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DOCTRINES OF DEMONS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 4, 2010

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Timothy 4:1-2).


In his introduction to Dr. Merrill F. Unger’s book, Biblical Demonology (Kregel Publications, 1994 edition), Dr. Wilbur M. Smith spoke of the early Church Fathers, and what they wrote about demons. Dr. Smith said,

In the first four centuries of the Christian Church, those mighty theologians, many of whom saw deeply into the Word of God, write extensively on demon power (Unger, ibid., p. vii).

Dr. Smith quoted from Justin Martyr (103-165) who insisted that heathen mythology originated in demonic deception. Dr. Smith also quoted Lactantius (240-320) who said that demons were,

The inventors of astrology, and soothsayers, and divination… and the art of magic, and whatever evil practices besides these men exercise, either openly or in secret…These are they who taught man to make images and statues; who, in order that they might turn away the minds of man from the worship of the true God, caused the [images] of dead kings to be erected and consecrated, and assumed to themselves their names (Unger, ibid.).

Then Dr. Smith quoted Augustine (354-430) who “frequently insists upon the terrible power of demons both in the times that had preceded and in the days that were yet to come” (ibid., p. viii). Dr. Smith quoted from The City of God, in which Augustine asks the question,

What spirit can that be, which by hidden inspiration stirs men’s corruption, and goads them to adultery…unless it be the same that finds pleasure in such religious ceremonies, sets in the temples images of devils…that whispers in secret some righteous sayings to deceive the few who are good, and…to gain possession of the millions who are wicked? [Augustine went on to say that Christianity, the only true religion] has alone been able to manifest that the gods of the nations are most impure demons, who desire to be thought gods…envying human souls their conversion to the true God (Unger, ibid.).

Dr. Smith went on to say, in his introduction to Dr. Unger’s book, that demonology has been downplayed, and even forgotten, in modern times, “In the 19th century the whole subject was sneered at by many as a superstitious idea” (ibid.). Dr. Smith pointed out that only with the coming of two world wars in the 20th century, and the swift rise of atheism and the cults, did the subject of demonology begin to be discussed again (Unger, pp. viii-ix). Then he said,

In such an hour as this, philosophy will not help us to understand what is really taking place in the mind of unregenerated humanity; and neither can economics, sociology, or psychology tell us what is yet to come. We [must] turn in this hour of deepening darkness to the light emanating from God’s Word (Unger, ibid., p. x).

This takes us back to our text,

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Timothy 4:1-2).

The Holy Spirit “speaketh expressly,” that is clearly, revealing what could not be known by human reason. And what God’s Spirit reveals here is that there will be a departure or apostasy from the Christian faith “in the latter times.” Then we are given the reason for the apostasy “giving heed to seducing [deceiving] spirits, and doctrines [teachings] of devils [demons].” We are told, at the beginning of the text that this monstrous apostasy will occur in “the latter times.” This refers, in general, to the entire Christian dispensation, and yet other Scriptures, as well as this, point to a growing tendency toward apostasy and demonic teachings, which increases steadily as this age draws to a close, reaching its peak during the Great Tribulation, before the Second Coming of Christ.

It is my belief that this prophecy began to be fulfilled during the so-called “Enlightenment” of the 18th century, when men began to depend on their own reason rather than the Word of God. This led to a breakdown of theology and, with C. G. Finney (1792-1875) – whose views were shaped by the Enlightenment rather than the Reformation – came the rise of “decisionism,” which filled the churches with unconverted millions, thus producing, from the ranks of these unconverted, men who taught liberal views, denying the Holy Scriptures,

“ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

Also, shortly before the time of Finney, Johann Semler (1725-1791) of Germany, began to teach criticism of the Bible. German criticism of the Bible, coupled with “decisionism” produced great confusion in the churches. And during the time of Finney, and shortly thereafter, strange cults and false ideas rose – such as Campbellism, Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and many others. This was followed by a period during the late 20th century, when Eastern religious ideas flooded in, and “new age” mysticism became a permanent part of Western civilization. I believe that gives us the historical and eschatological scope of our text,

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Timothy 4:1-2).

Now I am going to focus, in the last half of this sermon, on the subject of demonism and doctrinal deception – or, if you please, doctrines of demons. Speaking of our text, Dr. Unger says, “The ‘seducing spirits’ are the deceiving ‘demons,’ who are ceaselessly diligent in perverting the truth and in leading…people astray from sound doctrine” (Unger, ibid., p. 166). Again, Dr. Unger said,

Although the precise form of error assumed by the “doctrines of demons” in this particular instance [I Timothy 4:3] is seemingly…limited to some local heresy that…threatened the...purity of the church at the time, yet it must not be supposed that demonic deception is confined to…asceticism, forbidding marriage, and frowning upon certain kinds of foods. The [various] forms and almost endless variety, which the “doctrines of demons” may assume, are illustrated by the [many] perversions of pure Christianity…and especially by the bewildering Babel of cults and sects that afflict modern Christendom (Unger, ibid., p. 168).

The Apostle John tells us that demonism is the power behind false doctrine. Please turn to I John 4:1-3, and read it aloud.

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:1-3).

We are told to test “the spirits” behind the false prophets. We are then given a test. If the teaching holds that Jesus Christ “is come in the flesh” the teaching is from God. Dr. Norman L. Geisler said the phrase “is come” (eleluthota in Greek) is in “The perfect tense, meaning, Jesus came in the flesh in the past and remains in the flesh” (Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D., The Battle for the Resurrection, Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1992 edition, p. 164). But if the teaching says that Jesus was a spirit, or is now a spirit (not the incarnate Christ) then the teaching comes from a demonic spirit. Dr. Unger said,

The never-failing test to differentiate the false from the true is the basic truth of the incarnation of Jesus the Christ…the wicked and seducing spirits of Satan conceal, pervert and deny this glorious truth, embracing, as it does, the finished redemptive work of Christ (Unger, ibid., p. 172).

Dr. Unger lists “humanism, Mormonism, atheism, agnosticism, Jehovah’s Witnesses” as having “various degrees of demonic deception” (Unger, ibid., p. 178). Unger also lists “Unitarian-modernism, and others [as displaying] their essential demonic character” (Unger, ibid., p. 178).

The modernism (liberalism) that has infiltrated the great Protestant and Baptist denominations comes from a demonic rejection of II Timothy 3:16. One of the “doctrines of demons” is to deny the inerrancy of the Bible, and to “supplement” the Bible with additional writings such as the Koran, books on Textual Criticism, the Book of Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness literature, etc. I believe that two demonic doctrines, above all others, have done enormous damage to our churches – they are (1) Higher Criticism of the Bible (see The Battle for the Bible by Dr. Harold Lindsell, Zondervan, 1976), and (2) Decisionism – which replaces real conversion with superficial human actions (see Today’s Apostasy by R. L. Hymers, Jr. and C. L. Cagan. Click here to read it online). Please turn to II Timothy 3:16 and read the verse aloud.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).

As a consequence of the great Protestant and Baptist denominations denying the verbal inspiration of the Bible, “The result is a weakened, worldly Church impotent to regenerate, powerless to attract, and unable to answer the distressed cry of sinful humanity for spiritual reality. A prey to seducing spirits, only a sweeping revival of the Spirit of God can keep the professing Church from lapsing more and more into that…state, in which our Lord threatened He would ‘spew’ Laodicean professors out of his mouth, Revelation 3:16” (Unger, ibid., p. 179).

So we have seen two ways that the Bible gives us to discern doctrines of demons (I Timothy 4:1). The first test we saw is in I John 4:1-3. Do they teach that Jesus Christ was and is the incarnate God who “is come in the flesh” (perfect tense)? The second test we saw is II Timothy 3:16. Do they follow the Scriptures without adding additional writings that either twist the Scriptures or correct them?

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).

Dr. Unger said,

In the midst of this appalling confusion of modern cults…the Bible, God’s living Word of truth, is the Christian’s only sure protection against doctrinal deception…Satan and his hosts can by-pass human opinions and men’s interpretations, but they cannot penetrate the impregnable defense of God’s Holy Word! (Unger, ibid., pp. 179-180).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

The only way of salvation is through the death of Christ, and it is by this truth we can test the doctrines of demons (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 447; note on I Timothy 4:1).

We repeatedly tell you to read the Bible and listen to the preaching of God’s Word. We repeatedly tell you to come to Jesus Christ the once crucified but now risen Saviour. Hear the Word of God. Come to Christ. He atoned for your sin on the Cross. He ever lives at the right hand of God the Father. Come to Christ and He will save you “from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). Jesus said,

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Timothy 4:2-5.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Know the Bible is True” (by B. B. McKinney, 1886-1952).