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The word "Demon" comes from the Greek word "daimon" which means "intelligent." According to passages in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament), Satan is has a personal army of demons to assist him in attacking humans and accomplishing evil tasks. They roam the world looking for people that they may destroy. The Gospels and the book of Acts describe many exorcisms where Jesus and his disciples release people from demonic possession. The Bible implies that demons are the same fallen angels that once joined Satan in a heavenly revolt. By the 1st century CE in the Galilee where Jesus preached,, many mental disorders were believed to be caused by indwelling demons. Other demons were responsible for bad weather, accidents, etc.
Christians hold different beliefs about demons, demon possession and exorcism:
|Conservative Christians generally believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. The Christian Scriptures have many dozens of references to demons. The passages seem obviously intended by the authors to be interpreted literally. Jesus, his disciples/apostles, and the general public of 1st century CE Judea and Galilee are reported as believing in the existence of demonic spirits and in the possibility of demon possession of an individual. Exorcism formed a large part of Jesus' ministry on earth. Bible literalists have no option but to believe in demonic possession; otherwise, they would have to accept that Jesus was deluded, or the gospels are inaccurate. Neither of these options is a possibility for a conservative Christians whose foundational beliefs are in the deity of Jesus, the inerrancy of the Bible and God's inspiration of the Bible's authors.|
|Liberal Christians have long abandoned belief in demons. They consider Bible passages about demons to be of little value - much like the verses that condoned and regulated human slavery, required the execution of non-virgin brides, and other practices considered immoral by today's religious and secular standards. These passages from the Christian Scriptures are simply reflecting the pre-scientific view of the biblical authors living in the 1st and 2nd century CE.|
Demons are fallen angels under the command of Satan, those who are still free after the Gen. 6 affair. Satan is called the Prince, or Ruler, of all demons in Matthew 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15. Demons are also called the ministers, or ambassadors of Satan, Luke 4:35; 9:1,42; John 10:21. Satan is brilliant, an administrative genius. He has an excellent organization, mentioned in Eph. 6:10-12 (READ) The Bible also makes a distinction between demon possession and demon influence.
Demon possession occurs when an actual fallen angel, a demon, enters and occupies the body of an unbeliever. Demons cannot enter the bodies of Christian believers because the Christian's body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Inviting demons can be accomplished in a number of ways.
- Through idolatry (Satan's communion table), 1 COR. 10:19-21*.
- Through drug addiction, called in Greek, farmakeia, "the use of drugs, potions, or spells; poisoning, witchcraft, sorcery" GAL. 5:20 ("witch-craft, sorcery"), cf. also REV.9:21; 18:23.
- Through religious backsliding, religious sensitivity activities such as dabbling in the occult, consulting mediums, necromancy. cf. ISA. 8:19.
Demon Influence is the residence of evil in the soul; can be unbeliever (ROM. 1:23) or believer. This is the method that Satan uses to trap and neutralize the believer, by introducing, if allowed, the Doctrine of Evil inside the soul of the born-again believer. Demon influence in the believer comes about in the later stages of negativity, or backsliding.
The first stage of backsliding is some kind of reaction to life -- whether discouragement, disillusion, disenchantment, boredom, self-pity, loneliness, frustration, instability, pride complex and various sins of arrogance, revenge tactics, reaction to contemporary events or social pressures, etc. Whatever causes it, the reaction stage makes one very vulnerable to the attacks of Satan. This is not the entrance into demon influence, at this point, but merely vulnerability to it.
The second stage of backsliding is the frantic search for happiness following the trends of the Sin Nature (towards asceticism or lasciviousness). This also increases vulnerability, especially as one moves away from the protection of doctrine and Grace provision.
The third stage intensifies the reaction stage, but still has only the potentiality, not the actuality, of demon influence. It is at the fourth stage of backsliding, in which the soul is in revolt emotionally, where the possibility of demon influence comes in. Doctrinal content is located in the mentality of the soul (including standards, conscience, frame of reference, memory center, vocabulary, doctrinal storage under edification, and the area of applied doctrine resulting in production of divine good). It is the lack of doctrinal content which is the primary factor in vulnerability to demon influence.
The soul also has its area of response to outside influences, centered in the emotions of the soul. Emotion has no doctrinal content, no character of its own, no spiritual content, no ability to think or rationalize, or even to use common sense. It is designed to respond; it is not designed to lead or initiate anything. The tongues movement is an illustration of the soul's emotions being led about by falsehood. Sometimes believers in the tongues movement are under demon influence. Sometimes unbelievers are actually demon possessed.
The thing that opens the door for demon influence in the life of the believer is negative volition toward the Word of God. The believer says "Negative" to doctrine and opens up a vacuum in his soul. Whatever evil is in the neighborhood will be picked up -- false teaching, TV, newspaper...
Regardless of what causes the negative attitude, the effect is the same. It may be antagonism or a negative attitude or personality conflict with the pastor, or with other members of the congregation. It may be apathy or indifference to teaching. It may be failure to use Grace provision, Faith Rest, or inability to handle prosperity, slavery to the details of life. Whatever it is, negative volition opens up the emptiness of the soul.
As a result of evil in the soul, there is demon influence, the "darkness in the soul" of Eph. 4. There is the infiltration of the doctrines of Satan into the soul of the reversionistic person (believer or unbeliever). Here, the believer is "worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator".
There are two systems for demon possession of the unbeliever. The first is the unlawful isolation of dormant facilities. The body is brought under the control of the soul, and the soul has been given to Satan. It is like a conversion in reverse. Seances, or the ceremony called the Satanic mass, are means by which this is accomplished. This person becomes a disembodied spirit or an "adept". All of the activities of supernaturalism may be attributed to this; mental telepathy, spiritism, out of body experiences.
The second system is passive submission to demons. This can be accomplished through idolatry, through drugs, or other means. In the ancient world, the various oracles used this means in attempting to predict the outcome of events. (The "mephitic vapors" of the oracle of Delphi, which was some form of narcotic gas.) Another example is the Hindu "soma" mysteries, and the various sutras of Indian religions. There are also various systems of mesmerism or hypnotism, whether induced by one's self or another person, such as Whirling Dervishes, or unbelievers involved in the tongues movement.
Demonism is directly related to idolatry and thus to human sacrifice Ps. 136:37,39. Sacrifices to demons were prohibited by law in Lev. 17:7, "And they shall no longer sacrifice to the goat demon (or satyr) with which they shall play the harlot. This will be a permanent law in every generation." Or in Deut. 32:17, "They sacrifice to demons, not gods, new things which came lately which your ancestors did not fear." Heathen nations worship demons, acc. to Ps. 96:5, "For all the gods of the peoples are idols (daimonia in LXX)." It was thoroughly understood that idolatry meant demons. Capital punishment by stoning was the penalty for witchcraft, demonism, etc.
The judgment against Egypt concerning the death of the first-born was also a judgment against the demons in Egypt. Ex. 12:12, "For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the demons of Egypt I will execute judgment; I am Jehovah." Num. 33:4, "While the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn whom the Lord had struck down among them, the Lord had also executed judgment against their demons."
Demons are powerless to change the course of history. Isa. 19:3, "Then the spirits of the Egyptians will become demoralized within them; also, I will frustrate their strategy, so that they will resort to idle demons and to the ghosts of the dead and to mediums and to spiritists." Demonism is always subject to the justice of God and is always judged in its various forms.
The reason why the Canaanites were removed from the land is that they practiced demonism. Deut. 18:9-12 (READ). In the reign of King Manasseh, evil is associated with demonism, 2 Kings 21:2-16. Demonism brings the discipline of total destruction to a nation, Isa. 47; Jer. 27:6-10; Isa. 29:4.
Satan and demons are often used by God in the administration of the sin unto death to reversionistic believers. Ex. Hymenaeus and Alexander, I Tim. 1:19,20. The believer committing incest in 1 Cor. 5:5 was turned over to Satan, but it was so painful that he repented.
Satan's power of death is mentioned in four categories. He has the power of death, Heb. 2:14,15; 1 John 3:8. He killed Job's children, Job 1:12,18,19. He motivated Cain to murder Abel, John 8:44; 1 John 3:12.
Satan is a source of disease. Satan produced the illness in Job, Job 2:6,8. Satan uses demons to produce disease in human beings. There is therefore the principle of demon-induced illness, Matt. 12:22; Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38. Certain mental diseases, and illness which are related to abnormal behavior, may be demon induced. Dumbness and deafness, Mark 9:17; Luke 11:14; Matt. 11:22. Certain forms of epilepsy, Mark 1:26; 9:20; Luke 4:35. Satan is the source of at least ten different types of abnormal behavior which are mentioned in the Bible. Convulsions, Mark 1:26.
Violence, Matt. 8:28.
Abnormal strength, Mark 5:4.
Raving, Mark 5:5
Self-mutilation, Mark 5:5
Foaming at the mouth, Mark 9:20
Public nakedness, Luke 8:27
Living among corpses, Mark 5:3
A type of grinding of the teeth, Mark 9:18
Falling into fires and throwing oneself into dangerous things, Matt. 17:15 Satan also heals. He heals by the withdrawal of demons and establishes the credentials for some of his evangelists. In Acts 19:11,12 legitimate healing by God was used to establish apostolic authority. On the other hand, healing was used by Satan in a similar way, II Thess. 2:9; Rev. 16:14; Matt. 24:24.
Satan wanted to punish Peter by using demons. Luke 22:31,32 (READ). Peter had denied Christ, and Satan had the audacity to suggest how the justice of God should function toward Peter. Of course the Lord refused this.
I Tim. 3:6,7 (READ)-- Satan is used as a warning for discipline.
The power of Satan is summarized in Psalm 109:6-13 (READ). He can blind true religion, shorten life (where God permits), remove people from authority, can kill, can persecute children, remove wealth, turn everyone against you, he can cut off posterity to the second generation. So certain powers are permitted Satan as the "ruler of this world", but they are always under the sovereignty of God.
Demons are spirits that act malevolently against human beings. The Bible makes repeated mention of evil spirits (Lev. 16: 10; I Sam. 16:14-16; Isa. 34:14), including satyrs and night demons, but does not provide a great deal of detail. More elaborate stories about demons appear during the Greco-Roman period.The existence of demons, while widely accepted, has always presented a theological difficulty. Since all things are ultimately the creation of the one God, the question of why should evil spirits exist has greatly exercised Jewish thought. Apocalyptic literature offers the first attempt to explain their existence in a monotheistic context by claiming demons are really fallen angels. Rabbinic literature provides the first extensive source for Jewish demonology, though the information is scattered though many sources. In it, several explanations for the existence of demons are offered. They are a creation of the twilight of the sixth day (Pirkei Avot 5.6). Abraham ibn Ezra described demons as a product of the interaction of sunlight with smoke and vapor which then clings to the body, causing illness (Sefer ha-Atzmim).
Demons cannot procreate on their own, so they used semen from Adam in order to make more of their own kind (B.T. Ervuin 18b; Zohar). An elaboration on this tradition is that Lilith, the first woman, having transformed herself into a witch-demon using the Tetragrammaton, takes the nocturnal emissions of men she seduces to procreate more demons (Alef-Bet ben Sira). In kabbalistic thought the demonic is a necessary part of creation, a product of the sitra achra, the "other side" of the divine emanations in the material universe.
Demons occupy an intermediate place between mortals and angels. According to Chagigah 16a, they resemble angels in three ways: They have wings, they can fly throughout the universe, and they hear what transpires in heaven. They also resemble mortals in that they procreate, eat, and die. They are always invisible, except under special conditions.
The malevolent effects of demons are many: they cause illness and death, especially for the vulnerable (children, women in childbirth); they trouble and deceive the mind, and cause contention in the community of mortals.
Tractate Berachot has perhaps the most information on demons of any part of the Talmud. There we learn that demons tend to dwell in the wilderness, in ruins, and in other places not by frequented by people (Isa. 13:21). It also describes a "diagnostic" ritual for detecting the presence of the demonic: Ashes spread around one's bed at nighttime will reveal demon tracks in the morning, and demons can be rendered visible by grinding up the ashes of a black cat's afterbirth and then sprinkle the powder in one's eyes.
The appearance of demons varies, but is always terrible. In keeping with Ancient Near Eastern beliefs about evil spirits, demons have bird talons for feet in addition to wings. At night, demons can appear in human form (Meg. 3a).
Demonic power waxes and wanes according to the time of day, the week, the seasons, meteorological conditions, topographical features, and other natural factors (Yalkut Chadash, Keshafim 56; Numbers R. 12:3; Pes. 3a-b, 112a; Shab. 67a). The informed can use this information to minimize their threat.
Around human habitations, they frequent rooftops, outhouses, and drainage gutters. Strangely, demonic forces are attracted to synagogues. The Angel of Death, for example, is said to keep his tools there. Stories of Sages doing night battles with demons in the synagogue appear in Jewish tales across time.
Prominent demons have names, usually derived from their particular power; Reshef, for example, means "pestilence." Some demons, like Samael, have theophonic names, like angels. Occasionally demons can have surprisingly mundane names, like "Joseph." The name Lilith means either "air" (Akkadian) or "night" (Hebrew) and has its roots in Mesopotamian aerial spirits called "lilu."
Reciting certain psalms has an atropopaic effect against evil spirits (Pss. 29: 91; 121), as do other key verses of Scripture (Num. 7:4-6). Magical phrases have also been recorded to combat their malevolent effects (Pes. 100a; 112a). The bells on the skirt of the High Priest evidently drove them away. Drinking water only from white containers turns away night demons (Pesachim 3a). Bercahot 5a credits ritual objects such as mezuzah, tefillin, and ritual fringes with warding off evil spirits. The Jews of Mesopotamia additionally protected their homes with Demon Bowls and Incantation Bowls. Temporary protection can be gotten through the use of magic circles. Amulets of near infinite variety have been created across Jewish history. Demons can be bribed with food or money, or frightened off with shofar blasts, unpleasant smells, or spitting. Guardian angels are the best defense, and are acquired every time one performs a mitzvah (Ex. R. 32).
Intriguingly, a mortal can work beneficently with demons, if one knows the rituals of power to control them. Asmodeus, the king of Demons, was co-opted by Solomon to good ends. Demons can be turned against other demons (Lev. R. 24). Sometimes the demon will do so willingly (Pes. 106a), but usually this involves controlling the demons magically and forcing the captured spirit to do the will of the adept. R. Eliezer of Metz (12th Century), permitted the use of demons in spells and amulets, writing, "Invoking the demons to do one's will is permitted" for what difference is there between invoking demons and angels?" At the same time, anything that smacks of demon veneration or worship, such as making offerings or burning incense to a demon, is expressly forbidden (Sanh. 65b).