Saturday, April 30, 2016

Demon Possession or Demon Obsession?

Quick, think of an example of demon possession from the Bible.
Got one?
Now, think of one from the Old Testament. Hmmm. Interesting. You didn't find one, did you? That is peculiar, is it not?

Saul was soooo moody. I wonder which Bible college in Chicago
he would have attended....
You could make a case from Genesis 6 of demons possessing humans. You could also say they took human form. That's such a widely debated passage that you could say lots of things. Some may say that the spirit that troubled Saul was a demon possessing him. I wouldn't say that. Regardless, the most liberal estimate drawn from Scripture has precisely 1 demonic possession between the time of Noah and Christ.

When we are faithful to carefully examine the scriptures and study them as they are we soon find out that we don't really know much at all about demons. If you don't know at all what demons are, then you should go to Got Questions? and find an article there about demons or use Grace to You until you know exactly what a demon is. I'm assuming you already have a working knowledge of the basic definition of a demon. So this is kind of like Demonology 201 rather than 101.

The question we're going to investigate is this:
Are people possessed by demons today?
I surmise that they are not and will explain why with the rest of this post.
Disclaimer: I am not saying there is not demonic activity today. What I am saying is that people are not possessed by demons today.

Demon possessions were apparently common enough in the time of Christ that people understood what they were and when they were witnessing one. They were able to distinguish seizures from demonic possessions:
Matthew 4:24  
and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them
Clearly demonic possessions were occurring at a greater frequency while Jesus was alive than at any other point in history. That we don't have any evidence of demonic possession prior to Christ's incarnation is very telling. I'll elucidate that point shortly.

Demons are a higher being than humans. God didn't tell man to take dominion over angels, right? We in our carnal flesh have no authority over angels; nor do we have any authority over demons.

But Tim, haven't you seen the Exorcist or any of its 666 sequels? Hmmm? What say you?

You make a good point and I completely rescind my argument. Who am I to question to theological acumen of Hollywood? Isn't it weird how much theology we unconsciously learn from Hollywood and pop culture? Think of how distorted our images of angels are. What about how westernized we make Jesus in our movies, both in what He says and how He looks? Or how we define miracles? Pop culture has obfuscated the word miracle and trivialized its usage to such a degree we parallel it with mayonnaise. Divine acts of God to authenticate revelation and messengers are now what people who don't like mayonnaise put on their sandwiches.

I stand corrected. This kid had authority over angels.
Since humans aren't higher in authority than angels or demons we can't tell them what to do. Since we can't tell demons what to do, then we can't cast them out of people in whom they've taken up possession. In the book of Jude we learn that Michael, the archangel, didn't even pronounce a railing judgment against the devil but instead appealed to God and said, "the Lord rebuke you." If even Michael (the archangel) felt it wasn't his place to rebuke Satan (a fallen angel), then certainly we don't have the authority to rebuke demons (fallen angels).

But didn't the Apostles cast out demons? Yes.
Luke 9:1And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.
First, we see that Christ is above demons since He clearly had the authority to cast them out. Second, we see that Christ has enough authority to give out authority to cast them out. Third, Christ has all authority. Amen?

So the Apostles didn't have the authority on their own to cast out demons, but received such authority from the King of Kings. The Apostles received lots of authority that we didn't receive. They basically had the authority, as given to them by Christ and proven by their ability to do supernatural works (e.g. casting out demons), to add to the Bible! We don't have that privilege...err, responsibility. There was clearly something unique and significant going on at this time in history.

Let's go back to the point I made about the scarcity of demonic activity prior to Christ's time on Earth. Why is that significant? Well, I believe it's significant because it serves to further prove Christ's authority over all creation and that He was and is the Son of God. People didn't cast out demons before because no one had given them the authority to do so. People performed miracles prior to Christ, but they didn't cast out demons. Do you see how that's significant? He was doing things never done before and doing them in an incredible volume and with considerable ease. Demons listened to Him! Demons!

You can see how the idea of demonic possession is closely related (likely, directly connected) to the cessation of miraculous gifts. By the time the New Testament finishes there isn't any mention of demonic possessions. Paul doesn't instruct Timothy or Titus to cast out demons. Peter doesn't mention demons as being something the dispersed people will have to deal with. I believe the Bible teaches that only a select few had the authority and responsibility to cast out demons. 
Acts 19:11-16
11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,12 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. 13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Isn't that fascinating? The demons essentially mocked the Jewish exorcists, understanding that they weren't subject to them. Yet they readily acknowledged they were subject to Jesus and, by extension, Paul. 

I think it's crystal clear that demons aren't possessing people today IF we base it on Scripture and not our experiences and the 2nd, 3rd or 4th hand experiences of people in other countries. I would assume there still is demonic activity today. I just don't think it's at all accurate to say it's as prevalent or as intense as it was 2,000 years ago.  

Furthermore, Christians cannot be possessed by demons (Matthew 12:26).
Homes with at least one regenerate parent are sanctified (1 Corinthians 7:13-14). I can't be dogmatic here but I think it's hard to say a home seen as sanctified by God would also house demons in any way. 

Do with this information as you please. If you have a clearer and more biblical understanding of this, then please correct me. I wanted to touch on this topic because of the rampant false teachings about the supernatural in Charismatic churches and because many of us have been duped by Hollywood! Perhaps some of us were walking around terrified of the wrong type of spiritual warfare! I would say that this post itself was, conveniently enough, a response to spiritual warfare that is going on around us. Think about that for a minute...

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