Why it matters: The Bible speaks of demons as real, actual beings. However, Scripture’s depiction of demons is very different from the popular concept of them. The Bible describes demons as powerful but limited and ultimately defeated creatures. They are angels who followed Satan in rebellion against God.
The Bible doesn’t give many details about demons, but what it provides is enough to dispel typical myths.
Scripture gives us a true account of the world as it really is. We must take seriously its portrayal of intense demonic involvement in human society. Our failure to perceive that involvement with our five senses simply tells us that we have some deficiencies in our ability to understand the world, not that demons do not exist.
In fact, there is no reason to think that there is any less demonic activity in the world today than there was at the time of the New Testament. We are in the same time period in God’s overall plan for history (the church age or the new covenant age), and the millennium, when Satan’s influence will be removed from the earth, has not yet come. Much of our western secularized society is unwilling to admit the existence of demons and relegates all talk of demonic activity to a category of superstition. But the unwillingness of modern society to recognize the presence of demonic activity today is, from a biblical perspective, simply due to people’s blindness to the true nature of reality.
When exactly God created angels is open for debate, but what is known for sure is that God created everything good because God, in His holiness, cannot create something sinful. So when Satan, who was once the angel Lucifer, rebelled against God and fell from heaven (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28), one third of the angelic host joined his insurrection (Revelation 12:3-4,9). There is no doubt these fallen angels are now known as the demons.
Jesus the Messiah understood exorcism as part of his ministry: Demons are referred to by several alternate names, including “unclean spirits” and “evil spirits.” Some of the false gods that received human sacrifices are described as actual demons. Since demons are fallen angels, they possess the same level of power and influence as angels. However, Scripture seems to indicate that God has limited their abilities. The Bible indicates that not all afflictions are due to demonic influence. The vast majority of demonic influence is spiritual, not physical.
- Luke 13:32 — And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’
- Luke 4:18 — “The Spirit of the Master is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed”
What are the spiritual resources need to expel demons? What does Jesus do to set free those who are oppressed?
The Spirit of God
- Matthew 12:28 — “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
- Matthew 17:19–20 — Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
Prayer (and fasting)
Mark 9:28–29 — When He came into the house, 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 [and fasting].”