I was born into a nominal Lutheran family in my native Finland. I had read Arthur Maxwell’s Biblestories1 several times at an early age and dedicated my life to Jesus. As a teenager I promised the Lord that I would serve Him as a Lutheran minister. However, computer science got the upper hand. Back then the personal computer industry was in its infancy, and I was intrigued.
Encountering a Demon
A few years later as a 21-year-old college student, I was far from home, studying to become a computer engineer. I was active in a local Lutheran young adult group. Some of us became close, and we formed our own small group to pray and study Scripture. Little did I know that one of my new friends was a former spiritist. Even though Amy2 believed in Jesus, she was still communicating with the spirits. Our other friend, Lucy, was a believer.
It’s the same reasoning one hears today. If you contact your dead loved ones, they will help you become successful and prosperous in life. Amy followed this thinking because she thought it sounded good, but it isn’t. It’s a powerful lure; a deception that ruins men and women. These dead spirits are actually demons masquerading as deceased people. The demons work to destroy unsuspecting men and women. This is why the Lord has forbidden all contact with the dead (Deut. 18:10-12). If only everyone knew this simple biblical truth—the dead know nothing, and we cannot communicate with them or they with us (Eccl. 9:5, 6, 10).
One summer evening in 1994 I was in Amy’s home with Lucy. We were praying and discussing life issues when suddenly a demon attacked Amy. She screamed when she and Lucy saw the demon trying to grasp hold of her. I couldn’t see anything, but I sensed someone else in the room. It was a fearful moment. I had never experienced anything such as this before. All I could think of was to quickly pray for help. As I prayed, Amy and Lucy described what they were seeing. They saw an angel enter the room, and the angel chased the demon away. The feeling of threat passed, and I felt peace.
Amy told me the next day that the angel stayed in the room that night, sitting at the end of her bed while she fell asleep. We also discovered someone had committed suicide near where we were at the same time the demon had attacked my friend.
My Personal Choice
As a member of the Lutheran Church, I had many unanswered theological questions. I asked the pastors, but didn’t receive satisfying answers. So the Lord answered them for me by providing access to a copy of The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White. I received all the answers I needed and was seriously considering joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
About that time I woke up one night sensing someone in my room, although no one could be seen. I believe it had to do with my desire to be baptized. For a moment it felt as though someone was trying to grab hold of me. All I could do was pray. Slowly the feeling of threat passed, and again I felt peace, as I had the first time. Sadly, also as before, I heard much later that someone had committed suicide around the same time I was experiencing this attack.
These two frightening experiences made the choice for me. I realized there is a real war between God and the devil. One does not dabble with the spirits without consequences. Communion with the so-called spirits of the dead ruins people. No one needs to convince me of the great controversy between good and evil. I have seen it firsthand. Soon after this encounter I was baptized and joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I was happy to see Amy do the same.
Fellow Believers and Prayer
I graduated with a degree in computer engineering, married, and eventually went to study theology first at Helderberg College in South Africa, then at Newbold College in England.
I was a pastoral intern traveling to a conference with a group of pastors on a ferry between Finland and Sweden. Several years had passed since my encounters with demons. Little did I know then that there would be another. I woke up in my cabin during the night with the feeling of demons close by. I even heard maniacal laughter, although I saw no one. This time I knew what it meant, so I spent a long time in prayer.
The next morning a pastor came and asked if I was all right. The Lord had woken him up during the night to pray for me. Then another pastor came and said that he had been on a boat and had had an urge to walk on the deck in the middle of the night. He found a man who was about to end his life by jumping overboard. The pastor was able to stop and help him. Yet another pastor said he had had a nightmare. He saw a roaring lion about to devour a person (1 Peter 5:8), and then the Lion of Judah stopped him (Rev. 5:5). It sounded so very familiar—the sense of evil presence and the threat of suicide nearby.
A Lesson for All
My experiences have taught me something important for my own pastoral ministry. We need to pray for God’s help (Matt. 17:21; Mark 9:29), and for each other as well. It is not in vain that Paul admonishes us to put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11). We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the cosmic powers and the spiritual forces of evil (verse 12). The great controversy is real and raging.
Seeking counsel from spirits is very much alive and well in the modern world, even in the secular West. This deception comes in numerous forms, such as New Age, spiritism, worship of ancestors, and more, but all of these are based on the same lie—that the soul survives death. The foundation was laid in Eden when Satan said, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). But it is a lie. It was a lie in Eden, and it is still a lie today.
We need to teach people the truth about the state of the dead. Alongside God’s direct intervention, it’s a crucial safeguard against deceptive spirits pretending to be those who have died. We are standing on the threshold of the heavenly Canaan. Let us proclaim the truth to the whole world.
1 Arthur S. Maxwell, The Bible Story (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., and Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1953), 10 volumes.