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Particulars of Christianity:
311 Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare Part 1b:
A Study of Demonic Activity

Spiritual Warfare Part 1a: A Study of Demonic Activity
Spiritual Warfare Part 1b: A Study of Demonic Activity
Spiritual Warfare Part 2a: The Spiritual Warfare of the Believer
Spiritual Warfare Part 2b: The Spiritual Warfare of the Believer
Spiritual Warfare Part 2c: The Spiritual Warfare of the Believer
Spiritual Warfare Part 2d: The Spiritual Warfare of the Believer
Spiritual Warfare P. 3a: Biblical/Historic View of Angels & Demons
Spiritual Warfare P. 3b: Biblical/Historic View of Angels & Demons
Spiritual Warfare P. 3c: Biblical/Historic View of Angels & Demons
Spiritual Warfare Study Conclusions
Spiritual Warfare Additional Quotes and Definitions

The Results of Demon Possession

A survey of the New Testament reveals a total of 14 places where demonic possession (demonic activity) is discussed. These 14 passages can be further subdivided into two categories: 1) 10 individual instances of demon possession and 2) 4 group mentions of demon possession.

From these 14 cases we can assess the results of demon possession. According to the New Testament, demon possession can result in one or both of two states.

There are 4 instances of demon possession resulting in chronic (prolonged or sustained) physical sickness, disease, or disability of the human host.

1) A demon of dumbness - Matthew 9:32, Luke 11:14
2) A demon of blindness and dumbness - Matthew 12:22
3) A demon possessed son (with epilepsy) - Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:17-25, Luke 39-42
4) A woman with a spirit of infirmity (bent forward) - Luke 13:11

There are 9 instances where the demon spirit actually supplants the human spirit as the operator of the body.

1) The man* at the tombs - Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:2-16, Luke 8:27-38
2) A demon possessed son (after the transfiguration) - Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:17-25, Luke 39-42
3) A demon possessed man in the synagogue (Capernaum) - Mark 1:23-27, Luke 4:33-36
4) Demons cast out of many - Mark 1:34
5) Unclean spirits fall down before Jesus - Mark 3:11
6) Demons came out of many - Luke 4:40-41
7) Many with unclean spirits - Acts 8:7
8) A slave girl with a spirit of divination - Acts 16:16-18
9) The sons of Sceva, Jewish exorcists and a demon possessed man - Acts 19:13-16

(NOTE: This totals 13 instances, the case of the Canaanite woman's daughter has been left out since it cannot be clearly identified as to which category it belongs - Matthew 15:22 and Mark 7:25-30.)

From all of these cases of demon possession that are recorded for us in the New Testament we can see that demonic activity is when a demon spirit dwells in the body of a human resulting in either prolonged physical sickness, disease, or disability OR when the demon spirit actually replaces the human spirit as the operator of the body. In each of the 9 cases of this second type, we see that the demons involved caused the person to act and even spoke through them, proving that the demon spirit was operating the mechanisms of the human body overriding the will of the person they possessed.

In addition, this survey of demonic activity also allows us to dismiss another modern misconception about demonic activity, specifically the misconception that demonic presence and activity is not always apparent. In every Biblical case of demonic activity it is recorded clearly that the presence of the demon and their possession of the person involved was undeniably apparent to all those observing the situation.

In each case there is always some clear, outward, physical manifestation of the demon's presence and indication that they were in possession of the person involved. These manifestations came in reaction to the presence of Jesus Christ or his disciples. They also took the form of inexplicable behavior, the demon speaking through the person, or of some physical affliction. There are NO cases presented in the Bible of a demon-possessed person where the presence of the demon is not clearly and readily apparent from external manifestations. Therefore, to suppose that demon possession can occur without being apparent through these types of manifestations is to state what the Bible does not, and as such, would be completely unbiblical.

But what about Saul?

The Old Testament records for us that Saul was tormented by an evil spirit sent from God (1 Samuel 16:14, 23, 18:10, 19:9). In the case of Saul, the evil spirit does not possess him as the New Testament presents demon possession, in that it does not either cause prolonged physical infirmity, nor does it replace his spirit as the operator of his body. Instead, the spirit comes and goes multiple times only causing Saul to become enraged (or violent).

Does this then contradict our conclusions from the New Testament about demonic activity? No. Saul's case is unique, which prevents us from using it in order to generate universal rules about demonic activity in a broad sense. Not only is Saul's case the only one in which a demon neither causes prolonged physical infirmity nor takes control of the person's body, but it is the only case in which the evil spirit is sent by God to torment a person. Based on these factors and our comparison to the New Testament's description of demonic activity, we must conclude that Saul is a unique case. And we must conclude that our understanding about the general nature of demonic activity is more adequately generated by these many cases from the New Testament and not the single, isolated Old Testament instance of Saul.

Now that we have laid the groundwork through our New Testament survey of demonic possession we will turn to the first issue listed under modern views of spiritual warfare: whether or not demons are responsible for ungodly human behavior, including attitudes, bad habits, etc.

We have already seen from our survey that demons can be responsible for prolonged or chronic physical infirmity. But demons are not the only cause for physical suffering. For instance, each of the Biblical instances where demonic possession takes place the physical sickness or disability was long term. The Bible does not present demons as being responsible for short-lived illnesses, such as colds or coughs. It is true that Jesus did heal many sick persons some of whom may not have been chronically ill, but nowhere in the Bible do we see that demons are made responsible for such things. There are many passages, which describe Jesus healing the sick in the same context as mentioning that he cast out demons, but an analysis of these passages leaves us unable to make any conclusion that the demons were necessarily responsible for the sickness and unable to conclude that the sickness was anything less than serious.

Given the hermeneutic principle that less clear passages of scripture must be interpreted in light of clear(er) passages, we must form our understanding of demonic activity based upon the 14 clear examples of demonic activity in the New Testament and not from less specific passages.

Additionally, while demons are shown in connection with long-term illness or disability we cannot conclude that all chronic illness or physical disability is caused by demons. The Bible clearly informs us that sickness is at times caused by God (Exodus 9:1-12, Numbers 12:1-16, Numbers 21:5-9, 2 Chronicles 26:16-22, 1 Kings 13:1-6, Genesis 19:4-11, Luke 1:18-22, 62-64, Acts 9:8, 17-18, Galatians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, Acts 13:10-12), or is the result of the curse on all mankind (Genesis 3:16-19, John 9:1-3), or just because of our sin (1 Corinthians 11:28-32, Romans 1:26-27).

But what about other human behaviors, ungodly attitudes, bad habits, etc.? Are demons responsible for these? Again, the answer is no. There is no Biblical precedent to suggest this to be the case. Of the 14 instances of demonic activity (possession) that are recorded in the New Testament, not one of them presents the idea that demonic activity is anything less than possession to the affect of prolonged physical infirmity or the replacement of the human spirit by the demon spirit as the operator of the body. Nowhere in the New Testament do we see demons affiliated with or held responsible for corrupt human habits or bad attitudes, etc. as some today in the Church readily assert.

The single verse, which some may attempt to appeal to on this matter is Luke 8:2.

Luke 8:2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities (769), Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils

Though we have never heard anyone make the case, this passage states that certain women were healed of evil spirits and infirmities. Although the word "infirmities" means physical sickness, it also includes among its definitions the idea of an inability to restrain corrupt desires. However, even if this is the case this verse does not make any causal connection between the presence of the evil spirits and the infirmities. It only tells us that they are healed of both. So, it is impossible to state that the evil spirits are responsible for such infirmities.

However, it must also be noted that in every instance where this Greek word for infirmities ("astheneia") is used with the word "therapeuo" for healed, "astheneia" always refers to physical sickness or disability. When mentioned in the same passage as demons "astheneia" also always refers to physical ailment and NOT to the inability to restrain corrupt desires. Examples of this are Matthew 8:17, Luke 5:15, Luke 13:11, John 5:5, and Acts 28:9.

Therefore, it cannot be argued that demons are responsible for or cause ungodly human attitudes or habits and we must discard this notion, which has become accepted and commonplace in the modern Church. As far as we know there is no such thing, Biblically speaking, as a spirit of alcoholism, a spirit of bitterness, a spirit of impatience, a spirit of lust, a spirit of rebellion, or any other spirit that some might suggest in order to explain poor human behavior. On the contrary, the Bible repeatedly informs us that sinful human behavior is a result of man's own choice (James 1:14, Romans 1-2).

Conclusions about Demonic Activity

Before we continue with the next part of this study let's take a moment to return to our list of questions and specific points that we presented earlier regarding the purpose and scope of this study. The first question we asked was:

1. How does the Bible describe demonic activity? What does it entail? What are its results, etc.?

In the preceding section we have answered this question and dismissed as unscriptural the first three points associated with the modern church view. These points were:

1. Demons are responsible for ungodly human behavior, including attitudes, habits, etc.
2. Christians can be affected by demonic presence or activity.
3. Demonic presence and activity is not always readily apparent.

In examining the scriptural evidence we, instead, concluded the following points regarding demonic activity from a Biblical point of view:
1. Demons are the same as unclean spirits.
2. Demonic activity involving humans is demonic possession.
3. Demonic possession involves a demon spirit(s) inhabiting a human body.
4. Demonic possession typically results in one of two outcomes (or possibly both): a) chronic or prolonged physical sickness, disease, or disability OR b) the replacement of the human spirit by the demon spirit as the operator of the human body.
5. Demonic possession is always accompanied by clear, outward manifestation, which demonstrates that a person is demon possessed. This can take the form of physical illness or disability or it can be in the form of inexplicable human behavior, such as the demon speaking out of the person, etc.
6. The Bible does NOT provide support for the notion that demons cause or are responsible for bad attitudes, ungodly habits or behaviors, or poor character traits in humans. Instead, the Bible places the responsibility and origin of such things squarely on the human individual.
7. Because Saul was not actually demon possessed, the case of Saul is a single and unique instance that cannot be broadly applied or used to form rules about demonic activity on a universal scale.
8. Demons can cause physical infirmity (see conclusion 4), but sickness and disability are NOT always caused by demons. The Bible also shows that God, His angels, the curse (upon the earth and mankind), and sinful behavior are all possible causes of sickness and infirmity.