The Israelites were told in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (NKJV). This indicates to us that while God has revealed many things to mankind, there are some things that He has chosen not to disclose to human beings. God has not revealed much to us about demons, but a few things have been revealed:
1. There are beings “higher” in nature than humans that are called “angels” (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7, 9).
2. At some point some of these angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). These angels appear to be the same group of beings identified as the devil’s angels (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7, 9).
3. These may be referred to as “demons” (Luke 11:15), “evil spirits” (Acts 19:12-13), “unclean spirits” (Matthew 10:1), or Satan’s angels (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7, 9).
Little is said about demons in the Old Testament. Idolatry was called the worship of demons (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:37), yet, demon possession does not appear to have been very common. An exception to this being the “distressing spirit” that came upon Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-16, 23; 18:10; 19:9). In the New Testament there was apparently a surge in demonic activity. Both Jesus and His disciples frequently cast out evil spirits (Mark 1:39; 6:13). Jesus described the success of His disciples in this activity, declaring, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Luke 10:18-20). This may have been a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Zechariah 13:2 promised during the age of the Messiah that God would “cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land.” In some of the later New Testament books reference is made to sinful angels being “bound” awaiting final judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). This is probably the same thing Revelation described as Satan being “bound” during the time in which Christ reigns over His kingdom, which is the church (Revelation 20:2). All of this suggests to us that demonic activity (such as seen in the New Testament) does not happen today, because these demons have been caused to “depart from the land” being “bound” awaiting judgment.
On the question of ghosts, we are also looking at something about which God has revealed very little. What we are told is where the dead go. All of the dead go to a place of the dead called either Sheol in the Old Testament or Hades in the New Testament (see Luke 16:19-30; Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27). All of the go to Hades (Revelation 20:13) and sinful angels are bound in a part of Hades called “Tartarus” (2 Peter 2:4). In general the dead do not appear to be allowed to have any return or contact with the living (cf. Luke 16:27-29). Exceptions to this being when Samuel was allowed to speak to Saul (1 Samuel 28:15-19) and in the transfiguration of Moses and Elijah who were allowed to speak to Jesus (Luke 9:30-31). As such, it would not appear that modern claims to see or have experiences with ghosts have support in Scripture. With that said, once again, we must be content to let the “secret things” belong to God and trust in what God has revealed. If there were some situation in which demons or spirits of the dead were allowed contact with the living, the child of God (as in the days of the apostles) could be confident that God would grant them all that would be needed to overcome such things. The Christian need not fear (or speculate) about such things (cf. Colossians 2:18-19).
Kyle Pope, July 2011