We’re looking into the spirit world this week. It’s a complex world that God created a long time ago. It’s a world that was deeply impacted when God’s most brilliant creation sinned and rebelled against the Almighty.
That brilliant but fallen creation is named Satan. Satan is the devil. There is only one. However, the King James Version of the Bible speaks of “devils” in the plural. Who and what are they? The Hebrew words translated “devils” are saiyr and shed. Saiyr is a “he-goat” used in the sense of a “satyr.” Shed is a malignant or a “devil.” The Greek words are daimon, daimonion, daimonizoman, and daimoniodes. It speaks of a supernatural spirit of a bad nature.
Other English versions of the Bible translate shed and daimon as “demon.” The NIV translates saiyr as “goat idols.” “Demons” is a transliteration of daimonion. It leaves the word “devil” for just one creature, the devil, Satan. It is the sole translation of diabolos.
Sayir were idols made in the shape of goats. The ancient Egyptians practiced idol worship and passed the practice along to the children of Israel during their 400-year captivity in Egypt. God warned Israel to stop that practice after He freed them. “They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.” (Lev. 17:7)
Rehoboam, King of Judah following the death of his father, Solomon, reinstituted the worship of goat idols. “Then he appointed for himself priests for the high places, for the demons, and the calf idols which he had made.” (2 Chron. 11:15) That continued until King Asa destroyed the idols.
At issue with sayir is not the physical idol, but the evil power associated with it. The idol could be destroyed, but the evil power behind it lived on.
One other term we need to know about is akathartos pneuma. It translates as “evil spirit.” As we’ll see, evil spirits act in a way similar, if not identical to that of demons.
There is no question in Scripture that demons are part of Satan’s evil empire. They do not act alone or on their own. They do as they are told. Satan is their master. They have special, supernatural abilities and use them to fight against God’s Will and His chosen people. But, as we will see, their battle is futile; their end is defeat.
Demons in the Old Testament
Demons are mentioned four times in the Old Testament. The first is Deut. 32:17. Moses is speaking to the whole assembly of Israel. He reminds them that Israel angered God with “their detestable idols.” In that context Moses introduces us to demons. “They sacrificed to demons, not to God, To gods they did not know, To new gods, new arrivals That your fathers did not fear.” Here we see that demons acted in ways that moved the worship of God’s people away from God and toward the evil spirits. Demons are related to false gods throughout Scripture. Another example is Psalm 106:37. Again the context is Israel’s rebellion against God and their worship of idols. “They served their idols, Which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons And their daughters to demons, And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood. Thus they were defiled by their own works, And played the harlot by their own deeds.” (Psalm 106:36-39)
It is clear that idol worship is the same thing as demon worship. People who do it are worshipping Satan and his evil empire.
Demons in the New Testament
The first mention of demons in the New Testament is Matt. 4:24. The people of Israel heard about the incredible power Jesus Christ had to heal. “Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.” Here we see that demon possession is treated separately from people with physical maladies. Some critiques of the belief of demonic powers say that demon-possession is just a physical or mental illness. But God makes it clear that demon possession is separate from physical and mental pain. Demon possession can cause physical and mental suffering, but it is a spiritual interference and separate from the maladies we know from science and medicine. Demon possession is part of the dark powers of Satan and his evil empire.
One of the most powerful proofs of the reality of demons is that Jesus conversed with them, commanded them and defeated them at every confrontation (Matt. 4:24; 8:16, 28-34; 9:32-33; 10:8; 12:22-28; 15:22-28; 17:14-22). Jesus knew them because He was their Creator. However, He created them perfect in the spirit world and for good purposes. They became imperfect through Satan’s deception and dedicated themselves to evil. They chose to obey Satan rather than God.
We’ve already seen in the OT that demons were behind all idol worship. That’s supported in the NT. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10:20-21 —
“Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.”
John writes in Rev. 9:20 about the world during God’s judgment on earth.
“But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.”
Demons continue to fool people to the very end.
Demons also enter into the bodies and minds of unsaved humans. The Bible calls it “demon possession.” This continues to this day in many forms. The possession is sometimes evident in the insane behavior of people under the total control of demons. Other possessions are of a temporary nature where demons give people special physical and mental powers. Demons have lived for thousands of years and can fool people into thinking they were someone else in past lives. That leads people away from the Truth of God and the need for forgiveness and salvation in this life. The “channeling” of spirits is another demonic influence. (Deut. 18:10-12; Isaiah 8:19ff)
Demons possess human beings for the purpose of doing evil through flesh and blood. They lie to their victims and make them think they have some special gift or power or that they will receive great wealth or honor. Some have even believed the power came from God. Biblical examples of demon possession show people who were violent, unusually powerful, unable to speak, blind, in great pain, inflicted cuts upon themselves, were naked, and lived in tombs with the dead. It’s not the kind of life most people would choose for themselves.
The major point of the Biblical evidence of demon possession is that Jesus Christ had power over demons and gave that power to His disciples. You may never come into contact with someone who is demon possessed, but if you do remember that you have a Power in you that is greater than the power in them.
Tomorrow, we’ll learn more about the great rebellion in Heaven and why Satan did it.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,