Casting Out Spirits of Darkness
Do evil spirits exist and influence our world, or are they just folklore, myths and legends? Let’s explore what the Bible has to say about evil spirits and their future.
During a recent chaotic and divisive week in the U.S. Congress, the chaplain of the House of Representatives prayed for the “spirits of darkness” to be cast out of the House. Though he may not have intended his prayer to be interpreted as exorcising actual spirit beings, it was still an interesting choice of words. His words made headlines because we live in a culture where fewer and fewer believe in the existence of a real spirit world.
In a 2016 Gallup poll, 61 percent of Americans said they believe in the devil. But what did they mean by the devil? A 2009 Barna poll found that a majority of Christians believe the devil is merely a symbol of evil and not a living being.
It seems the old adage often attributed to the French poet Charles Baudelaire is true: “The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.”
Despite what people believe, the Bible doesn’t present Satan and other evil spirits as mere symbols of evil—but as real, living beings who have a powerful influence on our world.
The god of this age
People are often surprised when they learn that the Bible refers to Satan as a “god.” In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he is called the “god of this age.” Jesus also referred to Satan as the “ruler of this world” (John 14:30). Though these scriptures show Satan has enormous influence on our world, most people are totally oblivious to it.
Let’s take a closer look at how he influences our world.
- Rebellion. The Bible shows that Satan was a beautiful archangel who tried to take over God’s throne (Isaiah 14:12-14). In the process Satan influenced a third of the angels to follow his rebellion (Revelation 12:4, 9). Jesus stated that He saw Satan fall from heaven after his rebellion failed (Luke 10:18). Rebellion against authority, especially God’s authority, in today’s world is inspired by Satan, the first rebel.
- Lying. Jesus described Satan as a “liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). In fact, his first interaction with a human being was laced with lies (Genesis 3:4-5). Satan is active in
Though Satan has enormous influence on our world, most people are totally oblivious to it.deceiving mankind (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Lying, found at every level of human society, is inspired by Satan, the first liar.
- Accusation. Satan is described in the book of Revelation as one who accuses God’s people continually (Revelation 12:10). He is constantly looking for faults and weaknesses in an attempt to derail mankind from following God. We see a glimpse of such accusations in the book of Job, where Satan accused Job of only serving God for physical benefits (Job 1:9; 2:4-5). Accusation and heartless criticism in our world are inspired by Satan, the first accuser.
- Destroying. The apostle Peter described Satan as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is constantly prowling around to see whom he can destroy—spiritually. Jesus called him a “murderer from the beginning,” because he has sought to destroy mankind from the time of the Garden of Eden to now (John 8:44). Attacking and destroying others, whether through physical or verbal violence, are inspired by Satan, the first destroyer.
It is clear—the Bible teaches Satan is real and very powerful. But there is hope. His powerful influence will not last forever.
Casting out spirits of darkness
The Bible reveals that God has a plan to deal with Satan and the demons so they will no longer be able to influence mankind. Here are three stages of that plan.
- Stage 1: Evil spirits will be cast down to this earth. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John saw a vision of a future attempt by Satan to invade God’s throne in heaven. He will, once again, be soundly defeated and thrown down to earth. Though the heavens rejoice, a woe is pronounced on the earth as Satan’s anger is taken out on mankind (Revelation 12:7-8, 12). Humanity will face the “great tribulation”—the worst time of suffering to ever occur in human history. Fortunately, God will intervene to cut it short (Matthew 24:21-22).
- Stage 2: Evil spirits will be confined for 1,000 years. Zechariah foretold that God will cause the “unclean spirit to depart from the land” (Zechariah 13:2). When Christ returns, He will confine Satan and his demons to a bottomless abyss for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-2). Jesus Christ will rule on earth and restore the right way of living during this 1,000 years—a time the Bible also calls “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19).
- Stage 3: Evil spirits will be thrown into the lake of fire. For a short period of time, Satan and his cohorts will be released from their prison and allowed to influence mankind. Satan will influence a group of people to try to invade Christ’s headquarters in Jerusalem (Revelation 20:9). God will deal with Satan and the evil spirits once and for all by casting them into a lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10). Eventually all that is physical will burn up, including the incorrigibly wicked. (Contrary to popular belief, unrepentant human beings will not burn forever—see Malachi 4:1-3). After the lake of fire has burned out, Satan and his demons will spend eternity in outer darkness (Jude 1:13).
This is how the real spirits of darkness will ultimately be cast out. Jesus will return to this earth and deal with them. Until then, we must remain close to God and pray daily for God to “deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13)