Focus On Jerusalem


Trans-Dimensional Raiders

By Gary Stearman


In Christian thought, the dark world of the Devil and his demons is always just below the surface. Sometimes, in dark occultic tales, or chance encounters with demonic phenomena, it emerges full-blown into a wave of fear that must be put into the perspective of God's love. The non-spiritual among us usually snickers at the very idea of a world of demons, relegating them to the level of myth or fantasy. However, in our continuing discussion of biblical time-space, we must frankly address the pursuits and ultimate destiny of the demons. Jesus and the Apostles made it perfectly clear that we must not be naive about the world of darkness.

There is a war going on. It is staged between this dimension and the one just beyond our sight. In the regions of earth, wars are accompanied by soldiers, spies, traitors, money, politics and all manner of treachery. And so it is in the spirit world.

As the Bible describes the great conflict, the legions of hell are bent upon covertly undermining and overtly raiding the dimension that we know as our daily reality. They are best described as trans-dimensional raiders. Because our world is populated with fallen creatures, these raiders regard us as fair game. Without the coverage of the Lord's Holy Spirit, human beings are quite vulnerable to their ploys.

Demons aren't stupid. They have many methods, schemes and tricks. Their modus operandi is to discern a point of weakness and enter there. Having gained access, they advance the cause of their lord, Satan. They are organized under his leadership through a descending hierarchy of beings called archons (principalties), exousions (authorities), kosmokrators (rulers) and pneumatikons (spiritual underlings).

Their hierarchy (perhaps it would be more appropriate to call it a "lowerarchy") is entirely devoted to thwarting the Lord's redemptive plan. Their unseen dimension seems concentrated around planet earth, although it may extend to the distant reaches of the solar system. Their leader operates on the assumption that he is lord of the planet. God seems to have granted him that mandate. Satan's dealings with Job provide ample testimony that he has been granted an earthly domain. The Lord allows him to torment Job, just short of taking his life:

"And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD" (Job 1:12).

Satan operates as a spiritual overlord. But the dark spirits who are his lackeys and underlings appear to function as a bureaucracy. Like most earthly bureaucracies, efficiency is sacrificed to slavish obedience. One gets the strong sense that the fallen of this world are not in any way happy or blessed. Rather, they function as automatons, going through the motions of obedience, at the same time, desperately seeking some resolution of their own miserable condition.

One of the most well-known books by Christian apologist C.S. Lewis deals with this very subject. The Screwtape Letters depicts hell's daily drudgery in an amusing but sharply critical way. Author Lewis claims to have somehow come into possession of letters from Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood.

Screwtape occupies what we might call a mid-level position in the bureaucracy of hell. His letters are preoccupied with instructing his underling nephew in the ways of demoralizing and destabilizing his human "patients." With diabolical patience and cunning, he shows Wormwood how to lure them away from any hope of redemption. The uncle seems to operate at a mid-to-upper level of management. He could be a "ruler," or perhaps an "authority." The nephew does the dirty work at street level. He deals in subtle propaganda and allure. His ploys seem part of the competitive corporate hum. He functions as a cog in a multi-level competitive enterprise that is bent on harvesting human souls for its own use.

If demons have a motive, it is to save themselves from some dark fate that has haunted them since the days of Satan's fall. They operate under eternal guilt; they know they are wrong, and that they will be judged. They must, therefore, suffer an extraordinary, constant fear that they will be caught and punished by the Great Judge.

In the New Testament, we have an excellent example of their situation. There, we find an account that brings demons face-to-face with Jesus. In the process, we discover the way in which He views the problem of their existence:

"And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. "And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? "And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. "So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. "And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. "And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. "And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts" (Matthew 8:28-34).

The Demons Know the Time

This incident, recorded here by Matthew, and also by Mark and Luke, affords us a remarkable view of the relationship between the Lord of the universe and the hoards of corrupt evil spirits who haunt the world of men. In all three accounts, the encounter comes immediately after Jesus had preached in Galilee. He and His disciples entered a boat with the intention of crossing the Sea of Galilee. A storm arose and threatened to swamp their little craft, but Jesus stilled the winds. The sea calmed and they sailed to the east coast of the sea.

Arriving at a little seaside village called Gergesa (still there today as the town of Kursi), they encountered two demon-possessed men. These men are described as "exceedingly fierce," from the Greek word, chalepos. It means "difficult to handle, or ragingly insane." They are possessed with demons, spirits whose normal state is disembodiment, but who seek to inhabit the physical bodies of living creatures. In an episode we will later examine, Jesus describes them as wandering in a desert, in search of a home. We cannot know the exact nature of this "desert," but one thing is certain; it is not a pleasant place. But as intolerable as it must be, it is still better than their ultimate destination in the lake of fire. The story of the men's encounter with Jesus makes this abundantly clear.

The first and most amazing thing that we discover in the narrative is that the demons recognize Jesus. The people of Gergesa and Gadara certainly did not. Gadara, mentioned as a capital of the local people in Mark's and Luke's account of this episode, is about six miles east of the sea. This region, to the east of the sea and the Jordan River, was called "The Decapolis." Its Aramean population was composed of a multitudinous jumble of pagans who were the hapless inheritors of generations of Seleucid rule.

Demonic power always rises to its greatest extent in such a culture. And in this simple encounter, we learn that in the dimension of the dark spirits, there is common knowledge of the spiritual battle that rages just beyond the visual range of ordinary human beings.

Think of it; the demons not only knew the real identity of Jesus, they acknowledged him as Lord, calling Him "Son of God." Not even his closest disciples had come to realize that He was the God incarnate. Though they had some dim recognition of His status, at this time, they were still thinking of Him as the political "Messiah ben David," who had come to restore David's throne and defeat their Gentile oppressors.

Neither the Jews nor the Gentiles of the day had come to realize His true identity. In the entire Old Testament, the term is used only once, in the book of Daniel, where the three Hebrew men were bound and thrown into Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace. There appeared with them a fourth man, whom Nebuchadnezzar, himself, described as having the form of the "Son of God."

In the New Testament, this title is first used in the fourth chapter of Matthew, where Jesus is tempted by the devil. Twice, the old serpent calls Him the "Son of God." These incidents tell us that from the top down, the demonic world knew the truth about Jesus. They knew that He had come to earth on a mission as the Son of God, to redeem this sin-wracked place. And they knew that if He succeeded on this mission, they were doomed. As the angel Gabriel told Mary, this title would accompany His incarnation:

"And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

The demons were obviously well informed about the implications of this event. In retrospect, it seems that they were remarkably well informed about both His identity and His power. For example, in the fifth chapter of John, we find a statement whose implications are often overlooked. Humanity has to ponder the extent of its meanings. The demons know it as a living, moment-by-moment reality:

"For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: "That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; "And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, "And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:22-29).

This remarkable passage boldly proclaims the equality of the Son with the Father. But it begins with a statement that the demons know all too well. Namely, that the Father has placed all judgment under the jurisdiction of the Son. James, in his epistle, leaves no doubt that demons understand that the Righteous Judge will one day surely mete out the penalty that they deserve:

"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).

And what, precisely, do they believe? >From their outcry on the eastern shore of the sea, it is obvious that they know of God the Father and His Son. This means that they must also know that He is the Creator, and the Jehovah of the Old Testament. They knew of His incarnation, and must have wondered about all its ramifications. They probably didn't know that He would allow Himself to be crucified on Passover, as; the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). But they certainly knew that this world would never be the same, now that He had arrived.

Before What Time?

Their question to Jesus ("Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?") reveals that they knew that He would punish them at an established, future time. Actually, the word "time" here, is translated from the Greek kairos. This word is used to describe a due season, or a time period when an event or series of events is scheduled to come due. It speaks of something long awaited and sure to happen. It does not speak of duration, but of expectation. It is more than obvious that the demons expect to be judged at a certain future time. That is, they knew that His first coming was not in judgment. They expressed shock and surprise that Jesus had appeared in face-to-face opposition to men they had possessed.

Just what "time," were they speaking of? In other words, when will the Son of God advance in judgment? Obviously, it is the Day of the Lord, referred to by Jesus as the Great Tribulation, called, "the hour of his judgment" in Revelation 14:7.

Among the spirit beings of heaven, this "time" has been well-known for ages past. And on earth, from the dawn of the human race, it has been prophesied as the coming of the Lord. We call it "the Second Coming." Since His first coming, we have a pretty good idea of how the events of the judgment will proceed.

Most probably, the dark spirits did not know the details of His incarnation and resurrection. Nor did they know about the subsequent formation of His called-out body of believers, the church. But they knew He was coming. And so did the earliest members of Adam's family:

"And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, "To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him" (Jude 14, 15).

The demons obviously know about this future time. And the demons who met Jesus that day were deeply fearful, begging Him not to cast them into a place from which they would not be able to return. Apparently, Jesus could have sent them to dark chambers of imprisonment and torment. But they implored Him that when they were cast out, to be allowed to possess a nearby herd of swine. This He did, and when the demons inhabited those pigs, they stampeded madly down an embankment and into the sea. Apparently, they had committed suicide.

Dry Places

Why? Because no matter how uncomfortable their present situation as wandering spirits, it was still preferable to imprisonment; or worse. Actually, we don't really know what Jesus had planned to do to them. But much of His public ministry was devoted to casting out demons. In fact, the sages of ancient Israel had always taught that Messiah could be recognized by his ability to cast out the dumb demon. This dark spirit has the power to completely captivate a person, so that he is unable to speak. Jesus accomplished this feat, as recorded in Matthew:

"Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw" (Matt. 12:22).

The crowd who watched this amazing event immediately demanded that Jesus be recognized as Messiah. The Pharisees, on the other hand, accused Jesus of calling upon Beelzebub to cast out the demons.

In the dialogue that followed, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who demanded that He perform a sign to validate His Messianic claim. In His criticism, He described the phenomenon of demon possession. He likened Israel to a man who had been cleansed of a demon, only to have it return to take up residence again. Being comfortable, this demon then invites his best friends to come and share his attractive abode!

The Israel of Jesus' day had once again fallen into apostasy and idolatry. This rendered the nation vulnerable to demonic assault. In the past, there had been revivals, but the demons of satanic worship returned; first one, then many:

"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. "Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. "Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation" (Matthew 12:43-45).

Demons seem to regard human habitation as a house, perhaps a home. Jesus refers to their natural place of habitation as "dry places." One thinks of trackless deserts, where no comfort can be found. There is only stark discomfort, without amenities of any kind. Food, water, lodging and any sense of belonging are totally absent. Demons wander in a hostile land, the land of hell, or hades.

We are immediately reminded of the rich man in hades (Luke 16:19ff.), who was in torment, desiring even a drop of water to cool his tongue. Like the demons, the rich man was consigned to a place of torment, awaiting the final judgment.

What Is Hell?

As we have often noted, the underworld is a very real place. In the Old Testament, it is a place of waiting. Sheol is both the place of Abraham's abode and the habitat of imprisoned spirits. It seems to be a parallel dimension that lies very close to the one we call reality. Between us and the region of the spirits, the veil is quite thin.

We have an excellent illustration of this in the life of Israel's ancient king, Saul. Because of his failure to execute the Lord's command to destroy Amalek, he had been banished from the throne, to be replaced by David. From then on, he was obsessed by the consequences of his own failure, and Israel's subsequent calamities. The prophet Samuel, upon whom he had deeply depended for advice and spiritual counsel, had recently died. Saul was inconsolable. Somehow, he knew he had to speak with Samuel. In desperation, he visited a woman at Endor, who had a "familiar spirit." In modern terms, we would call her a spirit medium. She was practicing the iniquitous art called "necromancy," calling up the spirits of the departed. With the help of an intruding demon, she was able to communicate with the underworld. Saul, who had recently banned all necromancers from the land of Israel, knew very well that he was breaking God's law. Nevertheless, he instructed her to bring back the spirit of the departed Samuel: "Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

"And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. "And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. "And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. "And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do" (I Samuel 28:11-15).

The brazen and willful Saul had spawned a wicked act. Samuel had been rousted from his place of rest in sheol; Abraham's Bosom. This was not supposed to happen. Through His prophets, God had made it plain that the underworld was to remain inviolable. But this remarkable incident shows us that, if one chooses to break God's law, it is a simple thing to violate the barrier that stands between us and the world of the spirits. Saul, in disguise, had tricked the medium into calling up Samuel. When he arrived; to the shocked surprise of the woman; the chicanery was exposed, and an angered Samuel delivered the ex-king a horrible decree:

"Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines" (I Samuel 28:19).

The deposed Saul had received a death sentence. In his arrogant selfishness, he had gone too far. Even after death, Samuel spoke the prophetic word that Saul and his sons would die. And that they did, in ignominious defeat at the hands of the Philistines. Deprived even of the death of a warrior hero, the wounded Saul fell upon his own sword.

The medium of Endor had opened a forbidden door to the spirit world. In a split second, the spirits instantly enabled her to discern Saul's true identity. Having done so, she cried out in fright, because the monarch had lately banned all necromancers from the land. But he assured her that he was only interested in obtaining an audience with the dead prophet. He asked her what she saw, and she told him she "saw gods ascending out of the earth."

In Hebrew, she used the term for "gods" or "celestial beings" coming up from beneath the earth (that is, from sheol). She seems actually to have been shocked when Samuel arose, wearing his prophet's mantel, the miel that had been a badge of his earthly office.

She had prophesied by the ob, a familiar spirit who would do her bidding, but Samuel appeared in a powerful way that exercised authority over her accustomed spirit guide. Of course, Saul knew all too well that the Law of Moses strictly forbade his illicit activities:

"There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, "Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. "For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee" (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

Obtaining access to forbidden powers can be accomplished through a variety of occult practices. The black arts run the gamut from infant sacrifice, through astrology, drug-induced trances, dark invocations, mediumship and sorcery. The Lord has forbidden them all. The reason seems obvious. Sinful man desires power, and believes that he can manipulate the forces and beings of the other world to his own advantage. Actually, he is playing the fool. He is the one being manipulated; by wicked beings whose experience extends back into the distant past. It is for man's own good, that he is warned away from contact with the dark spirits.

But why hasn't the Lord simply made the veil so strong that it can't be penetrated? The Bible's answer is that Satan has some prescriptive right to this planet. He was allowed into the Garden of Eden to tempt the first couple. His fallen angels were allowed to enter this dimension and corrupt the human genome. They coupled with earth's women, producing a strain of monsters, whose souls were beyond redemption.

After the Flood of Noah, he allowed the same spirits to influence the worship of the Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Greeks and Romans. In fact, the native residents of all the world's continents had systems of worship based upon the dragon, the serpent and the demons. In China, the dragon is still exalted. If you doubt it, visit the nearest Chinese restaurant. In the ancient Americas, the feathered serpent was honored as the source of all power.

Sorcerers and shamans have long practiced the art of penetrating the forbidden veil. Rather than closing it, the Lord gives His redeemed the choice of avoiding it; or not. In His grace, He extends to man, the honor of making the proper choice. Then, through His Spirit, He has given man the power to uphold that choice.

The spirit leaders of hades apparently have the power to wage war, but the focal point of their assault is the body of the redeemed. Jesus once plainly told His disciples that these powers (He called them "gates") would be a constant threat, but in the end, would be vanquished:

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

In the rules of warfare, He has forbidden any form of communication between this world and the underworld; hades.

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