THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Demon Possession and Exorcisms
By Brian Marcum
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And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues… Mark 16:17At the end of the Gospels, we have Christ's "Great Commission" towards all who believe. There are four Gospels that are considered canon: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The end of these letters contain Christ's detailed commission to the particular followers who were in audience at this specific moment, but it extends to all who will believe in Jesus from that time forward. With the preceding principal understood, the general thought is that, at the end of Mark, verse 17 is intended to be applied more so as a sign towards the unbelieving Jews, to demonstrate and corroborate that Jesus is who he claims to be. This is demonstrated by Mark 16:20, which says, "Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it" [emphasis added]. We can see that the Lord "confirmed" his word "by" the signs that accompanied it, which gives context towards intention of this verse.
Some pertinent information regarding the topic of salvation under the Old and New Testament times is helpful for the explanation of this topic. Under the old covenant, believers had an authentic, experiential relationship with God under the confines of the old Law and, therefore, under the old covenant people had a relationship that was (to some degree) dependent on their performance in adhering to the Law. Under the new covenant, believers have a relationship to God through Christ that is based on Christ's performance, not our own. Furthermore, a key difference between the covenants is that new covenant believers have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, while old covenant believers could only have temporary contact with the Holy Spirit. Under the old covenant, typically, a believer was not fully filled with the Holy Spirit which would have prevented other spiritual influences from permeating the individual; under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the believer, preventing any possible future conquest by darkness (Romans 8:1-39). The important implication of these facts is that it could be possible for an old covenant believer to be demon possessed, while in the new covenant, a born-again believer cannot be possessed by a demon since the Holy Spirit has taken up permanent residence in them.
Building from the previous paragraph, it follows that during the resurrection and Pentecostal times following Christ's ascension to heaven, there could be many atypical situations in regards to demons:
- the possibility that a believing person could be aware of some of the facts of believing in Christ but not all of them, and his conscience was bound to the old way, rather than the new, and they could have some level of demonic affliction
- the possibility of a non-believing person being possessed and then having a demon explicitly exorcised, who then believes
- the possibility of a non-believer having an exorcism done on them, who still does not believe
- the conversion of a non-believer or believer in Judaism to Christ, and consequently, demons are expunged because they cannot co-exist with the Holy Spirit
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