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

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

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  1. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman

    Actually most of the “casting out” (exorcism) is associated with healing and possession is not mentioned. I other words, exorcism in not exclusive to demonic possession but is used to cure or heal demonization associated with physical maladies.

    At some level being under Satan's evil spiritual influence could be termed "demonization," especially if that influence took the form of a physical affliction as in Luke 6:18 which stated unclean spirits were being "healed." If sinning can cause sickness as in Acts 12:23 and healing is linked to forgiveness in James 5:15, there is serious cause to think that being delivered over to Satan involves something much more than a letter from the elders or the presbytery announcing a judicial decision.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    What is your operational definition of exorcism? And possession? You seem to be using these terms sometimes in strange ways.

    Have you read books on spiritual warfare? Can we recommend some? Frederick Leahy in Satan Cast Down and Clint Arnold's books are helpful, to begin with.

    You seem to link illness with demonization and healing with forgiveness, but we have no reason to think that Paul's thorn in the flesh was due to his personal sin. He was merely under attack from the devil, and God permitted it.
    Likewise some of the demonized children in the NT were children and we should not see them as particularly heinous sinners who deserved such demonic attack.

    Satan's evil spiritual influence is broader and more general than being demonized. His influence is all around, but not every sinner is particularly demonized in a physical way. Most of the time the battle is for the mind, in the realm of temptations, etc. Most folks do not see or hear anything supernatural, nor feel the physical effects of demons. The spiritual battle rages around us, but we are unaware of it mostly. I know Luther said he threw an ink pot or something at the devil, but he might also have been slightly crazy and unhinged.

    On the other hand, we've met folks wearing amulets and giving sacrifice/gifts to family spirits who report a persistent threatening voice in their ears telling them to kill themselves, which disappeared after prayer and bible reading and the discarding of the amulet/fetish. Is prayer and the removal of amulets an exorcism? Because we've occasionally done this for folks reporting demonic oppression, and some have healed. Prayer and the Word of God and repentance (which means discarding the occult object) seems to be the means, though some local Christians also recite the name of Jesus out loud ("to scare the demons" they have said).
  3. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman


    Excellent feedback as usual. I love Clint Arnold's book on Colossians; it was groundbreaking work and helped me.

    I am sorry if I gave the impression that demon possession, or even being demonized, is always or even mostly the result of sin. I do not believe that. I was attempting to link demonization to the goal of sin/sanctification in the specific examples of when Paul turned Christians over to Satan. At some level, the blasphemy of Hymenaeus and Alexander triggered the demonization released by Paul in an attempt to stop it in 1 Timothy 1:20. I think the same concept (Satan behind illness and death) happens in 1 Corinthians 11:28-32. Verse 32 seems to say that God is using weakness, sickness and even death to judge in a salvific/sanctifying way "so that we will not be condemned along with the world." 1 Corinthians 11:32. From outside appearance the sin, sickness, sanctification goals seems similar to that of 1 Timothy 1:20.

    Paul's gift of his "messenger from Satan" wasn't the result of Paul's sin but was sanctifying from the aspect that it happened to prevent Paul from sinning by "exalting himself" in 2 Corinthians 12:7. In fact, Paul repeats the preventative nature twice in the same verse. I suppose this could be one outworking of how God responds when we pray, "Lead us not into temptation."

    Thank you for your feedback.
  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, I agree that, for the Believer, God uses even the darts of the Devil to improve us. The Devil attacks us to harm us, but he only makes us more fit for heaven (though short-time failures may result and true harm may be done to us).
  5. K Jentoft

    K Jentoft Puritan Board Freshman


    I think that this is the answer to the decline in exorcisms so common in the synoptic gospels and only 4 times in Acts and then disappearing in the epistles through Revelation. Before the cross, Jesus' authority, direct or delegated, commanding demons was the means to bring freedom from demonic bondage - the exorcism process. After the cross we are shown a different means, a new process to overcome demonic bondage that was not dependent upon Jesus commanding the demon. The new "repentance process" is dependent upon the blood of Jesus shed on the cross and the wholesale defeat of Satan's kingdom.

    Paul outlines the "repentance process" in his epistle to 2 Timothy 2:25-26.

    correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.​

    The new way to overcome Satan that did not exist during the synoptic gospels is based upon the blood of Christ shed on the cross. This was sufficient for Christians to confront and overcome even Satan himself along with all his fallen angels and not be bound by their oppression or sin (Revelation 12:11).

    And they overcame him 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.​

    This is not the "exorcism process" described in the synoptics, but the result of a crucified and risen Jesus who offers that freedom to all Christians.
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I would have to think about that. But Paul's "messenger from Satan" afflicting his flesh occurred after the completed work of Christ and did not require repentance.
  7. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hello K Jentoft, I think the answer to your observation is that during Jesus’ earthly ministry, and before His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the power of God was in Christ (Luke 4:14) or those He delegated that power to (Mark 3:15), whereas after His ascension the power of God was in the preaching of the Gospel, the message of Christ (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18), which is the Spirit-empowered word presenting the salvation Jesus obtained for His elect.

    When this manifest power was declared through Gospel preaching—and that across the world—this revealed God’s saving power and love and set the devil’s captives free. It was simply the transfer of power from Jesus Himself to His witnessing people, and the Gospel’s efficacy to deliver souls from the power of darkness and translate them into the kingdom of the Father’s dear Son (Col 1:12,13).

    This does not preclude the casting out of demons in some cases, as the Lord indicated: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils…” (Mark 16:17), although it remains that the primary weapon against the kingdom of Satan is the preaching of the Gospel. Missionaries in primitive cultures know both of these approaches. Sometimes demonization is so profound in the unregenerate it requires direct confrontation as distinguished from Gospel preaching.

    You said in post #47,

    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 than that of the Synoptics (but not John) and I was wondering how to answer "Why?".​

    Here you are talking of believers (though Alexander and Hymaneus may not have been). David Powlison, in his, Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare, addresses this at length (cf also the Amazon reviews). As you mentioned, the phenomenon of “sanctification by exorcism”—one of the excesses of the “spiritual warfare movement”—is an extreme distortion and falsity some have gone to. If we see that we (i.e., as believers) have yielded to satanic influence or infiltration through sin or deception (Eph 4:27; Matt 24:4,24), it is through repentance, receiving forgiveness unto restoration, and asking God for discernment that we may obtain deliverance, and not via “exorcism”, as you rightly said.

    There is more that may be said concerning demonic activity in these days, but this above should suffice with regard to what you have brought up.
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
  8. terry43

    terry43 Puritan Board Freshman

    Just a laywoman observation.. anyone that believes that demonic possession ended just needs to visit a hospital ward treating "mental illness" or addiction .
    I had a patient one time that started speaking Spanish ..when the incident ended we asked him about his ability ...he said he did not know Spanish.. at a workshop when I shared this another provider said she had had a similar experience.
  9. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Oh I almost hate chiming in here. :) Ask any person in a mental health facility if most of the patients there are chronic lairs. The idea that the devil can somehow speak another language through another person today gives Christians a bad name in my most humble opinion.
  10. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Moderator Staff Member

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