Why do demons/exorcism evolve and diminsh after the gospels?

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by K Jentoft, Apr 24, 2019.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    "Evolution" is your, particular choice of description. "Evolution," to adapt a standard definition, describes a process of change not directed by inherent programming, whereby one thing becomes a different thing. By this definition, for example, a caterpillar does not "evolve" into a butterfly, because that change is directed by inherent (DNA) programming. On the other hand, a person's thinking is sometimes said to "evolve," when it starts out convinced of A, and as a result of various forces of influence ends up ~A.

    Your claim is that the resurrection is an "evolution," and you seem to have reduced that term to a synonym for "change." However, there is lots of change that is NOT evolutionary, e.g. a butterfly (by a standard definition of evolution). Therefore, yours is either a careless use of terms; or it is deliberate in its employment of the "evolution" term whether intentionally reductionist, or to allow the importation of process concept at a later time in the discussion, or perhaps for some other purpose.

    It isn't helpful to impose idiosyncratic terms in the discussion on those who aim at engagement, especially if you then defend the term by blaming others for their failure to adopt (in advance) your reductionist or selective employment of it.

    As for our bodies, and the change that comes in the promised resurrection at the Last Day, there is no "process" of change, not for those who have been long dead-in-body, nor for those who are alive and will be "changed in the twinkling of an eye." The kind of change indicated by Scripture does not fit an "evolutionary paradigm." It is its own category. The disciples of Jesus could both recognize him at one point, and not recognize him at another. It's impossible to tell if that dynamic was a result of properties of his body, or a change in their perceptions, or something of both.

    Is our change driven (even in part) by anything God has already "built in" to our constitution? Will our change be the result of a "butterfly-like" transformation, a metamorphosis (not evolution)? Will it be entirely a thing that is imposed on us by the external power of God? These are not specifics that have been revealed to us.
  2. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Rev. Bruce Buchanan kindly explains: "Therefore, yours is either a careless use of terms."

    Jentoft replies: "I confess! I sinned. I did exactly what you described. I will hence force use the term changed." I had no wish to devolve into Darwinism.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Some quick thoughts:

    (1) History does progress. As the others have said, maybe evolution is not the best word. Right now the saints in heaven enjoy God and yet do not have their resurrected bodies. But one day they will be united body and soul to enjoy God. That is a progression.
    (2) Demon possession and exorcisms peaked during the earthly ministry of Christ. Therefore we should see the maximum number of demons mustered against Christ to do battle during the years of his earthly ministry.
    (3). Paul's thorn in the flesh was a physical illlness, not necessarily a demonic "possession" or demonization, though he clearly says Satan sent it.
    (4). Throughout church history we still read cases of demonic possession and exorcism. Many of these cases of demonization also included physical ailments. In general I think we should expect a slow decrease in this as the gospel spreads throughout the world.

    Read Athanasius On the Incarnation and you will see how the demons flee as the Gospel moves forth.

    55. "This, then, after what we have so far said, it is right for you to realize, and to take as the sum of what we have already stated, and to marvel at exceedingly; namely, that since the Saviour has come among us, idolatry not only has no longer increased, but what there was is diminishing and gradually coming to an end: and not only does the wisdom of the Greeks no longer advance, but what there is is now fading away: and demons, so far from cheating any more by illusions and prophecies and magic arts, if they so much as dare to make the attempt, are put to shame by the sign of the Cross. 2. And to sum the matter up: behold how the Saviour's doctrine is everywhere increasing, while all idolatry and everything opposed to the faith of Christ is daily dwindling, and losing power, and falling. And thus beholding, worship the Saviour, "Who is above all" and mighty, even God the Word; and condemn those who are being worsted and done away by Him. 3. For as, when the sun is come, darkness no longer prevails, but if any be still left anywhere it is driven away; so, now that the divine Appearing of the Word of God is come, the darkness of the idols prevails no more, and all parts of the world in every direction are illumined by His teaching. 4. And as, when a king is reigning in some country without appearing but keeps at home in his own house, often some disorderly persons, abusing his retirement, proclaim themselves; and each of them, by assuming the character, imposes on the simple as king, and so men are led astray by the name, hearing that there is a king, but not seeing him, if for no other reason, because they cannot enter the house; but when the real king comes forth and appears, then the disorderly impostors are exposed by his presence, while men, seeing the real king, desert those who previously led them astray: 5. in like manner, the evil spirits formerly used to deceive men, investing themselves with God's honour; but when the Word of God appeared in a body, and made known to us His own Father, then at length the deceit of the evil spirits is done away and stopped, while men, turning their eyes to the true God, Word of the Father, are deserting the idols, and now coming to know the true God. 6. Now this is a proof that Christ is God the Word, and the Power of God. For whereas human things cease, and the Word of Christ abides, it is clear to all eyes that what ceases is temporary, but that He Who abides is God, and the true Son of God, His only-begotten Word."
  4. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    You are making a lot of assumptions and then drawing some pretty big conclusions from them. Not a good method.

    It also seems like you've come inviting others to discuss something you are unclear about when, in truth, you already have your mind made up and aren't open to considering what others here have to say. :2cents:
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I see a difference in emphasis, and there is clear casting out of demons, so no, there isn't any change.
  6. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Here are the facts (not assumptions) relative to exorcisms in the New Testament. The vast majority are in the synoptic gospels. There are 4 in Acts and none beyond that. Even in the gospel of John, which was written late, there are none. That seems to indicate a change in how important exorcisms were relative to the preaching of the gospel and growth of the church.
    Gospel/Acts Exorcisms:

    Matthew 7:22, Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:31, Matthew 9:32, Matthew 10:1, Matthew 10:8, Matthew 12:22, Matthew 15:22, Matthew 17:18, Mark 1:22-27, Mark 1:32-34, Mark 1:39, Mark 3:10-11, Mark 3:14-15, Mark 3:22, Mark 5:1-15, Mark 6:7, Mark 6:13, Mark 7:25-30, Mark 9:25, Mark 9:38, Mark 16:9, Luke 4:32-36, Luke 4:40-41, Luke 6:18, Luke 7:21, Luke 8:2, Luke 8:26-36, Luke 9:1, Luke 9:42, Luke 9:49, Luke 10:8-9, Luke 11:14, Luke 13:32, Acts 5:26, Acts 8:7, Acts 16:16, Acts 19:12

    No mention of exorcisms in Gospel of John

    No mention of exorcisms in the epistles or Revelation

    In contrast, all of the passages in John refer to the message or teaching and not exorcism (John 7:20, John 8:48-49, John 8:52, John 10:20-21) None of the other passages with demons, evil spirits, or unclean spirits has anything to do with exorcism but idolatry or teaching/doctrines of demons.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  7. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman


    Thank you, that is much closer to what I was looking for.
  8. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Pergamum states, (1) History does progress. As the others have said, maybe evolution is not the best word.

    My question would be,
    1. Does the authority of Christ progress or change at the cross/resurrection/ascension?
    2. If so, how does it change and when?
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    A lack of demons in the Gospel of John might just be a matter of emphasis.

    John wrote his Gospel as a spiritual gospel and he wrote last and seemed to focus on things not emphasized in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. He may have judged that the others had already mentioned demons enough.

    In the Revelation John writes of demons pestering mankind, after all.

    Jude is written late and speaks of the fallen angels and spiritual battles.

    The early church Fathers all spoke of the demons and many spoke of possessions.

    Linked is an article about demon possesion in the writings of the Church Fathers. They believed that the battle continued: https://www.lausanne.org/content/historical-overview-1

    Here is Tertullian, for example, he spoke of this as at least an occasional occurrence:

    "Let a person be brought before your tribunals, who is plainly under demoniacal possession (daemone agi). The wicked spirit, bidden to speak by a follower of Christ, will as readily make the truthful confession that he is a demon, as elsewhere he has falsely asserted that he is a god. Or, if you will, let there be produced one of the god-possessed (de deo pati), as they are supposed..."

    We need not agree with Tertullian, but we must acknowledge that it was a common belief among the early Christians that demon possession did not cease but continued.

    Here is Justin Martyr:

    “He (Christ) said, “I give unto you power to tread on serpents, and on scorpions… and on all the might of the enemy”. And now we, who believe on our Lord Jesus, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, when we exorcise all demons and evil spirits, have them subjected to us (Dialogue 76,6)

    And here is Origen:

    “Hinting, I suppose, at the practices of those who expel evil spirits by incantatons. And here he mainfestly appears to malign the gospel. For it is not by incantations that Christians seem to prevail (over evil spirits), but by the name of Jesus, accompanied by the announcement of the narratives which relate to him; for the repetition of these has frequently been the means of driving demons out of men, especially when those who repeated them did so in a sound and genuinely believing spirit. Such power, indeed, does the name of Jesus possess over evil spirits, that there have been instances where it was effectual, when it was pronounced even by bad men…” (Contra Celsum I,6).

    The tribal believers in Papua who have recently come out of outright worship and sacrifice to demons instinctively use the name of Jesus to expel demonic presences. They know nothing of the early Church Fathers and yet do the same out of instinct. They use the name of Jesus as a weapon and pray out loud against the devil and to expel demons. I have felt uncomfortable about this, but have never forbidden or discouraged it.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    After the resurrection, Christ is clearly the victor and ascends to heaven. There is progress in that He has now finished His state of humiliation and has entered into His State of Exaltation and sits as heavenly mediator.

    Some in the early Church say that He descended into hell on Saturday after Good Friday to proclaim his victory to the Underworld. This has been called the Harrowing of Hell and, if this is to be believed, shows a progression in the work of salvation.

    At the end of time Christ will return and destroy Antichrist and throw all remaining demons into hell. That is progress and change.

    Revelation now states that the martyred saints in heaven proclaim, "How long oh Lord" until God does justice on earth. And they are told to wait awhile. But in the end this justice will be exacted and the martyrd saints will no more cry this way. This seems to be progress and even improvement.

    Also, the Apostle Paul says that to die is to be with Christ....but that it will be better when he is united body and soul. That is progress. Those in heaven right now are happy, but they will be even happier (if this is possible) when the Last Day comes and new bodies are given. This is a progress and improvement of sorts.

    At the end of time, Christ will put all things under His feet and gain final victory, and then turn over the Kingdom to the Father. I Corinthians 15:24, "Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power."

    That is definitely progress.

    Again, evolution is not the right word. But there is advancement in salvation history and progression towards the end of time and final victory. We were saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. The same with the universe.
  11. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    I think that the references that you point out underscore the non-exorcism approach to Jude and one could interpret "not reviling angelic majesties" as not fighting evil spirits in exorcism but letting God have His way as when Michael only said to Satan, "The Lord rebuke you." The reactions to the demons in Revelation are also not exorcism.

    I am not saying that they did not/could not occur. The early church fathers are an interesting data point. But still, don't you find it odd that while exorcism was central to the message of the gospel in the synoptics it is so absent in the epistles as the apostles give teaching to the early church?

    One thought is that the way we now deal with demonic oppression or healing is not to "cast it out" in exorcism but to pray to God for deliverance or healing and trust Him that He will accomplish His will for us and it will be for our good. This would be consistent with how Paul dealt with his "messenger from Satan" and how Jude encourages us to act with his example of Michael.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  12. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree with your analysis above. But what was the progress/change at the ascension relative to before the cross/ascension? He certainly had authority over demons before the cross, but did that progress into more authority over them after the cross. Matthew 28:18 is post cross when Jesus claims all authority in heaven and earth. Was this always the case or was some of it new?
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I think Paul's thorn was a physical illness and not the presence of a demon. Being afflicted and ill by the permitted power of Satan is different than having an ongoing presence of a demon to haunt one.

    I admit I am unsure of the answer. You migth very well be correct. Here is how one online person summarized the position:

    "The Bible does not give Christians the authority to rebuke the devil, but to resist him. James 4:7 says to "submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Zechariah 3:2 tells us that it is the Lord who rebukes Satan. Even Michael, one of the most powerful of the angels, did not dare to accuse Satan, but rather said, "The Lord rebuke you" (Jude 1:9). In response to Satan's attacks, a Christian should appeal to Christ. Instead of focusing on defeating the devil, we should focus on following Christ (Hebrews 12:2) and trust that He will defeat the forces of evil."

    However, the early Church Father did not believe the same for they still rebuked demons and drove them out by the name of Christ - even incantations (which makes me uncomfortable).

    I believe we are to pray and need not repeatedly use the name of Christ to drive out demons. BUT it could be that God blessed the imperfect attempts of the early Christians to battle demons. Though they erred in their methods, God was still pleased to give them victories through the use of the name of Christ to show His power.

    I honestly do not know.
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I am not sure. Maybe somebody else can help us.

    Whereas Christ personally cast out demons in the NT, when he ascended he gave forth his Spirit to all believers and we see these believers then going forth and sometimes exercising demons.

    Whether the ability to exercise demons coincided with the ability to speak in tongues during the days of the apostles only or whether it continues today, I do not know.

    I believe we can still cast out demons today and I believe demons are still active in the same manner today, though it is still a struggle for me to know HOW exactly, whether we directly cast out demons by addressing and rebuking them, or else by merely imploring God to do the work. I favor the latter approach, but I have seen cases of the former method being done in tribal contexts. We have burned/destroyed fetishes and amulets and prayed for those claiming demonic attack and read Scripture to them. But local pastors have also shouted at the demons to be gone in the name of Christ. And the patient appeared to be comforted and healed afterwards. Perhaps God is merely patient with us and grants victory despite our flaws.
  15. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    I wasn't meaning that Paul was controlled by a demon as in possessed. But that the messenger from Satan was involved in tormenting Paul. The woman in Luke 13:10-16 had a "sickness caused by a spirit." She was tormented but not possessed. Like Paul, her torment was caused by an evil spirit. In her case, the spirit was cast out and she was healed. In Paul's case God told Paul that His grace was sufficient and that His strength was made perfect in Paul's weakness.
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, I see your point and it is a good one. I don't want to call all the early Church Fathers to be in error, however, because there are many recountings of those sick from demons being healed in the early Patristic Period and also the Mediaval Church period...even up until this day. Should I discount these testimonies as false because they are not the canon of Scripture? Rather, I believe they were reporting what they witnessed. Perhaps their interpretation was faulty.

    Here is an interesting paper about demon possession in Early Modern England: https://www.researchgate.net/public...rary_Texts_and_Their_Cultural_Contexts_review

    Here is another paper about demon possesion in Elizabethan England: https://www.academia.edu/14847263/J...xorcism_and_Apocalypse_in_Elizabethan_England

    Here is another paper: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25482891?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    Here is Wickepedia about Puritan Exorcism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puritan_exorcism

    And here is a google book about signs and wonders and demonic irritations in early America: https://books.google.com.my/books?id=HESRDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT125&lpg=PT125&dq=isaac+backus+demon+possession&source=bl&ots=khrWOwx_cB&sig=ACfU3U2i_YZA1bldDN9hOCb2jEitkIFYfA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiR6Pvc4OnhAhVIMI8KHf-cDm8Q6AEwB3oECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=isaac backus demon possession&f=false

    John Foxe, the author of the Book of Martyrs, exorcised a man by the name of Robert Briggs. Here is a link about this: https://books.google.com.my/books?id=7QGuVwbcmaMC&pg=PA39&lpg=PA39&dq=John+Foxe+exorcised+Robert+Briggs&source=bl&ots=W4l3qH8-6A&sig=ACfU3U1OOYjrJctnsU8Vu3deCPFyn1QcNA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjU-bq44unhAhVGsI8KHeBpDUQQ6AEwAnoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=John Foxe exorcised Robert Briggs&f=false

    A case could be made that demon possession and demon affliction is an occasional thing that peaked during the time of Christ and has occasionally continued up until this present day. Otherwise we must accuse many past Christians of being superstitious and believing in fables. Perhaps modern Christians are more impacted by Enlightenment Naturalistic thinking than we admit.
  17. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you again! I am not having trouble believing that people could be demonized or even possessed(non-Christians). I was not raised in a PCA church and witnessed exorcisms and "deliverance ministries." At its worst, exorcism was used as a therapy method to achieve sanctification. Many of the demons that were "cast out" were demons of sin such as lust or gluttony. I don't believe that is scriptural. The result of being demonized in the gospels is a physical sickness or affliction(or mental as in the case of the Gasarenes demoniac). The issue being addressed with exorcism was not sin.

    My main issue on this thread is to better understand if a believers response to someone (another believer or themselves) being demonized is not to seek out exorcism but to confess our sins and repent (if there are any like the blasphemers Alexander and Hymaneus) and then pray and petition God regarding the affliction/illness and then, after praying, to confide oneself into the will of a loving God. This approach seems much different that that of the Synoptics (but not John) and I was wondering how to answer "Why?".
  18. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes. Even if true demon possession and true exorcism sometimes still occurs, we can also admit that there will be counterfeits and false fixes.

    It seems a modern thing to speak of vices as demons, such as the demon of lust, etc. Though the activities of demons may be to tempt us with our weaknesses such as lust, lust is not a demon. I even heard one Fundamentalist speak of the demon of tobacco. Just strange.

    Yes, we must pray and read Scripture and not rely on the power of rituals.
  19. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    Just going to address the question posed as the title of this thread . . .
    First of all, consider why there was in the days of our Lord's flesh, and for a brief time subsequently in the ministry of the apostles, this unusual stirring up of demonic activity. It was because the kingdom of God was threatening the kingdom of darkness with an intensity as never before. Over and over the message of John the Baptist and of our Lord Jesus was, "the kingdom of heaven/God is at hand!" The kingdom of God drew near to the kingdom of darkness in the person of the King, hence this unusual stirring up of demonic activity that we read about in and learn from the Gospels and in the ministry of the apostles.

    There is in Matthew 11:12 that somewhat obscure language employed by our Lord who said, "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." I'm inclined to think that this is speaking of the gospel of the kingdom preached by both John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus himself, and their message was being violently resisted by the forces/powers of darkness that were responding to the kingdom of heaven/God having drawn near in the person of the King. The person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ was threatening the hosts of hell in a way that was unprecedented. No wonder our Lord was tempted by the evil one to forego the cross, because that event would consummate in the destruction of the work of the devil (cf. Jn. 12:31-32; Col. 2:14-15; Heb. 2:14; 1 Jn 3:8). The kingdom of Satan was dealt the deathblow, as it were, in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, the cross marks the consummation, yet not the culmination that will take place at the return of our Lord (the tension between "the now and the not yet") when every last foe, even death itself, will be vanquished.

    Thus, though the battle continues, the spiritual forces that opposed our Lord have been for all intents and purposes defeated in the person and work of Jesus Christ, but the "mop up" work continues in areas where there are pockets of resistance still. Missionaries have often testified to this continuing resistance in areas where the gospel is "breaking" new ground, so to speak. The devil continues to go about as a roaring lion, but as one preacher put it, "his teeth were pulled at Calvary." This is why, I think, we do not witness today the unusual intensity of demonic activity that was experienced by our Lord in the days of his flesh and in the ministry of the Apostles.

    Consider the following analogy with respect to "the kingdom of heaven/God" having drawn near in the person of the King, the Lord Jesus . . .

    In the game of football, no one ever hears of a 30 yardline stand, but everyone has heard of a goal line stand. Never is a team closer to the objective of the game than when they are within the opposing team's five yard line, but never is the resistance more fierce! By way of analogy, this is what we see transpiring when the kingdom of heaven/God drew near in the person of the King. Our Lord's presence was violently opposed, for the objective of all redemptive history was about to be fulfilled, and was fulfilled when our Lord became at one and the same time both offerer and offering for the sins of his people. The kingdom of heaven was suffering violence, but our Lord by violence (in this act) took his objective by force. There are many facets to the cross of Christ, but surely one of those facets is that his death destroyed the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8).

    That's my 2 cents.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
    • Like Like x 1
    • Amen Amen x 1
    • List
  20. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    My two cents.

    1) Christ destroyed him who had the power death, and now Christ has the keys of death and hell. Death has no more sting for Christ's people.

    Hebrews 2:14-15 "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."

    Revelation 1:18 "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."

    2) Christ bound the devil so that he can no longer deceive the nations. Hence, the Great Commission will not be stopped by the gates of hell as Christ gathers His people from the corners of the earth. The devil's power over the nations has been broken and cannot hold onto those who are Christ's. (Revelation 20. Colossians 2.)

    3) Nations once were allowed to walk in ignorance, but now God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17). Part of that ignorance was devising a system of false intermediary gods ("demons") ("For an idol is nothing in the world." "They sacrifice to devils [demons]."), but Christ is the only Mediator between God and men, and men must repent and submit to Him if they will want to feel after God and find Him.

    4) Christ is head over all things, and all things have been given over to Him to rule for the good of His church (Ephesians 1. Colossians 1.). While Christ as God made use of the evil fallen angels as part of the administrations of Providence, now Christ as God-Man--the Mediator--rules over all things--including the evil angels--for the good of His church. As such, the devil is not only God's devil, the devil is Christ's devil. Believers then have all the more reason to not fear, even as unbelievers have no excuse in blaming the devil for their sin.
  21. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you, that seems very helpful. This passage seems to also indicate progress/change in authority over Satan's activities against us with the word, "Now." It seems like somehow, prior to that "now," that authority had not been released or manifested. After the now, there is a change of authority over Satan.

    Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. Revelation 12:10
  22. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    That still feels off to me, or at least liable to misunderstanding. What follows gets into some Christology that deserves precise wording, so I'm open to being corrected on that... but I'll give it a try.

    Yes, there is a sense in which Jesus, in his role as the Christ and the second Adam, successfully fulfilled human rule over creation and evil where Adam failed to do so. It is also true that the devil met defeat at the cross (Hebrews 2:14). And because of Christ's victory, he is given a position of authority which he has earned: God has put all things under his feet (Ephesians 1:22). Many of the passages you have cited seem to be speaking of this.

    One potential for misunderstanding comes if we then conclude that the eternal Son of God has a new authority over evil powers that he didn't possess before. Clearly this is not the case, since "by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities" (Colossians 1:16). So the most we might say is that, as the reigning Christ, the Son chooses to exercise his authority in ways that appear broader and fuller in this era than he did in times past. Scripture affirms that the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles is a significant development, one that might fit the idea that Christ is extending his authority. Other new conditions you propose are less clear in Scripture.

    Another potential for misunderstanding comes if we conclude that the devil's defeat at the cross means he was running about unchecked before then. Consider one of the passages you have quoted, Colossians 2:15, which says God "disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ]." Ask yourself if this also happened before the cross. Think of incidents such as the time Christ stopped Balaam's curse, shaming the powers of evil and turning their demonic curse into a blessing. You will see that the devil's defeat at the cross is not a brand new thing but rather the crowning defeat so far in a long line of defeats at the hands of Jesus.

    I think you would be on firmer ground if you first guarded against those misunderstandings. Then we could discuss whether or not your observations represent a true change in demonic activity in the latter parts of the New Testament or are best explained some other way.
  23. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you, this is helpful. My terms are likely not the proper technical terms, but I am a layman... I appreciate the interaction with the ideas I am attempting to convey.

    Your points are well stated, God has always had all authority over all creation, including evil. I am suspecting that the issue does not have as much to do with the demonic activity changing but more to do with the "means" of how Christ's authority over demonic oppression is expressed and His people relieved from that demonic oppression. It could well be linked to the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles. It seems to me that before the crucifixion Christ's authority over the demonic was direct (even direct as explicitly delegated to the 12 or the 70) this does not disappear and direct authority continues on. But it also seems that Jesus' authority over the demonic changed after the cross such that a believer's internal faith/trust in Jesus' authority earned at the cross is sufficient to experience freedom from demonic oppression that had required direct intervention by someone with direct authority in an exorcism until then. As I read the passages, faith itself doesn't seem to be enough. We see in Matthew 8:8 that the word of Jesus is needed. The same seems true in Luke 8:43-48 where the touch was needed in addition to the faith. It seems like faith with direct proximity or direct authority.

    If this is true, that faith in Christ's victory is now sufficient, we would anticipate the dramatic decline in exorcisms that we witness in Acts and then the epistles.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019
  24. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    I think that preaching the gospel to the Gentiles is similar in that, prior to the crucifixion, the citizens of God's kingdom were those of faith and they were circumcised. They worshiped God but it was not supposed to happen freestyle or on any mountain or high place - it was prescribed to be in Jerusalem. People had true faith but it was somehow linked to holy dirt and God's home on the holy dirt. This excluded the Gentiles. After the crucifixion, the Gospel expanded beyond the holy dirt and faith alone was enough without the tangible locations and form that God had prescribed for His holy dirt.
  25. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Exorcism in the New Testament: Proposal

    God has always had all authority over all creation, including the devil and evil spirits.

    I am suspecting that the reason exorcism declines does not have as much to do with demonic activity declining but more to do with the "means" of how Christ's authority over demonic oppression is expressed and His people relieved from that demonic oppression.

    It seems to me that before the crucifixion Christ's authority over the demonic was direct (even direct as explicitly delegated to the 12 in Matthew 10:1 or the 70 in Luke 10:1,17) this does not disappear and direct authority continues on. But it also seems that Jesus' authority over the demonic changed after the cross such that a believer's internal faith/trust in Jesus' authority earned at the cross is sufficient to experience freedom from demonic oppression that had required direct intervention by someone with direct authority in an exorcism until then. As I read the passages, faith itself doesn't seem to be enough before the cross. We see in Matthew 8:8 that the word of Jesus is needed in addition to faith. The same seems true in Luke 8:43-48 where the touch was needed in addition to the faith. It seems like faith with direct proximity or direct authority was needed for exorcism before the cross and resurrection.

    After the resurrection this direct intervention in exorcism declines and faith in what Christ accomplished on the cross is sufficient to be free from demonic oppression. We now know the Son and the truth and He sets us free by faith without needing exorcism John 8:31-36. This is the message of the epistles as seen in Ephesians 1:18-23 and Colossians 1:13-23. The bold text is referring to the evil spiritual powers and Satan’s kingdom.

    I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.​

    For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
    After the cross we hear of Christians overcoming Satan,“because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death." Revelation 12:1 This would not have been possible before the cross as Jesus had not yet shed His blood.

    New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Re 12:11). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

    If this is true, that faith in Christ's victory is now sufficient, we would anticipate the dramatic decline in exorcisms that we witness in Acts and then the epistles. Freedom is found in knowing and believing, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know… what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death…if indeed you continue in the faith.”

    What is odd is that in the epistles, instead of exorcisms, we read about “reverse exorcisms” where God or the apostle gives permission to Satan to afflict Christians for their good to help bring about sanctification or salvation as in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Timothy 1:20. God is the one who is all powerful. Even Satan cannot go beyond what God allows as in Job 1:12.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  26. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Exorcism applies to demon-possession or demonization. When Paul gives someone over to Satan he isn't acting as a retail middle-man in the possession business.
  27. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    At some level Paul is reversing Colossians 1:13 where he claims we are rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Christ. Instead, Paul is transferring these people out of the church into the kingdom of darkness - a reversal. He is doing for sanctifying reasons. I am not saying that these people necessarily become "demonized" but simply placed into the domain of darkness. An interesting Old Testament example that really is demonization is Nebuchadnezzar becoming like a beast for 7 years at God's decree until he learned to give glory to God in Daniel 4:33-34.

    At some level, delivering someone to Satan really means placing people under Satan's evil spiritual influence to achieve a Godly result. In this sense, it is "reverse exorcism" and the inverse of exorcism when Jesus or the apostles by direct command remove Satan's evil spiritual influence from people to achieve a Godly result.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    That is precisely what it isn't. Paul isn't channeling the demon into the person. He is judicially cutting them off from the covenant which will allow the destruction of their flesh. That has nothing to do with demon possession cases either in the NT or in church history.
  29. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Exactly, "judicially cutting them off from the covenant" means that they are beyond the benefits and excluded from the covenant - they now belong to or are subjected to the kingdom of darkness as that is the only option outside of the covenant, the kingdom of light. They are now judicially subject to Satan's evil spiritual influences.
  30. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Which is not possession, so it is not a reverse exorcism.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page