Category Archives: Paranormal

Does Satan Have a Special Hatred for Israel and the Jewish People?

There is a sense in which Satan has a special hatred for Israel and the Jewish people, just as he has a special hatred for the church and the Christian people. From the beginning, Satan has hated God, God’s authority, and God’s plans for the human race (Genesis 3:1-15; John 8:44) He has always had a special hatred for God’s faithful servants (Job 1:9-11; 2 Corinthians 12:7), including the faithful of Israel and the church, which is made up of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Above all, Satan hates Jesus Christ (Luke 22:3-4; Revelation 12:3-4), as Christ embodies God’s plan for all the ages.

The reality of satanic hatred for Jews and Israel inclines some people to believe that any criticism of Israel places one on the side of Satan. People with this perspective naturally tend to side with Israel in its conflicts. This perspective, however, fails to recognize that not all criticism is motivated by an evil hatred. There is a kind of criticism that is motivated by truth, love, and a longing for justice and mercy. If we don’t recognize the difference motive makes, we might conclude that something as important as the Protestant Reformation should have never taken place.

Scripture shows Satan’s hatred is motivated by his desire to disrupt God’s redemptive plan, from the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, through the events leading to the flood, the trials of the patriarchs, Moses, the prophets, and Jesus Christ himself.

In 1 John 3, the children of the devil are contrasted with the children of God. The children of the devil are described as being in the spiritual line of Cain. This is consistent with the two “seeds” of Genesis 3—the seed of the woman and the seed of the devil.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (v.15 nkjv).

This division between the children of God and the children of the devil includes both Jews and Gentiles. John 1:12 declares that those who received Jesus Christ and believed in His name are the children of God. The apostle Paul wrote: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9 niv). He went on to link the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) with the children of God: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (8:14). Speaking to a Jewish audience, Jesus himself referred to the division between the children of the kingdom and the children of the devil. He said the “father” of His Jewish enemies was not Abraham but Satan (John 8:42-44).

Here we find ourselves faced with an important distinction we can’t afford to miss. Jesus himself took issue with His own Jewish countrymen, and even with His own disciples when their hearts were aligned with the purposes of Satan rather than the redemptive plan of God (Matthew 16:23).

This Christ-based readiness to take issue with anything that is not according to the justice and mercy of God helps us understand why the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles describe in great detail the intense and unrelenting hostility of a segment of Jews to Jesus Christ and His followers (John 8:39-47; Acts 7:54–8:3; 12:1-3; 21:27-31; 25:2-3). The book of Revelation even refers to these as the “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9; 3:9).1

This hostility towards the Christian gospel didn’t end with the apostolic era. Before the end of the first century, Christian Jews were excluded from synagogue worship.

About ad 90, a member of the Sanhedrin named Samuel the Less reworded one of the blessings recited daily in the synagogue so as to make it include a curse (against Christians) . . .

For apostates let there be no hope, and the kingdom of arrogance do Thou speedily uproot in our days; and let Nazarenes and heretics (minim) perish as in a moment; let them be blotted out of the book of life and not be enrolled with the righteous. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.

This revised edition of the prayer was authorized by the Sanhedrin and adopted in synagogues, so that Jewish Christians, by keeping silence at this point might give themselves away and be excommunicated(F. F. Bruce, New Testament History, pp. 385-86).2

From such biblical and historical examples, we see that like any other group or institution, the people of Israel may need loving, patient confrontation rather than support and affirmation. As the apostle Paul knew from personal experience, many of his Jewish countrymen had hearts open to God and the truth, but were blinded to the identity of Jesus Christ (Romans 11:5-6).

Scripture makes it clear that the eschatological punishment of both Israel and the Gentile nations is based in God’s judgment, not Satan’s hatred (Isaiah 3:1–4:1; 13:9-10; Jeremiah 30:1-7; Ezekiel 13:1-7; Joel 2:1-11; 3:14-17; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:7-13). Perhaps the most striking Old Testament prophecy is Zechariah 14, where God brings the nations of the earth against Jerusalem and unbelieving Israel before turning in judgment against those same unbelieving nations (vv.2-3).

Just as Christians do the church no favors when they ignore its abuses and corruption, they do no favors for Israel when they ignore or fail to lovingly call attention to the injustices and unbelief of the one nation on earth that, more than any other, bears the name and redemptive history of God.

  1. This hostility of a segment of Israel to the gospel conforms with the prophetic portrayal of Israel’s endtime suffering as the result of God’s judgment, not Satan’s hatred. In Matthew 24, Jesus declares:

    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (24:14-22 nkjv).

    This judgment is based on the corruption and hypocrisy Jesus described in the previous chapter:

    Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. . . . O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (23:33-39 nkjv). Back To Article

  2. Soon the Talmud (a compilation and expansion of the man-made legal rules that Jesus called the “tradition of men” [Mark 7:5-8] that became the supreme document of the Judaism that survived the wars with Rome) officially declared Jesus a blasphemer, sorcerer, and bastard son of a prostitute. (See Peter Schaefer, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press.)Hostility towards Jesus Christ still exists among a large segment of Jews today. In fact, the modern state of Israel officially suppresses propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Back To Article
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Should astrology or horoscopes be taken seriously?

Astrology at one time was looked upon with great seriousness by the educated classes. For many centuries people believed that the earth was the center of the universe, and this mistaken cosmology led to the conviction that the personality and character of people could be influenced by the position of the heavenly spheres at their time of birth.

Since the introduction of modern astronomy, it became impossible for any serious-minded scientist to accept the original principles of astrology. Besides the fact that the heavenly bodies are at a much greater distance than our ancestors believed them to be, their positions in the sky have drastically changed with the passage of time.

After the scientific discoveries of the Enlightenment made the original basis for astrology untenable, there have been numerous attempts by occultists to maintain confidence in it by mystical and occult means.

Though there is no genuinely scientific basis for astrology, millions of people resort to daily horoscopes for guidance in their lives. If nothing else, this behavior shows how deeply religious people are, and how strongly they long for a basis for hope and faith. It may not harm someone to read horoscopes, but anyone taking them seriously will be endangered.

At the very least, astrology is a crutch to avoid the effort of seeking out an informed basis for our decisions. At its worse, it becomes compulsive, a false god gripping us with demonic power. This is probably why the Old Testament warns against it (Isaiah 47:13).

(For more information about the occult, see the Discovery Series booklet What’s The Appeal Of The New Age Movement?)

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What Should I Think of what I Experience in Dreams?

Scientific evidence is accumulating that dreams have vital physiological and psychological functions. Our dreams apparently play an important role in creativity and problem solving.

1  This and other scientific discoveries about the important physiological role of dreaming show that the mysterious activity of dreaming is “hardwired” into us by God’s design, for our benefit. For that reason, we shouldn’t fear dreaming.

The Bible illustrates how highly the Hebrews and other ancient people esteemed dreams and those who could interpret them (Genesis 41; Daniel 2), and that they viewed dreams at times as natural (Ecclesiastes 5:3), as evil (Deuteronomy 13:1-2; Jeremiah 29:8), or as divine revelation (Genesis 28:12-13; Genesis 37:5,9). ( See the ATQ article Is it possible that some dreams contain important symbolic meaning—or even a message from God?)

Like the daydreams and thoughts that drift into our minds in our conscious state, dream fantasies generally seem spontaneous. Sexual activity, rage, and violence often occur abruptly and uncontrollably in dreams. In dreams, all of us do things we certainly would never do if we were awake. We also have nightmares that seem to express our deepest fear and insecurity.

Many people describe having had “lucid dreams.” In lucid dreams, we are aware that we are dreaming and are sometimes able to choose our actions. Some early Christian ascetic monks actually believed that we are responsible not only for what we do in our waking state, but for what we do in our dreams. These monks withdrew from society and dedicated themselves to an isolated life of grueling hardship. Their solitary focus on subjective experience may have made them aware of some things that most of us don’t experience.

Occultists in many cultures have been interested in lucid dreams and have sometimes sought to cultivate lucid dreams and increase control over their fantasies. Such efforts to use occult technique to gain control over one’s dreams are sinister. At the very least, they focus attention away from the real world into a fantasy. At the worst, it may open one’s mind to overtly demonic or subconsciously destructive influences. (See the ATQ articles Why Is It Dangerous for Subconscious Images to Penetrate Our Waking Consciousness? and Why Are Channeling and Mediumship Dangerous?)

To the degree we are aware that we are dreaming and to the extent that our dreams are under our control—that is, lucid—we may be responsible for our actions and shaping our character by our choices.

However, the vast majority of dreams aren’t lucid. Most dreams are fantasies created by our sleeping brain from random memories. In certain ways we feel especially vulnerable when we are sleeping. But God never sleeps. He is always guarding and protecting us (Psalm 121:1-3).

Scripture nowhere indicates that God holds us responsible for what happens in our dreams. But our dreams should serve as a vivid reminder of how dependent we are on His love and grace.

  1. See the papers, “Sleep Inspires insight” in Nature magazine, January 2004 (Wagner, Gais, Haider, Verleger, and Born, from research at the University of Luebeck) and “REM, not incubation, improves creativity by priming associative networks” (Cai, Mednick, Harrison, Kanady, and Mednick). (The Mednick paper is at http://www.saramednick.com/htmls/pdfs/Cai_PNAS_2009) Back To Article
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Is Channeling Wrong?

The Scriptures condemn mediumship and Spiritism in these severe terms:

A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads (Leviticus 20:27 NIV).

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10-11 NKJV).

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Can Christians Be Hurt by Witchcraft or Black Magic?

God is the Creator and Master of the natural world. Satan is only the master of illusion. He deals in hallucination and deceit. Any limited powers over nature he may possess are entirely circumscribed by God, but he can control susceptible minds. People in Satan’s power are obsessed and hypnotized by evil. The source of black magic’s power is fear. Academic writers have documented the life and death power of pagan magic over people who believe in it.

Dr. Herbert Basedow (1925), in his book, The Australian Aboriginal, has presented a vivid picture of the first horrifying effect of bone pointing on the ignorant, superstitious and credulous natives, and the later more calm acceptance of their mortal fate: The man who discovers that he is being boned by any enemy is, indeed, a pitiable sight. He stands aghast, with his eyes staring at the treacherous pointer, and with his hands lifted as though to ward off the lethal medium, which he imagines is pouring into his body. His cheeks blanch and his eyes become glassy and the expression of his face becomes horribly distorted. . . . He attempts to shriek but usually the sound chokes in his throat, and all that one might see is froth at his mouth. His body begins to tremble and the muscles twist involuntarily. He sways backwards and falls to the ground, and after a short time appears to be in a swoon; but soon after he writhes as if in mortal agony, and, covering his face with his hands, begins to moan.

After a while he becomes very composed and crawls to his wurley. From this time onwards he sickens and frets, refusing to eat and keeping aloof from the daily affairs of the tribe. Unless help is forthcoming in the shape of a countercharm administered by the hands of the Nangarri, or medicine-man, his death is only a matter of a comparatively short time (Walter B. Cannon, “Voodoo Death,” American Anthropologist, vol. 33, 1942).

Another anthropologist described the circumstances in which superstitious fear can take hold:

In “Voodoo Death” (Cannon 1972 [1942]) a person violates a taboo, such as walking on sacred ground, [or] eating a forbidden fruit, and, shortly after discovering that a taboo has been violated, the person is dead. The closely related phenomenon of “hex” death (Seligman 1975, p. 1977) occurs when a person learns that they have been cursed by someone with the appropriate technical knowledge and supernatural authority. As in the case of voodoo death, hex death kills within hours or days. While such deaths exhibit a fairly standard set of physical symptoms, they cannot be attributed to external agents such as poisons or bacteria nor to externally induced physical trauma. The death is psychosomatic.

A person who violates a taboo has broken the deepest rules of their culture and thereby is thrust outside the protective web of memes and traits which give meaning and structure to the world. The person who is cursed believes that someone else has severed the link between their soul and the cultural forms and practices in which that soul lives its life. Such people are in a situation where, in effect, they see no hope of ever again satisfying their higher reference levels. They are cut off from their culture. That kills them as surely as being cut off from food or water (William Benzon, Culture as an Evolutionary Arena).

In spite of the power pagan sorcerers and witch doctors hold over people who accept their authority, Christian missionaries confront “powerful” witch doctors with immunity to curses and black magic. I personally recall a confrontation between a Christian missionary in Haiti and several witch doctors at a famous voodoo shrine, the missionary laughing at their threats while ripping their inverted cross fetishes out of the ground and throwing them into a nearby lagoon. On another occasion, a voodoo houngan actually placed a curse on a son of this missionary, only to die himself in the time frame he had set for the death of the boy. Another witch doctor cursed the womb of a woman newly converted to Christianity. When she became pregnant, she fled to the mission compound and lived there for several months out of fear for her baby. Concerned for her feelings, but realizing that she was giving in to her fear, the missionaries helped her understand that the witch doctor’s curse had no power over a believer indwelt with the Holy Spirit’s power. She moved back home, and in a few months delivered a healthy baby boy.1The Bible describes the awesome power of the Creator (Genesis 1; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 8:3-4; Proverbs 8:29; Proverbs 16:4; Isaiah 44:24-28), a power that instantly brought the material world into existence and is equally capable of instantly destroying it. The feeble magic of demons and sorcerers can no more thwart such boundless power than a grain of sand can stop a tsunami or a drop of rain the eruption of a volcano.

Obedient people empowered by God’s blessing and immersed in His favor are impervious to Satan’s power. A loyal child of the Creator stands in the power of the Creator (Genesis 15:1; Proverbs 18:10; Ephesians 6:16).

Since vulnerability to black magic is rooted in fear and lack of trust, Christians can count on God’s protection when they submit to His authority. But if they actively suppress or ignore God’s moral law for selfish purposes, they enter the realm of the demonic and become vulnerable to its power. If they live a gangster’s lifestyle, they become vulnerable to its dangers.  If they live by Satan’s code, they become subject to its rules. Sin and rebellion feed and magnify fear. Trust in God is manifested by a willingness to resist sin.

Christians should also keep guard over their imaginations, thinking of the admonitions of Paul and James:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8)

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

If we don’t put our trust in God, we may become more and more obsessed with Satan. In the Middle Ages, imaginations obsessed with Satan’s power led to the witch craze, causing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to be tortured and killed. The witch craze was the consequence of people becoming so obsessed with satanic power that they viewed the normal tragedies of a fallen world as the result of black magic. (See the ATQ article, Did Church Authorities Seek to Eradicate Paganism in Europe by Killing Millions of “Witches”?)

Once a person has accepted the authority of Jesus Christ, he has the Holy Spirit dwelling within (John 14:16-17). All of us are susceptible to the temptations and trials of the “world, flesh, and devil.” However, the Creator God loves us, sent His Son to die for us, and will protect us if we are willing to trust Him enough to do right. The focus of spiritual warfare in a Christian’s life needs to be his own sinful nature and desires. We don’t need any rituals or charms to protect us. Just a simple prayer for protection, and willingness to acknowledge and forsake any conscious sin is enough.2

  1. This baby boy went on to be raised by his Christian parents, attended mission schools and college, and now is an accountant. This family’s courage to resist Satan’s lies made it possible for their family to be lifted out of the most extreme poverty and spiritual darkness to new horizons of spiritual and material hope. Back To Article
  2. Using the metaphor of a well-equipped Roman soldier, Paul told us how we could be prepared for spiritual warfare. We are to put on the armor of God  (Ephesians 6:11-18), which includes:
    • The belt of truth. Since Satan depends on deceit to maintain his power, our first line of defense is always truth. We must never distort or misrepresent the truth, regardless of any advantage we might gain by doing so.
    • The breastplate of righteousness. Any sin in our life leaves us open to Satan’s attack. Even though we are given the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), we must still continually put on the protection of holy living.
    • The shoes of the gospel of peace. With our feet firmly planted on the truth that we are at peace with God and that He is on our side, we can stand firmly against Satan’s attacks.
    • The shield of faith. In order to quench the “fiery darts” of Satan’s temptations, we must trust and believe what God has said about every area of our life.
    • The helmet of salvation. This is the confidence that there is coming in the future a great victory celebration. It is also referred to as the “hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). This helmet protects us against Satan’s missiles of discouragement and doubt.
    • The sword of the Spirit. Since the Word of God is the basis of our faith, we need to learn how to wield it with authority. Scripture is our best offensive weapon against the devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:12).

    After he described the various elements of the armor, Paul said that we are to be in constant prayer. Prayer expresses our dependence on God. We can fight against Satan only “in the [strength of] the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). In the power of Christ and with the armor of the Spirit, we will be victors. Back To Article

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Why Is It Dangerous for Subconscious Images to Penetrate Our Waking Consciousness?

Most people have dreams so vivid that they seem real even after they awake. What if such powerful dream images from the subconscious mind could blend in with our waking experiences in a way that we would no longer be able to tell one from the other? What would happen if the destructive aspects of our personalities that occasionally appear in our dreams would gain control of our waking behavior? Obviously, anyone in such a state would lose the distinction between reality and hallucination and potentially dangerous to themselves and other people.

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Does the Story of Job Imply that Satan Has Power over Nature?

The book of Job has some unusual aspects. The author of the book is anonymous. There is no firm evidence regarding who wrote it or when it was written. It contains no details related to Israel’s history. Internal evidence implies the story is ancient.

Satan and his angels have been cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-15). At the same time, we know that Satan is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44) and the accuser (Revelation 12:10), and this passage in Job must be understood as conveying a significant truth about the interaction of the most powerful fallen angel with his Creator.

There is an immense qualitative difference between the power of a rebellious fallen angel and that of the God who created, sustains, and ultimately controls everything that exists. Some religions in the past—most notably Zoroastrianism—were based on dualism. In dualistic religion, there is not one God, but two—a good God and an evil God. In dualism, the evil God and the good God are nearly equally matched. Although Satan was responsible for the fire and the whirlwind, he was permitted to act only by God’s permission and in accordance with God’s plan.

A basic principle of biblical interpretation is that Scripture must be interpreted in the context of other Scripture. Just as we shouldn’t use an isolated passage to justify prayer for the dead, assert that baptism is necessary for salvation, or deny eternal security, we need to take seriously the Old Testament’s overwhelming consistency in rejecting polytheistic or dualist views of deity that would lessen God’s majesty.

Satan is portrayed as God’s agent in this event. He apparently has a limited power over nature, but apart from God’s permission and power he could do nothing. It is clear that God places a “hedge of protection” around His faithful children that Satan is powerless to violate.

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Isn’t the Idea of Demon Possession Outdated?

Demon possession isn’t just a relic of more primitive times. It still exists today.

People unfamiliar with the Scriptures often have the misconception that the New Testament considers all physical and mental illness to be caused by demon possession. Actually, the Gospels distinguish between demon possession and ordinary physical and mental illness ( Matthew 4:24 ; Mark 6:13; 7:32; 16:17-18 ).1

The Bible says that spirit beings exist with powers in many ways superior to humans. Some of these beings—the angels—are servants of God (Daniel 7:10 ; Matthew 26:53 ; Luke 2:13 ). Others are angels who rebelled against their Maker. These are the fallen angels or demons ( 2 Peter 2:4 ; Jude 1:6 ). Scripture indicates that fallen angels are capable—under certain conditions—of controlling the mind and behavior of individual people ( Mark 5:7; 9:25 ; Luke 4:41 ; Revelation 16:13-14 ).

The Bible also teaches that there is a fine line separating the evil for which humans alone are responsible, and the strictly demonic evil that results from an external spiritual force taking control of a human will and mind. A striking example of the human tendency toward evil is the apostle Paul’s description of his own struggle in Romans 7:15-24. He wrote:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . . I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. . . . When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?2

As the apostle Paul described it, our own sinful nature seems to be independent of our will—to have a “mind of its own.” It is no exaggeration to speak of such a powerful inclination toward evil as “demonic” in a sense. After all, the impulse behind our inner inclination to do evil is connected in Scripture with Satan and the satanic ( John 8:44 ; Ephesians 2:2 ; 1 John 3:10 ).

While all of us harbor this inner inclination toward evil, occasionally a person transcends this and enters into true demonic possession. In such cases these individuals come under the control of an external demonic power—an alien spiritual being. Probably the most dramatic account of demonic possession in Scripture is in the Gospel of Mark:

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No-one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that You won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man,you evil spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area (Mark 5:1-10).

In this case, Jesus commanded the demons to enter a large herd of swine, which stampeded down a steep slope into the sea and drowned.

Most accounts of demonic possession in the New Testament occur prior to the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ ( Matthew 8:16,28; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22 ; Mark 5:15 ; Luke 4:33; 8:27 ).3 Interestingly, the Epistles make no mention of demon possession and give no instructions for exorcism.

Although it doesn’t seem to be as common today, we are convinced that demonic possession still occurs. There are many credible missionary accounts of confrontations with demon possession in pagan cultures. These involve such manifestations as unnatural strength and knowledge of foreign languages not known by the possessed, along with other preternatural knowledge. With the rise of Paganism and occult idolatry in our culture, demon possession is likely to become more common.

The ways that evil manifests itself have always been mysterious. In his book, I Have Lived In The Monster (St. Martin’s Press), expert FBI crime profiler Robert K. Ressler makes this striking observation about the demonic:

Supernatural causes, people felt in the era before Freud, were the only logical explanations for excessively savage murders,blood-draining, and other such monstrous acts. People felt there were demonic elements to such acts — and I cannot say that they were entirely wrong, because even today, when we try to explain to ourselves the acts of a Jeffrey Dahmer, those acts seem satanic, at least in part, because they are in large measure beyond rational understanding. We can attribute them to human behavior, pushed to extremes, but even saying this,and demonstrating how such behaviors can be traced back to childhood and genetic stresses does not completely suffice as explanation. After all, in the Dahmer family, Jeffrey had a younger half-brother who grew up in the same household but did not commit heinous acts.

M. Scott Peck is an example of a person with a thoroughly skeptical, secular outlook who became a believer in demonic possession:

As a hardheaded scientist—which I assume myself to be—I can explain 95 percent of what went on in these cases by traditional psychiatric dynamics . . . . But I am left with a critical 5 percent that I cannot explain in such ways. I am left with the supernatural . . . . (People Of The Lie, pp.195-196).

These observers intimate what most of us sense: Although a scientific understanding of human motivation and genetic predisposition provides a degree of insight into human destructiveness, human evil has aspects that are (and probably always will be) as paradoxical and impenetrable to human logic as are other essential elements of human experience — such as the relationship between free will and environmental/genetic predetermination.4

  1. We should not equate mental illness with demon possession, as some did in the past and still do today. Malachi Martin warns:

    Many people suffering from illnesses and diseases well known to us today such as paranoia, Huntington’s chorea, dyslexia,Parkinson’s disease, or even mere skin diseases (psoriasis and herpes I, for instance) were treated as people “possessed” or at least as “touched” by the devil (Hostage To The Devil, p.11). Back To Article

  2. A sampling of other passages that refer to the natural, inborn propensity of mankind to sin are Genesis 8:21 , Job 14:4 , Psalm 51:5 , Isaiah 64:6 , Mark 7:21-23 , Ephesians 2:1. Back To Article
  3. The large number of miracles during Christ’s ministry was a special “sign” of His divine authority. It may be that Christ’s authority over evil was expressed through a greater amount of demonic activity and more overt confrontations with demonic power. In the book of Acts,there are only a few accounts of possession, and they generally take place in the early stages of Christian penetration into pagan areas. Peter cast out demons while in Jerusalem ( Acts 5:16 ). Philip did so in Samaria ( Acts 8:7 ). Paul delivered a young woman from a fortunetelling demon at Philippi ( Acts 16:16-18 ) and cast out indwelling demons at Ephesus ( Acts 19:11-12 ). None of these cases involved a demon-possessed believer. Back To Article
  4. “When speaking of emotional conflicts one is attempting to designate certain processes of an ill-defined nature which operate deep within the uncharted recesses of the subconscious mind, and which are thus not readily amenable to detailed clinical delineation. It is known, however, that the vital forces of the human personality function within this area of the mind, and that there is always a significant emotional or psychic element in most diseases, and not least in idiopathic mental afflictions. If such states are to be seen in terms of the evil, destructive powers found in the subconscious mind gaining the ascendancy over the positive forces for good in the human personality, it is possible to think of all mental disorders as being to some limited extent at least the result of temporary possession of the human mind by demonic influences, a situation which could conceivably become permanent. Because modern psychosomatic medical research has shown that attestable clinical disease can result from such metaphysical entities as suggestion, emotional conflicts, fear, and the like, it is no longer possible to dismiss as implausible the noxious effects which the various forms of evil, working through the personality of fallen man, can have upon individual and mental well-being” (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia Of The Bible). Back To Article
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Don’t Near-Death Experiences Disprove the Bible’s View on Death?

Many non-Christian mystics, spiritists, and occultists have developed their own views of the afterlife on the basis of personal visions. Although some of these experiences may have been life-changing and personally meaningful, accounts of such experiences aren’t necessarily reliable sources of information regarding the nature of life after death.

People who depart too far from biblical faith in seeking to personally and experientially confirm the nature of life after death tend to drift off into occultism. Therefore, to anyone who becomes deeply influenced by these accounts we offer this biblical warning: “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” ( 2 Corinthians 11:14 ). Scripture should remain the standard by which all such accounts are evaluated.

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How Can I Break the Spiritual Bonds Passed on from My Ancestors?

Some Christians believe that people can be “demonized” by ancestral sin. They believe that in such cases the demonized individual needs to be freed of inherited demonic influence by a “power encounter” in which the inherited demonic influence is exposed and expelled.

In our view, there is no scriptural precedent for using power encounters or exorcisms to deal with the sinful patterns of living that are passed down from our ancestors. In fact, Scripture seems to place a clear limitation on the power of evil ancestral influences, comparing it to the much greater influence of godliness:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:5-6 NIV).

Practically speaking, how could we possibly distinguish the sinful tendencies inherited from our parents from those we learned by exposure to them and other significant people in our lives? Throughout the New Testament, deliverance from sin involves repentance and confession. Whatever the origin of our sinful tendencies, the biblical approach to dealing with them is neither quick nor easy. The New Testament gives us no reason to believe they can be “cast out” in the same way Jesus and the disciples cast out demons of the possessed. (See the ATQ article, Can Christians Be Demon Possessed?)

All of us are deeply affected by the sinful patterns of living of significant people in our lives. Our behavior is largely shaped by the behavior of our parents, whose behavior, in turn, was shaped by the behavior of their parents, and so on. John describes how God can cleanse our hearts of sin’s influence:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

This doesn’t mean that our struggle is merely psychological or emotional. Satan is a real and personal foe, attacking us relentlessly, systematically (Ephesians 6:12). Yet the biblical pattern for overcoming inherited sinful patterns of living is not to obsess on the demonic element of our sinful traits, but to accept the direction of the Holy Spirit in uncovering and overcoming them.

A person who wins a lottery is much more likely to squander his wealth than someone who earns it in years of patient effort. Likewise, Christians need to understand their sinful tendencies and struggle with them before they can fully appreciate the value of being delivered from them.

The New Testament doesn’t promise power encounters that deliver us effortlessly from our sinful ways without the growing pains of spiritual renewal.

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