Demonic activity is something many first-world country Christians think of in relation to isolated tribes deep in the jungles of foreign nations. But demonic activity is not something that is “quarantined” to specific geographical locations. 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls Satan “the god of this world,” and John 12:31 calls him “the ruler of the world.” Satan and his demons have a measure of power over the whole earth to do as they will. Yet God is ultimately in control and any power Satan has he only has because God allows it (Job 1:9-12), this allowance means demonic activity is more common than popular culture implies.
Before getting into some examples of demonic activity, we must remember that not every bad thing that happens is a spiritual attack. Yes, we need to be mindful of the devil’s tricks (2 Peter 5:8), as that’s just wise. However, it is also critical that we don’t go looking for Satan behind every minor inconvenience. Don't give him the satisfaction of credit for everything unpleasant.
The occult is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “matters regarded as involving the action or influence of supernatural or supernormal powers or some secret knowledge of them.” Ouija boards, tarot cards, reading tea leaves, calling upon the dead, scrying, etc. are all occult practices which attempt to tap into unseen forces to acquire knowledge that cannot be obtained by natural means (such as telling the future).
Occult practices trend on and off throughout history. Modern practices of spiritualism even have some roots back to the conservative mid-1800s. In American culture, occult practices have picked up in popularity again, and it’s not uncommon to come across people practicing divination through tarot cards, playing with Ouija boards at parties, or ghost hunting.
While popular culture may consider such practices to be cheap thrills to pass the time, God strictly, and consistently, condemns Christians participating in these practices. Isaiah 8:19 says, “And when they say to you, 'Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,' should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” (Also see: Deuteronomy 18:9-12, Galatians 5:19-21, Acts 19:17-19.)
Ephesians 6:12 reminds us 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.” In other words: we DO wrestle with demonic activity on a regular basis. Some occult activities may seem harmless, but something like, say, calling up a dead relative at a séance is only inviting the deception of a demon posing as the ghost of the loved one.
But most demonic activity in more modern cultures doesn’t look like the cover of an exorcism movie in the grocery store bargain bin.
When most people think of demonic activity, they likely think of films like The Exorcist (1973) or other Hollywood-type examples of demonic possession. The sensationalism of such stories makes it easy to place demonic possession solely in the camp of distant fantasy.
But demonic possession is still possible even today, especially in underdeveloped areas of the world where cultic involvement is a regular practice (either knowingly or unknowingly). Just ask any missionary who’s worked with previously unreached, deeply cloistered tribes, and they’ll likely have stories witnessing demonic power fighting against the Gospel of Christ.
In Jesus’ time, demonic possession was fairly common (Mark 5:1-20; Matthew 8:28-34). However, Jesus had complete power over all demons, and they were fearful of Him. They knew Jesus could get rid of them with a snap of His fingers, and that their days of free reign were numbered (Revelation 20:7-10).
In 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 Paul warns us that Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” In this passage, Paul warns against false prophets—people who, at first glance, appear to be leaders filled with the Holy Spirit but, upon closer examination, are actually leading people away from God and the Truth of Scripture. 1 John 4:1-6 tells us to always “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” Peter also warns us to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (2 Peter 5:8).
C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters (1942) does an amazing job showing examples of how subtle demonic activity can look in a person's life. Written from the perspective of a “seasoned” demon mentoring his nephew, The Screwtape Letters offers a series of satirical letters highlighting different ways to trip up a person spiritually—without them even realizing it.
“Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” —Screwtape, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility.” —Screwtape, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44). He is the master of deception, and the moment we stop relying on God’s grace, mercy, and wisdom to guide all our actions, thoughts, and decisions, we become susceptible to Satan’s small perversions that lead to large-scale problems.
For example: Maybe we love serving the homeless at the soup kitchen because our hearts were crafted for service. If we don’t keep God front-and-center, that good thing can be twisted into a problem of pride and self-righteousness.
Satan and his demons can do a lot of things, but they can only do what God allows. God can and does turn bad things into good things (Romans 8:28). Just as in the case of Job (see the book of Job), Satan is only able to do what God has permitted him to do (Job 1:9-12). The devil and his demons must still answer to God, and they cannot go outside of God’s established boundaries for them. As Christians, we are children of the Living God. No matter how much power demons claim to have or how bad things get, our God is greater and in complete control.
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” —1 John 4:4
True freedom from the control of Satan and his demons comes from placing faith in Jesus. While salvation doesn’t free us entirely from Satan’s suggestions (we’re still in his world, after all!), we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our souls (Romans 8:9; John 14:17), and have the armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) needed to stand against demonic forces.
As Christians, we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:17-18), and as such, instead of being lost and tossed around in darkness and confusion, we have the guiding light of the Holy Spirit bringing us back to the safety of Christ. No matter how scary things may get or seem, Christians are sealed and kept by God (Ephesians 4:30).
Yes, there is evidence of demonic activity in the world today. We can see this through blatant occult practices such as divination, ghost hunting, witchcraft—all of which are condemned by God (Isaiah 8:19; Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Galatians 5:19-21; Acts 19:17-19)—and demonic possession. Satan disguises himself as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15), which allows more subtle demonic activities to masquerade as good things on the surface. We are cautioned by Peter to be on guard because Satan “prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (2 Peter 5:8). As Christians, we are sealed by God (Ephesians 4:30). No matter how dark things get, the time of demons is limited (Revelation 20:7-10), and even they know that God has ultimate power over them (Mark 5:1-20; Matthew 8:28-34).
September is an avid film nerd from growing up on weekend trips to Universal Studios Hollywood. She is passionate about the intersections of Christian spirituality, faith, and storytelling in popular culture. Outside of 412teens and digging up obscure horror flicks from the 2000s, she works as a freelance developmental editor and acquisitions consultant while comforting her clingy feline floof, Faust, from the anxiety of existence.
Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.