Divine Condemnation of the Occult
Nothing is more terrifying than being in the clutches of occult activity. The demonic forces of darkness can seize a person with overwhelming intensity. The powers of Satan and his demonic hordes have led many to mental and spiritual oppression and eventually to suicide.
The growing interest in the occult is a phenomenon of our times. Some of the more benign but still dangerous forms are astrology and fortune-telling. These practices may seem innocent to the majority of people, but they are doors to a world that, once opened, are difficult to close.
Some occult practices can be attributed to quackery and illusion. However, it would be biblically irresponsible not to recognize that the world of the occult is ultimately controlled and empowered by Satan and his demonic legions.
Most practitioners of the occult see little cause for alarm in their pursuits. In reality, this thinking is very naive. The many forms of the occult can lead people into spiritual bondage.
The definition of occult in The Occult Reference Centre captures its basic meaning and some of the forms it takes. “‘Occult’ simply means ‘hidden,’ implying hidden forces or knowledge. When we speak of the occult, we are usually referring to an extremely wide and varied group of beliefs and practices of which the average person has little or no knowledge (hence ‘hidden’). These include astrology, psychism and spiritualism, esoteric Christianity, cabalism, freemasonry, channeling, witchcraft, and many others too numerous to list here.”
The Word of God is not silent about the occult. It speaks of its practice as an abomination to God. Individuals and nations have been judged by God because of their involvement in occultic activity. It is something in which Bible-believing Christians should not participate.
The Occult in the Old Testament
The practice of the occult was rampant among the pagan nations of biblical days. Israel was called by God to be a holy nation, a people who were to be different from the surrounding nations. God expressly prohibited the people of Israel from involvement in the occult. The penalty could be as severe as death.
Following are the three basic areas of occultic practices (definitions are from the Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions, and the Occult). These practices and their different branches were prohibited to the people of Israel.
Divination: “The attempt to foretell and/or explore the future.
The most common means of divination are Astrology, Tarot Cards, Crystal Balls, Numerology, Palmistry, and various Omens.”
Magic(k): “The ability to control or manipulate nature and the environment in order to serve a particular end or purpose … Using the k spelling is helpful among occultists to distinguish between magic as being ‘slight of hand’ used by magicians and magick as being the power endemic to the occult.” One of the darker sides of the occult, Satanism, “is classified as being magic chiefly because of its ritualistic procedures during a Black Mass.”
Mediums: “The occult term for one who acts as an intermediary between the spirit world and the physical world. Mediums make use of various objects such as Ouija boards, drawings, rapping noises, etc. to convey a message from the spirits to the living.” The New Age practice of channeling takes the form of a medium. The difference is that the spiritist medium usually communicates with a dead relative or with someone known to the person. The New Age channeler communicates with an unknown spirit being.
The Word of God is clear in its condemnation of these practices. “When thou art come into the land which the Lᴏʀᴅ thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who maketh his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or who useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter of mediums, Or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lᴏʀᴅ; and because of these abominations the Lᴏʀᴅ thy God doth drive them out from before thee” (Dt. 18:9–12).
The Occult in the New Testament
Nothing changes in the New Testament regarding God’s people’s being involved with the occult. The practice is to be shunned because it is still an abomination to the Lord. All believers in the Messiah are to abstain from any involvement with the occult.
Galatians 5:20 mentions witchcraft (sorcery) as one of the works of the flesh that will keep a person from the kingdom of God. Ephesians 6:12 states that the believers’ warfare is spiritual, “against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
There is power in the forces of darkness. In the New Testament, occultic powers were seen in Simon Magus (Acts 8:9–11), Elymas the magician (Acts 13:8), and the medium at Philippi (Acts 16:16–18).
We are warned that in the last days, a false Christian religion will influence many people. This false religion of miraculous power will subvert the faith of many people, using the same powers as the magicians of Egypt and Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim. 3:5–8).
Occultic activity, in whatever form, is an attack on God. It is a Satanic attempt to keep people away from worshiping God. Satan doesn’t want anyone to find the love of God and the forgiveness of sin that is provided through Jesus. Occultic activity is the same abomination in the New Testament that it was in the Old Testament.
Israel and the Occult
Israel often turned their back on the blessings of their relationship with Jehovah. More often than not, it was through the exaltation of man-made traditions. The Lord rebuked the Israelites in Jeremiah 2:13: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
Israel at times became like the surrounding nations by embracing occult activity. This practice brought God’s wrath and judgment upon them: “And they [Israel] left all the commandments of the Lᴏʀᴅ their God, and made them melted images, even two calves, and made an idol, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lᴏʀᴅ, to provoke him to anger. Therefore, the Lᴏʀᴅ was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah only” (2 Ki. 17:16–18). Amos tells of Israel’s occultic practices and God’s judgment of destruction and captivity: “But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun, your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lᴏʀᴅ, whose name is The God of hosts” (Amos 5:26–27).
Nations and the Occult
God judges the nations of the world for occult activity. Possibly the greatest example of this is Babylon. In splendor, power, wealth, and pleasures, Babylon was second to none. They were so mighty that they thought they were invincible. A number of sinful pursuits led to their destruction, one of the prime causes of which was their involvement in the occult. God’s pronouncement of judgment should cause every nation to have second thoughts about embracing occultic activity in their public life. “But these two things shall come to thee in a moment, in one day: the loss of children, and widowhood; they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments” (Isa. 47:9). God’s promised judgment was the destruction of the citizens of this great nation and the destruction of the nation itself.
God challenged these false gods of the occult to protect the nation and its people: “Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, in which thou hast labored from thy youth, if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee” (Isa. 47:12–13).
There is no hope in the powers of the occult. They are impotent before God. Destruction will come, and no one can prevent it.
Individuals and the Occult
Involvement in the occult can lead to spiritual bondage and open people to demonic possession. We see this with the account of the young woman at Philippi (Acts 16:16–18) and the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14–16). The ultimate end of those involved in the occult is separation from God in hell. In John’s revelation of the eternal kingdom, he mentions that sorcerers, among others, will not be in heaven.
A child of God cannot be demon possessed. Our bodies are the Lord’s (1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16). It is impossible for a child of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to be demon possessed. It is possible, however, for believers to be negatively influenced by demons. To guard against the attacks of the Devil and his powers, we are told in Ephesians 6:10–18 to “put on the whole armor of God.”
If a believer becomes involved in occult activities, God will exercise discipline on His child as He does for all sin (Heb. 12:5–11). If that child of God continues in this activity, God may take the final step of discipline and bring His child home to heaven through death (1 Jn. 5:16). This, however, seems to be a rare occurrence. Continued rebellion and sinfulness would have to be ongoing in a believer’s life before he or she became involved in the occult and this final step of discipline would be carried out.
King Saul of Israel is an example of a child of God who was slain by Him because of involvement with the occult. It appears that Saul was a child of God. Samuel shared the Word of God with him (1 Sam. 9:27), and we are told that Saul received “another heart [i.e., a circumcised heart, or was born again]” (1 Sam. 10:9). He obviously must have believed what Samuel shared about his God.
Saul ended up in a position of service that God did not intend for him. This initially humble man (1 Sam. 9:21) was placed in a position where he was lifted up with pride. He disobeyed God’s Word and ultimately lost his kingship and even his life through suicide. The account of that suicide is very revealing. First Samuel 31 makes it clear that Saul killed himself, but 1 Chronicles 10:13–14 sheds more insight on the event: “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lᴏʀᴅ, even against the word of the Lᴏʀᴅ, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of a medium, to inquire of her, And inquired not of the Lᴏʀᴅ; therefore, he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David, the son of Jesse.” The divine perspective is that God slew Saul—the method being his own suicide—because of his sin. Saul, a child of God, committed the “sin unto death” and was removed from the scene by God.
The Answer to the Occult
The only way of deliverance from occult activity is through the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to break the bondage of sin, including the sin of occult practices. Through His death, burial, and resurrection, we can have forgiveness of sin and a relationship with the living God. He alone can break the bondage of the demonic.
God stands unalterably opposed to the occult. He has condemned it in His Word and will eventually judge its practitioners. It is an abomination to the Lord. Why get involved with the forces of darkness and the possibility of being possessed by murderous, lying, evil spirits, when you can be filled with light by the loving, righteous Holy Spirit of God?