Can we really take the Bible seriously when it talks about Jesus wondering around, bumping into people with demons possessing them, and casting them out? In the light of modern science, how can we reconcile the presence and threat of demons, devils and sorcery with our lack of evidence for any of them? Perhaps the demons, the devils and the sorcery are all myths, and perhaps so is their counterbalance, God.
Matthew 8:16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.
Taking the part of the devils advocate – where have all the demons gone? Now; we know that it is the assigned work of Satan to tempt us, bringing us to rebellion against God. I can think of three types of rebellion against God, the first being to disobey the revealed law of God, the second is to disobey the law of God written upon our hearts, and the third is to deny the revealed God entirely. The first two are classical definitions of sin as disobedience to God, yet the third is something a bit deeper. When we deny God despite him having revealed himself to us, we make ourselves god for we acknowledge nobody and nothing as having a greater power than man.
The first two commandments together require us to acknowledge only God, and to put nothing and no person in his place. When we raise ourselves up as God then we fall so surely and so heavily by making an idol of ourselves. This is both blasphemy and idolatry and of the very highest level. This is the state of post-modern philosophy today – there is nothing supernatural and there is nothing beyond us. God is at best conceptual, and usually merely figurative. I do not believe that such a state of godless philosophy has existed in any time since that of Christ; for even savages who know nothing of the special revelation of God acknowledge that there is something or someone greater than them, some form of supernatural power. What a victory for Satan! What an easy job for Satan, when even those who have learned of God deny him and his law, denying the very concept of sin and hence the reason to resist it.
At first, such a philosophy seems fine, we assume that people are generally good and know how to behave. Even without God, we should be able to keep going on a reasonable path, at least no worse than before. Unfortunately, this neglects to ask where our moral anchor comes from, and it comes from God and the Word of God. When a ship raises its anchor nothing happens, the ship does not move, everything remains the same as it was before; yet it is clear that the ship will now drift anywhere it likes, being driven even unto destruction on the rocks. The same is true for a society uncoupled from its anchor – although at first all seems well and of no effect, it is both sure and certain that over time society will drift from its remembered patterns of Christian life into the depths of moral depravity and sin. When nobody has the ability to say “this is wrong” then all that was once wrong drifts towards being right. What a victory for Satan indeed!
Now consider if at this time, Satan were to openly send demons out amongst mankind, possessing them and causing them to curse God, exhibiting supernatural strengths in their depravity and evil. What a disaster that would be for Satan! The post-modern philosophy would evaporate like the morning dew with the clear demonstration of the existence of the supernatural devil and his evil. What a strong testimony to God the devil is when he is perceived by man, for in acknowledging the forces of evil man must acknowledge the existence of evil and hence sin. If a man realises the existence of sin then he too testifies to some form of God – as without a god there can be no definition of what is sinful and what is not. What a disaster that would be indeed for Satan, if man were to again acknowledge the concept of sin and the supernatural, and begin to think of taking care to avoid the former and seek the later.
Matthew 8:28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”
Therefore I suggest that it is not due to greater revelation and the closeness of Christ that we rarely see physical manifestations of demons amongst us, but rather due to our denial of even the general revelation of God and our failure to acknowledge the sin that Christ came to take away. Our condition today as those who deny not only the God of the Bible but the very concepts of God, righteousness and sin, is very much more evil than even savages to whom the Gospel has never been preached. The devil has no need to scare us away from righteousness through open works of evil, for we are quite happy to depart for hell of our own accord.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us, and mercifully open our ears to hear you and our hearts to receive you as the sole Lord and master of mankind; that through a knowledge of you we might take heed of the depth of our sin, being drawn to repentance and forgiveness in your name. Amen.