The Bible Vocabulary of Demon Activity (4:33-36)
The familiar Bible term "demon-possessed" has controlled our thinking about people troubled with demons. But the word "possessed" is one of those final, all-or-nothing expressions. And it prevents us from understanding the mechanisms involved in demon activity within humans. Let's study further:
• "Unclean spirit" (20 references in the NT, including Luke 4:33; 6:18; 8:29; 9:42; 11:24). The Greek word pneuma, the same word used to translate Holy Spirit, is modified by akatharos, "unclean." NIV uniformly translates "unclean spirit" as "evil spirit" with a footnote.
• "Evil spirit" uses pneuma modified by the Greek word poneros (only 4x in the NT: Luke 7:21; 8:2; Acts 19:12-13; 15-16)
• "Demon" (Used 50+ times in the NT, such as Luke 4:41), Greek daimonion, "demon, evil spirit." Always translated by the KJV as "devil" or "devils."
• "Demon-possessed" (Luke 8:36; in Matthew 4:24; 8:16, 28, 33; 9:32; 12:22; Mark 1:32; 5:15f; John 10:21; Acts 19:14). The Greek word is daimonizonai, literally "to demonize" from daimonion, "demon, evil spirit." A blood washed Child of God CANNOT be POSSESSED! BUT! They can be influenced and oppressed by demons.
• "Lunatick" (KJV) or "have seizures" (Greek seleniazomai, Matthew 4:24; 17:15)
• "Bind," Greek deo, used in the context of demons twice (Luke 13:16 and Matthew 12:29=Mark 3:7, cf. Luke 8:22 "assails and overcomes"). It is also used in connection with the power of prayer (Matthew 16:19; 18:18).
• "Healed" (Greek therapeuo or iamai or sozo), occasionally used to describe the state of a person from whom a demon has been driven out. (Luke 8:2, 36; 9:42; Matthew 12:22; Mark 16:9; Acts 10:38).
• "cast out" (Greek ekballo)
• "rebuke" (Greek epitimao, Luke 4:41; 9:42). The Greek word means " 'rebuke, reprove, censure' also 'speak seriously, warn' in order to prevent an action or bring one to an end.
Let's examine the word daimonizonai, often translated "demon-possessed." The word isn't a compound word. It is the word "demon" with an ending -izonai, a class of imitative verbs, where the ending -izo indicates "acts like, imitates." While the lexicons translate it "to be demon-possessed," perhaps from the world view represented in early Judaism, all the word requires is a meaning such as "to be influenced, oppressed, or controlled by a demon, to be like a demon." Some have coined the word "demonization" to describe this demonic activity.
The reason this is important is that when your categories are limited to "demon possessed" or "not demon possessed," then we all agree that it is impossible for a Christian to be demon possessed, since by definition a Christian has the Holy Spirit.
Degrees of Demonization in the New Testament
However, experience and careful theological reflection on the scriptures indicate the need for a more thoughtful terminology. Missionaries and others who work commonly with people afflicted with demonic problems affirm that indeed Christians can be affected. Even though Christians have the Holy Spirit in them, there may be various places in their life where demon oppression is strong. Consider the following passages:
The Apostle Paul instructs us, "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (Greek topos)" (Ephesians 4:26-27). The implication is that if you give into anger often and carry a grudge, then the devil will gain a place in your life. The word topos means "place," but can have the special meaning as in the Ephesians passage of "possibility, opportunity, chance".
Though Satan has "filled" Ananias' heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, yet Ananias and his wife Sapphira are held morally responsible for their action, and thus punished for giving into Satan (Acts 5:1-11). Judas, too, had a similar experience: "Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve" (Luke 22:3). "The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted (literally "put into the heart of," Greek ballo) Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus" (John 13:2). "As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into (eiserchomai) him" (John 13:27a). Was Judas morally responsible? Of course. He was tempted by money and probably other motives (Luke 22:3-6). Just because Jesus' betrayal fulfilled prophecy doesn't absolve Judas of responsibility for his actions. "Woe to that man by whom he is betrayed..." (Luke 22:22). Even though Satan's temptations can be strong, especially when he gets a foothold of sin in our heart, we can't pass off responsibility by saying, "The devil made me do it."