Angelology 023 (Demonology 5)Mark 5:1-20 • Dr. Andy Woods • December 29, 2019 • Angelology
December 29, 2019
Dr. Andy Woods
Open your Bibles to Mark 5:1. We’re continuing to move through our study on the doctrine of angels. We’ve covered the good angels and Satan—the key fallen angel, and lately we’ve been looking at the doctrine of demons, or demonology.
Here is the outline that we’re using to go through demonology. We’ve finished numbers one through six. We’ve looked at the existence of demons—Old Testament and New Testament.
We’ve looked at the origin of demons. The best guess is that they are the one third of the angels that fell with Satan.
We’ve seen that demons have the elements of personhood. They’re not to be understood as the dark side (impersonal sources of energy). But they are actual beings with real personalities having intellect, emotions, and will.
We have seen the characteristics of demons. Almost every vile term you can think of in the Bible is applied to demons: unclean, evil, etc.
We’ve looked at the powers of demons. They have tremendous strength, intelligence, and mobility. But they’re not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent.
We’ve looked at the works of demons—all of the things that demons do. One of which we covered last time is the occult. They can give people supernatural powers. Last time we were together we looked at the occult—divination, spiritism, magic, PHARMAKEIA, etc.
What we’re coming into today—sorry I don’t have a happier thought for you today in Sunday school—is number seven, demon possession. In the West, it’s like this thing that we read about the Bible, but we really don’t know what to make of it. I mean, is it true that demons can actually possess a person, etc.?
I do find it interesting that when you talk to people abroad or you talk to missionaries abroad, they have less of a problem believing in demon possession than we do here in North America. I think the reason we might see less of it than in other places of the world is because of the Christian influence in the United States.
Of course, as that Christian influence deteriorates—and I think we’re largely watching it deteriorate—what you start to see more and more in its place is more and more demonic type issues. So we have a hard time really wrestling with this—understanding it—because we don’t see a lot of it in the West. But those abroad have less of a problem accepting its reality, and I think that is also changing for the worse here in the United States.
Having said all that, here’s an outline that we’ll look at as we take a look at this strange subject to us called demon possession. First of all, do we have a definition of demon possession? Let me just give you a definition that I think works. You can define demon possession in the Bible as follows: one or more demons inhabit the body of a human, thereby taking complete and total control of the victim.
In other words, the demons enter a person and take their personality and totally—one hundred percent—subjugate it. I have always found this very interesting: when Satan uses somebody, particularly when you’re dealing with a demonic possession, there is a subjugation of the individual.
When God uses somebody, He respects the individual in the sense that every single person has unique temperament, personality, life experience. When God is actually using somebody what you’ll find in God is that He uses that person’s life experience, gifting, temperament, etc., because God is the author of those things as well.
But that is not true in the case of demon possession. When a person is demon possessed, you see the total conquest and subjugation of a human being. In other words, the person is literally subsumed by the entity or entities that have possessed the body of such a person.
To show you how God works versus how Satan works, we have in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. These verses you know very well. They say, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” There’s our word THEOPNEUSTOS, God breathed. A compound word—THEOS combined with spirit—God breathed. That’s what the Scriptures are in their original manuscripts; they’re God breathed. “…and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
The claim that the Bible makes is that the Bible, in its original manuscripts, was written by men. But at the same time they were penning their message, they were writing down God’s words. Talking about the writers of Scripture, we believe in the Author, God, and author, person. That’s not true with demon possession; there is no little “a.” There is just a total entrance into a person, and the person’s personality is completely subsumed.
Another verse on the inspiration of Scripture you know too, 2 Peter 1:20-21. As we’re broaching the subject of demon possession, I’m just trying to draw a distinction between the way God works and the way Satan works. Second Peter 1:20-21 says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
The Greek word for move there is the verb PHERO, which is the same word used to describe the propelling of a sailboat in the Book of Acts. In Acts 27:15-17, you’ll see that same verb used to describe how wind comes into the sails of a boat and the boat is propelled. In the same way, the Holy Spirit came upon the writers of Scripture, and they ended up penning God’s message. But as they penned God’s message, God somehow strategically used their individual gifts, temperaments, writing styles, personalities, etc.
So we have capitol “A,” divine Author of Scripture, and we know that the Scripture was written by men—author, little “a.” That’s what’s called dual authorship.
As you go through the Bible, you can see the personalities of these writers come out, can’t you? Take, for example, Matthew. Matthew talks more about money than any other Gospel writer, did you know that? In fact, in the parable of the talents which is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, a talent is a numerical sum; it was currency. In fact, only in Matthew’s Gospel do you find the story—I think it’s in chapter 17—of Jesus and Peter going fishing.
They pull out a fish from the water and inside the fish’s mouth is a what? A coin. Then Jesus tells Peter, “I want you to use that coin to pay the temple tax.” I always read that story and say, “Lord, can you do that miracle with me?” That would be a great way to take care of April 15th (tax day).
But why is it that only Matthew records that story? Why is it Matthew keeps talking so frequently about money? Why do we have the parable of the talents in Matthew’s Gospel? Well, it’s easy to grasp when you understand Matthew’s vocation, which was a what? Tax collector. So you see how God used Matthew to write the Book of Matthew, but He did not totally in the process override who Matthew was.
You get into the subject of Luke. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. As you go through those books, what you’re going to see is that Luke talks more about the prenatal activities of Jesus and John the Baptist in their mother’s wombs than any other Gospel writer.
Beyond that, when you go to Acts 1 you have the story of Judas committing suicide; it’s a historical account of how that took place. And the Book of Acts—written also by Luke—talks about how Judas’ body went over a cliff. Probably the best way to understand it is Judas hung himself over a cliff, he died, and when the rope (or the branch—whatever it is he was on) broke or snapped, his body went over the ravine and began to tumble down.
Acts tells us that his body was torn open, and intestines gushed out. You read that and you say, “Why would he tell me that? Why do I need to know about the man’s intestines?” Well, it makes sense when you understand Luke’s vocation, which was what? A physician; Colossians 4 talks about that. That’s why Luke is talking about prenatal activities and Matthew isn’t. That’s why Luke is talking about intestines, but Matthew isn’t. See how this works?
Then you get into Peter’s books—Peter wrote two books, 1 Peter and 2 Peter. Peter talks more about the Flood than any other single writer of the epistolary literature that we have. Why is Peter so interested in the Flood and Noah’s day? He describes the water that was on the earth and original Creation. Why does Peter keep talking about water over and over again? Well, it makes sense when you understand Peter’s vocation which was what? A fisherman. So that’s how dual authorship worked.
God used the writers of Scripture in a supernatural way to record His message, but in the process God never overrode who these writers were. He respected their individual gifts, literary styles, temperament, personality, etc. And you would expect God to respect those things, since God is the Author of those things also.
That is entirely different than the way Satan works. Satan is not interested in respecting any individuality in this area of demon possession. He’s interested in total submission, total subjugation, to the point where you didn’t even know an individual person or personality was in that particular body that has now been demon possessed. That’s what demon possession is: one or more demons inhabit the body of a human victim thereby taking complete and total control of the victim.
What causes demon possession? Why is it that you go through the Bible and some people are demon possessed and some people aren’t? The reality of the situation is that the Scripture never gives a cause, never really gives a reason. The victim—and this is just speculation—may be—could be—responsible for that condition by dabbling in what last week we called the occult—and opening up certain spiritual channels that would not be opened up had the victim not dabbled in those things.
There is another possibility. You’ve got a guy in Mark 9:21; it talks about his demonized condition from childhood. Maybe there is something going on with the parents experimenting with the occult and opening up channels that wouldn’t be opened up otherwise. Other than those brief moments of speculation, I really don’t know if the Bible tells us one way or the other why some people are demon possessed and some people aren’t.
As we get into the subject of demon possession, we’re going to be moving into the characteristics of demon possessed people. Then, as time permits, we’re going to be getting into the whole subject of demon possession and the Christian. “Can a born-again Christian be demon possessed?” We’ll talk about that as well.
When you get into the subject of demonism, demonology, angelology, “…we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” I don’t know if I can communicate this clearly enough. It’s hard to communicate how important this is, but here’s my attempt! The main thing to understand about all of this stuff is you have to have balance!
I’ve been a Christian since 1983, and I’ve seen the body of Christ here in the United States go through multiple extremes on this. There’s one extreme that says, “These things don’t happen today, so you don’t have to worry about them.” The other extreme is where people are trying to find a demon behind every single tree. In other words, anything that goes wrong in a person’s life must be demonic or satanic.
As you know, with most things the truth is not found in one extreme or the other; it’s usually found in the middle somewhere. And that’s the case with this issue of demonism, fallen angels, demonic possession, etc. Because when we get into the subject, we have to have balance.
The reality of the situation is not all human evil is attributable to Satan and demons, because the Christian has not one enemy but three! The moment you trusted Christ as your Savior and the Holy Spirit came alive in you through the miracle of regeneration, is the moment you inherited three enemies that you didn’t have before.
Now, you may be a very nice person and not want any enemies—I get that—but the Bible doesn’t give you that option. The only option is that you’ve got three enemies. Before you trusted in Christ, you didn’t have these enemies. Now that you’re in Christ, you’ve got three! You don’t have one, as a demonic override mindset would give you—everything is Satan’s fault. Quoting Flip Wilson, the comedian, “The devil made me do it!”
The reality of the situation is that you’ve got three enemies. I like to call this principle “three-dimensional warfare.” The middle tense of your salvation is sanctification—your growth in Christ. I’m not talking about how you come to Christ, I’m talking about how you grow in Christ.
Whether or not you grow in Christ? The Bible leaves open the possibility that there are a lot of people in the body of Christ that aren’t growing; they are actually born-again Christians. We don’t have time to look at those Scriptures, but 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 tells you that very clearly, as does Hebrews 5:11-14.
So, why is it that some Christians grow, and some Christians don’t? The issue relates to the fact that the growing Christian knows who their three enemies are. And not only do they know who their three enemies are, they know the biblical resources that God has given to overcome each enemy.
When you get into this subject, you’ll see that the enemies are described. But God doesn’t just say, “Those are your enemies.” He tells you how to overcome each enemy: not through your own resources, but through His resources.
A lot of spiritual warfare teaching that you get today with its complete and total focus on Satan and the demons is lopsided, because it’s not educating people to the reality that they don’t just have one enemy, but three! What are those three enemies?
The first enemy is your flesh—the old man—or the sin nature—which you have had ever since physical conception. You’ve inherited that from Adam. Now that you’re in Christ and you trusted Christ, what has come alive in you is the Spirit of God. And God has given you a new nature, 2 Peter 1:4.
But the reality of the situation is, just because you have a new nature doesn’t mean the old nature just withered away and died. It’s always there to tempt you; it’s always there to go back to. Paul is describing a struggle inside of him in Romans 7:15-24. What he’s talking about there is his life as a new Christian before he really learned the resources of God to overcome that sin nature. The tools to overcome that sin nature are in Romans 6 (your co-crucifixion into Christ) and Romans 8 (the walk of the Holy Spirit).
Romans 7 is the problem; Romans 6 and 8 is the solution. So that’s enemy number one: we’ve got the sin nature to wrestle with. And that’s not going to change until glorification, or death, or the Rapture of the church—whichever comes first.
The second enemy that you have is the world system, which is orchestrated by Lucifer. It’s the system of philosophy that we’re all living in that excludes God. It is basically defined by three things. You’ll see all of these in 1 John 2:15-17: lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and the pride of life.
The world system dangles in front of us, constantly, philosophies. Whether it’s materialism, humanism, whatever—they’re designed to tantalate the sin nature in the Christian and alienate us from God. In other words, we fall in love with the world. And the more we fall in love with the world, the more we’re alienated from God. Consequently, the world system is enemy number two.
In fact, at the very end of the last letter he wrote, in 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul talks about a man named Demas. He says, “for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me…” A lot of people will look at that and say, “Obviously, Demas never got saved! Because if he was saved, he wouldn’t have deserted Paul!” That’s nonsense! Of course Demas was saved, because Paul is the one who put Demas on the missionary team!
Why would Paul take an unsaved person—or someone whose salvation is in doubt—and let him accompany him on his missionary journeys? Of course Demas was saved. It’s just that Demas never really understood his second enemy (the world system) and how it operated, and he didn’t apply the biblical steps necessary to overcome that second enemy. So that’s enemy number two—the world system.
Then, of course, we have enemy number three, Satan himself and his fallen angels. That’s why Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
You’ll notice something when you look at the whole Bible, particularly the New Testament. You’ll see very fast that we don’t just have one enemy—Satan and demons. We’ve actually got three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. And many times they’ll tag-team on you. In other words, two or three will gang up on you simultaneously.
Sometimes the assault seems so powerful that you think its Satan himself, but really it could be a combination of all three—the world, the flesh, and the devil. I call this concept “three-dimensional warfare.” Meaning, you know who your enemy is—all three! You know how they work. And you know, once you’re hit by your enemy, the steps you need to take to overcome each enemy.
The Christian who is able to do what I just articulated? That’s your growing Christian! That’s a Christian who’s developing in the middle tense of their salvation. Christians who are not familiar with these three enemies are going to just stay their whole Christian life in a state of infancy, in a state of developmental delay, or a state of what we might call spiritual regression.
All of this to say that when we get into the subject of Satan and the demons—which is one of your enemies—we have to have a lot of balance on this. Christians should not be too quick to attribute all sin to demon possession, because the human heart is wicked absent any demonic involvement.
Do we understand this? That if Satan had no role on this earth, we would still sin? Why is that? Because we don’t just have one enemy, but how many? Three! The sin nature would still be there to test us and tempt us!
Let me just give you a verse or two on this whole issue of balance and how we shouldn’t attribute every evil action to demons. Genesis 8:21 is right after the Flood. You’ll notice that the Flood cleansed the earth, but it never fixed man’s sin problem because the sin nature just got passed down into the post-Flood world as Noah’s three sons and their respective wives repopulated the earth. We’ve got a new environment, but the sin problem is still there.
Notice what it says—this is post-flood. “The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth [some translations say from childhood]; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.’ ”
God is acknowledging that the earth is cleansed physically, but humans are still depraved internally because we have the sin nature in our childhood—in our youth. In fact, if I’m reading Psalm 51:5 correctly, we inherit that sin nature at the point of physical conception. So, you don’t have to teach children to sin.
You didn’t take your kids aside and say, “Okay, Dad’s going to give you lesson today. Ready? We’re going to teach you how to throw a tantrum. Ready? Here’s how you do it! Here’s another lesson we’re going to give you: we’re going to teach you today to be selfish. Today is our selfish lesson; here’s how you’re to be selfish.”
No! You never have to teach a child to be self-centered. You never have to teach a child to be non-sharing. You have to teach them the opposite! And that’s what parenting is! You’re largely teaching children how to overcome the sin nature that they’ve inherited from the point of conception.
I’ve seen people that are in church their whole lives and don’t understand this. They think children are innocent. The reality of the situation is my sin does not make me a sinner. A lot of people have this mindset that children are innocent until they commit their first sin; then they become a sinner.
In California I was talking to a person who had been in church for decades—decades—and this was her articulation of the whole issue to me. I was polite about it; I didn’t say anything back to her, so I restrained my sin nature. But I’m thinking to myself, “You’ve been in church for all these years and yet you don’t understand this most basic thing?”
A child’s sin does not make them a sinner! Rather, the child sins because they already are a what? A sinner! They have a proclivity for it. And all of us who are in Adam’s corrupted lineage have a proclivity for it.
This is the big deal about what we just celebrated last week—the virgin birth of Christ. Right? If Jesus had a normal conception and if Jesus’ entrance into our world was not miraculous, then He would have had the exact same sin nature. And if He had the exact same sin nature, how could He qualify to be our sin bearer, since the atoning sacrifice must be unblemished and perfect? So, Christianity will collapse like a house of cards if you deny the virgin birth.
Let me give you some more verses on this. You might be familiar with Jeremiah 17:9. These are all statements related to anthropology—the doctrine of man. Anthropos—man; ology—the study of man. What does the Bible reveal about the doctrine of man? “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”
That’s the divine assessment of human beings as God looks at us. He says that we’re internally deceitful—we’re actually sick. And the reality of the situation is that from the divine point of view the things we do make no sense at all!
You’ll never understand the way people act or think unless you understand this concept—they’re simply acting out their nature. But if you don’t understand the depravity of man—which is what we’re dealing with here—that we’re corrupted from the inside out—the things that people do are basically incomprehensible—inexplicable! But if you understand what the Bible reveals concerning depravity, you understand why people do the things that they do.
You’ll even look at people in the church and you’ll understand why they do the things they do. And you’ll say, “Well, that person over there is really not a growing Christian because they’re going back—over and over again—to their sin nature. But this person over here in the church is a growing Christian because they’re not sinless. But they’re sinning less because they understand who their three enemies are, and they’re taking the active steps that God says to take to overcome each enemy.” So, you can’t be like Flip Wilson and say, “The devil made me do it.”
Another really strong verse on this is Mark 7:20-23, where the Pharisees were very upset that Jesus’ disciples were eating on the Sabbath—as if that’s some big crime, right? Because the Sabbath was designed for whom? For man!
So every time God blesses—Jesus blesses—man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees get upset, not understanding the original intent of the Sabbath. But in the process of this exchange with the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath, Jesus makes a tremendous anthropological statement. Just like Genesis 8:21 is an anthropological statement. Just like Jeremiah 17:9 is an anthropological statement. Here’s one of the greatest anthropological statements in the whole Bible, “And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.’ ”
See, they were all upset that they’re taking in food on the Sabbath with this distorted anthropology that evil from people comes from what they take in. And Jesus is very clear here that evil doesn’t come from what people take in; it comes from who they already are within their hearts. So He’s correcting their whole anthropology here.
“And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander…’ ”
What is slander? That’s speaking untruth about people. Does that happen today in the 21st century? Spend little time on social media and you’ll see it all over the place. Not to mention this next one, “ ‘…pride and foolishness.’ ” And then Jesus is very clear in verse 23, “ ‘All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’ ”
Now, you notice that Satan is not mentioned in this passage at all. Nor is Satan mentioned in Jeremiah 17:9. Nor is Satan mentioned in Genesis 8:21. So, He’s revealing the reality of not one-dimensional warfare but three-dimensional warfare.
Of course, look where we are in the Book of Revelation, Revelation 20:7-9, which I won’t read. Because as God gives us grace today, we might actually get to these verses today. Although I can’t promise that. But it’s a description of the Millennial Kingdom, and it’s a description of the humanity that rebels against Jesus Christ at the end of the Millennial Kingdom. In fact if you look at verse 8 it says, “…the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.”
Satan is let out of the abyss to stimulate this rebellion. You say, “Well, how can you blame it on people? Satan caused it!” No, read Zechariah 14:16-18. I think it’s in my PowerPoint for the next hour. The reality of the situation is that evil was in existence in the Millennial Kingdom amongst the mortal survivors of the Tribulation period.
The descendants of those who survived the Tribulation period will repopulate the earth, the sin nature will get passed down, and you have a comparable situation to what you had after the Flood. The earth is cleansed, but the sin nature continues.
That’s exactly what happens at the end of the Tribulation period into the Millennial Kingdom. The earth is cleansed—Satan is bound—but there’s a group of people that survive the Tribulation period. You can read all about them in Matthew 25:31-46 in what is called the sheep and goat judgment. These are not resurrected people here—different category entirely!
But they survive the Tribulation period, they go into the Millennial Kingdom in mortal bodies. They have children in those mortal bodies. Their children have children. Their children have children. The earth, over a thousand years, is repopulated, and the sin nature is still the same.
Zechariah 14:16-19 describes people living in the Millennial Kingdom who will hate Jesus’ guts! In fact, when they’re supposed to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King—where He will be in the Millennial Kingdom, reining from Jerusalem—they won’t want to go. And there’s going to be an immediate judgment upon such rebels. Their crops are not going to receive enough rain, etc.
So, you’ll notice that this sin nature is still there in people even with Satan bound. It’s just they’re not acting on it yet because Jesus is ruling with a rod of iron. But there’s this sort of internal hatred for Jesus, and all Satan does is come out of that abyss at the end of the thousand years and give these rebels an opportunity to do what’s already in their hearts.
This is not a Flip Wilson issue, “The devil made me do it.” This is Satan capitalizing, and this is how three-dimensional warfare works. Here you have a situation where two of the three enemies are tag teaming. Satan? All he does is give the sin nature in these people an opportunity to express itself.
It’s very interesting to watch how people behave after living with Jesus for a thousand years. A thousand years with Jesus, can you imagine that? Where you are living in a perfect world with no starvation, hardship, unemployment. The curse, to a very large extent, has been rolled back. Not completely, but tremendously rolled back. There’s a chicken in every pot, so to speak.
Agricultural prosperity breaks out all over the earth, and you would think people would love the Lord! And yet they don’t! They rebel against the Lord the first chance they get. And why are they doing that? Because they’re acting on their sin nature.
So, I can’t emphasize enough this issue of balance. When we get into this issue of demonism, we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that every evil thing that happens is automatically satanic or demonic. I’ve given you many examples with Satan not influencing anything, and yet that sin nature is still there to express itself. That’s what I wanted to say about balance.
Having said that about balance, let’s go to Mark 5 where we opened up. I’m going to read verses 1-20, because we’re getting now into the subject of the characteristics of demon possessed people.
In fact, the Bible in the original Greek doesn’t even use the words “demon possessed.” It uses a word called “demonized,” where demons are inside of a person and they’ve subjugated the personality of that individual. When people are in that atrocious, pathetic state, what sorts of characteristics do they demonstrate? As I’m reading through these make a list of things that you see, and I’ll give you my list of 10 after we’re finished reading.
“They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said, ‘What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!’ For He had been saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ And He was asking him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said to Him, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. The demons implored Him, saying, ‘Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.’ Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea. Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the ‘legion’; and they became frightened. Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. And they began to implore Him to leave their region. As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, ‘Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.”
That probably is the most graphic depiction you have in the whole Bible of a man demon possessed by many demons.
I have at the top of the screen four passages you should look at. I wish we had time to look at them all—we don’t. But if you went home and read these four passages, you would see exactly what the New Testament is teaching concerning this issue of demon possession.
Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Mark 9:17-29, and Luke 8:26-39. From these passages—mostly from the Mark passages that we have just read—I just want to give you 10 characteristics of demonized or demon possessed people. Sometimes I had to go outside of Mark’s account to get some characteristics, and those times I went outside of Mark’s account are noted in the chart.
But what are the characteristics of demon possessed people? On this point I largely agree with Dr. Neil Anderson. I don’t agree with everything Neil Anderson says, but a lot of the things he says I do agree with. One of the things he says in his spiritual warfare books and conferences is that there are people in hospitals or insane asylums that are “off the grid” in terms of diagnosing them.
In other words, he said we really don’t know what’s wrong with person A, person B, person C. Their behavior is so inexplicable—and it’s so outside of our medical box—that we have no explanation for it. Dr. Anderson is of the belief that a lot of these cases are demonized or demon possessed people because they exhibit the very characteristics that we’re reading about here in Mark 5.
So what are characteristics of demon possessed people?
- Superhuman strength. Where exactly am I getting that from? I’m getting it in verses 2-4 because he had been shackled and chained (verse 4) and had torn apart the shackles and broken them to pieces. It says there in verse 4 that no one was strong enough to subdue this demon possessed individual at Gadera. So he’s not bound by chains; this is what we would call superhuman strength—abnormal strength.
- The second characteristic of demon possessed people is they have a tendency to be very withdrawn. If you go to Mark 5:2 it says, “When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him.” So what is this guy doing living amongst the tombs? It seems to be very withdrawn, antisocial behavior.
- Another characteristic of demon possessed people is uncontrollable rage. Look at verse 5 which says, “Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.” This idea of screaming out—crying out—lack of impulse control over one’s emotions, that also is a characteristic of demon possessed people.
- The next one is what we would call split personality. Today people like to use all of these clinical terms, so I’ll use a clinical term. I’ll call this split personality, because the guy goes from worshiping Jesus to hating Jesus in a nanosecond. Verse 6 says, “Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him.” It looks like either he’s worshiping Christ or at least paying Christ homage and respect.
Then verse 7 says, “and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” So with one action he seems to be praising Christ, with the next breath he seems to be acting out against Christ.
- Another characteristic of demon possessed people is they have a tremendous resistance against spiritual things. You see that there in verse 7, “…what business do we have with each other…”—he’s resisting Jesus Christ.
- Another characteristic of demon possessed people is supernatural insight. They have a capacity to understand something that you wouldn’t think they would have an ability to understand. If you look at verse 5, this demon possessed man knows exactly who Jesus Christ is—supernatural insight.
In fact, it’s better stated there in verse 7, “and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus [and he gets his Trinitarianism straight], Son of the Most High God?” He knew about Jesus—he says, “Have You come here to torment us before the time?” He knows Who Jesus is, and he knows about His condemning powers that He will exhibit at the end of the age.
Another characteristic of demon possessed people? Notice, I’m not getting these things from the movies. I’m not getting these from the movie The Exorcist. I’m getting these things from the Bible.
- It’s what we would call voice alterations. It says, “and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”
Erwin Lutzer talks about it in one of his books, and he quotes someone to this effect. Erwin Lutzer, a pastor in Chicago, wrote a book about the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler, and he talks about how Hitler’s voice changed. (And he cites some good sources on it that remembered it.) In other words, when he spoke in private conversation he spoke with one voice, but there’s an audible, discernable difference when he was wowing the masses with his oratory. His voice actually changed! And that’s the kind of thing that I’m seeing here in voice alterations.
- Jumping down to the end of the list, clearly you see here suicidal tendencies. Take a look at verse 5, “Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.”
This issue of suicidal tendencies? You see this a lot of times in people that are involved with pagan religions. Remember what the prophets of Baal were doing over in 1 Kings 18:28? “So [the prophets of Baal] they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom [in other words, they did this frequently] with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them.”
That’s a great verse to use to demonstrate that just because you’re sincere about something—these people were very sincere about their religion—doesn’t mean you are correct in your religious beliefs. But you see this in paganism, and you see this particularly with people who are demonized. You see what we would call suicidal tendencies.
Hold your place in Mark 5, and follow me over to Matthew 17:15. Someone approaches Jesus and says, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.” As you continue to read this, this was a demon inside of this individual. And as the demon—or demons—was inside this small child, the child was demonstrating suicidal tendencies.
I don’t have my statistics in front of me, but suicides in the United States are off the charts! They’re going up, and up, and up, and up! And if you ever have the thought that maybe you should end your own life, you know exactly where that thought’s coming from! It’s not coming from God! You’ll notice the people who are demonized have suicidal tendencies.
- Moving up on my list. Here are a couple that you don’t find in Mark 5. One of them is in Mark 9:18—you see seizures and foaming at the mouth. Mark 9:18 says, “and whenever it [that’s the demon] seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” So seizures and foaming at the mouth apparently are characteristics of demon possessed individuals.
- One more—uncleanness. Luke 8:27 says, “And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.”
So this is strange, antisocial behavior—living in unclean areas such as amongst the tombs, etc. That’s why the Mark 5 passage makes a point of pointing out that when the demons came out of this man at Gadara, he was clothed and in his right mind. In other words, he had gone from abnormal living conditions to normal living conditions.
This is an astounding list that you can develop just by using your powers of observation and reading the Bible. This is what demonized people are like in the Gospels: abnormally high strength; socially withdrawn; uncontrollable rage; resistance against spiritual things; they apparently have insight into things that you wouldn’t expect; voice alterations; seizures and mouth foaming; uncleanness (uncleanliness); and even suicidal tendencies.
Now the big question y’all have is, “Could this happen to a Christian?” I don’t have time to get into it now, but we’re going to pick up the discussion next week. I’m going to make the case that I don’t think it is possible that it could happen to a Christian, for the simple reason that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit! And I don’t think God and Satan can be roommates.
I don’t see God and Satan being joint tenants. However—and this is where balance needs to come in—just because a Christian cannot be possessed by a demon does not mean that they can’t be heavily oppressed.
There’s a difference between possession and oppression. And I’m convinced that there are countless people in the church are members of God’s family who are heavily oppressed by things, and yet they don’t know where the source of oppression comes from.
Once we finish that discussion, we’re going to be getting into the whole subject of, “Wow! These entities are very powerful. How do we defend ourselves against these entities?” That’s the direction we’re going in. We’ll stop at this point.