Can a Christian be Possessed?
can Christians be Possessed?
A Practical Analysis
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It’s a legitimate question that doesn’t really have a perfect answer, but the short version is: no. A saved, born again believer cannot be possessed by the devil or any of his angels (devils). Notice I didn’t say a Christian. Sorry to burst some bubbles out there, but you’re not automatically a Christian just because you’ve been born again, and you’re not automatically born again just because you manage to pull off some “Christ-like” qualities (Christian). Christian means Christ-like. To be saved is to be redeemed from sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let’s just be clear. We’re talking about people who have been redeemed by the crucified and risen Savior through faith in Him. Everyone else is wide open and susceptible to possession. I’m not saying that’s happening or that it isn’t. That’s for another post. I am simply lining out the facts according to the Bible, and the facts are:
Christ defeated the strong man
Believers are one with Christ
Believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit
The question of whether a saved person can be possessed comes from both brand new believers and people who have been in the faith for many years. There’s no way around it: As you read your Bible, you are bound to see story after story of people being possessed. The most obvious and, seemingly, frequent are during the ministry of Jesus Christ before His resurrection.
Jesus cast devils out of people many times throughout the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Not only did Jesus cast devils out of people, but He granted the same power to His apostles.
The infamous “Maniac of Gadara” was possessed by a legion of devils. When Jesus cast them out of the man, they went into a herd of swine.
Upon His return from the mount of transfiguration, Jesus found that His disciples could not cast the devil out of a boy. He cast the devil out and said that some can only be overpowered through prayer and fasting.
Before Judas went to the high priest, the Bible clearly says that Satan entered into him.
This ministry of casting out devils continued after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord. Paul, throughout the book of Acts, cast out devils. In Acts 16, Paul was in Philippi. There was a woman with a spirit of divination. Paul commanded the spirit to come out of the woman.
But there is definitely reason to believe that this was occurring prior to that time and even as far back as the time of Genesis. The book of Job occurs chronologically during the events of the book of Genesis, making the events that took place among the oldest documented stories in the Bible. Job’s livelihood was utterly decimated, and he found himself quite alone before his so-called “friends” arrived to “comfort” him. However, the way his wife speaks to him is very interesting:
“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die” (Job 2:9 KJV).
Apart from the fact that a man’s wife just told him to kill himself or at least allow himself to just die, her words exactly replicate what Satan said to God. See, all of the things that happened to Job derived from the hand of Satan but only after permission was granted by God. Satan wagered that Job would curse God if he were to be pushed far enough. God knew better, so He allowed Satan to attack Job. Satan’s promise to God was that, if Job was pushed far enough, he would curse God. So, when Job is still giving glory to God, even after losing his children, his herds, and his health, here comes his wife; and she asks him if he still holds fast to integrity.
In Job 2:3, God told Satan that Job had held fast to his integrity. So it’s very interesting that she used the specific words that God and Satan had both said during a conversation that Job and his wife never heard.
So people were possessed by Satan or some other devil all through the Bible. By the way, I use the term devil for both Satan and any of his angels as these are the terms used in the King James Version of the Bible, which I read and study. I may randomly use demons instead of devils because of familiarity, but the terms are synonymous.
Now that we’ve established that people CAN be possessed, let’s look at why that’s not true of those born again through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s Defeat over the Strong Man
In Matthew twelve and Mark three, Jesus casts a demon out of a man whom was previously deaf and unable to speak. Once the demon is gone, the man is able to hear and speak. That was the point when everyone should have shouted for joy…but those Pharisees!
They came along and said that Jesus was casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, prince of the devils, and Jesus gives them the iconic statement that “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.”
He goes on to say that you cannot enter a strong man’s house and spoil his goods without binding the man first. It’s worded a little differently in the book of Luke.
“When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils” (Luke 11:21-22 KJV).
The reference here is clear. Satan has a kingdom, one that exists in two realms. One, he is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). Adam gave up dominion of the earth when he partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and Satan has been wreaking havoc ever since. But, another kingdom, the kingdom of man’s heart and spirit, had been under the control of the devil as well. All of that changed when Jesus came.
He was the promised seed of Genesis 3:15 that would crush the head of the serpent. When he came, he brought the power to bind the strong man and take back possession of man’s hearts, minds, and souls. When Christ died on the cross, His blood purchased everything, including those that follow him by faith. Satan’s go to is man’s sin. He is the accuser of the brethren, but Jesus took that card from him. He bound up the strong man and spoiled his house. Some day, He will return and take back possession of the earth. For now, it is a battle in the spiritual kingdom.
Believers are One with Christ
This shouldn’t be complicated, but it is by no means simple. God exists in three persons. These three are one. It is not three Gods; it is one God who is triune.
Good so far?
Okay, now wrap your mind around this: all those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ are one with God, which means we are one with each of the ones…which makes us three…but not separate…which is…huh?
Let’s just have Jesus explain it because, you know, Jesus.
“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20 KJV).
Simple, right? No. This is where faith comes in. I don’t fully understand it, but I know the Bible is true. I know the words of Christ are true, so this is true. This verse comes from a passage where Jesus is explaining that He is one with the Father, but He will send the Holy Spirit once He has ascended. He tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit is dwelling with them but will be in them after his resurrection. He then tells them that He will come to them. The key to understanding this is the title Jesus gives the Holy Spirit in this particular passage: The Comforter. The Holy Spirit is called The Comforter, and Jesus says that The Comforter will come and take up residence inside the disciples. He then tells them that He will not leave them comfortless; He will come to them.
Okay, so Jesus and the Father are one. Got it. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one. Got it. They are three persons. Got it. They are one. Kinda got it. Look, I know it’s a difficult concept, but at some point you have to take it by faith.
Why does it matter that I’m one with Christ? It matters because He cannot be possessed, and I am one with Him. I’m off limits, safe and secure. I don’t know about you, but that brings me comfort. Hmm. I’d say Jesus knew exactly what He was talking about when He called the Holy Spirit The Comforter.
Believers are Sealed by the Holy Spirit
I grew up in a basically rural community. It wasn’t the backwoods; there was a busy highway in front of my house, but there were also corn fields and farms surrounding us. Because of that, I got to see some really cool things that help me understand the nature of God and my relationship with Him. Have you ever watched someone can something? I don’t mean “can it” as in rudely telling someone to be quiet or throwing your efforts out. Those are colloquial idioms. No, I’m talking about preserving various food items in pressure sealed jars. Hmm. Wonder why they don’t call it jarring. Maybe because jarring means to cause shock. Okay, let me get back on track.
The point is this: My mom would prepare the food she wanted, usually peaches and stewed tomatoes because, you know, who doesn’t need a year’s supply of peaches? Once she’d prepared it, she would put the food in jars and then put those jars in this big pot that looked like something out of a B-rated Sci-Fi movie. That pot had water that was a certain temperature, and she would leave those jars in there for a certain amount of time. Once they came out, they were sealed. Forgive me if I don’t know the exact process, but boys weren’t welcome in the kitchen during canning season. Usually my grandma or one of my aunts would be in town, and that was a no-fly zone. But anyway, those cans were sealed.
I had the task of taking them into the back pantry in our house and then going to collect the cans whenever my mom wanted to use one. I was always disgusted when I retrieved those cans because they were quickly covered in mold. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and we had an old, drafty farm house. When I say mold, I mean mold. They were covered in the stuff, but my mom always assured me the stuff inside was perfectly preserved. She would rinse the jar, clean it thoroughly, break the seal, and reveal the food to be perfectly intact and just as good as it was the day she’d sealed it. That’s what it means to be sealed and preserved until the day you redeem the goods you’ve laid up in store.
So it was easy for me to understand my position in Christ once I read the Scriptures on it many years later.
“ In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 KJV).
This would take up an entire article, but the truth is that when I heard the gospel and trusted Christ as my Savior, I was placed into Christ. At the same time, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in me and sealed me until the day of the redemption. That is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Need to see it again?
“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
I preached in a jail one time about the preservation of the saved, and one of the inmates used this verse to say that a person’s salvation isn’t permanent. He asked how many times do you have to be sealed? Um, look at the verse. It says, “unto the day of redemption.” Once sealed you’re sealed until Christ redeems you. He’s the redeemer. He paid the earnest money for you and he will redeem his reward. No one else gets to claim you. You are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Hey, if it offends you to be God’s property, I don’t know what to tell you. Would you rather be on the free market? That would mean Satan could have his day with you. Truth be told, he can still trip you up. The Bible says he takes people captive at his will. There are still traps laid. Plenty of ways to ruin your testimony and wreck your life, but when you trust in Christ, you are sealed. That seal cannot be broken by you or any other person, devil or creature. How do I know that? Because it was sealed by the hand of God, and no one can pluck you out of His hand (John 10:28).
So it doesn’t matter how much dirt and grime from this world collects on you. When the Lord Jesus returns and redeems you, that seal will be broken and a perfectly preserved soul will emerge.
The Bible makes it clear that a person can be possessed. Before the time of Christ, and definitely during the time of Jesus’ ministry, people were possessed by devils. After Christ left His disciples faced demon-possessed people. There’s no reason to believe it has stopped. However, the Bible makes a clear case that a redeemed believer in Christ is safe from that sort of oppression. Satan is powerful, but his power is limited by an all-powerful God. The almighty sent forth His Son to die for our sins, and when Jesus arose from the dead, he made a way of redemption through His blood. When a person believes that and puts his or her faith in Him, that person is placed into Christ. At the same time, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the believer and seals him or her until the day of redemption. The strong man cannot manipulate you from within anymore. He has to rely on his cunning to ensnare us by our own lusts. And he can. Don’t mistake that. However, what God has purchased is your soul, and it is pure and one with Christ.
I pray these words comfort you, and I pray all of my articles bring you into a closer walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. If there are other topics you would like for me to discuss or additional resources you’d like, please mention those in the comments. Thank you.