By Dr. Thomas R. Horn
And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”
Given the content of the previous entries and the inevitability during the study of spiritual warfare that the thorny (if not polarizing) question will arise concerning whether true Christians can become demon possessed, I’d like to state my personal opinion unequivocally that, although daimonizomai (“to be demonized”) and echon daimonion (“having a demon”) are manifested within institutionalized Christianity, those who are truly born again can never actually be possessed—as in inhabited—by demons. There are numerous reasons for this conclusion, not the least of which is that there are no instances of “possession” of believers anywhere in the Bible. Not a single verse in the Scripture even warns of the possibility, and there are zero examples in the life of Jesus Christ and the early church of demons being cast out of Christians.
What we do find in Scripture regarding the inner space of believers is that our body “is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). In fact, John writes that “he that is begotten of God, keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18). Therefore, “What communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial. And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, ‘I will dwell in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’” (2 Corinthians 6:14b–16). These and similar Scriptures verify for those who have the Holy Spirit residing within them that they are positively redeemed and sealed from the torment of diabolical possession. As John also certified, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Though in recent years “Christian deliverance ministries” have suggested otherwise, claiming that daimonizomai and echon daimonion infer the Lord’s body can actually be inhabited by demons, it is usually a matter of semantics. Confusion over the meaning of the terms “possession” and “demonization” is somewhat understandable from an exegetical standpoint, especially given how daimonizomai is used in Scripture to refer to a variety of problems and demonic manifestations. But because it is dangerous to promote precise definitions where none exist in Scripture, it should be noted that the actual phrase “demon possession” does not even appear in the Bible (Josephus coined this phrase near the end of the first century), and what some teachers classify as “possession” is actually demonization—a spirit from an external posture gains control or influence over a person. As such, literal possession is different than demonization, and ample evidence exists in the New Testament to conclude that whereas believers may never be “possessed,” they most certainly can be tempted, influenced, oppressed, and even demonized by evil supernaturalism. To this end, the apostle Paul warned the Christians at Ephesus (Ephesians 4:25–31) not to give “place” (Greek: topos) to the devil, meaning a foothold, opportunity, power, occasion for acting, or doorway into one’s personal space through which demonic strongholds can be established. Paul even listed particular behaviors that could lead to this fiendish union—lying, anger, wrath, stealing, bitterness, clamor, evil speaking (Greek blasphēmia: “to blaspheme, gossip, slander others”), and malice, which goes without saying constitutes most Internet trolling. Elsewhere in the Bible, we learn that doorways for agents of Satan to enter a believer’s life can also include encumbrances like fear, such as the fear that led Peter to deny Christ in Luke chapter 22 and that Jesus made clear was an effort by Satan to cause Peter to stumble (v. 31), and greed—as illustrated in the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5, where “Satan” (v. 3) filled the couple’s hearts to lie and to hold back a portion of money. Demonization of a Christian through these and similar weaknesses is usually gradual, where small decisions are made over an extended period of time during which the individual gives in to temptation, followed by ongoing and progressive surrender of territory within the mind and finally the flesh. Such steps to demonization may be summarized accordingly:
Temptation: The enemy discovers a weakness and appeals to it.
Influence: The individual entertains the idea and finally gives in to temptation. A foothold is established in the person’s life, making it harder to resist the same or related activity in the future.
Obsession: The activity eventually becomes an unhealthy preoccupation and irresistible impulse leading to critical degrees of control over the individual. The power to resist is practically gone.
Demonization: Control over the individual by external power becomes substantial. What at one time was considered sinful and to be avoided is now an addiction. The person may no longer even recognize the tendency as immoral, and little or no fortitude to cease participating in the activity remains.
Possession: This can occur if the individual turns his or her back on God so as to fully embrace carnality, surrendering the body and mind to Satan’s control. The desire to resist invasion by discarnate supernaturalism is vacated.
What immediately stands out in these steps and doorways to demonization is how central the mind of man is to the functioning battleground where spiritual warfare takes place. Whether it is lying, anger, wrath, stealing, bitterness, clamor, evil speaking, malice, fear, greed, or another human frailty, the battle begins in our thought life where we are tempted to give in to sin. “That’s where Satan can manipulate people toward his ends discreetly and invisibly,” writes Chip Ingram in The Invisible War. “If he can distort our thoughts, our emotions, and our knowledge, then our behaviors and relationships will fall the way he wants them to. And even if he doesn’t manage to turn us to overt evil, a little bit of distorted thinking can neutralize us and render us practically ineffective.”[i] In other words, if Satan cannot possess or demonize an individual, he will settle for what he can get, influencing the mind and spirit to whatever extent he can, keeping people ineffective or causing them to become a problem for their families, their communities, or their churches.
Unfortunately in Christendom, it is within this same mind-domain battleground where vulnerable people can be controlled by satanic forces to cripple the effectiveness of the ministry. God only knows how many resources of time, energy, and money have been exhausted over the centuries as a result of “Christians” like those Jesus warned of when He said, “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?’ And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22–23). In the parable of the tares and wheat, Jesus compared these types to weeds that germinate among devout believers (the wheat), choking their outgrowth until the day that He returns to judge them, while in the metaphor of the sheep and the goats, He described how, during this judgment, these “cursed” ones will be separated from the true believers and “shall go away into everlasting punishment.” Matthew records this future event, saying:
When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” And the King shall answer and say unto them, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” Then shall they also answer him, saying, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?” Then shall He answer them, saying, “Verily I say unto you, ‘Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.’ And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:31–46)
TO BE CONTINUED…
[i] Chip Ingram, The Invisible War (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006) 133.