What does the Bible say about demon possession?
There is a lot of speculation about the nature of demon possession. Many cultures have come to conclusions about the phenomenon by observation. However, Christianity gains truth about spiritual things from God's revelation in Scripture, and it so happens there is ample information about demon possession in the Bible. Matthew 9:32-33, 12:22,17:18; Mark 5:1-20, 7:26-30; Luke 4:33-36, 22:3; and Acts 16:16-18 all provide details about the reasons for, and the nature and symptoms of, demonic influence. Some demon possession causes physical maladies such as muteness and epilepsy, and other times it simply causes evil behavior, as in the case of Judas Iscariot (Luke 22:3). Other symptoms include supernatural knowledge (Acts 16:16-18), superhuman strength (Matthew 8:28) and depressive moods or a tendency to violence (1 Samuel 16:14-15; 18:10-11;19:9-10).
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Many, if not all, of these symptoms could be caused by something other than demon possession, so we must be careful not to automatically assume that anyone with depression or epilepsy is being possessed by a demon. At the same time, we should not discount the possibility that demons could be involved. Many Christians, especially those in Western cultures, tend not to take demon possession seriously, and this is a grave mistake. Demonic or satanic activity is much harder to recognize and eliminate when it is assumed to be something more benign.
Demons can affect the spiritual state as well as the physical. A refusal to forgive or to believe, or the spread of false beliefs or doctrines are all attributed to demonic influence in the Bible (2 Corinthians 2:10-11). Predictably, it seems that demons are especially interested in influencing us against the gospel—the good news about Jesus Christ—and the atonement He achieved on the cross (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 John 4:1-3).
What about Christians? Can a Christian become demon possessed? There is never an instance of this in Scripture, and this is widely believed to be impossible due to the fact that a demon cannot reside in a vessel that is already possessed with the Holy Spirit, i.e., any believer (2 Corinthians 1:22;5:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19). However, believers can be tormented and bothered and oppressed by demons (Matthew 16:23).
Opening oneself up to the possibility of demon possession is foolish and dangerous, and techniques on how to do so is something best left unexplored. Generally, habitual sin or a hardened heart can be an entry point, as in the case of Judas (John 12:6). Or, as many missionaries testify, demon possession seems to be connected somehow to idol worship, or interest in or ownership of occult objects or materials. This observation agrees with Scripture, as the Bible consistently assumes idols to be more than pieces of wood or metal, but representative of demons or evil spirits (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37; 1 Corinthians 10:20). Other activities that seem to be dangerous entryways into the realm of evil spirit involvement include cult involvement, drug and alcohol abuse, sin and immorality, rebellion, bitterness, and new age practices, including transcendental meditation or astral projection.
It is important to remember that Satan and demons cannot do anything that the Lord does not permit them to do (Job 1–2). Because of this, though Satan may treat humanity cruelly, his actions will always be restricted to what is allowed by God to accomplish His purpose – Judas' betrayal, again, being a perfect example of this principle. We should not fear demons, or try to fight them with our own strength, but fear God and fight with His strength (Ephesians 6:10-18), because He is in perfect control of the spiritual realms and is our Protector.
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