SPIRITUAL WARFARE - 2
Aren't Satan and demons just medieval or mythological concepts?
The Bible tells us about Satan right from the first to the last book. Satan is identified as the one who tempted the first woman, Eve, from whom the entire mankind has come. Satan used the form of a serpent (Gen.3:1) and his identity has been shown to us later as Satan (Rev.12:9). We read about Satan oppressing Job in order to get him to turn against God (Job.1:9-11). We have many examples of Jesus and the apostles casting out demons and healing those who were oppressed by demons. And in the end we read about the judgment of God that will come on Satan and all the demons and how they will be cast into the lake of fire forever (Rev.20:10). If we start from the belief in the existence of demons we can find many different examples of their activities all through the Bible.
Identifying Satan And Demons
The most common understanding Bible scholars have about Satan and the demons is that they are fallen angels. Lucifer was the chief of the angels whom God created (much before He created man). One day Lucifer became so proud in his thoughts that he wanted to be greater than God. He also influenced a third of the angels to join with him in this rebellion. God then threw them out of heaven, and now Lucifer is called Satan (or the Devil) and the fallen angels are called demons. We piece this information together from different parts of the Bible. If, as some other scholars say, Satan and the demons are a different set of created beings apart from angels, it does not really make any difference to us as far as our practical warfare with them is concerned.
Satan and the demons are spirit beings without form or bodies, and therefore invisible for most of the time. However they can 'appear' to people in any form they choose, in frightful forms or as human beings. The caricature of Satan as a black creature with horns and a forked tail is misleading because he can also appear in 'attractive' forms when he comes to deceive us (2Cor.11:14). As spirit beings they can move from place to place invisibly, and they have 'supernatural' powers. For example, Satan was able to cause strong winds to blow and bring down fire from heaven when he dealt with Job's children. We must therefore remember that everything supernatural that we see must not be attributed to God! But as created beings, even though they are very superior to us in terms of might and intelligence, demons have only a limited power compared to God who created them. They don't know everything, they can't do everything and they can't be everywhere at the same time. Even though they do everything they can to deceive and oppress people, ultimately they have to operate only within the boundaries that God gives to them. This is clear from the fact that Satan had to get specific permission from God regarding the extent to which he could hurt Job (Job 1:12).
While these demons can do a lot of things we cannot, they are not all-powerful. They can appear to take forms which we can see, but they are not material beings. They cannot create something out of nothing. Many people interpret the passage in Genesis 6 where 'sons of God' are said to have had sexual relationship with 'daughters of men' as referring to fallen angels interacting with human women because the result was 'giants' (Hebrew nephilim). For one thing the passage only mentions that there were giants around at the time when this relationship was taking place, and does not say that the giants were the result of this relationship. If angels were to have sex with women and babies were born as a result, it has to be that those angels had the power to 'create' physical sperm out of nothing. Only God can create something out of nothing. I understand from reports from the world of the occult and satanic worship that there is a lot of sexual activity going on between people and 'sexual spirits'. I believe these are not physical relationships which can produce babies. The 'sons of God' can be explained in two different ways. If they were fallen angels, the relationship with human women was not physical and could not produce any babies (giants or otherwise). Giants just happened to be around at that time, and at other times (v.4). The other possibility is that 'sons of God' refer to godly men who were falling in love with ungodly women because of their beauty. Just imagine the chaos that would result if angels (demons) had the ability to 'create' or procreate!
It is true that while many have lived without ever knowingly coming into contact with demons, there are many, many others who have faced oppression from them in different ways. In societies where people take pride in a 'scientific' outlook on life, people tend to brush aside demonic activities as belonging to psychological or psychiatric problems, whereas in other societies where idolatry, witchcraft and black magic are common, there is also a greater awareness of demonic powers. Unfortunately occult practices are becoming more common all over the world, especially with the increasing attention being given to 'new age' philosophies, and demonic powers are becoming more evident. Worship of Satan is also becoming common and more public in different places. The Bible also says that even though the gods people worship in the form of idols are just made of wood or stone, the power behind them comes from demons (1Cor.10:20).
It is also true that when we become serious about following God, Satan realises that we are a threat to his kingdom and is more likely to pay special attention to us.
Even if there are demons, surely Christians are safe from them!
Yes and no. Jesus Himself was tempted by Satan, and so we can't say that Satan cannot tempt us. He, or usually his demons, will keep tempting us, hoping that one day we would fall. In this way even the godliest Christian is not free from temptation. If a Christian indulges himself by giving in to any temptation, he makes himself vulnerable to demonic attack or oppression. On the other hand, if Christians open themselves to demonic activities such as involving themselves in the occult, it is only natural that demons get power in their lives. At the same time, Christians have authority over Satan, demons and all their power in the name of Jesus Christ (Matt.28:18; Lk.10:19,17). Jesus has triumphed over the enemy on the cross and demonstrated it by rising from the dead, and now He has given us the right to use His authority over satanic powers. The youngest of all Christians, one who has just been born again, has the authority in Jesus' name to cast out demons or to bind them. Of course, we Christians have no power in ourselves, but we have authority to use the power of Jesus Christ. So we are 'safe' if we stand and use that authority. So it is entirely up to us to choose whether to give place to demons in our life or not. The Bible warns us not to give the devil a place or foothold in our lives (2Cor.2:10,11; Eph.4:26,27), implying that it is possible for us to give a place for the devil in our lives.
Are you saying that Christians can also be demon possessed?
No. The term 'demon possessed' is a very misleading term. The Greek word used in the New Testament is daimonizomai which means 'to be exercised or vexed by a demon' but which some English Bibles have translated into 'demon possessed'. 'Demon possession' has an implication of being totally owned and controlled by a demon, and naturally the question comes up about how a Christian can be possessed by a demon at the same time when he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But a better way to deal with the word daimonizomai would have been to transliterate it to make a new English word such as 'demonised' (just as baptisma which means immersion or dipping has been transliterated into baptism). Demonisation can be at different grades from mild to strong. For example, if a Christian indulges himself in pornography he can give a demon a place in his life to the extent that he is unable to control himself in that area. He has been demonised to that extent, even though in the rest of his life he is as 'normal' as anyone else. A person who has given himself to demonic activities to a large extent can appear to be demon possessed (as one normally understands the term) because he has lost control over a great part of his life. Demonic manifestation can vary from bondage to a habit (such as a hot temper without control, or pornography) to becoming violent at the other end of the spectrum. It is a matter of degree.
'Possession' denotes ownership, and Christians are those who have given themselves to Jesus Christ who has 'purchased' them by paying with His blood (1Pe.1:18,19; 1Co.6: 19,20). The question is not whether the Holy Spirit who is in a Christian can dwell in a Christian's body along with a demon. A Spirit-filled Christian may be still battling with certain sins in his life, and one cannot question how the Holy Spirit can dwell along with sin! But we can understand a Christian can be demonised to the extent that he has yielded himself to demonic influence or oppression. But demon possession to mean that the person is entirely owned or controlled by a demon cannot happen for a Christian because his ownership is with Christ.
Many think of demonic manifestation only in its extreme form of screaming, violent behaviour, blasphemous words, foaming at the mouth, acting like animals, etc. While such behaviour indicates a very high level of demonisation, we must remember that lower levels of manifestation may also be there, such as an inability to avoid pornography, drugs or alcohol, or to control one's hot tempered words or behaviour. When we look at it this way it is easy to see that demonisation is possible for Christians who are 'well behaved' except in such limited aspects.
Demonic Influence In A Christian
It is evident from 2 Corinthians 2:10,11 and Ephesians 4:26,27 that it is possible for Christians to give a place in their lives to demons. It is also seen in practical life that there can be differing levels of demonisation in Christian lives. An illustration that can help us to understand the situation is to think of a house you have sold to Jesus (referring to yielding our lives to Jesus). When Jesus comes to take possession He finds that we have locked up one or two rooms in that house and not handed over the keys to Him. So it is that Christians can have unsurrendered areas in their lives where the control is still with demons. Demons are no 'gentlemen'. If they get some access, they are going to push for more. Once they get a place in anyone's life they will start to oppress that person in various ways.
If we don't recognise this possibility (that we may have yielded parts of our life to demonic control) we may never enter into a spiritual battle with the demons to reclaim that territory. We may refer to our 'weaknesses' which do not seem to go even after much prayer. What we need to do is repent, confess our sins to God, renounce our connections with the devil and his demons and yield our life fully to Jesus. In the final analysis what we need to be concerned about is the possible influence of demons in our life rather than 'where' and 'how'.