December 15, 2008

Q and A 2.0 Revisited: #21--Angels and Demons

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When Satan was cast out of heaven, he took 1/3 of the angels with him. Have we not minimized the impact of demonic spirits on earth? Would we recognize them, and what should we do?

Revelation 12:9 “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

Verse four of that same chapter says that 1/3 of the stars from heaven fell to earth. Traditional Jewish belief was that 1/3 of the angels fell to earth with Satan and became demons, so this passage may build on that. Satan’s fall from heaven to the earth is shown in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, also.

So was Satan cast down to the earth before history began? Well, we’re not sure.

At some point (depending on how you read Revelation and the other apocalyptic passages) Satan has been or will be cast down to earth. Whether this has happened or will happened in the Tribulation is unclear. But, it’s not important, because whether it has or is yet to happen, we are clear that demonic forces do have the ability to wreak havoc on human beings.

The 2nd part of the question is a little subjective…have we minimized it? It depends.

If you don’t believe that demons have the ability under God’s sovereign control to make an impact on history, then you ignore the Bible. If you are someone who sees demons around every corner, and that every time something bad goes happen it’s a demon, then you’re probably taking it way to seriously.

The key is to recognize that anytime there is a choice between doing right by God or sinning, spiritual warfare is involved. Christians cannot be demon possessed, but they can be oppressed by demonic activity (just like Job was harassed by Satan, we can be too). Satan is not omnipresent like God, so his demons do his work too. But, remember that Job was only harassed by Satan because God allowed it. Demons cannot, however, cause you spiritual harm in a sense of taking away your salvation. Non-Christians can be demon oppressed/possessed/influenced, so we should pray for their salvation.

So how do we recognize true spiritual warfare and what should we do?

Demons in the Bible are described as evil spirits, unclean spirits, and angels of Satan. They deceive the world, attack Christians and combat the holy angels. They are enemies of God.

Does demon possession still exist today? We aren’t told anywhere in the Bible that it ended, so probably so.

It’s not like the exorcist, though. Movies have interjected too much into our imaginations. You do see a little of this in the Bible as in the demon possessed man that Jesus casts a multitude of demons out of (Luke 8:26-39). He had superhuman strength, walked around naked and lived in a graveyard. But this seems to be more the exception than the rule.

Biblical signs of demon possession or demonic influence also include a refusal to forgive (2 Cor 2:10-11) and a belief in and spreding of false doctrine (2 cor 11:3-15, 1 Timothy 4:1-5, 1 John 4:1-3). So be careful that you don’t go accusing people of being demon possessed!

The key to successful spiritual warfare is finding biblical balance.

Ephesians 6:10-20 tells us that there is a spiritual war to be fought, so we are challenged to put on the armor of God. This includes:

  • Belt of truth. Spiritual warfare is not a power encounter, it’s a truth encounter. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he quoted Scripture to combat him.

  • Breastplate of righteousness.

  • Feet fitted with the peace of the gospel.

  • Shield of faith to block Satan’s attacks.

  • Helmet of salvation to protect the most important part of your body.

  • The only offensive weapon given is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Like I said, it’s a truth encounter.

There is no armor for your back, by the way. You are not meant to retreat from the battle.

There is no exotic or unusual weapons. There are no incantations, no magic spells. This stands in stark contrast to modern “demon hunters” who name and claim spiritual authority and rebuke demons and principalities. We are meant to put this armor on in prayer on a daily basis. Or else we might end up like the 7 sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-16).

Should we try to cast a demon out of someone?

Jesus commanded his disciples to do this in his name, but that was a direct command given to them. Not to all believers everywhere, but only to his disciples. Nowhere in the teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans-Jude) are we encouraged to do so, or consider doing so. Our key is the spiritual armor of God and the prayer that helps us put it on. We are not Jesus, and we are not apostles. We are followers who have never been given that command.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at what the Bible says about speaking in tongues. Check out all of the Q and A series here.

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