I remember the first time I saw young Linda Blair’s head spin around in the 1973 monster-hit (pun intended), The Exorcist. It scared the you-know-what out of me.
I’ve professed my faith in Christ since then. And that, according to the Bible, changes everything. Powerfully.
The Daily Beast recently published a story on the Vatican’s Exorcist Convention. You can read the story here. The article interests me since the conference has “grown ten fold” since the annual event began in 2004.
Whenever demonic possession is a topic of discussion, almost always what people believe is based not on scripture, but on Hollywood films and/or someone’s creepy story.
Sadly, this applies to many professing Christians as well.
In short, the “father of lies”, as Jesus called him, perpetuates “fake news” wherever demonology is concerned.
Years ago, I was listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers, Chuck Smith. He wisely said,
We cannot allow experience to become the criteria for truth. Truth comes from the Word of God. Allowing the Word of God to be our final authority frees us from being forced to judge which conflicting human experience is true and which one is false. So we rest our case on the Word of God.
So, to the Word of God we go….
According to the Bible:
1. Satan is real, making his biblical debut in Genesis, chapter 3, in the form of a serpent. By the way, he makes his exit in Revelation 20:10.
2. Demonic possession is real. Demons are not the invention of Dante – they are real, sometimes called “wicked…unclean spirits,” There are a seven passages in the gospels recording specific scenes of Jesus casting out demons. Most of these scenes are commonly recorded by Matthew, Mark & Luke. (Interestingly, only the first three gospels mention Jesus exorcising demons.) Then, there are numerous passages describing, indirectly, Jesus’ authority over demons – as in having “cast seven demons out of Mary Magdelene,” “he also drove out many demons,” etc. “Professional exorcists” describe dramatic events during exorcising. Are these events possible? Sure – almost anything’s possible. (And Satan, a consummate narcissist, loves the attention.) But, we must always be careful to make scripture – not contemporary stories or Hollywood – our primary authority on this topic. Although the Bible clearly records the demon-possessed, at times, convulsing, possessing supernatural strength and even speaking from the possessed individual, not once does it record anyone’s head spinning around. 🙂 Although the origination of demons is ambiguous scripturally, their destiny, according to Jesus, is clear.
3. The Bible never once gives us permission – or even encourage us – to seek Satan out. The old saying, “If you go looking for trouble, chances are you’ll find it,” applies. It is a fool who seeks to pick a fight with our ancient foe, who is a brilliant strategist, master manipulator, and is keenly aware of our many flaws and weaknesses. Believers tend to forget that Adam and Eve enjoyed a level of intimacy with God that is beyond our comprehension and, yet, were still fooled by the deceptive expertise of the serpent. Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, records that even the archangel, Michael, chose not to pick a fight with Satan (apart from the Lord’s authority to do so) but rather rebuked him in the name of Jesus Christ.
4. Lastly, no church or denomination need “authorize you” to cast out a demon should that moment ever present itself. With humble respect to my Catholic friends, attending a conference is not necessary to be equipped to face Satan. Further, should that encounter ever arise, it will not be necessary to call a Catholic priest – since the Bible clearly states all believers are priests. Believers were “authorized” the very nano-second Christ took up residence inside of you. We’re told not only that Jesus cast out demons, but that he gave authority to his followers to do the same. Just as his followers were given authority over Satan, so are we today. James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote that “demons tremble” at the mere thought of Jesus. And it’s on Christ’s authority – and his authority alone – we are able to command evil spirits. (Luke records an unsettling, if not comical, story in Acts 19:13-16 of those foolish enough to face Satan without Christ’s authority.) Additionally, contrary to how it’s portrayed in movies, note that every single time Jesus cast out a demon there was no lengthy “street fight between good and evil” – not even with the “legion” of demons. Jesus commanded. And the terrified demons immediately obeyed (sometimes pleading for their lives). As I mentioned above, never go looking for a fight with the devil. But, bought with Christ’s blood and filled with the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to run away from one either.
I’ve been asked, “Can a Christian be possessed?” I usually smile and reply, “Oh, but Christians are possessed.” I continue, “The Bible tells us we’re possessed – by the Holy Spirit, which is God, himself. We’ve been purchased – ‘bought with a price’, Paul wrote. And that price is the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We can’t be ‘re-possessed.’ We’re ‘off the market.’ Besides, no demon would ever even attempt to possess us – they’re terrified of Who lives and reigns in us.”
Jesus said, “Satan has no hold on me.” Neither does he have a hold on us – God’s children.
I once visited with a former satanic high priest who had finally professed his faith in Christ. He told me,
“Nick, I saw evil on a very powerful scale while I served Satan in the priesthood. But I must confess: never – I mean, never – did I behold real power – terrifying power – until I met the almighty Christ.”
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick