Multitudes have expressed great interest in demon-possession. Who are demons? Can it
happen today? The view that most have concerning demon-possession comes from the
imagination of movie makers instead of the Bible. Don't get me wrong. A person may believe
what he wants. However, if you want to avoid unparalleled fear, heed the Bible. Only the
Bible gives an accurate answer.
Someone has said, "Many people believe that most of the evil in the world is a result of demons possessing men and women, causing them to commit all kinds of horrendous wrongs. As a matter of fact the more shocking the deed, the greater the chance will be that someone will conclude that either sickness or demon possession was the cause." The Bible gives great assurance against this concept.
There are five major views concerning the origin of demons. Many who do not believe the Scriptures point to news reports, declaring that possession is simply an illnesses. The Bible shows that illnesses and demon possession are clearly differentiated (Lk. 9:39; Matt. 12:2), though some physical and some mental maladies were caused by demons. Another unsupported view is, they were a Pre-Adamic race of men (Gen. 1:1-2). Since this is purely speculation, we continue.
Others teach that demons are the offspring of angels who took unto themselves women (Gen. 6:1-2). However, Jesus said angels are not given in marriage (Mk. 12:25). The "sons of God" in this context is another term for the godly.
One possible explanation of the origin of demons is that they are fallen angels. However, 2 Peter 2:4 seems to indicate that the angels have been reserved in Tartarus: "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus, rlc] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment."
Various first and second century writers defined demons as the spirits of wicked men. For instance, the first century Jewish historian Josephus said, "Demons are the spirits of wicked men, who enter into living men." An important rule of interpretation is, "... [a word] is to be taken and applied in the current or commonly-received connotation of that country and age in which the writer lived and wrote." If we follow this rule, then it is easy to see the origin of demons. No wonder Jesus referred to them as "evil spirits." Jesus corrected one inaccuracy believed by the Grecian people of His age: None of these spirits were good. They were wicked, evil, foul and unclean (Lk. 9:42; 8:2).
The fact of the matter is God does not specifically tell us what demons are, other than the fact they were real and were "unclean spirits." They are created beings (Neh. 9:6), though they were not created evil. They became evil. Created beings with freewill have an opportunity of turning wicked. Jesus clearly taught that demons were real (Lk. 11:19-20 ASV): "And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you." He is not verifying that their sons actually cast out demons. He simply called attention to what they recognized could be done. Neither they nor the Jews in Asia could cast out demons (Acts 19:13). Even the context says that such was "never so seen..."
To teach that demons are not real implies that Jesus foolishly commanded the man to come out of himself (Mk. 5:8). Demons were cast out in the first century to show the power and authority of Jesus. He cast out a legion (thousands) of demons which dwelt in the Gadarene Demoniacs (Mk. 5). At one time, a demon was afflicting a young lad. When the disciples sought to cast him out, the demon prevailed against the Twelve (Matt. 17:21). However, he did not prevail against the Lord, and the disciples never failed again. Neither Jesus nor the apostles used incantations to cast out demons.
What are demons like? One web site teaches that demons eat humans. Wait! Don't stop reading. Further reading of the site shows that it is just a computer game, developed by a young man. Others do teach that demons cause us to overeat, to have heart conditions, and they eat our dinner while we are not looking. These imaginative teachers have only their misguided personal experiences to prove their false concepts.
No doubt demons are wicked. That is why the Lord called them "unclean" and "evil" and it is the reason He identified them with Satan's kingdom (Matt. 12:24-26). Though they themselves were wicked, in the first century, they did not hesitate to possess either the wicked or the good (Mat. 12:44; Mk. 7:25). They are restless, aimless beings (Matt. 12:43; Mk. 5:4-5) who, at times, cry out, and cut himself with stones. Some manifested great physical strength (Mk. 5:4), though it was not supernatural. They preferred to dwell as pigs rather than go into the waterless places (Mk. 5). They had knowledge of important things, though not necessarily supernatural knowledge. They knew Jesus' true identity (Lk. 4:34; 4:41; Mk. 8:7). They knew of their impending torment (Matt. 8:29). They knew how to enter and control a physical body. They did not know the future (Acts 16:16ff; Isa. 49:9b- 10). Demons had the ability to communicate by speech (Lk. 4:34, 35, 41; 8:28- 31). They manifested the emotion of anger (Matt. 8:28) and fear (Matt. 8:29; Jas. 2:19). They believe in God and confessed Christ as the only begotten Son of God, and they even attended "church" (Mk. 1:23-27). Yet, they were to perish.
When we sin today, we cannot escape the responsibility of our action by saying, "The devil made me do it!" I am the one who failed, and I am the one that needs to make it right with God. Do we have demon possession today?
Though demon possession in the first century was real, and, though Jesus and the apostles cast out demons, it did not exist before Jesus came to this earth, and it ceased by the time the last apostle died.
Demon possession did not exist before Jesus was born (Lk. 11:20b ASV). "And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you." Note the reasoning of the Lord. He is saying that they could know "the kingdom of God is come." How could they know? By the fact that demons were being cast out. If demon possession existed before the first century, then this statement is meaningless, or worst, it would mean Jesus was wrong.
The Lord was not wrong. Demon possession and their being cast out was new. The people even said that the power which Jesus manifested was "never so seen in Israel" (Matt. 9:32-33).
Furthermore, demon possession ceased in the first century because miracles have ceased (1 Cor. 13:8ff). Today, godly men are not replacing missing body parts, or walking on water. Neither are they raising the dead, nor casting out demons. This is not because God no longer has the power, but because the power had its place and purpose. When the purpose was fulfilled the miraculous, including casting out demons, ceased.
Should men today expect to see and hear a demon or a demon-possessed man? No. God is no longer creating women from the rib of man. He is no longer creating trees or birds from nothing. Such fabulous manifestations of divine power had their time and place. But not now! If one reasons that demon possession continues, then the one possessed will be possessed his entire life, since it takes a special miraculous gift to cast out a demon and such gifts have ceased to exist. Paul predicted such power would cease, saying, "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away" (1 Cor. 13:10 ASV). The "perfect" in this text is the opposite of the "in part." What was "in part"? The miraculous gifts which revealed and confirmed the word of God. Now that the word is confirmed, it does not need to be confirmed again and again. Therefore, the "in part" ceased when the not in part - "that which is perfect" - came.
God's prophet, Zechariah, predicted the end of evil spirits (Zech.13:1-3). "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. ... it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD..."
Neither the Devil nor his demons can control us (1 Cor. 10:13). All temptations are human, not superhuman.