Questions of demons have been raised in our Christian circles, some of which are difficult to answer. These questions persist because there are different views regarding the existence of demons and their activities. But, most importantly, the biggest reason is because many of us are afraid of them. Who are demons? Are they real? If they exist, what power do they have? And how can we respond to them?
Are Demons Real?
Demons both exist and possess influence, even today though they operate under God’s sovereign rule
The Bible describes demons as evil spirits who sinned against God. They were once the same as good angels, but God cast them out from heaven so that they now continually work evil in the world (see Isaiah 14:12-15; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 12:7-8). Like angels they are created, spiritual and intelligent beings. They don’t have physical bodies like humans. But passages such as Job 4:15 suggest that demons can take any shape. Since they are spiritual beings, we cannot usually see them. Nor is their presence always obvious.
I grew up in an environment where some believed that demons are the spirits of the deceased, avenging themselves. However, when we consider the biblical evidence, this does not seem to be right.
How do Demons Possess Influence Today?
Satan, the chief father of demons (2 Corinthians 4:4), might mislead people into thinking that he does not exist. For this causes complacency in matters of spiritual warfare (see Ephesians 6:10-20). In 2 Peter 2:4 and Revelation 12:7-8 we learn that demons were removed from the presence of God and their activity is restricted by God (see Job 1-2). But this does not mean they are without influence, let alone existence. Peter cautions us about their activities (1 Peter 5:8). Demons both exist and possess influence even today, although they operate under God’s sovereign rule.
More significantly than their existence, we must recognise that demons are working against the church
To accept that demons still exist is important because for us to be able to stand against the enemy we need to prepare and recognise him as the source of attack. Otherwise we will be taken by surprise. While it is wrong to cower before demons in fear it is also wrong to ignore their existence. Therefore, Christians should be aware and know that demons are real. More significantly than their existence, we must recognise that they are working against the church.
What are Demonic Powers?
In some ways demons have influence. This is why many fear them. In Ephesians 6:11-12 Paul says our struggles are against spiritual forces. In Jude 9-10 we read that Michael fought Satan for Moses’ body. These, and other passages, indicate that demons and their master are powerful. Christ affirmed Satan’s claim to possess the world when he called him, “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31). So, in some sense, the world is ruled by evil powers. Evidence for this reign can be seen in afflictions such as disease and mental sickness (Luke 13:10; 6:18; Acts 5:16; 10:38); the twisting of revealed gospel truth (1 Timothy 4:1-2); persecution of the church (2 Timothy 4:17); and false religions (Acts 13:6-11; 1 Corinthians 10:20).
We must hold onto Christ’s promise that demons will be decisively crushed.
Christ Has Power Over Evil
Yet we must hold onto Christ’s promise that demons will be decisively crushed (Matthew 16:18). We should also reflect on Christ’s power over evil throughout the Gospels. Job’s story is helpful to show us that Satan and his demonic powers are operative in our world, yet only under God’s sovereignty. They beg Jesus not to destroy them (Mathew 8:29-31). Thus their powers are subject to the absolute authority of God.
However, we must remember that not all evil in our world is caused by demonic powers. Evil is also the result of mankind’s sinful heart (Mark 7:20-21; Ephesians 2:3; Romans 5:12). Therefore we must avoid attributing all evil to demons and spiritual forces. As James Payton writes, in The Victory of the Cross, “The dividing line between good and evil runs through each person’s own heart. Evil is not a problem ‘out there’.”
Not all evil in our world is caused by demonic powers. Evil is also the result of mankind’s sinful heart
3 Reasons Not To Fear Demons
We should not be afraid of demons. Here are three reasons why:
God Will Protect Us
We have assurance of God’s protection from demons. Thus, we should “resist the devil, firm in our faith” for there is hope that if we resist his attacks we will be successful (see 1 Peter 5:7-11; James 4:7). “Firm in our faith” implies a confidence outside of ourselves. Paul says, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he (Jesus) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). So, there is no reason for Christians to fear demons.
Our Souls Are Safe
Demons cannot kill our souls. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus says “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Paul echoes this teaching in Romans 8:38-39, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons…. nor any powers, nor anything else in creation will able to separate us from the love of God”.
To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
For Christians death has a theological meaning that is different from how unbelievers view it. If we are in Christ, it doesn’t mean that we won’t die or face evil attacks. But death and these attacks are seen in a different light. That’s why Paul says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). So, for Christians, death is not the real problem we have to fear or worry about. For our enemy is faithlessness or unbelief. Thus death loses its frightful significance in our lives and becomes a way to victory. We should be aware that a fear of death is one of the schemes or tactics demons can use to attack our faith (2 Corinthians 2:11). So we must remain alert, as the Bible constantly reminds us (1 Peter 5:8).
4 Ways We Are Empowered to Fight Demons
We are not only protected from the attacks of demons, we are also empowered to fight against those powers. The Bible mentions practical tools we can use in this battle, which should give us confidence.
The Armour of God
We have the armour of God to fight against demons and any powers of the devil. In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul mentions the weapons we have in our battle against evil spiritual powers. One of those is the sword of the Spirit – the Bible (Ephesians 6:17). We must not fear evil attacks but engage in this battle with confidence because our victory is assured in Christ. Jesus told his disciples not to fear (Luke 12:7). This also applies to us, “the Lord did not give us the spirit of fear but of power” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Our Identity in Christ
Know your identity in Christ. We have been saved from darkness to light and have become children of God in Christ. This means that those who trust in him are special and secure in his hands. With this, it is possible to resist Satan and he will flee from us (James 4:7). If we know our true identity in Christ, we can therefore agree with Paul when he says, “we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:28).
Authority Given By Christ
We have been given powers to cast out demons. During his ministry, Jesus cast out many demons or evil spirits from those who were afflicted or possessed. He lends this power to his disciples (Luke 9:1), which is also given to us when we genuinely put our trust and faith in him (John 14:12-14). In the book of Acts there is a case in which the sons of Sceva had tried to cast out a very powerful spirit without believing in or knowing Jesus. But they failed with disastrous consequences (Acts 19:13-16). So, when we try to exercise Jesus given authority without Christ, we are doomed to fail.
Faith, Prayer & The Bible
We should pray, proclaim the gospel and be constantly rooted in the teaching of the Bible. To be strong in the Lord, having knowledge of his truth, faith and prayer, are all very important tools in the battle against demons. That’s why we are sometimes portrayed as soldiers of Christ (see 2 Timothy 2:3-4).
Roaring Lions in Chains
Even though demons can use tempting schemes to seduce and manipulate man, they have no role in the plan of our salvation, and therefore we must not fear them. In Christ, we have authority to defeat them. The demons cannot be said to affect Christians because Christ has disarmed their authority, they have no power over our souls. They are roaring lions in chains.
For this reason, those who follow Christ have no need to fear evil attacks, and if we find ourselves bound by Satan may we have absolute assurance of God’s will and power to deliver us from evil. And so, we should not fear death because the one who holds the power of death has been made powerless by Christ on the cross (Hebrews 2:14).