Demons and the War for Our Souls
Dr. Jim Denison
This Tuesday we will observe an ominous day, not to be repeated for a hundred years. It will be June 6 in the year 2006; by numeric identification, the date will be 6-6-6. The number brings back bad memories.
My junior year at Houston Baptist University, I was standing in line to receive my student ID card. I had been teaching the Book of Revelation where I was youth minister, and was aware that 666 is the “mark of the beast” in Revelation 13. I was struck by the amusing thought that someone at Houston Baptist University would that year receive the ID number 666. He or she would have to give that number at chapel for attendance, write it on multiple forms, and use it all year long. I paid no attention as the person in front of me was given the ID number 665. But I’ll not forget the shock on hearing “Denison: 666.” I wanted to run out to see if I’d grown horns and a tail. Going to chapel, I’d call out “mark of the beast,” the person would write down 666, and everyone would stare. This fact may confirm questions you’ve had about me all along.
It didn’t help that the movie “The Omen” came out that year. It was all about Damien, the Antichrist, and the 666 tattooed on his scalp. Now the movie has been remade and will be released this Tuesday, on 6-6-06. I don’t think I’ll go.
The movie is fiction, but the battle is real. We have rejoiced in worship that we will spend eternity in paradise. But we’re not there yet. We’re in that era between D-Day and V-Day. At Christmas, the One who brings victory landed on the shores of Normandy. This was the beginning of the end. But 15,000 soldiers died on the Western Front between D-Day and V-Day. Ironically, D-Day was June 6, 1944, observed this Tuesday. V-Day in Europe was May 8, 1945. If the Allies had not continued to fight for the eleven months between the two, the victory would not have been won.
Until we get to heaven, we must do battle on earth. You’re in the conflict this morning. There are Nazi spies all around you. At least one is assigned to you today. How are you being attacked? Are you battling discouragement, gossip, lust, anger, hatred, bitterness, guilt, despair? We all are. We’re all in the same conflict. How will you win the victory?
Understand your battle
An African proverb says, “When elephants fight, the grass always loses.” In the realm of spiritual warfare, Christians are the “grass”: “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
In our text we find this battle enacted through remarkable and powerful language. On one side of the battle stands our Heavenly Father, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, the Lord of all that is. Our God who so loved us that he sent his Son to give us eternal life with him in heaven.
On the other stands “the accuser of our brothers,” Satan himself (Revelation 12:10). His very name means “accuser.” He is “filled with fury” that he has been defeated in heaven, so he has brought his battle to “the earth and the sea” (v. 12), to you and me.
He “pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child” (v. 13), a reference to the believing community, or Mary and her persecution under Herod, or both. But she was protected from the serpent. So he “went off to make war against the rest of her offspring–those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (v. 17). That’s you and me. We are the “grass” in his battle against the Lord.
And so God warns us, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). His foot soldiers are his demons. We need to know about them, because they’re after us. They are the means by which the dragon has come to “make war” against you and me today.
According to the Bible, a “demon” is a created spirit being, a kind of angel. These beings sinned with Satan in heaven, and so are commonly called “fallen angels” or “unclean spirits.”
Satan is now their ruler (Matthew 12:24), and he has organized them into his army of evil (Ephesians 6:11-12). God created hell for them, where they will be with Satan forever: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
You are engaged in a battle with demons today. They are the soldiers of the enemy in the battle for our souls and world. They are attacking you and me right now.
Know your enemy
The Bible teaches five important facts about demons. First, demons are real. Most Americans don’t believe they exist. Most Americans are deceived.
Demons were real to Jesus. Six times in the gospels we find him casting them out of suffering, demon-possessed people. Mark 1:34 says that Jesus “drove out many demons.”
They were real to the early Christians. Acts 5:16 records this scene from their ministry: “Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.” Peter and Paul both exorcised demons personally.
Second, demons are evil and unclean. The Bible often calls them “evil” or “unclean” spirits. Demons are filthy, both physically and morally. Wherever you see demonism you find filth, rubbish, and sin. It’s no accident that with the rise of Satanism and the occult in America we also have the rise of drug abuse, pornography, child abuse, perversion, and obscenity.
Third, demons are stronger than we are. In Mark 5 we meet a demon-possessed man, so strong that men could not bind him even with chains (vs. 3-4). Fragments of their attempts lay all around the tombs where he lived, stark reminders of the impotence of human ability against the forces of darkness. We cannot defeat their temptations in our ability. But we don’t have to.
Fourth, demons always seek to destroy. We read of the demoniac in Mark 5, “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones” (v. 5). Imagine the scars running over his body, the blood caked on his filthy clothes and in his matted hair, the wild eyes and foaming mouth and shaking hands. This is what the demons did to him. Later they killed the herd of pigs they occupy as well. They ruin and corrupt whatever they touch. They are cancer of the soul.
Last, demons are after us. If you have not made Jesus your Savior, you belong not to God but to Satan. He doesn’t want you to know that, but it’s true. If you do belong to Jesus, Satan is doing all he can to keep you from winning the battle for the souls of others. He will try his best to minimize your ministry, to cripple your witness, to poison your spiritual life.
As the parable goes, a Christian and nonbeliever were walking down the road when Satan appeared before them. The non-Christian hid behind the believer and said, “Protect me! He’s after me!” But the Christian smiled and said, “No, it’s me he’s after. He’s already got you.” Demons want to tempt us to sin, ruin our witness, corrupt our lives.
Trust your General
Here’s the good news: we can defeat Satan and his foot soldiers in the power of the Holy Spirit. We can refuse their temptations and defeat their strategies each and every day. As we learn how, make this personal. Where is a demon attacking you?
Do impure thoughts sometimes appear out of nowhere in your mind? Do you find yourself accusing others of sin without proof, in your mind or even in your words? Do you harbor bitter thoughts toward someone else today? Are you tempted to use your position in the church or community for yourself, for power and pride?
Is there a temptation which just doesn’t seem to go away? A sin you cannot seem to conquer, at least for long? Do you carry feelings of guilt over your past or discouragement over your future? Do you find yourself thinking that you cannot succeed, that others won’t accept you or want you?
Not every wrong thought or motive comes from a demon attacking you, but more do than we know. You’re being attacked today in some way. So am I. What do we do?
First, receive Jesus. Make him your Savior and Lord. As he defeated the demons in Mark 5, so he has power over Satan and his temptations always. Make him your Lord, and he will help you win the battle over temptation and sin every day.
Next, recognize temptation. When sin knocks at your door, demons are hiding behind it. And that sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you wanted to pay. Know that every sin is part of a demonic strategy to ruin your witness and life. Identify that sin which is tempting you. Put a name to it. Put it on the table, exposing it to the light of day. See it for what it is.
Now, run to the Spirit. Every time you are tempted, go immediately to the Spirit for his help. Don’t try to win this battle on your own, because you cannot. Our text tells us that those in heaven “overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11a).
James 4:7-8 is God’s antidote to temptation: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Submit to God’s Spirit–be filled and empowered every day by him–then resist the devil with God’s strength and help.
As you do, pay the price of success. The victorious in heaven “did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (v. 11b). Neither can we. We must put obedience ahead of security, and fight this battle in the strength of the Lord.
If you care more about your friends’ opinion than your Father’s glory, you’ll probably lose this battle. If you want the temporal pleasures of sin more than the eternal rewards of heaven, you’ll probably lose this battle. If you put financial success ahead of spiritual success, you’ll probably lose this battle.
Decide that nothing matters as much as serving and glorifying Jesus. Pay the price of victory, and it is yours.
Last, rescue others–all who belong to the enemy. When Jesus healed the demoniac of Mark 5, he then sent him to be used to heal others. To his family, and to the ten Gentile cities along the eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. He became their first missionary, preaching the gospel of God’s love and power for their lives and souls. In a war, every soldier matters. Where are you stationed?
We will spend eternity in heaven, celebrating the victory of the Lamb over the enemy and his demons. But before we go there, we must fight here. Before we celebrate in paradise, we must defeat the enemy on earth. Not to fight is to lose, automatically.
What battle is yours? What demon is your enemy this morning?
In a poem entitled, “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters,” Portia Nelson writes:
Chapter I: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost … I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
Chapter II: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place,but it isn’t my fault.
Chapter III: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
Chapter IV: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
Chapter V: I walk down another street.
Where in the poem are you?