According to the Scriptures, demons are unclean, destructive spirits which torment and enslave human beings.
While they are rarely mentioned in the Old Testament, they are mentioned quite frequently in the New Testament, especially in the Gospels, where Jesus is often depicted as driving demons out of people (see here for a partial list of relevant verses).
These spirits are often associated with the work of the devil and with various kinds of sickness and mental torment, although the Bible does not attribute all sickness to demonic spirits.
These are typical accounts from the Gospels, describing the ministry of Jesus:
“And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”
“That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.”
Or in the Lord’s own words, addressed to King Herod, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.’”
As to the origin of these unclean spirits, the Bible is silent, although that hasn’t stopped students of the Bible from speculating. Are they fallen angels? Are they dispossessed spirits of the Nephilim? Are they dispossessed spirits from a prior creation?
We simply do not know.
But we do know demons are as real as you and me. They just exist in another plane, a spiritual plane, like the angels, which are also spiritual beings.
At the same time, the spiritual realm intersects with the natural realm, which is why demons can have such a powerful, destructive effect on human beings.
But do demons actually possess people? Is that taught in the Bible?
Greek scholars debate how the word daimonizomai should be translated.
Does it mean “demon possessed”? Or “oppressed by demons”? Or “demonized”?
Other passages in the New Testament speak of people having an ‘unclean’ spirit or being bound by a Satanic spirit, and with consistency, the Scriptures speak of demons coming out of people. In fact, that is the whole point of exorcisms: the demons are driven out. That’s why the Greek word most commonly used for this activity is ekballo, which literally means “cast out, drive out.”
What is certain, then, is that demons can inhabit human beings, they can bring mental torment or physical disease or spiritual bondage, and that they must be driven out.
So, whether people are actually “demon possessed,” they have certainly under demonic power and need to be set free.
What about today? Can people still be demonized? Are demons still here and active? Should believers still perform exorcisms?
Let me answer those questions with another question: Where does the Bible say demons simply disappeared or that the death and resurrection of Jesus put a stop to all demonic activity?
It is also clear that the devil himself is neither on vacation nor has he retired (see here and here). And if we accept as authentic the verses at the end of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus said that this activity would continue through believers in an ongoing way.
My question for those who believe the Bible to be true but no longer believe in demon possession or exorcism is simply this: What happened to all the demons? Did they suddenly declare truce or find some other beings to inhabit? And if exorcisms continued in the book of Acts and if the early Church Fathers also spoke about driving out demons why shouldn’t we? (Catholic and Orthodox Christians will know that exorcisms have been attested through the centuries.)
To quote Irenaeus of Lyon in his work Against Heresies (180 A.D.):
“For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe, and join themselves to the Church. . . . Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole.”
That being said, before you start trying to drive demons out of people, remember:
- Not everything is caused by demons
- Always look for a natural explanation for a physical or mental condition before attributing it to demons
- No one can say, “A demon made me do it,” since we are ultimately responsible for our own sins
- You had better know what you are doing before you start commanding demons to leave. (Repeat that last point a bunch of times until it sinks it.) Exorcism is not something you casually “try out.”
For those who do not believe the Bible to be God’s Word, this article will likely be further fuel for your fire. “Demons, today? Right!”
For those who accept the testimony of Scripture, I have simply tried to present here what is clearly taught in the Bible.
As for my own experience in ministry over the decades, both in the States and overseas, it confirms what is written in the Word.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries and is the author of 40 books. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.