Demons

Demon Possession Now

(1) The Roman Catholic Church, which gives traditional equal place with scripture in its faith and practice, believes there is such. Its Catechism of Christian Doctrine, 1949, a 2nd Revised Edition of the Baltimore Catechism," expresses the view that "the devils [that is, demons], or the evil spirits" of scripture are "bad angels," and –

"(a) Devils are sometimes permitted to enter into the body of a man to exercise power over his faculties – a state known as diabolical possession; or they are permitted to torment a person from without – a state known as diabolical obsession.

"(b) Diabolical possession and obsession are permitted by God to show forth his Glory, to punish sin, to bring sinners to repentance, or give occasion for the exercise of virtue.

"(c) When the devil uses the body of a possessed person to say or do evil things, the person is not guilty of sin, provided he does not freely consent.

"(d) Exorcism is the act of driving out or warding off evil spirits from persons, places or things possessed or infested by them. The church received from Christ the power of exorcism.

"(e) An exorcist is one who has power, conferred by a bishop, to exercise demons. The order of exorcist is the third of four minor orders of the Western Church. Only with permission of his bishop is a priest allowed to use his power of exorcising evil spirits."

"Scripture cited and quoted: Matthew 10:1; Ephesians 6"11. 1 Peter 5:8-9. (Topics 44,45; pages 34-36).

(2) Some Protestant sources express belief in demoniacal possession as a reality still.

"Haynes, in Spiritualism Vs Christianity, says: ‘Satan possesses the souls and bodies of men and women now just as much as he ever did’; and gives many logical reasons which lack of space forbids repeating. The church fathers, living in the third century, thought so in their day. Again we have no space to quote from Clement, Augustine, et. Al." (From paper of "Demonology," cited above as being written as partial fulfillment of requirements for graduation from Freed Hardiman College, 1933.)

The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1980) states: "… there is a classic by J. L. Nevius, a missionary doctor in China, Demon Possession and Allied Themes, 1892. This book takes demon ossession as a genuine phenomenon, and most missionaries would probably agree." (Vol. I, p.382.)

(3) The scriptures are not definitive on the matter now being considered, but we can examine whatever we are aware of that might provide a clue.

(a) The Old Testament does not deal with demon possession as such, and neither does the Gospel of John, which may not have been written till the last decade of the first Christian century – which is thought by some to indicate that demon possession began to be allowed after the close of the Old Testament cannon and reached its peak in the time of Christ and his apostles, in order to allow a demonstration through them of divine power over satanic power, and then dwindle considerably, though not completely eradicated.

NOTE: "An evil spirit from Jehovah" troubling Saul after his rejection by Jehovah as king was likely a deep depression and bad disposition rather than demon possession (1 Samuel 16:14-23). And the prophet Micaiah’s message to Ahab about a "lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets" sent by God (1 Kings 22:1-22; 2 Chronicles 18:1-22), is likely a parable spoken in irony rather than descriptive of actual demon possession and inspiration.

That demon possession reached its peak and began its decline even while Christ was still alive, may be true. For he speaks of having bound "the strong Man" (Satan) and "spoiled his house" (by casting out demons) (Matthew 12:28-29). And when seventy whom he had sent out ahead to places he would afterward visit, returned rejoicing that "even the demons are subject unto us in thy name," he said, "I beheld Satan fallen as lightening from heaven" (Luke 10:17-20).

That there were still inspired persons in the church at the time of the writing of the epistle of 1 John, seems evident from 2:20-21,26-27; 3:24. Though likely not so very long afterward. But that there were also false prophets still equally inspired by other "spirits", is likewise evident from 4:1-6, so that those who heeded them were "giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1).

(b) It has been expressed by some that most of the demons Jesus cast out were not in predominantly Jewish lands, but where idolatry was prominent. Of that we cannot be quite certain, though the Canaanite, or Syrophoenician, daughter was a notable example (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30_. And the demoniac(s) of Gadara was/were another (Matthew 8:28-34;Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39). It is also true that most of Jesus’ mighty works were done in Galilee (Matthew 11:29-24) and that Galilee, notwithstanding the Jewish population there, was referred to as "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Matthew 4:15; Isaiah 9:1-2) Mary Magdalene (or, of Magdala, or Magadan), out of whom seven demons had gone (Luke 8:2), was of Galilee.

(c) It would also seem from the prophecy of Zechariah 13:1-2 that wherever Christianity has gone and been dominant, bringing freedom from sin, eradicating idolatry and driving out false prophets, the exit of unclean spirits is likewise accomplished. So, if there is still demon possession, it is likely to be where Christ is least known. And it is doubtful that there are any who cast out demons miraculously today, as did Christ and those enabled to do so in the first Christian century. It seems rather significant that power to cast out demons is not mentioned as one of the miraculous gifts in any of the epistles to churches or Christian individuals, though it was exercised by the apostles (and Philip) as mentioned in the book of Acts and promised and reported in Mark 16:17-29.

(d) It is not clear from scripture what conditions predisposed to demon possession, though Christ’s parabolic message in Matthew 12:43-45 seems to indicate that an "empty house" can be reoccupied, and therefore that a lack of proper piety and character, even without fiendish or malignant disposition, may be a factor.

III. CONCLUSION

From all we have learned, the climax for ourselves is found in Ephesians 6:10-20 and Colossians 2:8-15, already studied, and what we also have in Colossians 2:16 - 3:17 (and other similar passages), assuring us that Christ is in control, having demonstrated his superiority over Satan and all his angels and/or demons, so that our deliverance from their control is guaranteed by faith in and loyal submission to him. That ought to free Christians of all superstitious fear and dread of an evil spirit world.

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