Are demons real

SERMON TOPIC: Are demons real

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 23 June 2019


Sermon synopsis: In his classic book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, writes:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

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Why should we bother learning about Satan or demons?

Satan is called our adversary or enemy

1 Pet 5:8 (NIV) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

He is a deceptive enemy

2 Cor 11:14 (NIV) And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

To prevent him outwitting us, we should know our enemy.

2 Cor 2:11 (NIV) in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes


We will consider the following:

Are demons real?

What was the origin of demons?

What are the symptoms of possession?

What causes possession?

Can a Christian be demon-possessed?

How do you get deliverance?


The case of the demon-possessed men in the region of the Gerasenes (or Gadarenes) is related in all the synoptic gospels.

Gadara and Gerasa were cities in the Decapolis (Greek “Ten Cities”). The Decapolis cities (excluding Damascus) were mainly founded during the Hellenistic period, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the Roman conquest in 63 BC.


Matt 8:28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.

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Matthew indicates that Jesus actually encountered and exorcised two demon-possessed men in the area. Mark and Luke also contain additional information so the following is a composite of the accounts (Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8), focussing on the one man Mark and Luke chose to highlight.

Luke 8:26-28 (NASB) Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.

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And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons…

… and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.

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Mark 5:3-4 (NASB) And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain…

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… because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.

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Mark 5:6-7 (NASB) Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said:

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What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?

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Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time? (Matt 8:29, NIV)

Come out of this man, you evil spirit! (Mark 5:8, NIV)

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Mark 5:9 (NIV)Then Jesus asked him:

What is your name?

Luke 8:30-31 (NASB) And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.

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My name is Legion, for we are many. (Mark 5:9)

Matt 8:30-31 (NASB) Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them.

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The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.”

Mark 5:13 (NIV) And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank…

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... into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

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Luke 8:34-38 (NASB) When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country.

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The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened.

Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them…

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… for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned. But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him…

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… but He sent him away, saying:

Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.

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Mark 5:20 (NASB) And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.



Our first piece of the armour of God is the “belt of truth”.

Eph 6:13-14 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…


In his classic book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, writes:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.


Likewise, there are two extremes which Christians have in regard to demon possession:

The one extreme is to deny the existence of demons and attribute everything to natural causes or mental illness.

The other extreme is to see demons everywhere and attribute all illness, attitude problems and any sinful behaviour to demons.

For effective defence, we need the BELT OF TRUTH. Either extreme is an error that will make you less effective in spiritual warfare. Either you’ll be trying to cast out demons from people who are not possessed or trying to counsel or medicate someone who really is possessed.


A) The Mythical Theory

German liberal Protestant theologian, David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874) advanced the theory that demons are simply symbolic of the presence of evil. Driving out these mythical characters represents Jesus’ conquest over evil.

But Gregory E. Sterling, Dean of Yale Divinity School, writes that “To consider claimed historic events as myths is to accuse the penmen of lying. To accuse the evangelists of fabrication is to arraign the Almighty and His Spirit of deception!” 1

1 su-demons.htm


B) The Hallucination Theory:

In this theory the individual is deluded into believing that they are possessed by a demon. As such, even the “exorcism” simply seems to them to be a real event.

Unger cites two proofs completely shattering this hypothesis. The theory fails to explain how a person, so bereft of reason, can in the same instant, manifest a knowledge of Jesus’ deity and sonship (Mk. 5:7) far in advance of the most pious and enlightened people of the whole nation. Nor does it explain the violent effect of the entrance of the demons into the swine (Mk. 5.- 13), which alone is enough to demonstrate the absurdity of supposing the possession to be only an imaginary one.

1 Ibid


C) The Accommodation Theory (Christadelphian view)

The advocates of this theory contend that Jesus and his apostles only spoke in these terms (demon possession) to accommodate the popular superstition and ignorance of their time.

Gregory E. Sterling responds:

… the basic premise of this theory is fallacious. The Lord not only addressed the masses, but also His disciples concerning demons, Matt 17:19-21. 1

… could Jesus have sanctioned and the evangelists record an idea totally erroneous? Not if one believes Jesus was the Son of God! 1

1 Ibid


D) The mental illness theory

It is argued that those possessed suffered only from natural diseases and mental illnesses.

Gould states that “It was the unscientific habit of the ancient mind to account for abnormal and uncanny things, such as lunacy and epilepsy, supernaturally.”

In the case of the man from Gerasenes, he says, “My name is Legion, for we are many” (Mark 5:9). A Roman legion could be as many as 5,000 men at that time and Jesus drove them into 2,000 pigs.

Today Legion with his many demons and Mary Magdalene (with seven demons – cf. Luke 8:2) would probably be diagnosed as having MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder).


Since 1994 MPD is also called Dissociative Identity Disorder and is defined as a mental condition in which two or more personalities appear to inhabit a single body.

According to Psychology Today:

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a rare condition in which two or more distinct identities, or personality states, are present in—and alternately take control of—an individual. Some people describe this as an experience of possession. The person also experiences memory loss that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. 1

1 https:// us/ conditions/ dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder


It continues:

When in control, each personality state, or alter, may be experienced as if it has a distinct history, self-image and identity. The alters’ characteristics—including name, reported age and gender, vocabulary, general knowledge, and predominant mood—contrast with those of the primary identity. Certain circumstances or stressors can cause a particular alter to emerge. The various identities may deny knowledge of one another, be critical of one another, or appear to be in open conflict. Possession-like identities often manifest as behaviours that appear as if a spirit or other supernatural being has taken control of the person. 1

1 Ibid.


The argument that Legion and similar cases might have had a mental illness is simply supernatural bias. It fails to account for:

how Legion was able to break chains.

the demons’ entrance into the herd of pigs.

how demon-possessed people knew who Jesus was.

how the demon-possessed girl in Acts 16 had psychic powers.

What of the case of the boy who took violent seizures. Wouldn’t he be diagnosed today as having epilepsy?


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Mark 9:16-27 (NIV) “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. A man in the crowd answered:

Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.

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Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.

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O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.

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So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

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From childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

How long has he been like this?

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If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

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When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit.

You deaf and mute spirit. I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.

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The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said:

He’s dead.

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But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

In another case seizures are distinguished from demon possession.

Matt 4:24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.

But in the case we have just considered, the source is clearly demonic.

So not all seizures are demonic in origin and likewise, not all seizures are diseases. The Bible allows for both.


Demoniacs are distinguished from those who are sick, so the people of Jesus’ day clearly did not equate all illness with possession because they did not understand it.

Mark 6:13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Not all sickness is necessarily demonic. The Bible constantly differentiates between the two.

Mt 10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons

Mk 1:32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.

Mark 6:13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.


Luke 6:21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits

Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases

Luke 8:1-2 The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases

Luke 13:32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’”

Acts 19:11 … so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.


In these cases, being mute was a result of possession.

Matt 9:32-33 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke.

Matt 12:22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.

Mark 9:17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.”

But it is plain that they did not consider all dumbness as having a demonic root.


In some cases being mute was a result of sickness.

Matt 15:30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.

Mark 7:32-35 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk… After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

Discernment is necessary to determine whether an ailment is physical or spiritual.


Gregory E. Sterling writes:

For that madness was not the constituent element in the demoniac state is clear, since not only are we without the slightest ground for supposing that the Jews would have considered all maniacs, epileptic or melancholic persons, to be under the power of evil spirits,- but we have distinct evidence that the same malady they did in some cases attribute to an evil spirit, and in others not, thus showing that the malady and possession were not identical in their eyes, and that the assumption of the latter was not a mere popular explanation for the presence of the former.

1 su-demons.htm


He continues:

Whatever may have been the symptoms which enabled those about the sufferers to make these distinctions, the fact itself of their so discriminating between cases of the very same malady, proves decisively that there were not certain diseases which, without more ado, they traced up directly to Satan,- but that they did designate by this name of possession, a condition which, while it was very often a condition of disease, was also always a condition of much more than disease. 1

1 Ibid


E) The Literal Theory:

Sterling concludes on the matter:

The clarity of the historical narrative allows for only one possibility.

There were actual beings called demons who possessed people and were cast out by our Lord and his disciples.

Any other basis impugns the Creator and must therefore be rejected. 1

Demons are more than a mere personification of evil. Demons are persons not diseases!

1 Ibid


How could an illness impart power to break chains?

Luke 8:29 For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.


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Why would Jesus reinforce the concept that demons are spirit persons by pretending to cast them into swine?

Disease cannot be transferred to animals. If merely an illness, how do we account for the reaction of the pigs running off the cliff?

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Disease cannot talk. Why is it that all demons characteristically screamed out?

Acts 8:7 (NASB) For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice…

Mark 1:25-26 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

Diseases cannot “teach” and deceive people.

1 Tim 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons…


Disease cannot enable a person to predict the future.

Acts 16:16 And it happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortunetelling.


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Disease cannot impart divine revelation. But demons recognize Jesus as “the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:33-34). They identify Paul and his companions as God’s servants.

Acts 16:17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying:


These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.

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Demons are spirits that can make observations, reason and speak:

Matt 12:43-44 (NASB) “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.”

They are referred to as intelligent spirit beings who have a belief system:

James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.


They knew who Jesus was.

Mark 1:34 … He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

Luke 4:41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.


They were aware of the coming judgment against them.

Luke 4:33-34 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice:


Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!

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Satan, his angels and demons are real beings set on our destruction. Christians are warned to “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:11-12).



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