I received the following comments and questions:
So we’ve had some very interesting interactions with my sister regarding demon possession. It has been pretty interesting to hear of some of the “demon possession” that she has described. The first occurrence was back in July of last year. She, and my sister, who was there with her at that time, had the experience as described by her below: (I have removed the description to protect the identity of the questioner.)
Then just this week, she had another “experience” with a girl in her home who she described as being demon possessed:
Now the first time it happened, it definitely prompted another in-depth look at demon possession as described in the Bible. Here are a few of the main conclusions that I came to:
1. It would seem from the Scripture listed below that those who were demon possessed in the Bible were not “normal” people. They could not live normal lives. They were always, and in every way, obviously possessed by demons. It wasn’t just something that would “come and go” with circumstances. (Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39, Matthew 17:14-21, Luke 4:41)
2. Those who had the AUTHORITY (huge word & concept!!) to cast out demons/evil spirits also had authority to do MANY other miracles: heal the sick, the diseased & tormented, epileptics, paralytics, mute, blind, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, etc. (Matthew 4:24, Matthew 9:32-35, Matthew 12:22, Matthew 10:1-8, Mark 16:15-20)
3. It seems that the issue of demon possession only existed during Christ’s time on earth and into the Acts period. The only other time I could think of a spirit tormenting a person was with Saul of the Old Testament. Otherwise Scripture is pretty silent on demons/spirits before and after this period.
4. The only occurrence of “demon” in post-Acts books is found in 1 Timothy 4:1, which is AMAZINGLY important: “giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” This goes to show that Satan’s work today is centered on TRUTH in doctrines. (Huge! I was literally jumping out of my seat with this conclusion!)
5. Other thoughts: (A) without authority, those with true demon possession would overpower the ones trying to cast them out, as in Acts 19:13-16. (B) Paul’s handkerchiefs could heal a demon-possessed person, and Christ also cast them out from afar – Acts 19:11-12, Matthew 15:22. (C) Those with evil spirits or demons had a knowledge of the spiritual realm and could understand things we cannot – Luke 4:41, Acts 16:16-19. (D) ANY believer today should be able to cast out demons if things are just as they were in the Acts period (see the Mark 16 commission). But it’s not!
So all this goes to say that I do NOT think what my sister has been describing can be demon possession. However, Scripture remains pretty silent on how Satan does work today, or what ability demons have in our lives during the dispensation of grace. Obviously if we’re believers, we’re sealed with THE Spirit, so we don’t have to worry about it, but what about those who aren’t?
I guess my questions are:
1. Am I missing anything in the conclusions I listed above? Is there more you would say about demon possession today (and why what we do see – as my sisters have experienced – can’t be considered demon possession)?
2. We know that Satan, and the spiritual forces of wickedness, definitely DO work today; but it’s just unclear as to HOW they are working. How would you explain the “experiences” above in light of the truth of Scripture (more importantly the second, shorter experience, as it seemed more real to me than the first one, especially with the girl having dabbled in witchcraft)? Some passages I found that relate to it are: 1 Tim 4:1 (referenced above), 2 Tim 2:26 (Satan taking someone captive to do his will), and Ephesians 6:11-12 (stand against the wiles of the devil… wrestle against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places). Can you think of any others?
3. Any additional thoughts you have on the issue?
Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on the matter!
This is hard, and I do not think we have an absolute word from Scripture on just how evil spirits/demons might affect us today. I tend to think, as you have perhaps heard, that the Romans statement about Satan being crushed under their feet shortly was the end of such possession as we read of in the New Testament. At any rate, I nowhere in Paul’s letters, or any epistles, read of believers being commanded to cast out demons, to interact with them in any way, or to be given the power to “boss them around” to any extent. We are warned about the teachings of demons in I Timothy, and it is certainly often through deception in the mind that demons control people today. We are warned of the devouring power of Satan in I Peter 5:8, but it is unclear there as to just how he goes about this devouring. Ephesians explains that the armor of God we are to take up is how we protect ourselves from the devil’s attacks. The only offensive part of this is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. If we did encounter demons, quoting Scripture (not the prayer book!) would be our only defense, even as Christ used it in His Own defense.
Sigh. Of course, they will say that if I do not believe that we have power to work miracles or that demons possess people today, that means I do not believe in the Holy Spirit or the casting out of demons at all. Believing in a thing in its proper place is true belief.
It is amazing how many people have a vague belief that miracles do not happen today, but without a knowledge of the secret dispensation of God or His present work, they attribute this to our modern world. As if cell phones chase demons or the Holy Spirit away! God is as capable now as ever. The point is that He has changed His work. But a vague belief based on modernity can be easily, if wrongly, toppled.
There are times when I felt that perhaps the Spirit was prompting me to do things. However, it may just have been my own decision at the time, or the fries I had for lunch, for all I know. It is very self-aggrandizing to claim that something you decided to do was the Spirit telling you to do that, when you have no certainty that it was anything of the kind.
I like how a dream turns into a vision. I have had many odd dreams myself. Maybe they were all visions? I hope not!
The people of the church knew what they were doing as this had all been done before. That is a noteworthy point. This must be an interesting church that sees multiple demon-possessed people in it. Perhaps it is the devil’s favorite church? Sounds like a place to avoid!
The idea that this girl’s strength was beyond human strength. I wonder how many people your sister has in her life tried to restrain? If someone is trying, without any regard to personal harm, to snap his neck as hard as he can, how does it feel to try to restrain him? I think your sister has no idea. If she had often had to restrain people who were having epileptic fits, for example, then she might have some idea about how much power is in the human body. As it is, she has no idea if what she was restraining was beyond human strength. It perhaps was beyond what a calm, civilized person with a normal regard for his own safety could do if he was attempting to snap his head back and forth.
Praying demons out of people, not the blood of Christ, frees a person from sin forever? I wonder if we followed this girl’s life from this point if we would really see her set free from sin? I do not think it is quite that easy.
I suppose it is easy to blame demons on the problems in a girl’s life. But I assume these are girls rescued (by your ministry)? I would guess that maybe (what they were rescued from), along with growing up not having a stable family or people who truly cared about her, could cause some problems in a young girl’s life that have nothing to do with demons.
Now regarding your conclusions and questions:
Conclusion 1. I would agree. I don’t think demon possession is something you just “discover” during a church service. It was something that was obvious in a person’s life. I don’t ever read of anyone coming to Christ and saying to Him, “I think this person might be demon possessed,” or “I think I might be possessed,” or “Do you think the problems in this person’s life might be caused by demon possession?” The symptoms were obvious, and everyone knew.
Conclusion 2. This is very true, and is the same argument we would make of those who claim to do some (but not all) of the charismatic miracles.
Conclusion 3. Agreed. This was a targeted phenomenon aimed at trying to disrupt Christ’s ministry before it began. Needless to say, it didn’t work, but only helped Him prove His power. The spirit in the Old Testament did not possess Saul, even though it bothered him. There are several other passages that speak of a spirit in the Old Testament, but the bothering of Saul is the only time we have something remotely similar to possession, and what happened to Saul seems clearly not to have been possession such as we see it in the New Testament.
Conclusion 4. Exactly! Satan and his minions try to control us through our beliefs and in our minds, not by possession. We are not given any power over demons. Christ’s apostles were given such power. It was also one of the five signs following believers of Mark 16. But in no epistle does Paul or anyone else command the casting out of demons, or seek to regulate it, or suggest the reader should be able to do it.
Conclusion 5 (A). Exactly. To use the name of Jesus Christ, you would have to truly be identified with Him. If you did not truly know Him and tried it, it would be like pointing your thumb and finger at a criminal and pretending to fire a gun, and wondering why that didn’t work as well as a real gun does?
Conclusion 5 (B). Yes, they were given great power over demons. We are too, but our power over them comes from the truth of the Bible (the armor of God), and not from the ability to cast them out with a word.
Conclusion 5 (C). This is true. The evil spirits empowered people, as the Spirit did, but at quite a terrible price!
Conclusion 5 (D). That would seem to be true, considering the Acts period commission. Moreover, casting out took a word, not a long ritual. The demon would come out immediately, not several hours later. The very existence of this ritual shows things are not now as they were then.
I think that our protection against the work of evil spirits today, which is all in clouding the minds of people to the truth with their false teachings, is found in our knowledge of the Word of God. Our ability to help other people with these things is limited to teaching them the truths of God’s Word. We cannot force them to believe them, or to overcome the work of the Evil One in their lives.
Question 1. I believe we would be powerless against demon possession today, which is why God wiped it out in the Acts period. Your sister and others fail to rightly divide, and so have no reason not to believe what is in the earlier parts of the New Testament cannot be true today. I do not think you are missing anything here that I can see.
Question 2. I think God probably keeps a lid on some demonic activity in the dispensation of grace, forcing them to be quiet(er) just as He is. However, I do not think that demons necessarily have to keep silent, as God does. If someone tells me of hearing a supernatural voice (usually assuming it was from God), one of my first questions is if it might be from the other side, from a wicked force rather than a Godly one? While I know God is silent, I do not think Satan has to be. Our first thought on seeing a clearly supernatural thing, especially if it is not something that seems to be of any Godly good but just a “parlor trick,” so to speak, is that it is probably from a demon or wicked power. They may well try to distract us by such things from the truth.
I think you have given a good list of relevant passages. I think the teachings of demons have to do with confusing us regarding the truth. Satan takes people captive to do his will through false teachings and beliefs, not to mention their own selfish and ungodly emotions and desires, and not through possession. Our stand against the devil has to do with putting on the armor of God, which is all about the Word of God. None of these speaks of demon possession as we see it in the New Testament.
Question 3. Knowing your family, I would guess your sister is Catholic? The Catholic Church (according to their 1999 guidelines) only allows exorcisms to be performed after a person has been evaluated for the possibility of mental illness. Officially sanctioned exorcisms are rare, since mental illness is usually found to be the root cause of the person’s problems. It does not sound like anything like that was done in this case.
You are welcome for any light I have managed to shed on the matter.