Vol. 4, No. 10
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In part one of this two-part article (the September 2002 issue), we explored the question, "Who Is Jesus Christ" with particular attention to his being the Son of God. Please review that article. Now, in part two, we wish to explore the questions: "Who or what were Demons" and "What was the relationship of Christ to Demons?"
It will not be the purpose of this study to decide the origin of demons. There are at least six current theories concerning their origin. These are:
Demons were the offspring of angels and antediluvian women (Cf., Genesis 6:1-6).
Demons were the spirits of a pre-Adamic order of men on earth in the days of the alleged "gap period" between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.
Demons were the evil spirits of those who died in the flood. The rationale for this theory is based on Matthew 12:42-45 and Luke 11:14-26. This is supposed to account for the demons' affinity for waterless places.
Demons were spirits who followed Satan and so became demons.
Demons were the spirits of wicked men whom God permitted to exit the Hadean realm in order to possess some people on earth.
Demons were fallen angels allowed to escape confinement for the same purpose as mentioned above.
There are legitimate questions and objections which can be raised against each of these theories. They should be studied and carefully considered. The existence of demons is taken for granted in the Gospel accounts and nothing is said concerning their origin.
Demons are designated by various names in the Gospel accounts. They are called "demons" (Matthew 10:8, ASV). The word "demon" (ASV) is preferable to that of "devil" (KJV). There is one devil, but many demons; "spirit" (Luke 9:39); "unclean spirits" (Matthew 10:1); "evil spirits" (Luke 7:21); "spirit of an unclean devil" (Luke 4:33) and "dumb spirit" (Mark 9:17). In the majority of cases, these terms are used in the plural form to indicate many demons.
As to the nature of demons, we know that they are spirits: "When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick" (Matthew 8:16).
As to their character, we know that they were evil spirits, under that sway of Satan the "prince of demons" (Matthew 12:24).
In the Scriptures, they are presented as intelligent beings, possessing true knowledge of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They spoke of a knowledge greater than man in being able to identify Jesus as "the Holy one of God," when men at that time had not reached that conclusion. They also were aware that they were under the control of God ultimately (Mark 1:23-24). They feared Jesus' power to cast them into the abyss, a place from which they could not return if once banished there. This would account for their entreaty not to be thus banished (Luke 8:31). They knew that a time of torment was in store for them and that Christ had the power to commit them to this torment before the appointed time, and so the sight of Jesus filled them with fear (Matthew 8:29).
One of Christ's chief works on earth was to destroy the work of Satan. John wrote, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). As has already been suggested, this is something the demons understood perfectly (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). Christ demonstrated his authority over the spirit realm with absolute power over the demons. They were completely subject to him and were compelled to yield to him in obedience (Mark 1:27).
Our text in Mark 3:11, and other similar passages (Matthew 8:28-32; Mark 1:21-27; 5:1-13, and Luke 4:33-36; 8:26-35), show how the demons recognized Jesus as being the Son of God. As James said, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).
What did the unclean spirits mean when they fell down before him and said, "Thou art the Son of God" (Mark 3:11)? Is it to be understood as a title showing Christ's deity, or was it merely a common title of the day? Notice the weak and pitiful reasoning of William Barclay on this passage:
They certainly did not use the term in what we might call a philosophical or theological sense. In the ancient world Son of God was by no means an uncommon title. The kings of Egypt were said to be the sons of Ra, their god. From Augustus onwards many of the Roman Emperors were described on inscriptions as sons of God.1
If that is not bad enough, consider the following as Mr. Barclay elaborates further:
...the term son describes someone who is specially near and close to God...When we meet this term in the simplicity of the gospel story we are not to think in terms of philosophy or theology or of the doctrine of the Trinity; we are to think of it as expressing the fact that Jesus' relationship to God was so close that no other word could describe it.2
William Barclay was your typical modernist. He believed that Jesus was nothing more than a good man who differed from other men in degree, but not in kind. If we are to follow Mr. Barclay's reasoning, then we can all become "the Son of God" (sons of God) provided we are able to draw near enough to God (James 4:8). If Jesus was not the Son of God in the sense of being divine, then he was a plain and simple liar (John 6:48-51; 10:30). Otherwise, William Barclay and others of his ilk are plain and simple false teachers.
The manner in which the demons recognized Jesus is very interesting. They recognized him as "Jesus of Nazareth," i.e., one born of men (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34), as well as, "thou Son of God" (Matthew 8:29), and "the Holy One of God:" (Luke 4:34). If these titles do not refer to his divine nature, then they mean absolutely nothing.
If men do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, then they are no more intelligent than the demons. Yet, those who not only believe him to be the Son of God, but will obey him as such, will follow their knowledge in such a way that the demons will not (James 2:19). The demons will not worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. This, we must do (John 4:24)!
1 William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel Of Mark (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956) 66.
2 Ibid. 67.