TWISTED: Re-Examining Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons
Week Four: Demons
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Today we’re wrapping up this October series called, “TWISTED: Re-examining the subjects of Heaven, Hell, Angels, and Demons.” As we discussed during announcements, this is also the Sunday before All Saints Day and the more popular secular holiday, All Hallows’ Eve, a.k.a., Halloween. While the Christian holiday is meant to remember the saints and martyrs who have gone before us, Halloween focuses on inviting the dead back among us.
Some dress up in ghoulish costumes while others in funny or superhero attire, going from door-to-door asking for treats. Trick or Treating has long since replaced the 15th century practice of “Souling,” the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls. In “souling,” groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during All-hallow-tide, collecting soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls of the givers’ friends and relatives.
Halloween brings out ghosts and goblins of all ages and stripes. Funny, though, since a 10-year-old Barna Research survey says that only around 65% of Christians believe Satan is not a living being but only a symbol of evil. He’s not real. The devil is just that little red man in a red cape and pitchfork sitting on one shoulder while an angel dressed in white sits on the other…both whispering in our ears.
Maybe that’s the extent some of you think of the Prince of Darkness and the Father of Lies. Maybe you’ve become cavalier about the devil because of all the TV shows and movies on the subject of Satan, demons, and the underworld.
This morning I want to set the record straight from a biblical perspective. Satan is real. His demons are real. They mean business. And the fact that so few professing Christians take the work of the enemy seriously is one of the reasons the church has lost her effectiveness in impacting the world for Jesus.
So, this morning we’re going to answer a two basic questions:
1. What does the Bible say about Demons, and specifically Satan? More to the point, how did they become evil? And what can they do to us?
2. How can we protect ourselves from demons and demonic activity in our lives?
Let’s start with a basic question: Who is Satan? How did He become the archenemy of God and His children?
The origins of Satan are somewhat incomplete, biblically speaking. We have to piece some things together based on a few Old and New Testament passages to learn how Satan came to be who he is and why.
There are two OT passages that reference Satan as a “fallen angel.” Isaiah 14:3-23 is an oracle against Babylon and the prophecy of its downfall. Many scholars look to a passage within this oracle as having dual significance. Let’s read it: 12How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the ground, O destroyer of nations. 13You said in your heart: “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of assembly, in the far reaches of the north. 14I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” 15But you will be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.
It could be argued that the prophet was speaking only of the human king of Babylon, Belshazzar, with no reference to the supernatural. But it could also be argued that there is a parallel, supernatural ruler who is brought down because of pride.
If this is so, then quite possibly, this defiant act of pride represents the actual beginning of sin in the universe—preceding the fall of the human Adam by some indeterminate time. Sin originated in the free will of Lucifer in which—with full understanding of the issues involved—he chose to rebel against the Creator.
In one part of John’s grand vision on the Island of Patmos, he sees what many believe as the pre-creation event of Lucifer being cast out of heaven along with a third of the angels. Let me read one portion in Revelation 12:7-9. 7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9The 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.
The second OT reference comes from Ezekiel 28 and, like Isaiah 14, in the first 10 verses, the prophet is seemingly referencing the human leader of Tyre and his lust for god-like power. Then, starting in verse 11, Lucifer seems to be the focus of discussion. Listen to some of the super-human descriptions for this king: ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God…You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for I had ordained you. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the fiery stones. From the day you were created you were blameless in your ways until wickedness was found in you.
The king is portrayed as having a different nature from man (he is a cherub); he had a different position from man (he was blameless and sinless); he was in a different realm from man (the holy mount of God). Lastly, he received a different judgment from man.
Verses 16-17 reads, “By the vastness of your trade, you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mountain of God, and I banished you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart grew proud of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor; so I cast you to the earth; I made you a spectacle before kings.
Lucifer was a created angel just like all other angels. [We spoke about angels last week.] Yet Lucifer, an archangel, pridefully chose to challenge God’s authority as Sovereign Ruler and Ancient of Days. He became corrupt, and his name changed from Lucifer (“morning star”) to Satan (“adversary”).
So, what does the Bible say about demons? Listen to Paul’s warning regarding demons in Ephesians 6:12 àFor our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The Bible warns of Satan’s grave threat to humanity by referring to him as “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) who “prowls” the earth “looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). And demons are no less dangerous, the Bible describing them as “impure spirits,” “deceiving spirit[s],” “the powers of this dark world” and “the spiritual forces of evil.”
Demons continue to serve Satan, the devil,in his attempt to lead the world away from God and into sin. The good news is this: Following the second coming of Christ, the destiny of Satan and his demons is to be bound in the abyss during the millennial reign of Christ before being thrown into the eternal lake of fire. In the end, GOD WINS!!!!
What can demons do? The Bible tells us that Satan and his demons can inflict harm:
- They can possess (or oppress) people to cause them physical and spiritual harm. There are a number of Gospel stories where Jesus casts out such demons. For instance, in Mark 5, Jesus casts out the legion of demons from the man of Gerasenes. The demons entered the herd of pigs who ran into the lake and died.
- In Matthew 12:22, a demon-possessed man unable to see or talk was healed by Jesus. But Pharisees said Jesus was casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub. Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
This is one biblical argument for Christians being unable to be POSESSED by demons since we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We can, however, become OPPRESSED by the enemy.
Two weeks ago, we heard testimony from Marty McCaleb, who received healing after some form of demonic spirit left him. I have witnessed both possession and oppression and they appear to be different phenomenon.
1. Demons can also cause people to do evil. Luke 22:3-4 records how Satan entered Judas, leading him to betray Jesus.
1.3. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, we are told that the minds of unbelievers can be blinded by demons so they cannot see the light of the Gospel. Honestly, I get frustrated sometimes when when I preach a clear message of salvation, KNOWING unbelievers are in the room, and no-one surrenders to Jesus. This passage reminds me that unbelievers can be blinded to the truth. Instead of frustration, I should have compassion, praying for deliverance.
1. Demons can deceive people by disguising themselves as “servants of righteousness.” In defending himself as a true apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul speaks against false apostles when he says this in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 à 12And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Friends, I believe this is still a problem in the church today. So often, preachers will give sermons that “sound” good and right and honorable. They use words like justice, and inclusiveness, and even love. All they while, they pervert or twist the truth of God’s Word just enough to where people follow a “partial truth” of the Gospel. We don’t have to see our sin for what it REALLY is…we just call them mistakes or failures to put behind us. The wrath of God seems harsh…unnecessary. Let’s just talk about a sympathetic Jesus. See what I mean?
That’s why Paul warns his son in the faith, Timothy, of how demons promote false doctrine in 1 Timothy 4:1 when he says, The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
- Demons can even torment believers. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul writes of his torment this way: Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. We don’t know what that thorn was: a physical condition like blindness or some physical pain? An emotional torment like depression? Whatever the case, it would seem that God allowed a messenger of Satan to inflict this annoyance on Paul. And if Paul can be tormented, so can we!
The second major question this morning is this: How can we protect ourselves from demons and demonic activity in our lives? E.g., How can Christians resist evil and avoid becoming deceived by the enemy?
The Bible gives us a clear way to thwart the efforts of the devil and his demons to lure us into sin. We led off with God’s RXà Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Some of you may say, “Well, I come to church, I believe in Jesus. But I also enjoy doing my own thing. What’s wrong with horoscopes, tarot cards, or palm reading? What’s so bad about watching shows about the underworld, or demons? Listen to what Moses told the Israelites before they entered the Promised land [READ DEUT. 18:9-13]. Why does God care? Because all that stuff is giving value and time to God’s enemy, that’s why!
Or, maybe you watch shows with gratuitous sex or violence and have become desensitized to the sinful nature of the activities you watch. You may think, “No big deal. I don’t act on those things. What I watch doesn’t affect what I believe or how I act, does it?” Really?????
In preparation for this Thursday evening, we bought some candy. [hold up bag] Ordinarily, I would already have “sampled” the wares. I LOVE Peanut Butter Cups. I like the Reese’s Commercial that suggests buying a bunch of Peanut Butter Cups, turning off your front porch light, and eating the cups!
Let me ask you something. We all get hungry every day, right? If, whenever I got hungry, I grabbed a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, what would happen to me? But I love them! Isn’t that enough? [Of course not.]
But, if every time I got hungry, I filled my tummy with the good stuff [bite apple, carrot, celery], what would happen to my body? Wouldn’t it be healthier?
That’s the way it is with our spiritual lives. We need to fill ourselves with God’s good stuff…his Word of God…fellowship with his Saints…prayer…serving others, etc, instead of filling ourselves with junk food like Internet, sleezy TV dramas, town gossip, and the like.
Remember James 4:7 : Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Submitting to God puts us in a posture of resistance toward Satan. One way we can submit to God and fight off the wicked temptations of the enemy is by putting on the “full armor of God” . Paul describes this armor in Ephesians 6:10-18. In the interest of time, let me just run down the list and what they might mean for us.
1. The Belt of Truth. Jesus tells us that God’s word is Truth and that we are sanctified by it. Since the devil is the “father of lies” and demons act in his name, we can combat those lies by arming ourselves with the knowledge of God’s Truth.
2. The Breastplate of Righteousness. When we align our actions with Scriptural instructions, we maintain our righteousness. This moral obedience is powerful, guarding our heart against situations that may hurt us. But if we become lax in our spiritual disciplines (Scripture, prayer, accountability, etc.), we open the door for sin to creep in.
3. The Gospel of Peace. The Gospel is freedom…freedom from the penalty of sin and death because of the work of Jesus on the Cross. We have PEACE with God. Peace is the PRESENCE of Christ in the midst of chaos. We can practice peace when we: repent of our sins and accept God’s forgiveness; forgive others who offend us. But if we fail to forgive others, even ourselves, we open the door to self-condemnation, bitterness, and isolation.
4. The Shield of Faith. When we seek God’s face…His Presence…instead of His hand (what he can give us), we grow in faith and better shield ourselves from the attack of dark forces. God assures us that when we continually seek His Presence despite our circumstances, everything we need will be given to us (Matthew 6:31-33).
5. The Helmet of Salvation. The helmet protects the “command center” that is the mind. If that “command center” gets injured, all other armor becomes useless. Likewise, demonic forces know that our mind is a battlefield susceptible to sinful suggestions, doubt, and deceit. Our thought life becomes our actions in life. When we focus our thoughts on our Savior, we “demolish arguments…against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
6. Sword of the Spirit. In ancient battle, a soldier was trained to use a sword both defensively to ward off attacks and offensively to injure the enemy. In spiritual battles the “sword” that Christ-followers must learn how to wield is God’s Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit. This sword of the Spirit defends us by sharpening our mind against the enemy’s misrepresentation of Scripture. This sword also works offensively to rebuke and correct the enemy.
Lastly, we’re told to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. We can go to God, our Father, through the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for ANYTHING! God loves you and me. He sent his Son to pay the penalty of sin and death, and to defeat Satan and His demons. The Bible says, “Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world.” Yes, Satan and his demons are real. Yes, they try to distract us, deceive us, and destroy us. But Jesus is GREATER! We are MORE than conquerors through Christ Jesus our Lord! We are to stand firm, submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee.