Who is discussed the most in your church area? Who does your church leaders talk about the most? Jesus or Satan/demons? Who gets the most airplay? How many articles have appeared in your church magazines and on it's web sites?
After having spent over 40 years in Armstrongism, I have to say that I have heard demons and Satan discussed far more than Jesus ever was. We always had to be on guard because they were lurking around every corner ready to devour us.
Demonic folktales have circulated around Armstrongite churches for generations. Almost everyone knows a story involving demons.
One that was in Dayton church in the early late 60's was about a church woman who was visiting her neighbor (a Catholic). While they were talking a horrible stench started filling the kitchen. All of a sudden this huge gorilla was sitting on the bar-stool over in the corner and it started talking to them. The Catholic woman had some 'holy water' on hand and threw it on the gorilla/demon and rebuked it. The true Church of God member also rebuked it. Confident knowing that only she had the power to rebuke demons. And lo and behold it disappeared. The stench remained, but evil was gone...... Of course the moral of the story was that the WCG woman was the one who actually rebuked it instead of the false Christian Catholic woman.
Another involved Ambassador students in Pasadena. Right before I cam to the holiest place on earth, there were some students who started having toothbrushes levitating in the bathrooms. These demons loved to play with tooth brushes and shaving cream. For some reason these demons like to hang out in the bathrooms.
The house on the corner of Del Mar and Orange Grove was considered haunted by many students. It particularly had a bad reputation in the late 80's when a couple of women from the dorm were assaulted and raped on campus. Bad things seemed to constantly be happening to those who lived there. Later residents who were evangelists and department heads, had family issues with mental health. One had a foster daughter that they locked in her room with padlocks on the outside of the door, another had a child who tried to stab his mother. Of course these were all attributed to the demonic forces prevalent in the house. Even Tkach Sr. did not escape the problems with his wife's mental issues. The fundie church members all attributed these issues with demonic influences.
But interestingly enough, the Israelite people never were that much into demons. Since we loved to imitate Judaism as much as possible you would have thought church 'scholars' would have done their research and found out that Satan and his demons were never major players in Judaism, especially in pre-exilic Israelite religion.
What’s interesting to me is the difference between pre-exilic Judaism and post-exilic Judaism. Many of the ideas that show up for the first time in 2nd Temple literature bear resemblance to aspects of Zoroastrian thought (eg. the resurrection of the dead, the apocalyptic destruction of evil, etc.). One has to be cautious about jumping to the conclusion that Judaism simply borrowed from Zoroastrianism. Our Zoroastrian sources are relatively late, so it’s not entirely clear what the religion looked like at the time of Persian rule. And of course one shouldn’t overlook the influence of Greek thought following years of Judean Hellenization. Nonetheless, there does appear to be a relationship of some sort between Zoroastrian thinking and some novel aspects of 2nd Temple Jewish thought.
Pre-exilic Israelite religion, like its near eastern neighbors, was monistic in the sense that it “viewed the universe as a unified system in which each member, divine and human, had its proper domain and function above, upon, or below the earth.” There was no band of demons, led by Satan, fighting against God and seeking to undermine his purposes. Rather, God had at his disposal both benevolent spirits and spirits of calamity. The significant point is that the malevolent spirits were not fighting against God; they were doing God’s bidding.
This viewpoint is quite foreign to us, because we’re far more familiar with the dualistic worldview that emerged post-exile in which Satan and his demons are thought to be rebellious angels battling against God. But recognizing that this was not the way pre-exilic Israel thought helps to explain a number of passages that tend to bother us moderns.
In other words, once dualistic notions of a cosmic conflict between good and evil emerged, some within Judaism began to read their holy texts in this light. Satan, competing deities and other dark powers were reassigned to the evil camp. The notion of a “fall from heaven” emerged to explain (I assume) how this competing camp arose. Verses such as Isaiah 14:12, “How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!”, which was originally a prophecy against the king of Babylonian, were co-opted in support of the new narrative. By the time we get to the New Testament – take the book of Revelation, for example – the dualism is fully developed and Satan is “that ancient serpent” whom God will finally destroy.
Fundamentalist/dispensationalist Christians say that demons are active all around us and are in everything. Other Christians say that Satan and his demons have been vanquished and have no power over us since the resurrection.
So what do think about it?