The many accounts of evil spirits in Scripture affirm the reality of powerful spiritual forces of wickedness. Evil spirits (also known as demons or devils) are depraved spirits which are familiar with human weaknesses and desires. Some are more vile than others.
The Bible has many names for these spirits:
- Deaf and dumb spirit (Mark 9:17-29)
- Evil spirit (Luke 7:21; Acts 19:12-13)
- Familiar spirit (I Samuel 28:7)
- Foul spirit (Mark 9:25)
- Lying spirit (II Chronicles 18:20-22)
- Perverse spirit (Isaiah 19:14; Romans 1:17-32)
- Seducing spirit (I Timothy 4:1)
- Spirit of an unclean devil (Luke 4:33)
- Spirit of antichrist (I John 4:3)
- Spirit of bondage (Romans 8:15)
- Spirit of death (I Corinthians 10:10, 15:26)
- Spirit of divination (Acts 16:16)
- Spirit of error (I John 4:6)
- Spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7)
- Spirit of haughtiness (Proverbs 16:18-19)
- Spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3)
- Spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:11-13)
- Spirit of jealousy (Genesis 4:5-8; Numbers 5:14)
- Spirit of slumber (Isaiah 29:10, Romans 11:8)
- Spirit of the world (I Corinthians 2:12)
- Spirit of whoredoms (Hosea 4:12, 5:4)
- Unclean spirit (Mark 6:7; Luke 11:24-26)
Evil spirits can enter into and possess people, causing all kinds of sicknesses, diseases, and terrible manifestations. The Bible records many occasions when Jesus healed those who were tormented by these spirits (see Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 1:23-27, Luke 9:37-42, and Acts 19:13-16). “When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick” (Matthew 8:16).
Where Did Evil Spirits Come From?
An evil spirit (or demon) is not the same as a fallen angel; it is actually the offspring of a fallen angel. When fallen angels took to themselves human wives (Genesis 6:1-2), the children borne to them became mighty giants, corrupting the human race and accelerating wickedness to such a degree that God saw it necessary to destroy all flesh with a Great Flood, saving only the righteous man Noah and his family.
When the mortal bodies of these angel-human hybrids died, their immortal spirits roamed the earth seeking human bodies to harass and indwell. The male ones are malevolent spirits and the female ones are seductive spirits. These continue to afflict the human race even now. They know the weaknesses and desires of mankind, for they once experienced a human body.
Unlike fallen angels, who can appear in bodily form, evil spirits must inhabit a body (either human or animal). An example of this is when Jesus cast out the legion of demons from a man and sent them into a herd of pigs (Luke 8:27-35). Both fallen angels and evil spirits serve their master Satan in the kingdom of darkness.
What is Demon Possession?
Demon possession is the control of an individual’s personality so that actions are influenced by an evil demonic spirit. The signs of demonic possession in the New Testament include: deafness (Mark 9:25), blindness (Matthew 12:22), speechlessness (Matthew 9:33), convulsions (Mark 1:26), unusual strength (Mark 5:4), suicidal attempts (Matthew 17:15), and foaming of the mouth (Luke 9:39). Although these ailments are not necessarily caused by evil spirits, they are among the many possible effects of demonic activity.
One of those Jesus healed was Mary Magdalene, “out of whom he had cast seven devils” (Mark 16:9). The apostles cast out spirits as well, by the power of the Holy Spirit: “For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed” (Acts 8:7).
Jesus commanded evil spirits with His word, and “devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, ‘Thou art Christ the Son of God.’ And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ” (Luke 4:41). The powers of darkness, including Satan, can go no further than the bounds God has set for them (see Job 1:6-12). They will always leave when He casts them out and must comply when He gives them an order. “And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him”
(Mark 1:27; also see Luke 4:36).
Yes, evil spirits know Who is ultimately in charge! “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). They will always be subject to Jesus: “And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God” (Mark 3:11).
The powers of darkness are used for the purposes of God. “He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them” (Psalm 78:49).
Scripture records several times when the Lord sent an evil spirit for a specific and sovereign purpose. “Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech” (Judges 9:23). It could also be said that when God withdraws his protection, evil rushes in to fill the void. Those who give place to the Devil are opening a door for demonic influence. When King Saul rejected the word of the Lord, “the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him” (I Samuel 16:14).
An evil spirit can be cast out of a person through the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. When an evil spirit leaves a person, it is extremely important that the void within them is filled with the Holy Spirit, lest the evil spirit return and bring with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself (Luke 11:24-26).