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What Is the Occult?

Understanding the Occult: A Biblical Perspective


The term "occult" encompasses a wide range of practices and beliefs that are rooted in seeking hidden or esoteric knowledge and power beyond the natural realm. From a biblical standpoint, the occult is associated with spiritual darkness, deception, and rebellion against Jehovah. Understanding the occult from a conservative Evangelical Christian perspective requires a thorough examination of its practices, their origins, and the clear biblical teachings that warn against them.



Defining the Occult


The word "occult" comes from the Latin word occultus, meaning "hidden" or "secret." The occult involves practices that seek to tap into supernatural powers or knowledge that is concealed from ordinary human understanding. These practices often include, but are not limited to:


  • Astrology and horoscopes

  • Divination and fortune-telling

  • Witchcraft and sorcery

  • Necromancy (communication with the dead)

  • Spiritism and séances

  • Use of magical spells and incantations

  • Tarot cards and crystal balls


Biblical Prohibitions Against Occult Practices


The Bible unequivocally condemns all forms of occult practices. Jehovah's commands to the Israelites and the teachings of the New Testament clearly outline the dangers and sinfulness associated with the occult.


Deuteronomy 18:10-12 states: "There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to Jehovah."


This passage lists various occult practices and explicitly labels them as abominations. The strong language used here underscores the severity with which God views these activities.



Historical Context and Occult Practices


Occult practices have existed throughout history and have been part of various cultures and religions. In the ancient Near East, where the Israelites lived, many surrounding nations engaged in occult practices as part of their religious rituals. The Canaanites, for example, were known for their idolatry and occult activities, which is why God warned the Israelites not to adopt their practices.


Leviticus 19:31 warns: "Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am Jehovah your God."


This command was given to ensure that the Israelites would remain spiritually pure and dedicated to Jehovah, avoiding the corrupting influences of neighboring pagan religions.


The Spiritual Danger of the Occult


Engaging in occult practices is not just a matter of disobedience to God's commandments; it is also spiritually dangerous. The Bible teaches that there are real spiritual forces at work in the world, and not all of them are benign. The occult often involves interaction with demonic forces, whether the practitioner is aware of it or not.


Ephesians 6:12 explains: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."


This verse highlights the reality of spiritual warfare and the existence of evil spiritual entities. Those who engage in occult practices open themselves up to these harmful influences.



The Deceptive Nature of the Occult


One of the key characteristics of the occult is deception. Satan, who is described as the "father of lies" in John 8:44, uses the occult to lead people away from the truth of God's Word. Occult practices often promise power, knowledge, and control, but they ultimately lead to bondage and spiritual destruction.


2 Corinthians 11:14-15 warns: "And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds."


This passage reveals that Satan can make evil practices appear attractive and harmless, which is why discernment and adherence to Scripture are crucial for believers.



Biblical Examples of Occult Practices and Their Consequences


The Bible contains several examples of individuals and nations who engaged in occult practices and faced severe consequences as a result.


King Saul and the Witch of Endor


One of the most notable examples is King Saul's consultation with the witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28. Desperate for guidance, Saul sought out a medium to summon the prophet Samuel's spirit, despite having previously outlawed such practices.


1 Samuel 28:7-8 records: "Then Saul said to his servants, 'Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.' And his servants said to him, 'Behold, there is a medium at Endor.' So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night."


This act of disobedience led to dire consequences for Saul, including the confirmation of his impending death and the loss of his kingdom.


The Sorcery of Simon Magus


In the New Testament, Acts 8:9-24 recounts the story of Simon Magus, a sorcerer who practiced magic in Samaria and amazed the people with his abilities. When Simon saw the apostles imparting the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, he offered them money to receive this power.


Acts 8:20-23 records Peter's rebuke: "But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.'"


Simon's desire to buy spiritual power revealed his corrupt heart, and Peter's rebuke highlighted the incompatibility of sorcery with the true faith.


The Apostles' Encounter with Elymas the Magician


Another example is found in Acts 13:6-11, where the apostle Paul encounters Elymas the magician, also known as Bar-Jesus. Elymas opposed Paul and Barnabas, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.


Acts 13:10-11 records Paul's response: "But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, 'You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.' Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand."


Paul's confrontation with Elymas demonstrates the power of God over occult practices and the authority of the apostolic message.



Modern Occult Practices and Their Impact


The occult is not confined to ancient times; it continues to manifest in various forms today. Modern occult practices include:


  • New Age Spirituality: Practices such as channeling, crystal healing, and meditation aimed at achieving higher consciousness.

  • Wicca and Modern Witchcraft: Involvement in spells, rituals, and nature worship.

  • Astrology: Belief in the influence of celestial bodies on human affairs and using horoscopes for guidance.

  • Spiritism: Attempting to communicate with spirits through mediums or séances.


These practices are often presented as harmless or beneficial, but they carry the same spiritual dangers and deceptions as their ancient counterparts.



The Christian Response to the Occult


Believers are called to reject all forms of occult practices and to rely solely on God for guidance, power, and protection. Scripture provides clear instructions on how Christians should respond to the occult.


Seek Wisdom from God


James 1:5 encourages believers to seek wisdom from God: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

God is the ultimate source of wisdom, and He provides guidance through His Word and the Holy Spirit.


Test All Spirits


1 John 4:1 warns: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world."

Discernment is essential in recognizing and rejecting false teachings and practices.


Depend on the Holy Spirit


John 14:16-17 assures believers of the Holy Spirit's presence: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."


The Holy Spirit guides, empowers, and protects believers, making reliance on occult practices unnecessary.


Proclaim the Truth


Ephesians 5:11 instructs: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them."


Christians are called to expose the darkness of the occult and proclaim the truth of the gospel.


Maintain Spiritual Vigilance


1 Peter 5:8 advises: "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."


Spiritual vigilance helps believers stay alert to the schemes of the enemy and avoid falling into deception.



Conclusion


Understanding the occult from a biblical perspective reveals its dangers and the clear biblical prohibitions against it. Believers are called to reject all forms of occult practices and to seek wisdom and guidance from God alone. By relying on Scripture and the Holy Spirit, Christians can stand firm against the deceptions of the occult and live in the light of God's truth.


About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).


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