Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Scripture clearly portrays that a spiritual realm exists, with both good and bad spiritual beings in it. The devil, or Satan, is portrayed as the leader of the bad. Let’s consider further what scripture says about the devil.
The devil is apparently a fallen “cherub” (a type of angel), which God had created. This is understood from Ezekiel 28:12-19, where God speaks of the “King of Tyre” as one who formerly was “on the holy mountain of God” and in “Eden, the garden of God.” Further, God says:
“Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.” (Ezekiel 28:17)
The devil hates God, and he hates God’s people. Since he can’t hurt God directly (since God is great, and the devil is not), he seeks to destroy God’s people instead. This is understood from verses such as:
Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17)
Satan’s ability to harm God’s people is, at least sometimes, limited by God himself, as illustrated in the book of Job:
Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?” (Job 1:9-10)
Ephesians 6:10-18 appears to put at least some of the responsibility for overcoming the devil on God’s people:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
God provides the spiritual armor, but it is up to us to put it on and stand firm in it. The image given is that of standing firm and defending against an attack; rather than attacking. (Chapter 53 “Stand Firm” discusses Ephesians 6:10-18 in more detail.)
The devil will “flee from you” if you satisfy the dual conditions of James 4:17:
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Without submission to God, it is unlikely that just resisting the devil will cause him to flee.
The nature of the devil is primarily that of a murderer and a liar, as indicated by Jesus:
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
Many scriptures also refer to evil spirits, or “demons.” Evil spirits are understood by many to also be fallen angels, but having less power than Satan. Scripture is clear on the existence of demons, but is not so clear regarding their origin, their nature, and how they are able to influence people. (Revelation 12:4 is often referenced to support the belief that a third of the angels rebelled against God with Satan, and became demons on earth.)
Throughout the gospels, demons are observed to live in people, and cause various problems to people so afflicted. Jesus and his disciples had authority over demons and drove them out of people (see scripture references under “For Further Reflection”).
In parts of the world which have many followers of Jesus, experience suggests that demons have become very secretive, so as to avoid direct confrontation with followers of Jesus, who have authority over them. In other parts of the world, with few followers of Jesus, their activities appear to be generally more open.
In all cases, deception and lies appear to be the primary ways demons influence people, the same as the devil himself. In dealing with demons, followers of Jesus should be careful to not believe the various lies that demons promote, as they are master deceivers, and deception is the main source of their power over people. Simple promotion of truth is generally an effective weapon against them: Expose their lies; trust in Jesus; submit to God and resist them (James 4:7).
Those who are apparently troubled by demons should give particular attention to the issue of forgiveness, as failure to forgive the sins of others appears to give demons access, as implied by Matthew 18:21-35 (see also chapter 22 “Forgive…”). Likewise, unresolved anger may give the devil advantage, as suggested by Ephesians 4:26-27.
If a demon is driven out without proper application of truth to a person’s life, the end result may be worse, in accordance with Matthew 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-26.
Followers of Jesus tend to make one of two mistakes regarding the devil and demons:
1. Ignore them or deny their existence.
2. Attribute too much power and importance to them.
While followers of Jesus should be cautious regarding the devil and demons, there is no reason to fear them, for we have victory over them through Jesus. As scripture says:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)
For Further Reflection
Genesis 3:1-15: The temptation in the garden of Eden. The “serpent” is widely understood to be the devil.
Matthew 4:1-11: The devil tempts Jesus; Jesus uses scripture to resist the temptation. (See also Luke 4:1-13).
Isaiah 14:3-20: A prophecy about the “king of Babylon,” understood by many to be referring to the devil.
Ephesians 6:10-18: Put on the whole armor of God.
Ezekiel 28:12-19: Some history about the “king of Tyre,” understood by many to be referring to the devil.
Job 1:1 to 2:10: Satan’s part in Job’s affliction.
Revelation 20:7-10: The devil’s end.
Demons cast out: Matthew 8:16, 8:28-34, 9:32-33, 12:22-30, 15:22-28, 17:14-21; Mark 1:23-28, 1:32-34, 5:1-20, 6:13, 7:24-30, 9:14-29; Luke 4:33-37, 6:17-19, 7:21, 8:1-3, 8:26-39, 9:37-42, 11:14-26; Acts 5:16, 8:7-8, 16:16-19, 19:11-17.
Book Reference: “The Bondage Breaker” by Neil Anderson.
Book Reference: “War on the Saints” by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts (1912); the unabridged version is available free on the internet. Somewhat controversial, this book is a thorough look at the activities of the devil and evil spirits.
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