Carlos in Austin, Texas writes in: “Dear Pastor John, Calvinists are usually on the more intellectual spectrum of Christianity. Do Calvinists believe there is a role for demons and dark spiritual forces in modern times?”
I won’t speak for all Calvinists, though I am pretty sure that what I say will be representative of what Calvinists believe, even if we might put emphases in different places. I would say that the “intellectual bent” — and I think he is right — that leads many to become Calvinists is the bent to read the Bible with rigorous care and take all of it with blood earnest seriousness. That is what I take intellectual to mean.
It is not generally Calvinists who use their intellects to contradict hard things in the Bible. Calvinists are more often the ones who use their intellects to see what is inescapably real in the Bible and teach it no matter who likes it or not. Calvinism, in general, cuts against the grain. It teaches things that cut against the grain of human inclination. So it is not the Calvinists who throw away the biblical teachings because they are contrary to the spirit of the times.
So when Carlos asks, “Do Calvinists believe that there is a role for demons and dark spiritual forces in the modern world?” my answer is yes, because the Bible teaches that Satan and his demons are real and massively influential. He is supernatural and therefore he is stronger than any mere human power. He is a monster in terrible ways. He is the supernatural monster who orchestrates, for example, the kidnapping and enslaving and thousandfold drugging and selling and raping and killing of girls around the globe. He has masterminded that kind of wickedness and evil and many others.
In Revelation 12:9 he is called “the great dragon, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the world.” And the scope of the horror of that dragon-like being is hinted at with images. He is not just a garden snake. We just got back from Georgia where there were snakes and they are no big deal. It says this dragon’s tail sweeps down a third of the stars (Revelation 12:4). Now what is the point of that image? He crouches at Bethlehem to devour the Son of God. And, failing that, “the dragon became furious . . . and went off to make war . . . on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17). So this is the monster who sweeps down a third of the stars, wants to eat the Son of God, and, failing that, wants to eat us. And he is marauding through the world for those who bear the testimony of Jesus.
And the way he makes war is by delusion and murder. He is a liar and a murder. John 8:44 says, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” So he is a liar and he is a murderer. Peter says he is a lion who goes around trying to devour Christians (1 Peter 5:8).
And he is not local. He is not a tribal deity. He is global. I mean, his tail is sweeping down stars. It says in 1 John 5:19, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” That is just absolutely stunning. The whole world lies under or in the evil one. He was not bluffing when he said to Jesus, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me” (Luke 4:6). This is why Jesus says he is “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30). And Paul calls him “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is why this age is called “the present evil age” or “the dominion of darkness” (Galatians 1:4; Colossians 1:13). The devil is destined for the lake of fire along with the beast and the prophet and all those who follow them. It says in Revelation 20:10 that the devil “was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
But for now this devil is on a long chain and loose in the world. He is the god of this world and the whole world lies under him. And so we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against cosmic powers of this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12). He is wreaking havoc in families and churches. This is my answer to Carlos. He is wreaking havoc in families and churches and cultures and nations. He is behind the bloody carnage of abortion. And he is behind the destructive insanity of so-called same-sex marriage. And he is behind the intractable racial, ethnic hatreds in the world. He is behind the industrial and political structures of corruption that fatten the pockets of the rich and powerful with no concern for the poor and the weak. He is behind the horrors of Islamic terrorism and the blows that they wreak against innocent people almost every day.
I have just been blown away recently by some suicidal bomber in Afghanistan or Iraq or Saudi Arabia, because Satan is blowing up innocent people. He is behind the kidnapping and enslaving of young girls in the trafficking industry, and he is behind the multi-billion dollar porn industry that rips souls to shreds and ruins families. The carnage that Satan is causing is literally indescribable.
But he is a fool. He brought Jesus to the cross through Judas, and that was his suicide. That was his undoing, because at the cross he was disarmed (Colossians 2:15). He was disarmed in this sense: For all those who trust in Christ, he was stripped of his eternally — he only has one — his eternally lethal weapon, because the only thing that can condemn us in God’s courtroom at the end of the age, the only thing is not green apparitions on the ceiling of our bedroom in a demonic attack. That is not going to condemn anybody. We can laugh at that. But what will condemn us is unforgiven sin. That is the one thing Satan can use to destroy a person forever: the accusation that they have sin that is unforgiven. But in Christ there is no unforgiven sin. Those who are in Christ through faith in Jesus have their sins — all of them — forgiven. And so Satan’s accusations against Christians come to nothing.
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect (Romans 8:33)? Answer: Nobody will be able to, because in Christ he was disarmed (Colossians 2:15). He was stripped of his one eternally lethal weapon; namely, the accusation of unforgiven sin. So yes, Carlos, yes. Christians, including Calvinists, have the happiest and the most horrible news in the world. Outside of Christ there is darkness and bondage and death and, behind it all, a monster of supernatural power and you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of resisting him outside of Jesus. But Christ has conquered him and in Christ there is light and freedom and life and joy forever.