The Gospel writer Luke describes two types of healings that Jesus performed. One type of healing was a medical condition and the other type involved demons. For example, when Peter’s mother-in-law was ill, Jesus stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. (Luke 4:39)
In other cases, the patient may appear to be suffering from a medical condition, but after Jesus commands a demon to flee, the patient recovers. A good example is the young boy who was diagnosed with epilepsy, a chronic nervous disorder of the brain affecting consciousness and muscular control. Everyone was convinced the boy was untreatable. Yet Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. (Matthew 17:18)
The same thing happened with a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years. It was a medical problem being caused by demons. She was bent over and couldn’t stand up straight. Demons entered the woman’s body and attached themselves to her bones and muscles. They were interfering with the electrical impulses in her nervous system.
After diagnosing the problem, Jesus laid hands on her and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” (Luke 13:12)
When the leaders of the synagogue became indignant because he healed on the Sabbath, Jesus showed them a more in-depth view of her situation. He responded, “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16)
It wasn’t a medical problem, it was bondage to Satan. Somewhere in her past she made an agreement with evil through her sinfulness and a demon developed a stronghold in her life. It may have started out with a simple temptation which gave way to a reoccurring sin, or it may have passed on from her parent’s abuse in the form of emotional wounds.
By studying Scripture, we can see that demons have a need to dwell inside living creatures. They can experience emotions, express their desires, and speak through humans. They have the ability to make intelligent decisions and to network with other evil spirits. They can pool their powers together, possess in great numbers, and even exert great physical strength. A good example of all these abilities comes from the man at Gerasen.
After Jesus stepped out of the boat, a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” (Mark 5:2-9)
Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea. (Mark 5:11-13)
The demons used their ability to speak when they addressed Jesus as Son of the Most High God. They expressed their desires when they begged Jesus to send them into the swine. They wanted to inhabit a living being, whether it was the man or the pigs. There was a legion of them all working together, who gave the man the strength to wrench apart chains and break shackles into pieces.
One of the most common assaults demons inflict upon humanity comes in the form of temptations. Demons have the ability to insert thoughts into our minds. In fact, that’s one of Satan’s titles—the great tempter. (Matthew 4:3) Every day Christians are bombarded with the tiny whispering voice that speaks everything from lies to sinful desires.
Other times demons will insert depressing and discouraging thoughts in a voice that sounds similar to the person’s own internal dialogue. “I’m stupid. I can’t do anything right. Nobody likes me.” If the man agrees with these thoughts, he may start feeling discouraged. Instead of overcoming the obstacles that are blocking his path, he may lose energy and motivation. When prolonged over time, this kind of negative thinking can affect his brain chemistry and eventually lead to depression. If the downward spiral continues, it may even lead to thoughts of suicide.
Look at what happened to Job. After Satan manipulated the Chaldeans’ thought processes and filled their hearts with malicious intent, they formed three columns and made a raid on Job’s camels. They killed his servants with the edge of the sword and afterwards a great wind, influenced by the evil forces in nature, came across the desert and struck the four corners of his eldest son’s house, causing it to collapse on the young people inside.
Satan even attacked Job’s flesh with sickness and disease. The accuser of our comrades went before God’s throne and obtained permission. Afterwards God said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. (Job 2:6-7)
Satan is the ruler of this world, the roaring lion who prowls around looking for someone to devour, the accuser of our comrades and the father of all lies. The thief only has one purpose, and that is to kill, steal and destroy. Demons can cause physical health problems, accidents and disease. They have the power to destroy lives, marriages and relationships.