DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE DEVIL?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
By Ron Ritchie
Do you believe in the devil, in demons, and demon possession? According
to a recent Gallup Poll taken among 1,236 adults and reported last week
in local papers, more than one-half believe in the devil (or 55%, with 8%
not sure and 37% who don't believe the evil one exists). One in ten claim
to have talked to the devil. Some 49% believe that people are at times possessed
by the devil, and 22% are not sure, leaving 35% of the population who do
not believe in demonic possession.
Ever since the days of Adam and Eve, each new generation has struggled with
the question, "Do you believe in the devil and the spiritual beings
called demons?" Of course, if we had the opportunity to do a Gallup
Poll with Adam and Eve, their son, Cain, Job, Saul, the prophets, Jesus,
the disciples, Judas and Paul, they would all confirm that Satan and his
demons are alive and well, and are allowed for a season to bring temptation,
destruction and death to the lives of believers and non-believers. Once,
the apostle Peter's faith was weakened by the influence of Satan. At Jesus'
trial, the apostle denied he was a disciple of the Lord. Yet some years
later, an older and wiser Peter wrote about the reality of Satan when he
warned the second generation of Christians in Asia Minor, "Be of sober
spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a
roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith,
knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by
your brethren who are in the world" (1 Peter 5: 8-9).
In our studies in Luke's gospel, today we come to chapter 8, verses 26-39.
Here we will walk alongside our Lord as he teaches his budding disciples
another lesson from the course called "spiritual realities." He
has just taught them that he is the Master over the devilish forces of nature,
and now he is about to teach them that he is the Master over evil forces,
forces that are present, personal, invisible and deadly.
In the beginning of our Lord's ministry, Peter, Andrew, John and James were
confronted with a demoniac in the synagogue of Capernaum. The disciples
also witnessed Jesus' casting out seven demons from Mary Magdalene (Luke
8:2). So the spiritual battle between God and Satan over the lives and souls
of men and women went on in the days of our Lord's ministry, in the days
of the early church, and it has and will continue to rage in every generation
until the Lord comes again and Satan and all his angels will be cast into
the bottomless pit forever (Rev. 20:10). In this modern day, we need more
than ever to be spiritually aware of the activities of the flesh and the
devil. We must not be bound by fear of the presence and power of the evil
one, but have a clear understanding that our power to defeat the devil and
all of this demonic influence resides in the strength of the Lord's might,
not our power and strength.
Our story today is a beautiful illustration of the theme from Luke 5:31-32,
that it is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are
sick. This tale will remind us also of the fulfillment of the prophecy of
Isaiah 61 concerning the ministry of the Messiah, "The Spirit of the
Lord is upon me...he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives..."
This story is another pearl of salvation being placed on the string of redemption,
as we have often described these incidents which Luke relates in his gospel..
The question we want to ask today is, "Do you believe in the devil
I. A man named 'Legion' did!, Luke 8: 26-28
And they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite
Galilee. And when He had come out onto the land, He was met by a certain
man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on
any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the
tombs. And seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a
loud voice, 'What do I have to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High
God? I beg You, do not torment me.'"
The disciples had just come through a life-threatening experience on the
sea of Galilee. A devilish gale-force wind had almost taken their lives,
and in a moment of weakness they thought that Jesus had forsaken them. Awakening
him in a panic, they cried out, "Save us or we perish!" The Lord
spoke to the demonic forces behind the murderous winds and said, "Be
muzzled" and the winds and the waves were stilled. The Lord then rebuked
the disciples for their lack of faith in him and all that he had taught
them by way of word and miracles. They responded with humble hearts and
were in awe of their Lord as the boats drew close to the shores of Gerasene.
Gerasenes was a seaport village located six miles northeast of Capernaum,
in Decapolis. This area had ten major cities built by Alexander the Great
in the 3rd century BC, and rebuilt by the Romans in 65 BC. Matthew, Mark
and Luke all record this story. They each add a few different details to
make up the whole, so I will bring in Matthew's and Mark's accounts when
it helps to fill out the story (Matt. 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20).
Once the boats were beached, at least two nude demoniac men from the tombs
immediately met Jesus and his disciples. They had come from the local cemetery,
which was a set of caves formed or cut out on the side of the hills, where
they made their homes. These men were so violent they stopped anyone from
passing by on the road that ran alongside the cemetery. On several occasions
some of the men of the city had gone out and wrestled them to the ground
and put chains around them, but because of their strength the demoniacs
would simply break the chains and continue to threaten the lives of all
in that district.
According to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, before Satan was cast out of heaven
following his rebellion against God he was called the "Morning Star."
This spiritual being was created by God, and he was full of wisdom and perfect
in beauty. He was the highest of all angelic creatures, blameless in all
his ways before God until unrighteousness was found in him. His sin was
pride, resulting from his desire to become like God. Then God cast him out
of heaven along with a host of angels who joined him in his rebellion. He
is now called the "Prince of the demons" (Matt. 12:24). Some of
these rebellious angelic beings are now confined, awaiting the final judgment,
and some are free to do Satan's bidding on earth by seeking to control the
minds and hearts of men so that they too will rebel against their Creator.
Jesus called Satan a murderer, a liar and the father of lies (John 8: 44),
and the demons have the same unholy characteristics. They can inflict diseases
(Matt. 9:33); they can oppose the spiritual growth of believers, and use
false prophets and teachers to disseminate false doctrine. They are also
called "unclean spirits" because once they possess a person they
cause him or her to participate in all kinds of immorality. They are also
able to possess men and animals, as we shall see in this story.
There is a lot of confusion about "demonic possession," or, as
the term may more correctly be correctly stated, "having a spirit."
To "have a spirit" is different from cases of ordinary sickness,
insanity, leprosy, blindness, lameness, deafness and other natural defects
and diseases. Perhaps the following definition from Charles C. Ryrie will
help clear up some confusion: "Demon possession means a demon residing
in a person, exerting direct control and influence over that person, with
certain derangement of mind and or body. Demon possession is to be distinguished
from demon influence or demon activity in relation to a person. The work
of the demon in the latter is from the outside in demon possession it from
within. By this definition a Christian cannot be possessed by a demon since
he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. However, a Christian can be the target
of demonic activity to such an extent that he may give the appearance of
Why does Satan and his demons want to possess men and animals? We need to
keep in mind that the devil is a counterfeiter and an angel of light. Before
the world began, Satan was opposing God in the spiritual world. Then, "the
Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as
of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John
1:14). Because of this godly incarnation on earth, Satan and his demons
have endeavored to incarnate themselves in human beings in order to oppose
Jesus and his work of redemption. Satan, as it were, also wanted to become
man. This becomes clear when Jesus told the disciples at the last supper
that one of his men would betray him. When they asked which one, Jesus answered
"that is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him...he
took and gave it to Judas, and Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore,
said to him, 'What you do, do quickly'" (John 13: 21-29).
How does one become demon possessed? Paul reminded the Christians in Ephesus,
a city given over to witchcraft and demonic activity, of their condition
before they invited Jesus Christ to become their Lord and Savior: "You
were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which your formerly walked according
to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the
air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience"
(Eph. 2:2). So before we became "born again" we were all one among
those who were "born dead" and became the "living dead."
In that condition Satan was free to roam among the graveyard of the "living
dead" and freely select a human being willing to give him his soul
in exchange for power, possession, or some position on earth. In return,
the victim then become an instrument of death, destruction and deception.
Victims are to be found in the cult of Satan, in witch covens, and in New
Age channeling activities around the world at this very moment. The end
result is that victims are soon placed on a greased skid heading to eternal
ruin and doom. Today we are discovering that Satanism is once again on the
rise here in this community and around the world. Once the Colossians gave
their lives to Jesus and allowed him to become their Lord and Savor they
discovered another spiritual reality. Here are Paul's words,
"For he delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred
us to the kingdom of his well-beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the
forgiveness of sins" (Col.1: 13-14).
These two men who approached our Lord and his disciples from the cemetery
are a perfect description of a demoniac. They were 1) demon-possessed (by
an unclean spirit); 2) they came out from the tombs (a symbol of death);
3) they were exceedingly violent (out of control); 4) naked (loss of human
dignity); 5) no one could subdue them and no chains could hold them (they
had amazing physical strength); 6) night and day the one would cry out and
gash himself with stones (tormented, a picture of hell on earth). Mark and
Luke single out the one who was the leader. In his book, "According
to Luke," David Gooding wrote,
There are spirit powers that seek man's destruction...The demoniac is an
extreme example of what satanic forces can do with a human personality that
has come under their complete domination. Unlike the Holy Spirit, who always
sets a man free, develops his personality and increases his self-control
and dignity, satanic forces seem to strive to overpower a man's personality,
and ultimately to break down his self control and to rob him of self respect,
as they did the demoniac. Spiritual beings can indeed give people amazing
power, but in the end those powers will prove destructive of human personality
and self control.
"And seeing Jesus, the leader of the two cried out and fell down before
him (in fear) and said in a loud voice, 'What do I have to do with You,
Jesus, Son of the most high God?'" Here, the demons answer the question
the disciples asked in verse 25, "Who then is this, that he commands
even the winds and the water, and they obey him? "I beg You, do not
torment me." It is interesting that time and time again when the demons
came face to face with Jesus on earth, they immediately knew he was the
Son of the Most High God. They also knew of his sovereign power. They made
their victim bow down, thus acknowledging Jesus' deity and manifesting fear
of his power. The Pharisees, on the other hand, and many of the people did
not really understand who Jesus was, what he was doing or why he had come
to earth. All systems of belief that have their beginnings in the occult
ask their victims to deny the deity of Jesus.
On June 12, 1990, the San Francisco Chronicle published the
"Bennett Blames Satan for Drug Abuse Epidemic." To
the shouts of Baptist preachers yelling, 'Amen,' federal drug czar William
Bennett yesterday blamed Satan for the national epidemic of drug abuse.
'It is a product of the great deceiver,' Bennettt told an assembly of about
2,500 Southern Baptist pastors and other church leaders. 'We need to bring
to these people in need the God who heals,' said Bennett, a Roman Catholic.
'I have seen the face of evil and if you don't think there is evil in the
world today, travel with me on the drug circuit. The drug problem is fundamentally
a moral problem-in the end a spiritual problem.'
The following day the paper ran an article entitled:
"Drug Czar's Satan Remark Assailed." A leading drug-treatment
clinician reacted with outrage yesterday at federal drug czar William Bennett's
contention that the national drug abuse epidemic is the work of Satan. Dr.
Alex Stalcup, medical director for the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic
in San Francisco, said Bennett's remarks undermine the work of the professional
in the drug-treatment field. Blaming the devil for drug addiction further
stigmatizes drug abusers who already bear a heavy burden of shame and guilt
when they seek treatment. 'We're thinking of applying to Bennett's office
for an exorcist. It is shocking to me, and very disturbing,' said Stalcup.
Dr. Wayne Pernell, director of chemical dependency treatment services at
Ross Hospital in Marin County, called cocaine addiction a disease that responds
to a variety of treatment. He agreed with Bennett's urging that 'Early intervention
is vital, but to say it can only be treated by turning over to God, that's
bad news...Crack is not the devil and it's not going to be treated by going
Do you believe in the devil? A man named "Legion" did and,
II. Jesus and his disciples did!, Luke 8:29-33
For He had been commanding the unclean spirit to come out of
the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains
and shackles and kept under guard; and yet he would burst his fetters and
be driven by the demon into the desert. And Jesus asked him, "What
is your name?" And he said, "Legion," for many demons had
entered him. And they were entreating Him not to command them to depart
into the abyss. Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the
mountain; and the demons entreated Him to permit them to enter the swine.
And He gave them permission. And the demons came out from the man and entered
the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were
A Roman Legion was a regiment of 6,000 soldiers. We are not sure that there
were 6,000 demons in the man, but this number is used as a figure of speech
to demonstrate that many, many demons of destruction, corruption and power
had possessed him.
The demons were entreating him "not to command them to depart to the
abyss"-the bottomless pit, hell itself. These demons had not been sent
there yet like so many others before them, but they were well aware that
once they experienced the final judgment of God, hell would become their
eternal fate. For the time being they were given a limited freedom to carry
out Satan's wishes on earth by being allowed to house and express their
evil spiritual nature in and through a human being. Now that habitation
was being threatened by the Son of God, so rather then be cast out of these
men and sent to hell they saw a herd of pigs, "feeding there on the
mountain; and the demons entreated him to permit them to enter the swine.
And he gave them permission. And the demons came out from the man and entered
the swine, and the heard rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were
drowned" (about 2,000 swine; see Mark 5:13). Jesus did not tell the
demons to drown the pigs.
Rather, he gave permission to them to possess them. Once the demons went
into the pigs, however, the animals panicked and drowned. The issue is not
the 2,000 dead pigs, but the redemption of the demoniac and the confirmation
to the disciples that Jesus not only had power over nature, but over the
evil one and all his demons. The death of the herd of pigs was a living
demonstration of the death that would have eventually have come to "Legion"
had Jesus not healed him. The herd of pigs became the demoniac substitute.
And, although the demons had asked Jesus not to send them back to hell,
I suspect that after they had lost their fleshly habitation, to hell they
went after the drowning of the pigs.
Do you believe in the devil ? The demoniac from the tombs did, Jesus and
his disciples did, and now we see that
III. The Gentiles did!, Luke 8:34:39
And when those who tended them saw what had happened, they ran
away and reported it to the city and out in the country. And the people
went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the
man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus,
clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. And those who
had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been
made well. And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding
district asked Him to depart from them; for they were gripped with great
fear; and He got into a boat, and returned. But the man from whom the demons
had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him, but He sent him
away, saying, "Return to your house and describe what great things
God has done for you." And he departed, proclaiming throughout the
whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
First, the good news, then the bad news. The herdsmen were in deep trouble
because they were responsible to the owner for the well-being of the large
herd of pigs. These men ran and told all in the city and countryside the
good news that a man named Jesus had arrived on the beach and cast the demons
out of "Legion" so that people didn't have to fear him anymore.
The bad news was that the demons, some 2,000 of them, went into the pigs.
Before they knew it, they reported, the pigs had run off the steep bank
into the lake and drowned. It wasn't their fault, they said, but the fault
of the demons and a man named Jesus.
The whole countryside then ran to the beach to see what had happened to
the former demoniac. They found Jesus by the sea, and the former demoniac
sitting at his feet, calm, fully clothed, and in his right mind. This healing
had affected him physically, emotionally, intellectual and spiritually.
Instead of being dead in his sin and living in the tombs, he had been risen
by the power of Christ into the newness of life. Instead of being naked
he was fully clothed; instead of being violent he was calm and joyful; instead
of being insane he was now in his right mind; and instead of being destructively
possessed with Satan he was now possessed and indwelled by the Son of the
The people were so frightened by this healing that they asked Jesus to depart
from their town. This was not the same kind of fear-reverence and respect-that
the disciples felt after Jesus had calmed the sea. No, this was the fear
of superstition. They did not rejoice over the healing of the demoniac.
They were surrounded by demonic activity and they became more afraid then
ever. Not only had they lost their pigs, but what would the evil one do
next to harm them? they wondered. They were so blinded by fear and superstition
they couldn't even think to ask Jesus who he was or why he had come to their
town. They couldn't see their need for spiritual healing. All they could
think of was the fact that Jesus had cast out the demons in this man named
Legion and they had lost 2,000 pigs. They could not afford to have him stay
around and cast out other demons because in time he would wipe out all their
livestock, thus they all asked Jesus to leave town immediately. When the
demons asked Jesus to leave them alone, he overruled them in order to bring
the demoniac back to his right mind. Then the man could make a conscious
choice about Jesus as Savior and Lord. When the people in their fear rejected
Jesus with their eyes wide open, he complied immediately and got into the
boat. He was not going to force salvation on anyone. Their fear was of the
supernatural. They seemed to be more at home with the demoniac then the
Christ who cast out the demons.
As Jesus was getting into the boat to return to Capernaum, the man, now
possessed of a right mind and a new heart, approached him. He begged our
Lord to allow him to accompany him to Galilee and become his disciple. But
Jesus wanted this new believer to witness for him among the Gentiles. Thus,
rather than being a messenger of terror throughout Decapolis he would become
a messenger of the great things God had done for him through Jesus. Our
Lord left the area with a missionary of the good news, returning good for
evil. "...and everyone marveled," says our text. We don't know
the end of the story of the lives of the men and women who were so fearful
of Jesus. Perhaps as the former demoniac went about the countryside sharing
his healing, many in time would rethink and accept our Lord into their hearts
as Lord and Savior.
About seven years ago a I met a young couple from southern California who
wanted to join our intern program. I was impressed with their deep spiritual
commitment to Jesus Christ and his word. In time we invited them to join
us and to work with me in our singles' ministry. It soon became evident
that they had developed a wonderful evangelistic and teaching ministry.
Again and again I was amazed by their spiritual walk and their love for
the Lord, and their deep commitment to the hurting community around them.
About a year into the internship the husband came to me and asked me to
pray with him because he was very frightened. I asked him the source of
his fear, and he reminded me that as a youth he had gotten involved with
Satanism. After he had given his heart to Jesus as Lord and Savior, he had
gotten rid of all his paraphernalia and left the Satanic group. However,
each time the Lord blessed his ministry an "evil being" would
appear at the foot of his bed at night to torment him. At times he was so
terrorized he had to wake up his wife to pray for him. We did pray then
and for many months after that, and in time the "evil spirit"
stopped appearing. Both of these former victims of Satan, the man in Decapolis
and our intern, became missionaries for Jesus Christ, telling all who would
listen "...what great things God had done for them." One went
to the regions of Decapolis in his generation, and my friend went to Europe
in our generation.
Do you believe in the devil, in demons and demon possession? According to
an ancient "Gallup Poll," Jesus and his disciples, Legion and
the total population of Gerasenes (as well as 2,000 pigs!), 100% believed
in the existence and power of Satan, and 100% believed that a person or
animal can be possessed by Satan or demons.
The scriptures are given to us to teach us that more is going on in our
lives then what we experience by means of our five senses. As Christians,
we need to be aware of the spiritual world, the good and the bad, by the
Spirit, without fear, keeping in mind what Paul wrote to the Ephesians,
"be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the
the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes
of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places"
(Eph. 6: 9-12).
Our ministry and message is the same ministry and message our Lord had-a
message of hope and deliverance. As Paul reminded the Christians of Colossae,
"For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us
to the kingdom of His well-beloved Son, in whom we redemption, the forgiveness
of sins" (Col.1: 13-14). If our Lord Jesus can do that for us, he is
willing to do the same for each and every one who will humbly ask him to
become their personal Lord and Savior.
Catalog No. 4139
Ron R. Ritchie
August 12, 1990
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