Question: "Is there activity of demonic spirits in the world today?"

Ghosts, hauntings, seances, tarot cards, Ouija boards, crystal balls—what do they have in common? They are fascinating to most people because they seem to open the window into a curious and unknown world that lies beyond the limits of our physical existence. And to many, such things seem no more dangerous than opening a window in their homes.

Many that approach these subjects from non-biblical perspectives talk about the existence of ghosts and hauntings by the spirits of dead people who, for whatever reason, have not gone on to the “next stage.” These same people talk about three different kinds of hauntings: (1) residual hauntings (likened to video playbacks with no actual interaction with any spirits); (2) hauntings by human spirits, with those spirits being a combination of good and bad (but not evil), similar in nature to people we meet in life. Some may simply want to get a person’s attention, others may be pranksters, but in either case they do not truly harm people; and (3) interaction with non-human spirits or demons. These demons can sometimes masquerade as well-intentioned human spirits, but they are harmful and dangerous.

When reading material on ghosts and hauntings from such non-biblical sources, it should be remembered that just because an author may refer to the Bible or to Bible characters (such as Michael the archangel), it does not mean they approach the subject from a biblical perspective. When no authority is given for an author’s information, the reader has to ask himself, “How does he/she know this to be so? What is his/her authority?” For example, how does an author know that demons masquerade as well-intentioned human spirits? How does he know that it is good to ask advice from “spirit helpers,” while at the same time it is important not to “invite a spirit to manifest its presence” at a seance because it may be a demon? If demons can masquerade as well-intentioned human spirits, how can one tell whether his spirit helper is telling the truth about its identity or is truly a demon seeking to confuse and deceive? How can one be sure? Ultimately those who address such subjects from non-biblical sources must base their understanding on either their own thoughts, the thoughts of others, and/or the experiences of the past. But based upon their own words (that demons are deceiving and can imitate benevolent human spirits), experiences can be deceiving! Ultimately, if one is to have a right understanding on this subject, he must go to a source that has shown itself to be accurate 100% of the time—God’s Word, the Bible. Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about such things.

1. The Bible never speaks of hauntings. Rather, when a person dies, the spirit of that person is goes to one of two places. If the person is a true believer (not one who merely knows about Jesus, but one who has established a living relationship with Christ through faith), his spirit is ushered into the presence of Christ in heaven (Philippians 1:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:8) and he will be reunited with his body (after it has been transformed into an immortal body at the time Christ “snatches” away his own from the coming judgment upon the earth at the time of the rapture [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]). If one is not a believer in Christ and does not have his name written in the Lamb’s book of life, his spirit is put in a place of torment (Luke 16:23-24) called hell, to await his sentencing for his works in what is called the “great white throne judgment.”

At that time he is also reunited with his body and is cast into eternal torment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-15). But whether a person is a believer or an unbeliever, there is no returning to our present world to communicate and interact with people, even for the purpose of warning people to flee from the judgment to come (Luke 16:27-31). There are only two recorded incidents in which a dead person interacts with the living. The first is when King Saul of Israel tried contacting the deceased prophet Samuel through a medium (or witch), contrary to God’s command. God allowed Samuel to be disturbed long enough to pronounce judgment upon Saul for his repeated disobedience (1 Samuel 28:6-19). The second incident is when Moses and Elijah interacted with Jesus when he was transfigured in Matthew 17:1-8.

2. Scripture speaks repeatedly of good and bad angels moving about unseen (Daniel 10:1-21), but also as interacting with living people at different times, even to the point of evil spirits actual possessing people (dwelling within them and controlling them (see Mark 5:1-20, for example). Good angels, on occasion, appear to people as well (Acts 5:17-20; 12:3-11). The four Gospels and the Book of Acts are filled with many incidents of demon possession and of good angels appearing and aiding believers. Angels, both good and bad, can cause unusual natural and supernatural phenomenon to occur (Job 1-2, Revelation 7:1; 8:5; 15:1; 16).

3. Scripture repeatedly shows that demons know things of which the people around them are apparently unaware (Acts 16:16-18; Luke 4:41). Because these evil angels have been around a long time, they would know facts that those living limited life spans would not. Because Satan has access to God’s throne at the present (Job 1-2), the demons may also be allowed to know some specific events that pertain to the future, but this is speculation.

4. Scripture speaks repeatedly of Satan being the father of lies and a deceiver (John 8:44; 2 Thessalonians 2:9) and that he also can disguise himself as an angel of light. Likewise, those who follow him, whether human or otherwise, do the same (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

5. Satan and demons have great power (compared to humans) (again see Mark 5:1-20; Acts 19:13-16), even to the point where Michael the archangel trusts only in God’s power when dealing with Satan (Jude 1:9). But Satan’s power is nothing compared to God’s (Acts 19:11-12; Mark 5:1-20, etc.) and God is actually able to use Satan’s evil intent to bring about His good purposes (1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 12:7).

6. God commands us to have nothing to do with anything that smacks of the occult, devil worship, or involvement with the spirit world through the use of mediums, seances, Ouija boards, horoscopes, tarot cards, channeling, etc. He considers all of these an abomination (Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Isaiah 8:19-20; Galatians 5:20; Revelation 21:8), and those who involve themselves in such things invite disaster (Acts 19:13-16).

7. The example set by Scripture in dealing with items that pertain to the occult (books, music, jewelry, games dealing with the occult, and other occult objects) is to confess the involvement with such as sin and burn the items (Acts 19:18-19).

8. The main source of release from the power of Satan is through salvation through the believing of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 19:18; 26:16-18). And if one will not believe the Word of God, there is no other source of the truth they will believe, even if it came from one who rose from the dead (Luke 16:31). If one attempts to get rid of Satan and his evil angels’ involvement in his life without this, it is futile, as one merely leaves an empty dwelling place for even worse demons to return to in the future (Luke 11:24-26). But when a person comes to Christ for the forgiveness of their sin through His shed blood, the Holy Spirit comes to abide and remain until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). The other main weapon would be simple prayer in total dependence upon God, even as Michael the archangel exemplified in Jude 1:9.

In view of the multitude of passages dealing with involvement of the unseen demonic world with the present world—in contrast with the two recorded incidents involving interaction between the living and those who have died—and considering that the dead cannot visit the living without permission and that permission is not lightly given (Luke 16:27-31), it would seem best to understand ghosts, hauntings, spirit helpers, voices at seances, etc. (besides those which are the mere illusions created by charlatans) as the work of demons. Sometimes these demons may have no intent to conceal their nature, and at other times they may seek to deceive by appearing as human spirits in order to generate credibility for the lies they seek to spread and the confusion they seek to create.

Again, God states it is foolish to try to consult the dead on behalf of the living or to consult with those who say they have an inside track on the future when instead one can actually consult with the wisdom of the living God (Isaiah 8:19-20). And if God considered the occult practices of contacting the spirit world for wisdom or guidance for the future an abomination worthy of judgment in Moses' time (Deuteronomy 18:9-12), then God who does not change considers it so today (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:12) and those who ignore this do so to their own hurt. Lastly, again, the largest weapon in God’s arsenal for freeing people from Satan’s kingdom is the good news of Jesus Christ.