What the Bible Says About Demons Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Series: What the Bible Says About...
Title: What the Bible Says About Demons
Text: “For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” (Mark 5:8)
Scripture Reading: Included in Sermon.
The subject of demons has run the gamut in people's thinking. Some people become obsessed with the study of demons, allowing their imaginations to run away with them. They see demons everywhere. Some become self-appointed exorcists and set about to rid their world of these emissaries of Satan. They tend to assign everything evil to demonic activity.
At the other extreme are those who deny the existence of demons, relegating them to ancient mythology or to an earlier time of ignorance and superstition. The ancient Greeks believed that demons were the souls of evil people who had died. Others have believed that demons are the disembodied spirits of a race of people who existed before Adam and Eve were created. The scriptures, however, make no mention of such a race.
It is the general consensus of conservative preachers that demons are the angels who revolted with Satan. Matthew 25:41 speaks about the “devil and his angels”: “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” They are also referred to as “unclean spirits” in Mark 9:25, “When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit…” While the King James Version of the Bible refers to them as “devils,” the proper translation of the Greek word is “demons.” There is one devil but apparently many demons.
Today, there are three subjects that I want to talk about:
1. The nature and activity of demons.
2. The phenomenon of demon possession.
3. The defense against demon power.
The Bible must always be the focus of our study of demons and of anything spiritual. We are going to use a lot of scripture and let the Bible make the case against demons. At the end, I hope we will better understand our enemy, and that we are aware of the weapons that are available to us to use to defeat Satan and his demons.
The first subject that we will address is THE NATURE AND ACTIVITY OF DEMONS.
To begin with, demons do not appear to be omnipresent; each demon can be in only one place at any given moment. Listen to how Mark described what happened when Jesus met a demon-possessed man.
“Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea” (mark 5:1-13).
This incident, where Jesus allowed the demons that had inhabited the wild man to enter the swine shows that demons can be confined and indicates their lack of omnipresence. Although they possess a high degree of intelligence by virtue of their long existence and experience, they are not omniscient. They are not like Christ; their power has limits, they can only be in one place at a time, and they don’t know all things. You may want to know what happened to the demon-possessed man, so let me finish the story from Mark’s gospel.
“So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region. And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled” (Mark 5:14-20).
Demons are promoters of a system of doctrine, which opposes God’s word. Paul wrote about that in his first letter to Timothy, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
Watch yourself. Satan is at work spreading false doctrine, and his ministers are already in the church. God’s servants must preach the truth and fight the devil’s lies. Declaring war on Satan and his evil servants may not make us popular, but it will keep us faithful. The doctrines of demons; that is, those doctrines which teach the worship of saints and angels is present in our churches today, and it is one of the first steps toward the apostasy described in Revelations.
Paganism is being revived today by those who teach the enshrining of the relics of martyrs and then paying honor to them, erecting altars, burning incense, consecrating images and temples, and making prayers and praises to the honor of departed saints. How can they believe such things? Just like your finger is numb when it has been burned with a hot iron, so are their consciences numbed by the searing of sin.
Forbidding marriage and the eating of certain foods are false teachings that are present today. The Bible does not teach such drastic policies. Forced celibacy is not scriptural. The Bible says “marriage” and “meats” were created by God and are not to be refused.
The system of religion that is promoted by demons is based on works and denies the divinity of Christ. Demons are agents of destruction, particularly of the bodies and souls of men. In Acts we are told, “For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed…” (Acts 8:7) While Philip was in Samaria, he encountered many who were demon-possessed. They were damaged physically and made miserable by the demons, and their souls were under Satan’s power. Demons held them captive and made them blind to the things of God.
And lastly, demons are promoters of delusion. One of Satan’s basic plans is to deceive, and his emissaries, the demons, carry out that plan. In Revelations we are told that he deceives the whole world, “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelations 12:9). He was able to deceive one-third of the angels into following him in his rebellion against God, and now the objective of all his activities is to deceive the world into worshiping him.
Just as God is concerned with the affairs of humanity and works for the well-being of His people, so also is Satan actively at work to undermine and foil the will of God in the lives of individuals and nations, and particularly to hinder the welfare of God’s people.
Now we have arrived at our second subject which is THE PHENOMENON OF DEMON POSSESSION.
Demon possession is a real phenomenon. Jesus and His disciples confronted it, and so did other first century Christian leaders. Nonetheless, not every expression of evil can be called demon possession. There is enough evil in the heart of men and women everywhere to do most of the evil acts we see in the world today. If it were not for the restraining power of the Holy Spirit there would be much more sin and suffering than there is.
However, because believers are not their own but are bought with a price they are God’s property. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The blessed fact that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit has two sides. One side is that He is ours, and the other side is that we are His.
The believer was purchased on Golgotha’s hill. The price paid was the blood of God’s only Son. We are to Glorify God in our bodies by using our bodies to show other men that we belong to God. Remember, the body of a Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of God will never allow Satan or a demon to move in with Him.