Demons are spiritual forces of wickedness that possess people.

Angels are mentioned nearly 200 times in the New Testament, but they are called “spirits” only once:

Ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Hebr. 1:13-14).

In contrast, the New Testament uses the Greek word pneuma many times for “unclean spirits,” also called “demons,” for example:

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out” (Mt. 10:1; cf. Mark 6:7; Mt. 12:28).

A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit … kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. … And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” (Mark: 7:25-30).

Demons possess people.

It is not recorded that Jesus ever encountered these “unclean spirits” by themselves.  Rather, the demons interacted with the physical world by possessing people (Mat. 8:16).  In fact, many demons may exist within a single person:

Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8:1-3).

Jesus told the story of an unclean spirit that goes out of a man, but find no place to rest.  It then goes back to the man and “finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.”  “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Mat 12:43-45; cf. Luke 11:24-26; cf. Luke 11:24-26; Mark 5:2-16).

Demons possess animals.

The following is another example of many demons possessing a man, but in this instance, these demons were also able to possess animals; in particular pigs:

Jesus and His disciples sailed to the country of the Gerasenes.  “When He got out of the boat,” He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.” The man “ran up and bowed down before Him (Jesus); and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me! For He had been saying to him, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ … He was asking him, ‘What is your name?’”  “And he said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him.

The story goes on to relate how the legion of “demons” went out of the man and into the swine, and how the entire herd of about 2000 pigs drowned in the sea.  But “the man who had been demon-possessed” was “sitting down, clothed and in his right mind.” (Mark 5:2-16)

Cast out

To cure possessed people of these demons, Jesus cast them out, for example:

They brought to Him (Jesus) many who were demon possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word” (Mat. 8:16; cf. Mark: 7:25-30; Mark 1:21-26).

Jesus also gave authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, to His twelve disciples (Mt. 10:1; cf. Mark 6:7; Mt. 12:28).

Intelligent Beings

Sometimes it seems as if these unclean spirits were really only a natural disease, such as epilepsy or seizures, for example:

One of the crowd answered Him, ‘Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it. … Jesus … rebuked the unclean spirit … ‘I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again’. … The boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead’! But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. … His disciples began questioning Him privately, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’ and He said to them, ‘This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.’” (Mark 9:17-29; Luke 9:37-43).

In this case, the spirit did not speak and probably was only a natural illness. However, these spirit beings were able to speak through the people they possess.  For example, Philip performed many signs. “In the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice” (Acts 8:7; cf. Acts 19:12).

These demons also knew that Jesus was “the Son of God,” something which ordinary people did not realize:

Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’” (Mark 3:11)

Some Jewish exorcists “attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, ‘I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.’” But the evil spirit said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:13-16)

In Capernaum “there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit.”  When Jesus entered, the man cried out, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”  After Jesus “rebuked him, … the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him.” (Mark 1:21-26).

These unclean spirits, therefore, were intelligent beings.  In modern times we find it difficult to believe in the existence of demons possessing people, but if we believe the Bible, we have to.

Controlled by demons

In addition to speaking through the people they possess, these demons are able to control people in other ways.  In one instance they caused the possessed man to attack people (Acts 19:13-16).  These evil spirits also actively infuse people with false teachings:

The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

In one instance a man, possessed by an evil spirit, was in the synagogue (Mark 1:21-26).  This shows that demon-possessed people also attend church and we are not aware of it.  But Jesus’ presence forced the unclean spirits to present themselves.

Spiritual forces of Wickedness

Jesus described the unclean spirits as “the enemy:”

The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’” Jesus then said, “Behold, I have given you authority … over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

This reminds me of Paul’s words:

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

The prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:1).

The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4).

These are indications of the war in the spiritual realm. See War in Heaven.

SUMMARY

Angels are mentioned nearly 200 times in the New Testament, but only Hebrews 1:13-14 refers to them as “spirits.”  In contrast, the New Testament uses the Greek word pneuma many times for “unclean spirits,” also called “demons.”

Possess people

It is not recorded that Jesus ever encountered these “unclean spirits” by themselves.  Rather, these demons interacted with the physical world by possessing people (Mat. 8:16).  Many demons may exist within a single person (Luke 8:1-3; Mat 12:43-45; cf. Luke 11:24-26; Mark 5:2-16).  There is one incident where demons also possess animals; more specifically, pigs (Mark 5:2-16).

In addition to speaking through the people they possessed, these demons are also able to control the people they possess in other ways.  In one instance they caused the possessed man to attack people (Acts 19:13-16).  These evil spirits not only passively possess people; they actively infuse them with false teachings (1 Timothy 4:1).

To cure possessed people of these demons, Jesus cast them out (Mark: 7:25-30; Mark 1:21-26).  He also gave authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, to His twelve disciples (Mt. 10:1; cf. Mark 6:7; Mt. 12:28).

Intelligent beings

Sometimes it seems as if these unclean spirits were really only a natural disease, such as epilepsy or seizures (Mark 9:17-29; Luke 9:37-43).  However, these spirit beings were able to speak through the people they possess.  They also knew that Jesus was “the Son of God” (Mark 3:11; Mark 1:21-26; Acts 8:7; Acts 19:12) and they knew about Paul (Acts 19:13-16).  They, therefore, were intelligent beings.  In modern times we may find it difficult to believe in the existence of demons, but if we believe the Bible, we have to.

In one instance a man, possessed by an evil spirit, was in the synagogue.  This shows that demon-possessed people also attend church and that we are unable to recognize such people.  But Jesus’ presence forced the unclean spirits to present themselves.

Spiritual forces of wickedness

Jesus described the unclean spirits as “the enemy” (Luke 10:17-20).  This reminds of Paul’s words:

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12; cf. 2:1; 2 Cor. 4:4).

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the excellent Pineknoll website.

Why is it necessary to show that God judges perfectly?

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

antichrist last seven yearsThe previous article concluded that the Purpose of the Plagues is not to punish, but to demonstrate that God’s judgments are perfect:

      • The people with the mark of the beast are the modern Pharisees.  In name, they are Christians, but the plagues will show that they are hardened beyond repentance.
      • The people with the seal of God will be a persecuted minority, but the plagues will also show that they would rather die than to be unfaithful to their Creator.

The current article provides context to these conclusions:

HOW COULD SIN ARISE?

How was it possible for sin to arise if God is almighty and good?

God is love and wants us to love Him in return, but that requires freedom.  For that reason, He creates intelligent beings with the freedom to love or to hate Him.  Sin comes from this freedom.  We can take great comfort in the fact that God did not exterminate the first sinner as soon as he had the first evil thoughts for it shows that our freedom is real. He protects our freedom, even if it costs Him the life of His only begotten Son.

WHY GOD ALLOWED SIN TO DEVELOP

Why did He allow sin to develop to the level of cruelty and suffering we see around us today?

      • Firstly, by accusing God’s people, Satan, by implication, accuses God of unfair judgment.
      • Secondly, Satan’s ways did not appear to be evil at first.

If God destroyed Satan before his accusations were refuted and the true nature of rebellion was revealed, the intelligent creatures would always have questioned God’s actions.

As stated, the purpose of the plagues is not to punish, but to reveal truth. More specifically, the purpose of the plagues is to demonstrate that it is not God who kills sinners, but that separation from Him NATURALLY causes degeneration and eventually destruction.  To disconnect yourself from the Almighty is to disconnect yourself from life itself, for God is the life of the universe and of every living being. The purpose of the plaques is to show what happens when the world is disconnected from its Creator. It will self-destruct.

WHY ANGELS DOUBT GOD’S JUDGMENTS

As stated, even the heavenly beings that remain loyal to God are unsure whether His judgments are perfect.  To understand this, we need to understand how sin developed.

Sin originated in Satan; before the world was created.  He was the most beautiful and most talented being ever created (cf. Ezekiel 18:13) but he wanted to be adored equal to God (Is. 14:13, 14).  Satan is the master accuser (Rev. 12:10).  He covered his motives under a cloak of lies. Due to his brilliant attacks on the perfection of God’s judgments, he succeeded to lead a very large portion of the perfect angels away from God (Rev 12:7).  Not even the loyal angels are sure that God always judges perfectly. Therefore, even the loyal angels need answers.

GOD IS NOT THE JUDGE

Obviously, God wants to make an end of sin as soon as possible.  Why does He allow sin to continue?

Freedom is without fear of punishment.  If we fear that God will punish us if we sin, then we are not completely free.  God will eventually destroy evil and all beings that have become permanently committed to evil, but it will not be a punishment for past evil deeds. He will destroy evil to protect the future safety and happiness of the universe.

But the destruction of evil will only be to the benefit of the universe when God’s angels and people agree that the destruction of evildoers is the only option.  If unanswered questions remain, if a lingering doubt with respect to God’s goodness remains, that doubt can become the seed in the future eternities for another rebellion.  Only when all questions with respect to the nature and consequences of evil have been answered, to the satisfaction of God’s intelligent creatures, can God safely eliminate the destructive forces from the universe.  God, therefore, is not the judge.

 – END OF SUMMARY – 

TO DEMONSTRATE

The previous article concluded that the Purpose of the Plagues is not to punish, but to demonstrate that God’s judgments are perfect:

The people with the mark of the beast are the modern Pharisees.  In name, they are Christians, but the plagues will show that they are hardened beyond repentance. Even under the most severe circumstances, they will not repent. Therefore the only solution is eternal death.

The people with the seal of God will be a persecuted minority, but the plagues will also show that they would rather die than to be unfaithful to God by submitting to the image of the beast, and, therefore, are worthy of eternal life. 

Combined, these demonstrations will show that God’s judgment, as to who will live and who will die, is perfect.

HOW WAS IT POSSIBLE FOR SIN TO ARISE?

Why did sin arise in the first place? How was it possible for sin to develop?

God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). He is light, and in Him, there is no darkness (1 John 1:5).  His government is based on unconditional love.  He loves all His creatures.  He loved them so much that He was willing to give His only begotten Son to die for them (John 3:16). 

Love requires freedom – God also wants us to love Him in return (Mat 22:37-38), but that requires freedom.  The only obedience that He desires is obedience that results from love.  Obedience that is FORCED or based on FEAR, even in the slightest degree, is no obedience at all.  Real love is freely given. 

Humans have free choice – For that reason, God creates intelligent beings with the freedom to love or to hate Him.  He could have created robots, programmed to always say ‘I love you’, but He chose to create free intelligent creatures, with the ability to curse Him. 

Sin arose from this freedom.  Freedom creates the potential for evil; to hurt and even kill.

WHY GOD DID NOT ELIMINATE TO FIRST SINNER

The above explains why the first evil came to exist, but why did God not exterminate the first sinner (Satan) as soon as he had the first evil thoughts?  God could have erased any memory of Satan from our minds, for He is Almighty.

However, if He would do that, our freedom would not be real.  Since He did not do that, we know that God regards our freedom very high.  We can take great comfort in the fact that God did allow Satan to continue for it shows that, although God is Almighty, and although every thought and every action depend on His supporting power, He protects our freedom, even if it costs Him the life of His only begotten Son.

WHY DID GOD ALLOW SIN TO DEVELOP?

Why did God allow sin to develop to the level of cruelty and suffering we see around us today? Why did He not put an end to evil a long time ago?

In the Bible, we often that Satan accuses God’s people, for example in the cases of Job (Job 1:9, 10) and Joshua (Zech. 3:1).  Revelation, therefore, refers to Satan as the accuser of the brethren (12:10). Since he specifically accuses God’s people, rather than his own followers, Satan, by implication, accuses God of applying grace where grace is not justified.

God had condemned Satan and his angels to the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41). To defend himself and his followers, Satan attempts to convince the universe that God judges arbitrarily and that He is severe on those who do not receive grace.

Furthermore, Satan has myriads of angels on his side (Rev. 12:7).  This implies that Satan claimed that his rebellion against God will be to the benefit of all God’s creatures; that his strategies will elevate their existence and happiness.  Satan’s ways did not appear to be evil at first. 

Obviously, God wants to make an end of sin as soon as possible.  But if God destroys Satan his accusations against God were refuted and the true nature of rebellion was revealed, doubt over God’s goodness will linger, even with His loyal angels. God had to allow sin to develop to demonstrate the real nature and consequences of evil.

SEPARATION FROM GOD KILLS.

As stated, the purpose of the plagues is not to punish, but to reveal the truth. More specifically, the purpose of the plagues is to demonstrate that it is not God who kills sinners, but that separation from Him NATURALLY causes degeneration and eventually destruction.  This concept can be argued as follows:

God is our life.  All the energy and all the wisdom that created all things came OUT OF God.  He also continually upholds everything by His power (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:17).  He is not somewhere out there, while we carry on down here.  He is, rather, continually upholding every aspect of His creation; even Satan himself. For that reason, it would conceptually not be wrong to say that only God exists and that we are part of Him.  We must not underestimate the meaning of the fact that God is Almighty.  He really can do anything, and our existence, from second to second, depends fully on Him.  Therefore, to reject God is to reject life itself, for God is the life of the universe and of every living being.  

Satan disconnected himself from the Source of life.  That is the cause of the degeneration which we currently endure on this planet. The purpose of the plaques is to demonstrate that it is not God who destroys, but that separation from God destroys.

SELF-DESTRUCT

The plagues will show what happens when the world is disconnected from God. It will self-destruct:

We see evidence of this in Revelation 17:16, where the beast, which always carried the woman, will tear her apart. 

Further support for this idea comes from the reference to the “Gog and Magog” in Revelation 20:8, which brings with it the words of God against the “Gog of the land of Magog” (Ezek. 38:1) that they will be “a great assembly and a mighty army,” but “every man’s sword will be against his brother” (Ezek. 38:15, 21).

We have no need to be afraid of God. It is of sin that we must be afraid. 

ANGELS NEED ANSWERS

Many people think that sinless heavenly beings (including angels) do not need more information to understand that rebellion against God is bad. That, however, is not true.  Revelation 5 symbolizes the uncertainty among the inhabitants of heaven, of whether God’s judgments are perfect, as a sealed book (See Book of Life).  To understand why angels need answers, we need to understand a little about how sin developed.

ORIGIN OF EVIL

Sin existed before man was created, and was brought from heaven to earth by the Serpent of old (Gen. 3; Rev. 12:9).

Sin originated in Satan.  God said of him: “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15). 

Satan was (is?) the most beautiful being ever created (cf. Ezekiel 18:13).  He was adored by all, but he wanted to be adored equal to God (Is. 14:13, 14).  Logically, evil did not suddenly spring up in Satan one day; it developed slowly over a long period.  Given how God deals with sinners on earth, we can safely assume that God warned Satan clearly and repeatedly of the consequences of the direction he was taking.  But, eventually, Satan became fully committed to the path he chose.

EVEN LOYAL ANGELS WERE NOT SURE.

Sin did not remain only with Satan.  He succeeded to lead many of the perfect angels away from God (Rev 12:7). 

Satan is the master accuser (Rev. 12:10).  He is able to confuse anything that is clear.  He did not openly admit his intentions, but covered his motives under a cloak of lies, masterfully flattering the angels when they agree with him but, when they disagree, accusing them of not willing to suffer for the goodwill of the universe.  The angels did not understand what the end result of Satan’s strategies would be.  Even the angels that remained loyal to God did not understand.  Therefore, even the loyal angels need answers.

GOD IS NOT THE JUDGE

Freedom is without fear of punishment.

If we fear that God will punish us if we sin, then we are not completely free, and our obedience is forced.  Therefore, God’s intelligent creatures are free to do whatever they wish, without fear of punishment!  GOD WILL NOT PUNISH EVILDOERS. 

God will eventually destroy evil and all beings that have become permanently committed to evil, but it will not be a punishment for past evil deeds. He will destroy evil to protect the future safety and happiness of the universe.

God knows and understands all things, and He knows what is best. But the destruction of evil will only be to the benefit of the universe when God’s angels and people agree that the destruction of evildoers is the only option.  In particular, they must understand why He will destroy some of the people whom they love. If unanswered questions remain, if a lingering doubt with respect to God’s goodness remains, that doubt can become the seed in the future eternities for another rebellion.  Only when all questions with respect to the nature and consequences of evil have been answered, to the satisfaction of God’s intelligent creatures, can God safely eliminate the destructive forces from the universe. 

Sin will never again arise.

In the new heavens and new earth, which God will create, God’s intelligent beings will have the freedom to sin, but there will never again be any sin because all intelligent beings will understand what the end result of selfishness is.  Then we will live in complete safety and trust in the wonderful, perfect new world which He will create:

Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

That is the reason for the delay.  Time is required to provide answers to Satan’s accusations against God. (See also, The book which not even God can open.)

God, therefore, is not the judge.  For example

In the judgment scene in Daniel, many thrones are set up, and the books were opened (Dan 7:9).  It is therefore not only God that judges and God does not need books. 

The judgment will be given to the saved (Rev. 20:4). 

CHRIST’S DEATH

Why did God not make an end to sin after Jesus won the victory on the cross? After all, according to the interpretation of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 by this website, one of the goals of Christ’s death was “to make an end of sins” (Dan. 7:24). In support of this, in Revelation 1:5 we read that Jesus Christ “released us from our sins by His blood.”

JESUS OVERCAME

There are many theories of the atonement (why Christ had to die).  This website supports the view which the church held in the first few centuries, namely that Christ’s life and death was a battle between good and evil, and He overcame evil with good (see Why Christ had to die).  Jesus’ death demonstrated God’s righteousness:

Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood … This was to demonstrate His righteousnessso that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26)

In other words, Christ’s death demonstrated God’s righteousness.  His death proves that God is just when He justifies sinners who have faith in Jesus Christ.

WHAT ELSE IS REQUIRED?

But if Christ’s death on the cross was all that was required to eradicate sin from the universe, God would not have allowed sin to continue there-after.  Since evil and its consequences are still thriving 2000 years later, we must conclude that, to make a complete end to evil, God needs more than the cross. 

Revelation 5 explains what else must happen. The whole matter is about God’s judgments. In brief, as explained in the article – The book which not even God can open – Christ’s life (how He remained faithful to God to the end) demonstrated that God is just when He justifies sinners. But more is required. See the article series on the seals for a discussion. But it boils down to what we already said above about the purpose of the plagues.

PLAGUES

As stated, the plagues will provide answers.  But even after the plagues, unanswered questions will remain, for sinners will be resurrected at the end of the Millennium (20:5).  Then Satan will also be released from his prison (20:7).  The purpose of the war of the Gog and Magog (20:8) is still the same, namely to provide answers to the questions raised by Satan.  Only when all these questions have been answered, will the devil be exterminated in the lake of fire and brimstone (20:10).

ARTICLES ON THE PLAGUE

Introduction – Revelation 15
First four plagues:
Not interpreted individually
Overview – refuse to repent
Fifth Plague:
The Throne of the Beast
Darkness in the beast’s kingdom
Conclusions
Sixth Plague:
The Great River, the Euphrates, dries up.
The Kings from the East
Armageddon
Does “coming like a thief” support a secret rapture?
Why the waters dries up
Summary
Seventh Plague
Purpose of the Plagues:
To show that God judges perfectly
II Why must God’s judgments be validated?

For further reading on Revelation, Jon Paulien’s commentary is recommended. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the excellent Pineknoll website.