This excerpt (would you believe, a condensed one at that!) of Arnold Fruchtenbaum's extensive radio series on the subject of demons gives an overview while addressing these five common, crucial misconceptions: Demons do not exist; they do not have personalities; they are responsible for every sin; every physical infirmity; and, every mental ailment.
THE EXISTENCE OF DEMONS
Does the Bible really teach that demons exist? Yes, most definitely, and we see this in three ways. First, the existence of demons is mentioned by every New Testament writer except the author of Hebrews (the latter does, however, mention Satan, who is the head of demons). A second way in which the Scriptures teach the existence of demons is apparent in that Jesus recognized the existence of demons: Not only did He positively teach that demons really do exist (Mt. 7:22; 10:8; 12:27-28; 25:41; Mk. 7:29; 16:17; Lk. 10:20; 11:18-20; 13:52), but He also affirmed this through His actions by casting out demons (Mt. 12:22-29; Mk. 1:39; 5:1-20; Lk. 4:35, 41; 8:29-33; 9:12; 11:14). A third way that the Bible clearly teaches the existence of demons is that the disciples – both within (Mt. 10:1) and without (Lk. 10:17) the apostolic group – recognized the existence of demons.
THE PERSONALITY OF DEMONS
Are demons merely emanations, or influences, or powers? Or does the Bible teach that demons have personalities? There are three attributes of personality. If it can be proven that something has all three of these attributes, then that something is a personality. These three attributes are intellect, emotion, and will.
First, do demons have intellect? Yes, and this is evident in six ways: first, demons know who Yeshua is (Mk. 1:24); second, demons know their own future doom (Mt. 8:28-29); third, demons know both Jesus and Paul (Acts 16:16; 19:15); fourth, demons know that God is One (Ja. 2:19); fifth, demons have a counterfeit system of doctrine (I Tim. 4:1-3); and, sixth, demons have the ability to communicate by speech (Lk. 4:34, 35, 41; 8:28-31).
Second, do demons have emotions? Yes, and this can be seen in two ways: first, they have the emotion of fierceness and anger (Mt. 8:28); and, second, they have the emotion of fear (Mt. 8:29; Ja. 2:19).
Third, do demons have will? Again, yes, and this can be seen in three ways: first, they have the will to make requests (Mt. 8:31; Lk. 8:32); second, they have the will to obey commands and orders (Mk. 1:27; Lk. 4:35-36); and, third, they have the will to leave a person, seek a new place to live, or return to the place where they formerly lived (Mt. 12:43-45).
There is one other way in which we can know that demons have personality: When the New Testament speaks of demons, it uses the personal pronoun. It never refers to a demon as an "it," which would be fitting if demons were mere emanations. Instead, the text uses the pronouns "we," "us," "they," "your," "I," and "me" to refer to demons (Mk. 5:6-13; Lk. 8:28-30).
THE ORIGIN OF DEMONS
This is a lengthy topic in and of itself. In the interest of space, we will summarize by noting that all demons originated when they fell with Satan at the time of his fall. However, sometime after that, some of Satan's fallen angels (fallen angels and demons are one and the same) married human women to try to corrupt the Seed of the Woman in an attempt to thwart the first messianic prophecy of Genesis 3:15. These particular angels – who like all other demons were initially free – are now permanently confined in Tartarus (a section of Sheol or Hades). The others are free, though periodically many of them are temporarily confined in the Abyss (another section of Sheol or Hades) before eventually being released to roam free again. In the future, all demons will be eternally confined in the Lake of Fire following the Great White Throne Judgment.
THE NUMBER OF DEMONS
Though we cannot determine their precise number, we can be certain that it is great indeed. For example, Mark 5:9, 15 and Luke 8:30 mention a legion of demons residing in one person. A "legion" consisted of anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 demons. Revelation 9:16 mentions 200 million temporarily confined demons. While the Scriptures never specify an exact number of demons, Revelation 12:3-4 does reveal the percentage of angels that fell with Satan, stating that the Dragon (Satan), drew with him a third of the stars. Here, as in nearly every symbolic usage of "star," the text refers to angels. The fact that Satan drew one-third of the stars reveals that, of the entire body of angels, a third followed Satan in his original revolt. One-third of the original number of angels became demons, while two-thirds remained loyal to God. As to how many demons there are, the answer is: innumerable. According to Hebrews 12:22-24, there was an "innumerable" number of angels created.
THE ACTIVITIES OF DEMONS
We will examine the activities of demons in three areas.
Demonic activity increases and decreases at certain periods of time. Throughout the Old Testament, only rare cases of demonic activity are recorded. But with gospel history, there was a sudden inundation of demonic activity. Suddenly, demons were everywhere, and Yeshua was confronted with them everywhere He went. The reason for this is found in Revelation 12:1-5, which states that while Jesus was on earth during the First Coming, Satan brought his entire demonic cohort down from their present abode in the atmospheric heavens to the earth. But the demonic coming was not just to the earth in general, but specifically to the Middle East, particularly into the Land of Israel. The reason Satan brought the majority, perhaps all, of his demons into this area was to try to foil the purpose of the First Coming. Satan was there manipulating events and people to try to keep Yeshua from the cross by having Him killed either prematurely, as a babe in Bethlehem, or in a manner other than crucifixion. For this reason, there was tremendous demonic activity during the gospel period.
Then, as history moves on to the Book of Acts and beyond, demonic activity is reduced to a level more like that recorded in the Old Testament.
Finally, in the future during the Great Tribulation, there will once again be heavy demonic activity. The Book of Revelation mentions demons frequently, so much so that it seems demonic activity will approximate the level of that in the gospel stage. It will again be for a similar purpose, to try to thwart the coming of Messiah, but the target this time will be His Second Coming: The Second Coming will not occur until the Jewish people ask Jesus to return. Knowing this, Satan will use all of his demons during the Tribulation to attempt to move the entire world against the Jews, to try to annihilate them once and for all before they have a chance to plead for Messiah's return. Satan's hope is to destroy all of the Jews before there is a national regeneration of Israel; then there would be no Second Coming, and Satan's "career" would be eternally safe. For that reason, there will be an increase in demonic activity in the Great Tribulation.
In a general sense, demons' activities consist of three main facets. First, they try to block the purpose of God. One example of this is found in Daniel 10:10-14, where we learn that a leading demon held an angel of God captive for three weeks to try to prevent God's revelation to Daniel. In the future, demons will aid in gathering the nations for Armageddon to try to halt God's plan for the Second Coming (Rev. 16:12-16).
A second general activity is to extend Satan's authority over his cosmos by doing his bidding (Eph. 2:1-2; 6:11-12).
The third broad demonic activity is God's use of demons to carry out His own purposes, plan, and will. For example, a demon was used to torment Saul (I Sam. 16:14). A lying demon was used to arrange for the death of Ahab (I Ki. 22:19-23). And a demon was used to keep Paul humble (II Cor. 12:7).
In a more specific sense, we should be aware of 13 particular activities carried out by demons: First, demons are related to the control of nations. Just as God has good angels controlling nations, Satan has evil angels controlling nations (Dan 10:10-14, 20-21). Second, demons can and do inflict physical maladies. For instance, a demon can inflict dumbness or muteness (Mt. 9:32-33; 12:22; Mk. 9:17), deafness (Mk. 9:25), curvature of the spine (Lk. 9:12-16), epilepsy (Mt. 17:15-18; Mk. 9:20; Lk. 9:37-42), blindness (Mt. 12:22), and personal injury (Mk. 9:18). Demons can inflict physical maladies, but not all physical maladies are caused by demons. There is a distinction between physical problems caused by human frailty and those caused by demons (Mt. 4:24; 8:16). A third particular activity is that demons can cause insanity (Mk. 5:1-5; Lk. 8:26-27). Fourth, they can give great physical strength (Mk. 5:1-4; Lk. 8:29). Fifth, they can cause suicide (Mk. 9:22). Sixth, demons can possess animals (Mk. 5:12-13). Seventh, demons promote idolatry (Lev. 17:7; Is. 65:11; Deut. 32:17; Zech. 13:2; Hos. 4:12; Acts 17:22; I Cor. 10:20). Eighth, they can cause men to worship demons (Rev. 9:20-21). Ninth, demons cause impurity and immorality (Lk. 8:27). Tenth, demons promote false doctrine (I Tim. 4:11; Ja. 3:15; I Jn. 4:1). Eleventh, they oppose the spiritual growth of believers (Eph. 6:12). And, twelfth, they attempt to separate believers from the love of God (Rom. 8:38). The thirteenth activity is the control of men from within, something that is covered in a totally different, separate context later in this study. [Demonic activities in relation to the occult is a lengthy subdivision that is covered extensively in the complete Demonology manuscript.]
Demonic control, sometimes inaccurately called demonic possession, must be defined. The key word here is daimonizomai, and the key expression is to have a demon. The Greek daimonizomai means "to be demonized," emphasizing control rather than possession; in fact, the Greek word for "possession" is never used in conjunction with demons. We must realize that the original Greek, though commonly translated as "possessed by a demon," implying ownership, is much more accurately translated to mean "controlled by a demon." The key expression, to have a demon, emphasizes residency in that the demon is residing within a person. By way of definition, then, demonic control involves a demon residing in a person and exercising direct control over that person with a certain degree of derangement of the mind and/or physical upset of the body. (Matthew 12:43-45 offers a good example of this in practice, pointing out the demon's place while emphasizing both the key word and the key phrase.)
Symptoms of Demonic Control
How can one tell if someone is or is not controlled by a demon from within? Before briefly mentioning 13 specific symptoms, a word needs to be said in order to keep a balanced perspective. These symptoms of demonic control by and of themselves do not prove that demons are residing in a person, because there may be other problems that cause these very same symptoms. True demonism is only indicated by a totality of symptoms. This balance must be kept and one must be careful not to go overboard in one direction or another. One extreme claims that there is no demonic activity today; the second extreme blames demons for virtually everything. Both extremes must be avoided.
The symptoms of demonic control include: physical disease (Mt. 9:32-33), though not all physical diseases are caused by demons (Acts 5:16); mental derangement (Mt. 17:15), though not all mental derangement is caused by demons (Dan. 4:1-37); deep depression, though, again, demons are certainly not responsible for all depressions; self reproach; suicide, though by itself this is not evidence either; passivity; immorality; bitterness; drug abuse; psychic power; animal-like tendencies; restlessness, agitation during Bible reading (demons do not enjoy hearing the Word of God); multiple personalities, as demons are able to take on the characteristics of other people. Often, there is more than one demon residing in a person with multiple personalities.
These are thirteen (but not necessarily all) symptoms of demonic control. Again, one must be careful not to become a demon inspector, assuming people are demonized because they may have a few of these symptoms. A good example of the multiplicity of symptoms in a person controlled by a demon is the Gerasene demoniac, who had eight specific symptoms (Mk. 5:1-20).
Demonism and the Believer
Can a demon control a believer? Applying the biblical usage of "control from within," and not the commonly misused concept of "possession," yes, a believer can be controlled from within by a demon. We see this first with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-4. When Peter asked, "Why has Satan filled your heart?" he used the same Greek word that Paul used to speak of being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). To be "filled" with the Spirit means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit; to be filled with Satan means to be controlled by Satan. The Holy Spirit controls from within and so, then, must Satan, as the same Greek word is used. The Bible does teach that a believer can be controlled by a demon from within. This is seen again when Paul said, "Don't give a place to the devil" (Eph. 4:27), using a Greek word that means "beachhead." The beachhead refers to a piece of land used militarily as an area of control inside enemy territory. A believer can be controlled through a beachhead within, i.e., a demon.
The distinction between believers and unbelievers is not that a believer cannot be controlled and an unbeliever can be controlled. Rather, the difference is a matter of the degree of the control: An unbeliever can be totally controlled, but a believer can only be partially, and never fully, controlled.
Finally, in the relationship of demonism and the believer, four points should be noted. First, demons oppose saints continuously (Eph. 2:2-3; 6:12; Rev. 2:24). A second aspect is that God does use demons for the spiritual growth of believers, allowing some degree of demonic activity from without (not from within). As stated earlier, God used a demon to teach Paul humility (II Cor. 12:7). A third thing to keep in mind is that demons were defeated at the cross (Col. 2:15), and, so, they have no legal authority over believers unless we willingly submit to them. Fourth, the believer has four responsibilities in conjunction with demons: A believer should learn how to test the spirits (I Jn. 4:1-4); there should be no consultation and no connection with the occult (Lev. 9:31; Deut. 18:9-14; Is. 8:19); there should be no fellowship with those connected with demonic activity (I Cor. 10:20); and, believers should wear the armor of God, which, of course, is the Scriptures (Eph. 6:10-18).
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