The Holy Scriptures make it very clear that demons abound, and that those who have dealings with them and those who have come under their power also abound. Demons are spoken of in some translations of the Holy Scriptures as “devils” rather than as “demons,” but it is clear that there is only one devil although it is evident that there are innumerable demons or evil spirits.
Demons that possessed victims during the lifetime of the Lord Jesus always recognized Him, for undoubtedly they had known Him as the Eternal Son of God before their own fall with Satan. Whenever demon-possessed individuals met the Lord, it was the demons which possessed the individuals that usually addressed Jesus, giving Him His titles; “Jesus Thou Son of God,” “Thou Son of the Most High God,” “Son of the Most High” (Matt. 8:29. Mark 5:7. Luke 8:28). Observation, as well as the Holy Scriptures, proves that the demons are always filled with fear; we read, “The devils also believe, and tremble” (Jas. 2:19). Demons, likewise, seem to recognize the servants of God, and this in all probability is because the latter are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The spirit of divination in the poor damsel recognized as servants of the Lord Jesus, Paul and Silas, and cried, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17).
It is noticeable that the demons were aware that judgment had been passed upon them, and they were conscious that the Lord Jesus would be the One Who would put that judgment into execution. This is seen in their terrorized outcry, “Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?” They made reference to the time when Satan and his angels would be cast into the lake of fire. The demons knew the Lord Jesus possessed the power to cast them out (Matt. 8:31); and, furthermore, although the demons desired to enter the swine, they could not do so until they had asked for, and obtained, permission from the Lord (Mark 5:10-13).
In any experience I have had with demon-possessed persons, I have invariably found the demons to be antagonistic, and it would appear they feared they would be expelled in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Years ago in Manchuria, a man came into our compound, and when I went to speak to him, he prostrated himself at my feet, repeatedly beating his head on the ground, and pleading with me to go and see his daughter. He told me that his daughter was to have been married, but that she was now possessed by a demon, and that, consequently, the family of the bridegroom would not allow their son to marry her, nor bring her into their house.
I was unable to go and see the girl, but one of my colleagues, a New Zealander, and a young Chinese evangelist offered to go. The father hired a Pekinese cart and drove them some forty miles into the country. As they approached the farm home the demon-possessed girl and her mother were outside the door. As soon as the victimized girl saw the missionary she threw herself on the ground screaming in terror, and then lay prostrate. When the mother saw that the girl did not move, she cried out, “T’a-ssu-ssu-la!” “T’a-ssu-ssu-la!” That is, “She is dead!” “She is dead!” The father picking up the girl took her into the house and laid her upon the divan where she remained motionless. When the parents saw that the girl had recovered somewhat from the shock, they pled with the missionary to do something for their daughter. The servant of the Lord told them that neither he nor his companion had power to do anything of themselves, but that their God is both living and almighty as well as loving and compassionate; moreover, that the name of His Son was all-powerful. They told the farmer that if he would kneel with them, they would ask God in the name of His Son Jesus to deliver the daughter, assuring the distracted father, that if it was God will, He certainly would grant the request.
All knelt down on the floor, first the missionary prayed, but nothing happened; the Chinese evangelist then prayed in a simple childlike manner, and the possessed girl, suddenly with supernatural strength jumped to her feet, and with a shrill maniacal shriek threw herself violently on the floor. The poor mother added to the confusion by screaming at the top of her voice, “Now she is dead!” “Now she is dead!” Shortly after, however, the girl stood up, and to the great joy of her parents gave every evidence that the demon had left her. Some fifteen years later the writer saw her as a happy wife, and as a happy mother of several healthy boys and girls.
There would seem to be different types of demons and evil spirits; religious ones, lying ones, unclean ones, and ferocious ones, all with the ability to express themselves through the human voice. Those mentioned in Matthew chapter 8 spoke audibly to the Lord; the one in the girl called after the Apostle Paul and his companions (Acts 16). The evil spirit referred to in Acts 19 spoke both of the Lord and of the Apostle Paul. It is always the demon possessing the victim that speaks in the cases quoted.
Priests in heathen temples are probably all demon-possessed, for many of the things which they do are uncanny in the extreme. In Manchuria and Mongolia the Lama priests are associated with the most debased form of Buddahism, and they profess to possess supernatural power. In the year 1905, the writer was in Tientsin when three British gunboats steamed up the Pei-Ho river and tied up at the commercial wharf. We visited the destroyers and discovered a number of Christians on board. One evening we were invited to dine with the officers, and both during and after the meal the question of Demonology was discussed. Some of the officers frankly stated that they believed all that were classed as demon-possessed in the days of the Lord Jesus were suffering from some form of insanity or mind aberration. We suggested that heathen temples were the abodes of demons and evil spirits, and that the priests in them were probably all demon-possessed. We offered to escort any of their number to Peking and visit the large Mongolian temple where there were hundreds of Lama priests. Two of the Christian officers accepted our suggestion, and in a few days went with us to Peking. On the way to the temple I asked the officers to join me in a spirit of prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus that we might prove to ourselves and to the priests that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Upon arrival at the temple we took up our stand at one of the large open doors exactly at the moment when some ninety or a hundred priests were filing into the auditorium to engage in vocal prayer.
At one end of the building was a very large gold plated image of Buddha, and at the other end there was a living Buddha, probably the Abbot, who was clad in garments of gold coloured silk. He was doing what is known as the “Great Seat,” or, in other words, the Great Contemplation. From the motionless face of the living Buddha it was difficult to tell whether or not he was alive because there was not even a flicker of an eye.
We had agreed that we would silently, in the name of the Lord Jesus, oppose the priests by prayer and seek to prevent them from audibly praying in unison. We had agreed that if we succeeded in this, we would take it as proof that greater was He that was in us, than he that was in the world. At a given signal an acolyte tinkled a small bell and all the priests clapped their hands, and began in a sepulchral voice to chant, “O-mani-mani-pad-ni-heng,” but they could not proceed beyond the first part, “O-mani.” Something hindered them. Once again the bell tinkled and the priests began their chant, only to fail; they could not get further than “O-mani!” At this point a youngish priest came to us, and in Chinese said to me, “Ch’ing-pa-t’a-men-ling-ch’u,” which means “Please lead those two men in uniform away.” I tried to look very blank as though I did not understand Chinese so the priest again took his seat among the others. Once more the performance of tinkling the bell and the clapping of the hands took place, and all the deep voices again began, “O- mani-mani,” but as during the previous attempts, they could not complete the remainder of their chant. Now came a heavy-set priest from the right side of the group, and putting both hands on my shoulders in a loud voice said, “Ch’u-pa-Ch’u-pa,” which means “Be gone with you!” I turned to my friends and suggested that we leave in order not to offend them above measure because this gathering of theirs was what a prayer meeting is to us. When we had left I asked the officers what they thought of the whole affair. The senior one of the two exclaimed, “I could not have stood it a minute longer, I could feel the presence of demons all around me!”
We were scarcely away from the door when we heard the bell and then the words, “O-ma mani-pad-ni-heng;” “O great illustrious Buddha, O Jewel in the Lotus flower.” This was repeated continuously until we passed out of earshot. We left with the conviction that such temples were the abodes of demons, but that He Who dwells in the “Temple of God” is greater than he that is in the world.
Time and again I have been asked if demons can possess a truly born-again child of God. My answer always is that I see no Scripture to warrant any such suggestion, but I do believe a child of God living in a backslidden condition, and out of fellowship with His or her Heavenly Father, may have their minds obsessed by a demoniacal power. Perhaps one can illustrate this by Satan’s dealing with Judas Iscariot. In John 12:2, we find the adversary putting the thought of betraying the Lord Jesus into the heart of the betrayer; this we might suggest was obsession. Then in the same chapter, verse 27, we find Satan himself entering into Judas, which would be full possession of one who was merely a professed believer in the Lord Jesus.
The Holy Spirit through the Word of God or in answer to prayer, is still God’s power to cast out demons. The Lord cast out demons by the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28). The Apostle Paul used the precious name of the Lord Jesus to do likewise (Acts 16:18). Today we either lack the faith, or we do not recognize those who are demon-possessed; consequently, we do not attempt to command demons in the name of the Lord Jesus to leave their victims.
The Old Testament Scriptures warned Israel against any manner of dealing with those who seemed to be directly connected with any form of demonism or spiritism. We read in Deut. 18:9-12, “When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations … there shalt not be found among you any that useth divination, or any observer of times, or an enchanter, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” Fortunetellers and astrologers of today would come under this category.