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4-1 The Devil, Satan And Demons

It has been explained earlier that the Devil or Satan is not a personal being or monster. We've explained that the words simply mean 'the adversary', or 'false accuser'. Sometimes these ideas are used in a metaphorical sense to refer to the sinful tendencies innate within human nature. If we accept that there is no such being as 'Satan', then it surely follows that demons, who are held to be the servants of the Devil, also do not exist. Many people seem to think that God gives us all the good things of life, and the Devil and his demons give us the bad things, and take away the good things which God gives us. But as we approach the specific issue of demons, let's recap some of the basic Bible principles covered earlier.

The Bible clearly teaches that God is the source of all power, and that He is responsible for both the good things and the bad things in our lives:

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Is. 45:7);

“Evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem”(Mic. 1:12);

“Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord has not done it?” (Am. 3:6).

Therefore when we get trials, we should accept that they come from God, not blame them on a Devil or demons. Job was a man who lost many of the good things which God blessed him with, but he didn't blame his losses upon demons. Listen to what he said: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21); “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? (Job 2:10). Once we understand that all things are from God, when we have problems in life we can pray to God for Him to take them away, and if He does not, we can be assured that He is giving them to us in order to develop our characters and for our good in the long run: “My Son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loves He (not demons!) chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons; for what son is he whom the Father chastens not? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards and not sons” (Heb. 12:5-8).

God: Source Of All Power

God is the source of all power:

“I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God (the Hebrew word for ‘god’ essentially means ‘power’) beside Me” (Is. 45:5); “Is there a God beside Me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any”, God says (Is. 44: 8); “The Lord He is God; there is none else beside Him” (Dt. 4:35). Such verses occur time and again throughout the Bible. Because God is the source of all power and the only God, He is therefore a jealous God, as He often reminds us (e.g. Ex. 20:5; Dt. 4:24). God gets jealous when His people start believing in other gods, if they say to Him, ‘You are a great God, a powerful God, but actually I believe there are still some other gods beside You, even if they are not as powerful as You’. This is the problem with believing that there are demons or a Devil in existence as well as the true God. This is just the mistake Israel made. Much of the Old Testament is spent showing how Israel displeased God by believing in other gods as well as in Him. The “demons” some people believe in today are equivalent to those false gods Israel believed in.

Biblical Christianity differs from most religions in that it doesn't offer a specifically stated theology about demons. Many uninspired religious writings explain in great detail how their religion views demons and Angels, how there is a hierarchy of good ones and a hierarchy of bad ones and so forth. The Bible is significantly silent on this point- if indeed the common views of fallen Angels, demons etc. are Biblical, why is the Bible lacking such a demonology? Why does the Bible never actually define for us what a demon is? The Bible records no eye-witness accounts of meetings with demons. This point has been heavily pressed by various writers (1). The Bible refers to demons in the same way as it refers to various contemporary religious ideas, e.g. Baal; but such reference doesn't of itself prove that the Bible supports those contemporary views. And there are of course as many theories about demons ['demonologies'] as there are cultures and religions; which one would we chose as true?

It has been observed that the concept of demons became necessary because the Middle Eastern peoples around the first century could not conceive that the main gods could operate directly in human life- they had to be understood as somewhat distant and uninvolved in daily human issues. This was in fact one of the underlying themes behind Plutarch's writings about demons (2). It has been observed that "the idea that demons were responsible for all moral and physical evil had penetrated deeply into Jewish religious thought in the period following the Babylonian exile, no doubt as a result of Iranian influence on Judaism in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C." (3). This whole premise contrasts sharply with the one true God revealed in the Bible- a God "near at hand and not afar off" (Jer. 23:23), ever active and passionately involved in the minutiae of human lives. Plutarch's view of demons was evidently based upon Plato's false understanding of an 'immortal soul'- effectively, demons were held to be demi-gods existing as some form of immortal soul. Here we see the importance of the demon issue- for the Biblical teaching about the mortality of humanity, and especially the mortality of the "soul", is fundamental. The Biblical hope is that of resurrection of the body at the final coming of Messiah in glory to establish God's Kingdom on earth. One false idea so easily leads to another. To present our conclusion in summary before we consider the evidence: the Lord Jesus deals with this issue tactfully and subtly, in the same spirit as the Old Testament prophets dealt with the false views about the existence of dragons, monsters beneath the earth, in the sea, up in the sky etc. The Lord's approach was to show that the only real power in the earth is with God and not anyone nor anything else. And that even if folk wished to cling on to their cultural superstitions about demons, they had to accept the power of God was so infinitely greater... that effectively, to all intents and purposes in human life, these beings have no practical power nor influence. Our lives, every aspect of them, are in God's hands, "a faithful creator" (1 Pet. 4:19), and not in anyone else's hands.


(1) Andrew Perry, Demons, Magic And Medicine (Sutton, UK: Willow, 1999); H.C. Kee, Medicine, Miracle And Magic (Cambridge: C.U.P., 1986).

(2) See the Introduction to Plutarch: Selected Essays And Dialogues ed. D. Russell (Oxford: O.U.P., 1993); and J. Black and A. Green, eds., Gods, Demons And Symbols Of Ancient Mesopotamia (London: The British Museum Press, 1992).

(3) Geza Vermes, Jesus The Jew (London: S.C.M., 1993) p. 61.