Thus far in our study of the occult, we have learned that the Bible condemns occultism in every age. We have also stated that the occult, although it is blasphemous and wicked, is merely a collection of fraud and deceit. The devil cannot perform miracles today.
Today, we will highlight several miscellaneous topics within the occult.
In the early 1970s, a book and movie were released that had an influence upon people's thinking about demon possession. However, although The Exorcist fascinated many (and still does), it is nothing more than horror fiction. The devil and his demons rejoice at the increase of occult practices, but they have no supernatural power to possess people today. How can we know? Consider what the Bible says about this subject.
In the Old Testament, it is interesting to observe that there are no clear cut cases of demon possession prior to Jesus' ministry. The only thing in the Old Testament that even resembles a demon possession relates to King Saul. There are several passages in I Samuel that mention that an evil spirit from God troubled Saul (16:14; 18:10; 19:9). But, an analysis of these passages seems to suggest that this was not demon possession but severe depression. The fact that David, by his harp playing, was able to refresh Saul and remove the evil spirit from him is an indication that Saul was simply affected with dark moods bordering on insanity (cf. I Sam. 16:23). In Jesus' day, the casting out of a demon always required miraculous power, not just the playing of music.
When we leave the Old Testament with its silence regarding demon possession, we suddenly find numerous cases of demon possession in the four accounts of the gospel--and, of course, Jesus and His apostles healing those afflicted by such. We find a few cases of such in the book of Acts, but the remainder of the New Testament is silent about the subject. This seems to suggest the cessation of demon possession toward the close of the apostolic age.
Some today try to explain away the reality of demon possession in the first century. Such is not necessary and it reflects negatively upon the accuracy of the New Testament writers and the integrity of Jesus. Demon possession was real, and it caused all sorts of physical afflictions (epilepsy, blindness, deafness, etc.), but this is not to say that these afflictions were simply mistaken for demon possession.
A few New Testament passages make the reality of first century demon possession undeniable. Consider Matthew 8:31,32, for example - "So the demons begged Him, saying, 'If you cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.' And He said to them, 'Go.' So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water" (cf. Matt. 12:43-45; Acts 19:15,16).
From Matthew 8:29, we learn something intriguing pertaining to demons and their time on Earth. There the demons asked Christ if He had come to torment them before the time. This seems to indicate that there was a set time--known by both Jesus and the demons--when their activity on Earth would cease and their torment begin. In Luke 8:31 they begged Him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Evidently this was a place of punishment from which they could not return. If they could have left the abyss at will, there would have been no need for their terror.
There are many reasons why I believe that demon possession was restricted to the first century (and that perhaps demons were sentenced to the abyss at the end of this period):
A lot could be said about the cessation of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, but let me just share one point briefly and then move on. Besides the Biblical evidence of I Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4, the strongest evidence that men are not performing miracles today is very simple--men are just not performing miracles today! Now wait a minute, Stephen, that's no argument! Friends, I believe it is. The performance of modern-day miracles are nothing more than frauds and imitations of the real thing. Their healings are always invisible. They never restore a limb or raise the dead. They stick to those things that are easy to counterfeit. They never wither trees, stop storms, or feed multitudes. There are just as many hungry people in the world as there are sick people, yet they never attempt to feed them with a few loaves and fishes! Why not? The answer is simple: that miracle is too difficult to counterfeit!
Listen carefully, there are some crazy people in our world today. Some have gone insane, but there is no one alive today who is possessed by a demon. The influence of the devil today is real, but it is persuasive, not possessive.
Mentalism is just a general term that encompasses any type of occult practice that is directly related to the mind--e.g., making prophecies, giving psychic readings, etc. It's all bogus today, of course.
Take Jeane Dixon for example. She was a Catholic who claimed her gifts of revelation were from God. The most famous prediction she made was back near 1960. She prophesied the death of John F. Kennedy. Actually, the prediction was not very detailed. She simply predicted that the man elected president in 1960 would die in office. It is also a fact that she predicted that Richard Nixon would win that presidential race. When he was defeated, she explained that actually he had been elected but had "lost" through election fraud. It seems to me that she cannot have it both ways. If Nixon was elected in 1960, then her death prophecy applied to him. If it applied to Kennedy, then she must admit that she was wrong about her election prophecy. She made other prophecies--some of which came true, and many of which didn't. Here's the problem though: anyone who claims to speak for God should never be wrong if he or she is legitimate! The Bible prophets weren't right just half the time or even most of the time. They were always right! A genuine prophet or prophetess should be right 100% of the time (cf. Deut. 18:20-22)!
Amazingly, Dixon was attributed with saying that she only sees what will happen if things don't change. What?! That's like saying: "It will happen unless it doesn't." How absurd!
But Stephen, how do false prophets accurately predict certain things on occasion? Good question. Let me read you a few paragraphs from a former Baptist preacher. He left preaching to pursue entertainment magic. He eventually went off the deep end and claimed to be a genuine psychic. Anyway, while he was still just an entertainer, he wrote this in one of his books:
"At the end of my act, I usually give seven or eight quick, flash-like predictions of coming events. I verbally hurl them at the audience. To lighten the burden, because people actually believe the stuff, I throw in a few humorous predictions. This type of mentalism is tremendously gutty! In fact, it may give lesser men a guilt complex, because when you really hit a headline, it could throw you. I've hit several hundred in the course of three years (in all honesty, I must say I missed several thousand!) but people remember the headlines that you correctly predict! How do you find the headlines? Go to the library and look through complete volumes of Time and Life and other news magazines and make notes on recurring events. Airplane crashes are a good example. Steamship accidents are another, and when one ship crashes into another, the incident seems to be repeated several times. When you have catalogued a backlog of events, draw from these incidents by updating them. Also, before a show, examine a newspaper or listen to a commentator and glean events that could happen in the future, then tell people! Make them short and general and occasionally throw in a morbid one. The reaction to these headlines will be unbelievable. Some will even fear you and those who laugh will still wonder."
Dear friends, no one can predict the future except naturally or coincidentally. Psychic readings are nothing more than generalities wherein the alleged psychic studies the person for clues, and can easily extract them via verbal or nonverbal statements in response to certain questions. If psychics were for real, why didn't they help stop the destruction in America of September 11, 2001? If psychics were legitimate, you'd think they'd all play the lottery and win whenever they wanted to! Don't misunderstand--I'm merely making a logical point here, not endorsing gambling in any way. A true psychic should be able to go to a gambling casino and bankrupt it in no time! Why hasn't this ever happened? Because gambling is based on statistics and the casinos always win in the big picture. This wouldn't be the case if psychics were legit.
Also, let me quickly say: All forms of alleged telepathy are bogus. Scientific studies that have been done have never resulted in any evidence of ESP or telepathy. Some misleading studies have been released wherein the scientific method has been abused or data has purposely been changed. This is sad but not surprising. Evolutionists have been caught doing the same thing to support their vain theories.
There is one more thing on mentalism that you should be aware of: Harry Houdini--one of the greatest magicians ever--didn't believe in the occult. In fact, he worked to expose it. He declared that hypnosis, extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis, mind reading, telepathy, and clairvoyance were all bogus. One magician, by the name of John Scarne went so far as to claim that he would give $100,000 to anyone who could prove psychic feats were legitimate. He strongly affirmed that he, with ordinary magic, could duplicate or surpass anything done by alleged psychics. The $100,000 reward was never paid out!
These boards have the printed letters of the alphabet on them, the numbers 0 through 9, as well as the words "yes" and "no". Two or more persons put their hands on a pointer (called a planchette) which then seems to glide by itself to different letters and numbers spelling out messages. The movement of the pointer is, of course, provided by the unconscious (or sometimes conscious) movement of the hands of the participants. I read about one group that was playing with a Ouija board and were quickly spelling out the word "Birmingham." One bystander suggested that they close their eyes and continue. Not surprisingly, not one letter was correct thereafter. Of course, if Ouija boards were for real, the eyes of the users shouldn't have to be opened, should they? Such is ridiculous.
Astrology is based on ancient superstition that the configurations of the sun, moon, and planets at the time of the birth of a child influence his or her personality. It teaches that by extrapolating the movements of these heavenly bodies into the future, guidance can be obtained. Astrology claims to diagnose diseases, foretell world events, and predict the weather. There are so many logical problems with astrology that it is hard to know where to begin.
Astrology is really nothing more than generalized advice (often nonsense) that people can interpret in almost any way they want to. For instance, listen to these horoscopes: "Be sure of your road now. Perhaps you should look over your program once more. A slight revision might be just 'what the doctor ordered'...Good influences! Plan your schedule early. Isolate priorities quickly and attack with new vigor. Spearhead your drive with confidence in success...You may have to revise some plans, change tactics. Don't go too far out on a limb, however. Stability needed...A day in which to tie up loose ends and make any required improvements. Don't complicate situations by acting hastily or being abrupt with others."
As we conclude this study on the occult, let me assure you friends that our hope of life after death does not depend on the frauds of the occult. Our hope is the result of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Children of God have no business flirting with the occult in any way. The guidance we need for today and tomorrow is the Bible--God's word. The power to overcome the evils of the world is found in the gospel and in the Lord. What more do we need?
Let me close by offering special thanks to Darrell Conley, author of The Gospel Versus Occultism , a book from which I heavily borrowed in the preparation of these three feature lessons on occultism. For those who desire to study this subject in greater depth, please purchase his book from www.ApologeticsPress.org--you won't be disappointed!
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.