Off hand, I can’t think of a Bible topic that makes for a better horror movie than demon possession. After all, by its very nature it’s scary, the idea of some unseen evil force taking over the body and consciousness of an innocent victim is downright creepy. Then of course, they can make a person behave in a bizarre manner, spewing green fluids across the room, shaking, screaming… Yep, great stuff for a horror flick, but is there any thread of reality to all this?
My best answer is really a lawyer’s answer: “Well, it all depends.”
Maybe that really isn’t the best question.
A better question would be this one: “Why does demon possession suddenly burst on the scene in the gospels, carry though Acts and then seen to fade after that?”
How many cases of demon possession are recorded in the Old Testament? Don’t be too quick to say there’s a bunch of them, for the whole concept of demon possession is rare indeed, at least as it is presented in the gospels. So why in the gospels?
It isn’t easy to find direct Scriptural guidance for that question; most of the verses cited on the subject require us to draw inferences, rather than providing direct commentary. Yet there is evidence if we are willing to consider historical context and discern what is going on… and even then we will be drawing inferences that can’t be proven in the usual classical sense, so I would personally offer them as the subject of thoughtful reflection as opposed to Biblical “proof.”
What is it that the gospels are telling us about; what is going on? That’s an easy one, for they tell us about the arrival and ministry of Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ. If you are the Enemy, are you happy to welcome Jesus to the earth?
Knowing why Jesus has come, you would probably not be thrilled, for the battle is on!
So far in Mark, we’ve seen Jesus in Galilee on His Kingdom Tour, and we have also seen some instances of people possessed by “impure spirits” who are drawing attention away from His message, they are providing a distraction. They are also afraid.
In Mark 3 we even see some teachers of the Law who ascribe the Holy Spirit’s work through Jesus as the work of demons… that is quite the distraction. Can you begin to see the strategy here? Demon possessed people crying out that Jesus is the Son of God; they were telling the truth… but who is going to take their word for it? A politician in an election year wants endorsements, but only a complete fool wants the endorsement of the KKK!
Jesus is fighting a spiritual war throughout His ministry, and in the end, He is nailed to a cross to shut Him up, the biggest strategic miscalculation in history, and Jesus wins His battle. A short time later, the church launches at Pentecost, and almost from the start, the same tactics are used against the fledgling church, but the Apostles, like Jesus have command of the situation, and demons are chased out of the afflicted. Eventually the Enemy changes tactics and cases of demon possession once again are very rare, at least as they are seen in the gospels.
Is there demon possession now?
Again I’ll give the lawyer’s answer: “It all depends…”