Let’s start with this one assumption. Everyone agrees with it. "Something has gone terribly wrong." Something has gone wrong. People are anxious, depressed, angry, at war with one another; there are homicides and suicides. The culture we live in is a battlefield. It doesn’t matter how many wars we wage. How many elections we hold. How many medications we prescribe. How many bodies we bury. How many we put into prison. How many votes we cast. Or how many savior-hero politicians we trust. Nothing changes. It only gets worst. The world is in decline. Yet the modern world tells us a myth. A myth that we are evolving into better humans. It's a myth disproven by our history.
Something has gone terribly wrong.
The problem is in this world. That means the solution must come from another world. All the problems that we see. We have been unable to diagnose the problem of humans and our history and actions. Unless... we look to the Problem behind the problem... Or in other words... The War behind the war. There is no way to understand our world than to read what God wrote. That's a big idea. There is no way to understand our problem than to read what God wrote. Read the word of God. And use it as a mirror into your own life. Then use it as binoculars into activities and events of our world.
To be honest, nothing about what is written here will make sense to you. Nothing about God’s Word will make sense to you… If, you don’t know one big idea.
So what’s the big idea?
What I need for us to know... We are not just physical beings. We are spiritual beings. God, who is spirit, created us in His image. Meaning we have a soul-- a spirit. Which means there is a spiritual world. And that the spiritual world affects us… Why? We are also partly spirit.
This is why we talk about faith as Christians…
Faith suggests that we agree that we are humans... and to be human is to be with flesh, bone, and blood... and to be human means we have limitations- so we need God’s limitless knowledge. If faith means agreeing that we need God, who is spirit… Then, rejecting that there is a spiritual world is unbelief. And unbelief cuts you off from contact with God and shuts up the Revelation He has given.
Because we are humans with limitations. Left to ourselves, we cannot know information about God. Or the spiritual world. Because of this... many people are guided by lies and perversions. Fake copies of the truth.
Lies? Fake-copies? Yes.
This is why… Many people throughout generations have lived and died in fear and crazy superstitions. Fears and superstitions about evil. These things are what the Bible teaches as the state of being “subject to bondage". Might say we are not subject to bondage. We are too sophisticated. Too educated. It may come as a surprise to you, that those who are in bondage to primitive "ways" are not just those people who are easily persuaded to believe something as true. It's not just those who are uneducated. But it is the professionals, the teachers, and the educators.
It may come to the surprise of most evangelicals. The praised Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation church, exaggerated daily occurrences. Fires and accidents were just fires and accidents to him. They were works of demons. That's just a more recent example of superstitions about evil. There's more. Candles were lite to keep demons away in Babylonia, Africa, Australia, and India. Today they are lite within the Roman Catholic church. Most ancient religions have a belief in demons. As to their daily activities. Their appearance. And other superstitions, like how to drive out demons. Clubbing, stabbing, shouting or shaking a human being among the list of acted out superstitions.
When someone sneezes we say, “God Bless you”. Why? The pope and ancient cultures believed that sneezing forced evil spirits out of the body. With evil spirits out of the body, it ran the risk of endangering others. Because these spirits might now enter their bodies. These are pretty intense beliefs…so are the beliefs of how "Everything that happens has a spiritual cause," and devils can overpower your desires and make you to do things they desire". We may not say it, but we act as if we believe that if we are not careful we might become owned by the devil and go to Hell.
These intense beliefs are extreme. But there is another extreme: Radical Skepticism. Or radical doubt. Once there, you reject the supernatural. The spiritual world altogether is rejected. Since the supernatural world is above natural laws, it is beyond science. And science is what can be seen and experimented on. Once this is the conclusion, the spiritual world is thought of as a place of questions, but with no answers.
In the first extreme, you have the truth that is corrupted by being mixed with error. And in the second extreme, the truth it is distorted in trying to separate truth from error! In between these extremes... there is truth. C.S. Lewis, the beloved lay theologian, was right when he states, “Don’t ignore the devil or give him too much attention.” This is why, unlike many human ideas, God’s Word, goes beyond the problem. Beyond this world. Into a different world. The spiritual world.
The book of Beginnings (Genesis), is not only God’s beginning account. It is the oldest tradition of the human race. The book contains all the things needed for the foundation of a study of evil. It's what Jesus and His disciples teach on in our New Testament Bibles.
So, let's start at the beginning. In Genesis 1, God creates a beautiful, ordered reality out of darkness and disorder so that life can grow. And God makes humans rulers over all the creation of the earth. And seven times God calls it “Good.” We experience this kind of goodness all the time in the world. Things like beauty, truth, love, and generosity. We know "goodness" and experience "good" in the world. But it's not like that's what we experience 24/7. Just turn onto the freeway and you will get an unsolicited one-figure salute telling you where you should "go". Yep. Goodness is not everywhere. So what happened to the creation that God called "good"?
Let's go back before the beginning. Well, we assume it's before the beginning. We aren't told when this happens. But we are given clues throughout the Bible. Throughout the storytelling canvas of the Bible, we see a theme that is interweaving throughout most every scripture passage. It's a conflict. What happens often is there is a conflict about governance… or... "Who rules".
This over-arching theme I have for the Bible for this particular article is this: God Creates and Satan Counterfeits. Everything God makes is Good. And everything that God makes, satan tries to counterfeit. To counterfeit means to corrupt it. Satan can not create, he doesn’t make anything or anyone. But he seeks to counterfeit what God has made. Eventually, anything that is valuable is counterfeited.
Let us think about what is valuable that is counterfeited. Licenses, diplomas, bread… yes, bread. Really, bread? Yeah, one drop of a snowflake and everyone heads to the bread shelf. In fact, bread is so valuable that at one time it was counterfeited. In the 1500’s greedy grain millers would put clay dust in their grains as a filler. When a baker bought the grain, he was just as greedy. He too put clay in his dough. When a customer went to a baker, they saw the dense, heavy, white bread and bought it. Thinking it was more valuable and pure… when it fact they were feeding their kids bricks! Their kids would say, "Mommy, I'm full” but then lay down to die from malnutrition! — Counterfeited bread, yes. What's valuable is counterfeited.
In John 6:35, Jesus says he is the “Bread of Life” … that’s the gospel. God is the creator. Satan is a counterfeiter. And knowing this, satan has counterfeited a fake gospel. Fake "bread"! Unknowingly, pastors feed it to disciples. Unknowingly, fathers feed it to their kids. They feel full and satisfied. But there is a lack of substance. A lack of spiritual truth. They die of spiritual malnutrition.
... Keep that in mind.
In Genesis, God creates the earth. What does satan do? Satan brings his battle to Adam. In Genesis 3 we first meet a creature, portrayed as a snake, who is in a state of rebellion against his creator. We are not told how or why he rebelled... not just yet. But he is on a mission to ruin God’s good world and make other creatures rebel. This creature is the Bible’s first portrait of evil. It distorts what God has purposed for good; ruining and dragging creation back into darkness and disorder. The creature says to the first humans, "Rule yourself." The first humans join the spiritual rebel which leads them into chaos and death. From this point on, the human rebellion is interwoven with a spiritual rebellion. And the biblical story shows how this happens over and over again.
Now, the snake. Throughout the Bible, we are told it is more than just a snake. It turns out this snake is really a spiritual being. The rest of the Bible fills in the blanks for us. Like when the prophet Ezekiel wrote about this being as a spiritual rebel who didn’t want to live under God’s wisdom as and authority. And that’s the same temptation the snake puts before Adam and Eve. He says they could rule the world like God but by their own wisdom. So they are all kicked out of the garden. And the biblical authors give us explanations about where this being is at work behind the scenes. Creating divine and hatred between humans. The biblical authors describe this being like a snake, or a sea dragon, or a dark desert creature, or the king of the death in the grave. He is also given many titles, “Tempter” “The Evil One, “The Devil,” which means in Greek “The Slanderer”… but his name is Satan, right? Actually no. Satan is not a name. It’s another entitle, which is why in the Hebrew language the word “The” is in front of it. The Satan means the adversary because he isn’t for anything, but he is against or anti-everything, working through lies to drag us back into darkness and disorder.
When the Bible talks about our Jesus being the king. And our eternity being a kingdom. That is an issue of governance. Jesus governs. Remember God governs in heavens with angels.
So what about demons?
Well, we know of God’s heaven staff team. Spiritual beings. Like seraphim, those that Isaiah says are praising God. Or the cherubim which are guarding the gates of the Garden in Eden. How about the angelic creatures who serve God as messengers and warriors, sometimes called the sons of God. We know of God’s heaven staff team. In the Old Testament, we are told that many of these spirits or angels rebelled too becoming wicked and evil. We are told that Satan became king over them, and these evil spirits or evil angels too took up the Satan’s mission: Ruin God’s good world and make other creatures rebels. (Consider what happened: And one day an angel named Lucifer says, “I think I want new governance” and he gains an angelic following of a third. They make war against God’s kingdom, they lose and are cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:16; Revelation 12:7-9). See two key chapters... Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14.)
Satan recruits humans into his little rebellion. Adam and Eve are the first, but not the only humans. Their son, Cain kills his brother able. Cain is cast away to far regions of the earth, where he builds a city and has a great-great-great-grandson named Tubal Cain, son of a brutal-toothless murderer. Tubal Cain was the first metalsmith recorded by history. Unfortunately, Tubal Cain was recruited too... and invented ways of war.
Now, what is interesting is that the ancient kingdoms around Israel claimed to be founded and protected by giant warrior kings. Who were part human and part "god," and filled with divine wisdom. And the biblical authors trace their heritage to “things that shouldn’t be honored” as being of God. In the Bible, they are portrayed as human rebels who are captive to spiritual evil. Spreading violence in God’s good world. One king in Genesis 10 named Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, goes on to build the city of Babylon. Now Nimrod is close to sounding like the Hebrew word “rebel.” His kingdom leads to the next rebellion where humans exalt themselves in Babylon. But God scatters that rebellion. And when Moses in the book of Deuteronomy looks back at that story, we get the idea that’s the moment when God handed over the nations to worship rebel spirits of heaven, the gods of money, sex, and war power.
Moses is the first one to call these evil spirits “demons” which means “idols” or “lesser lords”…
Demons are real spiritual beings that desire perverted worship.
We are told in the Bible, in the book of Ephesians that demons are spiritual forces at work behind corrupt human power structures. But the Bible says they also work on a personal level by using human’s greed, selfishness, and our weakness. In the Bible, spiritual evil is at work in anything that drags God’s good creation back into chaos, darkness, and death.
So, this is why when Jesus arrives on the scene, he said his main enemy is not human. Jesus and his first followers viewed all the pain and suffering in God’s good world, as a sign of its captivity to death and spiritual evil. But they didn’t think this was the end of the story. Jesus knew that the only way out of this ruin is to overcome evil and death itself, which Jesus did on the cross.
Merrill F. Unger's BIBLICAL DEMONOLOGY: A Story of Spiritual Forces at Work Today (1994)
The Bible Project's "SPIRITUAL BEINGS". https://d1bsmz3sdihplr.cloudfront.net/media/Study%20Notes/SBS_00_Series_VN_final.pdf. Accessed: March, 19, 2020.
C. Fred Dickason's ANGLES: Elect & Evil (1995)
Mark and Grace Driscoll's WIN YOUR WAR: Fight in the Realm You Don't See, For Freedom In The One You Do (2019)
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (1995)
Septuagint With Apocrypha Greek and English (1985)