What the Bible Has to Say About Demons

Yesterday I posted the first half of my catechetical sermon on the topic of angels and demons. You can listen to the whole sermon here. Here is the second half of that sermon on what the Bible teaches on demons. Once again it’s important to consider this because God has revealed to us in his Word these things and because far too many Christians have gotten their theology of Satan and demons from movies like The Exorcist or other science fiction movies and books. And we learn at least three things about demons in the Bible.

II. The Biblical Teaching on Demons

A. The Origin of Demons

First, we learn about their origin. They are once again created beings. And as I said before they were originally created good. But with Satan they fell into sin and rebellion. And the Bible doesn’t go into great detail about that sin and fall, but it seems to imply that in some way Satan sought to exalt himself above God. This would make sense in connection with the way that he tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. It also ties in with 1 Tim. 3:6 which seems to imply that pride led to the fall of angels: 1Tim. 3:6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Also, there are two texts that speak of the fall of the angels: Jude 6 and 2 Pet. 2: Jude 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 2Pet. 2:3 And in their greed (speaking of false prophets) they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; (so too will he not spare the wicked from judgment though he will spare the righteous). And in the gospels we see that the demons are quite aware of their future judgment: Matt. 8:29 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?” So with regard to their origin, they were originally created good but they rebelled with Satan.

B. The Head of the Demons

And this brings us to the second teaching of the Bible concerning demons, namely their head is Satan. The name “Satan” means “Adversary” or “Opposer.” And that’s because he opposes God and his people. He is also called “Abaddon/Appollyon” which means “the Destroyer” because he is bent on the destruction of God’s plan of redemption and destroying the image of God in man (Rev. 9:11). He also is known in the Bible as “the Devil” which means “the Accuser” because he loves to accuse God’s elect (Rev. 12:10). We of course know of his roll in the temptation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3). Jesus describes him as a “liar” and “the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44) and as the “ruler of this world” who has been cast out (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Paul refers to him as the “god of this world” who “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2Cor. 4:4). Paul also says in Eph. 2: Eph. 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. And of course, Peter tells us that he is our “adversary” who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1Pet. 5:8). As Berkhof notes, “he is depicted in the Bible as a superhuman, but not divine; has great power, but is not omnipotent; wields influence on a large scale, but is destined to be cast into the lake of fire.” As we sing in the hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God, “one little Word shall fell him.” Even though he is great in power. Christ has triumphed over Satan and bound him from deceiving God’s elect.

C. The Activity of Demons

And thirdly then, we learn about the activity of demons in the Bible. And demons basically follow in the footsteps of the devil. They are enemies of God and their goal is to ruin the Church and its members. And it’s not so much that they attack the church by causing its members to be demon-possessed or to blaspheme God, rather Satan and the demons try to ruin the church by distorting, denying or attacking the Gospel. As the late Donald Grey Barnhouse once put it, “Satan’s purpose is not to make good men bad, nor bad men worse, but to make people good without Jesus Christ.” But once again we ought not to despair over demons. We must remember that they too are bound in chains and destined for destruction. As John Calvin used to put it even though they are not yet limited to one place, “they drag their chains wherever they go.”

Are there a lot of demon possessions today?

Now you may be wondering are there a lot of demon possessed people in this world today? When you read the gospels you can sort of get the impression that there are a lot of demon possessed people everywhere. But I think we have to acknowledge that the reason we read of so many demon possessed people in the Gospels is because this was Satan’s final attempt to prevent Jesus from accomplishing our redemption. Furthermore, the gospels are teaching us that Jesus has authority over the demons and that the fact that he is casting out demons is proof that he has inaugurated his Kingdom (Matt. 12:28).

Now I am not trying to say that there are no demon possessed people in the world today. There certainly are. But where ever the gospel is being preached, the demons scatter and people are saved from their power. And so, there are probably a lot less demon possessed people where the gospel is being proclaimed faithfully and the Kingdom of Christ is advancing. And in rural parts of the world where the gospel has not been preached yet, there are probably a lot more demon possessions. But the Word of the gospel and the name of Christ causes them to flee because Christ has all authority in heaven and earth and the gospel is going forth in power. Children, you are safe and protected from demons by Jesus Christ. His Holy Spirit dwells within believers and protects us from them.

All of this is summarized in our Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 12: “The devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and every good thing; to the utmost of their power as murderers watching to ruin the Church and every member thereof, and by their wicked stratagems to destroy all; and are, therefore, by their own wickedness adjudged to eternal damnation, daily expecting their horrible torments.”

Conclusion (Applications)

1. Don’t ignore or downplay the existence of angels and demons. They do exist. With regard to the elect angels, we should be thankful to God that he made them and that they serve us as God’s people. I mean stop and think about that. God created these majestic and powerful spirit creatures for his glory and our good. And you and I have benefited from the revelation they have brought from God, from the battles they have fought for God’s people, and from the protection that they have perhaps given you or me at times. And so, be thankful to God for them even as you would be thankful to God for a person in the church who serves you.

And with regard to the demons, don’t downplay their existence either. Paul alerts us in Ephesians 6 of their role in spiritual warfare:  Eph. 6:10  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. There definitely is a spiritual war that we fight on a daily basis and demons are one of our enemies in that war.

2. Don’t be overly obsessive about angels and demons. Angels are not to be worshipped, nor are demons to cause us crippling fear as if they could possess us or move objects in our homes. And so, let’s not ignore or downplay the existence of angels and demons nor be overly obsessive about them. Let’s seek to find the Biblical balance concerning them.

3. And finally, remember and be thankful that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ and he rules all things for the sake of his church. All the angels worship Him, and when he returns, every knee will bow and tongue confess in heaven and on earth, even the demons will confess that he is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11)! As we sing, in the hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God: “and though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us. We will not fear for God has willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim. We tremble not for him. His rage we can endure. For lo his doom is sure. One little Word shall fell him.”

Christ ultimately is the commander of the angels in heaven and he will return with all of his angels in glory and will judge both the ungodly and the fallen angels forever, and will cast them into the lake of fire. And so, you can be confident in the salvation that has been won for you in Christ. And you can say with Paul, Rom. 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen!

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