Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:12c “. . .but against principalities, against powers,. . .”
Satan dictatorially rules a worldwide government of evil spirits. Literally translated, “principalities” is “first ones”; “powers” is “authorities.” “Principalities” are preeminent leaders who, having evil plans to be carried out, grant authority to “powers.” “Principalities” and “powers” are not ordinary folk or common soldiers, but nobility, elite crackerjacks, chieftains of the spirit world.
Believers are not fighting a disoriented rabble. Demons do not float or travel at will. We battle a vast hierarchy organized for evil. We are pitted against a sophisticated enemy which has a well-organized army regimented into ranks and divisions under commanders and leaders. Our foes are efficient. Their efforts are not scattered and disorganized, but focused and targeted. Having a million strategies and ways to beguile, they cooperate, unite to plan, to make sure no point is left neglected. They ever marshal themselves, coming at us relentlessly and systematically, from every direction with sinister skill.
Apart from being a structure to promote efficiency, we know precious little about what all this organizational information means. It may be the vestige of an original diversity of status which existed among angels in heaven (see 1:21; 3:10), and/or may be based on varying levels of strength or intelligence among the spirits. Much is unknown to us about the actual inner workings of this invisible Mafia, this network of evil. If we are wise, we will not try to be smarter than Paul, or try to pry past what Jesus and the Bible have revealed.
Our knowledge of the physical realm continues to increase dramatically, but we can not legitimately learn more about the spirit-world. It is beyond us. We can not put it in a test-tube and experiment with it. God told us what we need to know. We must be careful not to dabble in a realm dangerous to us.
Avoid palm-readers, astrologers, psychics, witches, Ouija boards, and anyone or anything else that smacks of dark extraterrestrials. Most people who practice these things are quacks, fakes, but some may possibly tap into a real power source of evil. The Bible does not tell us to try to sort out the real from the fake. Scripture’s only advice is for believers to flee any appearance of possible contact with evil spirits. Christians, avoid it. Danger! Danger!
In Israel, all who tried to control the future, contact evil spirits, or communicate with the dead, were to be put to death, as were those who consulted these practitioners. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 settles forever the way believers are to relate to the various outward manifestations of evil spirits in our world. The passage expressly forbids us to practice or consult the following eight activities.
”Divination” is the ability to predict the future with the aid of evil supernatural powers. Such practitioners were sought out often by the ancients. The most famous oracle was at Delphi, where a lady sat beside a small opening in the ground, from which an intoxicating smoke arose. When she became deliriously intoxicated, the sounds she uttered were believed to be revelations from Apollo. Temple priests interpreted these mutterings for the people. This oracle was consulted from 1100 BC till 390 AD. Alexander made a long and dangerous march to the famous temple and oracle of Jupiter, in the Libyan desert. He was told he was the son of Jupiter, and would conquer the world. “Divination” is still popular, and illustrated by modern day “psychics.”
An “observer of times” also foretold events. The term is derived from the word for “cloud.” Hence, it refers to one who predicts the future by gazing at cloud formations or other celestial configurations, as in astrology.
An “enchanter” also foretold the future, making predictions by properly interpreting omens observed in natural signs such as waves in a fluid, lines on a palm, casting lots, the flight of birds, an animal’s entrails, the intersections of a cobweb, the sounds of wind among rustling leaves, or the cooing of doves.
These first three practices appeal to our keen desire to know the future. Jesus spoke to this, “Do not be anxious for tomorrow” (MT 6:34). Scripture tells us all we need to know about the future. There will be pain and joy, good days and bad days, life and death, Jesus is coming again. In the meantime we are promised God’s ample wisdom to guide our daily lives into the future.
“Witch,” actually sorcerer, refers to a magician. We incorrectly use magic as a name for harmless sleight of hand tricks, but true magic, the ability to enlist the help of evil supernatural powers to control circumstances, is anything but harmless. Sorcery is illustrated by witch doctors and medicine men.
“Charmer” is a spell-binder, one who can exercise complete control over another by invoking the aid of an evil spirit. A “charmer” brings about results that cannot be nullified by human power. This is illustrated by voodoo dolls.
“Familiar spirits” refers to demons which make themselves available for human consultation. A “consulter” is one who has a relationship with these spirits. They are ever at his or her beck and call, willing to be manipulated.
A “wizard” is one who has superhuman wisdom gleaned from interaction with evil spirits. The four practitioners just mentioned–witch, charmer, consulter, wizard–deal with contacting evil spirits. There does seem to be such a thing as fellowship with the devil personally, even as there is with God (Bonar). Satan “entered into” Judas (JN 13:27). Believers are protected from being totally possessed and indwelt by evil spirits, but this does not mean we can put ourselves in harm’s way without suffering pain and punishment. Remember King Saul, whom God killed for consulting a witch (1 SM 28). The God of truth is infuriated when a believer consults the father of lies.
Believers are forbidden any effort to bring evil spirits to one’s aid. We should never hope to receive good from them, nor should we fear communications received from them. Believers, safe in Jesus, cannot be annihilated by Satan. The prophet Balaam could not curse “whom God has not cursed” (NB 23:8). Also, “a curse without cause does not alight” (PR 26:2b NAS).
The eighth forbidden practitioner, a “necromancer,” is one who conjures up departed spirits of dead people. The departed spirit enters the necromancer’s body and speaks through it. The Bible tells us all we need to know about the dead. Believers are in Heaven, unbelievers are in Hell.
These eight perverse practices ever tempt us because we have a deeply rooted longing to peer into the unknown beyond us. We desire more knowledge of the future, of spirits, of our dead loved ones. However, these eight abominations give preeminence to Satan and weaken devotion to God. They ruined the Canaanites, and will do the same to God’s people. “Did the land spue out the abominations of the Canaanites, and shall Israel lick up the vomit?” (Henry).
I emphasize again that most people who claim to practice these eight things are charlatans. However, as believers we must never brashly take the risk. Our only reaction to anything that smacks of evil is to flee from it.
Avoid the demonic! Fellowship with God is incompatible with seeking to communicate with demons or the dead. Our only communications in the spiritual world must be solely with God Himself. Our relationship with Him is a marriage. To seek fellowship with any other entity in the spirit realm is spiritual adultery, a breaking of our marriage covenant with God.
All we need is the living word of the living God. The Lord speaks through His Son, His Spirit, His Bible, His preachers, and His teachers. God has provided reliable knowledge of His will through these means. They are the legitimate revealers of whatever God wants His people to know.