Continuing to pursue the study of the spiritual landscape of spiritual warfare, I’m in the process of defining terms. It sounds pretty easy on the surface, but it has rapidly become very complex. I believe Paul has left references in his letters to teachings he gave in person, not in writing (or at least not writing we have now).
This is not specific to the spiritual arena, there are plenty of tantalizing tidbits on which he does not elaborate. These can be frustrating at first. Then, once the frustration subsides, I remember that we have what our Savior has preserved for us. We have what we need for a relationship with Him. The point of Scripture isn’t “spiritual warfare” but “walking with our Creator”.
With that context, the frustration goes away completely. I don’t need to know. I may want to know, but my Master does not consider it important enough to explain. Probably, because He knows it would easily become a distraction from what He does want me to know.
One of these terms that you would think would be easy is “demon”. Just for fun, look up “daemon” in a modern dictionary, and you will find a reference to a “computing” definition. It is a term referring to a background program, not under the control of an interactive user. So, if you go to your “Task Manager” in Windows, and select “All Processes”, everything below the line of “Background Processes” would probably fall into this category. Which means, that, as most of you have suspected all along, your computer is demon-possessed, and probably by “legion” (mine had 86 processes running in the background).
Okay, on to what Scripture says about these things. They’re bad. ALWAYS. That’s important because they aren’t always a reference to something evil in the surrounding cultures. In the Ancient Greek used in Scripture, in “secular” usage anyway, they are references to divinities or deities. That makes a lot of sense as Paul writes to the Corinthian church about food sacrificed to idols. It puts the discussion in a whole new light, or could.
When Paul is in Athens, involving himself in discussions in the market, he is brought before the Areopagus because “‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” (Acts 17:18b NASB). Guess what Greek word is translated as “deities”? Yup, “demon”. For the people of Athens, they were not necessarily evil, just generically divine. So, that’s the cultural context in which Paul moves people to belief in Jesus.
For Jews, any sort of belief in “demons” was relatively new, and probably developed due to greater interaction with Greeks. They struggled to come up with some sort of way to discuss monotheism with these philosophical polytheists. It wasn’t easy, and adopted some of their terms to describe distinctives. They did this by “redefining” Greek terms in light of their belief in Yahweh. It led to some interesting, often confusing, writing.
By the time Jesus walks upon His brief segment of human history, belief in demons among the Jews was wide-spread. They were blamed for just about everything bad. That caused the “Rabbis” all sorts of problems, because, when there’s only ONE God, even what seems bad comes from Him. Some sort of understanding of a “creation in rebellion” emerged, and satisfied both popular Jewish and Rabbinic Jewish understanding of demons. When Jesus appears, He confirms this understanding, even expanding and explaining it in more detail.
For disciples of Jesus, as we examine the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, belief in demons essentially includes these few elements:
- Demons exist in a state of rebellion against their Creator and ours.
- Demons interact with the created order of this planet, environmentally and personally.
- Demons will never exercise complete control over creation.
- Demons will fail in their rebellion, and they know it.
- Demons seek to take as many people as they can with them in their failure.
They represent a “lost cause”, a hopeless collection of beings who seriously should have known better. On the other hand, they know our Savior in a way we have not yet experienced. It is interesting to me that these beings, fallen angels or whatever, started a hopeless rebellion in the first place. Their “arche”, Satan, was able to persuade them to join a hopeless cause that would lead, inexorably, to eternal punishment.
That may sound crazy, but isn’t that precisely what is happening in this world? Doesn’t the bulk of humanity seem to be on the same path as these hopeless spiritual rebels? It does seem to extend the crazy perspective of “this present age” into the realm of those we cannot see, where a war we barely perceive is fought in the presence of our Creator. It doesn’t help make sense of this place and people. It just helps explain and “normalize” the weirdness around us. None of if makes much sense to me.
So, bottom-line: We, who walk with Jesus, win. Demons, who rebel against Jesus, lose. Demons are the enemy of our Savior and, therefore, us. This world seems full of hopeless losers. We must be in prayer for the liberation of our fellow people. That is spiritual warfare as we know it.