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By David Banks
Many have wondered whether or not demon (or evil spirit) possession still happens today like it did in the days of Christ and the early church. There were in fact several events referred to in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) and a few references in the book of Acts. The subject falls silent toward the end of the book of Acts and there is no mention of demon possession at all in the Epistles. The fact that the ability to cast out demons is not specifically listed as one of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit is conclusive evidence that demons are no longer allowed, by God, to possess the souls of men (1Corinthians 12:8-11). I believe there are logical answers as to why the subject of demon possession is no longer an issue in the Christian age. To begin answering this question let us consider some of the examples of demon possession recorded in the New Testament.
In all of the documented cases of the casting out of demons in the gospels and in the book of Acts, one of the conclusions that must be drawn is that there are no demons that are more powerful than God. It must be understood now also that the power of demons is limited to what God allows. Since some of the demons, which were allowed to possess individuals, manifested themselves by rendering their victims deaf and/or mute or by some other infirmity (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 13:10-17), some may be tempted today to believe that those with infirmities may be demon possessed. All of these illnesses however, and many others, afflicted people who weren’t demon possessed (Mark 7:31-37; John 9:1-12). Just because someone has epileptic seizures, or convulsions, or bodily distortions, it should never be assumed or asserted that they are possessed.
In the case of Legion (Mark 5:1-20), Jesus encounters a man who was possessed by many demons. Jesus cast the demons out of the man and the man went home and began to tell everyone all that Jesus had done for him. On another occasion, Jesus warned, “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 then himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26). In the days of Christ this was a fairly common scenario. The man relieved of a demon(s) was subject to repossession. After the establishment of the church, however, this scenario is seemingly fazed out to the point of absolute extinction. Allow me to propose a couple of possible reasons for this.
First of all, when a person becomes a Christian, his soul being cleansed by the blood of Christ in the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit indwells him. It is not logical to think that God would allow a demon to possess the body of an individual whose soul houses the Holy Spirit of God (Romans 7:13-8:11). There are no New Testament examples of any Christian being demon possessed. That is not to say, however, that New Testament Christians cannot be influenced by evil. Peter warned the Christians, to whom he wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experience by your brotherhood in the world.” (1Peter 5:8-9). Paul wrote instructing the Christians in Corinth to preach the gospel. In reference to the non-Christians to whom they would preach, he wrote, “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2Corinthians 4:3-4). The point here is that even though we are not, in these modern times, subject to demon possession, we all are quite susceptible to the temptation of the devil. So, even though the scenario of demon possession is not applicable today, the principle behind it is applied in that when a person’s soul is freed from sin by the blood of Christ in baptism, that person needs to fill the void with the good work of God in the church in order to keep the devil from re-entering his life. “And the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
Secondly, It should also be considered that since the age of miracles has ended (1Corinthians 13:8-13), and the ability to cast out demons is classified in the New Testament as a miraculous ability (Mark 9:38-41), then the ability to cast out demons is no longer available to man. Since therefore the ability to cast out demons is no longer available it should be understood that God no longer allows people (Christians or non-Christians) to be adversely affected by demons. If a physical or mental infirmity prevents people today from being able to hear, understand, accept and obey the gospel it should not be blamed on demon possession. That would be inconsistent with the teaching of the New Testament.
To say, conclusively, today that demon possession still happens, is to speak without evidence. In these days and times we are called upon to do better than that. We must speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent. We must not go beyond what is written, nor should we engage in fruitless speculation. We should not worry about things over which we have no control. Above all, it should be our ambition in this life to diligently seek God’s will; give ourselves in complete submission and obedience to Him; and trust Him to protect and deliver us from evil.