Demonology, a Study of Demons


     Many today seem to be fascinated with demons. The Bible does present demons as being real (see Luke 4: 33-36 below). Where did demons originate, what was their purpose, and do they possess people against their own will today? The growth of the occult has also prompted more interest in the demon world. Movies such as the Exorcist and Exorcist Two (ca. 1974 and '77) created almost a cult following. Demons represent the dark side, the opposite of good; hence, the obsession.

     "33: And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, 34: Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. 35: And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. 36: And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. 37: And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about" (Luke. 4).

     Who or what are demons?   Some view demons as simply the personification of evil; hence, they are not entities. However, in the above passage it is apparent demons were (are) entities. It was a common belief among the Jews of the First Century that demons were the spirits of the wicked that entered into men. Some early beliefs relative to demons have continued until this present day. Some believe demons were (are) the offspring of angels marrying women; others contend that demons are the disembodied spirits of the inhabitants of a pre-Adamic earth; and some maintain angels are fallen angels (Gen. 6: 4; 2 Pet. 2: 4). Regarding the first three views, there is no scriptural evidence. In fact, the scriptures will not allow such explanations as being even plausible. Concerning the fourth view, it is highly likely that demons are fallen angels who were allowed to work their deeds during a special period (2 Pet. 2: 4, Jude 6).

     It should be understood that while demons and the devil are associated, demons and the devil are separate and distinct entities. It is unfortunate that some Translations will render "demons" (Gk. diamon) "devils" (see King James in James 2: 19, it should be rendered "demons" ). For more definition and clarification, please consider the observations of lexicographer W. E. Vine:

     "Noun, daimon '…a demon,' signified, among pagan Greeks, an inferior deity, whether good or bad. In the NT it denotes 'an evil spirit.' It is used in Matt. 8:31, mistranslated 'devils.' Some would derive the word from a root da---, meaning 'to distribute.' More probably it is from a similar root da---, meaning 'to know,' and hence means 'a knowing one.'

     "Noun, daimonion …not a diminutive of daimon, No. 1, but the neuter of the adjective daimonios, pertaining to a demon, is also mistranslated 'devil,' 'devils.' In Acts 17:18, it denotes an inferior pagan deity…. They disseminate errors among men, and seek to seduce believers, 1 Tim. 4:1…. 'Demons' tremble before God, Jas. 2:19; they recognized Christ as Lord and as their future Judge, Matt. 8:29; Luke 4:41. Christ cast them out of human beings by His own power. His disciples did so in His name, and by exercising faith, e.g., Matt. 17:20. Acting under Satan (cp. Rev. 16:13,14), 'demons' are permitted to afflict with bodily disease, Luke 13:16. Being unclean they tempt human beings with unclean thoughts, Matt. 10:1; Mark 5:2; 7:25; Luke 8:27-29; Rev. 16:13; 18:2, e.g. They differ in degrees of wickedness, Matt. 12:45. They will instigate the rulers of the nations at the end of this age to make war against God and His Christ, Rev. 16:14. See DEVIL" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

     The nature of demons. There are many characteristics of demons found in the New Testament. Demons are said to be evil (Lk. 7: 21, 8: 2). As seen in Vine's statements, some demons are worse and stronger than other demons, comparatively speaking (Matt. 12: 45, 43; Mk. 9: 17-29). During the age of demon possession, demons were able to come and go out of a person at will (Lk. 11: 24, 25). They were also able to take possession of animals (Mk. 5: 13). Demons were able to speak out through the mouth of the one whom they possessed, the demoniac (Lk. 4: 33-36). The fact demons possessed knowledge is seen in their recognition of Jesus as the Son of God and they knew their destiny (Mk. 5: 7, Matt. 8: 29). Demons are said to have dwelt in desolate regions. We read of them being in the mountains, among the tombs, and in dry, waterless places (Mk. 5: 5; Mk. 5: 2; Lk. 11: 24).

     Demons during the New Testament age (First Century). It was during the First Century that demons obviously experienced their greatest freedom and activity. Demons suppressed and possessed many. It was during this time that Satan reigned predominantly. Demons possessed men, women, a boy, and a girl (Matt. 4: 24; Lk. 8: 2; Lk. 9: 38, 39; Mk. 7: 25).

     Demons affected those whom they possessed in different ways. They caused some to be dumb (unable to speak); they caused blindness; inability to hear; to be savage; to possess superhuman strength; and to appear insane (Matt. 9: 32, 33; Matt. 12: 22; Mk. 9: 25; Matt. 8: 28; Mk. 5: 2-4; Mk. 5: 5).

     Do demons or evil spirits possess people today? There is no doubt that many are under the control of the devil (cp. 2 Tim. 2: 24-26). However, the scriptures teach that if we resist the devil, he will flee (Jas. 4: 7). Hence, our question pertains to the uninvited and severe bodily indwelling of demons. An important verse in determining the answer to our question is Luke 10: 18. "…I beheld Satan," Jesus said to his disciples, "as lighting fall from heaven." Jesus' statement clearly has reference to a defeat of Satan and the lessening of his powers. The text or frame of reference of Jesus' statement has to do with "even the demons are subject unto us through thy name" (vs. 17). The seventy thus commissioned were given power over the demonic world, to cast out demons. I, therefore, understand the kind and type of demon possession of which we read in the New Testament to have been of a limited duration, just as miraculous abilities were limited in their time frame (I Cor. 13: 8-10). Demon possession would not continue pass the time of the miraculous means of delivery (Click on "Have Miracles Ceased?" to read more). Notice some germane comments by commentator Albert Barnes on Colossians 2: 15 ("And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it"):

     "The 'principalities and powers' here referred to are the formidable enemies that had held man in subjection, and prevented his serving God. There can be no doubt, I think, that the apostle refers to the ranks of fallen, evil spirits which had usurped a dominion over the world. The Savior, by his death, wrested the dominion from them, and seized upon that they had captured as a conqueror seizes upon his prey. Satan and his legions had invaded the earth and drawn its inhabitants into captivity, and subjected them to their evil reign. Christ, by his death, subdues the invaders and recaptures those whom they had subdued" (Barnes on the New Testament, Vol. 7, pg. 266).

     Man's bondage to Satan today is voluntary and connected with man's association with the truth. Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn. 8: 32). Whosoever wills to serve God may do so (Jn. 7: 17, 3: 16). We either serve God or mammon (Matt. 6: 24). In scriptural baptism, the "old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom. 6: 6, see entire chapter). The First Century is unique in that never before or after has there been this kind or amount of demon activity so manifest. It is evident that the world of evil spirits were allowed this unprecedented freedom so Jesus' Sonship could be clearly demonstrated (cp. Mk. 5: 1-20, Lk. 10: 18).