Evidence for the Devil – Testimony from the Bible
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2003|
|Those who prefer to ignore or deny the existence of a devil must deal with the testimony of the Bible, particularly the words of Jesus himself.|
Evidence for the Devil: Testimony from the Bible
The Authority of the Bible
Biblical authority is predicated upon its claim to be the Word of God. If the Bible is the Word of God, what it says about the existence of a personal devil must be true; therefore, in light of the overabundance of data supporting its divine inspiration, we may assume the Bible’s statements about Satan are authoritative. As Denis De Rougemont observes in his The Devil’s Share: An Essay on the Diabolic in Modern Society, “If one believes in the truth of the Bible, it is impossible to doubt the reality of the Devil for a single moment.”
The Bible does teach that the spirits who operate in the world of the occult are not what they claim to be (enlightened spirits sent from God) but demonic spirits bent on the deception and destruction of human beings.
What are some of the Scriptures relating to spiritism and the occult that warn men against occult involvement? The following illustrations prove that God considers occult involvement a serious matter, and that it is better avoided wherever it is found.
God warned ancient Israel not to adopt the occult practices of the pagan nation surrounding it:
- When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire [human sacrifice], one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).
God also judged the ancient kings of Israel when they disobeyed Him and practiced occultism. The reference below is to King Manasseh of Judah:
- And he did evil in the sight of the Lord according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he also erected altars for the Baals [evil gods of human sacrifice] and made Asherim, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them [astrology]. … And he made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom [human sacrifice]; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger (2 Chronicles 33:2,3,6).
As this passage suggests, in ancient Israel occult practices were associated with idolatry (worship of false gods and spirits) and inevitably led to human sacrifice—as is increasingly occurring in the Western world today. This gruesome practice is discussed in such books as Nigel Davies’ Human Sacrifice in History and Today (1981). Thus, the Israelites
- mingled with the nations, and learned their practices, and served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood. Thus they became unclean in their practices, and played the harlot in their deeds. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people, and He abhorred His inheritance (Psalm 106:35-40).
The Bible further identifies the spiritistic powers behind idolatry as demonic:
- They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God—gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear. You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth (Deuteronomy 32:16-18).
- But the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons (1 Corinthians 10:20).
At the time of Isaiah, the people had become practitioners of various sorceries which God condemned:
- They [judgments] will come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and all your potent spells. You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, “No one sees me.” Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, “I am, and there is none besides me.” Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away (Isaiah 47:9-11).
In the New Testament, the practitioners of the occult are seen as those who lead people astray from the faith:
- There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:6-10). (Cf. Acts 19:18-20)
The New Testament also reveals that when the spirit is cast out from someone with occult powers, the powers are lost, revealing that psychic powers are not human (i.e., natural and innate) but given by demons. The apostle Luke reports on one spiritist who was apparently seeking to validate her own practices by linking them with the apostle Paul’s ministry.
- Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God who are telling you the way [hodon; lit. “a way”] to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities (Acts 16:16-19).
Finally, we present below a selected list of additional Scriptures relating to the existence of spiritual warfare.
- The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
- Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may 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 (Ephesians 6:10-12).
- I [Jesus] am sending you [Paul] to them [to the Gentiles] to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 26:17,18).
- The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
- The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:9,10).
- For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
- But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that bums with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).
The Testimony of Jesus Christ
No one else in human history can speak with more authority than Jesus Christ. No one else in all history ever directly claimed to be God (John 5:18; 10:30; 14:9) and proved the truth of His claim by literally rising from the dead (Matthew 20:18,19; John 20:24-28; Acts 1:3). But if He rose from the dead, something unique in all human history, then He is both Lord and God, and what He says is true, including His statements about the devil, demons, and spiritual warfare.
The New Testament is replete with references to the reality of a personal devil as an apostate angel who fell from heaven. Most of these references are spoken by Christ Himself (John 8:44; Luke 10:18; Jude 6). The devil is called the tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5), wicked and evil (Matthew 6:13; 13:19), the prince of devils (Matthew 12:24), the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), dragon and serpent (Revelation 12:9; 20:2) and a liar and murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
He has a kingdom (Matthew 12:26) which is hostile to Christ’s kingdom (Matthew 16:18,19; Acts 26:18), and he rules a realm of demons (Matthew 9:34). His key abilities are power and cunning. He is called a “strong man” (Matthew 12:29) and has great power (2 Thessalonians 2:9). His subtlety (Genesis 3:1) is seen in his treacherous snares (2 Timothy 2:26), wiles (Ephesians 6:11), devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), and transforming ability (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is so powerful that he deceives the “whole world,” which is said to be “under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9; 13:14). He thus works in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2), worked among the apostles (Matthew 16:23; Luke 22:31; John 13:2), opposes the people of God (1 Chronicles 21:1; Zechariah 3:1,2; Acts 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 2:11) and even tried to gain the actual worship of God Himself in the person of Christ—an act suggestive of his extreme mental imbalance (Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:1-10).
Satan unendingly sows seeds of error and doubt in the church (Matthew 13:38,39), blinds the minds of unbelievers (Mark 4:15; Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4), is capable of possessing men (John 13:27), has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14), and prowls about like a roaring lion seeking those he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Christ appeared to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8) who will soon be defeated (Romans 16:20) to spend eternity in hell (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20).
In conclusion, the biblical testimony concerning the existence of Satan is beyond doubt.
- Rene Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966); Norman L. Giesler, ed, Inerrancy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979); L. Gaussen, The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, rpt. 1971).
- Denis DeRougemont, The Devil’s Share: An Essay on the Diabolic in Modern Society (New York: Meridian, 1956), p. 18.
- Our book Do the Resurrection Accounts Conflict? And What Proof Is There That Jesus Rose From the Dead? (available from the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, P. O. Box 8977, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37414), details the persuasive, logical, historical, and legal evidence for the fact of Christ rising from the dead.
- Taken mostly from The New Schaff Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977), Vol. 3, pp. 414-415.