Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (Angels: Demons)

Demons’ Reality

Demons’ Character

Demons’ History

Demons’ Power

Demons’ Servant Role

A Christian’s Defense

Demon Possession

Demons’ Judgments

Demons’ Reality

The factual reality of demons is made credible by the considerable number of times they are mentioned in the Bible (over one hundred times). Because the Bible serves as the Christian’s only unassailable testimony to the very existence of demons, believers can confidently trust the truth it reports. The Bible’s author, God Almighty, has been and will always be true (Pss. 12:6; 119:160) and trustworthy (Prov. 30:5; 2 Tim. 3:14–17).


The evidence for the terms “demon,” “spirit,” and “unclean spirit” in the Old Testament is minimal compared to the New Testament. Of the 16 occurrences, 6 appear in 1 Samuel, 4 in Isaiah, 3 in the Psalms, and 1 each in Deuteronomy, Judges, and Zechariah. This amounts to 13 percent of the 120 total occurrences in the Bible.

The 104 other occasions, or 87 percent, occur in the New Testament. Demons appear in all four Gospels, which use the generic terms “demon,” “spirit,” “evil spirit,” “unclean spirit,” and “deceiving spirit” 83 times, with Luke providing the most mentions. Acts has 9 occurrences, the Epistles have 7, and Revelation has 5.

The overall biblical teaching on the topic of demons demonstrates God’s desire to avoid the bizarre and unbelievable. It contains none of the exaggerated or spectacular ideas found in most literature outside the Bible.


Demons display the three most basic qualities that define personhood. Their recognition of and conversations with Jesus illustrate their intellect (Luke 8:26–39), as do their capacity to know the truth about Christ (James 2:19) and their ability to author false doctrine (1 Tim. 4:1). Demons exhibit emotions when they shudder at the thought of Christ (James 2:19) or fear what Christ may do to them (Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7). By demanding of Christ, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs,” demons exercise their will (Matt. 8:31).

Four additional personal qualities complete this basic outline describing “unclean spirits.” First, they are created angels in that they are Satan’s angels (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:9). Since Christ created all things (Col. 1:16), demons are created angels (Neh. 9:6; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:4–7).

Second, they are spirit beings. The Old Testament refers to them as spirit (Judg. 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14–16, 23; 18:10; 19:9). The New Testament likewise refers to them as “spirits” (Matt. 8:16), “evil spirits” (Luke 7:21), and “unclean spirits” (Matt. 10:1).

Third, demons are described biblically as being mobile. As Satan roams the earth (1 Pet. 5:8), it can be expected that demons accompany him. They can reside in humans, be expelled, and later return (Matt. 12:43–45). Demons can also visit heaven, from which they are subsequently banished (Rev. 12:4, 9). And they carry out Satan’s will on earth (Mark 1:34).

Finally, God will hold demons morally responsible for their evil deeds. They are judged both during earth’s history (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6) and at the end of time (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).


The theology of demons presents a stark contrast to that of the Holy Spirit. Some of the most striking opposites are listed in table 8.3.

Table 8.3 Contrasting Demons and the Holy Spirit

Demons  The Holy Spirit  
unclean  holy  
evil  righteous  
deceiving  truthful  
strong  strongest  
temporal  eternal  
created  Creator  
counterfeit  authentic  
oppress  relieves  
enslave  liberates  
destructive  constructive  
enemies  friend  
false  true  
devious  honest  

Demons’ Character

A survey of the Old and New Testament names and descriptive titles for demons will provide a general understanding of what they are like, to whom they owe their allegiance, and how and why they go about serving Satan.

The New Testament contains a wealth of information about “evil spirits.” The Gospels and Revelation frequently discuss demons in Christ’s lifetime and in the end times. On the other hand, the Old Testament only hints at the existence of demons. Taken together, though, the two Testaments deliver all that God intended Christians to know about these evil emissaries of Satan, who extend the power and reach of the Devil, who is not omnipresent like God.


       1.    Demon: The Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint) uses the New Testament word for demon (daimonion) eight times to translate several different Hebrew words, since the Hebrew language did not have one word that uniformly referred to demons. The English translations vary but always refer to some form of demon activity or idolatrous worship, often pictured as spiritual immorality (Jer. 3:8–10; Ezek. 16:23–43; 23:22–30; cf. Rev. 17:1–5), which the Old Testament strictly condemns and prohibits (Lev. 17:7; 20:27; Deut. 18:10–12). These various translations include the following: “demons” (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37); “burning incense” (Isa. 65:3 NASB); “destruction” (Ps. 91:6; cf. “Abaddon” and “Apollyon,” Rev. 9:11); “fortune” (Isa. 65:11; cf. “cup” and “table” of “demons,” 1 Cor. 10:21); “idols” (Ps. 96:5); and “wild goats” (Isa. 13:21; 34:14).

       2.    Evil or harmful spirit (Judg. 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14–16, 23; 18:10; 19:9): This is also the major descriptive title used of demons in the New Testament, emphasizing their sinister character.

       3.    Lying spirit (1 Kings 22:22–23; 2 Chron. 18:22): The “lying spirit” (Satan; cf. “the father of lies,” John 8:44) dispatches four hundred lying spirits (demons) to give a false message to the four hundred prophets of Ahab. What Satan, who is not omnipresent, could not do all at one time, he could accomplish by dispatching four hundred demons to impact four hundred false prophets.

       4.    Prince of Greece, Prince of Persia (Dan. 10:13, 20): This is a brief mention of some sort of celestial spiritual battle between Michael the chief holy angel and the demonic rulers of Persia and Greece (Dan. 10:21; 11:2; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7). In context, it refers to Persia relinquishing its world rule to Greece in the future (Dan. 8:1–8, 20–22). It can be said that it appears the ruling world power has a demon for its advocate to battle Michael the defender of Israel (Dan. 10:21; 12:1). Nothing more can be understood or extrapolated from these few verses. There is no biblical basis for the erroneous teaching of modern-day territorial demons worldwide.

       5.    Spirit of uncleanness (Zech. 13:2): The Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) uses akathartos only once, while the New Testament uses the same term frequently to speak of demons. It appears to address the spiritual power (demons) behind the false prophets and idolaters. These appear to be the same unclean spirits and demonic spirits referred to in Revelation 16:13–14.

       6.    Destroying angels (Ps. 78:49): The phrase “A company of destroying angels” in Psalm 78:49 could possibly refer to demons. However, it seems more likely that the psalmist poetically personified God’s wrath as angels or messengers.


       1.    Demon(s) (Gk. daimonion, Matt. 7:22–Rev. 18:2): By far, this designation is the most common New Testament term for fallen angels, occurring sixty-three times. A few variations are also used but always with some direct reference to demons (Matt. 8:31; James 3:15). While the Old Testament can at times be vague with this word, the New Testament is unambiguously clear and consistent that it refers to evil spiritual beings.

       2.    Angel (Matt. 25:41; 2 Cor. 12:7; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6: Rev. 12:7, 9): In all six instances of the New Testament calling demons “angels,” they are understood as “messengers” associated with Satan and evil.

       3.    Deceitful spirit(s) (1 Tim. 4:1): These deceiving (Gk. planos) spirits will disseminate the false teachings or doctrines of demons.

       4.    Evil spirit(s) (Matt. 12:45; Luke 7:21; 8:2; 11:26; Acts 19:12, 13, 15–16): This title parallels the identical one in the Old Testament. Demons replicate the evil nature of Satan.

       5.    Frog (Rev. 16:13): Demons appear like frogs as they emerge from the satanic territory of Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet at the conclusion of Daniel’s seventieth week. Here they are also called “unclean spirits” and “spirits of demons.”

       6.    Host of heaven (Isa. 24:21; 34:4): This term can be used for (1) the physical bodies in the sky (Ps. 33:6; Isa. 40:26), (2) holy angels (1 Kings 22:19; Neh. 9:6; Luke 2:13), and (3) evil angels (Deut. 4:19; 17:2–3; 2 Kings 17:16; 21:3, 5; 23:4–5). Because Isaiah writes that the “the Lord will punish the host of heaven” (Isa. 24:21) and that “all the host of heaven shall rot away” (34:4), this cannot refer to physical bodies or to holy angels. Therefore, it must refer to demons, who are the power behind idolatry and false worship.

       7.    Locust (Rev. 9:3): At the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week, Satan (“a star from heaven”) will release a portion of the demons (pictured as locusts), who have been incarcerated in the Abyss since the original moral fall (Rev. 12:4).

       8.    Mute and deaf spirit (Mark 9:25): When Jesus permanently casts a demon out of a boy, he refers to it as a “mute and deaf spirit” and also as an “unclean spirit.”

       9.    Spirit (Matt. 8:16; 12:45; Mark 9:17, 20; Luke 9:39; 10:20; 11:26; Acts 16:16, 18; Rev. 16:14): This is the essential characteristic of all angels—both elect and evil.

     10.    Spirit of divination (Acts 16:16): A demon-inhabited fortune teller in Philippi is instantly relieved of her demon by Paul.

     11.    Star (Rev. 12:4): This generic term for all angels, both holy and evil, is used here in the context of Revelation 12 to describe one-third of all angels rejecting God and aligning themselves with Satan.

     12.    Unclean spirit (Matt. 10:1–Rev. 18:2): Twenty-three times demons are described as morally impure (Gk. akathartos). They are the opposite of angels who are holy.

Demons’ History


See “Satan’s History” (p. 681).


See “Satan’s History” (p. 681).


See “Satan’s History” (p. 681), “Satan’s Judgments” (p. 703), and “Demons’ Judgments” (p. 719).


Specific Encounters. God’s revelation in the Bible is the only reliable information about Satan and demons. Little is said about demons in Scripture outside the Gospels. The biblical summaries in tables 8.4–8.8 focus on clear, historical accounts of human involvement with demons.

General Descriptions. We can make numerous observations about demon activities in the Gospels and Acts. They are listed here in no special order of importance.

       1.    John the Baptist was accused of being demon possessed (Matt. 11:18; Luke 7:33).

       2.    Jesus was accused of being demon possessed (Matt. 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22, 30; Luke 11:15; John 7:20; 8:48–49; 10:20).

       3.    Names of Jesus used by demons:

a.    Son of God (Matt. 8:29; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41)

b.    Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34)

c.    Holy One of God (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34)

d.    Jesus, Son of the Most High God (Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28)

       4.    Title for Paul and Silas used by demons: servant of the Most High God (Acts 16:17)

Table 8.4 Old Testament Encounters with Demons

Encounter  Old Testament Passage  
Abimelech and the men of Shechem  Judges 9:23–24, 56–57  
Saul  1 Samuel 16:14–23  
Saul  1 Samuel 18:10  
Saul  1 Samuel 19:9  
The prophets of Ahab  1 Kings 22:22–23; 2 Chron. 18:18–22  

Table 8.5 Jesus’s Encounters with Demons in the Gospels

Encounter  Matthew  Mark  Luke  John  
Multitudes  4:24  1:39  —  —  
Multitudes  8:16  1:29–34  4:38–41  —  
Gadarene man  8:28–34  5:1–20  8:26–39  —  
Dumb man  9:32–34  —  —  —  
Blind and dumb man  12:22  —  —  —  
Gentile girl  15:21–28  7:24–30  —  —  
Epileptic  17:14–21  9:14–29  9:37–43  —  
Man  —  1:23–28  4:33–37  —  
Multitudes  —  3:11  —  —  
Mary Magdalene  —  16:9  8:2  —  
Multitudes  —  —  6:18  —  
Multitudes  —  —  7:21  —  
Man  —  —  11:14  —  
Woman  —  —  13:10–17  —  
Multitudes  —  —  13:32  —  

Table 8.6 Others’ Encounters with Demons in the Gospels

Encounter  Matthew  Mark  Luke  John  
The Twelve  10:1, 8  6:7, 13  9:1  —  
The Twelve  —  3:15  —  —  
Unknown disciple  —  9:38  9:49  —  
The Twelve  —  16:17  —  —  
The Seventy-Two  —  —  10:17–20  —  

Table 8.7 Encounters with Demons in Acts

Encounter  Acts  
Multitudes  5:16  
Multitudes  8:7  
Paul and slave girl  16:16–18  
Paul and multitudes  19:11–12  
Sons of Sceva  19:13–17  

Table 8.8 Encounters with Demons in the Epistles and Revelation

Encounter  Epistles and Revelation  
There are no specific encounters.     

       5.    Others, besides Christ, who cast out demons:

a.    The Twelve (Matt. 10:1–8; Mark 3:14–15; 6:7–13)

b.    Unknown person (Mark 9:38; Luke 9:49–50)

c.    The Seventy-Two (Luke 10:17–20)

d.    Peter and the apostles (Acts 5:16)

e.    Philip (Acts 8:7)

f.     Paul (Acts 16:16–18; 19:11–12)

       6.    Some falsely claimed to exorcise demons:

a.    Unknown people (Matt. 7:22)

b.    Sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13–16)

       7.    Physical symptoms of demon possession:

a.    Violence (Matt. 8:28; Acts 19:16)

b.    Mute (Matt. 9:32–33; Mark 9:17)

c.    Epilepsy (Matt. 17:15; Mark 9:18, 20)

d.    Crying out (Mark 1:23–26; 5:5)

e.    Superhuman strength (Mark 5:4)

f.     Masochistic (Mark 5:5)

g.    Naked (Mark 5:15)

h.    Physical impairment (Luke 13:10–13)

i.     Divination (Acts 16:16)

       8.    Concerns of demons:

a.    That Jesus would destroy them (Mark 1:24)

b.    That Jesus would torment them before the time (Matt. 8:29; Mark 5:7)

c.    That Jesus would send them out of the country (Mark 5:10)

d.    That they could remain embodied, even if in pigs (Matt. 8:31; Mark 5:12)

       9.    Multiple demons in one person:

a.    Many (Mark 5:9)

b.    At least eight demons (Matt. 12:45)

c.    Seven demons in Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2)

     10.    Demons have names (e.g., “Legion,” Mark 5:9).

     11.    Some demons only come out after prayer and fasting (Mark 9:14–29).

     12.    Demons can return after being evicted (Matt. 12:43–45; Luke 8:29).

     13.    Casting out demons is secondary to Christ’s death and salvation (Luke 10:20).

     14.    The actual physical appearance of demons is never described in the Gospels, Acts, or the Epistles.


Revelation includes six descriptions of demon activity in the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week:

       1.    Some of the demons originally locked in the Abyss are released (Rev. 9:1–3, 11).

       2.    Four special demons are released at the Euphrates River at the end (Rev. 9:13–15).

       3.    Idolatrous demon worship is promoted (Rev. 9:20).

       4.    Demons are permanently banished from heaven (Rev. 12:7–13).

       5.    Demons perform false signs (Rev. 16:13–14).

       6.    Demons inhabit Babylon (Rev. 18:2).


It can surely be assumed that the three concluding judgments of Satan also include all the demons. This involves (1) the tribulation judgment (Rev. 12:7–13); (2) the millennial judgment (Rev. 20:7–9); and (3) the final judgment (Isa. 27:1; Rev. 20:10), whereby Satan and his angels find eternal residence in the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 20:10, 14–15). See “Satan’s Judgments” (p. 703).

Demons’ Power

Demons possess the great power of angels (Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 15:24), greater than humans but far less than their Creator. They have the power to carry out the following actions:

       1.    Indwell humans and animals (Mark 5:1–16)

       2.    Physically afflict people (Mark 9:17, 22)

       3.    Terrorize humans (1 Sam. 16:14–15; 18:10; 19:9; Acts 19:13–16; 2 Cor. 12:7)

       4.    Initiate false worship (1 Cor. 10:20–21)

       5.    Promote false doctrines (1 Tim. 4:1)

       6.    Perform false signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 16:13–14)

       7.    Deceive prophets (1 Kings 22:19–23)

       8.    Encourage idolatry (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37)

       9.    Engineer death (Judg. 9:23, 56–57)

Demons work from a powerful heavenly hierarchy to execute their evil deeds. Words such as “angels,” “authorities,” “cosmic powers,” “dominions,” “powers,” “rulers,” and “thrones” can be used to describe the hierarchies of either holy or evil angels. In context, Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 2:2; 6:12; and Colossians 2:15 most likely refer to various ranks or levels among the evil angels, that is, the demon hierarchy. In context, Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16; and 1 Peter 3:22 most likely refer to various ranks or levels in the holy angel hierarchy.

Scripture never elaborates on the specifics of these hierarchies to explain their order or function. Since Satan imitates and falsifies God’s character and kingdom characteristics, it is most likely that there is both an authoritative functional hierarchy for holy angels who worship God and a parallel counterfeit hierarchy for evil angels who give their allegiance to Satan.

However strong demons might be, they also have serious weaknesses and vulnerabilities:

       1.    They unwittingly serve God’s purposes (Judg. 9:23).

       2.    They were terrified of Christ and the gospel (Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; James 2:19).

       3.    They obeyed Christ (Matt. 8:32).

       4.    They obeyed the Twelve (Matt. 10:1–8) and the Seventy-Two (Luke 10:17–20).

       5.    They cannot separate believers in Christ from the love of God (Rom. 8:38).

       6.    They can be restrained by the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:6; 1 John 4:4).

       7.    They have been judged already by God (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6) and will be again in the future (Rev. 20:10).

Demons’ Servant Role

Refer to the discussion of “Satan’s Servant Role” (p. 692), which comprehensively documents how God used Satan and demons to accomplish his divine purposes without violating his perfectly holy and righteous character.

A Christian’s Defense

Consult the notes on “A Christian’s Defense” against Satan (p. 699), which applies equally to demons.

Demon Possession

What does demon possession mean and involve? Can both Christians and non-Christians experience this phenomenon? Can it be internal and external in nature? What is the biblical remedy for demon possession? These important questions will be discussed and answered in what follows. The ultimate question to be resolved is, Can Christians be demonized—that is, indwelt spatially—leading to the need for a demon (or demons) to be cast out, such as observed in the Gospels and Acts?

One writer framed the issue as follows:

Perhaps the most controversial question to be raised is, “Can a true believer be demonized?” Note that I am speaking not of demon possession, but of demonization. Possession implies ownership and total control. Christians, even disobedient ones, belong to God, not to Satan. Thus, Satan cannot control them totally. Demonization is a different matter, however. By demonization I mean that Satan, through his demons, exercises direct, partial control over an area or areas of the life of a Christian or non-Christian. Can that really happen to Christians?

The discussion about what the Bible teaches will be undertaken along five lines of thinking—lexical, biblical, historical, theological, and practical. Only then can a conclusive and compelling biblical statement be made.


The New Testament uses four different phrases on 32 occasions to describe demon influence on humans in the Gospels and Acts:

       1.    one “having” a demon (Gk. echō, 16 times)

a.    Matthew 11:18

b.    Mark 3:30; 5:15; 7:25; 9:17

c.    Luke 4:33; 7:33; 8:27

d.    John 7:20; 8:48–49, 52; 10:20

e.    Acts 8:7; 16:16; 19:13

       2.    one who is “demonized” (Gk. daimonizomai, 13 times)

a.    Matthew 4:24; 8:16, 28, 33; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22

b.    Mark 1:32; 5:15–16, 18

c.    Luke 8:36

d.    John 10:21

       3.    one “with an unclean spirit” (Gk. en, 2 times): Mark 1:23; 5:2

       4.    one “afflicted” with an unclean spirit (Gk. ochleomai, 1 time): Acts 5:16

The first two uses (totaling 29 of 32 occurrences) refer to the same phenomenon. For example, Luke 8:27 (use 1) and 8:36 (use 2) both refer to the identical situation. In the same way, John 10:20 (use 1) and 10:21 (use 2) both refer to the same situation. And again, Mark 5:15 employs both use 1 and use 2 in the same verse, referring to the identical situation. Every major Greek New Testament lexicon defines daimonizomai as “to be possessed by a demon.” The language of uses 3 and 4 imply what uses 1 and 2 explicitly mean.

The language used of demons “entering in,” “going out,” or being “cast out” is consistently employed in regard to demonized persons (Matt. 8:16, 32; 9:33; 12:22–24; Mark 1:34; 5:8, 13). If these terms mean anything, they suggest the idea of a demon actually taking up residence and powerful influence within the body of a demonized person. To understand the term “demonize” for anything else than someone who has a demon within is to misinterpret Scripture.

The term “demonized” in Scripture refers to “the invasion of a victim’s body by a demon (or demons), in which the demon exercises living and dominant control over the victim, which the victim cannot successfully resist.” The elements of indwelling and the inability to resist the demon’s will are what make demonization distinct from lesser forms of demonic influence. The New Testament uses this word only in the narrow sense of demon possession. Thus, other forms of external influence cannot properly be called “demon possession” or demonization. Rather, they can be referred to as demon oppression or demon harassment. Therefore, lexically speaking, in all thirty-two cases where the Gospels and Acts speak of people involved with demons, they refer to people within whom a demon or demons reside.


The Bible recounts 15 specific occasions where demons indwell humans:

       1.    Old Testament (4 particular incidents):

a.    1 Samuel 16:14–23: Saul

b.    1 Samuel 18:10: Saul

c.    1 Samuel 19:9: Saul

d.    1 Kings 22:22–23: four hundred prophets of Ahab

       2.    Gospels (9 particular incidents):

a.    Matthew 8:28–34; Mark 5:1–17; Luke 8:26–37: Gadarene demoniac

b.    Matthew 9:32–34: demon-possessed man in Capernaum (dumb)

c.    Matthew 12:22–29: demon-possessed blind and dumb man

d.    Matthew 15:21–28; Mark 7:24–30: Syro-Phoenecian woman and daughter

e.    Matthew 17:14–20; Mark 9:14–29; Luke 9:37–43: coming off the Mount of Transfiguration

f.     Mark 1:21–28; Luke 4:31–37: man with demon in Capernaum synagogue

g.    Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2: Mary Magdalene

h.    Luke 11:14–26: dumb, demon-possessed man

i.     Luke 13:10–17: woman bent double

       3.    Acts (2 particular incidents):

a.    Acts 16:16–18: fortune teller in Philippi

b.    Acts 19:11–17: sons of Sceva

       4.    Epistles and Revelation (none)

Are there any clear biblical examples of true believers being indwelt by demons in the above Scripture passages? A review of the biblical data quickly eliminates 11 of the 15 possibilities—only Saul in the Old Testament (3 times) and the woman bent double in Luke 13:10–17 remain.


There are only four historical instances that can be biblically verified where the person with demon involvement might be a true believer. They are Saul in 1 Samuel 16; 18; and 19 and the woman afflicted for eighteen years in Luke 13.

Was Saul a true believer? For the sake of this discussion, it is assumed that he truly trusted in God’s grace for salvation. As evidence, note the eight times Saul received the accolade “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam. 1:14, 16). Also, Samuel told Saul that in death the two of them would be together (1 Sam. 28:19).

Since Saul at least appears to have been a believer, it can be asked, was he indwelt by demons that needed to be cast out? The following language describes the way in which the “evil spirit” affected Saul:

       1.    “tormented him” (1 Sam. 16:14–15)

       2.    “upon you” (1 Sam. 16:16)

       3.    “upon Saul” (1 Sam. 16:23)

       4.    “upon Saul” (1 Sam. 18:10)

       5.    “upon Saul” (1 Sam. 19:9)

None of these phrases suggest that the evil or harmful spirit existed within Saul. In every instance, the text speaks about external torment. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew language has the perfect-tense word (bo’) that would certainly have been used if Saul had been indwelt. But it was not. However, this is the very word Ezekiel used when he said, “The Spirit entered into me” (Ezek. 2:2; 3:24), in a clear case of indwelling by the Holy Spirit.

With respect to the woman bent double in Luke 13:10–17, no one can question the fact that she suffered for eighteen years because of a spirit (Luke 13:11) identified as Satan (Luke 13:16). But was she a believer? Those who say yes do so because Christ referred to her as “a daughter of Abraham” (Luke 13:16). They suggest a parallel with Zacchaeus, who, on becoming a believer, was called “a son of Abraham” by Jesus. But a closer look at Luke 19:9 paints a different picture.

Salvation came because Zacchaeus was “a son of Abraham” and because “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus came to save his people (the Jews) from their sins (Matt. 1:21). Zacchaeus didn’t become a “son of Abraham” as a result of salvation in the sense of Galatians 3:7, which says that “it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Rather, he was a Jew—also known as a “son of Abraham”—and because Jesus came to save his people, he drew Zacchaeus to saving belief. Zacchaeus had always been a “son of Abraham”; only later did he believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

Likewise, the woman in Luke 13, a daughter of Abraham, was an unbeliever who had been bound by a physical infirmity from Satan and possibly demons. She received release from her torment through the ministry of Jesus. She experienced resident evil not as a believer but as an unbeliever.

Thus, there is not one instance in Scripture where Satan or demons resided within a true believer and needed to be expelled.


The New Testament Epistles never warn believers about the possibility of demon inhabitation, even though Satan and demons are discussed rather frequently. Nor do the New Testament Epistles ever instruct believers about how to cast out demons from either a believer or an unbeliever. It is biblically inconceivable that a true believer could be indwelt by demons when the Bible presents no clear historical example and gives no warnings or instructions for such a serious spiritual experience.

At least five other theological factors confirm this conclusion:

       1.    The thrust of 2 Corinthians 6:14–18 precludes thinking that the Holy Spirit and unclean spirits can cohabit in true believers—even temporarily.

       2.    Salvation, as described in Colossians 1:13, speaks of true “deliverance” from Satan and transference to the kingdom of Christ.

       3.    The following passages, when combined together, make a powerful statement that refutes the idea of demons indwelling Christians:

a.    Romans 8:37–39: We overwhelmingly conquer through Christ.

b.    1 Corinthians 15:57: God gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

c.    2 Corinthians 2:14: God always leads us in his triumph in Christ.

d.    1 John 2:13–14: We have overcome the Evil One.

e.    1 John 4:4: The greater power resides in us.

       4.    The sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit protects Christians against demon invasion (2 Cor. 1:21–22; Eph. 4:30).

       5.    The promise of 1 John 5:18 makes the idea of demon invasion an unbiblical concept and an impossibility for a true believer.


There can be no question that demons do at times reside within human beings. Otherwise, there would be no need to cast them out (Gk. ekballō). Scripture also affirms that when demons indwell human beings, they frequently debilitate the human host. Demonic residency has resulted in physical problems such as epilepsy (Matt. 17:14–18), blindness (Matt. 12:22), deafness (Mark 9:25), and the inability to speak (Matt. 9:32–33). When the demon is evicted, the physical problem also departs, and the person is healed.

Having understood these things, can true believers be indwelt by demons with a need for these demons to be evicted? After a complete study of the appropriate scriptures, the answer is no. Demonization (Gk. daimonizomai) refers only to unbelievers in whom a demon resides. The Bible concludes that the deliverance of a Christian from indwelling demons is an oxymoron.

The Bible stands supreme as the unique source of divine revelation about the spiritual world of Satan and demons. Clinical and counseling experiences will never be equal to Scripture and should never be used to draw conclusions that are not first clearly taught in the Word of God.

The Bible convincingly reveals that true believers cannot be inhabited by Satan or demons. However, they can be tormented, oppressed, and harassed externally, even to a severe degree like Saul (or centuries later, like Paul, who was allowed to endure a satanic thorn in the flesh, 2 Cor. 12:7). Should demons actually be found to indwell a person, this would be evidence that he or she lacks genuine salvation, no matter how strongly that person or a counselor or a pastor or even a demon argues otherwise. If one encounters a truly demonized person, then he must recognize the strength of the enemy, appeal to God in prayer (see Jude 9), and use the power of Scripture (Rom. 1:16)—especially the gospel—to deal with the situation.

Demons’ Judgments

Earlier we discussed “Satan’s Judgments” (see p. 703), and the treatment there of Satan’s Edenic, Calvary, tribulational, millennial, and eternal judgments applies equally to demons. However, it would seem that the original judgment on demons had several variations. One portion of the entire group who initially rebelled with Satan (Rev. 12:4) was cast out of heaven and directly into the Abyss (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; cf. Luke 8:31). Another part of the group who was cast out of heaven and directly into the Abyss will later be released in the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week (Rev. 9:1–11). There seems also to be a special group of four demons bound at the Euphrates River who will be released at the end of Daniel’s seventieth week (Rev. 9:13–15). Others who were originally cast down with Satan will accompany him throughout his time in heaven and on earth to do his treacherous bidding (Isa. 24:21; Rev. 12:7–9).

During Satan’s millennial judgment/confinement, all demons will also be imprisoned with him. Finally, when Satan is released and then eternally judged, it appears certain that all demons will be with him then and forevermore (Isa. 24:22; Matt. 25:41; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 20:10).[1]

[1] MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R., eds. (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (pp. 706–719). Crossway.