As one begins reading the New Testament one is faced with a problem that does not occur in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament from Genesis right through to Malachi we do not find the problem of demons, devils and demon possession. The Old Testament is completely silent about these things. For 4000 years the Jews knew little about it. Some might argue that because the word "daimonian", translated in the King James Version as 'devil”, (or more correctly, 'demon') is Greek, this is the reason that it only occurs in the New Testament. However, the fact still remains that the terms 'demons' and 'demon possession' do not exist in the Old Testament. The closest word or phrase we can find to demons or demon possession in the Old Testament is the term 'evil spirit'. In both the New Testament and the Old Testament we find this particular phrase 'evil spirits' (or ‘unclean spirits’) occurring.
1 Sam 16 records the period of Israel's kings, specifically the first mortal king of Israel's history, Saul, the son of Kish. During this period of history, Saul was dismissed by God from being king because of his disobedience. The rival to his throne was the shepherd boy, David the son of Jesse, who was anointed by the prophet Samuel: "Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him." 1 Samuel 16:13,14
Notice those words carefully, "An evil spirit from the Lord troubled Saul"
There's a very important pattern to be noticed here. God's Holy Spirit was upon Saul. It was removed and placed upon David. The result was "an evil spirit from the Lord" came upon Saul. In chapter 19 of the same book we read of a similar situation, but at that time Saul tried to kill David because of his intense jealousy towards him "And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him. And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house." 1 Samuel 19:8
Further proof that an 'evil spirit' in the Old Testament came from the Lord is in 1 Samuel 18:10, "And it came to pass on the morrow, that an evil spirit from God came upon Saul."
A very important principle again to be noticed here is that God leaves us in absolutely no doubt that an evil spirit comes from him. He's told us three times already in the Old Testament. We find that the Old Testament is silent about demons and demon possession. The closest phrase, situation or condition that we can find to that in the New Testament is that of "an evil spirit from the Lord."
In case we think that the evil spirit from the Lord only came upon men during this particular period in history, let's look at a completely different period in Israel's history but again the exact same situation. Judges 9 - the time of Gideon and Abimelech: "When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel, Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:" Judges 9:22,23
Wherever you go in the history of the Old Testament you will find that an evil spirit was brought about by God. There are literally hundreds of references in the Old Testament showing that evil came from the Lord. Let us look at one more - the book of Exodus chapter 4. This is an important reference because it deals with a condition, the condition of blindness and deafness. This is the time in history of Israel's Exodus from Egypt, approximately 1500 years before Christ and about 500 years before the situation we have just read about, in the time of Saul and David.
God spoke to Moses and instructed him to lead his people out of the Egyptian bondage into the desert of Sinai: “And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue." Exodus 4:10
God had said to Moses, "Go and speak for me", and Moses said, "Don't send me because I am slow of speech and slow of tongue" but notice what the Lord said in verse 11 The LORD said to Moses "Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?"
Clearly we see that these people that believed openly in one God, believed that evil spirits and infirmities such as blindness, deafness, etc. all came from God. They attributed all these things to the hand of their God. If blindness was created by their God the solution to blindness was also in the hands of their God. That is a very important principle to realize. If God creates blindness, He has the solution to blindness; if He creates deafness, He has the solution to deafness. No wonder the prophet Isaiah would write, some 700 years later that the Lord would “open the eyes of the blind, that the ears of the deaf would be unstopped and that the lame man would leap as an hart" (Isaiah 35:5-6)
Obviously the prophet had that same understanding that if God had created a condition, He also had the solution to that condition.
Let us contrast our findings in the Old Testament to what we find now in the New Testament. About 450 years lapsed between the last prophet, Malachi and the coming of Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is here in the New Testament that we find the phenomena of demons, devils and demon possession, a situation previously unknown in the Old Testament writings. How strange! When God Himself says, "I am the same yesterday, today and tomorrow" Did God change his mind? Or is it a different God that we worship? Do we have a God of the Old Testament and a God of the New Testament?
Let's examine a few passages in the New Testament and see whether we can solve the problem.
"And it came to pass afterward, that he (Jesus) went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven demons, Joanna the wife of Chusa, and many others" Luke 8:1,2.
Notice the close association between demons and infirmities and evil spirits. They are all synonymous terms.
A small aside here, when we read the word 'devils' in the KJV (King James Version) it is translated from a Greek word 'daimonian' and should read 'demon' and not 'devil' The word for devil in the New Testament comes from the word 'diabolos', therefore, from this point on, the word 'demon' will be substituted for the word 'devil' wherever applicable.
Now as we go through the New Testament, we find that although the nature of demons is different, it is nearly always associated with an infirmity or a disease. Sometimes the word demon is related to human governments, but on most occasions we find that the word demons is related to infirmities and diseases.
Remembering that we read in Exodus 4 that dumbness is an affliction brought about by God, let us then, try and identify the nature of one of these demons - not the demons as we have seen them now in Luke chapter 8, but in Luke chapter 11: "And he was casting out a demon, and it was dumb, And it came to pass when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake." Luke 11:14 Notice it was the demon that was dumb, that is the terminology we now find. The 'demon' not the man - but the demon was dumb. That is what the scripture says.
Who actually spoke? That's the question we have to ask ourselves, Was it the demon that spoke or the man that spoke? Obviously it was the man that spoke, because if the demon (that had really been cast out) spoke, then clearly the man was not healed: but if the demon that was dumb was cast out and the man spoke, then the man was healed. Very simple. Clearly it was the man that spoke. We find here therefore, that the manifestation of demon presence depends entirely on their having a host. There is no such thing as a demon outside a body. It'snot to be found in scripture. Wherever we find a demon, it has to have a host. It has to have a body in which it dwells. When demons are able to speak we find again, that it is the man that does the speaking, not the demon.
Although the text here says that it was the demon that spoke, clearly it was the man that did the speaking. Either that, or the man was not healed. We can choose. So here we find a demon described. The nature of this particular demon was a dumb demon.
Let us look at another characteristic of a demon, in Luke chapter 13. Although the word demon is not actually found in this passage, we find the phrase, "the spirit of infirmity", which brings us into the bounds of our subject. As we read, see if you can identify the nature of this woman's infirmity "And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, (that means she was buckled up- she was bowed) and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God." Luke 13:1-13
Notice the language at the end of verse 12 "thou art loosed from thine infirmity." She was loosed from her infirmity - by inference before that she was bound by her infirmity. Do you agree with that? Well, if you do, you are wrong! Look at verse 16, Jesus speaking says, "And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" (not the spirit of infirmity - but Satan).
What does Satan mean to you? Well simply Satan means in the Old Testament 'satan' – adversary. This woman was in an adverse situation. She had arthritis - she was buckled up, she couldn't straighten up. So can we see that the spirit of infirmity is synonymous here with the term 'satan'? She was bound by her infirmity or we might say she was bound by 'satan' and the nature of this satan was arthritis. She had been bent up with arthritis, and now she was made straight.
So as far as the natures of demons was concerned we have a few natures that we've looked at: one a dumb demon, and the other an arthritic satan. Although that might sound a little humourous that's essentially what the scripture has told us.
Let us take one more example of how demons are associated with infirmities and diseases. Matthew 17 Again, as we're reading from this particular passage let us see whether we can diagnose the problem. Let us see if we can identify this young man's demon- because this man was demon possessed: "And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water." Matthew 17:14-15.There are four points that we want to draw to your attention here:
Notice the result - "He was cured" Before that he had a demon, when the demon left he was cured. By inference, he was sick, he had an infirmity. When that infirmity was healed, the scripture tells us that he was cured.
How would you diagnose that particular problem? A person that was 'lunatic' that often fell into the fire and often into the water? Most doctors would say that child suffered from epilepsy. Anyone who has ever experienced epilepsy would say that often, when a person had an epileptic seizure, he would suddenly fall to the ground. He would have literally no control and sometimes he would froth at the mouth when he had a seizure. This condition, to these people was 'lunatic, sore vexed, often falling into the fire and often into the water' The child suffered from epilepsy, and when the epilepsy departed from him he was cured.
The three situations that we've looked at:
Demons, then, are often associated with or synonymous with diseases and infirmities.
The next question that we have to look at, and it's possibly one of the most difficult, is why then, does the language of the New Testament suggest that demons were actual creatures, actual people,.or whatever we'd like to suggest they were? Why or how is it that demons could talk? The reason is twofold. The first suggestion is that it is a figure of speech. In English we have a figure of speech called personification. When we take something that is inanimate and we make it alive by making it sound as if it is a person. We must be very careful not to restrict figures of speech to English only.
Greek and Hebrew are both very colourful languages and both in Greek and Hebrew we find this figure of speech of personification.
Reading from Proverbs we find a delightful personification of wisdom. Pay careful attentionto these words: "Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places (she referring to wisdom) She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors." Proverbs 8:1-3. And again at verse 12: "I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions."
Here, in the Old Testament, we see that wisdom and prudence and their characteristics are personified as if they are real people. In this particular case, wisdom is given the feminine gender. She standeth at the top of high places...She crieth at the gates - I wisdom dwell with prudence...etc.
In the New Testament we find words just as expressive. This time listen to some words from the book of Revelation. The apostle John writes: "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs" - (what a description for unclean spirits, "like frogs"!) come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.. For they are the spirits of demons," Revelation 16:13,14
There we have it....the spirits of demons look like frogs! Nobody in his right mind is going to say that an unclean spirit, or an evil spirit is a frog! We find the language of the New Testament and the Old Testament colourful in that they are trying to describe to us something that is hard to understand in ordinary language.
Let's draw an analogy in English. If someone says to you, "Father Time has taken his toll on George.", you know that George is suffering from the effects of old age. That person is personifying the effects of age on George. He is not saying that time is a man. It's much more colourful than saying, "George is getting old."
We can also see that this kind of language belongs to the Old Testament as well as to the New Testament; to Hebrew as well as to Greek. That's the first reason we would suggest that we find the personification of demons in the New Testament.
The second, and we think far more important reason for this change in terminology is that something happened in Jewish history between the time of Exodus, Samuel, Moses, some of the prophets, and the coming of Messiah. An extraordinary event occurred in Jewish history. The Jews, who inherited the land of Israel from their fathers, were temporarily taken out of their land to Babylon, and there they served the king of Babylon for a period of some 70 years. It wasn't only the king of Babylon they served. They also served the kings of Media and Persia for a period of time. Because of their unfaithfulness to God the Jews now found themselves exile in Babylon. They were surrounded by Babylonians who practiced a religion called Zoro-Astrianism.
This religion featured prominently during the period after the exile, especially during the 2nd century B.C. and its effects are with us to this day. The reason we say that is because most people who claim that they are Christians believe that when they are 'demon possessed' the angel of the devil, or the angel of satan is within them. This idea comes from Babylon. It does not come from scripture.
The big difference between Zoro-Astrianism, which the Babylonians practiced, and the mono-theistic belief which the Jews practiced, was that the Zoro-Astrians had two gods. They had a god of light and a god of darkness. The god of light was called Ahura Mazda. The god of darkness was Ach Rimmon. There was a man, Cyrus, king of Persia. He was Zoro-Astrian. He believed in two super-natural powers vying for control in the political heavens. He believed in a good god and a bad god; a god of light and a god of darkness. In this context. Isaiah chapter 45 is a very important scripture, written by Isaiah, approximately 750 years B.C. (and 150 years before Cyrus king of Persia was even born.) "Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; "Isaiah 45:1
Cyrus wasn't to be conceived for another 150 years - and here he was, mentioned by name in scripture, and God was going to raise up this man for a special purpose. That purpose was to send the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. "For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me". Isaiah 45:4
Cyrus never came to know the God of Israel, but God had called him by his name, and surnamed him, "though thou hast not known me. I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness:" Isaiah chapter 45:5-7
There's no god of light and god of darkness. God is saying specifically to this Zoro Astrian "I form the light - I create darkness - I make peace, I create evil. I the Lord do all these things" That is the answer to anybody who believes that there are two supernatural agents vying for power in the heavens.
Although God sent the prophets to his people Israel, "rising up early in the morning", the problem with human nature, as it is this day, is that people never listen. The Jews never listened. They did not hearken unto the prophets that God sent "rising early in the morning" They got involved in pagan worship. "They served other gods, yea gods of wood and stone, which neither see nor hear, nor think", as the prophet Moses had prophesied about so many years before. They corrupted themselves and they began to believe in the pagan gods of Babylon; two gods - a god of light, and a god of darkness vying for power in the heavens.
It is to this superstitious, apostate Jewish people that Jesus came to preach the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. So we find the Jews, during the time of Jesus attributing their infirmities and their diseases to demons and to devils. That's what they believed and that belief came from Babylon. At this time they didn't call this particular god, Ach Rimmon, because that was too pagan orientated. They called him Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. It's interesting to notice that Beelzebub was the god of the Philistines, a pagan god. So we find that they attributed their infirmities to Beelzebub, in fact they accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. "And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils" Mark 3:22
In other words they were saying, "This man, Jesus of Nazareth is mad. He has got a demon and because he is possessed with evil, he casts out evil" Quite an absurd argument. It needs a distorted belief to come up with a distorted argument like that. Look at the logic of Jesus' answer in verse 23:"he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?" Mark 3:23
In other words, “ If what you believe is true, that there are supernatural forces trying to destroy what is good and what is right, how can they achieve their ends by destroying one another? Surely if I were the prince of the demons I would rather have destroyed the victim, and by so doing, achieve the demons' own ends” How can evil cast out evil? It cannot. Therefore their own argument recoils upon themselves and can no longer stand. And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand." Verse 24 And neither could theirs. Their argument, based on a false belief, was self-destructive.
Here then we see the light of this world expelling the darkness of this world. The Son of God healing the sons of men.
On the one hand we find that there was a people, the Jews of the Old Testament. They believed in one God, and one God only and they attributed everything to their God; life, death, light, darkness, sickness, health, good, evil - everything was attributed to their God. On the other hand we have people that believed in two gods, as did the Zoro-Astrians in Babylon, and they attributed everything that is good to one god on the one hand and everything that is evil to another god, on the other hand. We may call that god whatever we wish, we may call that god 'Ach Rimmon', we may call that god 'Beelzebub' we may call him 'Satan' and we may call him 'The Devil' Whatever we may call him, it boils down to the same thing, that we have two forces in heaven: one good, one bad.
The other conclusion we can draw is that in Old Testament times the Jews were mono-theistic: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt worship the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy strength and with all thy might" On the other hand, in New Testament times these same people, the Jews of the New Testament had followed the ways ofthe Gentiles. No longer did they attribute evil to their God, but this time they attributed evil to the gods of the Gentiles, Beelzebub, Satan and the Devil. So we find that the problems concerning demons only occurred after the exile and was manifested well and truly in New Testament times, during the life of Christ. We find too, that demons are often personified because people believed that they were real. They believed that if they were sick, or dumb or deaf that they possessed a demon. Also because this personification was accepted as a figure of speech and was the vernacular of the day. it is often found in the New Testament that if the person afflicted, or the people in his company, believed in supernatural demons, the language of demons is then found.
We also find in the New Testament, on the other hand, that if someone did not believe that they were demon possessed, and the people in their company did not believe in demons, then the language of demons is not used
To illustrate this point of the language of demons not being used let us look at Luke chapter 4 - this time the healing of Simon's mother in law. Incidentally, the apostle John records all the miracles of Jesus without ever referring to the casting out of demons, which substantiates the point, that the language used to describe the healing is of a secondary matter.
Some spoke of afflictions as a person being possessed by demons, and others did not; and it depended upon the individual's belief. We feel here, that Simon Peter's mother in law did not believe that she was possessed by demons. Therefore the language of demons is not used. "And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; (not a demon - a great fever) and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; (he did not rebuke the demon - but rebuked the fever) and it (that is the fever) left her and immediately she arose and ministered unto them" Luke 4:38 -39
Here we find the affliction is addressed as though it were a person, but clearly the affliction was not a person. This is very important. The affliction is addressed as though it were a person but the affliction is not a person - neither is wisdom, nor is prudence. It is a “personification”. Notice here that because Simon Peter's mother in law does not believe in demons the language of demons is not used. He rebukes the fever. If Simon Peter's mother in law had believed that she was possessed by a demon, verse 39 would have read, "Jesus rebuked the demon and the demon left her"
With this background in mind, let us then consider the healing of Legion:
"And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains, because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel." Mark 5:1-20
Here then we'd say is a possible interpretation of the healing of Legion. In Mark 5 we find a man who was insane. He was deranged. Verse 3 tells us that "he had his dwelling among the tombs and no man could bind him, not even with chains" The man himself, believed the superstitions that came from Babylon which were cultivated and taught byreligious leaders. The Jews, mainly the Pharisees, believed that his condition was the result of demon possession. That was what this man believed, because that was what he was taught to believe. He believed that his condition was as a result of sin.
In this connection, consider the situation in John chapter 9 where a man was born blind, and they brought him to Jesus, asking "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" What a strange situation! They believed that this man was possessed by demons either because of his sin, or his parents' sin.
This is the same situation. This man believed that his condition was a result of either his parent’s sins or his own sins. He also believed that the only one that could cast out his insanity was the Messiah. Now while the Pharisees taught the people that when they were ill or deranged they were demon possessed, on the other hand they taught that when Messiah came, he would rid them of their evil.
In Mark 5:6,7 we read: "But when he (that is the man, not the demon) saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?" He believed that the Messiah could heal him. So we see light and darkness coming face to face. The light of truth as it is in Jesus Christ, on the one hand, and the darkness of superstition on the other hand.
Jesus said unto him (verse 8), "Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit." Or in other words, "Come out of the man, insanity" And because of this man's superstition, because of the simplicity of this man's belief he needed a physical, literal illustration of his insanity coming out of him otherwise he would never have believed at all that he was cured. So Jesus took the insanity that existed in the man and he transferred it into the pigs.
Remember what happened (in 1 Samuel 16:13,14) when the Spirit of God was upon Saul.? God took that Spirit from Saul and placed it upon David, and an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul. This is the same type of situation. Jesus took this condition of insanity and put it upon the pigs, to give this man a literal illustration that whatever he believed he suffered from had now been inflicted upon the pigs. But Jesus took the precaution here against further contamination of superstitious religious teaching, Those pigs ran into the lake and were drowned. They were destroyed .and so were the demons. That's the important point. The demons were destroyed with the swine.
There can be no such thing as a supernatural demon. Supernatural things don't die. Notice the condition of the man after his experience: "And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind" Mark 5:15
In the parallel version in Luke chapter 8 of the healing of Legion, we read that this man was naked. He had no clothes and now he was clothed.
Doesn't that remind you of Eden where we find a man and a woman in a situation where they had sinned? They had transgressed against God and were naked? They were ashamed of their nakedness, and hid from God in the garden. What happened? God clothed their nakedness with coats of skins. Here was Legion, clothed with the righteousness which comes by faith in Christ.
How’s your clothing? Are you clothed with Christ? Have you “put on Christ” through belief and baptism? It is only if you have put on Christ, like Legion, that you can sit quietly, clothed and in your right mind.