Do demons really flee at the name of Jesus?

spiritual warfare

Spiritual warfare is a matter which Christians discuss rarely and understand poorly.  We tend to over-spiritualize or under-spiritualize many of our circumstances.  Some people think that the devil is under every rock and behind every situation, calling people and their natural, sinful tendencies demonic, while others bury their heads in the sand and are completely unaware of the Spiritual realm and beings that Scripture affirms are present.  Paul exhorts us to preparedness thusly:

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

– Eph 6.11-13

We must beware of and resist the schemes of the devil.  Our struggle, as the Church, is against spiritual forces that would seek to silence our witness and thwart our efforts to glorify and represent the Kingdom of God.  Paul goes on to teach us the various tools that we should employ in resisting the devil:

“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feed with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…”

– Eph 6.14-18

In short, Paul assumes that we will have interactions and battles with the devil, in the Spiritual realm.  And the tools to fight the Devil are:

1)  Truth  (Knowing God, His heart and His ways)
2)  Righteousness (killing our sin and obeying God)
3)  The Gospel  (Knowing our sinful state, how Jesus took our place:  grace)
4)  Faith  (Trusting God, believing in what we have not seen)
5)  Salvation  (Having been born again, remembering that transformation that happened and trusting it)
6)  Sword of the Spirit (The written word of God!  Know and claim His promises, trust Him)
7)  Prayer  (Turn to God for direction and instruction in these battles, listen to His leadership)

These tools are clear and vitally important.  We can use them against the enemy, we can use them in putting to death our sinful flesh and tendencies, and we can use them for basic discernment between two good options.  But there is a strange teaching prevalent in our churches today that says,

“The demons will flee at the name of Jesus.”

This is a drastic perversion and misunderstanding of a very powerful verse:

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

– James 4.7

James teaches us that when we resist the devil, He will flee from us.  But resistance is not simply saying “Jesus”.  Paul taught us what resistance is, and that is those seven facets outlined above.  If all we had to do was say “Jesus”, then we would not need truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, the Bible and prayer to fight against Him.

Consider these interactions with demons – who were not even as powerful as the Devil Himself:

It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.  Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”  She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

– Acts 16.16-18

But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.  And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”  And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

– Acts 19.13-16

The demons also said the name of Jesus themselves (Mark 1.24, 5.47, Acts 19.15).

And there were demons that the disciples were incapable of casting out, even though they could cast out other ones:

I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”…When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?”  And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

– Mark 9.18b, 28-29

Not only that, but the reality that should transform our entire perspective on this conversation is that God uses Satan in a specific role:  the accuser (Rev 12.10).  Satan actually works in the Heavenly Court as the prosecutor.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”

– Zech 3.1-2

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.  The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”  The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”  Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.  However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.”  So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.”  Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

– Job 2.1-7

When God called in the heavenly court, all the “sons of God”, Satan was included.  Satan stood before God and spoke boldly to Him.  Not one human being who stood in the presence of God or in the presence of an angel ever spoke boldly – they all fell on their faces and trembled.  And not only that, but Jesus informed Peter that Satan had demanded permission to sift Peter and show his real commitment to Jesus, the results we saw in Peter’s denial of Christ:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

– Luke 22.31-32

It is indeed true that there is power in the name of Jesus, when it is declared at the end of the age, every single knee will bow:  heavenly, humanly, and all demons and wicked beings will acknowledge Him as God:

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

– Eph 2.9-11

But the power is not in the saying aloud of His name.  The word, name, title “Jesus” is not a magical tool that we can just whip out and send the demons into a tail spin.  The power of the name of Jesus is in He who bears the name.  Jesus alone has the power to save, to conquer demons, to defeat the enemy and help us to die to our sins.  The power is in the man.  And He will enable us to resist the devil, and when we resist the devil, when we stand firm in the faith, when we persevere with the tools that Scripture gives us, the devil will flee from us.  But there will be times that the enemy mocks us, that he mocks Jesus, and there will be times that we do not have the ability to cast out a demon, because we have not prayed and fasted over it.  Satan stands in the Heavenly courts, and while he knows and acknowledges Jesus as Lord and king – asking for permission to to tempt us – he is not thwarted by a whisper.

Do not believe in the voodoo-ish teaching that saying the name of Jesus is adequate resisting of the devil.  Satan can say Jesus’ name.  The demons can say Jesus’ name.  And saying “Jesus” aloud does not cause him to flee from your presence.  Jesus’ presence and authority causes him to flee form our presence.  So let us bulk up our Spiritual strength, developing the full armor of God, so that we can resist Him and prove ourselves believers.

Do Ghosts Exist?

American culture takes pride in our advanced logic, our scientific method by which we can explain the natural world around us.  We often think of developing nations as uneducated or backwards for interacting with the spiritual world.  At least that is what we say verbally.

But we, as a nation, clearly have an intrigue with the supernatural.  Many of our movies are fantastical – dabbling in magic and superstition.  We have light-hearted stories for children and families like Bewitched and Harry Potter, but also heavy and dark stories like Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  And on the far end of the spectrum we have a curiosity with hauntings and the spiritual world around us, with Ghost hunters making a living on trying to document their existence and stories like Exorcism, Haunting in Connecticut and Haunting of Emily Rose.

But what does the Bible have to say about Ghosts?  We know that God forbade sorcery in the Old Testament (Deut 18.10) and also in the New Testament (Gal 5.20).  We also see Jesus cast many demons out of people throughout the whole of the Gospels, and new converts in Acts brought their magic books and burned them in public to put away their dark ways (Acts 19.19).  So were they just tribal, uneducated people who did not yet understand science?

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had removed from the land those who were mediums and spiritists.  So the Philistines gathered together and came and camped in Shunem; and Saul gathered all Israel together and they camped in Gilboa.  When Saul saw the camp of the Philistines, he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly.  When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets.  Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.”  Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.”  But the woman said to him, “Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?”  Saul vowed to her by the Lord, saying, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”  Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”  When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me?  For you are Saul.”  The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.”  He said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage.  Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do.”  Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary?”

– 1 Sam 28.3-16

Apparition of the spirit of Samuel to Saul, by...

Apparition of the spirit of Samuel to Saul, by Salvator Rosa, 1668. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Old Testament is full of amazing stories.  Historically accurate accounts of the nation of Israel, from its founding to conquering of modern day Israel and captivity to Babylon, Assyria and other nations.  And this story is an historical account of Saul, the first king of Israel, having the ghost of Samuel, the prophet who had counseled him, brought from the dead to ask advice.

So we see in 1 Sam that it has happened before that the Spirit of Samuel was brought from the dead to interact with Saul.  There are many stories in Scripture that are one-time events.  It has never been recorded of another man being swallowed by a giant fish and surviving for three days, only to be vomited safely on the shore – other than Jonah.  It has also never been recorded that someone has walked on water or a world-wide flood killing everyone save one family who followed God’s instructions to build an ark.  Therefore, it is possible that the conjuring of Samuel was a one-time event which was never duplicated.

However, one day Jesus took Peter, James and John up on a mountain and changed into His holy form, “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matt 17.2).  And Moses and Elijah appeared to the disciples and were talking with Jesus.  Were they ghosts?  The spirits of Moses and Elijah?  Or were they in bodily form?  That, unfortunately, is unclear.

We also know that at the moment Jesus died, “The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many” (Matt 27.52-53).  However, these saints were in their physical bodies, so I guess that would be more along the lines of zombies?  Zombies who returned to their cognitive state anyway.

So do ghosts exist?  We all have Spirits that are eternal – embodied in our flesh – that will live on after the body has passed away.  And yes, God has the supernatural power and ability to revive those bodies or let the spirits appear in their spiritual, body-less state to human beings.  We also know that demons exist – angels of Lucifer that exist amongst human beings for negative influence, and angels are ministering spirits sent out to help Christians (Heb 1.14).  We regularly see Jesus interact with demons – even speaking to them at times (Matt 8.28-32).

Let us not be too quick to reason God and the inexplicable out of our worldview.  He is supernatural.  The very fact that He spoke the world into existence is extraordinary, and He has the freedom and ability to break the natural laws that He wrote.  However, let us remember that even if and when we encounter demons or inexplicable situations, “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4).

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

– Eph 6.11-12

God is in control.  There is nothing to be afraid of.

This means war.

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

– Rom 8.12-13

We are in a war.  A Spiritual war.  You have probably spent time meditating on the Spiritual armor that we are to wear as Paul lists it in Ephesians 6.10-18.  You have probably heard the analogy of prayer as our Spiritual walkie-talkie, allowing us direct access to our Commander-in-Chief.  But have you ever thought about the enemy?  Against whom exactly are we fighting?

The Bible tells us that the war of dominion has been won (Rom 8.1-2).  Satan has been defeated.  His destiny is settled: an eternity in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone (Rev 20.10).  Jesus holds the keys to death and Hell (Rev 1.17-18) and no one will go there unless Jesus sends him there.  And of all that the Father has given Jesus, none will be or can be lost (John 6.37-39).

Paul tells us, rather, that our greatest enemy is sin.  It is sin that earn us an eternity in Hell, not Satan.  And Paul gets very explicative in Romans 8 in telling us about our responsibility as believers.  We are under obligation to the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the body.  Under obligation!  John Owen made a very famous statement by which we all would benefit if we purposefully lived:  “Be killing sin or it will be killing you”.

Ed Welch, an author and counselor, made this statement:

“There is a mean streak to authentic self-control. . . Self-control is not for the timid. When we want to grow in it, not only do we nurture an exuberance for Jesus Christ, we also demand of ourselves a hatred for sin. . . . The only possible attitude toward out-of-control desire is a declaration of all-out war. . . . There is something about war that sharpens the senses . . . You hear a twig snap or the rustling of leaves and you are in attack mode. Someone coughs and you are ready to pull the trigger. Even after days of little of no sleep, war keeps us vigilant.”

Let’s reflect on a minute about the severity with which Jesus speaks to sin and how we are to respond to it:

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.  If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.”

– Matt 18.8-9

Clearly Jesus knows that an eye is not the cause of our sin, but the heart causing or allowing the eye to look at things which it should not.  And the hand is not evil in-and-of itself, it is the sinful heart that would use the hand to steal or kill.  But Jesus is so concerned with our sanctification – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4.3) – that He would prefer us to cut off a member of our body and be saved than to continue in sin and be damned.  Paul tells us that we should no longer present the members of our bodies as instruments of sin, but instruments of righteousness (Rom 6.13).  If I were to physically cut off my hand, it would be unable to be of use to God.  But if I have a tendency or temptation to steal, I need to be so severe against that sin that I would fight that sin with the fervency equatable to cutting it off!

I wrote yesterday about flirting with the line; setting up boundaries for ourselves so that we can walk as close to sin as possible without actually sinning.  And I argued that that mentality is sinful.  I do believe that setting up boundaries and safeguards is a good practice.  But not to appease our consciences for living however we want, rather to help us live lives that are focused on and poured out for holiness and the glory of God.

So how do we fight these sins?  With the Sword of the Spirit: the Word of God.  We cannot honor God without clinging to His will and His Word, and we are only granted that wisdom through the Scriptures.  Are you timid?  Pray back Romans 8.15 to God until the timidity is gone.  Do you struggle with lust?  Meditate on the fact that God will always provide a way of escape, ask him for strength, and find the escape/safeguard (1 Cor 10.13).  Do you tell white lies?  Remember that liars will find their place in Hell (Rev 21.8) and ask God for boldness to honor Him with your words (Eph 3.11-12).  Fighter verses are the truths and promises of God that we find in Scripture that help us overcome struggles, temptations and sins.  Find them.  Pray them.  Memorize them.  Because it is the Word of God that is “living and active and and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4.12-13).

The Word is our sword by which we fight battles.  And it will not return void (Is 55.11).

There is, also, a level of Spiritual warfare against the principalities and dark places that is to be fought, as Eph 6 states.  The tension is valid that even though the war has been won, there are still battles to be fought in these final days (the Already-Not Yet).  But Satan has no power over our eternity.  He cannot take us from Christ.  And he cannot force us into sin.  Thus our primary war is with our flesh and with our sinful passions.  Let us examine ourselves.  Let us ask God to reveal sins of which we are unaware.  Let us put to death the deeds of the body and present ourselves as instruments of righteousness to honor God and to further His kingdom here on Earth!

Greater is he who is in the world than you.

“Greater is he who is in the world than you.”

– Adam Greenway

How much energy do you spend thinking about the warfare in which we are engaged, Spiritually?  Sometimes I see people spend an over abundance of energy on demonology, studying the devil and trying to develop schemes to bind him, defeat him and understand him.  They find a demon behind every tree, and if the sound system is not working on a Sunday morning then the devil must be in the wires or amps.  Other times I meet people who assume that demons were a thing of the past, there are no spiritual forces with which we must battle and to think otherwise would cause one to be labeled crazy.

I believe Scripture teaches a happy medium.  We ought not spend all of our time looking at Satan, as he is a creature and he has been defeated by the work of Jesus on the cross.  The war has decisively been won.  Satan will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire when Jesus comes to consummate the end of the age.  At the same time, he is in the death throes looking to destroy as many as he can on his way out.   And thus we ought be aware of his schemes and tactics.  No one enters into a battle without studying his enemy.  We should learn our sin nature and the ways of the enemy such that we can see both coming from a mile away and take captive our thoughts to fight sin and press on towards holiness.

The Devil functions in a God-given role:  the accuser (Rev 12.10).  When God calls the Heavenly court into session, Satan attends and his role is the prosecution.  He is aware of our sin and he brings it up in the presence of God to induce our condemnation.  We see this in Job, when God suggests that Job is blameless, Satan rebuts that his life is too easy and therefore God grants it unto the enemy to test Job (Job 1).  We also see this with Peter – before the crucifixion Jesus tells Peter that Satan has asked to sift him like wheat (Luke 22.31).

Satan is the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4.4), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2.2), “ruler of darkness” (Eph 6.12) and “the tempter” (Matt 4.3).  He has been around for a long time.  He understands human nature and depravity.  His demons are skilled at temptation and deception.  And we must not underestimate his power.

“One of the great delusions which the evil one has perpetuated upon the Church towards the end of the 20th century in western culture is simply this:  That we can beat the world at it’s own game.  That we can, taking the same methodology around us, build the Kingdom for Jesus Christ.”

“When the Church, in any generation, lays down the weapons provided by its commander and chief, it must inevitably pick up other weapons for it knows that it must fight; it knows that it is in a battle, it knows that the powers of darkness reign against it.”

– Alistair Begg

We must fight the battle in the methods by which we are taught by Jesus Christ and the Scriptures.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”

– 2 Cor 10.3-6

It starts in our minds.  Satan’s greatest tactic is to convince people that their debt of sin has been paid when indeed it has not.  False religions are schemes of the enemy – and false Christianity is his greatest ploy.  To assure people that they are saved when they truly are not.  So we must examine the Scriptures and our hearts and test ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor 13.5).

Let us remember that greater is he who is in the world than us.  But let us never despair because “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4).  Let us fight the battle knowing that the war has already been won.  Even if he takes your life, he has no sway over your soul if you belong to Jesus Christ.