This Present Darkness: A Theology of the Demonic

What follows is a comprehensive set of notes (in list form) by theologian Rob Knowles, of a series he delivered on the paranormal and demonic a couple of years ago.  This is an eye-opening read and one that should temper naive evangelical zeal in regard to the demonic, with a degree of wise caution, coupled with serious biblical insight into its sheer complexity and reality.

When we read in Scripture that “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 6:12), Paul is not playing mere religious games.  He sees and he knows.  What follows, is an unpacking of what Paul was getting at, that we too might see and know.

May the sovereign grace and sureness of Christ’s salvation be ever in your heart and mind as you read:

Theology of the Paranormal/Demonic

A. Must Acknowledge Some Non-Genuine Paranormal

a) Human trickery and deliberate illusion, fraud, fiction, or false testimony;
b) Natural phenomena or tricks of the light;
c) Mistaken identity of one thing for another;
d) Hallucinations due to various illnesses or other physical conditions;
e) Vivid imagination;

B. Must Acknowledge Some So-Called “Preternatural” Sources

-e.g. Hutchinson Effect: ‘poltergeist’ effect in strong electro-magnetic fields;
-e.g. low-frequency sound waves/sense that there is a ‘presence’;

C. By Far the Main Malignant Cause: Demons

NT Demonology: Mostly based on Jewish Apocalyptic/Some Rabbinic/not just OT
Don’t Understand Jewish Apocalyptic, Don’t Understand NT Demonology;
-Simply a Historical/Textual Fact;

Demonology Relates to Two Falls of Angels:

Heavenly: Satan and the Satans (Pre-Genesis 3)
-Satan: one of highest throne-angels, “Sammael”;
-Jealous of humanity, so rebel against God;
Earthly: Azazel and the Watchers (Genesis 6/Jewish Apocalyptic)
-Azazel and the Watchers: under Satan’s authority;
-early Satanic plot to stop the Messiah being born;
-tempts Watchers to sin: lust after human women/procreate through them;
-Watchers then tempt humanity by offering secret knowledge;
-Watchers have unions with the women: produce hybrid offspring: Nephilim;
-Watchers and Nephilim oppress humanity and lead them into ever-greater
lawlessness, and many people are slain;

Genesis 6: Two Other Beings Involved in Demonology:

Women who had Unnatural Unions with the Watchers
-Watchers and Women both Guilty of Mutual Seduction: both Punished;
Offspring of those Unnatural Unions: the Nephilim
-Should Never have Existed: Satanically Engineered Hybrid/Chimera;

Five Judgments of God:

Satan and Satans: Cast Down, Spirits in the Air, Limited Access to Heaven
Azazel and the Watchers: Bound Bodily in Tartarus, Spirits in the Air.
Nephilim: Killed by Good Angels, Unbound, Spirits in the Air
Wives of the Watchers: Killed in the Flood, Unbound, Spirits in the Air
Wicked Humanity Generally: Killed by the Flood, Bound in Hades.
Caveat: All Unbound Spirits can Temporarily be Bound by God;
-e.g. Satan et al: normally unbound, but bound at crucial points;
Rev 20 abyss; Luke 8 Legion;

Four Classes of Demons:
Satan/Satans, Spirits of Watchers, Spirits of Nephilim, Liliths/Sirens

As a Fallen Angel, Satan has Many Names:

-Devil, Evil One, Prince of Evil, Mastema, Beelzebub, Beliar/Belial, Sammael, Angel of Death, Azazel (different to the other “Azazel”), Satanail, the Red Dragon, etc.
-Focus: the Red Dragon (Rev 12):
-beast/serpent/primeval sea monster: comes out of primeval ocean;
-Rahab/Leviathan/Behemoth/dragon of the sea;
-Azazel, dragon of darkness and chaos, who devours the wicked;
-chaos-monster emerging from ancient oceanic abode;
-raging red gleaming serpent in temple of Marduk Esagil;
-great enemy of God, but overcome by Yahweh (Isa. 51:9);

Satan: Lord of the Demon-World/Kingdom of Evil

-Innumerable Demons; Other chief Demons: e.g. Abaddon/Apollyon, Asmodeus;

Satan Instigates the Fall of Humanity

Deceives Adam and Eve: Brings Sin and Death into the World
Angel of Death: Murderer from the Beginning
Sting of Death Nullified by Jesus’ Death on the Cross

Satan Instigates Descent into Lawlessness

Lamech: Spirit of Harsh Unforgiving Vengeance and Wrath (Genesis 4)
-Scripture at its harshest against such harshness;
Male and Female Self-Assertion: Domination and Manipulation (Genesis 3, 4, 6);
Accelerated Descent into Lawlessness and Defilement (Genesis 6);

Main Demons of NT: Spirits of Nephilim

-Possess Many in the Gospels; Innumerable; Move Around in Groups;
-Once Embodied/Now Disembodied and Invisible;
-personal, intelligent, know hunger, thirst, fear: e.g. afraid of God (James 2:19);
-dwell especially in desolate, waterless, unclean, lonely places: deserts, ruins,
graveyards, tombs: thus, associated with wild animals;
-falsely idolized as heathen deities/‘gods’: (1 Cor. 8:4ff; cf. 10:19ff);
-believe in God, but don’t acknowledge Jesus incarnation (1 Jn 4:1ff; cf. James 2:19);
-may be male or female – one explanation of incubi/succubi phenomena.


Night Hag and Succubae Phenomena
Female Night Demon/Terror by Night/Long Hair/Wings
Attack Men and Children because they lost theirs;
Extremely common Belief of the Time: not at all a marginal belief;
-Lilîtu (Isa: 34:14; cf. Ps. 91:5): Babylonian night-hag or succubae;
-Alukah (Prov. 30:15): vampiric; bloodsucking horseleech; two daughters: give, give;
-Benoth ya‘anah: (Isa 13:21ff): ostriches; daughters of greed; voracious; LXX: sirens;
-Link to Watchers’ Wives: 1 Enoch 19:2/Dead Sea Scrolls;
-Sirens from the Sea/Liliths from the Deserts: but same kind of idea;
-Departed Human Spirits: Common Belief…
-But Lk 16:19-31, rich man/Lazarus, may limit us to the Liliths/Sirens;

Other OT Symbolisms Used for Demons:

Seraphim (Demonic Serpents – not angelic Seraphim!) -Gen. 3; Num. 21:6,8;
Deut. 8:15; Isa. 14:29; 30:6; cf. 1:6ff;
-Satan/satans, unbound Watcher-spirits, or Nephilim spirits;
Azazel: Chief Se‘irim (he-goat; fallen angel – Lev. 16:8ff; cf. 14:4ff and 49ff);
-fallen Watcher spirit – bound;
Se‘irim; ‘he-goats’ (Isa 13:21; 34:14); ‘calves’/‘cows’ (Lev. 17:7; 2 Chr. 11:15, 2
Ki 23:8); ‘hairy demons’; Nephilim spirits;
Ziyyim; Isa 13:21ff; cf. Isa 34:14 “‘desert-dweller’, ‘crier’, ‘yelper’”, “wild
beasts”; Nephilim spirits;
Ochim Isa 13:21ff; cf. Isa 34:14 “doleful creatures”; “‘to cry’, ‘to howl’”, ‘wild beasts’; Nephilim spirits;
Iyyim Isa 13:21ff; cf. Isa 34:14‘to howl’, ‘to screech’”, “‘island’”, ‘howlers’; ‘wild
beasts of the islands’; ‘wolves’, ‘jackals’, ‘bird of prey’; Nephilim spirits;
Tannim Isa 13:21ff; cf. Isa 34:14“‘wolves’/‘jackals’, ‘to howl’; Nephilim spirits;

Human-Like Symbolisms:
Deber Ps 91:5: adaptation of Namtar: Babylonian demon of pestilence;
-Satan/satans; unbound Watchers spirits; Nephilim spirits;
Keteb Ps 91:5: fully-personal demon; ‘destruction’; LXX: mid-day demon;
Rabbinic lit: operates mid-summer between 10.00/15:00; later Judaism: some
demons active esp. at midday; Midrash on Ps 91:5: poisonous, scaly, hairy,
cycloptic; also powerful in the twilight;
-Satan/satans; unbound Watcher spirits; Nephilim spirits;
Shêdîm Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37f; cf. 1 Cor. 8:4ff; 10:19ff; Rev. 9:20; Nephilim

General character of the demons: deceitful, wicked, worthless, and unclean;

General Activities of Satan and Demons:
-Extend Demon Kingdom over Humankind as Well: Satan as Ruler of this World
-Work All Kinds of Evil Against Us;
-Deceitful Masquerade: angel of light; human-like; many-forms;
-Diversion through Distraction/False Teaching:
-Occult Activity: Necromancy/Witchcraft/Magic/Spiritualism etc.
-cf. Lev 19:31, 1 Sam 28:3-9, 146; involves familiar spirit or ’ôb;
-False Teaching More Broadly: through False teachers:
-false asceticism, involving celibacy (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1);
-licentiousness – e.g. Antinomianism (cf. Rev. 2);
-that which leads to factions/jealousy (James 3:13);
-Temptation/Seduction/Enticement: Prompt Sinful Attitude/Practices: defile many;
-e.g. human wrath/anger/jealousy/envy/murder;
-e.g. fornication/adultery;
-e.g. manipulation/two-facedness;
-e.g. idolatry/error: -esp.: seduce people to sacrifice to demons as “gods”;
-e.g. serving money, not God;
-tests piety of Jesus and great saints: Job/Abraham;
-Blinds/Overcomes/Entraps/brings into Captivity and Servitude:
-rule minds/hearts/spirits of the wicked: e.g. Pharisees;
-but whole of this age increasingly wicked 2 Cor. 4:4;
-Special Case: Possession/Demonisation/Oppression;
-falling into water/fire; convulsions; foaming at mouth; raving; grinding
teeth; savage fierceness; abnormal strength;
-like epilepsy but: mediumistic abilities; different ego; transference;
-not particularly linked to moral evil;
-can be handed over to Satan for moral evil: remedial punishment;
-Exorcism: Jesus or authorized by Jesus/command only/power of
name, not laying on of hands;
-Special Case: Righteous handed Over to Satan: Job afflicted and tormented;
-Accusation of those Defiled or Possessed/Oppressed and also of the Saints:
-Satan as Opponent/Adversary: Over-harsh: Zech. 3:1 (Joshua), Job 1-2;
-Fleshly Legalism: Galatians: Demons Demand Total Immediate Obedience to
Pre-Relational Distortion of Whole Law;
-Temptation/Accusation Downward Spiral into Bondage;
-Harms: Sowing of Weeds/Tares:
-Intense Physical Suffering: Paul’s thorn;
-Torment in Multiple Ways;
-Sickness (but some sickness is normal kind);
-Theft of Fruit of Labours;
-Hides Way to Healing: Takes Away Sown Word;
-Destroys, Plots Destruction;
-Evil Spirits May Meet Their Servants at Death to Torment them Further;

Further Specific Schemes of Satan and Demons

-OT: further incursion of Watchers and Nephilim to prevent Israel’s occupation of
the Promised Land: associated with Canaanites post-flood;
-Rephaim (cf. Rapha); Zuzim/Zamzummim; Emim, Horites, Anakim;
(Gen. 14; Deut. 2):
-Nephilim as Anakim, sons of Anak, offspring of Arba (a giant);
(Num. 13:32-33; Josh. 14:15);
-Og King of Bashan – last remnant of the giants;
(Num. 21:33; cf. Deut. 3:11; cf. Josh. 13:12);
-David and Goliath/similar battles where giants mentioned;
(1 Sam. 17:4-7; cf. 2 Sam. 17);
-last Gittite giant slain (2 Sam. 21:20);
-tall Sabeans (Isa. 45:14) – possible reference;
-NT: Christ’s Birth, Possession, Persecution, False Teaching, Final Things;
-Gospels: demonic incursion ahead of Jesus’ first advent;
-Rev. 12/Gospels on Herod: tries to prevent Jesus’ birth;
-Problem of Emperor-Worship and Persecution:
-Rev. 2: throne of Satan: Pergamum: Eastern centre for Caesar-worship
(cf. Rome: Western centre);
-Rev 13/16: two beasts behind Emperor worship;
-first beast: from sea (Satan/Roman Empire),
-second beast: from land (False Prophet: heathen priesthood set-apart for Emperor-worship);
-three frog-like demons proceed from mouth of False Prophet: three
spiritually-evil forces;
-Persian religion: frogs = demonic animals: source of plague/death; agents of Ahriman;
-Problem of early Jewish Persecution (Rom. 16:20):
-1 Pet. 5:8: devil: roaring lion who destroys;
-Rev 2: behind bitter hostility of Jews to early Church;
-John: true Jews believe in Jesus vs. “Synagogue of Satan”;
-Problem of false teaching: Gnostic Antinomianism (Rev 2):
-entice believers re. “deep things of Satan”; worshipped demons;
-tied completeness of human knowledge/experience to: both divine and
demoniacal “mysteries”;
-Final Things: Satan operates, but under God’s Apocalyptic Programme:
-Rev 9: four bound fallen angels and their demonic army:
-released from abyss by an angel – partly due to demon-worship;
-afflict non-believers, only for limited time, cannot kill them;
-Luke 17:26-27; cf. Matt. 24:37-39; as in the days of Noah, so it will be:
-demonic incursion/great-deception: cf. 2 Th. 2;
-link to modernity (more than to UFOs): Gen. 3:5;
-Antichrist: man of sin/lawless one (2 Th. 2:3-8);
-Satan behind Antichrist;
-Satan: prince of Dan: links Dan to Antichrist;
-Rev. 20: Satan bound for 1000 years:
-pre 100 B.C.: eternal earthly Kingdom envisaged;
-post 100 B.C.: eternal heavenly Kingdom envisaged;
-temporary earthly reign: 1000 years (perfect duration);
-then final judgment;
-then eternal heavenly reign;
-common Jewish view: premillennial;
-problem with amillennialism: reign of martyrs, not saints;
-Rev. 20: Satan released: final battle/final destruction of Satan et al:
-recruits Gog/Magog (disobedient world);
-defeated: thrown into hell: fiery abyss like Tartarus, but eternal;
-either eternal torment or burned up (annihilated);
-wicked who served them: three possibilities:
-eternal torment/annihilation/eventually saved;

Lordship of Christ over Satan and the Demons:

Satan’s lordship over demons/world: subject to Christ’s lordship:
Satan allowed certain freedoms by divine permission;
Even Final Events Occur Because a Good Angel Releases Satan from Abyss;

Why Does God Allow Demonic Activity?

-God’s judgment: punish disobedience, produce repentance, refine piety of the holy;
-God alone dominates the demons: demons force us to come to God;
-Overcome Satan by faith in Jesus, who destroys Satan’s influence;
-those who genuinely repent: liberated from Satan;
-God delivers from captivity those who flee to him and to righteousness;
-Satan flees from the good/righteous/single-hearted:
-who are protected by God;
-who rule over/tread under foot evil spirits;
-Jam 4:7: flee to Jesus/obedience: devil/evil spirits flee from you;
Caveats: exceptions exist in Scripture: seasons of allowed oppression;
-righteous being tested (e.g. Job);
-unruly Christians being disciplined for a set season (e.g. Peter; the incestuous
believer; even proud Paul);
-during a set season of demonic oppression (whether it is for sin or a test of
the holy): no exorcist on earth can deliver you; God alone can deliver, and
even he will do it only at the set time;
-Finally: the death of Jesus on the cross nullifies him who has the power of death:
-in the end Jesus destroys the Satan, the Angel of Death, and then death itself
– for the last enemy to be destroyed is death;
-then Jesus will hand the Kingdom back to the Father;

D. Other Malignant Causes of the Paranormal: Occult-Accessed Pre-Fall Capacities

Remnant ‘pre-Fall’ human spiritual capacities locked in subconscious;
Destined to be like the Angels, but Thrown onto Physical Realm by the Fall;
Originally Spiritual Beings: our Normal now is not Normal, but greatly Weakened;
Evidence for Remnant Spiritual Capacities Locked into the Subconscious;
Occultism Uses Artificial Sleep-States to Access Subconscious Spiritual Capacities;
-Use of Drugs to Induce Altered States in Witchcraft
-Use of Root-Extracts to Induce Altered States in Tribalism;
-Shamans Dancing into Frenzy around a Fire;
-Use of Meditation to Induce Trance-States;
-Séances, Psychometrics, Tarot Cards, Crystal-Gazing, Deep Hypnosis;
Mind Dissociates from Sensory Realm of Full Awakeness:
-Can Operate through Spiritual rather than Bodily Capacities

Capacities that Can be Unlocked:

-Extra-sensory Perception: emphasis on knowledge;
i) remote knowledge (clairvoyance, ‘second sight’);
ii) remote communication (telepathy);
-Extra-sensory Influence: emphasis on power;
i) remote movement (telekinesis, levitation);
-knocking and tapping, table-tilting, levitation, etc.
ii) remote manifestation (materialisation, apparition, apport);
-emission and separation of veil-like, gauze-like slime;
-cf. ‘light phenomena’, ‘orbs’;
-formation of body-parts and outlines;
-solidification of complete shadowy forms or phantoms;
-output of energy of the materialisation
– e.g. playing a musical instrument;
-penetration of matter: ‘apports’ to/from a ‘spiritual’ dimension;
iii) remote manipulation (suggestion, influencing another’s will);
These Mediumistic Capacities can be Unlocked/Enhanced by Demons also;
Occult: supposed ‘secret knowledge’ concerning:
-latent human abilities and spiritual powers of other kinds;
-the means of conjuring and exercising these powers;
-‘spiritual’ entities (supposedly divine, angelic, human, or demonic) who can:
-help us achieve this or
-come under our will through exercise of such powers thereby giving us even greater powers
-idolatrous bid to become like God and ‘control’;
Danger: ‘occult’ self-deceptive in thinking that either latent subconscious powers or ‘spiritual’ entities can come under our ‘control’:
–practitioners are actually being deceived and controlled by their own chaotic subconscious or by spiritual entities for the latter’s own ends;

Why Pre-Fall Capacities are “Off-Limits” since the Fall:

-Tied to a Subconscious that has Become Chaotic;
-Mediumistic Capacities can become Chaotic:
-Some Poltergeist Phenomena: Human Origin/Don’t Respond to Exorcism;
-Accessing Subconscious leads to Psychological Problems:
-Cognitive Dissonance/Paralysis/Compulsive Behaviours/Splitting;
-So God has Partitioned-off the Subconscious to Allow us to Still Function;
-As a Partial Compensation: God has Given us Gifts of the Spirit:
-Don’t require trance-states; Safe to use;
-Trance-Based Worship: Can often Release Pre-Fall Capacities that are then Mistaken
for Gifts of the Spirit;
-Can be Dangerous: temporary mediumistic healings – psychological problems;
-True Spiritual gifts bring permanent results with no side-effects;
-In heaven, full human ‘extra-sensory’ capacities are restored;

Common Forms of Occult Elitism

Spiritualism: Mediumistic/Psychic Necromancy
-Leads to False Interpretation of Paranormal Phenomena;
Occult: promise of secret knowledge from the deceased;
Occult: promise of power: mediumistic abilities, “helping others”;
Esoterica: Code-Breaking to Gain Secret Knowledge of Hidden Realities;
-Leads to Obsessive Diversion/Conspiracy Theorising;
Occult: promise of secret knowledge about Jesus etc.;
Occult: promise of power: elite/special role/hierarchical advancement;

E. Good Paranormal Activity:

Divine Interventions: Either Direct or through Angelic/Human Servants
a) Large-Scale: creation, redemption, consummation, incarnation
b) Miracles
c) Biblical inspiration; Visions/Messages to Prophets/Apostles
d) Holy Spirit: Conviction, New Creation, Formation, Communion, Sanctification
e) Covenantal faithfulness/blessings;
f) Direct Divine Acts of Judgment;
g) Use of Spiritual Gifts;

Actions of Good Angels in Service to God:

a) Disputed Hierarchy: Pseudo-Dionysius is most common:
i) 1st hierarchy or choir: 2nd hierarchy or choir: 3rd hierarchy or choir:
Seraphim Dominions Principalities
Cherubim Virtues Archangels
Thrones Powers Angels
ii) NB. ‘archangel’/‘angel’ apply to anything up to top angelic rank;
iii) NB. broad agreement on the hierarchies, but not on the order within them;
iv) Langton: 10th order in Jewish thought: highest throne angels:
-had 12 wings, not 6; included Satan;
b) Visitation and Ministry:
i) normal tasks re. cosmos, world, nations, cities, households, individuals;
ii) miracles;
iii) blessings and help;
iv) revelatory messages: e.g. warning Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah;
c) Testimony about Unresolved Sin:
i) e.g. Genesis 4:10; angels oversee creation: not “the land” that “testifies”;
ii) sin → withdrawal of God’s presence/blessing → “land-forsakenness”;
iii) “angelic testimony” + “land-forsakenness” → “testimony of the land”;
iv) Spiritualists misinterpret this: residual energy/non-intelligent hauntings;
v) “Visual” aspects of “testimony of the land” to “injustice”:
-can’t be demonic: testimony is to unresolved evil;
-can’t be demonic: demons would not subvert their own refuge;
-must be angelically-orchestrated testimony with form of apparition;

Departed Human Servants of God:

-revelatory messages given via departed souls:
-e.g. Samuel; Moses on Mount of Transfiguration; C.S. Lewis’/J.B. Phillips?

F. Theology of Ghosts:

-Visions from God;
-Angelic Incarnations/Apparitions (can take many forms);
-Angelically-Generated Visions;
-Departed Human Apparitions (e.g. Samuel, Moses);
-Demonic Incarnations/Apparitions (can take many forms);
-Demonically-Induced or Mediumistic Eidetic Visions;
-Humanly-produced Phantoms or Tulpas;
-Angelically-Orchestrated Holographic Testimony to Injustice;
-Poltergeist Activity: Whether Demonic or Human or “Preternatural” in Origin;
-Apports and Asports;
-Abnormal States of Mind: Exhaustion, Illness, Drug-Induced, Plastic Imagination, Prevision through Inbreeding, Synaesthesia, Hypnotic States, Waking Dreams;
-Mediumistic-Induced Hallucination or Levitation: Indian Rope Trick;
-Sense of Presence due to EM-fields or Infrasound;
-Fraud/Trickery; Tricks of Light;
-Combinations of the Above;

G. Theology of UFOs:

-Mistaken Identity: Normal Aircraft/Natural Phenomena/Tricks of Light;
-Top Secret Aircraft;
-Demonic Apparitions/Incarnations: Shape-Shifting; Balls of Light; Orbs;
-Demonically-Induced Eidetic Visions;
-Humanly-Generated Phantoms/Tulpas;
-Fabrication, Fraud, Fiction, Folklore;
-Mediumistic Eidetic Vision;
-New-Age Ufological Religion;
-Disinformation and Mock-Ups;
-Very Unlikely to be Aliens: Modernist Surrogate Redeemer Fantasy;

H. Theology of Cryptozoological Phenomena:

-Actual Undiscovered Species/Species thought to be Extinct but not;
-Demonic Incarnations/Apparitions (e.g. Mothman, Owlman);
-Humanly-Generated Phantoms/Tulpas;
-Fabrication, Fraud, Fiction, Folklore;
-Mediumistic Eidetic Vision;
-Demonically-Induced Eidetic Visions;
-Mistaken Identity/Tricks of Light;

2 thoughts on “This Present Darkness: A Theology of the Demonic

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by

Up ↑