It is striking to find that the Lord did not attempt to convince the Pharisees of His claims as the Messiah, nor take the opportunity of winning the Jews, by yielding to their desires for an earthly king. His one work in this world was manifestly to conquer the Satanic prince of the world by the death of the Cross (Heb. 2: 14); to deliver his captives from his control, and to deal with the invisible hosts of the prince of darkness working at the back of mankind (See 1 John 3: 8).
The commission He gave to the twelve, and to the seventy, was exactly in line with His own. He sent them forth, and "gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to preach the gospel" (Matt. 10: 1); to "first bind the strong man" (Mark 3: 27), and then to take his goods; to deal with the invisible hosts of Satan first, and then "preach the gospel."
From all this we learn that there is one Satan, one devil, one prince of the demons, directing all the opposition to Christ and His people; but myriads of wicked spirits called "demons," lying spirits, deceiving spirits, foul spirits, unclean spirits, subjectively at work in men. Who they are, and whence their origin, none can positively say. That they are spirit beings who are evil is alone beyond all doubt; and all who are undeceived and dispossessed from Satanic deception, become witnesses, from their own experience, to their existence, and power. They know that things were done to them by spirit beings, and that those things were evil; therefore they recognize that there are spirit beings who do evil, and know that the symptoms, effects and manifestations of demoniacal possession have active, personal agencies behind them. From experience they know that they are hindered by spirit beings, and therefore know that these things are done by evil spirits who are hinderers. Therefore, reasoning from experimental facts, as well as the testimony of Scripture, they know that these evil spirits are murderers, tempters, liars, accusers, counterfeiters, enemies, haters, and wicked beyond all the power of man to know.
The names of these evil spirits describe their characters, for they are called "foul," "lying," "unclean," "evil," and "deceiving" spirits, as they are wholly given up to every manner of wickedness, and deception, and lying works.
What the characteristics of these wicked spirits are, and how they are able to dwell in the bodies and minds of human beings, will be seen by a careful examination of the specific cases mentioned in the Gospels; as well as their power to interfere with, mislead, and deceive, even servants of God, from references to them in other portions of the Word of God.
Evil spirits are generally looked upon as "influences," and not as intelligent beings, but their personality and entity, and difference in character as distinct intelligences, will be seen in the Lord's direct commands to them (Mark 1: 25; 5: 8; 3: 11, 12; 9: 25); their power of speech (Mark 3: 11); their replies to Him, couched in intelligent language (Matt. 8: 29); their sensibilities of fear (Luke 8: 31); their definite expression of desire (Matt. 8: 31); their need of a dwelling place of rest (Matt. 12: 43); their intelligent power of decision (Matt. 12: 44); their power of agreement with other spirits; their degrees of wickedness (Matt. 12: 45); their power of rage (Matt. 8: 28); their strength (Mark 5: 4); their ability to possess a human being, either as one (Mark 1: 26) or in a thousand (Mark 5: 9); their use of a human being as their medium for "divining," or foretelling the future (Acts 16: 16); or as a great miracle worker by their power (Acts 8: 11).
When evil spirits act in a rage, they act as a combination of the maddest, and most wicked persons in existence, but all their evil is done with fullest intelligence, and purpose. They know what they do, they know it is evil, terribly evil, and they will to do it. They do it with rage, and with the full swing of malice, enmity and hatred. They act with fury and bestiality, like an enraged bull, as if they had no intelligence, and yet with fun intelligence they carry on their work, showing the wickedness of their wickedness. They act from an absolutely depraved nature, with diabolical fury, and with an undeviating perseverance. They act with determination, persistency, and with skilful methods, forcing themselves upon mankind, upon the Church, and still more upon the spiritual man.
Their manifestations through the persons in whom they obtain footing, are varied in character, according to the degree and kind of ground they secure for possession. In one Biblical case the only manifestation of the evil spirit's presence was dumbness (Matt. 9: 32); the spirit possibly locating in the vocal organs; in another, the person held by the spirit was "deaf and dumb" (Mark 9: 25), and the symptoms included foaming at the mouth, grinding the teeth--all connected with the head--but the hold of the spirit was of such long standing (v. 21) that he could throw his victim down, and convulse the whole body (Mark 9: 20-22).
In other cases we find merely an "unclean spirit" in a man in a "synagogue," probably so hidden that none would know the man was thus possessed, until the spirit cried out with fear when he saw Christ, saying, "Art Thou come to destroy us?" (Mark 1: 24); or a "spirit of infirmity" (Luke 13: 11) in a woman of whom it might be said that she simply required "healing" of some disease, or that she was always tired, and only needed "rest," as some would say in the language of the twentieth century.
Again, we find a very advanced case in the man with the "legion," showing that the evil spirits' possession reached such a climax, as to make the person appear insane; for his own personality was so mastered by the malignant spirits in possession, as to cause him to lose all sense of decency, and self-control in the presence of others (Luke 8: 27). The unity of purpose in the spirits of evil to carry out the will of their prince, is especially shown in this case, as with one accord they besought to be allowed to enter the swine, and with one accord they rushed the whole herd into the sea.
That there are different kinds of spirits is evident from all the instances given in the gospel records. Their manifestation outside the gospel cases, may be seen in the story of the girl at Philippi, possessed by a "spirit of divination," and again in Simon the Sorcerer, who was so energized by Satanic power for the working of miracles, that he was considered to be "a great power of God" by the deceived people (Acts 8: 10).
Spiritists, to-day, are deceived, in so far as they really believe they are communicating with the spirits of the dead; for it is easy for spirits of evil to impersonate any of the dead, even the most devoted and saintly Christians. They have watched them (Acts 19: 15) all their lives, and can easily counterfeit their voices, or say anything about them, and their actions when on earth.
In like manner as a "spirit of divination," deceiving spirits can use "palmists," and "fortune tellers," to deceive; for in their work of watching human beings, they inspire the mediums to foretell, not what they know about the future--for God alone has this knowledge--but things which they themselves intend to do; and if they can get the person, to whom these things are told, to co-operate with them, by accepting, or believing, their "fore-telling," they try eventually to bring them about; e.g., the medium says such and such a thing will happen, the person believes it, and by believing opens himself, or herself, to the evil spirit, to bring that thing to pass; or else admits the spirit, or gives free opportunity to one already in possession, to bring about the thing foretold. They cannot always succeed, and this is the reason why there is so much uncertainty about the response through mediums, because many things may hinder the workings of the evil spirit beings, particularly the prayers of friends, or intercessors in the Christian Church.
These are some of the "deep things of Satan" (Rev. 2: 24) mentioned by the Lord in His message to Thyatira, manifestly referring to far more subtle workings among the Christians of that time, than all that the Apostles had seen in the cases recorded in the gospels. "The mystery of lawlessness doth already work," wrote the Apostle Paul (2 Thess. 2: 7), showing that the deep laid schemes of deception through "doctrines" (1 Tim. 4: 1), foretold as reaching their full culmination in the last days, were already at work in the Church of God. Evil spirits are at work to-day, inside as well as outside the Church, and "spiritualism," in its meaning of dealing with evil spirits, may be found inside the Church, and among the most spiritual believers, apart from its true name. Christian men think they are free from spiritism because they have never been to a seance, not knowing that evil spirits attack, and deceive every human being, and they do not confine their working to the Church, or the world, but wherever they can find conditions fulfilled to enable them to manifest their power.
The control of the spirits over the bodies of those they possess is seen in the gospel cases. The man with the legion was not master over his own body or mind. The spirits would "seize him," "drive him" (Luke 8: 29), compel him to cut himself with stones (Mark 5: 5), strengthen him to burst every fetter and chain (v. 4), "cry out" aloud (v. 5), and fiercely attack others (Matt. 8: 28). The boy with the dumb spirit would be dashed to the ground (Luke 9: 42), and convulsed; the spirit forced him to cry out, and tore him, so that the body became bruised and sore (v. 39). Teeth, tongue, vocal organs, ears, eyes, nerves, muscles and breath, are seen to be affected and interfered with, by evil spirits in possession.note 4 Weakness and strength are both produced by their working, and men (Mark 1: 23), women (Luke 8: 2), boys (Mark 9: 17), and girls (Mark 7: 25), are equally open to their power.
That the Jews were familiar with the fact of evil spirit possession, is clear from their words, when they saw the Lord Christ cast out the blind and dumb spirit from a man (Matt. 12: 24). Also that there were men among them who knew some method of dealing with such cases (v. 27). "By whom do your sons cast them out?" said the Lord. That such dealing with evil spirits was not effective, may be gathered from some instances given, where it appears that alleviation of the sufferings from evil spirit possession, was the most that could be done; e.g. (1) the case of king Saul, who was soothed by the harp playing of David; (2) the sons of Sceva, who were professional exorcists, yet who recognized a power in the Name of Jesus which their exorcism did not possess. In both these cases the danger of attempted alleviation and exorcism, and the power of the evil spirits, is strikingly shown in contrast to the complete command manifested by Christ and His Apostles. David playing to Saul is suddenly aware of the javelin flung by the hand of the man he was seeking to soothe; and the sons of Sceva found the evil spirits upon them, and mastering them as they used the Name of Jesus, without the Divine co-working given to all who exercise personal faith in Him. Among the heathen, also, who know the venom of these wicked spirits, propitiation and soothing of their hate by obedience to them, is the most that they know.
How striking to contrast all this with the calm authority of Christ, who needed no adjuration, or methods of exorcism, and no prolonged preparation of Himself ere dealing with a spirit-possessed man. "He cast out the spirits by a word," "With authority and power He commandeth . . and they obey Him," was the wondering testimony of the awe-struck people; and the testimony, too, of the seventy sent forth by Him to use the authority of His Name, as they found the spirits subject to them, even as they were to their Lord (Luke 10: 17-20).
"'They' obey Him," said the people. "They"--the evil spirits whom the people knew to be real identities governed by Beelzebub, their prince (Matt. 12: 24- 27). The complete mastery of the Lord over the demons, compelled the leaders to find some way of explaining His authority over them, and so by that subtle influence of Satan--with which all who have had insight into his devices are familiar--they suddenly charge the Lord with having Satanic power Himself, by saying "He casteth out demons through Beelzebub, the prince of the demons," suggesting that Christ's authority over evil spirits was derived from their chief and prince.
The reference to the kingdom of Satan, and his kingship was left uncontradicted by the Lord, who simply declared the truth in the face of Satan's lie, that He cast out demons "by the finger of God," and that Satan's kingdom would soon fall were he to act against himself, and dislodge his emissaries from their place of retreat in human bodies, where alone they can achieve their greatest power, and do the greatest harm among men. That Satan does apparently fight against himself is true,note 5 but when he does so, it is with the purpose of covering some scheme for greater advantage to his kingdom.
That the Apostles after Pentecost recognized and dealt with the denizens of the invisible world, is evident from the records of the Acts of the Apostles, and other references in the Epistles. The disciples were prepared for Pentecost, and the opening of the supernatural world through the coming of the Holy Spirit, by their three years' training by the Lord. They had watched Him deal with the wicked spirits of Satan, and had themselves learned to deal with them, too, so that the power of the Holy Spirit could safely be given at Pentecost to men who already knew the workings of the foe. We see how quickly Peter recognized Satan's work in Ananias (Acts 5: 3), and how "unclean spirits" came out at his presence, as they did with his Lord (Acts 5: 16). Philip, too, found the evil hosts subservient (Acts 8: 7) to the word of his testimony, as he proclaimed Christ to the people, and Paul knew, also, the power of the Name of the Risen Lord (Acts 19: 11) in dealing with the powers of evil.
It is therefore clear in Bible history that the manifestation of the power of God invariably meant aggressive dealing with the Satanic hosts; that the manifestation of the power of God at Pentecost, and through the Apostles, meant again an aggressive attitude to the powers of darkness; and, ergo, that the growth and maturity of the Church of Christ at the end of the dispensation, will mean the same recognition, and the same attitude toward the Satanic hosts of the prince of the power of the air; with the same co-witness of the Holy Spirit to the authority of the Name of Jesus, as in the early Church. In brief, that the Church of Christ will reach its high water mark, when it is able to recognize and deal with demon-possession; when it knows how to "bind the strong man" by prayer; "command" the spirits of evil in the Name of Christ, and deliver men and women from their power.
For this the Christian Church must recognize that the existence of deceiving, lying spirits, is as real in the twentieth century as in the time of Christ, and their attitude to the human race unchanged. That their one ceaseless aim is to deceive every human being. That they are given up to wickedness all day long, and night long, and that they are ceaselessly, and actively pouring a stream of wickedness into the world, and are satisfied only when they succeed in their wicked plans to deceive, and ruin men.
Yet the servants of God have been concerned only to destroy their works; and to deal with sin; not recognizing the need of using the power given by Christ, to resist by faith and prayer, and prayer and faith, this ever- flowing flood of Satanic power pouring in among men; so that men and women, young and old, and even Christian and non-Christian, become deceived and possessed through their guile, and because of ignorance about them, and their wiles.
These supernatural forces of Satan are the true hindrance to revival. The power of God which broke forth in Wales, with all the marks of the days of Pentecost, was checked and hindered from going on to its fullest purpose,note 6 by the same influx of evil spirits as met the Lord Christ on earth, and the Apostles of the early Church; with the difference that the inroad of the powers of darkness found the Christians of the twentieth century, with few exceptions, unable to recognize, and deal with them. Evil spirit possession has followed, and checked every similar revival throughout the centuries since Pentecost,note 6 and these things must now be understood, and dealt with, if the Church is to advance to maturity. Understood, not only in the degree of possession recorded in the gospels, but in the special forms of manifestations suited to the close of the dispensation, under the guise of the Holy Spirit, yet having some of the very characteristic marks in bodily symptoms, seen in the gospel records, when all who saw the manifestation knew that it was the work of the spirits of Satan.