Are you Demon Oppressed?
I am glad that, through books like John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart" and Stasi Eldredge's "Captivating", the reality of demon oppression and the necessity of Spiritual Warfare against those beings is moving out of the Charismatic and Pentecostal traditions into the mainstream. To believe that the devil actively works only in Third world countries, but not in places like Europe or the United States, is to reveal a cultural chauvinism that is totally uncalled for. Why people believe that the devil respects cultural niceties and national borders is as great a mystery to me as why they believe that natural laws binding only on three dimensional matter somehow prevent a four-dimensional being from interacting with our world.
I will distinguish between demon possession and demon oppression, and point out a few things about both.
Demon possession is the "dark twin" of Symbiosis, in which a demon or demons occupy the possessed person in roughly the same way that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer. Both occupy the exact same location within the believer, and both affect The Bitstream. However, demon possession is parasitic, destroying the host, while the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is mutualistic, benefitting both Himself and the host. In demon possession, the thought life is dominated by, or greatly influenced by, the occupying demon independent of the will of the host. In contrast, the Holy Spirit maintains a low profile when tossing His thoughts into The Bitstream, sometimes requiring resorting to a mutually agreed upon protocol to help the host discern the will of the Symbiote.
I mention this because it is highly essential that we see the contrast between the two kinds of occupation and the two kinds of indwelling spirits. As can be expected, the "evil twin" does not mind being confused with the "good twin", while the "good twin" is always highly irritated when misattributed. We have the following passage from Matthew 12:22-32
22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. 30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
The accusation of verse 24 by the Pharisees is that the demons being cast out are "taking a fall" so as to make Jesus (possessed by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils) look good. Apparently, the Spirit within Jesus took such great offense at the accusation that Jesus was obligated to immediately deal with it. He firstly disputes the contention that demons "take falls" in verses 25 and 26. He points out in verse 27 that the Pharisees recognize legitimate exorcism when performed by their kids, so how can one tell how the demon is cast out if all that one sees is the demon being cast out? In verse 28, Jesus asserts the fact that devils (demons) are cast out by the Spirit of God. In verse 29, he not only points out that the spirit doing the casting out is stronger than the one being cast out, but that the casting out was necessary for the stronger spirit to occupy the place the lesser spirit once occupied. When it came to others casting out demons in Jesus' name, Jesus saw the issue as "those who are not against us is for us", but when it came to accusing the Holy Spirit of being a demon, Jesus took a far harder and more unforgiving line in verse 30, viewing it as "He that is not with me is against me." Finally comes the punchline of verses 31 to 32: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is accusing Him of being a demon, meriting non-forgiveness both in this world and the world to come.
This is known as the unforgiveable sin, and there is no other sin that seems to have so much darkness and confusion thrown around it to cloak who does it and the circumstances of its commission. It is inconceivable that God or Jesus would not be specific as to what the unforgiveable sin is and how to commit it if the sin is so henious that, according to its name, it is unforgiveable. Many people are absolutely sure that they cannot be saved because they have committed the unpardonable sin, yet cannot pinpoint the specific sin that was unpardonable.
The darkness and confusion surrounding this sin is understandable because it is one that only those in a position of spiritual authority can commit! Such authorities believe that they can judge the nature and spirit of miracle workers, and declare it legitimate or demonic. They can't do miracles themselves (though their kids might work them), but by looking on the outward appearance, they presume to determine whether a miraculous work is of the Devil or of God. They commit it when they misjudge the work of the Holy Spirit, ascribing it to the work of devils. Jesus is unsparing in his teaching about that sin: Failure is not an option. There is no leeway given for having good intentions but being mistaken. Jesus does not regard it as a virtue to "Play it safe and call it bad: it won't matter if you are wrong." Getting the call right does matter. Either do it right, get enough facts to make sure you are right, or shut up and say nothing at all.
I mention the unpardonable sin for several reasons. Firstly, a simple and unbiased reading of the passage is required to clear up uncertainty about it. People should know when they have sinned or not, so leaving people in doubt about a sin of such great consequence is not acceptable. Secondly, I need to forewarn critics of Symbiosis that they cannot "play it safe" and make a call that covers their tails while condeming a real work of the Holy Spirit: the consequences are too great, and the Holy Spirit does not care to be misclassified. I may have to debate you, but I don't have to fight you: I have no need to after having tasted but a little of the great protective love of the Tiger of Heaven and what is in store for those who harm his cubs. (I use the masculine form because it is politically correct, but the feminine form, which is more fiercely fanatical and protective, is closer to the reality. John Eldredge speculates that women embody some of the qualities of God that we recognize as feminine, and it seems that this fiercer protectiveness is one of those qualities. C.S. Lewis agrees, asking the rhetorical question of which parent one would rather talk to and negotiate about the misbehavior of their child. Nuff said.)
But there is a more immediate application: if you are convinced that this active probing for the Holy Spirit within a saved believer is false, and believe that a demon will respond in place of the Holy Spirit to the point of pretending to suppress thoughts in an effort to deceive you, then what proof could the Holy Spirit present to convince you otherwise? THERE ISN'T. Faced with a rigged setup, where He is damned if He does, and damned if He doesn't, the Holy Spirit will refuse to work. There is no way He can convince you that He is the real thing and not a demon, for you are convinced that even good works is an evidence of demonic activity. Why should He bother? Oh, and by the way, guess what? You just grieved the Holy Spirit! You have made him unable to work for you or in you, so why should He stick around? Why should He not leave and leave you to learn what demon possession is really like?
I should point out that a believer cannot be demon possessed, because the Holy Spirit is occupying that place where the demon must reside in order to possess the believer. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 12:43-45, where a person without the Holy Spirit in residence is like an empty house that a formerly expelled demon feels free to re-occupy. The house is occupied when the Holy Spirit is in the believer, otherwise demons will enter the believer in order to torment them for their faith.
I will now talk about demon oppression. Christians certainly can be demon oppressed, and in an endless variety of ways: while demons are excluded from that place where they can control the thought life of the believer, they have free reign in the physical world and in the hearts of non-believers. Do not let the lack of screaming, broken chains, epleptic fits, and cutting of oneself with stones be evidence that demons are not in control of non-believers. A review of demon activity throughout the Bible reveals a progression in which demons have learned how to occupy human beings. We do not see them occupy or possess human hearts on a wide scale in the beginning. We only have the case of King Saul taken over from time to time by an evil spirit "from the Lord", indicating that the Lord was controlling the evil spirit to some extent. King Nebuchadnezzar's madness was not due to demons, but to a wholesale change-out of his heart from a human heart to the heart of a beast by God, not any demons. Demons start occupying people on a wide scale during Jesus' time, but reveal a distinct lack of control and ability to take care of their hosts. They are capable of communication and rational discourse when commanded, so we have to conclude that they have learned how to control those they possess with more intelligence and subtlety over the past 1900 years.
Demon oppression can be suspected (note that I said suspected!) if there are:
- Persistent thought patterns that are resistant to theraputic and symbiotic methods of control. These could indicate demonic injection of thoughts that last as long as the demon has patience and incentive to inject them. We know that thoughts are mediated by electrical and chemical changes in the synapses between neurons. Thus, thought-based demon oppression is effected when demons external to the brain generate electron beams or magnetic fields that are targeted and directed to specific areas of the brain. Demons, being spirits, certainly do not physically or mentally tire as we do. Relief comes when the neurons being stimulated physically run out of neurotransmitters and have to be allowed to rest for them to regenerate new supplies of the necessary chemicals. (However, see the page in this essay about having the right priorities.)
- Unexplained and repeated circumstances and events that occur without apparent causes that cause harm or loss. See Job for an example of this. (However, this can also be due to living an unwise lifestyle, so pray James 1:5-8 and read the book of Proverbs for wisdom to live a wise lifestyle.)
- Diseases that are unusually resistant to medical treatment or display unique clinical characteristics that make the disease unclassifiable. Some charismatic healers have reported great success in curing cancer if one casts out a "spirit of uncurability" prior to addressing the physical cancer itself. This implies that treatment is being actively negated by demon activity. (However, due to medical advances and our advanced industrial society, we are seeing a lot of chemically induced immune system failures and chemically induced subversions, where the immune system is functional, but interprets some of the body cells as invaders and attacks healthy cells.)
- Periodic episodes of aberrant behavior, interspersed with periods of rational thought. See King Saul for an example of this. (However, this can be due to chemical imbalances in the brain or damage to the brain due to trauma, disease, or old age. Mental illness is also a reality, since the New Testament Jews distinguished between aberrant behavior due to demons and behavior "due to being out of one's mind".)
One of the difficulties of determining demon oppression is that it is activity by spiritual beings capable of movement and activity in a fourth dimension, and all the observable side-effects have other possible causes.
The difficulty of discerning whether a problem is caused by demonic oppression is a vital one to answer. There is a gift of the Spirit, that of the discerning of spirits, that not only can be used to discern if a prophet is a true one or not, but is also used to determine whether a demon is at the base of one's problem. Complicating the issue is that problems caused by demon oppression dissolve very quickly, leading people to see demons in every problem: if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem begins to look like a nail. My experience is that the Holy Spirit is more than eager to show you the true cause of every problem, including those caused by demon oppression, and that becomes easier as you grow more experienced in the Symbiotic lifestyle (i.e. you pay attention and act promptly when He speaks to you.)
One must use one's imagination to appreciate the tactical and strategic advantages enjoyed by beings of a higher dimension over those residing in a subset of those dimensions. Imagine being a ground army trying to figure out why they are dying while being incapable of looking up.and noticing that their enemy has air superiority. Submarines possess advantages due to being able to move partially in three dimensions against ships restricted to the two dimensions of the ocean's surface. And the battle between the Enterprise and the Reliant in "Wrath of Khan" is cited as the classic example of two dimensional thinking being trumped by the ability to think in three.
It is only by the general grace of God, who gives rain to the just and the unjust, that protects the unsaved of the human race from unopposed predation by demons. Alas, just as the rain can turn into floods that destroy the homes of both the Righteous and the Wicked, a certain amount of freedom has been granted to these beings, which they use to oppress those who have the hope of salvation and eternal life. It is sad that many people blame God for misfortunes that would be, in a just world, charged against His enemies.
However, do not let the power and threat of demons discourage you, for "greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." Recall that Jesus said, in verse 28 above, that he cast out devils by the Spirit of God. This is the same Holy Spirit that unites with us in symbiosis on conversion. Note the version of the Great Commission recorded in Mark 16:14-18:
14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
There are many denominations that disclaim the necessity or validity of speaking tounges, protection from poisons and poisonous animals, and deny the certainty of the healing of the sick after the laying on of hands, but it seems that the ability to cast out demons is regarded as a universal birthright and a common capability of all Christians. So generally and freely was the power to cast out demons distributed that the disciples complained about someone casting out demons in Jesus' name that "did not follow us"! The Seven sons of Sceva were able to cast out demons in Jesus' name as well. Apparently, this power was freely given due to the grave and widespread threat of transdimensional demonic attacks.
However, it is essential to have the Spirit of God within you to do so: When the sons of Sceva tried to cast out a demon "in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches", the demon correctly surmised that the sons themselves were not believers, and so did not have the Spirit of God within them. This left them open to attack, which the demon did. If anything good came out of that incident, it was the realization by the general populace that Paul was regarded by the demons as a force to be feared and respected.
While there are many ways to bind and rebuke demons, I will confine the solution to the problem at hand: demons are indeed capable of continuously injecting thoughts into the Bit Stream, and can do so for extended periods of time. If they do so, it is not only to cause the recipient to sin, but also to deceive the recipient into believing that the symbiotic methodologies will not work. They will, but only against thoughts generated by the heart of man that the protocols enable the Holy Spirit to affect. Thoughts generated by Demons are not affected, but since thoughts don't come labelled with who originated them, their hope is to confuse you into thinking they are not effective or you are defective.
The solution is extremely simple. Firstly, do not pray to God to rebuke the demon and bind it so it ceases to bother you: both promise and process requires that you directly address the demon yourself. Since there is no harm to yourself if there is no demon, you should feel free to act as if there is one anyhow: better safe than sorry, and no harm will come of it. Say the following with conviction and after appealing to the Holy Spirit within you to back your words up: "Demon who is tempting me and affecting my thoughts, I bind and rebuke you in Jesus' name. I, and the Holy Spirit within me, command you to depart and cease to tempt me or operate on my thinking patterns, in Jesus' name." There may be some initial resistance the first or second times, and the departure may be deliberately drawn out: after all, a too precipitous departure and accompanying disappearance of the unwanted thoughts would lead you to believe that it WAS a demon! They are a prideful lot, every last one of them, and strive to maintain their dignity by making threats or acting as if they were departing under their own volition, rather than being terrified spitless when the Third Person of the Trinity reveals himself and makes them go. If you picture them as being like the classic school-yard bully, you'll be very close to the real truth of the matter. After several such sessions, they'll realize you are serious and will depart more expeditiously in future encounters.
And DO expect future encounters. If you have to say something nice about demons, you have to admit that they are persistent buggers. Just before finishing this part of this essay, I was attacked by a demon attempting to impose a feeling of depression. I went along with it for a while, attributing it to being tired, but when the suspicion came that it was a demon, I rebuked it twice and currently feel much better.
A final note: This solution addresses the issue of rebuking demons that attack you personally. Helping other Christians does not as much require that you rebuke their demons than teaching them how to do it as I taught you here. There are a lot of materials out there dealing with these other kinds of encounters, and I have found that the majority are usually spot on, although the most recent work of Dr. Rebecca Brown Yoder appears deficient in light of known experience and practice of Seventh Day Adventists in the mission field. Preparation, a consistent and fruitful spiritual lifestyle, and a dash of courage will prepare you to handle the majority of such encounters.
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