Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve read a lot in the Bible about demons. I now have a lot of questions about who they are and what they can do. Do they still exist? Can they affect me today? It seems that Jesus dealt with them often. I wonder why we don’t see the same sort of things occurring today.
What demons could do in Bible times, they can still do today. Just because we cannot see their activities, does not mean that they aren’t there and functioning.
Let me give a simple example from the ministry of Jesus and then share why we don’t see that same sort of demonic activity today.
"Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?!' 'Be quiet!' said Jesus sternly. 'Come out of him!' The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek" (Mark 1:21-27).
There are at least three reasons why we don’t see much, if any, demonic activity today.
“And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).
“There came to him a certain man… saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: … And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not cure him.’ And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, ‘Why couldn’t we cast him out?’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Because of your unbelief’” (Matthew 7:14-20).
Once upon a time America was known as a Christian nation of faith. “In God we trust,” is even engraved on our money.
While there are isolated pockets of faith in our country, many Americans, including Christians, live like practical atheists.
Jesus can do no mighty works here because Americans have so little faith.
Many of our indigenous pastor friends tell us of powerful evangelism and mighty miracles occurring in the Middle East. We talk with them about the healings, exorcisms and incredible number of conversions and baptisms occurring in their midst.
Julie and I marvel at their faith. Why is their faith so strong? Because they have no where else to go except to Jesus. We Americans have all sorts of places to go besides Jesus.
Second, we are so trapped in materialism that Satan has no need to bring out the “big guns.”
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
We all know it! America is a money-driven nation. Our nation serves the god “Mammon.”
We have a hard time delving into the deeper things of the spirit when we can’t get past the surface level of materialism.
Third, by its very nature, Satan’s work is occultic, or hidden.
Paul was obviously concerned about the need for Christians to be on their toes concerning what Satan has up his sleeve to use against us: “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Unfortunately, from what I’ve observed, most Christians are woefully unaware of his schemes and are thus open to all sorts of demonic attacks.
“The Holy Spirit clearly says that in the latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1).
I marvel at how easily Job was deceived by Satan. Job never figured out that, even though God allowed it, Satan was the one causing all of his troubles (Job 1:20-21).
According to the Bible, demons are involved in multiple activities.
•They are organized under Satan in hierarchical levels known as rulers, authorities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:10-12).
•Demons have the ability to “demonize” people. This is what the Bible identifies as demon possessed although the exact phrase, “demonic possession,” is never actually used in Scripture. People can be demonized which is another term for demonic possession (Luke 8:30).
•Many believe that about one-third of the angels joined in rebellion with Satan against God Almighty. These fallen angels are what the Bible refers to as demons. The Bible never says that the number was actually one-third. However, that number has been speculated by many for a variety of reasons (Isaiah 14:12-15; and 2 Peter 2:4-10).
•Demons are able to take shape, form and be visible to humans (Job 4:15).
•Demons may be exercised, or driven out, from a possessed person. However, this may be dangerous if not followed by stringent cleaning and discipleship. Without proper spiritual care, the person might then be open for a seven-fold infestation (Matthew 12:45).
•Demons confuse the truth by utilizing demonic lies and half-truths (1 John 4:4).
•Those who worship idols and pagan gods are really worshipping and sacrificing to demons. Demons live to deceive people into worshipping themselves (1 Corinthans 10:20-21).
•The Bible teaches that demons can inhabit animals (Matthew 8:31).
•During the time of the great tribulation, demons, who since the fall, have been imprisoned in the lowest level of hell, are released to wreck incredible pain and torture upon those who are not Christians (2 Peter 2:4-5, Revelation 9:1-7).
•Demons will eventually be chained along with Satan in the lowest level of hell, often called the “Abyss”, where they will be tortured for eternity (Revelation 20:10).
God has given us every too necessary to stand against Satan and win.
The best weapon we have in consistently defeating Satan is effective and constant discipleship.
God freely provides the spiritual armor necessary to stand gainst Satan and to unveil his dastardly schemes: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Bible and prayer (Ephesians 6:1-18).
“Submit to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
1 John 4:4 is the one principle and promise we must constantly keep in play as we engage in demonic battles: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
Well Joe, I hope that I’ve adequately addressed your question. May God grant you the spiritual insight and wisdom to consistently face Satan and win.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese.His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.