An Encounter with Demons

by Spiros Zodhiates

Spiros Zodhiates(Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-21; Luke 8:26-40)

(Dr. Zodhiates continues his exegesis of the Gospel of Matthew.)

[Verse 28] The exact location where this healing of "two possessed with devils" occurred is a matter of conjecture. It was possibly near a town close to the lake called Gergesa (UBS: Gadara).

Two "demoniacs" (from daimonzomai [1139], literally, "ones being demonized") are mentioned in this verse, whereas Mark 5:2 and Luke 8:27 mention only one of them. They were so "fierce" (from chaleps [5467], violent, wild, as spoken of the "last days" in 2 Tim. 3:1) that no one "could" (from ischo  [2480], to have strength) pass by that road, that is, without an escort or weapons.

The Bible assumes the existence of demons. Satan or Beelzebub (954) is called "the prince of the devils [demons]" (Matt. 9:34). Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden at the very beginning of human history according to the record in Genesis. First John 3:8 describes the devil (Satan) as sinning "from the beginning." His disposition to challenge the veracity of God was shown at the beginning of creation. God did not originally create Satan to be evil. Satan chose to become evil, and since God cannot tolerate evil, He cast Satan out of heaven. The devil is called that "old [from archaos {744}, original, beginning] serpent [from phis {3789}, a nonpoisonous snake, as compared with échidna {2191}, viper]" (Rev. 20:2)-no doubt an allusion to the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:4).

Demons are immaterial, evil beings endowed with personalities that can possess both unbelievers (v. 28) and animals (v. 32), causing spiritual and physical disorders. However, people who have physical disorders are not usually possessed by demons (Mark 5:25-34). Demonic possession may be permanent or temporary (see Matt. 12:43, 44).

In Mark 1:23 and 5:2, we read the phrase, "a man with an unclean spirit [from pnema {4151}]." Christ revealed that God is a Spirit (John 4:24). As Spirit, He knows all spirits. He sends good angels from heaven to minister to people on earth (Heb. 1:14), but the "angel of the bottomless pit" (Rev. 9:11) and demons harm humans and are properly called evil (pone r [4190], harmful; Luke 7:21; 8:2) spirits. Unclean spirits also can vex unbelievers (Luke 6:18). But the greater power of the Spirit of God causes believers to overcome the spirit of antichrist: "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:3, 4).

While in the Gospels evil spirits seem to indwell mostly adult men, demons seem to be no respecter of age or gender. Jesus cast evil spirits from women (Luke 8:2; 13:11, 16), a young boy (Luke 9:39), and also the little daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:25).

[29] "And, behold [ido {2400}]," the familiar imperative calling attention to something extraordinary (see Matt. 3:16), in this case, the recognition of Jesus Christ as the Son of God: "[The demons] cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son [from huis {5207}] of God?"

[30-34] In Matthew 4:3,6, the devil said to Jesus, "If [ei {1487}, the if' of supposition] thou be the Son of God," a suppositional "if." The "if" in verse 31 is also the suppositional ei ("suppose" or "inasmuch as"), presupposing a direct recognition of Jesus' Spirit-to-spirit opposition. These demons were forced to confess not only the Lord's knowledge of them but also the lack of any common ground between them. They knew that Jesus would oppose their evil work and inevitably cast them into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).

Already assuming that Christ would cast them out, they asked permission (from epitrépo  [2010]) to enter a herd of swine.

The death of an entire herd of pigs must have been a serious financial loss to these people, so they "besought" (from parakaléo  [3870]) Jesus to leave their area (v. 34). Evidently, they did not consider the healing of the demoniacs worth the financial loss of their pigs.

Dr. Zodhiates is president emeritus of AMG International and publisher emeritus of Pulpit Helps.

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