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Revelation by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:49 mins 9 secs

Can a Believer be Demon Possessed?


Definition: Demon possession is the invasion of a person's body by a demon who overrides the person's sole control of his own body. This does not eradicate the individual's personality, soul, thinking, or volition; it somehow overrides that soul control of the body so that a person is not able to express himself physically.


Many have been taught a view or argument of why Christians can't be demon possessed which looks something like this. There is a major premise that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer. The minor premise is that a demon and the Holy Spirit can't be in the same place. Conclusion: therefore a Christian cannot have both a demon and the Holy Spirit in the same place, so therefore they are not demon possessed. But that is wrong, a poorly constructed argument. The conclusion is right but it is poorly constructed.


That was a typical way that argument was presented. In the late 1940s Dr Merrill Unger wrote his doctoral theses at Dallas Theological Seminary on demon possession. He concluded that Christians could not be demon possessed. But when that dissertation was published as a book called "Biblical Demonology" it created a furore out on the mission field because all these different missionaries in different places who have run into cases they assumed were demon possession and they assumed that the people were Christians. So Unger was flooded with letters from missionaries who invited him to the mission field. So he went out on an experiential tour. He came back and wrote a book in the late fifties called "What Demons Can Do to Christians" and he changed his view. And when a scholar of that repute changes his view then people sit up and take notice. That really had an influence on people, especially those who were students of Dr Unger's at Dallas Seminary during the late sixties. It was because this argument at the time was poorly stated and poorly constructed.


1 Corinthians 3:16 is the foundation for this. NASB "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and {that} the Spirit of God dwells in you?" He says almost the same thing in 1 Corinthians 6:19 NASB "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" What is important here is the Greek word from which the word "temple" is translated—naos [naoj]. It is one of two Greek words translated "temple" but they have different significances. The word naos refers to the inner sanctum, what we call the holy of holies, the innermost place in the temple where the Shekinah glory was, the indwelling presence of God. The Greek word hieron [i(eron] includes not only the inner building, the holy of holies, but it also refers to all of the external grounds and the outside courtyards. Anyone could go into the outer courtyards but no one could go into the holy of holies other than the high priest, and the high priest had to go through the cleansing ritual before he could go into the holy of holies because uncleansed or unsanctified he could not enter into the presence where God dwelt.


Nothing could enter into the naos that was not cleansed or sanctified and we see examples of that in the Old Testament. For example, Aaron the high priest had four sons—Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, according to Exodus 6:23. Nadab and Abihu were a part of the Levitical priesthood and they were also included along with Aaron when Moses took the seventy elders of Israel up on the mountain to listen to God. Only Moses could go into the presence of God but Nadab and Abihu did accompany him. But later on as the Jews are going through the wilderness wanderings Nadab and Abihu became a little bit arrogant and rebellious, and Leviticus 10:1ff and Numbers 3:4 explain that they tried to come into the tent of meeting with what the Bible calls "unauthorised fire." In other words, without being cleansed and not being the high priest they violated God's prescription for coming into His presence and when they entered into the holy of holies in an unauthorised manner they died right then. Uncleansed, unsanctified people could not come into where the dwelling presence of the Shekinah was. The dwelling presence of the Shekinah was the Son.


Another example from the Old Testament was when David was transporting the ark into Jerusalem on an ox cart. The ox cart hit an obstruction in the road and jostled the ark. One of the men walking alongside, thinking that God needed to be stabilised, reached out and touched the ark to stabilise it. He died instantly. Being unsanctified and uncleansed you can't be in the same place as the dwelling place of God. 2 Samuel 6:3-6.


What we see here is a pattern, and that is that when God purifies, sanctifies, i.e. set apart, and a temple is set apart for His indwelling presence, nothing defiled, uncleansed, unsanctified can enter into that inner sanctum, the naos of God. The Old Testament makes a distinction, and the Greek in the New Testament makes a distinction, between the overall structure of the temple and the inner sanctum of the meeting place with the person of God. So 1 Corinthians 3:16 is reminding the Corinthians that the believer is a temple/naos of God. The "you" in that verse is plural, "you all." People might say that the plural represents the corporate assembly of the church so that when the body of believers comes together in corporate worship then the Holy Spirit indwells them. The problem with that is that Paul consistently in his epistles to the Corinthians, for the purpose of individual application, addresses a congregation with a second person plural. In other words, he is constantly saying you all need to do this, you all need to do that, but he is not talking corporately, he is talking about every individual within the corporate body, within the congregation. E.g. as in "You all need to pray." So he is talking about the fact that each individual is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He says that specifically in Romans 8.


A temple was a set-apart, consecrated area for not only the dwelling of God the Holy Spirit but also the indwelling of the person of Christ. Ephesians 3:17 NASB "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…" John 17:23 NASB "I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity…"


In our argument the major premise should be stated this way: Every believers is a set-apart sanctuary by the Holy Spirit for the indwelling Jesus Christ. The believer's body is the naos. Minor premise: Unsanctified creatures—including demons and man—cannot enter into this kind of set-apart sanctuary. Conclusion: Therefore demons cannot enter into the set-apart sanctuary of the believer's body. 1 John 4:4 NASB "…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." So we can have great confidence that we have no basis for fear, anxiety, worry, that somehow the problems that we have in life are because we are demon possessed and we have to be delivered.

The second major argument against demon possession of believers comes out of Jesus' discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew chapter twelve. He uses an illustration that is very helpful here. It is split between 12:28, 29 and 12:43-45. Matt 12:28 "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. [29] Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong {man?} And then he will plunder his house." What He is talking about here is that the strong man represents demonic control and it reinforces the view that demon possession is internal demonic control of an unbeliever's body. He expands on this in verse 43: "Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find {it.} [44] Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds {it} unoccupied, swept, and put in order [moral reformation]. [45] Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation."

The third argument is in Jesus' high-priestly prayer, John 17:15 NASB "I do not ask You to take them [believers] out of the world, but to keep them from the evil {one.}" We have a key preposition here: ek [e)k]. We live inside the world system, though we are not of the world. Jesus is praying that the Father keep [complete preservation] us from ever entering into the control of the evil. We must accept the fact that the Father is answering that particular prayer. At the very least this would include protecting believers from demon possession.

A fourth passage that reinforces the view of our protection by the Father is 1 John 5:18, 19 NASB "We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in {the power of} the evil one." The clear statement by John is that the wicked one does not harm us.

A fifth argument comes from Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:3 NASB "But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil {one.}" Here we have a different preposition. It is not the preposition ek, but it is a preposition which has the idea of being kept away from something. When it is used in combination with the word to guard or to protect it means something along the lines of so that it is not lost or damaged. So the idea here in the Greek is that the Lord is faithful and will strengthen and protect the believer from any harm or damage from the evil one. The protection is based on the Lord's faithfulness.

The last argument for why Christians cannot be demon possessed is really an argument from silence in the sense that the Scripture doesn't mention is as either a problem or in giving us a solution. 2 Pet 1:3, 4 "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of {the} divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." God has given us everything we need to carry out His plan and will for our lives. The minor premise is that in the epistles which are written for the edification, strengthening and instruction of the church during the church age, there is no mention of demon possession at all. The silence is deafening. If the Bible is going to tell us everything we need to know to live our spiritual life in the church age and it doesn't mention demon possession, then what is our conclusion? It is not a problem; this is not an issue. If it were we would have been told about it.

So what should we conclude from this as believers? We are not saying that there is not demon possession in the world, or that though the Old Testament never mentions demon possession that there wasn't demon possession in Old Testament times. What we are saying is the demon possession as it is superstitiously practised among many different Christians down through the ages is not what the Bible talks about. The emphasis in the Scriptures is not on the fact that Satan or a demon can come in and really mess up our life. We can do that by our own volition. The solution for an unbeliever is the gospel.