Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – Satan and Demons: How should Christians think of Satan and demons today? Spiritual warfare.
This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.
Synopsis of Chapter
In Chapter 20, Wayne Grudem explores the nature of Satan and demons, their origin, their activity, and our relationship to demons from a Scriptural perspective. He begins with a definition of demons: “Demons are evil angels who sinned against God and who now continually work evil in the world.” The head of the demons is Satan.
Satan and the demons have been active throughout world history and are still active in opposing every work of God. In addition, the Bible teaches they will continue to be active in history during the Millenium and at the Final Judgment.
People interact with demons in different ways. People can be demon-influenced, but not necessarily demon-possessed. Christians have authority over Satan and his demons because of the work of Christ. So spiritual warfare exists, but God has granted people victory over demonic oppression through Jesus.
The Origin of Satan and Demons
Where did Satan and the demons come from? When God created the world, he declared everything was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But at some point between creation and the Fall in Genesis 3, Satan tempted man and woman to sin in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-5). Satan seems to have fallen at the time recorded in early Genesis.
We get more details of the fall of the demons and Satan in two other passages. We learn from Jude that “the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling” (Jude 6). So angels fell by leaving their place in heaven. In another passage, Isaiah likely wrote of Satan when he said,
“How you are fallen from heaven O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north” (Isaiah 14:12-13).
In these and other passages, we learn that Satan and his demons were angelic beings who wanted more than God allowed for them. So they fell and have been harrassing humans ever since.
The Activity of Satan and Demons
Satan originated sin. We understand that Satan’s sin preceded Adam and Eve’s sin in how he tempted Eve in the garden (Genesis 3:1-6). John tells us that “for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8a). Satan started the initial rebellion against God and he continues to tempt and fight against God’s purposes.
There are several tactics Satan and demons use to thwart the plans of God:
- Lies (John 8:44)
- Deception (Revelation 12:9)
- Murder (Psalm 106:37, John 8:44)
- Blind people to the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- Various temptations (Luke 4:13)
- Enslave people (Galatians 4:8)
Satan and demons have been active in all stages of redemptive history. In the Law, we see that false gods are nothing more than demons (Deuteronomy 32:16-17). In the same way, the Psalm recorded people sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons (Psalm 106:35-37). Paul repeated the sentiment when he spoke of pagans sacrificing to demons (1 Corinthians 10:20). And the “whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). So Satan has been both active in creation and continues to deceive the nations (Revelation 12:9).
Our Relationship to Demons
Demons are still active in the world. The Bible presents demons and Satan as being real beings. Some in modern theology aim to “demythologize” the Bible, but there is no clear justification for that concept in Scripture. Instead, the Bible presents a very real Satan and actual demons.
In several passages, we see how demons and people interact:
- Satan deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9).
- Satan ensnares people to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
- Believers fight against demonic forces (Ephesians 6:11-12).
- Demons teach people through false teachers (1 Timothy 4:1).
- People who are not from God are from the devil (1 John 3:10).
- Gentiles sacrifice to demons in their sacrifices (1 Corinthians 1:20).
- Sin gives Satan an opportunity to influence believers (Ephesians 4:26).
Christians can certainly be influenced by demons. However, the Bible suggests Christians may not be demon-possessed. The original Greek suggests ‘demon-possession’ is likely not the best description. The term daimonizomai (δαιμονίζομαι) used in passages like Matthew 11:18 and John 7:20 implies ‘have a demon’ or ‘demon-influenced,’ but not demon-possessed. And because of that, Christians may not be completely dominated by a demon. That does not mean a Christian can be completely free of demonic influence.
Application: Christ’s Power over the Demonic Realm
Satan and demons are real. However, Christians are not subject to the devil in the same way that unbelievers are. Instead, Jesus gave power to his original disciples over the demons (Luke 9:1). This authority was also granted to the later Apostle Paul (Acts 16:18). The church is not ultimately subject to demonic forces because of the work of Christ.
Believers have a measure of authority against demonic strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). The reason is our God is greater than any demonic power (1 John 4:4). We don’t overcome spiritual resistance through our own goodness, but through Jesus who conquered evil spiritual forces. For this reason, we should have confidence in Jesus to resist any spiritual attack through his powerful name.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:7-8)
- demon possession
- distinguishing between spirits
Resources: Wayne Grudem
- Wayne Grudem: Book: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
- Wayne Grudem: 148 Lectures on Systematic Theology at Scottsdale Bible Church
- OpenBible.info: Verses on Demons
- The Bible Project (video): The Satan and Demons
- John Blanchard: Demons: Servants of Satan
- Gregg Allison: Where Do We Get Our Theology of Satan, Angels, and Demons?