In The New Demons, Jacques Ellul talks about the false gods we moderns adore, the disinformative myths which explain and justify their existence, and the dysfunctional religion through which we witness to them. The question, however, is this: is Jacques right to speak about false gods? To rightly answer that question, we will turn to the Bible as our normative witness about such things. Today we will recall what is said about powers of evil—Satan, the Devil, demons, etc.—in the Gospels and Book of Acts.
4:1-11 The Spirit leads Jesus into a wilderness. There Satan (or the Devil) tempts him to betray his faithfulness to Abba (God the Father). Satan does so by coming to Jesus and speaking lies to him. He attempts to trick Jesus into thinking that he can best witness to Abba by fulfilling the role of economic (4:3-4), religious (vs. 5-7), or political (8-10) savior. In tempting Jesus to become a religious savior, Satan demonstrates his familiarity with the Jewish Bible. In tempting Jesus to become a political savior, Satan claims control of all the governments of the world and their glory which Jesus does not dispute.
6:13 When Jesus teaches us how to pray, he tells us to ask Abba to protect us from the Evil One.
7:22 On Judgment Day, Jesus warns us that he may not recognize us even if we used his name to drive out demons.
9:32-34 Jesus drives out a demon who had prevented a man from being able to talk.
10:7-8 When sending his twelve apostles (messengers) out for the first time, Jesus instructs them to tell people that the Kingdom of Heaven has come to them and to witness to its presence by healing sick people, raising the dead to life, curing lepers, and driving out demons.
12:22-32 Jesus drives out a demon who had prevented a man from being able to see and talk. His opponents assert that Jesus has this power only because it has been given to him by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons (24). Jesus denies this, reveals that his power comes from the Spirit of God, and tells them that his victory over demons witnesses to the presence of the Kingdom of God in their midst (28). He assures them that by the power of the Holy Spirit he has been able to bind Satan and free all those previously controlled by him.
12:43-45 Evil spirits live in people, sometimes leave them, at other times return with other even worse evil spirits, and finally leave people worse off than before.
13:19 In explaining his Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains that some people hear the Good News about the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven but don’t understand it, so the Evil One steals it from them.
13:38-39 In explaining the Parable of the Weeds, Jesus explains that some people, good seed sown by the Son of Man, belong to his kingdom; while others, evil seed sown by the Devil, belong to the Evil One.
15:22 One woman, a foreigner, begs Jesus to free her daughter from a demon who torments her. He does.
16:16, 23 First Peter rightly recognizes that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus praises him. Then Peter wrongly forbids Jesus to suffer and die in Jerusalem. Jesus calls him Satan.
17:18-19 Jesus commands a demon causing epilepsy to come out of a boy and it immediately does. His disciples had failed to do so because of their lack of faith.
25:41 Speaking of the Last Judgment, Jesus warns his listeners that people who remain indifferent to marginal people will end up with the Devil and his angels in eternal fire.
3:11-12 People with evil (unclean) spirits always recognize who Jesus is and shout his identity as the Son of God. Jesus always orders them to be quiet.
8:26-39 Jesus frees a man tormented by unclean spirits known collectively as “Legion” by sending them into a herd of unclean animals.
10:17-20 Jesus sends out seventy-two people to announce the presence of the Kingdom of God. They return with joy because even demons obeyed their commands. Jesus tells them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (18). He affirms that he has given them, as his witnesses, all the authority they need to “overcome all the power of the Enemy” (19). “But don’t be glad because the evil spirits obey you; rather be glad because your names are written in heaven” (20).
13:10-17 Jesus heals a woman who has been kept stooped over for eighteen years by an evil spirit (11-12). By doing so, he says he freed her from bondage to Satan (16).
16:13 Jesus tells us we cannot serve both God and Mammon (i.e. Pluto).
8:44 Jesus tells his opponents that they are children of the Devil who has always been a liar, and the source of all lies, as well as a murderer.
12:31 Jesus reveals that, through his crucifixion and resurrection, the ruler of this world would be overcome.
13:2 The goal of betraying Jesus was put into the heart of Judas by the Devil.
13:27-30 As soon as Jesus reveals that Judas will betray him, Satan enters Judas and Judas immediately leaves Jesus and rushes into the night.
16:33 Jesus reassures his disciples of his victory over the world.
17:15 Jesus prays to Abba that he will keep his disciples safe from the Evil One.
5:3 Peter reveals to Ananias that Satan filled his heart to lie about some money and asks Ananias why he chose to do so.
10:38 Peter tells others that Jesus healed people by freeing them from the power of the Devil.
13:6-12 Paul refers to a certain magician and false prophet named Son of Jesus as Son of the Devil for his opposition to Paul’s preaching of the Good News.
16:16 A female slave has an evil spirit which enables her to make lots of money for her owners by fortune-telling.
19:15 A man with an evil spirit violently attacks seven brothers for using the name of Jesus without any faith in Jesus.
19:23-27 Paul angers Olympians in Ephesus by preaching that Artemis, whose famous temple stands in the city, is no god at all.
26:8 Paul tells others that Jesus sent him to free others from the power of Satan.
Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.