As Paul performed his Spirit-directed evangelistic work in the city of Philippi, he crossed paths with a demon-possessed “slave girl” (Acts 16:16). By the power of Satan, “she predicted the future” and thereby “made a large profit for her owners by fortune-telling” (Acts 16:16).
She, or the demonic spirit within her, persistently pestered Paul and Silas by declaring, “These men, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God” (Acts 16:17). “Paul was greatly annoyed. Turning to the spirit, he said, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out right away” (Acts 16:18).
What does the Bible say about demons?
From Revelation 12:4 we deduce that one-third of Heaven’s angels followed Lucifer in his rebellion. The Bible refers to these as “demons” (Luke 4:35), “evil spirits” (Acts 19:12-13), “unclean spirits” (Matthew 10:1; Mark 1:23, 26; Acts 5:16), “disabling spirits” (Luke 13:11), “mute and deaf spirits” (Mark 9:25), and “deceitful spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Ephesians 6:12 suggests an order or rank of demons: “rulers … authorities … cosmic powers of this darkness … evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.” Captains, lieutenants, sergeants, corporals…
These enemies of Christ are powerful, but they are no match against the Almighty! At the cross, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them…” (Colossians 2:15). Indeed, their ultimate destruction has been determined. Along with their ruler, they will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). When Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), he meant that the redemptive work was done; and when he arose from the dead, he demonstrated his power over death and the devil (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; 1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-16).
Demonic possession has various manifestations which includes muteness (Matthew 9:32; 12:22; Mark 9:17, 25; Luke 11:14); deafness (Mark 9:25); blindness (Matthew 12:22; John 10:21); convulsions (Mark 1:26; 9:26); superhuman strength (Mark 5:4); and self-destructive behavior (Matthew 17:15).
The Gospels record the miracles of Jesus, including many accounts of Jesus liberating those captivated by Satan’s powers and possessed by demonic spirits. The Gospel of Luke records seven such miracles. Most memorably, on the eastern shores of Galilee, a Gadarene, “a demon-possessed man”named “Legion,” was emancipated when Jesus cast the hoard of demons into a herd of pigs (Luke 8:26-33) and after being on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus cast an evil spirit from a young boy. “Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father” (Luke 9:37–42). See also Luke 4:31-37; 4:38-41; 6:17-19; 7:21; and 11:14-23.
Even after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the Book of Acts testifies concerning other cases of demon-possession and their liberation by God’s power. “A multitude came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed” (Acts 5:16). In the city of Samaria, “many who were possessed, and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed” (Acts 8:7).
I suspect that the devil and his demons are just as active today as they were in Biblical times, but today we’re less spiritually attuned, too enlightened, or simply unwilling to call a spade a spade. Is demon-possession a contributing cause of some addictive behaviors, anxiety disorders, murder, rape, incest, and other abhorrent behavior? Was Adolph Hitler demon-possessed? How about Charles Manson, Jerry Dahmer or Ted Bundy?
Although a non-Christian may be said to be “possessed” by a demon, the Christian cannot be so possessed, for he belongs to Christ and his human spirit has been sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Fear not!