end" that Yeshua is talking about was the end of the Jewish age when the wicked Jews were burned in the destruction of Jerusalem.
The time for the demons' destruction had come. The demons understood that the Messiah had come to destroy them. Living post A.D. 70 we do not need to worry about demons they're toast! This judgment took place at the end of the Old Covenant age; after the Jewish Temple was destroyed.
And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And 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 forever and ever. Revelation 20:9-10 NASB
Here the final destination of the devil and his demons is recorded as being in the lake of fire before the New Jerusalem which is the New Covenant is seen coming down out of heaven from God.
So it is my position that Satan and his demons were real spirit beings who opposed Yahweh and His people. But through the ministry of Christ they were defeated and destroyed in AD 70. The spiritual battle that the first century Christians faced is over, we are not battling spiritual forces today.
In conclusion, let me say that as believers we are in a battle, but so is everyone else. We fight to maintain our health, we fight to earn a living, we battle to maintain relationships, we battle with our own fleshly lusts; life is a struggle. And as Christians we battle the world view and regulations of non-believers. So I am certainly not saying that life is not a struggle, it is, but we (twenty first century believers) are not fighting against powers, against the world forces of this darkness, or against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. That battle was fought and won by our Lord Yeshua two thousand years ago.
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