Our study in the gifts of the Spirit is a necessary foundation for dealing with another challenging topic: demonology. More specifically, your gifts and calling will determine to a large degree how you encounter demons and how you handle them. There is no single answer that fits everyone or every situation.
First, a little context: The best image of what Satan does is to look at Pharaoh’s prison master, starting in Genesis 39:19. The image is Pharaoh’s left-hand man, a high ranking noble whose income derives largely from operating the royal prison as a slave farm. The difference between prisoner and slave is a mere matter of term of service; the prisoners earn nothing more than room and board regardless of their skills. Their productivity is consumed by the jailer. This is how Satan serves Jehovah.
This assigned duty is a demotion from Satan’s previous job as God’s chamberlain (AKA “covering cherub”). Satan has authority over a third of all angelic beings and we call those “demons.” They are confined to human space for the most part, and bound by Biblical Law. In essence, whatever power and authority they possess is limited by heart-led obedience to revelation. It’s impossible to be any more descriptive than that; the truth is rooted in the Spirit Realm and defies human language.
The point is that Satan has precious little to do with anyone who isn’t spiritually born. What he does with them is simply part of how God deals with everyone who rejects His lordship, herding them like cattle who have no clue what’s going on. They have no divine heritage and there’s nothing much to gain from them. It’s a dirty job. Where Satan profits most is from capturing those who are spiritually born, stealing their heritage of blessings and shalom by keeping them deceived about things. To the degree a spirit-born individual is able to walk in Biblical Law, so much are they free from Satan’s grip.
This helps to explain the huge demonic presence among Jews in Jesus’ day. They infested Jews at a rate far higher than in the surrounding Gentile communities. There was something to gain, and the whole mission of Satan was to keep the Jews from their Covenant blessings. Since he had succeeded in perverting Old Testament religion, the Jewish people were unprotected. Thus, a major element in Jesus’ ministry was restoring the Covenant, both in terms of what the peasants were taught about it, and what blessings the peasants enjoyed. Healing and casting out demons was putting things back where they should have been had the Covenant been obeyed.
We don’t live in that same atmosphere today. It’s not that demons are inactive, or that Jews of the first century were somehow deluded about what is and isn’t demonic activity. They knew; we don’t know today what they knew. We have lost a lot of their discernment. But the context has changed, as well. Demonic activity today has taken on a different character for the most part, largely because of the loss of that cultural legacy of discernment. As I keep saying, perception is a major element in spiritual truth.
In my personal experience, the two primary manifestations of demons that I face are subtle influences on people and institutions, and ghosts. I’ve heard credible testimony of other kinds of encounters, but I face what I face because of my calling and mission. Satan is constrained to perform his tricks in ways the Lord has equipped me to handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, the way I deal with demonic manifestations is also limited by my calling and mission, and my spiritual gifts.
I am called as an elder. I do a lot of pastoral work, and my role in Radix Fidem is apostolic. My calling includes exercising the gift of prophecy, which comes with a degree of discernment. I sometimes experience word of wisdom and word of knowledge. This is not about titles, just a frank description of what I do in serving Christ. Would it help if I listed all my human failings to balance the image? My point is that I don’t claim these things to impress you, but to establish the context of how I operate, and my exposure to demonic manifestations.
Tomorrow I’ll share a little about those experiences in general terms.