Why were things like demon possession, gifts of healing, and gifts of tongues more prevalent in biblical times than they are now?
Let’s discuss demon possession here and spiritual gifts in this Bible study.
Possible reasons for the perception
Satan is certainly still active in tempting God’s children away from their Savior. The apostle Paul says, “Our struggle is not again flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). However, it does seem that physical, visible possession of people is rarer today.
Here are possible reasons for that perception:
- Satan likes to live in extremes. The devil seems to have different modes of operation for different times and cultures. Either Satan wants people to believe that he is as powerful as God or to think of him as a joke. At times and in certain cultures, Satan has been given too much credit. In these situations, there seems to be greater visible evidence of his work. Today it seems that his tactic is to convince people not to take him seriously. It’s much easier for the lion if his prey is unsuspecting (1 Peter 5:8).
- Jesus came to overcome the devil. It’s a dangerous thing to corner a rat. In a sense, this is what happened to Satan when Jesus walked this earth. The devil stepped up his attacks because he knew he was fighting the ultimate battle against Jesus. He was cornered and desperate.
- We can have too narrow of a view of demon possession. When we think of demon possession, we often think of the Gerasene demoniac who was naked, too powerful to be chained, cut himself, and raving mad (Luke 8:26-39). Sometimes in Jesus’ day the possession was subtler and manifested in physical ailments. In Luke 13, we hear about a woman who had been crippled by a demon for 18 years. Matthew 17 records that a boy with seizures was afflicted by a demon. This is not to say that every physical or mental ailment is caused by a demon, but possession today may occasionally manifest itself in this subtler form.
Comfort for the believer
God is infinitely more powerful than Satan. However, Satan is still powerful and God warns us to take him seriously. It’s still dangerous to reach into the cage to try to pet the lion!
Satan seems to come because of an invitation or a void. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The opposite is true as well. Many who have interacted with demons unintentionally invited Satan in some way, perhaps by attending a séance or even dabbling in the occult. The Bible says “resist,” not “invite.”
In Luke 11, Jesus describes a man who had a demon removed but did not fill that space with God’s truth. The demon returned, bringing seven other demons with him. Jesus ends the account by saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (verse 28). The Bible says to fill your mind with God’s truth!
Finally, go with the comfort God gives: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
Have a question, ask it here!
Author: David Scharf
Volume 109, Number 07
Issue: July 2022
- Q&A: Do parts of the Bible teach works righteousness?
- Q&A: How can I overcome my struggle with lust and pornography?
- Q&A: How should I help my child struggling with same-sex attraction?
- Q&A: Should Christians pray to saints?
- Q&A: Is anger sinful?
- Q&A: How can parents encourage adult children who wander from the faith?
- Q&A: Does the doxology belong in the Lord’s Prayer?
- Q&A: Is God fair?
- Q&A: When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” what are we praying for?
- Q&A: How can I better manage what God has given me this year so that I glorify him?
- Q&A: What are ways to glorify God besides singing in church?
- Q&A: I have no special gifts, and I mess up all the time. Does God really need me?
- Q&A: How do I overcome the feeling that my life has no purpose and I don’t make a difference?
- Q&A: My friend died and was not a professing Christian. What do I say to the family?
- Q&A: How can my mother and I forgive my father for being unfaithful and causing my parents to divorce?
- Q&A: Why were demon possession, gifts of healing, and gifts of tongues more prevalent in biblical times?
- Q&A: Is Christianity the only religion that gives the certainty of heaven?
- Q&A: If people go to hell, isn’t it their fault because God gave them free will and they rejected him?
- Q&A: Why are the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension important for the disciples and for us?
- Q&A: Can you explain Jesus’ words to the wailing women he met on his way to be crucified?
- Q&A: What if spouses don’t “love” each other anymore?
- Q&A: Is it wrong to have a cross with Jesus’ body on it?
- Q&A: Is our time of grace really unchangeable?
- Q&A: I know that we are saved by grace apart from works, but how can it be that easy?
- Q&A: Are there degrees of glory in heaven as a reward for good works?
- Q&A: Do Lutherans take the Bible literally and teach millennialism?
- Q&A: Are there different interpretations of the Bible?
- Q&A: How can we be sure the Bible includes what God originally gave us?
- Q&A: Why does it seem like Christianity is so negative?
- Q&A: How can I explain how Jesus’ resurrection is possible and if the Bible is reliable?
- Q&A: Is it okay to live together if we are planning to get married?
- Q&A: How is the Bible God’s Word?
- Q&A: Were we “created to make a difference”?
- Q&A: Am I being judgmental if I point out someone’s sin?
- Q&A: Do I need to read the Bible to have a relationship with God?
- Q&A: Can a Christian vote for a political candidate who supports abortion?
- Q&A: Does God really care?
- Q&A: Does it really matter how God made the world?
- Q&A: Does God send people to hell?
- Q&A: Is death natural?
- Q&A: How can I forgive and forget?
- Q&A: Does God help those who help themselves?
- Q&A: How can we say that the Old Testament God is the same as the New Testament God?
- Q&A: Is Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
- Q&A: Doesn’t God want me to be happy?
- Light for our path: Does God hate us?
- Light for our path: What kind of comfort can you give someone when a loved one commits suicide?
- Light for our path: What does a submissive wife in a Christian marriage look like?
- Light for our path: Is it a sin to want to die from a terminal illness?
- Light for our path: What advice can you give about applauding in church?
- Light for our path: Can you please explain Matthew 5:20?
- Light for our path: What is karma?
- Light for our path: Can the devil personally be tempting me and a lot of other people at exactly the same time?
- Light for our path: Does the word Easter refer to Ishtar, the Babylonian fertility goddess?
- Light for our path: What role does emotion play in contrition?
- Light for our path: What does the white stone in Revelation 2:17 mean?
- Light for our path: Is the cross symbol now anti-Christian?
- Light for our path: Were Joseph and Mary engaged or married when Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy?