The Bible says, "And Samuel turned to go and he [Saul] seized the hem of his robe and it tore. And Samuel said to him, "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it your fellow who is better than you." 1 Samuel 15:17-28
On the road to his demise, Saul does little to turn from the fate prophesied by Samuel.
Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that has a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that has a familiar spirit at Endor. 1 Samuel 28:7-197
Saul soon dies, and the kingdom is left to his successor.
Saul knowingly sinned, contacting the witch. Why? Because he was afraid God wouldn't come though. The point, is not his fear, or that prophecy is a vehicle for the will of God. No, it is that his encounter with the witch was sin and directly contributed to his death. And as a side note, he believed in both God's ability to be supernatural as well as in the demonic realms.
First, let me tell you, I am not looking for an encounter with the devil. Nor do I think there is a demon under every rock. I also don't believe that he is responsible for half of what he gets blamed for. Conversely, I also think lots of folks are unaware of his ways, his power and the damage that he can do. Therefore; I conclude, he is responsible for a lot things that many Christians seem to overlook.
I find the average American church goer quite naive about the demonic realms. I know, I was one of them. I wonder, is this why Christians read horoscopes, visit psychics and and mess with other forms of the occult in which they can get messages about the future? Like Saul, maybe they are afraid that God won't come though for them, or that their church thinks that spiritual gifts are of another age, or might even themselves be from the devil.
Here is an analogy. It is a bit like offering a car to a 10-year-old. They don't see the danger, they don't have the knowledge of where they are going, and they are certainly headed for trouble. On the other hand, you really can't be a 40-year-old without a license in most societies. What I am getting at, is this, we need to learn, to understand and to deal with the devil as prescribed in the Bible. We can't avoid him altogether, nor should we seek him out.
The current crop of teaching pretty much describes the battleground of the demonic as our mind. And I agree. This is the very place where most Christians are likely to experience darkness. Paul said that we need to take every thought captive. He also talks about how people' minds are darkened. Negative feelings or thoughts, poor self image, years of sinful behavior and the like, these things cloud our ability to clearly put on the mind of Christ. These are one form of stronghold.
So, what is a balanced biblical view of demons, the demonic, evil, and the powers of darkness? Isn't there more to it then the war in our head? Here is where I stand on the issue. The demonic realms seem to manifest themselves in certain ways, and like many spiritual entities, they vary in levels intensity. Each manifestation is directed at different parts of mankind. Here is a simplified set of definitions.
1) Principalities - These are spiritual realms that are over a country, a land, a state, a town, a region and even a dwelling. They are what Paul called the "powers of the air." These realms preside primarily because they have been given permission by ungodly people, governments, devil worshipping groups, lackluster churches or a combination of these.
Having spent some time abroad in Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and just about every region of the United States, I sensed that principalities can be very different from region to region.
I think of these powers' ability to oppress us can be described something like this. If you have ever stepped on gum, you know that it forms gooey strands connecting you to the ground. Principalities are like that, they try to hold us back, influencing certain behaviors in their region. These behaviors could be pride or arrogance, and even a similar sickness or sin amongst the peoples of the affected region. Breaking the strands of influence that connect us to a principality is done through prayer and humility. Paul talks about be buffeted by the devil as well as being held back from visiting certain areas. These are principalities.
2) Oppression - The pressure that is exerted against a group, or person by the devil and his band of demons. This is very much the type of demonic activity Job experienced. It came in the form of loss, destruction and sickness. It affected his life, his body and his emotions. Oppression can be in the form of sickness, adversity, invisible barriers, addiction, relational difficulties, familiar spirits, generational curses and persecution. Some of these are the result of our sin, our proximity to sin, and relentless acts of demonic activity against the church.
3) Possession - This is when a demon, or demons, actually dwell in a human being (or living animal). Their effects can be significant to the body and the mind/emotions. This can be the cause of addictions, mental illness, aberrant sexual behavior, violence, all types of sickness and and a host of bizarre and grotesque manifestations.
4) Satanic encounters - This is where Satan himself, manifests his presence of his followers and occasionally Christian believers. Because Satan is not omnipresent, he can't be everywhere at once. Therefore; these types of "visitations" are, let's say much rarer then cases of possession.
Satan's power is used to fuel the occult, Ouija boards, horoscopes, tarot cards, witchcraft (both black and white) and the like. Although any involvement in these types of practices can cause actual possession, it is more often the power of oppression though some sort of a curse. The tongue has the power to bless and to curse. And physical objects can also embody a curse. Check out Jonah's fig tree.
Curses can come from any number of sources, but they usually involve negativity and fear. The father screaming obscenities at his family is an example. One can curse their own life by speaking negative words about things they fear. What our parents did (or didn't do) can be passed on as curse to generation after generation. This would include things like alcoholism, divorce or sexual promiscuity. All types of sinful behavior can easily curse those around us. This is the biblical principal that makes the saying, "hurt people, hurt people," true.
Demonic oppression can come from foolish prayers said outside of the will of God, and out from under some sort of protective spiritual covering. This is one place where being part of a body of believers can supply protection for the assaults from demonic strongholds in your cities and states. Let me simply say, that if you pray against the strongholds of Satan and his demons, be sure that he will respond. Amazingly, I have heard people screaming at the devil in prayer and then wonder why their lives have nearly been destroyed. He will come to rob, kill and destroy. you can be certain of that. I suggest that you don't engage in this type of battle without proper prayer support and a direct mandate from the Lord Himself. It is far better to go and love your neighbor, or feed the poor then to spend time engaging the forces of darkness on your own.
Demonic possession was a touchy subject for me. First, it is scary stuff. Real demonic activity can be frightening, and be sure the devil will use that fear against you. In my early days as a Christian (c. 1980), there was a guy in our church that regularly engaged witches and warlocks in prayer and witnessing. He brought them to church for an evening meeting (that I was not at) and they began to manifest some very odd behavior as people in the room began to pray. Just hearing the stories was more than I was ready for. I remember thinking that I didn't sign up for this type of stuff and really avoided it.
After reading Josh McDowell's books on the occult, witchcraft and non-Christian religions I began to study finding many biblical references to demons and things of that nature. For about a year I studied and put together a one hour presentation that I was showing to youth groups within my denomination. I was on a mission to expose the schemes of the devil. Let me simply say that no one messes with the devil without paying a price. I was no exception. That year of exposing the devil cost me many things in my personal life. And like Job, I gave up everything but my faith.
Some years later I saw the error of my ways -- that of being a lone ranger -- and taking on the devil myself, without a mandate or prayer covering. During that time, for research, I stupidly had books on astrology and witchcraft in my home. I remember a woman from the church came to visit during that time, and she blurted out, "it sure is black in here." as she walked in the door. "What on earth are you doing?" I should have know then that I was in trouble.
One Sunday morning in 1994, I decided to go to a new church about 45 minutes from my home. I choose this particular church because it was part of a "new" domination that I had reading about. After the service I met a couple of guys, and we just began to talk. They asked if they could pray for me. "Sure," I replied. So they started-- nothing special, but suddenly they asked God to break curses that had been spoken over me. All I can say is that I actually felt what seemed to be a cable around my neck, come off. These guys now had my full attention. Suddenly, another one broke and I was freed of years of oppression. I had lived with this particular oppression for so long, I didn't even know I had it. I can't exactly describe the feeling, but I was certain that something had for sure happened. I can give you all the verses to debate, but as sure as I know the moment that I got saved, I am sure these curses were broken. I cried all the way home praising the Lord. I was astonished!
A few years after that experience, on my first trip to Brazil, I wasn't even thinking of my first power encounters with darkness in the early 80's. I had read Scott Peck's book about evil-- well mental illness described as evil. My view was that demonic activity was rare, and that most folks need to get a job, go to church, and spend less money, thus relieving the devil of the power and destruction he wrought over their lives. (Read more about that HERE). I remember the personal loss I had suffered preparing for the trip, but I really didn't see what was going on-- once I was through customs, that was all behind me.
In Londrina, I was ministering on average of about three times a day. One morning, after a night of preaching and laying hands on thousands; until the wee hours of the morning, there was a knock at the pastor's door. It was woman with an epileptic child about 6-years-old. He weighed in at about 50 pounds; just a child. Let me set the scene. There were the four folks on my team, the pastor and his wife, his two children, their housekeeper, and two woman from his congregation. We were in the living room with the child, his mother, and the child's babysitter and her infant. I believe there were fifteen people in all. Three members of my team and the pastor began to pray for the little boy while his mother watched. It was in Portuguese and I don't really know exactly what was being said. I stood with the other three woman and we just prayed in the spirit-- all very nice and religiously tidy. Then the boy began to manifest a demon. The housekeeper quickly chose a new vantage point down that hall. The little boy became very violent taking all the adults, three men and two woman to the floor. (Frightening -- well for me and the housekeeper. No one else seemed to mind all that hullabaloo.) I just kept praying and watching, finally the boy slumped to the floor; empty and nearly lifeless. They prayed for God to fill the void. The boy quietly asked for a glass of agua (water), and seemed very calm; almost glowing.
Things calmed down and the child's mother asked me to pray for everyone. I prayed for the child again, his mother, and the ladies from the church. When I got to the babysitter the power of God was very strong. She started to waver a little, and one of my team mates grabbed the baby from her arms just before she hit the quarry tile. About five minutes later, she too began to manifest a demon. I heard the voice of it speak with a very deep and gravely tone. My team members rebuked it in the name of Jesus and she just lay emptied on the floor. They got her a chair and she sat and began to weep. They led her to the Lord, and she was filled with the Spirit before our eyes. She confessed that she had been involved in Santa Ria, and had also used it to try to cure the boy.
One of my team mates, the interpreter for us, said to me "Did you hear the voice of the demon?"
I said "yes, " the demon said "She is mine and you can't have her."
He looked surprised, "you understood the Portuguese?"
"No, I heard it in English," I replied.
"Really, I heard him in Portuguese!" He chuckled about the bi-lingual demon.
Having had more than enough excitement for one day I went to the kitchen. There stood the housekeeper. She was very afraid of all that went on. She asked me if I could pray to calm her fear. "Certainly," I said. and as I began to pray, she began to cry. She told the interpreter that she had sinned and needed God in her life. By a word of knowledge, we told her that she was like the woman at the well, married before, but now living with a man. As God ministered to her, she too came to the Lord and began to sing the most beautiful song as His Spirit came upon her.
She left me a note. "Dear pastor, you do not know me and yet from you, God knows me. I am certain of a home in Heaven. Thank you, thank God and may He bless you."
Stay tuned for parts II, III and IV. It gets even more insane.