How Christians Cast Out Demons Today
by Kent Allan Philpott
"A Theology of the Demonic"
Since a full or even modest theology of the demonic is beyond the scope of this small book, the following is a mere summary of the most salient points on the subject.
The serpent in the garden
We begin with Genesis and the serpent in the garden: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God made” (Genesis 3:1).
God, it is clear, made the serpent and gave him certain characteristics. The serpent was crafty—it could reason, communicate, debate, persuade, convince, lie, and deceive. The serpent turned against his creator, however, and God’s pronouncement of judgment was, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
This verse, sometimes regarded as the first prophecy of the Messiah in Scripture, announces that there will be an ongoing war between the serpent and both “the woman” and her “offspring.” The woman’s offspring has been variously understood as either the Church or Christ or perhaps both. The offspring of the serpent, in its broadest sense, would include the entire demonic kingdom composed of demons commanded by king Satan. The serpent will do some damage— “bruise his heel,” which is not a fatal injury—but the woman’s offspring will deliver a mortal blow.
Who is the serpent?
Is the serpent Satan? There are a few clues. One is found in 2 Corinthians 11:3: “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Paul is referring to the serpent of Genesis 3. It is not possible here to show how the links between the serpent of Genesis and Satan developed over the centuries, but by Paul’s time and with his education under Gamaliel in the school of Hillel he would have identified the serpent with Satan. John made the identification clear in Revelation 12:9:
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while (Revelation 20:1-3).
The devil’s name is Satan, meaning adversary, opponent, or enemy; Satan wars against God and His creation. The word “devil” is best understood as slanderer or accuser. He was thrown down, which we will consider shortly, but specifically was thrown down to the earth along with his angels. Peter likewise warned, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
The angels of Revelation 12:9, along with their leader-angel Satan, are created, intelligent beings who have a measure of free will, demonstrated by their capacity to rebel against their creator. How many angels there are, either those who followed Satan or those who did not, is unknown. It is common Christian lore that Satan is one of three archangels, the others being Michael and Gabriel. Satan then seduced the angels under his command—one third of the angelic corps—and they were cast out of heaven along with him. The demonic kingdom is therefore composed of Satan and his angels, his angels being demons, also called evil spirits or unclean spirits.
There is a wide divergence among Christians about the meaning of Revelation 20:1-3, and a clarification of the debate between differing theological systems is not relevant to our purpose here, except to point out that the passage appears to signify that Satan is defeated, which is how any deliverance ministry or casting out of demons is even possible. Without Jesus and His triumph over the devil (see 1 John 3:8), casting out of demons is merely occultic exorcism, a sham casting out of Satan by the power of Satan. The binding of Satan for one thousand years is mysterious; however, Jesus did bind the strong man Satan, when He cast out demons (see Matthew 12:29). It is this binding of Satan that renders him vulnerable to being cast out today.
A prophecy of Isaiah
Satan is a creature, cast out or thrown down out of heaven, that placeoutside of time and space in which God dwells. Satan was there at one point. The prophet Isaiah provides a mere glimpse into something we cannot possibly imagine:
How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven, above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15).
These verses are part of a longer passage, Isaiah 14:3-23, whose context is a pronouncement of judgment upon a king of Babylon. But like so many prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, there suddenly appears something else, something out of context, that indicates a shift of the Author’s intent. Beginning in verse 12, it is Day Star or Lucifer who is the subject, not a king of Babylon. This is a conclusion, because the prophet does not make a clear identification; but there is a rich history of interpretation of the passage that suggests Isaiah takes the then traditional account of the origins of Satan and applies it to an earthly king.
We know from Genesis 3 that Satan was a heavenly being of some kind who had a beginning and who had freedom of choice, and that something caused Lucifer, who had the exalted titles of Day Star and Son of Dawn, to rebel against God. The consequence was his being cast down to the earth (combining Isaiah and Revelation). And we may say, “Thanks a lot!”
A prophecy of Ezekiel
Isaiah prophesied about a king of Babylon wherein there appeared something that suggests he had more in mind than an earthly king. The same is true with Ezekiel and his prophecy about a king of Tyre:
Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering (Ezekiel 28:11-13).
The connection to Satan and the garden is obvious. Except in poetic license was the king of Type ever in Eden. And “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” could be prophetic hyperbole, but maybe not. Again, Ezekiel may be drawing on extant information of the actual Satan and inserts it, either consciously or not. Ezekiel’s king is like Isaiah’s—though so very high and powerful, he falls so very low. Satan is a magnificent creature—wise, beautiful, perfect, murderous, hateful, and deceitful—the ultimate liar and enemy.
Demons and the New Testament
Two New Testament passages sometimes used to depict an origin for demons are 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment (2 Peter 2:4).
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day (Jude 6).
Angels, meaning messengers, could work for anyone, either in heaven or hell. In these passages the angels are demons, and they made the ultimate mistake and were cast into the lowest and the worst place—hell itself. But if they were cast into hell, how then are they roaming about now? This is an apparent problem with 1 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. While the identification of fallen angels with demons is not a great leap, it appears that once they had been cast out of heaven the demons are in hell, the place of gloomy darkness, right where they are ready to be employed by the devil for his business.
Finally, we have something Jesus said while speaking of the final judgment:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41).
While 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 speak of a present chaining of demons, Jesus points to a future imprisonment. How this can be reconciled is hard to know, but Jesus said “the devil and his angels,” so it is reasonable to think that He meant what He said.
A significant portion of the Christian worldview holds that God is creator, that He created Satan and the demons who followed him, that God judged sin and Satan, limited their existence, and fixed their destruction, all through the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. These great truths are the foundation upon which demons are cast out.
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