As part of our Ultimate Man series, we did a three-part “series-within-the-series”, called Spiritual Warfare, Angels & Demons. A topic such as this can raise questions, so we asked church people to ask away and Nigel Day-Lewis put together the following bible-based responses. Here is part 3.
D : DELIVERANCE
- Should you cast demons out from anyone?
Jesus did (Gospels), he plainly sent his disciples out to do the same (Lk 9/1, 10/17), he equally plainly indicated that all believers would do this (Mk 16/17), and indeed they did (Acts). So the short answer is: yes! However, this ministry is not always easy (immediately successful: Lk 9/40) and unpleasant consequences lie in wait for the inexperienced or presumptious (Ac 19/13-16). So if you are in any doubt about how to proceed when confronted by a demon manifesting in a person, consult or call in someone more experienced in this ministry. Best of all, minister alongside them, as on-the-job training is always the best way to be equipped to minister yourself.
- How do you tell the difference between strongholds and demons, especially when demons are not manifesting? How do you break strongholds?
A whole theology of strongholds and breaking them has grown up in pop ‘spiritual warfare’ that has no biblical basis. The only occurrence of the word stronghold(s) in the NT is 2 Co 10/4, where the immediate context (v3-5) indicates it refers to arguments/pretensions/thoughts that set themselves up against the knowledge of God, and the wider context (ch10-13 – and to some measure the whole letter) shows that Paul is referring especially to the ‘reasoning’ some are using to oppose his apostleship to that church. Beyond that, if we were to use the word more loosely, we might say that to give the devil a ‘foothold’ (Ep 4/27: also the sole NT use) through some area of sin in your life may lead in time to a ‘stronghold’ in that area (which, of course, the devil will target). But in each of these meanings of ‘stronghold’ we are talking about something very different from demonization. The solution to strongholds (how you ‘break’ them), whether of thought or life, is repentance (and in some cases a process thereafter of renewing the mind or changing the life); the ‘solution’ for demonization is deliverance. Unless there is clear evidence (a manifestation) of demonization, you treat it as a matter requiring repentance, not deliverance.
- Is there a gift of casting out demons and is it the same as the gift of healing? Do we grow in this ministry? Can some people see and recognize demons?
On the one hand, we must say that none of the NT lists of spiritual gifts include ‘the gift of deliverance/exorcism’; this is something [see Q14] that all believers are expected to do. On the other hand, it is true that in the Gospels deliverance is repeatedly seen as a form of healing, and there are ‘gifts of healing’ (1 Co 12/9&30 – but healing is also something that all believers are expected to do: Mk 16/18). One can (and should) certainly grow in ministering both healing and deliverance (in exercising this gift, if you see it as a gift). Some people do seem to be able to see /recognize demons more than others: this could be (a) an exercise of the gift of ‘distinguishing between [discerning of] spirits’ (1 Co 12/10), (b) a greater personal anointing, the presence of which provokes demons into manifesting (cf. Lk 4/33-34&41, 8/28), or (c) their experience in this ministry means they can recognize signs that others miss.
- How do you deal with someone when they are unaware of being possessed and have not asked for help?
First, they may not actually be possessed – you may have wrongly assumed they are. Second, it is unlikely that anyone truly possessed by a demon will be unaware of it. Third, if they are possessed but somehow are unaware of it, ask God for an anointing on you that provokes demons into manifesting. Fourth, if a demon manifests, you can deal with it (demons possessing people manifested in Jesus’ presence so he drove them out, even though the people who were possessed didn’t ask to be delivered) – but normally if someone doesn’t want help you can’t minister.
- Why did Jesus cast the demons into a herd of pigs and not into hell?
Amongst all demons (fallen angels), some are active in this world and age (e.g. those we see demonizing people / being driven out in the Gospels), and others are confined, awaiting judgement (2 Pe 2/4, Jude 6). The latter group are not in hell (gehenna), the place of final/eternal judgement, but in “gloomy dungeons” (Tartarus – prison or Abyss), a place of provisional punishment awaiting the day of judgement. (It does seem, however, either that some active demons are free only for certain periods/functions or that some confined demons are loosed for these periods /functions: Re 9/1-3&11, 16/14). With this background we can now answer the question. Jesus didn’t ‘cast’ any demons into hell during his earthly life and ministry. The demons he drove out were active demons, those who possess a certain freedom to oppose God in this world. He drove them out of certain people – but they would have been free to seek a new ‘house’ (i.e. person) thereafter (Lk 12/24-26). The demons in the Gadarene demoniac begged Jesus not to send them into the Abyss (not hell: Lk 8/31), and by not doing so (i.e. by allowing them to remain active v confined demons) Jesus was doing no more and no less than he did with every other demon he cast out. Not knowing this, or terrified by the Incarnate God before them, these demons probably begged to go into the pigs as a preferred alternative to going into the Abyss (the pigs would be a new ‘house’ for them). Knowing that he had no intention of sending them to the Abyss, and that they would remain active demons anyway, Jesus agreed.
- What about spiritual mapping and territorial spirits?
In perhaps no other area has pop ‘spiritual warfare’ led to such confusion and excess. On no more than a handful of occasions the Bible gives us a glimpse into the spiritual realm, a hint that certain demons may seek to control or influence a region of the world (presumably by controlling the other demons active in that area and seeking to influence mankind in that region according to their particular bent). For example, Daniel, as a powerful intercessor and someone highly esteemed by God, is given the information that there was a demonic ‘prince of Persia’ and ‘prince of Greece’ (Da 10/13,20). He is not told this so he can now join this true spiritual warfare between angels in the heavenly realm (nowhere is he instructed/invited to ‘join in’ or told how to) but to assure him that his prayers were heard and answered from day one (v1-14). It is the angel sent to Daniel who takes a stand to support and protect Michael (10/21b–11/1), not Daniel (how is a human being going to protect an archangel?) Such occasional revelation, to a privileged person and/or for quite another purpose, is no basis at all for the belief in some quarters that we cannot effectively do ministry or mission anywhere without first ‘spiritually mapping’ that city/region/ nation by identifying the ‘territorial spirits’ over it, and then praying ‘against’ them. Nowhere in Scripture do you see the people of God doing that; nowhere did Jesus indicate that was the case (‘Go into all the world – but not before you spiritually map it all and pray down the territorial spirits’); nowhere do we see the church pausing in its mission to do this or powerless in its mission because it hasn’t done it (still less substituting mission with these activities). If God shows you something in the spiritual realm, use it in praying – to God; otherwise get on with what God has told us to do (preaching, healing, etc)! Greater is the One who is in us than the one who is in the world (1 Jn 4/4), and He has given us authority over all the power of the enemy (Lk 10/19) to get on with mission.
- What about the binding of spirits (e.g. a spirit of murder/sleeping)?
Another area where pop ‘spiritual warfare’ has done the church no favours – we waste time and energy endlessly ‘binding and loosing’ all sorts. Jesus is the stronger one who has bound the strong man (Satan) in his incarnation, death and resurrection; we can now rob the strong man of his possessions (people and influence) by doing the regular stuff of ministry and mission (Lk 11/21-22). Sound interpretation will show the texts about binding and loosing (Mw 16/19 cf. Jn 20/23) have to do with the authority of the church and leadership to make judgements on matters of truth and righteousness. Except when tempted by the devil (Mw 4/1, 16/23) or driving out demons, Jesus never addressed (or ‘bound’) either; except for these same situations, get on with God, people and the world!