What does a “spiritual attack” mean? How about “oppression” or “deliverance”?

When speaking about the supernatural, terms like these would come up in conversation with meanings that I suspect would vary based on the company you keep.

That is why I reached out Senior Pastor Derek Hong (Good Gifts City Church) who has been dealing with issues of the spiritual nature since 1974!  

He graciously shared deep insights into the supernatural realm from his incredible life journey. With that, let’s get right into them.

Is there a supernatural realm? 

PASTOR HONG: The supernatural realm is real. It is another dimension of existence, that is as real as — if not more real — than the physical.

I believe it is even bigger than the physical realm because the supernatural realm — which comprises of God and spirits — is eternal.

On the other hand, the physical realm, the biological realm, is time and space confined. There will come a time when the physical realm will end. 

Put on 3d glasses for an interesting experience

When was the first time you encountered the supernatural realm?

PASTOR HONG: My first encounter of the supernatural realm was at the age of five.

My mother told me that my father and her had a huge fight at 4am. She hauled me out of bed and poured a bucket of cold water over me just to spite my father. As a result, I got pneumonia.

From a healthy kid, I became a very sickly one who went in and out of clinics and hospitals every few months. Then at the age of 12, they did a test before the BCG vaccine was given in school, and I was found to have tuberculosis (TB).

I was warded in hospital for six months from March to end of September, and nobody would come to visit me beyond my parents. Not teachers nor very close relatives.

Nobody except one group of people who called themselves Christians. These Christians came, at great risk to themselves (in those days TB was very infectious), and they told me about Jesus.

Desperate, I believed. My future was bleak since, like all other 12-year-olds, I had to face a dreaded four letter word — PSLE.

So I just called out to Jesus. I didn’t even know how to pray; I just chanted His name.

At the end of September, I went back to school and within two weeks sat for PSLE. A pass would have been a miracle — to get through by the skin of my teeth.

Yet I not only passed, but came out top of my school’s cohort!

There was no thunder or lightning, but the reality of the power of Jesus showed: to restore my life, to give me a future and to heal my body.

I was sent to a premier secondary school. Besides the miraculous exam results, my body also began to heal. From a very sickly, weak boy, I started to play all kinds of contact sports such as rugby and judo.

I even represented my school in the junior rugby team, and we were a top rugby school. I was catching up on lost time!

So that was my first encounter with the supernatural. There was no thunder or lightning, but the reality of the power of Jesus showed: to restore my life, to give me a future and to heal my body.

Why is it some experience spiritual things and others seem to go through their lives without doing so?

PASTOR HONG: From my own background, I was taught that these things were no longer necessary or real. In fact, my theological school professors used to say the people in the days of the Bible were very “primitive”. 

For instance, that people in biblical times didn’t understand psychiatry; that they called it demonisation. Because they didn’t have medical science as we know it today, they believed in the supernatural.

My professors would also say the biblical records could be “embellished”.

That was the kind of teaching that was very popular in my time. And it’s still prevalent today.

There’s also a lack of truth-seeking. I was desperate. To me, it was about life and death. Desperation. 

Nowadays, we are comfortable. We have alternatives that seem to work, and therefore why do we need more?

What’s the difference between ghosts, spirits and demons? 

PASTOR HONG: It’s nomenclature, but they all mean the same thing. Spirits. Spirit beings.

Ghosts refer to spirits. Some people would say that ghosts could be the spirits of dead relatives. But these could be familiar spirits, spirits that disguise themselves as deceased relatives or of famous people.

Spirits are disembodied beings that have personality, that can communicate and that can empower.

I know of mediums who become very powerful; they could slash themselves and not get cut, and come into the bodies of people as well as animals.

Spirits are disembodied beings that have power and personality.

The Bible is not totally clear on where such bad spirits came from. But there are certain theories.

One is that all spirits were originally created good by God. Then Satan rebelled. He craved for the worship that God had.

This is the root of spiritual warfare. It is Satan versus God.

As the master musician of heaven, Satan saw how God was being worshipped, and he craved for that. So he started to turn the angels of heaven against God.

Out of that rebellion, there was a war and a third of the angels of heaven were cast down together with Satan, and they became evil spirits.

And out of that chaos, there was a restoration of the cosmos.

“The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2, NKJV)

What does “spiritual oppression” mean? Is that a “spiritual attack”?

PASTOR HONG: Evil spirits have fought against God, so their whole inclination is rebellion.

Anyone who worships God, the true and living God, is someone they want to target. They want us to turn against God.

Satan also wants us to worship him. In fact, he even tried that with Jesus Himself at the third temptation.

So you can see Satan’s lust or craving to replace God. That intention has been made clear.

This is the root of spiritual warfare. It is Satan versus God.

Even Christians can come under oppression, which means coming under or being affected by demonic activity.

Manifestations or symptoms of that include fear, obsessive behaviour, confusion and identity issues. 

What is deliverance? Is it an exorcism? What does it look like?

PASTOR HONG: Exorcism is a secular, non-biblical term. It is the casting out of evil spirits, or removal of evil spirits from people’s lives and bodies.

It’s just nomenclature. The non-Christian writer or reader would not use the word “deliverance” because that’s not in their understanding.

So “exorcism” is a word more commonly used especially after the movie The Exorcist.

I once had an encounter with a medium. He lived in an HDB flat that was turned into a temple and shrine.

His story is very dramatic. He was involved in a violent gang fight where some people got killed. He ran off to Thailand to escape from the law and hid in another place of worship. 

He would wake up every morning to go into the forest and meditate. By the end of three months, he was able to tell, just from your footsteps, everything about you.

He came back to Singapore and started a fortune-telling business. When I was at his place, he showed me boxes and boxes of passport-sized photographs of young men and women who came to him, asking him to put charms over prospective partners to fall in love with them.

He made lots of money doing so, but somehow couldn’t keep it. The money was “easy come easy go”.

Secondly, he kept getting sick. His body was in a constant state of pain and confusion.

He told me that though he was very popular (people came from all over Singapore for his help), he was sick and tired of the life as he seemed to be always broke, and in constant emotional turmoil and physical pain.

He was so frustrated he would even say things against the spirits that empowered him, and they would torment him.

One time he was having a drink with a glass of water in his hand when he said something about a spirit. The spirit took control over him, causing him to crush the glass with his hand and shove shards of glass into his mouth.

He put out his tongue to show me the scars.

The medium also shared with me about how he “healed” others. He recounted treating a man with boils all over his body.

This man was sitting in front of the medium. And then the medium went into a trance. When the medium woke up from the trance, the guy was gone. About half an hour later, the guy came back carrying two bags full of eggs.

He sat down before the medium who went into a trance again. When the medium woke up again, the man was sitting in front of him, smiling. The medium didn’t know what had happened, so the man told him:

“The first time you went into a trance, you told me in another voice to go out and buy 50 eggs. So I went out and bought 50 eggs. I came back with 50 eggs, sat down and you went into a trance again. A voice said, put the eggs out on the floor. So I put the eggs on the floor.

Then you became like a snake and you started swallowing up the eggs, 50 of them, shell and all. And then you crawled up my body, and with your mouth sucked up all the pus from my boils. You see, I’m better now.”

When the medium heard that, he rushed into the bathroom and started vomiting. Shells came out of him, and the toxins of what he had swallowed soon caused ulcers all over his mouth.

After recounting that, the medium told me: “Pastor, I can’t continue like that. Can you help me?”

I said I couldn’t help him, but there was only one person who could — Jesus Christ.

I asked if the medium would accept Jesus Christ as His Saviour. He said yes, so I tried to lead him in the Sinner’s Prayer.

But he could not say the word, “Jesus”.

He started choking the moment he tried to say “Jesus”, and he then went into the form of a snake. When I commanded the snake to leave him, he threw himself out of the room. The snake went out.

Then he came back into room and kind of levitated! He went up into the air, and slammed down onto the ground in a lotus position. Then he started crying and vomiting.

There was also the medium’s chair in the house. The medium was pointing at the chair and repeating “the chair, the chair, the chair”.

So I asked his wife and children: “Have you got anything in your house that I can use to break the chair?” And they brought me an axe.

I went to the chair and hacked it. But the axe broke the moment I hit it. And the head of the axe flew around the house!

I wouldn’t believe it if anyone had told me this story. But I saw it with my own eyes. Absolutely no exaggeration. I was terrified, but I had to put up a strong front. 

Long story short, the medium started coming to church and gave up his practice. It wasn’t easy. He went through a lot of harassment during his conversion.

But eventually he came to the Lord and got baptised, and his whole family was saved.

What should I do if I feel dark forces disturbing me? 

PASTOR HONG: Check your own relationship with the Lord. Are you saved?

Have you renounced worship of other gods, and occultic involvement and practices, when you came to Christ or at your baptism?

Are you walking as a disciple? Are you in community, submitted and being accountable?

Is there stuff in your life that opens up avenues for oppression? For instance, are you watching a lot of bad movies or reading a lot of bad stuff? That opens doors.

The name of Jesus is powerful. We’ve found a lot of people who, when starting to come to the Lord or preparing for water baptism, have strange encounters.

They may feel strangulated while sleeping or a heavy weight upon their chest, and are unable to breathe.

We teach them to just shout out the name of Jesus. The moment they do it, the thing goes.

Any other comment or word on the supernatural?

PASTOR HONG: Humans are spiritual beings. In the heart of every person, there’s a longing for the spiritual or supernatural, an almost spontaneous yearning for the reality of the spirit realm.

This is evidenced by the fascination over Halloween and the huge popularity of Harry Potter, for example. The so-called New Age movement is another expression of this innate desire to experience the supernatural.

But within the Church, many have been taught, or I dare say, deceived away from this dimension of biblical worldview.

Christians, especially those ones with strong Western roots, have intellectualised everything. There is a general climate of unbelief and, in some places, even fierce opposition.

My desire is that the Church would not neglect the supernatural.

One of the mandates that the Lord put on me when I stepped down from Church of Our Saviour was to uphold the supernatural before the Body of Christ because there’s a lot of indifference. Even where there’s interest, it’s usually passive.

But we cannot be passive when it comes to the supernatural. We have to long for it. We have to yearn. Jesus says we have to ask, seek and knock on the door for it (Luke 11:10-13). Paul says to covet it (1 Corinthians 14:1). 

My major grief is that there’s indifference, ignorance and hazy ideas about this. We are more content with the merely cognitive stuff.

I believe it’s not either/or, but both/and. It need not be Experience versus the Word, or Spirit versus the Word. This divide is not necessary. We can and must have both.

In fact, to be truly logical: the Word seems to always come after the experience.

Moses gave us the Torah after leading the children out of Egypt with signs and wonders. Paul wrote one-third of the New Testament after his encounter on the road to Damascus. And his preaching was not just with wise and persuasive words, but also a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4).

So that’s my plea. We must pursue the supernatural actively and intentionally as part of being a full-fledged disciple of Jesus Christ. It ought to be central to every discipleship programme — and pastors must model it!

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

  1. Which part of Pastor Derek’s sharing impacted you the most? Why?
  2. Have you ever encountered the supernatural? What was it like?
  3. What does the Bible say about the spiritual realm?
  4. Take a look at your life. What are some “open doors” you can think of? Who is someone you can approach in your church?