CBM The Truth about Demons and Evil Spirits

A few points about this leaflet:
1. The following letters are used for different Bible versions: A.V. means Authorised Version (or King James Version) R.V. means Revised Version R.S.V. means Revised Standard Version N.I.V. means New International Version
2. Many Bible passages are given. It is worth looking them up for yourself.
3. Some more complicated ideas are put as notes at the end.

The Truth about Demons and Spirits
Throughout the world there are groups of people who believe in strange influences which affect human beings. These influences are called:
• devils
• or demons
• or unclean spirits
• or evil spirits
• or ancestral spirits.

There are different ideas about where they come from and how they work. People are often frightened into believing that they exist and affect their lives.

We shall think about what the Bible says on this subject. The Bible passages on the devil (or satan) are quite different from those on demons (evil spirits). For more detail on this see note 1 at the end. Demons were originally idols or false gods but in later times were associated with illnesses that people found difficult to understand like epilepsy (where a person throws himself around uncontrollably, sometimes foaming at the mouth).

In most translations of the Old Testament there are only 4 references to devils (or demons). Here they are:
(i) Leviticus 17:7 "They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils after whom they have gone a whoring" (A.V), or in a more modern version (N.I.V): "They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves".

(ii) II Chronicles 11:15 "Jeroboam and his sons had cast (the Levites) off from executing the priest's office unto the Lord: and he ordained him priests for the high aces, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made." The more modern version says "... for the goat and calf idols he had made".

The word translated "devils" in some versions of the Bible is the Hebrew word Sair, which also means "hairy one", "kid" or "goat". Clearly from these references the demons were idols which probably looked like goats.

There are 2 more references in the Old Testament in which the word "devils" occurs in the A.V., and "demons" is used in the R.V., R.S.V. and N.I.V. They are Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37. Again, they are clearly referring to IDOLS.

Do idols have any power to affect people's lives? No, definitely not. Read Isaiah 1:9-20 and Jeremiah 10:3-5 to see that God considers idols to be nothing, so how m they have power or thoughts? 
Conclusion: Isaiah and Jeremiah are clear: Demons are idols, they have no power

Idol worship
When people in Old Testament times worshipped idols they sometimes became totally involved. They often danced to loud rhythms and would throw themselves around using lots of energy. If you looked at them and did not know what they were trying to do they would seem very strange. The prophets of Baal in the time of Elijah became so involved in trying to worship Baal that they cut themselves with knives and leaped around on the altar (I Kings 18:26-28). Sometimes people would become exhausted after this type of worship and would end up lying on the ground perhaps making strange sounds. They often did not know what they were doing because they had excited their brains too much with the noisy sounds and lively movements. When they reached this stage they were thought to be possessed by the demon.
A man having an epileptic fit might look very similar to those idol (demon) worshippers, so that the people thought that he was possessed by the god (or demon). Similarly a dumb man makes very strange sounds and people may not have understood why he could not speak properly since he had a mouth and tongue. They also thought he had a demon.

Some people who had illnesses which could not be understood were thought to have a demon. This could be because they sometimes behaved like idol (demon) worshippers.

Examples in the gospels:
Here are some examples of where "demons" or "evil spirits" are used in the gospels:
(i) We are told that the man "possessed by a demon" in Matthew 9:32-33 was dumb.
(ii) Matthew 17:14-21 describes a child who often fell in the fire and into water and is described in the A.V. as a lunatic. The N.I.V. says "He is an epileptic and is suffering greatly." Jesus healed him.
(iii) Mark 7:25-30 shows us that devils, demons and unclean spirits are the same thing because verse 25 says the Greek woman's daughter had an unclean spirit and verse 26 tells us that the woman asked Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter (the A.V. says "devil").
(iv) John the Baptist was very different from other Jews of the time. He wore strange clothes and ate unusual food. Some people thought he was so peculiar that they said he had a demon (Matthew 11:18). Indeed they said the same sort of thing about Jesus himself. They said that because Jesus was able to cast out many so-called demons he was being used by Beelzebub, the one they thought was the prince of demons. Jesus showed how stupid this idea was in Luke 11:14-20. (If you look at II Kings 1:2, you will see that Beelzebub was the name of a god).
(v) Luke 8:26-40 tells us about "Legion" who was obviously strange but he still recognised Jesus. Perhaps he had times when he thought clearly and then at other times he did very silly things; in other words, he had a mental disorder. This idea seems to be true because after Jesus had cast out the "demons", the man was sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. It also says in verse 36 that he had been healed. The man had asked Jesus to send the "demons" that he thought he possessed, into some pigs. The pigs ran violently down the mountain into the sea. Jesus probably allowed this to take place to convince the man that he was healed - completely. Pigs are unclean animals so if the owners were Jews then they should not have been keeping them (see Leviticus 11:2-8).

NOTE that the examples of people possessed with demons do not include things ke lameness where people could easily see the reason for the problem (for example, one leg shorter than the other) but when there was no simple explanation 3r the problem (like mental illnesses) the idea of demons was used, particularly if the behaviour of the person was not normal.

Today doctors can provide medicines for helping people with mental disorders, here are, for example, quite a few different drugs available to help control epilepsy, similarly there are drugs which help with schizophrenia (where a person has a "split mind"; "Legion" may have had this problem). This is why it says Jesus healed these people. Casting out demons was the same as healing.

Look at Matthew 8:16-17 shown below (R.S.V.)
16 That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick
bore our diseases'

What is reported in verse 16 fulfils Isaiah's prophecy, so casting out spirits and healing the sick is the same as Jesus taking our infirmities and bearing our diseases.

New Testament connections between idols and demons
(i) I Corinthians 10:14-22 suggests that idols and demons are the same, so that the Apostle Paul is telling believers that they cannot sacrifice to idols as well as worshipping God by breaking bread. ("You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.")

(ii) People in Athens said that the Apostle Paul was preaching about strange gods (Acts 17:18). The Greek word that has been translated "gods" in the A.V. (and "divinities" in the R.S.V.) is Daimonion which is the word for "demons". So here again we have the link between demons and idols.

(iii) Revelation 9:20 shows that demons are the works of men's hands, which means men have made them. It also says that men worshipped demons, again suggesting that demons are gods.

• An idol had no power. It was just a piece of wood or stone with no life.
• A demon is an idol.
• A demon must have no power.

Now a quick look at the language that is used about demons. Luke 4:35 seems to say that Jesus rebuked an unclean spirit and it came out of a man. Notice the same language is used in verse 39 where Jesus rebuked a fever which then left Simon's mother-in-law and she could get up and make them a meal. Jesus spoke to the unclean spirit just as he spoke to the fever. The fever was a type of illness; so was le demon. Jesus spoke to the winds and waves: "Peace! Be still!" (see Mark 4:39). Of course, Jesus knew the storm was not living and so could not hear him. This was a common 'ay of speaking in the time of Jesus and does not prove the demons were alive, because the fever and storm were not living. (See also Matthew 21:19 where Jesus joke to a fig tree and Numbers 20:8 where Moses was told by God to speak to rock).

English people also have a strange way of using language on this subject. The word lunatic" means "moon struck". People used to think that a person was mad because he had actually been struck by the moon when out at night. We still use le word "lunatic" but we do not believe its meaning! Similarly Jesus and others could have used the word "demon" without accepting the ideas that originally went with it. Jesus knew that demons or gods could not speak or influence people!

In some of the gospel accounts the demons appear to speak to Jesus. Note 2 at tle end of this booklet includes a look at Mark 5:6-13 in more detail.

Lastly, a question for those who believe demons are evil spirits that can talk and feet people: Where did they originally come from? God did not create evil spirit 3ings with separate existences that disobeyed His will, so who did? (See note 3 at the end of booklet).

God says: "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me ..." Isaiah 45:5). There is no one else powerful like God who could create evil spirit sings. This means that the God who created the mouth and speech can also make en dumb. This is the message God gave to Moses (Exodus 4:11) when Moses was raid to speak to Pharaoh. Remember, a dumb man was described as having a demon, so God could not have claimed to make men dumb if it was some evil power that made men dumb. Demons are just illnesses and cannot be spirits that we power of their own!

The passage in Isaiah goes on to say that God brings evil or trouble (verse 7). We cannot blame the devil or demons when we have problems in our lives. Job did not do this. He knew that God provides the good things in life and can take them away (Job 1:21 and 2:10). We read later in the book of Job that God gave Job twice as uch as he had before. Then his friends and relatives came and "comforted him 'er all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him" (Job 42:11). (See also note 4).

Ancestral spirits
In some countries, people believe that the spirit of a dead person can give advice to the living relatives. People can be very frightened and will do what they think the spirit of the dead person is telling them. These spirits are sometimes known as ancestral spirits. Here is how a person from Zimbabwe has described this belief:

"After a person has died they wait for a whole year and after the end of the year they brew beer and spend the whole night beating drums and singing traditional songs. This way they say the spirit of the dead person is restored into fellowship with those who have died for a long time. These are said to be lesser gods who when we pray to our Father in Heaven make intercession for us. They say they are mediators. They also say these departed dead can bless or curse a person if one does not appease them. It is also said that they can protect a person from death and illness!

They also say that there is no death after all because the dead can control the lives of the living so that is where the "Ancestral spirits" come in. If a person was murdered or died under mysterious circumstances they have what they call "Ngozi" meaning a dead person has the power to revenge by killing those who murdered him or her! This spirit can be appeased by paying what the spirit demands through a medium, "n'anga" or witch doctor! Ghosts or "zvipoko" are said to be people who are found unworthy or unfaithful and are thrown down to the earth by the Almighty."

What does the Bible say?
A) It says dead people cannot think. Here are some passages which show this:
Ecclesiastes 9:5 "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward ..."
Ecclesiastes 9:10 "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (the grave), to which you are going."
Psalm 6:5 "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?"
When a person dies he does not exist any more. He cannot think or do anything. This is why king Hezekiah did not want to die; he knew he could not praise God when he was dead. (See Isaiah chapter 38, particularly verses 18 and 19).

The Bible clearly shows us that the dead cannot communicate with anyone. Only when the Lord Jesus Christ returns from heaven will some of the dead be raised and those who have tried to obey and please God will be given a place in His kingdom on earth. Then they will live and be able to speak again. Lessons 22 and 23 of the Christadelphian Bible Mission course deal with this topic.

The Bible warns us to have nothing to do with mediums who pretend to contact the dead. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). In Leviticus 20:27 they were told to put mediums to death by stoning. They cannot possibly bring messages from the dead. They may be able to read the minds of people who are present and so impress them with their abilities but they cannot contact someone who has stopped living and who is simply rotting in the grave.

There is only one mediator; this is Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:5). He is the only one in the middle between Cod and man, so "gods" or spirits cannot take the prayers of humans to God.


1. Demons are idols. They are NOT evil spirits in the power of some greater evil being.
2. In the New Testament, demons were associated with illnesses which people could not understand.
3. Jesus healed people when they had demons, showing they were nothing more than health problems.
4. Today medicines can be given for some of the illnesses described in the New Testament as being due to demons.
5. Dead people do not have spirits which live on and give messages to people.
6. People who want to please God should have nothing to do with mediums (who pretend to contact the dead).
7. The evil which is in the world comes from the wicked thoughts of men (Mark 7:21-23).

1. What was a demon in Old Testament times?
2. What was wrong with the person described in Matthew 9:32-33?
3. Do demons have any power?
4. What does Matthew 8:16-17 tell us?
5. What happens to people when they die?
6. Can spirits of dead people give messages to living relatives?
7. Why do you think the Bible says that people should have nothing to do with mediums ?