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The Kingdom of the Occult
By Walter Martin Jill Martin Rische Kurt Van Gorden
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 Jill Martin Rische
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Kingdom of the Occult
It is a sad and frightening fact that people are fascinated with the secret or "occult" things that God has condemned (Deut. 18:9–12). One cannot see a movie like Harry Potter or read The Exorcist, which presents Satan unvarnished and portrays the truth about demonic possession in terms everyone can understand, without being plunged into the core of the occult. Today there is a tremendous fascination with the mysterious and the unknown. The great scholar C. S. Lewis wrote, "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."
The modern age is strong proof of this unhealthy fascination. People are attracted to evil and captivated by it. They are vulnerable to temptation because of a growing revolt against science and technology that, for all their efforts, cannot meet man's spiritual hunger. People are asking, "If science and technology are supposed to produce all the good things, why haven't they accomplished it?" Instead, there is a continuous degradation of personality. People are not treated as human beings anymore but as computer data, numbers assigned from womb to tomb.
Today, a terrible spiritual vacuum exists in which people are forced to live because they turned from the living God and tried to fill the resulting emptiness with physical pleasure. Man crowds into this vacuum all the moral and ethical values attached to the material world. Again and again people protest, "There's got to be something more than this, because we're not satisfied." Satisfaction has not come through the dollar sign. Satisfaction has not come through the pill. Satisfaction has not come through economic aggrandizement or political conquests or military supremacy. Lost in a spiritual void, the human heart searches for some kind of reality apart from God and His Word, and discovers the occult reality from another dimension.
Today, the kingdom of the occult encompasses the globe like a spiderweb of immense proportions, its overall membership estimated in the hundreds of millions. It is the purpose of this book to investigate this dimension of darkness and to examine its influence in America and throughout the world. It is also our aim to familiarize readers with the refreshing truths of the Gospel of Christ that they may see the great heritage that is ours in the Christian faith and be challenged to live and to witness more effectively for the Savior.
Our approach to the subject is threefold: (1) historical analysis of key facts connected with the rise of the occult, (2) theological evaluation of the occult's major teachings, and (3) apologetic contrast from the viewpoint of biblical theology, with an emphasis upon exegesis and doctrine. A study of the occult is a serious business. Its teachings represent a growing spiritual force in the world today, a force intent on turning people away from established Christian churches and the historic teachings of the Bible.
The Dimension of Darkness
The Bible is a dimensional book in the sense that a dimension is a realm of reality, sometimes imperceptible, but nonetheless genuine. Human beings live in a dimension subject to the five senses, and they tend to make the mistake of believing that anything beyond the realm of those senses simply is not there. To accept such reasoning would be a fatal mistake from a biblical perspective.
Even as people live in the dimension of earth, so the Bible says there is another dimension of heaven, where God reigns as Sovereign. This second dimension of heaven, or the throne of God Himself, is more real than human senses can perceive; it is a dimension that was bridged when God chose to become man in the person of Jesus Christ. Because of Him, mankind now has access to a realm of infinite power, indescribable love, and cosmic justice.
The third dimension is one of spiritual darkness, controlled by Satan and his hosts. The Bible describes it as hell, or the alienation of the spiritual nature of man from fellowship with his Creator. It belongs to the "prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). This dimension is portrayed in Ephesians 6:10–12, where the warning is given that it is the domain of the forces of incalculable wickedness, presided over by the one whom the Bible designates as "the ruler of this world" and "the god of this age" (John 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4). This domain is described variously in the Bible as "outer darkness" (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), "fire" (Matt. 5:22; 13:42; 18:8, 9; 25:41; Mark 9:22–49), "suffering" (Jude 7), consciousness of separation from God, and fear of others suffering the same (Luke 16:19–31), "prison" (1 Peter 3:19), and, metaphorically, a vast lake of molten sulfur, from which there is no deliverance (Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8).
Perhaps this dimension is best described in terms of the condition of its occupants, who are portrayed as "wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 13). The apostle Peter indicated that some of the fallen angels were already chained in the darkness of hell, awaiting judgment: "God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment" (2 Peter 2:4). It is possible, then, that hell may be one dimension with many levels, some restrictive and some not, since Satan and an unknown number of his demons are still free to roam the earth.
Biblical theology teaches us that Jesus Christ came into the world to deliver men from this darkness, because originally hell was prepared not for man but for Satan and his followers. They go there by divine decree, while man is the only creation that chooses it freely. This is clearly derived from Jesus' words: "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels'" (Matt. 25:41). Whatever hell's dimension may be, one thing is absolutely certain: if it required the death of the most perfect Being who ever lived to deliver us from it, then it is to be avoided at all costs.
It is against this domain of darkness that the Christian is in mortal combat, and not against mere flesh and blood. This dimension is the unopened door with its handle on our side in the dimension of earth. It is with the tools of the occult that men open this door, and through it proceeds the power of awesome evil. There is no force on earth that can overpower Satan except Jesus, who is head of all principalities and powers, and the Church, which is His body (Col. 1:15–20; Eph. 6:12).
Satan—Yesterday and Today
Down through history, Satan's public awareness has ranged from fascinating to revolting, and as far back as scholars can reach into the study of religion they find some kind of concept or image of him (although his name often varies). The Chaldeans and Babylonians, for example, produced numerous caricatures and portrayals of Satan. Resh Lakish comments in the Babylonian Talmud that "Satan, the evil prompter, and the Angel of Death are all one." However, the clearest picture of Satan, alias the Devil, the adversary, Abaddon, Belial, or Beelzebub ("Baal-Zebub," from 2 Kings 1:2)—appears in the New Testament. It is important to understand the clear, biblical picture of the nature of Satan in order to grasp the power of the occult.
According to Ezekiel 28, Satan, called the "king of Tyre" was once a beautiful, created being; a marvelous messenger of light. Satan's original name, Lucifer, means light bearer, and he occupied a position of tremendous privilege and responsibility in the kingdom of heaven. Today, many popular teachers state that Satan was "the most beautiful" of God's creations, but this is a claim that cannot be proven, since beautiful is the only description given. The Bible reveals that Lucifer was hurled from his high position in heaven. He was, quite literally, driven out by Michael the archangel, who fought against him until the power of God prevailed (Rev. 12:7–9).
In the account by the prophet Isaiah, Lucifer revolted against the throne of God because he wanted to be like the Most High God, thereby falling from his place of glory through his pride (14:12–21). Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18), which, for Christians, removes all doubt of Satan's existence and fall. Though he lost the radiance and splendor that was reflected from the throne of the Lord, and with which he was anointed because of his exalted position, Lucifer (at this point renamed Satan) threw the whole force of his own being and of his partners in angelic rebellion into a great cosmic war intended to disrupt God's divine plan and win for himself either terms of armistice with the Creator or else, ultimate triumph.
Satan's strategy evidently depended on the fallacious premise that because he had not been annihilated by divine wrath, God was incapable of such an action and was therefore neither infinite nor omnipotent. There is no delusion like self-delusion, and Satan became self-deceived. Satan's decision to pursue his own prideful goals, rather than the will of the Creator, caused him to wield the vast power and authority at his command in spiritual warfare against the throne of the Eternal.
In the third chapter of Genesis, Satan tempts Eve to sin through the same avenue of pride that paved the way for his own downfall eons earlier. Although his handiwork was well-known in the universe at large (already disrupted by sin and its consequences), Satan had not yet succeeded in penetrating the garden of Eden and subjecting this part of God's creation to his sphere of influence and power. But with the fall of Eve and Adam, Satan accomplished this goal, too, though not without incurring the divine prophecy that the physical seed of the people he had led to spiritual rebellion and physical destruction would someday crush him and bring about his ultimate destruction (Gen. 3:15). As the last Adam, Jesus Christ accomplished this triumph through His death and resurrection.
Satan triumphed in Eden. Man was expelled from the garden and separated from fellowship with his Creator, a fact that no doubt added fuel to Satan's theory that the Creator was not almighty, since He could have prevented the fall of man even as He could have prevented the fall of angels. Ignoring the biblical truth that true love is based on freedom of choice (John 3:16) and that God had displayed this kind of love in creating angels and men with this capacity, Satan plunged on to disrupt the entire human race and to interfere with the will of his Creator.
Throughout Scripture, we find Satan repeatedly attempting to thwart the divine will. It was the power of Satan that energized the priests of the demon gods of Egypt, who opposed Moses as he sought to deliver Israel, and it was Satan who imitated the miracles of God to confuse Pharaoh, something he will also do through the great coming Antichrist (Ex. 7:11–12; 2 Thess. 2:9–12).
In the book of Job, Satan accused, attacked, and tempted the righteous Job. Satan told God that Job would curse Him to His face, and he argued for the end of the divine power that protected Job and his family. Satan hoped to strengthen his argument that God would lose out to him whenever man was faced with a free choice. But Job proved Satan wrong, for he maintained his spiritual integrity. Job's experience reveals much about the devil's methods and nature. For example, Satan inspired Herod to murder children in an attempt to destroy the infant Jesus (Matt. 2:16), and he influenced Judas to betray the Son of God (John 13:27). The Lord Jesus Christ, however, invaded Satan's kingdom and successfully bound him during his earthly ministry: He encountered him on the Mount of Temptation and exerted divine authority by defeating him on the Cross (Luke 4:1–13).
Christ gave His apostles power over demons and the capacity to resist the devil, though He did not hesitate to describe Satan as "the ruler of this world" (John 14:30). The apostle Paul called Satan "the god of this age" (2 Cor. 4:4), and he urged the Church to "put on the whole armor of God" (Eph. 6:11–18). Other apostles wrote that we must resist the devil (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9).
The True Satan
We must try our best to avoid thinking of Satan in terms of historic caricatures. He does not wear a red suit, nor does he possess a beard, horns, or leering smile as he is so frequently depicted at Halloween. The cloven hoof is a symbol of Satan, as are the goat's head and the inverted cross, but they are only imaginative figures assigned to him. Satan does not smell of sulfur, he does not possess a pointed tail, and he is in no way connected with the flames of hell. Based on what we can learn from the Bible, he has not yet been near any flames of that nature, and he has no desire to be.
Satan is not a he as we understand male or female; Satan is, according to the Bible, a personality independent of gender. Satan is a proud spirit, a personality created in another dimension by an all-powerful Being, the God of creation. He was created to serve the Lord, but he was given free will. He chose to exercise his will against the sovereignty of God, and he fell from his first position of glory when he uttered that terrible pronouncement, "I will be like the Most High" (Isa. 14:14). "I ... I ... I" is Satan's constant egotistical affirmation.
In Paradise Lost, the poet John Milton portrayed Satan as somewhat of a hero. Many media outlets, in discussing exorcism, have emphasized the power of Satan so that he makes Jesus Christ seem pallid by comparison. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Though Satan's power is enormous, and though he exercised that power in Eden to usher in sin and death, he was nevertheless encountered and defeated by the last Adam, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:14–15).
In John 14:30, Jesus said He had defeated Satan, but Satan was to remain powerful and capable of great authority for a time. The brilliant twentieth-century preacher Donald Grey Barnhouse once observed, "The ruler of this world has come and has found plenty in us." Satan's activity is well-known throughout the world. If we recall the Nazi concentration camps of Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen, Buchenwald, or The Gulag Archipelago of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, then we are aware that Satan's activity is not "corporate evil" but personal violence, deceit, and hatred.
When men deal with Satan, they are not dealing with an illusion or a projection of human evil; they are dealing with a real entity who was totally and absolutely routed by Jesus Christ. The finality of Satan's defeat will come when he is cast into a lake of fire and sulfur, a place that the Bible describes as eternity without God. There Satan and all who followed him, acknowledging him as their god by refusing to recognize the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ, will then find eternal judgment a terrifying reality.
In Acts 13, the apostles Paul and Barnabas had been sent forth by the Holy Spirit. Passing through the city of Paphos, they encountered a sorcerer (occultist), a false prophet who called himself Bar-Jesus or "Son of Jesus":
Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time." And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord. (vv. 6–12)
Excerpted from The Kingdom of the Occult by Walter Martin Jill Martin Rische Kurt Van Gorden Copyright © 2008 by Jill Martin Rische. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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