So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. – Mark 1:34
This is a subject that I wade into very carefully. I am wary of people who talk about demons around every corner, and who fly up into hot air ballons to do spiritual warfare. But, at the same time, we can’t ignore what the bible says about the subject just because of some wackos. Nor can we avoid the subject for fear that we might be labeled as wackos ourselves. Those who live for Christ are going to be called names anyway, lets not shy away from anything for reasons such as that.
If you believe in the bible as the Word of God, you cannot reasonably doubt that demons are real. The bible doesn’t go into a whole lot of details to exactly what they are and where they came from, but its generally agreed that they are the angels that fell with Satan when he rebelled against God in the beginning. They are spiritual beings (‘unclean spirits’ as the bible calls them) that seek to cause destruction to the human race. Each time we hear about one in scripture we see all kinds of different evils. Some demons cause sickness. Some cause blindness and muteness and deafness. Some cause insanity. Some cause fear. Some cause supernatural strength and the ability to tell the future, or other occultic powers. We find that people are ‘vexed’ or ‘tormented’ by them (Acts 5:16, Mt 15:22). And what’s really interesting is the fact that we find that MANY have them.
In Mark 1:34 we see that Jesus is healing the sick and casting out demons. The bible uses the word ‘many’ to describe those that are sick and those that are demon possessed. Now, it seems reasonable that the word ‘many’ would apply equally in both instances. There could have been more sick people than demon possessed people, yes. But the general idea here is that there was a lot of both. And remember, this is all in one town.
If I were to ask you how many sick people were in this town, how would you answer? You would probably say ‘a lot.’ If I were to ask you how many demon possessed people were in this town, what would be your answer? Would it be the same? Now, what if I were to ask you how many sick people were in the church? What would you say? What about if I asked about demons?
I think there are a lot more people around who are oppressed by demons than we think.
In the bible, there were cases were demons caused sickness and insanity. This means that the demon had some kind of ability to mess with the human body. I don’t know how, but it must be so. They also had the ability to mess with the mind. So could it be possible that demons can mess with the chemistry of our body and mind? If it that is possible, could it be that those who suffer from various types of mental illnesses could be oppressed by unclean spirits? And could it be possible, although there be a spiritual source, that medicine could still provide surface solutions?
I often hear people say that demon possession is the primitive idea of humans that are ignorant of science to explain mental illness. Maybe so, but modern science has yet to find a real solution. Our mental wards are still full of people that need help.
Maybe Jesus could help them.
In the bible, in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul says that that those who worship idols offer sacrifices to demons. In saying this, he is telling us that there is demonic power behind these idols of stone or wood. In America we rarely see this type of literal idol worship. However, there is plenty of other types of ‘idols’ people worship. Apostle Paul tells us that covetousness (strong, unhealthy desires for the things of this world) is idolatry (Col 3:5). He also says that there are many whose god is their belly (their selfish appetites) (Phil 3:18). If there were demons behind the idols of wood and stone, is it unreasonable to think that there may be demons behind the unrestrained passions of modern men? Could it be that there are demons behind pornography, sexual abuse, gluttony, rage, gossip, violence, fascinations with death, and others? I think there is a good possibility.
The mad man that Jesus encountered when He landed the boat in the country of the Gadarenes had a lot of demons. It’s needless to mention that these demons were the cause of this man’s ills. So, that being the case, let’s look at all the problems that scripture mentions were caused by these demons:
- wore no clothes – sexual immorality (Lk 8:27)
- lived among the tombs – over much interest in death (Lk 8:27)
- had supernatural strength (Mk 5:4)
- was driven to run away from home (Lk 8:27)
- unable to calm down with human help (Mk 5:4)
- cried out day and night – depression / anger / rage (Mk 5:5)
- cut himself – depression / self-mutilation / suicidal (Mk 5:5)
Demons caused these things in this man to an extreme measure. I would imagine that this is because he was possessed with so many demons. This would leave me to believe that many people who suffer from some of these same things to a lesser extent, simply have a less intense measure of demonic influence.
Jesus, in Matthew 12, gives us some interesting insight into the spiritual realm:
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, I will return to my house from which I came. And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation. – Matthew 12:43-45
These verses give us some good information about demons:
- They can dwell in people, just like people dwell in houses
- They can exist outside of people and travel about
- They like to be in people (it’s ‘rest’ to them)
- They can think and reason
- They can communicate with each other
- Several of them can occupy the same ‘house’
- They can vary in degrees of wickedness
- A man’s state can vary from the number demons that possess him, and by their degree of wickedness
I wish the bible gave a little bit more information about how to tell whether or not someone is possessed by a demon. It seems like the people that lived in the days of Jesus could recognize someone under demonic powers fairly easily. In Mark 1:32, the bible says that people brought their friends who were tormented by demons. In Acts 5:16 they did the same thing. There were even Jewish itinerate exorcists who went around casting out demons (Acts 19). It seems like it was almost easy to recognize if someone was oppressed by demons.
But on the other side of the coin, there was a group of Jews that did not believe in demons. They were called the Saduccees.
the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. – Acts 23:8
So, although many people easily recognized demons (which were demons indeed), the Sadducees felt confident enough in whatever explanation they had to explain away phenomenons that others considered to be demon possession. The same is true today.
There are some that will say that even the vilest appearance of demonic influence is simply mental illness. There are others who will acknowledge the reality of demonic activity, but, like the catholic church, will maintain that it is extremely rare. And then I think that there are people like me, who have a strong suspicion that a clever enemy is working closely and more covertly than we realize.
Modern warfare is not fought in bright red suits and sparkling helmets, as in days gone by. We have found that the better we can hide ourselves, the greater our chance of victory. We want to hit the enemy before they even know we are there, and then to escape without a trace, leaving them to wonder what happened and who did it. If we are smart enough to do this, don’t you think that after thousands of years Satan and his thugs might try to do the same?
Satan’s got a good thing going. He’s fooled a lot of people into believing he doesn’t even exist. Why would he want to mess that up?
We have a clever foe that working destruction right beneath our noses.
Why am I saying all this? I’m saying this because it may be that dealing with demons the way that Jesus did could be the answer for a lot of people that are struggling.
In days gone by, I have often been critical of those who have some kind of compulsive addiction. Whether it be drugs, or smoking, or eating, or whatever. I hear them say that they want to quit, but they can’t. In times past I would scoff at such an idea and fault their own lack of self discipline. But now I’m more inclined to believe that there is a force behind many of these addictions beyond the natural explanation. I can say that because I have experienced it myself.
Before I was saved I, like most teenage boys, looked at pornography. After I was saved I stopped looking at pornography, but I was plagued by unwanted thoughts that I believed stemmed from the pornography. I remember that this really bothered me, and I could not seem to shake it. I attended a bible study one day, and without this particular man knowing my situation, he proceeded to pray over me. He ‘broke the power of Satan’ over me, as he put it. From that day on I was free from those thoughts. Never since have I been plagued with those thoughts like I did then. (Now don’t get me wrong, sinful thoughts still come into my mind sometimes, but not in the controlling way that they did back then.) I don’t know where I would be today if it weren’t for that man. Thank God for him. He did a great thing for me, and I don’t even know his name. This man will get a hearty ‘THANK YOU’ from me in heaven (if I don’t see him before then).
So, did I have a demon? Was I demon possessed?
It’s hard to really say. Some people say that there is a difference between demon possession and demon oppression. This could be true. In most cases the bible speaks of those that are demon possessed (demonized), and the demon is ‘cast out’ of the person. This seems to easily imply that the demon is inside the person, like a man living in a house, as we said earlier. There is, however, slightly different wording in two passages of scripture that could indicate a less severe type of demonic activity. In Acts 5:16 it talks about those that are ‘tormented’ (or vexed) by unclean spirits (also in Luke 6:18). It’s possible that this could indicate a different kind of demonic activity, but its hard to tell for sure. (Dr. Lester Summerall wrote a book called “Demons” where he talks about 7 levels of demonic influence with demon possession as the worst level. He had a lot of experience with this topic so his book is worth looking into for more information).
So whether or not I was technically ‘demon possessed,’ I don’t know. The fact is that something was messing with me (vexing me), and when it’s power was broken, I was free. That’s what I want for other people, as well.
That’s what Jesus wants for other people.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed – Luke 4:18
And now that Jesus has departed for the Father, He has commissioned us to continue his work of setting the captives free.
And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; – Mark 16:15-17
We need to be casting out more demons. People need to be set free. I’m convinced that this is an area we are lacking in and we need to learn more about.
[side note: I don’t think that everyone that demonstrates some kind of disorder is demon possessed. We live in a fallen world and some things are simply a result of the evil world we live in. Every evil thing is has its origins in Satan, but not every evil thing is directly caused by him.]