This title sounds like the name of a fantasy movie, but in fact it comes from a spiritual understanding of current events in our United States. The source of this understanding is our Bible, where it speaks of sorcery or witch-craft—pharmakeia in the Greek—and a certain class of drugs that enable bypassing the barrier between the demonic world and the individual (or on larger scale, the collective) human consciousness. In our enthrallment with modern wonders, and some ignorance, we have completely overlooked an ancient craft capable of unleashing immense power and destruction.
The drugs mentioned are the psychedelics (mind expanders), euphemistically called entheogens (God manifesting within), such as LSD (a twentieth-century discovery), mescaline, marijuana and its derivative hashish, peyote, and others with like properties. It is necessary to ground this matter in an understanding of Biblical terms. Pharmakeia (φαρμακεία) and its cognates are found five times in the New Testament, and more in the Greek Old Testament. In Revelation it means “drugs that induce magic spells” (Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Revelation, p. 302); it belongs to “a magical tradition of herbs gathered and prepared for spells, and also for encouraging the presence of spirits at magical ceremonies” [emphasis added] (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 2, p. 558); and from The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates, we have: “Pharmakeia means the occult, sorcery, witchcraft, illicit pharmaceuticals, trance, magical incantation with drugs” (pp. 1437, 1438).
In extra-Biblical literature pharmakon—drugs—may refer to legitimate medicine, poison, or magic potion, but in Revelation its (and its cognates) only meaning pertains to magic potion, including the deception resulting from these.
The secular culture is increasingly approving both the recreational and medicinal uses of marijuana in various forms of greatly enhanced potency, but the Christian church must beware of allowing it for either of these uses, with some qualifications on the medicinal use (to be noted below).
Sorcery was a known thing in Biblical times, and in ancient Israel marked as a capital crime (Exodus 22:18, etc., from the root kāšaph, a verb meaning to practice magic, to practice sorcery), as it allowed demonic presence and influence into the close-knit holy community. In the New Testament it is forbidden, and on the Day of Judgment unrepentant users will be consigned to the lake of fire (Rev 21:8), forever barred from the City of God (Rev 22:15).
A while ago I saw Todd Friel putting the question to a panel of well-known, respected pastors (including John MacArthur, Mark Dever, Steven Lawson, and Albert Mohler), “Is smoking pot a sin? Yes or no.” They could give their reasons later. (See it here: y2u.be/4EGAv8p5qxA) And not one gave an answer based on the Biblical prohibition of sorcery. It was asserted that it impairs the mind and judgment, alters consciousness, diminishes clarity of thought, and therefore goes against the Biblical charge against intoxication, though it is well known that such impairment may not be the case—depending on the individual—and thus the reasons asserted by the panelists (mostly Mohler and MacArthur) would be laughed at and ignored by those who use. For it may make perception and thought more acute than they normally would be.
We are taught in God’s word that supernatural powers are real; for us who are Christians, it is by the supernatural power of God we are saved, and are sustained by His power through all the vicissitudes of our lives. He gave us our Scriptures through inspiring its writers by His Spirit, and by His might and wisdom providentially preserving it up through the centuries. He created the world—and sustains it—by His “supernatural” power (Heb. 1:1-3). The Christian faith is a supernatural phenomenon from beginning to end.
Nor are we ignorant of the wiles of our adversary the devil, and his supernatural powers directed against God’s children (Eph. 6:10-16), as well unbelievers whose minds he has blinded to the truth (2 Cor. 4:3, 4).
Why then is there silence in the church of Jesus Christ on this topic? The answer is fairly simple: the commentators, linguists, and seminary professors who teach the pastors—most all of them, before their conversions, lived godly, clean lives far from the world of drugs and the circles of those who use them, and have no actual understanding of what Biblical sorcery is, having no experience or first-hand knowledge of it. Even many recreational users of marijuana are ignorant of the depths they enter when they get high, not realizing that one aspect of Biblical sorcery is the simple intensifying of sensual pleasure, a heightened awareness of the lusts and joys of the flesh through psychic enhancement, while not appearing to have anything “occult” about it. Yet the apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:20 that sorcery—pharmakeia—(translated witchcraft in the King James and the NIV) is a work of the flesh on a par with murder and adultery. Paul says in verse 21, “that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”, that is, except they repent of them.
The world is familiar with this, as the online article, “Entheogenic Use of Cannabis” shows — en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entheogenic_use_of_cannabis — though Christians, many of them living separated from the world and its ways, are unaware of such depths of Satan.
Some believers may protest, “But in Genesis 1:29 God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree…’, so this is God’s gift to us, and perfectly righteous.” The answer to which would be, “Indeed He gave us all herbs and plants, but as the rest of the verse says, ‘to you it shall be for food’, even as in the next verse He gave the same for the animals of the earth to eat; not for later humans to smoke or ingest to change their consciousness and enter the spirit world. Even so, after the Fall we do not eat all the plants, for some, as poisonous Hemlock, are deadly to eat. We call such adding to the text eisegesis. But, as it is written, those who minister before the LORD ‘shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean’ (Ezek 44:23).”
Some may still rightly ask, “But how do we know that marijuana, or LSD for that matter, is the sorcery or pharmakeia the Bible speaks of?” It’s a good question—for God’s people should no longer remain ignorant of such things.
Besides the testimony of the commentators and Greek scholars who exegete the Scripture, showing that these drugs encourage the presence of spirits in trance states and induce magic spells—that is, awareness in the spirit realm, and of the powers therein—pagan spiritualists and shamans (occult practitioners) also know well what these drugs do. For example, among the Hindus in India, Nepal, Sikkim, and Tibet, the ability to send users of marijuana and hashish into the realm of spirits is well known. In Benares, the main Indian city of Shiva worship, cannabis is such an important part of the religion it is sold in government-run shops. Marijuana helps its users make contact with the spirit entities—demons—of its pagan religion. It also has a long history of use in ancient China, Japan, Iran, ancient Europe, and in Africa—mostly for shamanistic purposes—that is, for facilitating communion with spirits or the heightened spiritual states these spirits can produce.
The names of the drugs change from culture to culture, and over time, but their properties remain the same: enabling communion with spirits, and affording heightened states of consciousness through demonic influence, even if the spirits remain concealed. They are recognized by these properties, or characteristics. Those folks who use the drug marijuana recreationally—to enhance the senses of taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing—may deny any occult experience, yet they still have been transported into the realm of spiritual power and influence, and the spirits now have access into their minds and spirits (Eph. 6:12, 16), even though they usually keep their presence secret. They can project thoughts and images, or sounds, feelings, and words, into the perception of the users, who do not know their source, and may think they are merely their own. This is dangerous, and we see the general culture of today filled with demonic content of murderous violence, perversion, hatred of authority, and especially the authority of the Bible and the preaching of the Gospel. And the culture is mostly unaware that the barrier between the demonic world and the collective human consciousness has been done away with through the wide practice of once long-prohibited sorcery from the counter-culture sixties and on, now made commonplace. Here is not the place to expound on this, but there are eschatological aspects to sorcery (cf. Rev. 18:23, and elsewhere). We who follow Jesus Christ should not also go the dangerous ways of the world!
If one is completely unfamiliar with such things it should be sufficient that the LORD has raised up witnesses through the exposition of His word, and the accompanying testimony of those He has rescued from participation in these activities, concerning which pharmakeia drugs there are three classes of witnesses:
1) The testimony of Scripture: these drugs exist, are used in sorcerous activities, and are condemned by God on pain of spiritual death.
2) The testimony of exegetes, linguists, and commentators: who define what sorcery and witchcraft are by indicating the use of drugs to enter demonic realms, and the practicing of their crafts there by said users.
3) The testimony of those who have experienced these peculiar drugs, and they are of two classes: a) godly men and women who have been delivered from the use and effects of them; and b) ungodly men and women who continue in use of them and clearly tell of their properties, their affect within their beings, and their efficacy in facilitating entrance into the spirit world.
The quality of this legal testimony in the mouths of two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15; Matt 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1) ought to be sufficient for those skeptical to consider, and to heed.
But what of its medicinal use? This is important. For it is very appealing to many folks, of all ages, perhaps especially the more elderly, as we tend to fall apart as we get older! Although younger saints are more active, and may have injuries from sports or other strenuous activity. Plus we all have extended family, where others close to us may be casual users. Medicinal use is a more nuanced topic than the world realizes, not having spiritual discernment. But we who are Christ’s must have it especially given the times we live in. It is the much-praised medicinal use that opened the door of the culture’s reluctance to its recreational use. It is truly a proverbial Trojan Horse, and this one from Hell itself.
It is well known that certain psychedelic drugs—and I am focusing on marijuana at the moment because of its legal availability—have the property of enabling a person to experience a sense of detachment from the bodily source of pain, and thus a decrease in the sensation of its intensity. It is an effective analgesic, or pain killer. Still, the very action that detaches from the pain will open one to other aspects of the “high” such as consciousness in a dimension not usually entered in the normal state of mind, the dimension spirits inhabit. Even were I (speaking personally) in extreme pain I would not opt for marijuana relief, as the “cure” would be far worse for me as a Christian than the ailment: making myself vulnerable to demonic activity—infiltration, deception, depression, oppression, delusion, attack, etc.
Let me posit a possible situation in an area where grass is legal for medicinal use. What would one think of a pastor, say in New Jersey, New York or other states where medicinal grass is legal under prescription for pain (or those states where it is fully legal), who, having smoked before the service, ministers while high? Or where a number in the church are (legally) high in the service? Would you assert that, if they’ve done it in moderation (or for pain relief), this is fully in accord with the word of God? Does using a Biblically forbidden substance for pain relief exempt one from obedience to God’s word? Did God have a good reason for forbidding pharmakeia drugs? (Note: this is not forbidding standard analgesics, even medicinal opiates. Psychedelics—pharmakeia substances– are a class unto themselves.)
Or if the assistant pastor—who teaches the teens Bible study—has pain from a sports injury, and smokes (with a prescription) beforehand, is that okay? Though surely there will be teenagers—as well as adults—who, knowing their pastors are smoking marijuana (under medical license) for pain relief, will say, “Well, if they can do it for pain—and are okay mentally, and also accepted by the church—why can’t I do it as well for pleasure? We can see it’s not harmful if used reasonably.”
Besides the corruption of morals of others, minors included, let me say what the Scripture view of this would be. A pastor has smoked his grass (ostensibly for pain) and expanded his consciousness by opening himself to the spiritual realm—much as the Hindus do to contact their spirit entities—and he is now open to energies and influences or thoughts that come to him from he-knows-not-where. But they seem to be godly and in accord with the Bible, and he has a new depth of feeling for the subject he is speaking on, and sharp insight, and he powerfully feels what he believes to be the presence and love of God. Has this man increased his godliness and anointing through the drug? Scripture says he has taken a drug (pharmakon) . . . known to induce magic spells, and to encourage the presence of spirits at magical ceremonies. Well, one wouldn’t call a church service a “magical ceremony” someone might respond! Unfortunately, using a sorcerous drug of the pharmakeia-class would turn that church service into a magic ceremony, replete with demonic agency operating through the minister intoxicated by it.
Let me share concerning a New York State Supreme Court Justice, the late Gustin L. Reichbach. He made headlines, while a sitting judge, that is, still practicing in the Court, by writing an op-ed piece for The New York Times in which he acknowledged smoking marijuana to ease the side effects of his treatment for stage 3 pancreatic cancer. Without it he couldn’t eat or sleep. He wrote this in May of 2012, and died 60 days later. His plea for the legalization of its medicinal use was both courageous and heart-wrenching. To a non-Christian it might seem almost a no-brainer.
However, I am a Christian—and I am speaking to those of you who also are—and must spiritually consider, what is the cost of doing as the judge did? I do not believe Justice Reichbach was a disciple of Christ, but for a disciple what would the issue be? It would be opening the heart and mind to demonic activity. Let me put myself in his place: without some grass—inhaled or ingested—I cannot eat (my appetite has failed), and cannot sleep, both of which I need to sustain my life. But with it, I could do both. The pain of the cancer—if I tried to steer clear of the opioids which might make me groggy—could also be diminished by smoking the grass. Would it be worth it to me? To the world this dilemma would be false, delusional, and inhumane! To the spiritual man or woman it is vital and actual: would I allow my communion with Christ and communion with other disciples to be open to influence or infiltration by demonic beings? Just for the ability to eat something, or sleep, or to relieve pain? No, God giving me strength I would retain my integrity of being before Him and my friends. I would refuse to smoke or ingest the “medicinal” marijuana for the sake of keeping my spiritual health and integrity. Especially if I were in terrible pain with advanced, terminal cancer, I would not use marijuana for relief. I would rather have morphine or the like. Would anyone in their right mind, when on the very brink of death and entrance into eternity, open their hearts and minds to demonic influence? That would be sheer destructive madness!
The only exception of marijuana use for healing—in which its medical benefits are legitimate and actually good—pertain to medicinal marijuana with THC in lotions and creams that do not enter the blood-stream or get one high, or to the non-psychoactive (i.e., does not get one high) ingredient CBD, which is used for preventing seizures in children and other legitimate uses, such as pain relief. Any use of marijuana that gets one high is participating in sorcery.
As it stands, the laws of men say medical marijuana is allowed, just as same-sex marriage and abortion of babies are allowed. Paul addresses the difference between the natural man and the spiritual:
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:12-14).
And I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers … says the LORD of hosts (Malachi 3:5)