What we have had a tendency to do as a people is to de-mythologize the New Testament. By that, I mean that we say demonic possession or affliction doesn’t happen anymore – those were just cases of mental illness that we didn’t have the knowledge to deal with yet.
I used to think that, by the way.
But look at this Scripture in Luke:
21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. (Luke 7:21, NIV)
And here in Acts
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. (Acts 10:38, NIV)
In Jesus’ earthly ministry we clearly see how Jesus demonstrated that demonic entities are in fact, a reality. What he taught us about demons and how to deal with them gives us a lot of valuable information about the attack plans of Satan. We don’t have time to go through it, but just read back through the gospels and you’ll see that a pretty hefty percentage of Christ’s earthly ministry involved a demonic attack of some sort.
These didn’t just “disappear” after the resurrection, but from Acts, from the Epistles, from the early church Fathers, and all through the historical record we see the same things still happening today.
There are what theologians call the Five Levels of Diabolic Influence. The first is called the ordinary level, the remaining four are called the extraordinary level, meaning, if it gets to this point, there might be trouble ahead for an individual.
The problem is, that most people do one of two things – they don’t come forward with their issues out of fear, or they assume they’re nutty and hope no one will notice while they suffer in silence.
Also, in our age there is a great comparison to how a demon is to be viewed. Think of a terrorist. They instill fear, they try and subjugate by force and fear so you’ll ignore or run away.
Here are the five levels
1) TEMPTATION – this one is what is called ordinary. You are fair game in the realm of temptation – that’s why it’s so critical to learn to stand against it and recognize it. Every human being is subject to this one, even Jesus was (Matt. 4). Remember, every sin begins with a thought, and every past sin remains in your memory. Since demons have been around for before you were created, and they exist on a higher spiritual level in some aspects, they know what goes on in your brain. As a result they will can go back into your memory, no matter how long ago, and pull that out as a temptation. Normally these temptations are areas you’ll already know you’re struggling in, like anger, sexual purity, lust, greed, etc.
The rest are called extraordinary levels
2) OPPRESSION – To oppress means to “crush or come against.” This is a purely external attack. Think Job. The enemy can bring health decline, financial ruin, negative circumstances, loss of a job for no reason, and relationship failures for no reason, church issues, uncalled for fear, etc.
3) OBSESSION – This is where you’ve opened a door and now the demonic has access to your internal being – your mind. In this area, we are referring to an “out of character” sudden attack of obsessive thoughts. In other words, you are unceasingly bombarded by a certain thought or action. There are also usually out-of-character emotional responses that can accompany this stage.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Now you have to be careful here because not all mental problems are caused by Satan. In fact, a vast majority are not.
4) POSSESSION – This is the goal. Demons CAN possess the human body. There are two types of possession as well. There is FULL POSSESSION, in which a person’s entire body is controlled by the demonic entity and PARTIAL POSSESSION which is where the entity treats you as a mouthpiece of sorts and uses you to speak unknowingly on their behalf. Demonic possession is a condition in which one or more demons inhabit the body of a human being and take complete control of their victim at will. Contrary to popular belief, most cases of possession happen willingly – meaning there are people who LIKE and WANT to be possessed.
However, possession can also occur unwillingly, through participation in occult practices, unrepentant sinful habits, and curiosity into the area of the occult.
Can Christians be possessed? The short answer is no. When you are baptized you are forgiven of sin and filled with the Holy Spirit, so you cannot belong to Satan.
This does not mean that Christians cannot be influenced or attacked by the enemy. Usually through the oppression and obsession stages this will try to happen.
A Christian cannot be possessed…UNLESS…they step outside the protection of the Spirit and engage in practices that willingly go against God while putting themselves in extreme danger. Using Ouija boards, séances, necromancy, anything where you ask a “spirit” to speak to you and reveal something…then you are complete and fair game because you are ASKING and GRANTING permission.
5) INFESTATION – this is your typical haunted house scenario. This is where people start paying attention that something not normal is happening. This is when the preacher is usually called! Doors slamming, objects moving, loud pounding, materialization, walls that seem to bleed, destroyed religious symbols, throwing things, levitation of incredibly heavy objects…that’s all pretty standard in this phase.
Now, these phases don’t necessarily happen in this order, but these are the five categories of diabolic influence.
That’s enough for today, next post we’ll cover the signs of demonic possession.