Scripture:       1 Samuel 16    Mark 5:1-20                                                  

Psalms:           106E               ,52B,               41A, 30A                    (From RPCNA Psalter)                       

Introduction: This is a subject that has been much misunderstood. People who were merely strange, or were afflicted with mental illness, have been thought of as being demon-possessed. People who led extremely wicked lives and who were obviously deep into the occult have been thought of as being demon possessed.  Charismatics and Pentecostals have a tendency to attribute any significant act of sinfulness, even by their own children, as being the temporary indwelling of Satan or an evil spirit.  We must go to the Scriptures to determine just what is demon possession  and how we are to regard it.   

Definition: The word demon comes from the Greek…daimoôn or daimonion (dahee-mon’-ee-on)  The term occurs in the Septuagint translation of  Deut 32:17; and Psalm 106:37;  and also in the N.T. in Acts 17:18 

They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Deuteronomy 32:17 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devilsPsalm 106:37

Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoics, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. Acts 17:18 However, in these verses there is no indication that we are speaking of what we normally mean by demons. Here they simply seem to be speaking of pagan deities. This is especially true of the Acts 17:18 passage. There are therefore two meanings of this word…two ways that it is used in Scripture… 

1.  A general meaning…Any supernatural being, a pagan deity

2.  A specific meaning…a fallen angel…one of Satan’s legions.

  The latter is also frequently referred to as an evil spirit or an unclean spirit…as in 

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils (evil spirits), and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.  1 Corinthians 10:20-21

Nature of Demon Possession: First of all…how do we know if someone is demon-possessed? How do we recognize a demoniac?  Apparently it is not difficult…When we confront it I believe that it will be readily apparent.  In Christ’s day it was a period of intense demon activity. Yet it never appears to be a problem diagnosing the condition. Not just Christ, but many persons were able to accurately diagnose cases of demon-possession. These include…  The Apostles                           Matthew 10:5-8

The Seventy    Luke 10:17-20

            A Father                                  Matthew 17:14-21

The Syro-Phoenician woman             Matthew 15:21-28

Significantly, there is not one case of misdiagnosis of this condition recorded in the Scriptures. Neither does it appear that the recognition of this condition was one of the charismatic gifts of the Apostolic Age. 

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.    1 Corinthians 12:7-11 

This verse seems to mean the discernment of false teachers in the church, etc., and not have reference to demon-possession.   

Secondly…The victims of demon-possession seem to be non-functional, incapable of leading ordinary lives.

A few examples are…

The Gadarene Demoniacs: And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.  Matthew 8:28 

And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stonesMark 5:1-5 

And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.  Luke 8:26-27

 The Lunatic Demoniac: And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the waterMatthew 17:14-15

 It seems that demoniacs were never sufficiently in their right mind to seek healing or able to come to Jesus for help as sick persons routinely did…They had to be brought by someone! 

Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.   Matthew   12:22

 …all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.  And devils also came out of many..  Luke 4:40-41

  Finally they are often incapacitated in other ways as well, such as being mute, deaf, and blind etc.   

Thirdly…They have supernatural sources of information which frequently is associated with their recognition of Jesus Christ and his representatives.   

The Gadarene demoniacs said… What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?  Matthew 8:29 

And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of GodLuke 4:33-34 

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.  Acts 16:16-17 

In Conclusion…We should therefore not expect to find demoniacs among normal people who are functional, have a job, and are able to lead a stable existence.  Attributing demon-possession to extremely wicked world leaders does not appear to be Scriptural. 

 Thirdly… Finally, we can say that demon-possession has some clear characteristics…Demoniacs should be easily recognizable.  Demoniacs should not be confused with very evil men.  Demoniacs should not be confused with men who are under occult influence. In other words evil men from Doeg to Ahithophel… Men like Saul who sought to murder David under the influence of an evil spirit and even to kill his own son Jonathan… Men like Judas the Traitor of whom we are told the Devil entered into him… Even the Hitlers and Stalins of this world…are not necessarily demoniacs!

 Exorcism of Demons: Exorcism is not an exercise in magic.  Exorcism is not a religious ritual.  These are pagan and even Roman Catholic concepts.  In paganism exorcism is an exercise in magic.  Magic is defined as the attempt to control the supernatural through the natural.  By means of natural means, such as incantations, magic phrases, potions and rituals a supernatural effect is produced.  Roman Catholicism has imbibed this type of thinking.  The sacrifice of the mass is a good example. A trained magician…the priest…performs a ritual and when he says the magic words…hoc est corpus meus – Latin for “this is my body” – a supernatural effect is produced. The physical bread and wine are transformed to the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.  These elements are then sacrificed by the priest for a continuing atonement for sin.  The priest literally and magically creates the divine sacrifice and offers it up again and again.  This is an exercise in pagan magic!!! Roman Catholic rituals of exorcism follow the same pattern.  A ritual performed by a priest has the supernatural effect of casting out the demon. The error of this type of thinking is well demonstrated by the incident Luke records in the book of Acts… 

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.   Acts 19:13-20 

This incident demonstrates the futility of the magic approach to exorcisms.  Those who had trusted in magic were now so convinced of its futility that they burnt their books of magic rituals etc. and trusted in Jesus Christ instead.  The Biblical answer to the question of exorcisms is that it is a matter not of magic but of power.  Jesus taught…

And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his houseMark 3:23-27  

And this is what we consistently see in the Biblical record of exorcisms.  We see that the exorcism is performed by a command…it is done by authority!!! 

And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.  Matthew 17:18 

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.   Luke 4:35-36 

Similarly when the disciples cast out demons is an exercise in power… 

And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of diseaseMatthew 10:1 

The only other issue involved in exorcisms is faith.  This is demonstrated in a number of Christ’s exorcisms…for example 

Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hourMatthew 15:21-28 

Faith was not required of the person under demon-possession…that may have been impossible under those circumstances.  Demon possessed persons are never recorded as seeking deliverance.  The faith was required of those who were bringing the demon-possessed to Christ for healing.   It is also demonstrated in the Apostle’s exorcisms as the following passage illustrates… 

And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.  Matthew 17:14-21

Their inability was connected to their lack of faith. This is not saving faith…but charismatic faith.  The faith required to work miracles.  The faith in the power and authority of Christ to cast out demons at your word according to the authority  and the gifts that he has conferred upon you. This is the kind of faith that Peter needed to walk on the water to meet his Lord in the storm. The remark…Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting… does not mean there is some kind of ritual with prayer and fasting that is needful for certain types of exorcisms.  Rather the prayers and fastings are needful as means of grace to build up their faith that they might be able to exercise the charismatic gifts that Christ had conferred on them.   

We can therefore conclude that exorcisms are performed strictly by power and authority, the power of authority of Jesus Christ, wielded either directly by Christ himself or his authorized representatives, empowered to do so.

And secondly that faith is required…on the part of both those representing Christ and those interceding for the victims of demon-possession.

History of Demon Possession: Old Testament Times: There is no clear record of demon possession recorded in the entire Old Testament.  This is very significant.  Although the reality and existence of demons is recognized…And although their evil influence in the world is acknowledged…There is no record of a demon possession or of an exorcism.  There are a few instances of the Jews dealing with the issue of demons, their influence, and of demon possession in Jewish literature in Old Testament times.  One is in the Apocrypha, in the Book of Tobit or Tobias.  In Tobias 6:7 –8 we read… 

Then Tobias asked the angel, and said to him: I beseech thee brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish?

And the angel, answering, said to him: If thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke thereof driveth away all kinds of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them.   

The angel then instructs Tobias to marry a certain man’s daughter.  Tobias says that she has had seven husbands and that they have all died and were killed by a demon.  The angel instructs him to marry her, to abstain from marital intercourse for three days and then that night to lay the fish’s liver on the coals and the demon will be driven away permanently, etc.  In Tobias 8:2-3 he follows through on the angel’s advice and the when the smoke of the fish’s liver ascended the angel Raphael came and took the demon away, binding it and bringing it to the desert of Upper Egypt.   

Now this is proof that the Jews believed in demons and their evil activities, but this is not a case of demon possession.  And the story is so fanciful and incredible that we cannot believe in its pretended exorcism and therefore we cannot believe in the reality of the demonic activity either.  It is all a fanciful tale, a fraud and provides no proof for the reality of demon possession O.T. times!!! 

Another tale like unto it is recorded by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, Chapter 2, Section 5.    Josephus, speaking of Solomon says… 

“God also enabled him to learn that skill which expels demons…He composed such incantations also by which such distempers are alleviated.  And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return, and this method of cure is of great force unto this day…the manner of cure was this:–He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through the nostrils, and…he abjured him to return into him no more , making mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed.” 

Now this at least purports to be a case of actual demon-possession.  But if we take this as  proof of the reality of demon-possession in those times then we have to accept the reality of the exorcism as well and who can believe that??? 

There is simply no credible evidence of any demon possession in O.T. Times either in the Old Testament itself, or in the literature of the times. 

One frequently mentioned possible instance is the case of Saul…However there are multiple reasons for not accepting that as a genuine case of demon possession.  While it is true that some have argued that case of Saul, Israel’s first King is a case of demon possession, it simply does not fit the facts as we have developed them from the Scriptures.  Saul does not act like a demoniac.  He is rational and sane most of the time.  He remains King and governs the Kingdom.  The demon seems to come and go which is uncharacteristic of demon possessions as recorded in the Scriptures.  The exorcism by merely playing soothing and relaxing music is also at variance with all the Scriptures teach on that subject.  Saul may have been under the influence of an evil spirit from time to time but he was never demon-possessed!!! 

New Testament Times: Demon possession was widely believed in by the Jews of Christ’s day.  As the Holman Bible Dictionary puts it… 

The Jews of Jesus’ time superstitiously believed that demons were lurking at every corner. They thought they could find them in rivers, seas, and on mountaintops. Demons were blamed for toothaches, headaches, broken bones, and outbursts of jealousy and anger. (Holman Bible Dictionary) 

However, the gospels, while not supporting these Jewish superstitions in the least, do proclaim the reality of extensive demonic activity, and many cases of demon-possession, in Christ’s day.  It is to this clear and undeniable New Testament record that we owe our convictions of the reality of demon-possession and the limited knowledge and understanding that we have of this phenomenon.  And it is on this record that we should base our beliefs with respect to demons and their activities and their exorcism. 

This record includes… – the exorcisms of Christ -the exorcisms of the Apostles -the exorcisms of the seventy 

To this we can add the exorcisms recorded in the Book of Acts that took place in the Apostolic Age after the Ascension of our Lord.   These include…

The Apostles in Jerusalem after Pentecost  (Acts 5:16) The ministry of Philip in Samaria (Acts 8:6-7) The ministry of Paul in Philippi  (Acts 16:16-18 

However, after the end of the Apostolic Age we have no record of credible cases of demon-possession and exorcisms. We enter the age of Roman Catholic rituals and superstitions.  This extended right through the Middle Ages and Medieval times.  The Reformation Church extirpated all these man made traditions and superstitions and pretended spiritual powers.  But the Reformation Church has no record of demon-possessions and their exorcism according to the Biblical pattern. And that brings us up to the present.

The Present: I see no compelling evidence that we have any current manifestations of demon possession.  Missionary accounts sometimes seem to indicate the possibility that they are dealing with this type of phenomenon.  Yet the details rarely measure up to the Scriptural data that we have examined.  Neither do the accounts of exorcisms seem to follow the Scriptural pattern.  A negative is of course very hard if not impossible to prove.  Obviously, we have to admit that there is a possibility of some unknown cases of demon possession today.  What we most certainly have today are cases of demonic  and even Satanic influence.  What we probably have is cases such as even afflicted the Apostles… 

Peter: And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:   Luke 22:31 

Judas: Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.  Luke 22:3-4 

When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me…He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.   John 13:21,25-27 

Judas does not display any of the typical characteristics of the demon-possessed.  He remains rational.  He goes and consummates his infamous bargain with the Sanhedrin.  He leads them to Gethsemane and has a signal to help the temple police identify Jesus in the dark.  He greets Christ cunningly and hypocritically.  And later  he has remorse and returns the 30 pieces of silver to the temple authorities and goes and commits suicide.  These are not the actions of a demoniac.  They are the infinitely wicked actions of a person who has committed the ultimate sin, the unpardonable sin, and has come under direct Satanic influence.  

With all the Scripture warnings about Satan who goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and who will deceive if it were possible the very elect we can certainly expect that this type of Satanic activity is with us today.   Today persons like Judas may be under demonic or Satanic influence…but are not likely to be demon-possessed. 

 The Future: As we have seen there appears to have been an unprecedented display of demonic activity in the time of our Lord and to a lesser degree in the Apostolic age. One can probably safely assume that was in opposition to the coming of Christ and his earthly ministry.  This leaves the question open if a similar outbreak of demonic activity will occur at the end of the age.  That is a real possibility.  The book of Revelation seems to give us some hints in that direction… 

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:   Revelation 9:20 

The above reference could of course simply be referring to the worship of pagan deities. But what is clear is that Satan, the chief demon, the highest of the fallen angels, is cast out down to the earth where he will do his worst as he sees his time running out.  And he will be sure to employ his legions of demons to the greatest effect. 

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.   Revelation 12:9 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.   Revelation 12:12 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.   Revelation 16:14 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.   Revelation 18:2 The latter verse seems to indicate that demons and evil spirits will congregate in the fallen city of Babylon at the end of the age.  As Jerusalem is the City of the Great King, the City of the LORD, so is Babylon the capitol of Satanic influence throughout the ages, and this will apparently be especially manifested at the end of the age, at the culmination of the conflict of the ages.  So, we do not know exactly what to expect at the end of the age.  We do not know for certain whether there will be outbreaks of demonic possession.  We do know that it will be a time of great demonic activity and that this activity could include demon possessions. 

Conclusion: Demons are real…they are mentioned all through the scriptures.  Demonic activity is very real and these hosts of Satan are active in every age.  As Paul puts it in his warning to the Christians of Ephesus… 

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.   Ephesians 6:12   

Yet we need not fear.  God may give the ungodly up to such terrors and afflictions…But the Lord’s people are immune to this terrible curse of demon possession.  God has delivered us from the very possibility.  His word gives us that comfort and assurance.  Christ makes the act of possession an act of power.  One needs power to commit such an act of aggression and take over a human person.

As Christ puts it… And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his houseMark 3:23-27 

Paul teaches that we are a house, that is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught that no man can despoil a strong man’s house unless he first bind the strong man. The Demons seek to use a human body as a house, as a habitation. This is the very essence of demon-possession. Christ could bind Satan and deliver those were made captive by his hosts. However Satan cannot bind God and take over those who are inhabited by the Holy Spirit.

As the Apostle John states it… Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.   1 John 4:4 

Let us take comfort in that and rejoice in our great deliverance in Jesus Christ Amen!!!