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Demon Possession

Demon possessed” is a Biblical phrase. (Matthew 15:22 – NJKV) Depending on the translation being used, you will see terms like, “demon”, “unclean spirit”, “evil spirit”, “hosts of wickedness”, and “spirits of demons”.

Our study will look at who they are, how they work, what they do, and does it happen today?

Do demons exist?

  1. The Biblical evidence is clear. Demons do exist. The Devil, Satan, has angels who are his messengers, doing his bidding. (Matthew 25:41)

  2. In the Old Testament, Israel was surrounded by pagan nations, practicing “the whole gamut of demonological practices and beliefs and clashed with Israel’s monotheistic faith.” (Study the following: Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:36-37; 1 Corinthians 10:20)

  3. Jesus dealt with demons on many occasions. (Matthew 15:22)

  4. Jesus gave his apostles power to deal with them. (Matthew 10:1)

  5. People admitted their power over demons. (Luke 10:17)

  6. Some Jewish people were casting out demons. (Matthew 12:27)

  7. The New Testament clearly teaches their nature, activity, opposition to believers, their habitat, and their eternal doom.

Origin of Satan (and demons)

  1. Rabbinical theory. The Jewish rabbis believed that Satan and his angels (demons) were created on the 6th day of creation. Did God create Satan? Is God the source of all the evil in our world?

  2. Fallen angels married humans. This is a theory based on Genesis 6:1-2. However, angels are not sexual beings. They do not marry or have children. (Matthew 22:30)

  3. Fallen angel – deported from heaven. It does appear that some angels sinned and were cast out of heaven. However, these angels are not “loose” on the earth. They are held in “prison” (Hades) until the judgment. (Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4) Some have cited Revelation 12:7-9 for the origin of Satan.

    1. This “war” took place after Jesus came to earth and died on the cross.

    2. The “war” was over Satan being limited (bound, on a short leash) so he could no longer control men as he once did.

    3. He had already tried to prevent the birth of Jesus. Then he tried to kill him and keep him dead. It was after both of these attempts failed that he sought to re-gain some power.

  4. Lucifer was formerly an archangel. Lucifer is mentioned as a star that fell from heaven. Lucifer means “day star or bright star. In Isaiah, Lucifer is Babylon and its king. In Ezekiel, Lucifer is the kingdom of Tyre. (Isaiah 14:12-20; Ezekiel 28:11-26) Remember, nations and kings are often referred to in prophecy as stars, sun and moon.

  5. Eternal Dualism. Some things exist because of their opposite. God created light. He did not create darkness. Light/Dark; Day/Night; Mountain/Valley; Up/Down; Left/Right; Good/Evil. These are eternal duals. You cannot have (understand) one without the other. If there were no valleys the mountains would be flatlands.

Incorrect theories on demon possession

  1. Demon possession is not merely a superstitious explanation for certain diseases. In trying to remove miracles from the Bible, some have claimed that demon possession is just an ignorance of mental illness, epilepsy or other forms of seizures, blindness, deafness, or some other birth defects not understood.
    NOTE: The real problem is that they have mistaken the effect for the cause. The effect may have been mute, but the cause was a demon. (Luke 11:14)

  2. Demons are not the spirits of deceased men. Many cultures have taught that the spirit of the deceased remains around the house (haunted house); takes over another body to seek revenge on those who wronged them; or just floats around doing mischief to others.
    NOTE: When we die, our spirit returns to God and dwells in the realm of Hades.

  3. Demons are not disembodied spirits of a pre-Adamite race. This theory is based on the “gap theory” from Genesis 1:1-2. It is held by some that God created and destroyed several worlds before he created the present world.
    NOTE: There is no evidence of such worlds being created and destroyed.

  4. Demons are not the unnatural offspring of angels and humans. This theory has it foundation in a passage in Genesis 6:2 about the sons of God marrying the daughters of men. It is believed by some that the “sons of God” are the fallen angels who came to earth, married human women, and the offspring would be a demonic, mongrel race. Some have suggested this is the source of “giants” in the land.
    NOTE: Genesis 6:2 simply says that some of the children of Seth (faithful to God) married the children of Cain (rebellious to God). The result was that many children of God were led astray into a life of wickedness.

Biblical Interpretation

  1. Demons are fallen angels. The common view of the origin of Satan is that he was Lucifer (Bright Star). It is held that he led a rebellion against God and was cast out of heaven. When he was cast out, all the angels that followed him in the rebellion were also cast out to roam the earth. (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:4)

  2. Demons also include confined or imprisoned fallen angels. The angels that sinned were cast out of heaven, but imprisoned. (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6)

Are demons active today?

Now that we know demons exist, the natural question is: Are they interacting with our world? Are demons active today?

Unger says, “This is the plight of many liberal churchmen and untrained Christians. They leave the safe mooring of the Word of God and are caught in swirling currents of occult fortune telling, spiritism, magic, and false cults…. The tragic picture today includes the well meaning but ill-taught Christian who professes to believe and honor the Word of God. Such a Christian, through ignorance of what the Bible teaches, may naively become the victim of the fallacious reasoning that since God can heal and perform miracles, then every case of healing and everything that passes for a miracle is from God” (1, 17)

Satan knows biblical terminology. Many alleged miraculous cures or manifestations often are accompanied by doctrinal errors. We must remember that Satan can use doctrinal errors for his purpose.

What are Demons like?

  1. Demons are spiritual beings. A spirit does not have flesh and bones. (Luke 24:39) They are described in Ephesians 6:12 as “spiritual hosts of wickedness.” They are called “spirits of demons” in Revelation 16:14.

  2. Demons have personality. Just because they are sprit, immaterial, does not mean that they lack individuality and personality. They think, speak, act, and make decisions. On some occasions they speak or act through the host person they control. At other times they speak independent of the person they occupy.

  3. Demons are invisible. Our natural eye cannot see them. (John 3:8) You cannot see the wind, but you can see what is does. These spirits become “visible” by their actions.

  4. Demons have intelligence. The word “demon” is from the Greek, daimon, meaning – intelligent. They are able to speak, recognize Jesus and Paul. They are able to make choices.

  5. Demons have strength. Ropes and chains could not bind them. (Mark 5:4) They could send 2,000 pigs to run down a hill and into the sea. (Mark 5:3-4) Jesus discussed their strength. (Matthew 12:29)

  6. Demons are wicked. There does appear to be various degrees of wickedness. (Matthew 12:43-45) They all are wicked. There is no good demon. The most common term in the New Testament is that they are “unclean” or “evil.” (Matthew 10:1; Mark 1:27; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:36; Acts 8:7; Revelation 16:13)

What did Demons do to men?

  1. Oppose God. Satan’s main occupation is to oppose God. He is the adversary. (Matthew 13:39) He did this in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:4-5) He tempted Christ before His personal ministry began. (Matthew 4:1-11) Christ’s ministry resulted in an outburst of demonic activity and possession.

  2. Oppress the mind. Some have mistaken the result of demon possession as the cause. They have thought that a “lunatic” was just a mentally disturbed man. Many claim that demon possession was just mental illness. The Bible teaches that demons took control of the mind and made the person act as if they were insane. When the demon left, sanity returned.
    NOTE: This oppression can be seen in two forms or levels. We most often think of the total control, possession, of the mind. In many instances, the oppression takes a lesser form of influence rather than total control. Satan can just lead, suggest, and present ideas and thoughts to us. He can tempt us to do wrong. We cannot blame Satan for this, we decided for ourselves. “The devil made me do it,” is just an excuse for our immoral behavior.

  3. Oppress the body. When demons took possession of a person, it was most often observed by some physical ailment – deaf or mute (Matthew 9:32-33), blind (Matthew 12:22), lame (Luke 13:11), or seizures (Matthew 17:15).

  4. Alienate men from God. Evil spirits will lead some away from the faith. Sometimes the opposition is so strong that they will begin to teach doctrines of demons. (1 Timothy 4:1-2) We must learn to test the spirits of men. (1 John 4:1-3) Sometimes they will deny the deity of Christ.

  5. Demons hinder man’s general well being. Satan can, and has, used natural forces (storms, lightning, whirlwind), sickness and disease, and any other method he can. His primary purpose is to destroy our peace and harmony with God. If he can produce grief, anguish, misfortune, anxiety, worry, confusion, or suspicion in our lives, he will achieve his goal.

What is demon possession?

  1. Definition. “A condition in which one or more evil spirits or demons inhabit the body of a human being and take complete control of their victim at will.”

  2. Distinguishing mark of demon possession. There will be an automatic projection of a new personality in the victim. The person’s normal and regular personality traits will be suppressed.

  3. Demon possession versus insanity. We must keep in mind that on some occasions demon possession RESULTED in the person acting insane.

  4. Supernatural knowledge and intellect. The demons expressed knowledge and understanding of people and things that the person possessed did not know. (Acts 16:17; Acts 19:15)

  5. Supernatural physical strength. Ropes and chains would not hold him. (Mark 5:1-5)

  6. Morally wicked. There does appear to be various degrees of wickedness. (Matthew 12:43-45) They all are wicked. There is no such thing as a good demon. The most common term in the New Testament is that they are “unclean” or “evil.” (Matthew 10:1; Mark 1:27; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:36; Acts 8:7; Revelation 16:13)

Possession and Influence

  1. Definition. Demon influence is when an evil spirit exerts power over a person short of actual possession. It may vary from harassment, suggestions, to vexed and hindered.

  2. Characteristics of demon influence. In the less severe forms it may come as pressure, suggestion and temptation. If these measures don’t work, stronger measures will be seen. The person might be depressed, vexed, hindered, or even taking partial control of a body. For example, the evil spirit might control the vision (cause blindness) but not control the person in any other way.

Demon possession and Christians today

  1. Satan still has devices. He has several tools at his disposal. (2 Corinthians 2:11)

    1. Deception. (1 Timothy 2:14) This caused David to sin. (1 Chronicles 21:1) Satan is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44) He blinds the minds of Christians. (2 Corinthians 4:4) He can sear the conscience. (1 Timothy 4:1-3) He teaches the doctrines (plural) of men. (Matthew 15:8-9)

    2. Doubt. Satan can just plant a seed of doubt. His favorite word is “IF.” He is the accuser of our brethren. (Revelation 12:10) He led Israel to murmur, complain, gossip. (1 Corinthians 10:10-11)

    3. Desire. The sin of Noah’s day was people seeking their own pleasure and desires. (Genesis 6:5) John summarize what Satan does in 1 John 2:15-17. Man sins when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. (James 1:12-18)

    4. Disruption. Satan seeks to hinder, block and throw obstacles on our path. Satan hindered Paul. (1 Thessalonians 2:18) Satan gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” to hinder him. (2 Corinthians 12:7) Jesus sent his apostles as “sheep among wolves.” (Matthew 10:16) Satan’s terms is “providentially hindered.”

  1. Satan still has power. While his power is limited, he still uses the methods above to lead people astray.

  2. We can overcome this power. Here is the best news of this study. Satan cannot possess us. He cannot control us. We have the power to win. We can overcome Satan.

    1. Wear the armor. If we are wearing the armor, the darts of Satan will not harm us. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

    2. Win a battle, lose the war. Satan may seem to be winning at times. We must see this from the “big picture” of God’s viewpoint. Satan will lose. Period. (Colossians 2:15)

    3. Resist the devil. Christians are commanded to resist Satan. (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9)

    4. Walk in the Spirit. If we are walking in the Spirit, we will not be tempted by the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

    5. Don’t give Satan room. We must control our lives, speech and thoughts. When we do, Satan does not have room. When the glass is “full” of God, there is no room for Satan. (Ephesians 4:27)

    6. You decide. We have the power to serve God or Satan. We cannot blame God or Satan for our choice. (Romans 6:6-18)

    7. You cannot out run Satan. Remember, there is no armor on you back. (Ephesians 6:10-20) You must meet him head on. Resist. The problem with sin today is not that Satan is too strong. The problem is that we are not resisting.


There are several important lessons to learn from this study.

  1. Demons prove there is a spirit world, thus denying materialism. There is an immortal part of man. This life is not all there is. We will spend eternity someplace.

  2. Even demons recognize Jesus and spoke of his deity as the Son of God.

  3. God and Christ (and Christians) have real spiritual enemies.

  4. In the time of Christ, demons were cast out by miraculous powers.

  5. When Jesus died on the cross, he broke the power of Satan. Demon possession ended. (Zechariah 13:2) Jesus came to earth to destroy the works of the devil. (Matthew 12:28-29; 10:1; 1 John 3:8; Colossians 2:15) Jesus and the apostles had power over Satan. (Luke 10:17-19)

  6. God still has angels and providence. God is still at work in our world.

  7. Satan still has angels (demons) and providence. Satan is still at work in our world.

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