It's interesting to go through the Gospels and the book of Acts and look at issues that seemed to be medical or psychiatric problems but that Jesus and the disciples attributed to demonic activity. While we might agree that the man who lived in the tombs at the Gerasenes (Mark 5) was possessed, the mute boy with seizures (Mark 9:14-29) in our eyes appears to suffer from epilepsy. And the man in Matthew 12:22 was diagnosed as demon possessed merely because he was blind and mute. Modern medicine would explain away such things, but strangely enough, Jesus did not correct the people when they attributed medical problems to a demon.
There were other cases that were clearly the result of demonic activity, often because those who were possessed said things they shouldn't have known. A man in a synagogue cried out "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God" (Mark 1:24). Mark 3:11-12 says, "And whenever the unclean spirits saw him [Jesus], they fell down before him and cried out, 'You are the Son of God.' And he strictly ordered them not to make him known." Later, Paul removed a demon from a young girl who had been used by men to make money through her divination (Acts 16:16-18).
Is such demonic activity still going on? If so, to what extent?
Undoubtedly there is demonic activity in the world today. How much, we don't know. Job gives a good idea of what demons can do (Job 1—2). Satan enticed the Sabeans to kill Job's servants and take his oxen and donkeys, and the Chaldeans to take his camels. He sent fire from heaven to kill Job's sheep and shepherds, and a wind to collapse the building Job's children were in, killing them all. When Job's faith stood strong, Satan then caused Job to contract a horrible, painful skin condition.
Daniel gives another glimpse of demonic activity in the world. In Daniel 10:11-14, an angel reveals that his arrival was delayed because of the "prince of Persia," a demon who apparently had great spiritual influence over the nation of Persia. In fact, Paul later goes so far as to call Satan the "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4). There's no reason to think such authority has been or will be revoked until Satan is bound for a thousand years after the Tribulation (Revelation 20:1-3).
So, we know that demons can instigate violence, financial ruin, illness, and even death. They also have authority to influence nations. But there are some common beliefs that the Bible doesn't endorse.
The Bible does not blame all misfortune on demonic activity. Someone who is plagued by fear does not necessarily have a "spirit of fear." Someone who can't manage money is not necessarily being harassed by a "spirit of poverty." Someone who can't find a spouse is not necessarily being tormented by a "spirit of rejection." While it's possible that a person could be subjected to particular attention by demons, the Bible does not indicate that every hardship is a direct result of spiritual warfare. Our world is broken, and we should expect to experience some of that brokenness in our lives.
On a worldwide scale, while it is possible that demons are guiding human institutions to wreak havoc across the globe, the Bible doesn't indicate that Christians should concentrate on stopping those efforts. In the end times, the entire world will be controlled by demonic activity. This will herald the glorification and victory of Christ. Our time is better spent reaching souls than fighting the Illuminati.
There are two things to remember regarding demonic activity today. The first is that the activity appears to be strongest when we look for it. It is absolute foolishness to seek out demons, and in the Old Testament, such attempts were punishable by stoning (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). Demons are the enemy of God's children and want nothing but harm for us (1 Peter 5:8). Modern-day dalliances include spirit guides, tarot cards, Ouija boards, palm reading, horoscopes, and "ghost hunting." Demons are our enemy (Ephesians 6:12). To seek to associate with them is to invite destruction.
The other thing the Bible is clear about is that God is sovereign over demons and has the power and authority to limit their activity. Job 1 and 2 show that Satan couldn't lay a finger on Job without God's permission. In fact, God can use demonic activity for His purposes—to encourage us to return to Him (1 Corinthians 5:5) or to teach us how to trust Him more completely (2 Corinthians 12:7). We have input, though. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray that God will deliver us from evil—most likely referring directly to Satan. We can ask God to protect us from demonic activity (Matthew 6:13).
The Bible doesn't tell us how to exorcise people or expel demons from places. Nor does it emphasize that we are supposed to. Of greater concern in the New Testament is that we should not allow demonic activity to influence us to reject God's authority over our lives. James 4:7 says, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." This doesn't refer to a spiritual attack that causes earthly harm, but to temptation to sin. Job, again, is our model for this—"In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong" (Job 1:22). We can't control the spiritual forces; we can only pray for protection and resist the temptation to sin.
The goal of demonic activity is to draw people away from God either by keeping unbelievers from coming to Christ or by leading believers to sin so much their spiritual walk becomes more of a hindrance than an encouragement to others (1 John 5:16). Not every hardship with health, well-being, relationships, and government are demonic in nature, but those that are, are designed to pull us from God. We resist demonic activity when we resolve to follow Christ no matter the distractions.
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