The recent rise of Greg Locke’s “deliverance ministries” and his controversial statements about witches telling him that members of his congregation are demon possessed has led to a resurgence of the argument over whether or not Christians can be demon possessed.
For many, the very idea is unfathomable, because the Holy Spirit lives within the born again Christian and protects the believer from possession. If the Holy Ghost is in us, then a devil cannot be. They say, “Christians cannot be possessed (internally), but they can be oppressed (externally).”
This is a very logical proposition, and I can see the appeal of such an argument. However, as with many other topics that are not explicitly spelled out in the Bible, my only response to whether a demon can invade the body of a Christian is – why not?
First, let’s look at some verses on possession.
The most common account of possession is the “maniac of Gadara” or “Gadarene Demoniac” found in three of the four gospels (Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8).
This is where we meet “Legion,” which has been the group of demons that has possessed Hollywood in at least half of all demon possession films. The man (two men in Matthew) possessed by Legion was found naked in a graveyard. He (they) possessed (no pun intended) extraordinary strength – at least enough to break iron chains.
When Jesus Christ arrived, He cast Legion from the man into a herd of swine that dove off a nearby cliff into the sea.
While an amazing tale of demonic power and attributes of a possessed “maniac,” there is no indication of the Holy Spirit being inside the man.
THE “CLEAN HOUSE”
Matthew 12:43-45 discusses the aftermath of possession, “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”
Often times, someone who is possessed can be repossessed by MORE spirits that do MORE damage the second time around. Once again, there is no mention of the Holy Spirit here, but it is a warning to constantly be vigilant and guard ourselves from spiritual infestation.
The Holy Spirit was at some point in or at least around King Saul, according to 1 Samuel 16. Verse 14 tells us, “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.” I suppose one could argue that the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of the Lord) was not indwelling Saul and the evil spirit (demon) only troubled him, not possessed him.
1 Samuel 16:23 says, “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” Again, “upon Saul” does not necessarily mean that it was inside him. However, I do find it interesting that the Holy Spirit departs before an evil spirit comes upon Saul.
Perhaps there is credence to the idea that an evil spirit and the Holy Ghost cannot coexist together.
Also keep in mind that the Holy Spirit cannot leave us in this dispensation of Grace, as He was clearly able to do in the Old Testament. Romans 8:38-39 makes it perfectly clear that we Christians cannot lose our salvation, which means the Spirit is always in us after we get saved.
CAN GOD AND DEVILS OCCUPY THE SAME SPACE?
This is one of the primary questions that needs to be answered when considering the possibility of Christians being possessed by devils.
David wrote Psalm 139:8 and he says, “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” This explicitly says that God, to whom this Psalm is written, is in heaven and hell. This is evidence of God’s omnipresence. If God cannot be in hell, where the demons are, then He is not omnipresent.
The Devil himself was able to enter the presence of heaven in Job 1 and 2. Therefore, not only is God in hell, but Satan can be in heaven alongside the Father.
Ephesians 4:8-10 describes what happened with the resurrection of Christ, “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”
When Christ died, He became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and DESCENDED first into the lower parts of the earth. This is where Hell and Paradise were located (read Luke 16). Christ offloaded the sins of the world in Hell. Jesus then ASCENDED up on high and led captivity captive – this is when He removed the Old Testament Saints from Abraham’s Bosom (Paradise) and took them to Heaven where they currently reside.
Jesus told us the same in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
You might say, “yeah, He was in the grave or in paradise in the heart of the earth, but that does not mean He actually went to hell!”
Let us turn to Jonah for further clarification. Jonah 1:17 says, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” This matches Matthew 12:40.
Now look at Jonah 2:2, “And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.”
“Out of the belly of hell” is an interesting phrase to use for someone who was likely not dead. However, it is an unmistakable typology. Jonah was in a whale’s belly for 3 days and 3 nights and called that belly “hell.” Likewise, Christ spent 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth – very likely in hell.
If you would like more evidence that hell is in the heart of the earth, check out Ezekiel 31:17 and other references listed in my post on Going to Hell.
Jesus Christ went to hell when He died and became sin.
The Holy Ghost
This brings us to the crux of the matter. If the Father and Son can occupy the same physical space as demons, I see no reason why the Holy Spirit could not as well, even if there are no Scriptures that I can point to that demonstrate this as clearly as God and Christ can. Because they are all three parts of the Trinity, I think it’s safe to say that they would possess the same capabilities.
“But being around demons on earth and in hell is not the same as indwelling a person at the same time,” you say? That is a great point!
What if that is not exactly what they would be doing during a possession? Consider spiritual circumcision.
The doctrine of spiritual circumcision seems to elude many Christians today. Once you understand this doctrine, it opens up understanding of how we are once saved always saved (because that which is circumcised cannot become uncircumcised, whether spiritually or physically) and how our flesh can sin without that sin being attributed to our souls.
Colossians 2:11 is the prooftext of this concept, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:”
Romans 2:28-29 tell us, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
We, like God, are a triune being. We have a body (the Son), soul (the Father), and spirit (the Holy Ghost). When we are born, our spirit is dead and attached to the flesh. When we are born again (which is another great argument that supports “once saved, always saved” – because we cannot be physically born twice, nor can we be spiritual born again twice), our spirit is made alive and is circumcised, or separated from the flesh.
The battle between our sinful flesh and our spirit which is now joined as one spirit with Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17) is one that rages throughout our entire lives once we become Christians. These two forces are diametrically opposed to one another, yet we must deal with both until we finally receive our heavenly bodies and shed these sin-filled meat sacks.
Now, how might this be related to possession? I am glad you asked.
An evil spirit possesses flesh, not the soul or spirit. A dead spirit, which is the state of the unsaved, cannot be possessed. Our spirit is our connection with the Lord. Possessing it is meaningless. The body, however, is our connection with the physical world around us. This is where the demons make their homes.
If we are spiritually circumcised as Christians, the Holy Spirit indwells our soul and spirit, not the flesh. The flesh, remember, remains unattached. I see no reason why the Holy Ghost which does not occupy our flesh cannot co-exist with an evil spirit that can only occupy our flesh.
Now I am not arguing that I am 100% certain that Christians can be demonically possessed. I am simply stating that I am not convinced that it is impossible. I would also argue that if there is such a thing as an impossibility of Christian possession, it would be because of spiritual strength.
I have long hypothesized that ANYONE who is closed minded in spiritual matters will not be possessed by an evil spirit – regardless of whether or not the Holy Spirit is inside them. The use of Ouija boards and other ritualistic means of “opening a gate” to the spirit realm is not so much about bringing spirits in, but opening one’s mind to the possibility of and lowering protections against possession.
The converse of this, is that anyone, including a Christian, who dabbled in the Occult and has a lowered spiritual protection – often times these Christians are backslidden or they would not be so tempted to mess with spiritism in the first place – are welcoming possession.
The best way to be sure that you will not be possessed by an evil spirit is to get saved and turn from such wickedness. Keep that whole armor of God on you, pray without ceasing, read your Bibles, and do not engage in witchcraft, sorcery, etc. Do these things, and I do not believe that you can be possessed. If you reject Christ or the Christian lifestyle, you open the door.
In the end, the enemy has many tactics, and we should be cautious of all of them. Whether a Christian can be possessed is not as topic that should divide the Lord’s Army. I would just caution against trying to find out first hand.