Today, as I suppose has always been the case, there is a great deal of interest in the “unknown.” Many people are obsessed with the idea of demons and spirits that supposedly occupy the unseen realm of the earth and can cause men to do certain things without the person having any control in the situation. Various kinds of paraphernalia used to ward of the evil spirits and curry the favor of the good spirits are available. But is there any basis in the Bible for such?
Demons Or Evil Spirits In The New Testament
To begin with, the Scriptures show clearly in New Testament times, “evil spirits” or “devils” or “demons” did possess some (Matt. 4:24; Luke 8:36). Though it is a rather obscure matter, we still are forced to recognize that people were “possessed” by these evil spirits in the time of Jesus. The text also indicates He freed them by casting out the demons. The “demon” in Luke 8:27 (New King James Version) is called “devil” in the King James Version. He is the “unclean spirit” in the parallel reading (Mark 5:2). Even if we cannot unravel all the mystery on this subject, we have enough information in the Scriptures to cast some light on it.
“Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!’ And Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’ Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him” (Mark 1:23-26). This evil spirit spoke, using the body of the man whom he possessed and controlled. That man was sick, obviously, but this was more than sickness as we experience it today. Although the evil spirit controlled the actions of the man, including his speech, Jesus clearly makes a distinction between the man and the evil spirit who controlled him.
Still another Example
Another passage that casts light on topic is Mark 5:2-8. This “unclean spirit” enabled the body of this man to have superhuman strength, as witness the breaking of chains and fetters. In the same way as in Mark 1, the evil spirits knew Jesus to be the Son of God – a truth even the apostles had not yet acknowledged! How did they know?
It is note worthy of note that these evil spirits (or demons) could believe (James 2:19), they could and did recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (Luke 4:41; Mark 1:24). They recognized the power of God (Acts 19:15), and they also recognized that the apostles of Christ had been given God’s power over them (Acts 16:16-18). Because the evil spirit exercised special (even miraculous) power over the one possessed, it took miraculous power from God to cast it out (Matt. 12:26-28). When Jesus sent out the twelve, and the seventy, He gave them power over “unclean spirits” (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:17).
Demons Controlled Those Possessed
Jesus was once accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan, and He replied: “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:26-28). So, the super human strength and the special knowledge of the evil spirits had Satan as the source. In fact, it was the devil who enabled the evil spirits to control the people they possessed and endow them with special power and knowledge.
It seems clear that the person possessed could not “dispossess” the demon; the person was so controlled that he was helpless to do anything other than what the evil spirit wanted. There is some indication, though, that one possessed may have been partly responsible for said possession. As Jesus explained, “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).
God foretold the coming of the gospel age, when Christ would die for our sins and purchase His church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). The prophet wrote, “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. It will come about in that day,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land” (Zech. 13:1-2).
The miraculous power to cast out demons was demonstrated to confirm the gospel (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:2-3). The same is true with the “gift of prophecy, by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:7-11; Heb. 2:2-3). Considering the saving message of Christ has been delivered and confirmed (as in John 20:30-31), there is no further need of the miraculous. Therefore, both the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit and the unclean spirit has ended. As God foretold (Zech. 13:1-2), the unclean spirit “departed from the land” and the gift of prophecy ceased (1 Cor. 13:10) after Christ died and the gospel was confirmed.
It should be clear from the above that, if there were evil spirits in the world today, there must be miraculous power to combat them. Such is not promised, nor in evidence. There is much that we will never know about the evil spirits, but we can be assured that they were real and did possess people. We can also be assured that they are not with us today as they were during the Jesus and His apostles.