Demons and Demon Possession
June 4, 2016 version
Demons are angels who fell from heaven. The Bible has much to say about demons, and their leader Satan. Are all demons the same? Do some people turn into demons? Why does God permit demons to still be free? Are they all free? This article will show what the Bible says about these questions. Just like we want to be devoted to God and not fixated on angels, we don't want to be fixated by demons either. But God gave us a responsibility to understand what His word teaches us about them.
What Exactly is a Demon?
2 Peter 2:4 teaches that some angels sinned and were punished. When Satan fell from heaven, Revelation 12:3-13 indicates that about one-third of the angels were swept away with him. So demons are fallen angels. Nothing in the Bible says that people can turn into demons. Nothing in the Bible says there is only one class of demon: in fact the three evil spirits in Revelation 16:13-14 seem fundamentally different from the demons that possessed people and that Jesus drove out on earth. There are various powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces in heavenly places in Ephesians 6:12. There is an entire dominion of darkness in Colossians 1:13, but Christ will destroy all other dominions in 1 Corinthians 15:24-25.
Some demons possess people, and some are currently roaming. Some demons are currently bound in gloomy dungeons (Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4).
Satan and demons want to snatch away the seed of the gospel (Mt 13:19). They can oppose angels, as the Prince of Persia opposed Gabriel in Dan 10:13. Mt 24:24; Rev 16:14; 2 Thess 2:9 indicate that demons have real powers in the world today. Pharaoh's magicians could do some miraculous things in Ex 7:11-12,22; 8:7. Demons have powers we do not have, but they are still limited. But even Satan and demons cannot disobey God's decrees (Mt 12:27-29; Lk 4:34; 10:17-20; Jn 10:29). While demons can cause physical harm to people, such as Job, neither angels nor demons can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38).
Demons can Deceive
2 Corinthians 11:14-15 says that not only does Satan masquerade as an angel of light, but his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Matthew 7:21-23 teaches that even some who are going to Hell, whom Jesus never knew, at least thought that they had cast out demons.
But if people could be deceived, how can any of us know whether or not we are deceived? 2 Thess 2:10-11 gives one way. It says they were deceived because they refused to love the truth, but instead have delighted in wickedness.
What Else Can Demons Do?
Sometimes God's answer can be delayed by a demon. The "prince of Persia", a demon, resisted an unnamed angel for 21 days in Daniel 10:13. After Michael came to help the angel was no longer detained and came to Daniel.
Satan and his angels (demons) fought against Michael and his angels in Revelation 12:7-8. Then Satan and his angels lost their place in heaven and were hurled to the earth.
A demon made a man mute in Luke 11:14.
A demon made a boy convulse, foam at the mouth in Luke 9:37-40.
A legion of demons possessed a Gerasene man and made him insane in Luke 8:26-35. Afterwards the demons made a herd of pigs drown themselves in Luke 8:32-33.
A demon-possessed man could have the strength to beat the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:13-17.
What Happened in Genesis 6:1-5?
Genesis 6:1-5 speaks of the Nephilim, literally meaning "sons of God" These were evil ones who had sexual relations with women. Were they
a) Fallen angels who could take on physical bodies and procreate with human women, as the early church taught
b) Demon-possessed men who mated promiscuously
c) Another species of human that we do not see today (like Neanderthals).
The answer is "We don't know."
Did the Devil MAKE Me Do It?
When the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, there was nothing, at least on the inside, that was tempting them. But for we who are born with a fallen, sinful nature, our desires can be compared to piano strings. Demons do not even have to get inside us to tempt us, they merely have to play a "melody" that resonates with our sin nature. We cannot stop demons from playing their music, but we can and must put a damper on the strings of our emotions. We can conquer temptation, not by focusing on "I'm not going to do it" over and over again, but drawing near to God for sweet communion.
For physical oppression, as when Job's health was taken by Satan, Satan was not inside Job, but his health problems were very real.
It seems that the hallmark of demon possession is that there is a second, evil consciousness inside the person. It might come and go, like a multiple personality disorder. On the either hand it can be active but "quiet"; it might not be readily apparent to others that a person is demon-possessed.
True Christians are not demon-possessed, though they can be tempted and oppressed by demons. God has promised that whenever we are tempted, He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear; He will always provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). God tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9).
Demons and the End Times
Revelation 16:13-14 says there will be three evil spirits that look like frogs coming out of the mouth of the beast and the false prophet. This presumably is the land beast. These three evil spirits will perform miraculous signs. While they may be fake miracles, the Bible does not indicate that; it is possible they may be real miracles instead. Bible readers don't know (yet) why they look like frogs. In Roman times frogs were a symbol of sexual immorality.
Immediately after that in Revelation 16:15 Jesus says, "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed." (NIV) Clothes in Revelation represent purity and righteous acts, but it is possible they may mean literal clothes too.
Demons will have a "home" during the end times; it will be called Babylon, "a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird." (NIV) It will apparently be easy and comfortable for demons to live there and appear there. Christians disagree on what Babylon is. Three choices are a) Rome (as most Christians historically have believed), b) the literal Babylon (many at Dallas Theological Seminary), or c) other. Anyway, when it is recognized, Christians are commanded to come out of Babylon so that they do not share in her sins and resulting plagues in Rev 18:4.
Who is Beelzebub?
Beelzebub was a demon the Jews accused Jesus of serving (Mt 10:25; 12:24-27; Mk 3:22; Lk 11:15-19). Baal meant "lord" and zebub means "flies". In the Canaanite and Ugaritic religions there was a lord of this, and a lord of that, and often a high god just called Baal. Zebub means flies, and so the name was calling the idol lord of the flies. 2 Ki 1:2-6,13 speaks of Baalzebub, god of the Philistine city of Ekron.
Doctrines of Demons
1 Timothy 4:1 specifically mentions doctrines of demons, and two examples given in 1 Timothy 4:3 are forbidding people to marry, and abstaining from certain foods. Also, even sincere religious sacrifices to idols are for demons and not for God (1 Corinthians 10:19-21; Dt 32:17). Participating in idol ceremonies is like taking the cup of demons, as opposed to the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 10:21).
What Do Demons Know?
Even demons know God's truth, and shudder according to James 2:19.
In Mk 3:11; Lk 4:41 Jesus cast demons out of many people, who exclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. But Jesus would not allow them to speak. Did the demons want to publicly tell everyone who Jesus was because
a) They were scared of Jesus and hoped if they proclaimed the truth Jesus would go easy on them
b) The demons wanted to tell everyone He was the Son of God before Jesus was ready for them to know. That way people would view Jesus as a blasphemer before they saw more miracles.
c) The demons were confused and did not know what they wanted to say.
God can send delusions to people; if God wanted to He could send delusions to demons too. It was prophesied in the Old Testament that Jesus would die and rise again. However, either Satan and the demons did not see and understand that knowledge, or else they saw, but God made them not believe it.
Demons can speak, and demons can hear our words. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests demons can hear our thoughts. However, even we sometimes have a clue what other people are thinking by their body language.
Demons do not know everything, but demons can predict the future, at least to some degree. A demon-possessed woman made money for her master by foretelling the future in Acts 16:16-19.
Do Demons Use All Secret Information?
Demons probably know many of our secrets. When Paul secretly escaped from Antioch by being lowered in a basket in Acts 19:12-13,23; a demon could have been watching Paul, reported the attempt to the people looking to kill Paul, and that would have been the end of that. We don't know why that did not happened, but we are glad it did not. Likewise when David was hiding from Saul, who was tormented by an evil spirit, the spirit could just have told Saul where David would be hiding. But it's rough to fight against God. If God can make people miss the most obvious things, God can make demons not see the most obvious things too.
Why don't demons take full advantage of the knowledge that (we think) is available to them, so that Christians can never hide or run? There can be three reasons.
God can stop the demons: God directly, or through angels, can stop the demons from communicating the secrets. There is spiritual warfare in heavenly (spiritual realms).
Sent Delusions: God can send delusions to people (2 Thess 2:11). For example, God struck the evil men of Sodom with blindness so that they could not find the door to Lot's house in Genesis 19:9-11. Now this was no ordinary blindness. They were already right outside the door, and even if I was blindfolded right outside of my door, I could still find the door by feeling my way around. But even if the men of Sodom knew the way, God could delude their minds so that then they thought they were walking straight they could walk to the right or left. God is almighty in the sense that He can move stars, send floods, etc. But God is also almighty in a different sense for He can control all the minute details. Now since God can send delusions to people, nothing would prevent Him from sending delusions to fallen angels too.
Self Delusions: Unlike the time with the men of Sodom, most delusions do not come from God. People are very good at deluding themselves. Satan's original sin centered on pride, and pride is an exceptionally effective agent at bringing self-delusions.
Lack of knowledge or wisdom: Demons might be prevented from seeing some of the information God has put in plain sight for us. On the other hand, even if demons have the knowledge, God might prevent them from having the wisdom to apply it. For example, since the Old Testament had the prophecies that the Messiah would suffer and "the punishment that brought peace was upon him" (Isa 53:5b), why did Satan so neatly play right into God's hands? Satan knows Scripture (Mt 4:6; Lk 4:10), but Satan might not have had the wisdom to see how this would apply.
Fear of Going Beyond the Limits: When demons encountered Jesus, the demons response was often one of terror. They knew they would eventually be tormented, but they did not want to be tormented before the time. God has already bound some demons with everlasting chains in put in gloomy dungeons according to 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. God might command demons not use or tell others certain information, and they will obey - or else.
The Future of Demons
Many demons will be released from the bottomless pit in Revelation 9:1-3. But for them coming to earth is just a temporary transition until Satan, and those who followed him, are cast into the Lake of Fire in Revelation 20:10.
Historical Beliefs on Demons
Lilith is a made-up name never mentioned in the Bible. According to a fable in the Middle Ages about a woman named Lilith who was Adam's first wife. She refused to submit to Adam, and God then created Eve. Lilith, according to the myth, was turned into a demon that kills newborn babies.
Lilith also was a vampire in Sumerian mythology, according to The Sumerians p.198, 258. Civilizations of the Ancient and Near East p.1890 mention that the unmarried who died became a special class of demons called lilu (male) and Lilitu (female). They ask the living to marry them, promising them wealth, but if the living person consented, they died early. However, all Bible manuscripts, Christian or Jewish, have no more hint of Lilith than of Donald Duck.
Some people in the Middle Ages believed in sucubuses and incubuses. These are allegedly female and male looking demons that would materialize and have sexual relations with people; often with fatal results. The bible gives no support of these though.
Since the middle ages there has been a fascination with vampires, werewolves, and other made-up creatures. Something is very wrong with you spiritually if you are preoccupied with an attraction to occult things. Even though some movies try to say there are good as well as bad vampires, and white magic as well as black magic, as Christians we should not only have nothing to do with these, either real or pretend, but we should not have the desire to run after these things either.
Doctrines of demons are not limited to the occult, however. Archaeologists tell us that around 1800 B.C. a large dam broke east of the Caspian Sea and there was a large migration of the people living there. Many went to the west, calling themselves Aryans, and conquered India. Many went east and became Scythians, Medes, and Persians. The Aryans gods wee the gods of early (Vedic) Hinduism. The Medes and Persians, who practiced the Zoroastrian religion, had many of the same deities, but call those not gods but demons. Some think that Indra, with his thunderbolts, the Greek Zeus with his thunderbolts, might have a common origin. Thus Greek and Roman mythology could also directly be doctrines of demons. Theophilus of Antioch (168-181/188 A.D.) and Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) taught so.
The early church was well familiar with demon possession and exorcism; 12 pre-Nicene writers taught about it. Likewise the Bible has many verses about demon possession
An evil spirit tormented Saul in 1 Sam 16:14-23; 18:10; 19:9. It made him try to kill David, and David had to flee for his life.
In Mt 9:32-34 a demon made a man mute.
In Mt 12:22,28 Jesus drove out a demon who made a man blind and mute.
In Mt 15:22; Mk 7:26-30 a demon possessed a Syro-Phoenician / Canaanite woman's daughter.
In Mk 1:23; Lk 4:33-36 a demon-possessed man who asked Jesus what He had to do with them.
In Mk 9:14-27 a demon possessed boy would foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth, and become rigid.
Jesus drove out many demons in Mt 8:16; Mk 1:32-39; Lk 6:18; 7:21.
More than one demon can be inside a person; Jesus had driven seven demons out of Mary Magdalene (Lk 8:2b; Mk 16:9). There was a legion of demons in the Gerasene demoniac in Mk 5:2-17; Lk 8:27-38.
One likely cause of some demon possession is dabbling in the occult, such as séances, Ouija [pronounced wee-jee] boards, tarot cards, and fortune telling.
Demon Possession vs. Mental Problems
What exactly is demon possession? If someone is overweight, do they have a demon of obesity? If someone suffers allergies, do they have a demon of allergies? - of course not. On the other hand, if someone is a mass murderer with multiple personalities, are they basically an OK person with a slight chemical imbalance? - of course not.
We have to distinguish between temptation, trials, demonic oppression, and demonic possession. In some cruel animal experiments, some researchers force-fed alcohol to some animals (rats I believe). At first the animals did not want to drink it, but over time the researchers turned them into alcoholics that craved alcohol. There may have been an evil presence that was influencing the animals to become drunkards, but it was not demons but researchers.
Sometimes people have chemical imbalances; their brain, thyroid, or other glands might be acting up. When that occurs, it is good to pray, seek spiritual counsel, and seek medical counsel too. It is not unspiritual or wrong to take medicines that your body or brain needs that a doctor or psychiatrist prescribed. But with all medicines, especially with habit-forming painkillers, and tranquilizers, make sure not to take more than the doctor said.
False Accusations of Demon Possession
Jesus was accused of being demon-possessed in Mk 3:22,30; Lk 7:33; Jn 7:20; 8:48-52; 10:20-21. He was accused of driving out demons by the prince of demons in Mt 9:34; Lk 11:15-19. John the Baptist was falsely accused of having a demon in Mt 11:18.
Christians have Authority Over Demons
Jesus rebuked an evil spirit in Lk 9:42 and drove out demons in Lk 13:32. Likewise Christians can cast out demons in Christ's name (Mt 10:8; Mk 3:15; 6:7,13; 16:17; Lk 9:1; 10:17; Acts 8:7). Someone was driving out demons who was not known to Jesus' disciples, and Jesus said not to forbid that (Mk 9:38; Lk 9:49).
Non-believers Should Not Try Exorcism
After Paul was casting out demons in Acts 19:12-19, other Jewish exorcists, including seven sons of Sceva, tried to do the same. They tried to cast out the demons "in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches." One day an evil spirit replied, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" and the demon-possessed man attacked them.
A person should not try to cast out demons unless they are a Christian. However, once even the disciples could not cast out a demon in Mt 17:14-20; Lk 9:37-43. After Jesus cast it out, the disciples asked Him why they couldn't. Jesus said that they had too little faith.
Some Buddhist monks try to cast out demons too. But it is really not "casting out" the demon. One Buddhist told me monks "invite" the demon to leave the person and come with them instead.
What Happens After the Demon is Cast Out?
What happens to the demon that is cast out?
Mt 12:43-45 and Lk 11:24-26 tell us that a demon goes out to waterless places. Then it might decide to return to the person he formerly possessed, taking seven worse demons with him. There is a sobering lesson here. Sometimes it is better for a demon-possessed person not to have the demon exorcised, if they person does not come to Christ. If they come to Christ they are protected, but if they don't then demon can return with even more demons.
When Jesus cast out the legion of demon in the Gadarene/Gerasene demoniacs in Mt 8:28-34, Mk 5:2; Lk 8:30-38, they asked permission if they could go into the herd of pigs. Jesus said yes, and they went, but then the pigs all drowned. What do you think happened here?
Don't Open the Door to Demons
Demon possession of unbelievers is usually not voluntary. However, people can, even without knowing it, open the door to demon influence and oppression. Those involved with the occult are cracking open the door for demons to come in. Occult practices include séances, trying to talk with the dead, fortune-telling, channeling spirits, tarot cards, Ouija boards, and astrology.
Some years ago a Christian pastor preached that astrology was unbiblical and worthless. And just to prove the point, he had his horoscope read. Afterwards the things in the horoscope started coming true. He feared some of the predictions that were still to come. Finally he admitted to the congregation that what he did was wrong; he should not have had his horoscope read, even to prove it wrong. Then the predictions stopped coming true.
Some one asked me one time what my astrological sign was. I told them I was born under the sign of the cross. They looked confused and asked what I meant. I am born again under the sign of Jesus, and I repudiate stars, fortune-telling, or anything other than God controlling my destiny.
Always remember, angels, demons, and perhaps sometimes departed believers are watching us. There is so much about demons we don't know, because God hasn't told us, -and it surely is for good reasons. God does not want us as believers to fear demons, be in awe of demons, or try to communicate or negotiate with demons. We are not to focus on demons at all, but instead of God. However, demons are there, and we should be aware of our opposition. When we encounter demons, God has given us the authority, in Jesus Name, to rebuke them, cast them out, and command them to leave. We should not fear demons or run from demons. We should not try to fight demons on our own power, but demons fear of Jesus in us.
Demons know that Jesus Christ is God. Mk 1:23-24
Demons tremble before God. James 2:19
Demons teach false doctrine. 1 Timothy 4:1
Demons oppose God's people Ephesians 6:12
Demons try to destroy Christ's kingdom. 1 Peter 5:8
God uses even the actions of demons. Judges 9:23
God will judge demons at the last judgment 2 Pet 2:4
See "Something Wicked This Way comes" in Jesus People Newsletter p.9-10www.BibleQuery.org/Doctrine/AngelsAndDemons/Demons.html and docx.
www.BibleQuery.org/Doctrine/AngelsAndDemons/Angels.html and docx.
www.BibleQuery.org/Doctrine/AngelsAndDemons/Satan.html and docx.
For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714 www.BibleQuery.org
by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.