There are those who believe that Satan can influence us whilst we are asleep and others who think exactly the opposite. What does the Bible have to say on this matter? Where can we find Scriptural references that give us the answers?
To give you just one example of how wrong conclusions are reached, one commentator quoted Ephesians 6:12 where it states: “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.” He said that Paul was making it very clear that this fight that we face daily in this world is not against flesh and blood (other human beings) but against demonic forces, such as fallen angels and demons. “It is in this spirit realm that every human being enters when they fall asleep that the battles truly begin” (our emphasis). It is difficult to see how such a conclusion could be reached.
Job 4:13 is often used to support the idea about demonic influence whilst asleep. This reads: “In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair on my body stood up It stood still, But I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; There was silence; Then I heard a voice saying: ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?’”
The Benson Commentary observes as follows: “These thoughts, it seems, arose from the visions of the night, which, probably, he had had before, and were the occasion of the fear mentioned in Job 4:14. Visions differed from dreams herein, that God imparted his mind to men in dreams when asleep, but in visions when they were awake.”
Barnes Notes on the Bible states: “From the visions of the night…..This was a common mode in which the will of God was made known in ancient times.”
Matthew Poole’s Commentary writes: “When deep sleep falleth on men; in the dead of the night, when men usually are in a deep sleep; though Eliphaz was not now asleep, as appears from the nature of a vision, and from the following words.”
Other commentaries agree with these observations that Eliphaz was not asleep and the vision was from God. However, they are wrong to conclude that this “vision” was from God. It was most certainly not godly, but demonic.
We state the following in our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World”:
“We read in Job 4:12–16 about Eliphaz’ encounter with a spirit: “Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it. In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men. Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. It stood still, But I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; There was silence; then I heard a voice…”
“Eliphaz saw some kind of a form before his eyes but he could not discern the appearance of the spirit. This indicates that it was a demon, as the Bible does not show that God’s angels appear to man in such a way. It was something like an apparition—a phantasm.”
At the same time, we need to emphasize that Eliphaz was not asleep. He was quite awake and had “disquieting thoughts”, but the encounter with the demon happened at night, when deep sleep falls on (other) men.
There are situations that are not specifically covered by the Bible and a classic case is that of smoking. If every facet of living was specifically covered in the Bible, it would be a much larger book than it is currently, and the Jews have their list of do’s and don’ts and it is still insufficient to cover all that they face in their lives in a world of increasing complexity. However, as a general practice, by reviewing God’s Word on smoking, we can see a number of Scriptures and principles that can be applied to this habit showing that it is not a Godly practice. The same approach can be applied to this particular question about Satan and whether he can influence human beings whilst they are asleep.
We can, and should, pray that God will help us in every facet of our lives and it is inconceivable that He would protect us whilst we are awake as we are able to make decisions and judgments with our full faculties but leave us to the devices of Satan and his demons whilst we are asleep and not able to fend off these invisible but highly dangerous adversaries. That would be an inconsistent stance to take and not compatible with the love that God has for His people.
God wants us to search the Scriptures (see John 5:39) as did the Bereans (see Acts 17:10-11). Let us look at some Scriptural evidence.
God gives us His armour to protect us as we read in Ephesians 6:10-18, as briefly mentioned above: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
“Wrestling” is an activity where the contestants are conscious and their minds awake and focused on the activity, and the same principle must apply when wrestling “against… principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” We simply couldn’t wrestle against these forces when asleep.
One area that we might want to meditate on is that Satan can influence us in our daily lives when we are conscious, and we know that this is true because Satan may tempt us to sin and we have to repent of any sins that we commit. It might be that when this is stored in our memory bank, any such contact may be on our mind and be reflected in any dreams that we may have afterwards. Our brain continues to function even when we are asleep, but this does not mean that demons “enter” our mind and brain while we are sleeping. On the other hand, we simply mustn’t get involved in the occult, séances or other demonic activities during the day as that would be counter-productive to our Christian lives and could also give opportunity for us to have dreams and nightmares at a later time. In these ways, demonic influence could be indirectly felt but surely God would not allow Satan and his demons “open season” to afflict us when we are in the unconscious state of sleep.
There are examples where God has “spoken” to different people in dreams; for example, Abraham, Abimelech, Pharaoh, Joseph, Solomon, Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, Pilate’s wife, Ananias, Paul, the apostle John – and others. These were all for positive purposes, as we would expect from the God of love. If Satan and his demons were to be allowed into our minds whilst we were asleep, it would always be negative and for evil reasons.
We can take a famous passage of Scripture and see relevance to the matter in hand. We read in Matthew 4:8 “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”’ Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” This is also recorded in Luke 4.
In these passages, we see that Jesus was not asleep, when Satan approached Him, but He was quite conscious and able to resist the devil.
As followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we can take the same action that He took. A key verse is found in James 4:7 which states: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We resist the devil whilst we are awake and are able to send him packing. Whilst asleep, we would not be in the same position and, therefore, how could God allow Satan free reign to influence us whilst we are not in a position to thwart his broadcasting?
Proverbs 3:21-24 is further vital information about wisdom and understanding where we read: “My son, let them not depart from your eyes— Keep sound wisdom and discretion; So they will be life to your soul And grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, And your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.” Our sleep could not possibly be sweet if our minds were being assailed by Satan’s evil broadcasting, and this is another proof that he cannot influence us whilst sleeping.
Psalm 3:4-5 conveys a similar thought: “I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah. I lay down and slept, I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.” Leviticus 26:6 even states: “I will give peace in the land and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid.” This would most certainly have to include demons while we are sleeping.
In 1 Timothy 2:4, the apostle Paul states this about God: “… who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Also, in Romans 11:26 we read; “And so all Israel will be saved…”, which is a phrase that should encourage us, knowing that God will do everything He can to facilitate this in spite of Satan’s best attempts to do otherwise, which begs the question why God would allow His Will to be put in danger by allowing evil influences to run riot in the minds of humans whilst they are not in a position to defend themselves? The answer is, of course, that God will not allow this.
It is not God’s Will that we should fail, and allowing Satan to play around with our minds for 7-8 hours a day as he pleases whilst we are asleep would inevitably thwart that desire. We know that the damage that can be done by Satan in a very short space of time can be immense, and God wants us to succeed and He is not going to put us through trying to win when the task is impossible.
Hypnosis is something else to consider. Let us quote very briefly from our Q&A on hypnosis entitled, “Should a Christian Use Hypnosis?”
“Romans 6:16 reads: ‘Do you not know that to whom you present (yield) yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?’ It is all about controlling our own minds and not letting anyone else into that territory. We are to yield wholly, fully and completely to God and His Will which is perfect. Hypnosis gives away that control to another person or another spiritual entity, such as a demon influencing the hypnotist to use his power.”
The full Q&A can be reviewed at http://www.globalchurchofgod.co.uk/should-a-christian-use-hypnosis
If we voluntarily submit our minds to the influence of a hypnotist, then it is possible that Satan or his demons might influence us while we are in that state. In fact, depending on the circumstances, this might be very likely. But hypnosis is not the same as normal sleep. That is why hypnosis is so dangerous.
In addition, once a person is totally possessed (as distinguished from just occasionally influenced), then the demon has gained complete control over such a person; regardless as to whether the person is asleep or awake.
There are those today who believe that God has spoken to them in a dream or a vision. Upon further investigation, this belief is erroneous in just about every case (only very rare exceptions might exist today), and there is no evidence that the prophecy in Joel 2:28 has yet begun. We read in this verse: “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.” This happened in part on the day of Pentecost just after Christ ascended to heaven. It was a preliminary fulfilment and there is more to come at the end of this age of man, but that time has not yet arrived.
Philippians 4:6-7 is a passage of Scripture which gives us the assurance that God will guard our hearts and minds: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
In conclusion, we can see that there is sufficient evidence from the Scriptures quoted and the general principles that we have briefly reviewed to see that a loving God would not allow our minds to be influenced at a time when we would not be in a position to fight back spiritually against a clever and cunning adversary.
This Q&A clearly shows that Satan cannot influence us whilst we are asleep, and regular prayer will keep us close to God and will help to reduce or eliminate any influence that Satan would like to exert whilst we are awake!
Lead Writers: Brian Gale (United Kingdom) and Norbert Link