Are People Still Possessed by Demons?

February 18, 2019 at 10:37 am | Posted in Q&A | 5 Comments
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Question: While studying Mark 5:1-17, I realized that how this “wild man” was described sounded a lot like someone who today would be called mentally ill. People say there are no demon possessions anymore, but our hospitals are full of people cutting themselves and crying out in despair (Verse 5). Could mental illness be less of a “chemical imbalance” and more of a demonic presence?

Answer: That’s a great question. I do not think the Bible says anything to indicate that demon possession can’t still occur today, although it is true that it may be misdiagnosed as another problem, because, like you said, “people SAY there are no demon possessions any more.”

There are a couple of issues here, though. First, a person who has trusted Christ unto salvation is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so that person can not be truly “possessed,” although he or she may be what we call “oppressed,” meaning that sometimes God allows demons to have access to the lives of Christians to cause problems for them as part of God’s secret plan for our good. You can see this happening in Job Chapters 1 and 2, for example. But Luke 5 clearly shows that people without saving faith in Christ can certainly be possessed, controlled, and driven mad by demons. Thankfully, they can also be delivered and set free by Jesus!

Second, some mental illnesses are caused by physical things, such as chemicals in the brain. The doctors examine the levels of certain elements in their blood, and, when certain chemicals in their blood are low or high, they act crazy (crazier than the average person, anyway). They are given medicine, and after a while it gets into their systems, and they start acting normal (or at least some reasonable semblance of “normal”) again. There are Bible verses that encourage us to treat certain illnesses with medication, since God created the chemicals that the medicines are made out of, and since He gave doctors or scientists the wisdom to figure this out. So there’s nothing wrong with doing that, when it is in fact a physical, rather than a spiritual, problem.

Of course, if there are no conclusive medical results, it’s hard to tell demonic activity apart from a chemical imbalance, or conditions caused by past mental trauma, which is why we always need to pray for healing and trust God before we go to the doctors, and even while they’re trying to treat it. He is the one who ultimately gets credit for the healing, regardless of the means used to accomplish it.

Furthermore, one thing that often gets overlooked is that physical illness – in both the body AND the brainCAN be caused by unconfessed or unrepented-of sin in our life, even though that’s not always the cause. Some verses that show this are: Psalm 38:3-8; Pslam 6:2-3; Psalm 51:8; Psalm 32:3.

Personal anecdotes are not authoritative like Scripture, so you don’t have to read this part unless you want to, but I will share one very strange experience I had. At the church where our family served at the time, a young man (mid-20s) came forward at the end of a worship service. His father-in-law, who was one of those big muscular motorcycle-gang-looking men, had dragged him to church against his will. I took him back in a little prayer room we had and talked to him about being saved. He said that he went to church when was a kid, but when he was about 12 he went to some kind of heavy metal rock concert, where they were singing about the Devil and hell and had those pentagram things on the stage. He said that, afterwards, he got out of church and started drinking and doing drugs and other stuff. He looked truly miserable to be in church that morning, and his in-laws and his wife were outside the room praying for him. This dude’s face was just strange. His brows were furrowed down, his teeth were kind of bared, he had a wild look in his eyes, even his hair looked all disheveled and strange. It was so weird, because I don’t think he was trying to make a monster-face, but he just sort of looked like that. However, the longer I talked to him about Jesus and showed him from the Bible how his sins could be forgiven, the more intently he listened, and he started to look more scared and sweaty than mean. Finally, I asked him if he wanted to trust Christ, and we prayed. When we finished praying, he looked up, and it was so bizarre! His whole face looked different! He almost didn’t look like the same person. He was smiling and crying at the same time, his hair was laying down, his facial features were uncreased. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out, and I was thinking, “Is there an invisible demon flying around loose now!?” I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it. When we came out of that room, his family saw the same thing. They kept saying how different he looked, and he kept saying how free he felt. He started coming to church regularly after that, and got involved in some kind of motorcycle-riders-for-Jesus outreach program with his father-in-law. About 4-5 years later I saw him at the local convenience store by our house early Sunday morning on his way to church, and he was still serving Jesus! So, I don’t know if he was really demon-possessed or not – but it sure seemed like something happened to him in that room.

Rising Faith

March 3, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
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But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

Mark 5:33-34

Jesus responds to people without worldly hope. He responds to even the smallest measure of faith. He made time to help others even when it seemed to interfere with His schedule. Jesus can “make people whole,” which is a greater blessing than physical, mental, or emotional healing. Are we sensitive to those who are afraid to come to Jesus? Are we remembering our prime objective in ministry? Jesus told the woman to “go in peace.” We have the ministry of reconciliation in His name. That is the greatest need of every person – to be reconciled to God – to be at peace with Him – true salvation.

While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.

Mark 5:35-42

Don’t give up on those who haven’t been healed for a long time. Even if “death” is the end, death is not final for a believer. Death is like sleep for believers. That’s one of the reasons the Resurrection is so important. Jesus demonstrated His power and victory over death. Belief keeps fear at bay, and perfect love casts it out completely. Giving up on the so-called terminally addicted, the terminally sinful, the permanently mentally ill, the permanently physically ill, is not really giving up on THEM. It’s really giving up on GOD (unbelief).

Jesus told the damsel to “arise.” Arise is a command to active, moving faith. The faithless are sleep-walking through life, and we are supposed to “wake them up” – to call them to “arise.”

Serving without Fear

December 27, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Posted in Mark, parables | 4 Comments
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Jesus taught in parables, and, though some of the crowds that heard Him would have tried to judge the parables, the truth is that the parables judged the crowds.

And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

Mark 4:2-8

Some people who hear the Word of God have hard hearts. Many people and ideas and attachments have trod on these hearts before, and have hardened them the way the earth will become packed and hardened on heavily used walkways. Some people who hear the Word of God have shallow hearts, where it appears to take root briefly, but in reality it is not really “received” on a level where it takes deep roots, and it shrivels and dies under the heat of persecution. Some people who hear the Word of God have crowded hearts. They are full of the vain things of this world, and there is no room for the seed to be truly received. However, some people (praise God!) who hear the Word of God have hearts that have been plowed and prepared and broken up by the Holy Spirit. Here the Word of God takes hold and begins to produce fruit and multiply.

In Mark Chapters 4 and 5 Jesus the Servant showed through four miracles how we are to be good servants in times of danger.

First, He calmed a storm. Good servants should not be afraid of storms because Jesus has promised us victory.

And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

Mark 4:35

Good servants should not be afraid of storms because Jesus is with us in the storms.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

Mark 4:38

Good servants should not be afraid of storms because Jesus Himself fears no storms.

Second, Jesus cast demons out of a man and into a herd of pigs. Good servants need not fear Satan because he and the demons are under the control of our Master. We can seek to serve the demon-possessed or -influenced or -oppressed because our Lord is stronger.

Third, Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood. Good servants need not fear disease for all the reasons having to do with storms and Satan, AND for the reason that we do not lose our Lord even if we lose our health for His sake. We know that there is great opportunity for sick people to exercise faith, even if they have imperfect faith.

Fourth, Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. Good servants need not fear death because, for the one with faith in Jesus, death is not eternal.

And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

Mark 5:39

When Pigs Fly (a.k.a. Deviled Ham)

May 1, 2015 at 11:24 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Matthew | 6 Comments
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And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.

Matthew 8:28-34

This account of the Gadarene demoniac (who I like to call “the nude dude in a rude mood”) can also be found in Mark Chapter 5 and Luke Chapter 8. It is a miracle which shows that Jesus does not always answer prayers by just granting what we request. In this story the ones who got what they asked for didn’t get what they wanted.

The demons asked to be sent into swine: answered.
The townspeople asked Jesus to leave: answered.
The healed man asked to go with Jesus: denied. Jesus told him to go home and be a witness.

Beware the Furious Fiend

December 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Mark, The Fives | 7 Comments
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As Jesus and His followers entered the country of the Gadarenes, they encountered a man possessed by demons. This man, because of his condition, was both pitiful and terrifying.

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

Mark 5:5

A person controlled by Satan is a person who is constantly (“always, night and day”) subject to the oppression of his cruel and terrible master.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Ephesians 2:1-3

A demon-controlled person is a person who would exalt himself to a high place of rebellion against God (“in the mountains”).

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Isaiah 14:12-14

He has a fascination with death (“in the tombs”).

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

Proverbs 8:36

The pawn of Satan is subject to bouts of depression and abject sorrow (“crying”) and self-abuse (“cutting himself”).

And they [the prophets of Baal] cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

I Kings 18:28 (bracketed description added)

We get the idea that this demon-possessed man was unpredictable and violent, a scourge upon his community – for which the Gadarenes had no solution. However, Jesus had no fear at all. The man even recognized Him from afar, running toward Him and worshiping Him. Christ cast out the demons, and set the man free, commissioning him to serve the community he had previously tormented.

We must be like Jesus. Do not fear the fury of those who do not yet know Christ. Often the person who is at the greatest pains to show his hatred for God may be the person who is acting out of desperation in an attempt to convince himself or others that he is too fearsome, depraved, or far-gone to be reached with only thing that can really help: the Good News that Jesus saves.


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