WE have studied spirit as a motive power and as it is seen in mankind. Now we wish
to consider briefly another manifestation. Spirit is used as the name of a class of beings
which possess some of the attributes of humanity, but lack others. Negatively, we cannot
do better than to begin with our Lord's dictum: a spirit has not flesh and bones (Luke
24:39). Not having flesh, and not being connected with the soil, these spirits must obtain
their energy and vitality from some other source.
This may be difficult for human beings to conceive, but a few considerations will show
the possibility of such a source of life and give us a measure of understanding how they
may manage to exist. Speaking broadly, most of the power present on the earth comes to us
from the sun. Mankind could not exist here without it. Our spirits, through the sun-soaked
soil, are dependent on it. The sun radiates this energy in all directions. It is present,
not only on other planets, but in the vast voids of interstellar space. Why should not
spirits be equipped to utilize it by more direct means than man? These are only
speculations, yet they receive some slight support from the doom of the messengers whose
bonds seem to be gloom (Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4), as though separation from a luminary
curtailed their power and confined their movements.
It was a part of the apostasy of the Sadducees that they denied the existence of these
spirit beings (Acts 23:8). When Paul wished to distract attention from himself and create
confusion among his opponents, he brought in his heavenly revelations. The Sadducees could
not receive such a testimony, while the Pharisees made it the occasion of fighting for
their belief in spirits (Acts 23:9).
The influence of spirit beings over mankind is far more marked than most men imagine.
It was through an evil spirit that sin entered this scene (Rev.12:9). Satan continues his
sinister operations in the sons of Stubbornness all down the wicked eons, until he is
bound during the millennium (Eph.2:2). The authority of darkness has a well nigh universal
kingdom now. Only the saints are rescued out of it. The rest of mankind are ruled by
forces of which they are not aware. Whatever the outward form of government, from
democracy to autocracy, there is always a power invisible, unknown, that moves mankind
against its own instincts.
A good illustration of this is the question of peace and war. The most of mankind want
peace. They do not even want to prepare for war. But there is a current carrying them on
to conflict which they are unable to resist. During the great world strife a president was
re-elected in the United States "because he kept the nation out of the war." He
could not have been elected again if he had not promised to keep clear of the European
struggle. After that, who would suppose it possible for the country to enter the conflict?
Yet it speedily took part and spent much of its material wealth, with the cooperation of
almost all of its citizens. There is no reasonable explanation for human history, unless
we acknowledge the influence of supervising spiritual forces.
This is brought before us very vividly in the Unveiling. At the time of the end earthly
government is symbolized by a seven- headed monster. At the same time Satan's power is
symbolized by a duplicate of this, a seven-headed dragon. When Adam sinned, he handed over
the control of earth's affairs to Satan, and evil spirits have been shaping the affairs of
their human dupes in order to bring about the world-wide apostasy which is fast
approaching. The present irruption of spiritism is a premonitory warning that the spirit
world is not satisfied merely to overrule. They want mediums in order to have a direct
hand in the worship of mankind. In the wild beast and the false prophet they will be able
to attain supreme control.
Then, if war is wanted, there will not be the need of going through futile political
forms. The spirits of demons will be sent to the kings of the earth and they will mobilize
the armies of the nations for the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev.16: 14).
The closer we view the springs of human action, the more we will be convinced that men are
mere puppets in hands that reach through darkness, directing their vaunted
Christ, because He is the Son of God, is supreme in the world of spirits also. He often
manifested His authority, and exemplified His ability to bring about the emancipation of
the race from their clutches, by casting out spirits which had taken possession of human
beings. The apostles rejoiced that the spirits were subject to them (Luke 10:20), though
they were not always successful. He cast out the spirits with a word (Matt.8:16). His
power over them arose from the fact that he had more than a human spirit. He had been
generated by God's spirit. Hence He knew them and was able to deal directly with them.
The human spirit may be dominated and displaced by another spirit. This takes place in
some measure when the will or opinion of one man is imposed on his fellows. Hypnotism
seems to be a voluntary surrender of the spirit of one person to that of another. I have
known of cases where the hypnotist only needed to think a command, which was
immediately executed by the subject. Alien, non-human spirits may obtain such complete
control over human bodies that they act in response to the intruder. The will is
suspended, and displaced by a stronger influence.
As an example of such obsession let us consider the case of the young man whom the
disciples could not cure (Luke 9:37-43). Unlike the proper human spirit, which causes men
to act normally and rationally, this spirit, when it attacked him, led him to cry out,
tearing and convulsing him, with frothing at his mouth, and left only after crushing him.
This seems to be characteristic of such spirits. They are not "disembodied"
human spirits, as some suppose, for they are never at home in a body, however much they
desire to use and abuse the body they obsess. It is not a return to their normal state,
but an unlawful entrance upon a territory which belongs only to the human spirit.
The usual descriptive term for such spirits is "unclean." We may suppose that
they have no such means of sensation as the human soul. Just as the human spirit combines
with the flesh to give sensation, or soul, so, it is likely, these alien spirits are able
to unite with a human body to produce a species of feeling. In other words, the whole
object of the unclean spirits is sensuality. They crave to sense things as we humans are
wont to do. They do not seem to be very successful in their endeavors if they feel at all
as a human soul would in their place, for their victims seldom have enjoyable sensations.
Rather, the unnatural union induces suffering and agony.
Men were amazed that our Lord enjoined the unclean spirits with authority and power,
and they came out (Mark 1:27; Luke 4: 36). The spirits prostrated to Him, when they beheld
Him (Mark 3: 11). He charged them to come out (Luke 8:29). He cured those who were annoyed
by them (Luke 6:18). He rebuked them (Mark 9:25; Luke 9:42). He was Sovereign of the
spirit world, and they obeyed Him, whether they were in a little girl (Mark 7:25), a grown
man (Mark 1:23), or the violent demoniac who dwelt in the tombs (Mark 5:2). His apostles
also healed many molested by these intruders (Acts 5:16; 8:7), for He had given them
authority so to do (Matt.10:1; Mark 6:7).
Our Lord had the holy spirit of God without measure, as was manifest from His mighty
acts, His life-giving words, and His holy conduct. Still, because He had authority over
the spirits, and men did not wish to acknowledge His divine power, the scribes go to the
fearful extreme of claiming that He also had an unclean spirit, more powerful than the
rest, so that He could make them obey Him (Mark 3:28-30). As His testimony to Israel was
based on the outward manifestations of the holy spirit, this absolutely nullified all that
He did. This is the so-called "unpardonable," or eonian sin, which cannot, from
the nature of it, be pardoned for the eons.
On other occasions the spirits are called "wicked." This is probably but
another aspect of the same beings, intent on harming others, rather than
self-gratification. It is usually associated with disease (Luke 7:21; Acts 19:12) and
infirmity (Luke 8:2). The best example of such a spirit's actions is brought before us in
connection with the seven sons of Sceva. Some of them exorcised a man with a wicked
spirit, only to be badly beaten for their pains (Acts 19:13-16).
DUMB AND DEAF MUTE SPIRITS
In some cases the spirit's power seems to lead to permanent disability of some of the
victim's organs. The little boy who had the dumb and deaf spirit could not be healed by
the disciples of our Lord (Mark 9:14-29). His infirmity, doubtless, was a picture of the
apostate nation and the fact that Israel was under the power of the adversary so that they
could not hear or speak God's word. This incident shows us that, even though the evil
spirits seem to have humanity at their mercy, they are themselves subject to the
overruling hand of God.
A PYTHON SPIRIT
The maid of Philippi was possessed by a "python" spirit. The name is the same
as that applied by the Hebrews to the cobra, one of the largest of the snakes. In later
times it was applied to the fabled serpent slain by Apollo, or to the spirit of the
Delphian oracles, or even to ventriloquisms predictions. This is probably the form
affected by the maid who followed Paul and was forced to acknowledge the superiority of
the spirit which inhabited him even before he used his power to cast out the python (Acts
One of the most important and practical of all the passages which deal with evil
spirits is the prediction that some shall be withdrawing from the faith, giving heed to
deceiving spirits and teachings of demons (1 Tim.4:1). In the early days wicked spirits
were cast out by the saints; now they are invited in. Great religious movements,
ostensibly under the guidance of the holy spirit of God, are ably organized and wrought up
into a frenzy of soulish manifestations under the leadership of deceiving spirits. With
many these pass for great spiritual awakenings, because there is sufficient spirituality,
along with what is probably accounted such, to deceive those of the saints who do not test
the spirits and their manifestations by the Scriptures.
Those who are familiar with the modern revival of spiritism (usually called
Spiritualism) find many of the same manifestations there as those which are supposed to be
the work of the holy spirit in believers who claim a special enduement. Long before the
spiritualistic rappings of the Fox sisters, there were occasional sensational movements
among God's people which, at first, were taken as extraordinary operations of God's
spirit, but later turned out to be controlled by deceiving spirits. Too much stress cannot
be laid on the character of these spirits. They do not appear to be evil. On the
contrary, they seem to be superlatively good. They pretend to be intensely evangelical,
and often clinch the deception by predicting the soon coming of the Lord. They are
Very solid and saintly men have been thoroughly taken in by them. A godly saint like
the elder Baxter found himself on one occasion inspired to make a most remarkable and
eloquent sermon, not only apparently scriptural, but filled with a strange and subtle
power which mightily moved his audience. At another time the "power" within him
was so uncontrollable that he had to gag himself with a handkerchief for fear his
bellowings would be heard by his family. At first it seemed the height of impiety to doubt
that this was indeed the mighty power of God. To think otherwise would border on the
unpardonable sin. It would be ascribing the works of God's spirit to the adversary. But no
one is safe who does not test the spirits, no matter how closely they seem to conform to
the holy spirit of God.
Let us always look for the deceiving spirits which abound today under the garb of the
holy spirit. We may expect power and spectacular manifestations. The main condition for
the reception of a false spirit is passivity. We would solemnly warn the saints to refuse
all waiting and yielding. God's spirit co-operates with our wills. It does not demand
blind, hypnotic control of the members of our bodies. It does not make them act without
our volition. The moment you find your body making movements without your conscious
consent it is time to repudiate the power which possesses you and to escape from its
clutches. Abnormal physical contortions of all kinds are not in accord with the present
operation of God's holy spirit. They are due to those deceiving spirits by which many must
be deceived, that the Scripture may be fulfilled.
The Welsh revival was, in its most popular phase, a notable outburst of deceiving
spirits. This is acknowledged by those chiefly used in it. It resulted in the compilation
of a text book on the work of deceiving spirits among the children of God, which goes into
the matter with much detail. It is called "War on the Saints," though it is
largely concerned with an analysis of the experience which accompanies possession by evil
spirits and the way of escape, rather than the wrestling with spiritual forces of
wickedness among the celestials, which should be the constant conflict of all saints who
have entered their allotment by faith. This aspect of the work of evil spirits will come
before us more fully in the later unfoldings of Ephesians (Eph.6:10-17).
For many years I have lived at the very center of the latest outburst of spirit
manifestations, and have had ample opportunities to learn their methods and to judge the
results. I have heard the experiences of those who were possessed and of others who were
able to escape. The movement as a whole, being supposedly under the immediate control of
the holy spirit, should have given us the most blessed example of unity and love since the
days of the apostles. Yet it has led to even more disputation and division than others.
Perhaps the greatest lack has been edification. Such immediate revelations should have
brought great light. Instead, it has sometimes led to a slighting of God's written word in
favor of spirit messages, which, with hardly an exception, are out of full harmony with
the inspired text.
I am very slow to base anything on human testimony, but in this matter it will be both
interesting and instructive to consider the experience of one who has "received the
baptism of the holy spirit and the gift of tongues." I am personally acquainted with
the writer and have no hesitancy in vouching for his words.
"I was told to seek for the baptism of the holy spirit, which I did without
success. At the end of three months, during which time I prayed much, I was told that I
had not received the baptism because I did not speak with tongues. So I continued to seek
for the gift of speaking in tongues. I attended prayer meetings held in private houses
where I heard many speaking in other tongues, which neither they nor others in the room
could understand. Some rolled on the floor in a trance. Others shook as if with the cold.
I went to such meetings several nights each week for several weeks. One night I was
sitting on a seat praying. A woman was on the floor in a trance. Suddenly she rose,
speaking in a gibberish I did not understand, and came over to me with hands outstretched.
Her face was so transformed that chills ran up and down my spine. She caught me by the
hands, and immediately the power that controlled her entered into me. I danced and jumped
around the floor, speaking in tongues, entirely beyond my own control. I could not speak a
word in English. Thus it was that I `received the baptism.'
"I continued going to these meetings and spoke in tongues every time, the
perspiration rolling in streams down my back. In reading my Bible I discovered that
something was wrong, as such prayer meetings were not in order. No one was edified. So I
told those present at the next meeting that we should not speak in tongues this time, but
in English, so that we could understand the prayers offered. I was the third one to pray.
The first two had spoken in English. But, instead of speaking in English, I began to speak
in tongues and jump up and down on the floor, absolutely under the control of the spirit.
I could not speak a word in English. Such is the power of demons.
"I also found that I was afraid at night, when I came out of these meetings into
the dark. I continued to read my Bible and found that God had not given me the spirit of
fear, but of power and of a sound mind (2 Tim.1:7).
"Further study of the word of God showed me that these things could not be of God,
for God's holy spirit does not act in such a manner. So God graciously delivered me from
such powerful evil influences by the power of His precious Word. Praise His name! Nothing
less than the power of God can deliver from such demon control."
There is a striking difference between the relation of the spirit world to us and to
the Circumcision. Because of our spiritual nearness to God we do not need the mediation of
good spirits to minister to us. They have no place in Paul's presentations. We are at war
with evil spirits, but we do not need the protection of good ones.
Hebrews was not written by Paul. It is not for the nations, but for the Circumcision.
Their salvation is in view when we read, "Are they not all ministering spirits
commissioned for service because of those who are about to be enjoying the allotment of
salvation?" (Heb.1:14). The deliverance of Israel during the time of the Unveiling is
largely in the hands of messengers. Seven spirits are before the throne (Rev.1:4; 3:1),
represented as torches of fire (Rev.4:5), or as the seven horns or seven eyes of the
Lambkin (Rev.5:6). At that time will the archangel Michael, who stands for the sons of
Israel, war on their behalf (Dan.12: 1).
During the Pentecostal era spirits were used as messengers of the Lord. Is it not
striking that, while Paul receives his directions directly from the Lord, a spirit
instructs Philip (Acts 8:29) and snatches him away in a miraculous manner after his
message to the Ethiopian eunuch? So, also, a spirit delivers Peter from his prison (Acts
10:19; 11:12), and his gentile guard was slain because of his escape. Paul at Philippi not
only is freed without the help of a spirit, but he goes forth boldly, having brought
salvation to his gentile keeper.
Spirits were intensely active during our Lord's first advent. Their present activity
among the spiritists, who are increasing greatly in number and influence, is one of the
signs of Christ's return. A far surer sign is the reception deceiving spirits have been
accorded among some sections of the saints. What passes for a revival is a manifestation
of the apostasy. The holy spirit is displaced by deceiving spirits. The only test, the
only power capable of dispossessing these intruders is the written word of God used in the
power of His holy spirit. No evil spirit will fully acknowledge that word or the lordship
of Christ. Let us therefore, cling to God's word written, and obey the Lord that it
Man may be spoken of as a spirit, just as we call him a "soul" or a
"body." This, however, is not literal, for man is not a spirit, and never can
be. It is not our destiny to become "angels," without material frames. Not only
will our spirits be made alive, and our souls roused, but our bodies will be raised at the
presence of Christ. They will be changed from soulish bodies to spiritual ones. Our
present soulish body is not made of soul, but is controlled by it. So our future, glorious
body will not be made of spirit, but will be dominated by it. We will remain human, and
will not become spirit beings.
While the saints of the celestial destiny are blessed preeminently in spirit, let us
remember that one of the chief figures of our felicity is that of the human body. It is
based on the fact that our Lord has a literal, material frame. In spirit we are joint
members of Christ's body. It is one of the glories of God's grace that the physical frame
which distinguishes and characterizes humanity and which has been debased into the dust of
death, should become the symbol of the highest spiritual organism in the universe.
God has separated the world of spirits from the world of mankind. Evil spirits seek to
break down the barriers, to reverse the process and make man a spirit, either now or in
the future. Let us avoid both of these errors by according to each the place which God has
given them. In Christ, Who is a Man, we are supreme, above the spirit hosts of which He is
the rightful Head.