Demon Wars

Matthew 12:22-37

22 Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.

31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Introduction

Modern people, even many modern Christians scoff at the idea that demons are real and they exist. There are some Christians who believe “yeah, sure, demons existed during Bible times, but they are not around any more.” We believe that because we have modern psychology, we can explain away what ancient people understood as demon possession. “Oh those silly superstitious ancient people, that was not demon-possession, that was really schizophrenia. Thankfully we are now so enlightened and have moved past stigmatizing mental illness.” No, demons were and are real. We are not more advanced than the men who preceded us; if anything they in most ways were more advanced than we are. We just have iPhones and internet and jet planes, so we think we have mastered the universe. But because we deny the created order that God has made, we should not consider ourselves superior to ancient men. Because we deny that a spiritual war is taking place all around us, we are their inferiors to an enormous degree. The spiritual realm is real. The demonic is all around us. The Bible speaks to this a great deal. In the Old Testament, just a tiny bit was revealed. A few demons scattered throughout, along with ancient gods like Baal and Ashtoreth, and unnamed gods of world empires like Egypt and Babylon. Old Covenant peoples worshiped demons. You see that they have some semblance of power when the Egyptian priests and magicians can repeat some of Moses’ signs. You even see God, in heaven, seated enthroned among the heavenly host, and He sends a lying spirit to deceive Ahab to go to battle. We see a similar picture in Job 1. Satan is among all the others in the heavenly host go to present themselves to God.

The picture we have in the Old Testament is that these demons, these gods, are created beings. Angelic beings. Part of the heavenly host. Even their chief, Satan, is not more powerful than God. And God has given over the nations to be ruled by them. God gets Israel, Satan gets all the other nations of the world. Which is why Satan’s offer to Jesus, all the nations of the world and their glory if you just bow down and worship me, was an actual temptation to Jesus. Satan really did possess them. The Old Testament gives us this little glimpses into this. Daniel chapter 10 for example speaks of God’s angels doing battle with the demonic prince of Persia and prince of Greece. Those are the spiritual realities we are shown in the Old Covenant world, and it is within this context that Jesus comes. Satan and his rebellious angels are ruling the nations. And Jesus arrives to go to war. From His very birth we see Satan raging against Him, raising up Herod to slaughter babies and children in a vain attempt to stop the Messiah’s reign. He is tempted by Satan in the wilderness just after His baptism. And everywhere He goes in Galilee and Judea, He is doing battle with demons. What we were given as brief glimpses in the Old Testament is now brought right out into the open in the New. The heavenly warfare God’s people had waged for thousands of years in shadows now is being made explicit in Jesus’ day. Jesus appears and the demons have come out to fight. And that is the context of our passage today.

Exorcism (Verses 22-30)

A demon-possessed man was brought to Jesus, and the demon made the man both blind and unable to speak. So Jesus heals the man and drives the demon out. The crowd is amazed and concludes that the Son of David coming to deliver Israel is Jesus. The Pharisees react to the crowd’s reaction and do what their father, Satan, the accuser does: accuse. They accuse Jesus of having His power through Beelzebub, an ancient Canaanite deity, which is essentially another name for Satan. Jesus responds by pointing out the absurdity of their argument. Jesus is destroying Satan’s kingdom, why would Satan give Him power to do that? Further, if power to cast out demons comes from Satan, when the Pharisees perform an exorcism, exactly where does that power come from?

But then He says something interesting, if he casts them out by the Spirit of God, the kingdom of God has come upon you. Jesus kingdom has arrived. The dominion of Satan is being undone. Jesus is laying waste to it. He has come to bind the strongman and plunder his goods. And what are those goods? The nations that he offered Jesus back in the wilderness. Jesus has come not to be bought off by Satan, but to take what is his. He then explains very clearly what this war is like. There is no middle ground. You are either on Jesus’s side or you are on Satan’s. If you are not with Me, you are against Me.

The Unforgivable Sin Verses 31-37

Because it is all-or-nothing, because you are either loyal to Jesus or to Satan, Jesus explains what is going to happen. People are terrified of the next thing Jesus says. “What if I committed the unforgivable sin?” Many people misunderstand what Jesus is saying. Israel blasphemes the Son of Man, so much so that they actually murder Him. Jesus says that will be forgiven. But the ministry of the Spirit after Pentecost, if you do not repent at His preaching, but instead blaspheme Him, there will be no sacrifice for sins left. Jesus is speaking to Israel. They will cut off their own Messiah. He will forgive them for this, and He really did. Many Jews were saved at and after Pentecost. But many doubled down on their blasphemy. They persecuted God’s people in Jerusalem and Judea and throughout the whole Roman world. The two biggest problems the Apostles had to deal with was persecution from the Jews and Jewish converts apostatizing back to the Old Covenant. This is how Satan made war against the saints during that period. By trying to force a return to the elemental principles of the world. But this strategy of the Enemy was dealt a serious blow when the Old Covenant, and those who blasphemed both Son and Spirit, were finally destroyed by Jesus in AD 70. That is what this is about. Not that there is some unnamed sin that you can commit that makes you un-saveable. But rather Israel was given two chances to repent, two witnesses testified against them before judgment came. That is what the unforgivable sin is.

And Jesus goes on, showing that the fruit that trees bear is seen most clearing in the words we speak. The fruit we bear is what is in our heart. And what is in our heart is revealed by our words. Yes, people can speak hypocritically, but their words eventually do them in. That is where the fruit is evidenced. By your words you will be justified or you will be condemned. Whose side are you on? Jesus’s side or Satan’s side? Well, what kind of things do you say? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. What is in your heart? Are you words evil? Or are they good?

Conclusion

That is how we conduct this warfare today. Demons exist and operate in the world. If anything, current events should make this abundantly clear. And how do we do battle like Jesus? With our words. Our words throughout our days show what is in our hearts and what needs pruning. We all say things we ought not. And when we do, we ought to use words to do the works of repentance. When we say things to hurt, accuse, attack, cut down, and belittle we are showing what the content of our heart is.

And even further than this, later in the New Testament, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul wrote to them about this kind of warfare. We are doing battle with principalities and powers, with the dark armies in the heavenly places. And how we do this warfare is with our mouths, by offering the sacrifice of praise. When we gather before the face of God as His people, and we offer our praise and thanksgiving back to God, we are lobbing shells at the demons that rule. When we bring forth the treasure in our heart in worship, that is what we are doing. When we repent of our idle words, asking God to forgive us for all those wicked things that have a place in our heart God is pleased by this. It is a sweet-smelling aroma to Him. God wants you to bear good fruit in what you say. So go and give Him a bountiful harvest.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!