The Sinister Occult
Various Passages
By Paul Robison

Let's begin with an interesting Old Testament passage. Isaiah 47:12-14 states: "Stand now with your enchantments and the multitude of your sorceries, in which you labored from your youth—perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you will prevail. You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from what shall come upon you.  Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame."  Now Isaiah was talking about a pagan people called the Babylonians.  From their youth, they had looked to their magicians, sorcerers, astrologers, and fortunetellers to guide them.  But God says all these evil people who claim special knowledge will not even be able to save themselves when His punishment comes upon them.
 
"Well, that's alright, preacher, but what does that to do with us?"  Listen carefully, because the God who said this to the Babylonians just might have to repeat what He said to the people of America.  A writer asserted in 1991: "In the last 30 years, America has experienced a major revival of the occult" (Ankerberg and Weldon, and the following quotes are from his book too).  A religious teacher observes: "... the contemporary interest in witchcraft is only part and parcel of a larger trend, namely, the vogue of the occult and esoteric...." (Ibid.).  Another author states: "It would probably be safe to say that there are now more witches in England and America than at any time since the Reformation" (Ibid.).  Another writer asserts: "No modern, post-industrial society has ever experienced anything like this occult explosion" (Ibid).  A British historian observes that "at no time in the history of civilization has occultism and its various forms been so widely practiced as today" (Ibid.).  An America author declares: "The scope and power of modern occultism staggers (Ibid.).  An American novelist believes: "The U. S. probably harbors the fastest growing and most highly-organized body of satanists in the world" (Ibid.).  At least 40% of Americans say they have had some contact with the dead (Ibid.), and a Gallup poll in 2005 showed that 75% of Americans hold some paranormal belief, which means they believe in things such as astrology, witches, mental telepathy, and channeling (Martin, Rische, Gordon).  An author wrote this in 2008: "Interest in witchcraft is increasing at an enormous rate in the U.S. and abroad.  Its growing influence can be seen though such television shows as Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer [you could add Sabrina and Medium as well], movies such as The Witches of Eastwick and The Craft [and you could probably add others], and books such as the Harry Potter series [as well as hundreds of others on how to exercise witchcraft]. ... People have experienced witchcraft, and they are testifying [about it]. Because of this, people are drawn to witchcraft in increasing numbers so that it has become very much in vogue.... As a result of this insidious media barrage, millions of people have accepted some aspect of the occult as valid. Spiritual defenses have been and continue to be undermined and weakened, until it is now common to find [religious] people reading horoscopes more [regularly] than their Bibles and replacing their prayer lives with yoga relaxation techniques. ... Palmistry, the crystal ball, and astrology have never been so popular" (Ibid.).  What recent movies brought in $3,311,000,000 worldwide? Answer: The Twilight Saga.  And what are those movies about?  Vampires, werewolves, sex, and violence ("The Twilight Saga" on wikipedia).  That figure does not include the DVDs and toys made from these movies.  Cassette tapes and CDs, card games, video games, and computer games introduce our children to the occult. You see, when a child takes on another role, like that of an avatar [a player in the game] who can have power which can destroy another, it is the first step toward subtly introducing the child to reject the religious training of home and church because the avatar's behavior is based on the game's evil values (Walton).  And a former U. S. Surgeon General warned: "There is nothing constructive in these games. ... Everything is eliminate, kill, destroy" (Koop in Walton).  Yes, "For the first time in history, the doorway to the occult has been left permanently ajar on a global scale, luring the unsuspecting—24 hours a day—to the dimensions of darkness. ... [People] crave certainty in an uncertain age, and occultism offers them this tantalizing lure: 'Come into the world of the occult and find what the Church cannot offer: secrets and mysteries to meet [your] needs of the day.'" (Martin).  Now are you getting a glimpse of why I said God may have to repeat His prophecy to us as Americans?  The sinister world of the occult bombards us daily, ready to take our money and to destroy our souls.  Let's look at four actions a Christian should display towards the occult.  After this sermon, I hope that you will understand the occult, will recognize the occult, will abhor the occult, and will overcome the occult!
 
First of all, understand the occult.  "The English word 'occult' comes from the Latin 'occultus,' meaning 'to cover up, hide, or conceal.' ... The occult involves the supernatural, mystical or magical. ... Occultism covers such diverse subjects as Satanism, astrology, ... divination, witchcraft, [demons], and certain forms of magic" (Ankerberg).  There are three distinct characteristics of the occult: 1) people try to get communication beyond that available through human means and the five senses; this is why they turn to palm-readers, horoscopes, and séances; 2) people try to connect with some type of informant beyond the human; this is why supernatural powers, paranormal energies, or demonic forces are appealed to; 3) people want to acquire and master power so that they can manipulate or influence other people towards certain actions; spells, incantations, charms, and voodoo can be involved in this (Enroth in Ankerberg).  You see, "... the occult involves various activities seeking the acquisition of 'hidden' things—particularly supernatural power and knowledge—which are forbidden by God in the Bible. ... Such activities ultimately bring one into contact with the spirit world, which the Bible identifies as the world of demons under the power of Satan" (Ankerberg). Satan is the ruler over the all that is evil and sinister.  He has a kingdom made up of demons that is opposed to Jesus' kingdom and His angels.  How did Satan tempt Eve?  Listen to Genesis 3:4: "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  Isn't Satan saying that Eve can become godlike and have greater knowledge?  And isn't that what the occult is offering to modern man as well?  "You can become a god and have great power."  This is the occult's bait, but don't overlook the trap, which is basically giving the demons and ultimately Satan your soul. Someone has rightly said: "... [occult] dabbling is a little like entering the cage of a man-eating tiger. You may or may not be eaten, depending in part on how hungry the tiger is.  The significant point is that once you enter the cage, the initiative passes to the tiger" (Ankerberg quoting Brooks Alexander).  Someone gave this contrast: "In Christianity, God is personal.  The material world is a real place created by God and distinct from Him.  Man is a creation of God, made in His image, having as his ultimate purpose in life a loving, personal, and eternal relationship with his Creator.  But in the world of the occult, all of this is rejected.  God is impersonal.  The material world is ultimately a secondary or an illusory manifestation of God.  Inwardly, man is part of God, currently existing in ignorance of his divinity, whose ultimate purpose is a merging of his true nature back into impersonal Reality" (Ankerberg).  What does God think of the occult?  Deuteronomy 18:10-12 declares: "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you." Leviticus 20:6 declares: "And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people."  Here are some New Testament examples.  Ephesus was the third largest city in the Roman Empire and hosted many magicians, sorcerers, and charlatans of all sorts" (Jacobs quoting Bruce).  Archeologists have uncovered many incantations and charms from Ephesus.  It was a very significant action when the Christians in Ephesus burned the equivalent of $4 million dollars worth of books dealing with the occult (Acts 19:18-20)!  Revelation 21:8 declares: "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." We need to be praying daily: "God, deliver us from evil and the evil one" (Matthew 6:13).
 
Now that you understand the occult, then next action is: recognize it! "[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Colossians 1:13).  The prince of the power of the air rules over the darkness and demons (Ephesians 2:2).  The occult can take many forms, and Satan must have a grand marketing department.  Some of the more obvious objects and events associated with the occult are: crystals balls, Tarot cards, Ouija boards, horoscopes, séances, palm-reading, astral travels, auras, automatics writings, and channeling.  Some of the more subtle introductions to the occult are these: 1) role-playing card games like "Magic: The Gathering" and "Pokemon" (short for "pocket monsters"; both stressing empowerment), 2) video and computer games such as Tunnels & Trolls, Chivalry & Sorcery, Rune Quest, Hellpits of Nighfang, Doom, Doom 2: Hell on Earth, Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil, World of Warcraft, and Dungeons & Dragons, which have children and teens summoning demons to defeat opponents and employing dark forces to win battles (which later can lead to Satan worship and other violent crimes; the youngest inmate on death row in Oklahoma admitted that Dungeons & Dragons got him going in the wrong direction); 3) dolls and other toys which are reproductions of movie, TV, and computer characters (and these figures are often associated with violence, dark powers, and demons).  "But aren't these things just harmless fun?" some ask.  Not always, because some designers of these games and toys admit openly that their products are designed to promote sorcery and evil powers (Jacobs).  The website at
www.dove.org can help you to see what movies are family friendly, and "Plugged In" at the Focus on the Family website can help you to evaluate all the games.  You see, aren't all these objects, events, cards, games, and toys the keys that open the door of the tiger's cage?  Why would we want to risk anyone's soul to these dangerous and risky things?  Doesn't Paul command us: "Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
 
When you recognize the occult, the next action is to abhor it!  Yes, that's a strong word.  Someone rightly observes: "Participation in the occult is strictly forbidden by God.  Trafficking (even trifling) with the occult ... is pagan idolatry.  It is anathema—an abomination—to the Lord God" (Walton).  Jesus, the wisest person who has ever existed, calls Satan a murderer and a liar (John 8:44), the ruler of the world (John 16:11), and the wicked one (Matthew 13:38).  As the god of this world, Satan's goal is to gain as many human souls as possible for his kingdom before his final defeat.  Why should we give Satan the advantage by playing with the keys to the door of the occult's cage?  "[I hope it is] clear that Christians must have no part of those who deny God, or would play God, or would be a god" (Walton)!  The apostle Paul commands us: "Abhor [or strongly hate] what is evil" (Romans 12:9)!
 
When you abhor the occult, your next action is to overcome it!  How can we overcome the occult?  First of all, we can burn any past bridges with it, just as we saw the Ephesians brethren did when they literally burned their books of magic.  Second, we remember that Christ's power is greater than that of the occult.  John declares in 1 John 4:4: "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."  The occult IS powerful, but Jesus is MORE powerful!  Remember how Jesus had control over the demons and always conquered Satan. Third, we CAN resist the devil and the occult.  If we could not do this, then how could James command us: "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (4:7)?  Fourth, let's determine that we will be loyal to the Lord above all others.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21: "Rather that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons, you cannot partake of the Lord's table and the table of demons."  You see, we like to have one foot in the cage and one foot outside the cage.  But Paul says that we can't have it both ways.  To have our foot in the cage is to give Satan the advantage. If this building was on fire, what would be the best thing for us to do?  Wouldn't it be to flee and get away from it?  Fleeing is not always cowardly or a sign of weakness.  When we flee from sin, wickedness, and evil, then we are doing a wise thing. "But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness" (1 Timothy 6:11).  We can overcome the occult if we will cut past ties with it, turn to Jesus for His strength, resist the occult's tempting call, remain totally committed to doing Jesus' will and not giving Satan any advantage, and fleeing from the occult's dangerous fires.  Someone encourages us with these good words: "We must not depart 'from the faith' or give heed to 'seducing spirits and doctrines of the devil' (1 Timothy 4:1).  Once a person's delight (interest) is in the occult rather than in love and [God's Word], a door is opened to Satan.  'Know you not that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are' (Romans 6:16).... We must not fall prey to their schemes and devices. 'Learn not the way of the heathen' (Jeremiah 10:2; Walton).'"
 
Acts 13:6ff reports: "Now when they had gone through the island of Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.  But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated), withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.  Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said: [Now before hearing his words, remember that they are given under the Holy Spirit's guidance and they are NOT politically correct] 'O full of deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight way of the Lord? [Don't those words that describe a representative of the occult fit exactly what the occult does as well?  The occult is deceitful, fraudulent, devilish, wicked, and full of perversion.] And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.'  And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord."  Three truths can be seen here: 1) God's attitude towards the occult is still the same today; 2) Jesus is more powerful than the powers of the occult; 3) You can save your eternal soul just as Sergius Paulus did.  Believe Jesus and make Him your Lord through baptism.  If you've given in to the occult and have been playing with fire, get back out of the cage by confessing this sin and by giving up your magic books. Be a conqueror in Christ today!
 
Sources:
John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Cult Watch, Eugene: OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1991.
Cindy Jacobs, Deliver Us From Evil, Ventura: CA: Regal Books, 2001.
Rus Walton, Biblical Solutions to Contemporary Problems, Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 1988.
Walter Martin, Jill M. Rische, Kurt V. Gordon, The Kingdom of the Occult, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.