|Volume 21 Number 9 September 2019||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Aside from historical and contemporary fascination with demons, demons are also a biblical topic. However, much of what worldly people believe concerning demons has no basis in either factual evidence or biblical reference. “The problem for the modern world, then, is not demon possession but demon obsession!” (Mosher, “Demons (1)” 4).
The English words “demon” and “demons” appear 88 times in the NKJV, including four times in the Old Testament (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:37). Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37 refer to a ‘malignant demon.’ The other two citations derive from another Hebrew word and mean “shaggy,” particularly a “he-goat.” Therefore, 55 times that Hebrew word appears, owing to the definition and contexts, it refers to goats, and twice it is translated as “satyr.” Also due to the contexts of Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15, what elsewhere refers to goats is translated as “demons” in those instances.
“Daemon” translated “demon” appears 13 times in the New Testament. “Daimon” appears only in Matthew 8:31, meaning a “demon” or “an evil spirit.” “Daimonion” appears in the New Testament 63 times and is translated as “demon.” The verb “diamonizomai” means possessed by a demon and occurs 13 times. The adjective “diamoniodes” means demonic, used only in James 3:15.
“The existence of demons is taken for granted in the gospel accounts and nothing is said concerning their origin” (Gulledge 5). “Even the enemies of Jesus admitted the fact of His casting out demons, though they wrongly attributed His power as to being in league with the demons (see Mark 3:22)” (Daugherty 87).
Origin & Identity of Demons
There are primarily two differing ideas that men entertain regarding the origin or the identity of demons. Some suppose that demons were the same as the fallen angels who followed Satan in his mutiny against God (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Others imagine that demons were souls of the wicked dead who were for a time allowed to escape Hades.
Angels are not said to need an organic body to work on earth; a fact that cannot be said of demons (Matthew 8:28-34). Because of the latter facts many Bible students have decided that demons are the departed spirits of evil men who were loosed from the hadean realm for a season. (Mosher, “Demons (1)” 4)
V.E. Howard doubted that demons were the souls of wicked dead temporarily released from Hades. “This passage [Luke 16:22-29] further forbids the idea that spirits of those departed, either of the good or the evil, can be permitted to go back to earth, either for purposes of helping men or hindering men” (44). Yet, the same problem applies to the fallen angels, since they, too, have been bound. They are chained and likewise reserved for Judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
No one can decisively argue regarding the origin or the identity of demons in New Testament times in the absence of information in the Word of God to resolve the question. “In the final analysis, no dogmatic conclusion can be drawn with reference to the origin of demons. That they existed admits of no doubt to anyone who takes the Bible seriously; as to their origin, the Scriptures are silent” (Jackson 26). “…The New Testament is silent about origins of demons…In light of this silence, Christians do not need to spend a lot of time speculating or being dogmatic about the origin of demons” (Daughtery 87).
Description of Demons
& Demon Possession
So, from the biblical context one accepts the existence of demons in the first century world through which Jesus Christ and His disciples trekked. In addition, only from the biblical context can one derive a description and a definition of demons.
It is apparent that demons were supernatural spiritual beings who were inferior to God and superior to men. “Demons could speak, and seemed to be endowed with knowledge that was superior to their hosts” (Mosher, “Demons (2)” 4). “In the Scriptures they are presented as intelligent beings, possessing true knowledge of Jesus Christ as the Son of God” (Gulledge 5). “It is a rather sobering thought to note that demons are the first ones mentioned in Holy Writ as recognizing that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed Deity… (Mark 1:23-24)” (Mosher, “Demons (2)” 4). “In the NT and early Christianity generally demons are always regarded as evil spirits. This viewpoint is made clear through the frequent use of such terms as ‘evil spirits,’ ‘unclean spirits,’ and ‘deceitful spirits’ as interchangeable with ‘demons’” (“Demonology”). The New International Bible Encyclopedia encapsulates demons as we find them in the New Testament.
The Gospels contain six accounts of Jesus exorcizing demons from afflicted individuals: (1) the demoniac in the synagogue (Mark 1:23 par. Luke 4:33-36), (2) the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20 par. Matt 8:28-34 par. Luke 8:26-39), (3) the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30 par. Matt 15:21-28), (4) the epileptic lad (Mark 9:14-29 par. Matt 17:14-21 par. Luke 9:37-43), (5) the dumb demoniac (Matt 9:32-34), and (6) the blind and dumb demoniac (Matt 12:22 par. Luke 11:15). The healing of the woman with a spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:10-17), if considered an exorcism, may be added to this list. Further, an exorcism twice mentioned but never narrated concerns Mary Magdalene, who had been delivered from seven demons (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9). Although the Gospels allude several times to the practice of demonic exorcism by Jesus’ disciples (Mark 3:14; Mark 6:7 par. Matt 10:1 par. Luke 9:1; Luke 10:17-20; Mark 16:17; Mark 9:18,28 par. Matt 17:16,19 par. Luke 9:40), the only specific instance of a NT exorcism not performed by Jesus is that attributed to Paul in Acts 16:16-18, in which a “spirit of divination” is cast out of a slave girl. (“Demonology”)
“Demon possession is clearly distinguished from mental illness and sickness in the Holy Bible—every time!” (Mosher, “Demons (2)” 4). “Even in New Testament times when true possessions were rather common, a clear distinction was made between demon possession and ailments of mind and body” (McMillon 101). “The New Testament record is very careful to differentiate between demon possession and illnesses. Certainly, demon possession could produce illness, but not all illness was attributed to demon possession” (Daugherty 87). “Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them” (Matthew 4:24 NKJV).
The Purpose of Demons
Though the origin and the identity of demons is an unknown to mortals this side of eternity, the purpose behind the appearance of demons in first century Palestine is no mystery. We have a strong hint in 1 John 3:8 of the reason for which demons were allowed to possess individuals during the ministries of Jesus Christ and His disciples. “…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” When the 70 disciples, who marveled that they were able to cast out demons, returned to Jesus, our Lord said, “…I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).
“Just as Jesus demonstrated His power over nature (Mark 4:35-41), over incurable illnesses (Mark 5:25-34), and over death (Mark 5:35-43), Jesus demonstrated His authority over the spirit world. …Jesus gave His Apostles power to cast out demons. The credibility of their message was confirmed by their power to perform miracles which included the casting out of demons (Mark 16:15-20)” (Daugherty 88). “God allowed demon possession to allow Jesus and the Apostles to show their power or authority over the spirit world. …Furthermore, demons were cast out to confirm truth…Mk. 16:17, 20…” (Stacy 44). The existence of demons and demon possession “…established the comprehensive and supreme authority of the Son of God” (Jackson 28).
No More Demons
The purpose for the existence of demons and demon possession on earth has been fulfilled. Therefore, demons and true demon possession no longer exist. “Their time of work was limited in the same manner as were spiritual [miraculous] gifts” (Hatch 5). Forasmuch as miracles served their purpose to confirm the Word of God (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4) and to authenticate the Messiah (John 20:30-31) but have ended (1 Corinthians 13:8-12), demons and demon possession have also ended. “When the last apostle died, the gifts, which only an apostle could bestow, ended. The manifestation of demons also ended” (Hatch 5).
“If demons still possess people today, then the age of miracles is still with us and we do not yet have all truth!” (Stacy 44). Demon possession was a supernatural, miraculous circumstance, but the age of miracles was supposed to end after the partial revelations of the Gospel were replaced with a complete revelation (1 Corinthians 13:8-12). We have been given the complete revelation of God for people now living; it is the New Testament (Jude 3). We are not allowed to accept any additional revelation (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19). We have all that we need (2 Peter 1:3). Were demon possession still occurring today and yet miraculous ability to cast out demons (Mark 16:17) was no longer available, what a cruel and hopeless peril that would be for the human race. There are no more demons to cast out, and no one has any miraculous power to cast out demons either. Zechariah 13:1-2 is thought to be a prophecy about demons and demon possession, as well as a prophecy about their ending, too. “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. It shall be in that day, says the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land.”
Demons were evil spirit beings limited in time to the biblical era, chiefly in first century Palestine. They were “not omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent” (Stacy 44). Their existence on earth paralleled the extant of the miraculous gifts bestowed upon humanity. Casting out demons demonstrated that Jesus Christ in particular was superior over everything, including the spirit world. When the purpose of miracles was fulfilled, miraculous ability—including demon possession and casting out demons—was neither needed any more nor available to anyone—demon or human.
Daugherty, Bruce. “Demon Possession.” The Book of Mark. Moundsville: West Virginia School of Preaching, 2001, 81-92.
“Demonology.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Revised Ed. CD-ROM. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans P., 1979.
Gulledge, Dennis. “Because Even the Demons Confessed Him (II).” First Century Christian Oct. 1995: 4-5.
Hatch, Don. “Exorcism.” Firm Foundation Dec. 1998: 1, 5-6.
Howard, V.E. Gospel Radio Sermons, Vol. 2: The Occults. West Monroe: Central Printers & Publishers, 1976.
McMillon, Lynn A. Doctrines of Demons. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1975.
Mosher, Keith A., Sr. “Demons (1).” Bible Light Jul.-Aug. 1997: 2, 6.
-----. “Demons (2).” Bible Light Sep.-Oct. 1997: 4, 7.
Stacy, John. Citizens of Eternity: Sermons on Angels, Demons and Satan. Rutherford: Stacy P., 1979.
In the Lord’s Army
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
The church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not for the faint of heart. Religion, especially in today’s world, is viewed as a passive way of life. However, God’s Book, the Bible, paints a far different picture of what Christians are to be. One of my favorite analogies that God uses for His people is the parallel to a soldier. Throughout the New Testament Scriptures, God placed serious emphasis on the militancy of His church. Someone has correctly said that the only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. Surely, that is why God placed such emphasis on His people to be militant and not passive. Therefore, each Christian is enrolled in the Lord’s army and, as such, has certain responsibilities. Let us scripturally consider some of the responsibilities that each Christian has in the Lord’s army.
Firstly, the Lord’s Army is a choice. Nearing the end of his life, Joshua spoke of the individual choice in serving God, “…choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Jesus closed the Revelation with emphasizing this choice, “…And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17b). In the Lord’s army, there is no “drafting.” There are no soldiers in the Lord’s army who are there by accident! It is a personal, conscious choice to enlist in the Lord’s army. While God would prefer all men to enlist, each person has a choice!
Secondly, the Lord’s Army has a captain. Sadly, some enlist in the Lord’s army and believe that they still have some control. In the Lord’s army, Jesus Christ is the only captain! He directs and the soldiers follow (Matthew 16:24). The writer of Hebrews made it quite clear who is in charge (Hebrews 2:10; 2 Chronicles 13:12). As the Captain, Jesus is the only Lord and King (1 Timothy 6:15) and the only Head (Colossians 1:18). Soldiers in the Lord’s army faithfully and willingly submit to Him (James 4:7).
Thirdly, the Lord’s Army follows commands. In the same way that a physical army must follow commands, the spiritual army of God has commands to obey as well. Those commands are clearly outlined in the soldier’s handbook (2 Timothy 3:15-17). When a soldier fails to obey the commands of the Captain, he is in serious trouble! Soldiers in the Lord’s army do not seek wisdom and commands from anyone other than their Captain by His authority (Matthew 28:18-20). “I think so’s,” “my opinions” and “if I were the captain” do not have any place in the Lord’s army. We must faithfully and willingly trust, obey and serve the commands we have been given!
Lastly, the Lord’s Army does not consort with the enemy. We are in a serious battle! There is a real enemy who is working daily to win this war (1 Peter 5:8). As such, there is no room for compromise. We must stand firm and neither consort nor fraternize with the enemy in any way (2 John 9-11). While there are other soldiers who have deserted the ranks (2 Thessalonians 3:6), we must not follow in their desertion! The battle belongs to those who do not conform to this ungodly world (Romans 12:1-2).
Dear Friends, the battle rages on. Each person who has enlisted in the Lord’s army has the responsibility to continue in the fight. If necessary, we must be willing to die for this wonderful cause (Revelation 2:10). As soldiers, while we are engaged in this battle upon the earth, we never get a leave of absence (Acts 2:42). However, to those who make the right choice to serve the one true Captain, daily following His commands and determined not to consort with the enemy, there is a great, eternal victory prepared (John 14:1-4). Little wonder why Paul was so confident at the end of his enlistment to write, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give to me in that day: and not to me only, but unto them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Therefore, the inspired admonition sounds forth today as loud as ever, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Thank God!