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?
Much of the popular lore about Satan, angels and demons is not biblical; instead, it is a reading of the scriptures influenced by medieval Christian popular mythology.
Demons are not fallen angels
They are not the spirits of wicked men from a pre-Adamic race.
Neither they nor Satan live in hell.
They are the disembodied malevolent spirits of the hybrid angel-human Nephilim, who were the offspring of the fallen angels (Watchers) alluded to in Genesis 6.
The Watchers were imprisoned until the time of the end judgment. Demons, on the other hand, roam the earth seeking to possess and torment humans.
ORIGIN OF DEMONS
PART 4: DELIVERANCE FROM DEMON POSSESSION
Demonic possession is the control of an individual by a malevolent (evil) supernatural being.
We saw that in contrast to angels, demons do not assume human form but instead desire to possess human bodies. The human is used as a host and the person is said to be possessed.
Luke 11:24 (ESV) “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person…”
Driving demons out of people is called exorcism and the person who does it is an exorcist.
Exorcism (from Greek exorkismós “binding by oath”) is the religious or spiritual practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person, or an area, that are believed to be possessed. 1
Depending on the spiritual beliefs of the exorcist, this may be done by causing the entity to swear an oath, performing an elaborate ritual, or invoking a higher authority to bind the entity in order to control it and command it to act contrary to its own will. 1 & 2
1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Exorcism
2 https:// library.sydney.edu.au/ collections/ rare-books/online-exhibitions/ witchcraft/ exorcism/ exorcism.html
According to myjewishlearning.com:
The first allusion to
exorcism appears in
the Bible, in the youth
narratives of David
(1 Samuel). But while
the biblical David
seemed to be able to
effect a temporary
expulsion of Saul’s evil
spirit using music, the
book of Tobit contains
the first explicit description of an (informal) exorcism. Josephus recounts incidents of possession and …
The angel Raphael instructs Tobias “You burn the fish’s heart and liver, and their smoke is used in the case of a man or woman plagued by a demon or evil spirit; any such affliction disappears for good, leaving no trace.” (Tobit 6:8)
… exorcism in his Antiquities of the Jews (2, 5, 8, 45-48). In his description, exorcism involved burning herbs and immersing the possessed person in water… Many exorcisms were public events, either performed in a synagogue, or at least requiring the presence of … a minimum of ten men. At times cooperation was coerced from the demon by “fumigation,” exposing it to smoke and sulphur… The goal of the interview is to eventually learn the name of the evil spirit. The exorcist then uses the power of the demonic spirit’s own name to “overpower” it, by round after round of scripted ritual actions involving threats and rebukes, getting more intense and invasive with each effort. A few ceremonies on record reached the point of actually “beating” the demon out… 1
1 https:// www.myjewishlearning.com/ article/ jewish-exorcism
The 1st century Jewish historian, Josephus details the complicated exorcism practice of the Jews of his day. He writes regarding Solomon that “God also enabled him to learn that skill which expels demons: which is a science useful, and sanative to men.”
He composed such incantations also by which distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms; by which they drive away demons; so that they never return: and this method of cure is of great force unto this day. For I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons, and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers:
the manner of the cure was this: he put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac: after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils: and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more: making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it; and thereby to let the spectators know that he had left the man. 1
1 Antiquities of the Jews — Book VIII ch. 2.5
Unlike these Jewish exorcists, Jesus did not use any mechanical devices or blessed items. He had no need to appeal to the authority of any other spiritual power. He himself was the authority that the demons recognized. And while the exorcists of Jesus’ day had long complicated process to drive demons out, Jesus amazed everyone by simply speaking and commanding demons to leave.
Mark 1:27 (NIV) The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”
Similarly, in contrast to many modern deliverance ministries, the exorcism process used by Jesus and the apostles was generally very brief and simple.
While demons may be a formidable foe for most men to face, they have to submit to the authority of Jesus.
In the case of the man from Gerasenes, Jesus came up against a legion of demons (Mark 5:9), yet he clearly has the upper hand in the encounter. A Roman legion could be as many as 5,000 men at that time and Jesus drove them into 2,000 pigs.
In all Jesus’ encounters with demons, they recognised who he was, his authority and the fact that they had to submit to his commands to leave the host.
They not only obeyed him – they feared him and proclaimed him as the Son of God, perhaps hoping to appease him so they might get off lightly.
What method of exorcism did Jesus use?
Jesus’ mere presence unsettled demons who then would identify him. He spoke sternly, commanded or rebuked. He does not rebuke the man, but the demon using two short, direct commands to expel the demon “Go!” or “Come out!”
“Go! [Grk: hypagete]” (Matt 8:32). Same root word (Strong’s ref 5217) as Matt 4:10 “Be gone [Grk: hypage], Satan!”
“Come out [exelthe] of him!” (Mark 1:25)
“Come out [exelthe] of this man, you evil spirit!” (Mark 5:8)
“You deaf and mute spirit. I command you, come out [exelthe] of him… ” (Mark 9:25)
occasion (with the daughter
of the Syro-phoenician woman), Jesus even performed the exorcism at a distance - without being in the presence
of either the possessed girl or the demon (Mark 7:24-30).
AT A DISTANCE
For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter. [Mark 7:29, NIV]
Jesus never let demons draw him into extended dialogue. He specifically would not allow them to speak – when they were giving lip service to his authority.
Luke 4:33-35 (NIV) 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!” “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
Luke 4:41b (NIV) But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.
If the demons recognized Jesus as the Messiah, why did he prohibit their testimony?
He would not receive testimony from a deceptive, diabolical source. For the same reason, Paul refused the public witness of a fortune-telling spirit in Philippi (Acts 16:16-18). There could be no association between Christ and Satan. Jesus refused to engage in prolonged conversations with demons.
Remember that demons are lying spirits so don’t believe anything they say during an exorcism. Nicky Cruz relates an incident from the late eighties when he was speaking at a church in California. A man came forward who appeared hostile and a demon was openly manifesting in him. Cruz recalls that “Jeff Fenholt joined me and started praying”.
“For some reason the man fixated on Jeff. Activated by the demon inside him, he hissed, ‘He’s mine. I’m taking him to hell with me.’ Then suddenly the man spat at Jeff, following up by saying, ‘I’ve given you AIDS.’ Jeff was understandably concerned, but I told him not to accept what the demon had said. We prayed for Jeff’s protection, and I told him to go and wash off the spittle. The battle went on as others came up to help me. It took ten men to hold the demon-possessed man down and then carry him to another room, where we prayed for his release. In the meantime, we asked the congregation to keep up a flow of praise and worship in the sanctuary – after all, evil spirits hate the worship of God! After an hour and a half, the demon finally left the man.” 1
1 “The Devil Has No Mother: Why he's Worse than You Think - but God is Greater”
When handling a more difficult
group of demons, Jesus asked
for the demon’s name (Mark 5:9)
What is your name?
My name is Legion, for we are many.
REQUEST FOR NAME
At least once Jesus enquired about the history of the ailment (Mark 9:21-22, ESV).
But he asked the
father not the victim. Don’t accept information given by a demon - including background to the problem - as factual. John 8:44 identifies Satan as a liar and the father of lies. So don’t trust anything a demon says.
From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him…
How long has this been happening to him?
Because he indicated that an expelled demon would try to return with seven others (Luke 11:24-26), Jesus followed up his exorcism of the boy with strict instructions for the demon not to return.
NOT TO RETURN
I command you, come out of him and never enter him again. [Mark 9:25, NIV]
On the request of the legion of demons, Jesus actually allowed the demons to transfer to a herd of pigs.
“If you drive
us out, send
us into the
herd of pigs.”
He said to
So they came
out and went
into the pigs…
When a person has multiple demons, some modern deliverance ministries claim that several sessions are required because the demons leave one at a time.
In contrast when Jesus drove the demons out of Legion, they all went at once. He doesn’t schedule future follow-up exorcism sessions. This disparity is a cause of concern.
ALL AT ONCE
What’s your name?
The exorcisms sometimes happened violently.
In the case of the boy who took seizures “the spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out” (Mark 9:26, NIV).
With the man in the synagogue, “the demon threw the man down” (Luke 4:35). “The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek” (Mark 1:26, NIV).
At times the victim may
be exhausted after the
Mark 9:26 (NIV) …The
boy looked so much
like a corpse that
many said, “He’s dead.”
And in the account of the
Mark 7:30 (NIV) She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Jesus cast out demons by the spoken word - not touch.
Matt 8:16 (NIV) … many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word …
While with those
touch played a role,
some note that
touched a demon-
The exception is the woman
with “a spirit of infirmity”
causing curvature of the
Luke 13:13 (NKJV) And
He laid His hands on her,
and immediately she was
made straight, and
Interestingly, while Jesus says she had been bound by Satan, he does not command a demon to leave her but says “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity” (13:12).
This has led some to believe that she was not possessed but rather oppressed.
The power of demons is limited and the power of God in us is greater.
1 John 4:1-4 (NIV) Dear friends,
do not believe every spirit, but
test the spirits to see whether
they are from God, because
many false prophets have
gone out into the world
… You, dear children, are
from God and have
overcome them, because
the one who is in you is
greater than the one who
is in the world.
Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). In the Capernaum synagogue the unclean spirit said to Jesus:
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! [Mark 1:24, NIV]
In the context of driving out demons. Jesus indicated that he had bound Satan and plundered his “house”.
THE STRONG MAN BOUND
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. [Matt 12:28-29, NIV]
Note that this has nothing to do with the passage on “binding and loosing” in Matt 18:15-19 which is about dealing with sin in the church. This response forms part of the
Beelzebul controversy, where Jesus’ opponents accused him of obtaining his power to exorcise demons
by having an alliance with Satan.
So, interpreted in this context, the strong
man represents Satan, and the attacker
represents Jesus. Jesus thus says that he
could not perform exorcisms (i.e. steal the
strong man’s possessions) unless he was
opposed to – and had defeated – Satan
(represented by tying up the strong man).
Thus the act of looting Satan’s house proves
that Jesus cannot be in league with Satan.
THE STRONG MAN BOUND
Jesus delegated authority to his apostles:
Luke 9:1-2 (NIV) When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Luke 10:17–20 (ESV) The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The actual practice of deliverance, otherwise known as exorcism or the casting out of demons, was part of the great commission that Jesus gave his disciples and future generations of believers.
Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved … And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons… (Mark 16:15-17, ESV)
Paul used the
authority in the
name of Jesus
to drive out
have access to the name of Jesus to cast out demons:
Mark 16:17 (ESV) “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons…”
In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her! [Acts 16:18]
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
This exorcism is both similar to and different from Jesus’ ministry of exorcism. Christians confronting the forces of evil today can find guidance here. Jesus’ authority is personal and direct. The demons fear Jesus and what he can do to them. 1
Paul’s authority and ours is Christocentric and derived. In the name of Jesus Christ… come out of her (Acts 16:18; compare 19:13, 17). Exorcism must be approached today, then, with much care, humility and prayer. But there must also be bold confidence that Jesus is still bringing release to the captives (Lk 4:18). 1
1 https:// www.biblegateway.com/ resources/ ivp-nt/ Slave-Girl-Demonic-Spirit
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Early Christians were renowned for being able to effectively exorcise by simply using the name of Jesus. Origen (c. 184 – c. 253) remarks that among the pagans there are only a few specialists that are able to perform exorcisms, and then with magic means and incantations, while every Christian, without such means and with only a simple calling upon Jesus’ name can perform an exorcism.
Athanasius (c. 320 AD) contends that the power in Jesus’ name proves the reality of the resurrection. “For where Christ is mentioned, and faith in him, all idolatry is eradicated, all demonic deceit is revealed, and no demon even tolerates that the name is mentioned, but hurries to flee, as it hears it mentioned. This is not the work of a dead man, but a living and first and foremost God.” 1
1 De incarnatione verbi, 32
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Demons still flee at the name of Jesus’ name – its power has not diminished.
So, what does it mean to ask in the name of Jesus Christ?
First of all, it means to ask in His merit. We come before God in Christ’s standing. 1
But the second thing it means to come in the name of Jesus is that I come as His representative. When an ambassador goes to another country, he does not go in his own name. He goes in the name of his own government, of his president, or his prime minister, or his king. He is a representative. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 said, “We are ambassadors for Christ, for God. We beseech you on His behalf.” 1
1 https:// billygraham.org/ decision-magazine/ january-2013/ in-jesus-name
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Why do demons leave when commanded by true believers who invoke the name of Jesus?
Despite being malevolent, demons are intelligent beings who recognise the limit of their power. They know the following:
They know there is only one true God – and they fear him.
James 2:19 (ESV) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
They know their eventual fate.
Matt 8:29 (NIV) “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Demons knew the true identity of Jesus.
Luke 4:41 (NIV) 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 Messiah.
They submit to Christ’s authority and obeyed his direct commands.
Luke 4:36 (NIV) All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!”
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
But demons also know the difference between genuine and fake believers and do not submit to the mere use of Jesus’ name if the person using it has no authority. The power of Christian exorcism is invested with those having Jesus’ authority, not in the ritual itself.
Acts 19:13-16 (ESV)
Then some of the
exorcists undertook to
invoke the name of the
Lord Jesus over those
who had evil spirits,
saying, “I adjure you
by the Jesus whom
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the
NOT IN RITUAL
man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
They only submit to
true believers under
the authority of
Luke 10:17 (ESV)
returned with joy,
saying, “Lord, even
the demons are
subject to us in
Thus those who follow Christ have authority over evil spirits and should not be frightened of them.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
There are degrees of evil in various demons.
Matt 12:45 (ESV) “Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there…”
There are also different degrees of strength. In the above case, it seems the demon who has already been exorcised successfully is not confident enough to return to the host alone. It has to get seven more evil spirits to assist so that it will again be able to repossess the person. In this case successive exorcisms will prove to be more difficult and Jesus says “the final condition of that person is worse than the first”.
In Mark 9:29 Jesus implies that there are different “kinds” of demons in terms of resistance to exorcism.
DEGREES OF STRENGTH
powerful demons are
equally more difficult
to exorcise. On asking
Jesus why they were
unable to drive the demon
out of the boy who took
seizures, he replied that
“This kind can come out
by nothing, except by prayer and fasting” 1 (Mark 9:29).
1 Textus Receptus & Byzantine / Majority Text have “and fasting” but not Westcott-Hort and Tischendorf. Some conservatives question the Westcott-Hort text (used in most new translations) and consider the Byzantine and Textus Receptus to be more reliable (KJV translators used these). The Latin translation (Vulgate) by Jerome in the 5th Century includes “and fasting”. Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD) writes that Jesus “taught likewise that fasts are to be the weapons for battling with the more direful demons” (On Fasting, Ch. 8).
DEGREES OF STRENGTH
What of those (like
Catholics) who use
religious objects like
crosses and Bibles in
There is a Biblical
precedent of demons
being repelled by
objects that Paul
had simply touched.
Acts 19:11 (NIV) God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them
Evil spirits do have an aversion to godly worship and music.
1 Sam 16:23 (NIV) Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would
come to Saul;
he would feel
the evil spirit
After a successful exorcism there should be a noticeable behaviour change.
Luke 8:35 (NIV) … When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind…
Note that when the demon was cast out of the psychic slave girl, she immediately lost her ability to tell fortunes:
Acts 16:18-19 (NIV) Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment
the spirit left her.
When her owners
realized that their
hope of making
money was gone,
they seized Paul
After the deliverance of Legion, Jesus spent time with the counselee, giving instruction on how he was to live. The people of the nearby city found him “sitting down at the feet of Jesus”. This was the position of the disciple learning at the Teacher’s feet. Later when the man was begging to accompany
him, Jesus sent him
away with instructions
to use his testimony
Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you. [Luke 8:39, NASB]
When a person is delivered from demon possession, they need to realise that they cannot live as they previously did. They must renounce their former way of life and separate themselves from their past. Note the change in the life of the man from the Gadarene region.
Mark 5:20 (NASB)
And he went away
and began to
great things Jesus
had done for him;
and everyone was
What should you do
to occult books and
paraphernalia if you
Like the Ephesians,
you should burn them.
Acts 19:19a (NIV)
A number who had
brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly.
Acts 19:19b (NIV) When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.
Despite the fact that they were valuable they burnt them; they did not throw them out, give them away or sell them.
While the Bible doesn’t spell out all the causes of possession, it does clearly indicate what causes re-possession. If demons are exorcised but the Spirit of God does not inhabit “the house” (or body) the host is described as having a house that is swept clean but empty.
Matt 12:43-45 (NIV) When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.
Delivering people is not necessarily going to make you popular with everyone (and that is not only the Satanists). Whenever the gospel threatens vested interests, either religious or economic, it is bound to meet with opposition. When Jesus delivered those demon possessed, his enemies accused him of using the
power of Beelzebub, the
prince of demons.
Even when Jesus delivered
Legion, he was asked to leave
the region, possibly due to
the financial loss of the pig
farmers. Maybe 2000 pigs
were deemed to be of more
value than a tortured man.
When Paul delivered the possessed slave girl, far from being pleased at the liberation of the troubled girl, her owners can
think only of
Jesus made a statement that has troubled many:
Matt 7:22-23 (NIV) “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not … in your name drive out demons ...’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you…’”
As Jesus taught elsewhere that Satan doesn’t drive out demons (or his kingdom is divided), do the people referred to here use the power of God to exorcise? If so, why would Jesus say “I never knew you”?
The claim to drive out demons came from these people themselves and was not confirmed by Jesus. I believe that this refers to fake deliverance ministries “driving out” demons that aren’t there. This is confirmed by the fact that those non-Christians who invoked Jesus’ name to drive out a real demon (the sons of Sceva) got a severe beating.
What of those who charge a fee for deliverance? Note what Jesus said when he sent out the Twelve:
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely
you have received; freely give. [Matt 10:8, NIV]
Jesus came to release the captive. Salvation brings deliverance and protection from Satan. 1 John 2:13 says we “have overcome the evil one”.
Rom 8:37-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither … angels nor rulers… will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Cor 15:57 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Cor 2:14 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession…
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:
New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. ( Lockman.org)
Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV:
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.