Spirit Beings

by A.E. Knoch

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 "self-determination."

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).


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.


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 16:16).


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 pre-eminently deceptive.

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 reveals.

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.

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