“Demon(s)” are mentioned over 70 times in the New Testament. The King James Version is confusing, using the word “devil(s)” for the original word. There are many demons (daimon), but there is one devil (diabolos).
Other words are also used. They are called “evil spirits” and “unclean spirits” over 20 times.
Could Demons Foretell the Future?
Luke writes of “a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination… who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling” (Acts 16:16-ff).
We know that demons had incredible strength (Mark 5:1-4). We know that demons knew that Jesus was “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24), and “Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7). We know that they knew the inspired servants of Jesus (Acts 16:17; 19:15). We know that they knew torment awaited them (Matthew 8:29). The word “demon” may mean “a knowing one” (Vine’s). But, could they really foretell the future?
I have serious doubts about this. It appears that God alone can declare the future. Consider: “It am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do?” (Isaiah 44:6-7 cf. 41:21-23). “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel” (Isaiah 45:3). “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things that are not yet done…” (Isaiah 46:9-11). If demons could really prophesy, then how would one know if a message of a prophet were from God or a demon? How would prophecy confirm the message as being from God?
What about the girl with a spirit of “divination”? The word translated “divination” literally translates “Python.” Plutarch used this word to describe ventriloquists (Thayer). The oracles at Delphi claimed to be inspired by the spirit of a python. They spoke by ventriloquism (timothyarends.hubspages,com/hub/ventriloquism-facts). “According to historical records one of the earliest ventriloquists… was Pythia, a priestess at the temple of Apollo in Delphi. The Greeks called this practice ‘gastronomy’ or ‘gastromancy.’ They were thinking that the voice of the dead took of residence in the stomach of the ventriloquists (learnventriloquism.net). Darrell Conley has written of the Acts 16 record: “That the girl was actually possessed by a demon is clear. That the demon caused her to claim the power to divine is also clear. That the demon itself may have spoken these things from within her (‘speaking from the belly’) is likely. That the demon was able to actually divine the future is not substantiated by the text” (Conley, The Gospel Versus Occultism, pp. 20-21).
Could One Call Up The Dead?
Did the witch at En Dor really have the power to call up Samuel? (1 Samuel 28:6-25).
I have serious doubts about this. The LORD said through the prophet Jeremiah, “Do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers… for they prophesy a lie to you” (Jeremiah 27:9-10). Where is the clear passage which indicates that anyone other than God can foretell the future?
What about the witch at En Dor? Darrell Conley commented, “There is no doubt that Samuel appeared… It was God that caused him to do so, and not the witch, who was surprised as anyone when Samuel actually appeared. She was so astonished and frightened she ‘cried with a loud voice,’… The fact that Samuel here speaks from God and prophesies correctly regarding the death of Saul and his sons, should be enough to convince anyone that Samuel appeared by the power of God” (Conley, The Gospel Versus Occultism, pp. 19-20).
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order. They he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked that himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26; Matthew 12:43-45).
No doubt this parable is teaching that one must be constantly on guard, and that it is not enough to remove evil. True lasting change is found in filling oneself with good. William Wilder commented, “As the evil spirit was cast out by Christ, it would return to take possession again unless the house is guarded diligently. Once we are converted, we must guard our hearts with all faithfulness. The Spirit was banished, but not destroyed. Evil is ever-present, always lurking at our hearts… An alcoholic may be reformed; he may decide that he will no longer drink intoxicating drinks; but, he must fill his heart and mind with positive thoughts and resolve to stay away from things that tempt him to drink. He must find something wholesome to do and fill his heart (empty house) with pure practices… Satan finds ways of penetrating the heart, especially when it is empty” (The Book of Matthew, Spiritual Sword Lectures, pp. 364-365). Burt Groves commented, “Let every follower of Jesus understand the importance not only of repenting of sins but also of doing good. The idle Christian invites temptation…” (Groves, The Gospel According to Luke, p. 125). One should seek to not only put off the bad, but also to put on the good (Ephesians 4:21-32; Colossians 3:5-16).
What does this tell us about demons? I am not sure. does it tell us that demons want bodies for a dwelling place?
Once I spoke with a woman who was concerned that she could be lost in the end because an evil spirit might make her sin. If one is lost in the end they will have no one to blame but self (James 1:14-16; 1 Corinthians 10:13). “If I should die and be lost in the end, it is no body’s fault but mine” (Youth song I heard in Jamaica).