Hollywood has made demonic forces into a cartoonish form of entertainment. On the screen actors writhe as bulging-eyed priests attempt to exorcise demons. Wizards and mystical forces are so common in our entertainment, we have become anesthetised to them. And yet, even as our entertainment is bathed in exploration of dark forces, many in our society are increasingly skeptical there is a devil at all.
Maybe one of the devil’s most effective deceptions is to dupe people into believing he doesn’t exist. With no devil, people blame all evil on God. And if people don’t believe in a literal devil, they are unprepared to battle him. Today, people often assume evil is just people acting at their worst. Many assume the devil is a fairytale. Surely, they ask, Satan is simply a metaphor for our own weaknesses?
In the following hours, through the power of Jesus’ name in prayer, the man received victory from this demonic attack.
That’s not what the Bible says, and it’s not what I’ve experienced first-hand as a pastor. From the Garden of Eden to the temptation of Christ, Satan is consistently presented in the Bible as a very real, literal force in our world. Paul puts it this way: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
But do we have any reason to believe the Bible’s account? I certainly do!
I grew up in Papua New Guinea where I heard nearly every week of people being directly attacked by the enemy and of people receiving victory in Jesus. But, ironically, it wasn’t until I returned to Australia that I saw demonic possession first-hand. I’ve now witnessed the working of demons a number of times—including strange voices, mysterious movements and people possessed by the devil.
Recently, for example, I received a phone call from a pastor requesting my presence immediately. During praise time at his Perth church one of the attendees started going into strange convulsions—writhing and raving. He was out of his mind, possessed by outside forces. As I drove to the church, I prayed for the power of Christ. In the following hours, through the power of Jesus’ name in prayer, the man received victory from this demonic attack. This wasn’t in remote jungles or during some far off time. This was Western Australia, today.
The great controversy is not just a metaphoric story about the struggle between good and evil—it describes a very real battle between Christ and Satan. The Bible is clear that the devil and his demons are on this earth doing their evil work.1 However Jesus’ death on Calvary was the event that decisively decided their future2—His shed blood gives us victory over the devil and his evil angels.3 While the devil still comes to kill and destroy, we need not fear because Jesus is more powerful and He came here to give life.4 God can and will cleanse us from sin and the devil’s influence if we let Him. All we need to do is ask God to reveal to us the sin in our lives,5 repent6 and claim the victory of Jesus.7 God is waiting to replace sin and evil with the love and peace of the indwelling Holy Spirit.8
Is Satan a real, literal presence in our world today? Tragically, I’ve seen first-hand that he is. Is Christ just as real? Absolutely! And, most importantly, not only is Christ real, He has the power to vanquish Satan and demonic forces. I’ve seen Him do it!
1 Revelation 12
2 Colossians 2:13-15
3 Matthew 10:1, Luke 10:1, 17-20; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 26:18
4 John 10:10
5 Psalms 139:23,24; John 16:7-11
6 Romans 2:4; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:22, 17:30, 26:20; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 32:5; Daniel 9:4; James 5:16,17
7 Romans 10:9,10; Revelation 12:10,11
8 1 John 4:13-17; Romans 8:10,11
Pastor Glenn Townend is president of the Western Australian Conference.