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Matthew 8:28-34 by Robert Dean
Fearsome, naked wild men that are too strong to be chained. Two thousand pigs rushing off a cliff. A crowd begging Jesus to leave. Listen to this lesson to see that all of these are connected when Jesus uses His authority to cast out demons and allows them to take up residence in pigs. See why the demons asked if Jesus was going to torment them before the right time. Understand the differences between demon influence and demon possession. See if there is a passage of Scripture that tells how to know if someone is demon possessed. Learn why Christians need not fear demon possession but need to avoid demon influence by letting their thinking be overhauled by the Word of God.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:52 mins 47 secs

The Power of Jesus; Deviled Ham
Matthew 8:28-34
Matthew Lesson #052
September 28, 2014

Since the early seventies when the film The Exorcist came out there has been a sort of infatuation, as well as a concern, among many Americans and others in the world with the demonic and demon possession. If we have been watching television lately we will have noticed that Hollywood is really promoting a new movie coming out called Annabelle. Apparently, from what I have discerned from just watching the trailers that are being shown on television, is that this has to do with one of those evil, really wicked-looking dolls that somehow has a demon attached to it. The parents of this infant have purchased this doll and brought it into their home, and as a result they have inadvertently brought a demon into the house. That forms the basis for the whole plot.

It is really interesting when we see these kinds of movies come out since The Exorcist because so many people, Christian and non-Christian, just have a lot of confusion about the role of the demons—who they are and what they can and cannot do. In fact, this very idea that somehow demons attach themselves to certain objects and that if you travel in the Far East and you pick up a Buddha, or pick up another object that has some religious connotation and bring it home, then you too can unwittingly bring a demon into your house.

The first time I ran across that idea was a number of years ago when Hal Lindsey published his second book, Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. The focus was on the occult, on Satanology, demonology, warning people. He did a good job of explaining the angelic conflict, but one of the areas in which he slipped tremendously was in the area of the demonic and its relationship to believers. He was fine on demon influence, but he had picked up too many ideas from interacting with people who had experience with the occult or with demons. One of the major problems in this area is that there are a number of people who have come out of various backgrounds where they have been involved in the occult, and they have had various experiences with that which they believe in demonic. I say it that way because it may or may not have something to do with being demonic. We need to raise the question: how do we really know if someone is demon possessed?

I would imagine that if I took a poll and asked people if they think that Stalin was demon possessed or Hitler was demon possessed or the Aetolia Khomeini was demon possessed, that there would be a lot of people who would say yes, of course. That is because we think man is a lot better than he really is, and so when anybody crosses a certain line and commits certain kinds of sins—genocide, mass murder, or certain sexual sins—that they could only do that if there were demons involved. In fact, there was a professor at Dallas Seminary—one of three who were released from their contracts back in the mid-eighties because of their involvement in what has come to be known as the Vineyard Movement or The Signs and Wonders Movement—who taught people that if there sexual abuse in your background it is always involved with the demonic. Where in the world did he get that? These ideas come along that are attached to what I would call a sort of myth related to demonism. They sound good. There are people who have had these experiences, but how do you evaluate them? The only way we can evaluate them is from the Word of God. And there are a lot of really odd ideas about demons and demon possession that are sort of part of cultural baggage that we have. Even if you are an atheist, a rationalist, or an empiricist and not religious at all, it is still a part of cultural baggage because of the way it has been introduced into our culture via a lot of Hollywood films and TV shows and popular literature.

Let's not forget Shirley McClain who was out on a broken limb and said many things that became mainstream, and the whole new age movement that she was sort of a spokesperson for back in the eighties. We never hear that talked about anymore. Why? Because it has been mainstreamed, and there are many people who believe in a lot of those ideas and it is no longer culturally odd; it is just sort of expected.

When we get into the Gospels we see a number of stories, eight specific instances, where Jesus casts demons out of people who are demon possessed. There are a number of other general statements, as we saw in Matthew 8:16 where we read a summary statement that when evening had come they brought to Him many who were demon possessed. He cast out the spirits with a word and He healed all who were sick. There is a certain connection we will see between healing the sick and casting out demons. That is not saying they had a view that illness was the result of demon possession, although biblically it appears that that could be one consequence.

But we also have to be very careful how we look at these examples. I have read pretty solid individuals, who have written books on demonism and Satanism, and they have looked at these examples in Scripture and looked at the characteristics that are seen among the demon possessed. And they have made the mistake of thinking that gives us a list of symptoms of demon possession. All it does is tell us what happened in those specific instances. We have to be very careful not to extrapolate from a description or a narrative of what happened to doctrinal absolutes. All we can say is, yes demons can produce certain kinds of manifestations. But the Scripture isn't saying that that is what demonism consists of. Just because somebody manifests some of these characteristics doesn't necessarily mean that they are demon possessed. There are a lot of other causes that could be the reason for their behavior. There was a story I read in the paper this last week of a woman who had a stroke, and afterward she just spoke in profanity. Some people would say that if all you can do is speak in profanity it must be demon possession. But there are also ways in which we can have physiological brain damage and it can manifest in a variety of different ways.

So we ought to raise the question: how do we know when a person id demon possessed? When we look at the Scripture it gives us a little guidance but not as much as some people wish it had.             

Last time we looked at this first instance of Jesus' power from His three miracles of power where He stilled the storm, and now we are going to look at the second example of His power when He 'deviled ham'. He cast out demons from the two demon-possessed men. Next time we will look at His healing of the paralyzed man to demonstrate that He can forgive sin. In each one of these miracles of power Jesus is demonstrating something about His claim to be the Messiah. That is why Matthew is picking on these; they are dramatic and extraordinary, but he is cherry picking his evidence to show that Jesus is who He claimed to be. He is not writing these in chronological order; he is arranging them topically or thematically in order to make his point.

In the first instance Jesus demonstrates His power and authority over the forces of creation to show that He is the creator God who sustains and controls creation, and who as Messiah can reverse the damage of sin on creation. He is the ultimate solution to the environmental problem, because the ultimate cause of the environmental problem was Adam's sin, and only the second Adam can resolve that problem. That will begin at the cross.

In the second episode Jesus is demonstrating His authority and power over Satan and the fallen angels, also known as the demons, and that He has the power to deliver the creation from the control of Satan. Satan currently is in control; he usurped that power from Adam by virtue of Adam's sin. When Adam sinned he abdicated, as it were, his position as the king of creation. Satan then becomes the king of creation. He is called the prince of the power of the air in Ephesians 2:2, the god of this age in 2 Corinthians 4:4, and the ruler of this world by Jesus in John 12:31. Then the next time we will see in the third example that Jesus has the divine prerogative to forgive sin, which will be a hallmark of His messianic reign.    

Why does Jesus demonstrate His authority and power over the demons? It is because this fits within the Scriptural flow of what happened back in Genesis 1-3 and what will culminate in Revelation chapter 20. We call this doctrine the angelic conflict.        

What happens in this angelic conflict? Satan rebelled against God in his original position as Lucifer. He is the morning light, the highest of all the angels and called the anointed cherub who covers the throne, so he is very close to God. In Isaiah 14:12-14 he makes five statements about his arrogant ambitions, five "I wills"—I will be like God is his final goal. He desires to be like God. When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden it is Satan who takes on the guise of a creature, a serpent, and tempts Eve. So man's fall is directly related to Satan's fall and this angelic rebellion against God. As they sinned the result is that it plunges the universe, all of God's creation, into the corruption of sin. So now we all live in a fallen world.

From the moment Eve and Adam listened to Satan the world system, the cosmic system, comes under satanic influence. When Eve is tempted to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that was not a sin. The only sin as God defines it in Genesis 2 is eating the fruit. It wasn't anything else that was defined as a possible sin; only the eating of the fruit the instant that she yields to that temptation. What has been going on here? This is something called demon influence or Satan influence; she is influenced to rebel against God. We use this term satanic or demonic influence, and basically it means any fact whereby we are influenced to disobey God. That is in one way or another demon influence. That means all human viewpoint thinking is really demon influence. Anything that is built upon Satan's thought system, which is grounded on arrogance, is demon influence.

When we watch wonderful movies that seem very nice and have great moral themes but they are not built upon the Word of God—they are heavily influenced by Protestant liberal theology like the Disney film Pollyanna—we are talking about films that are promoting religious morality which is demon influence.

The reason I point that out is because a few years ago I was teaching on this topic at the Conservative Theological Society meeting at Fort Worth, and afterward I was asked the question about whether or not children should read Harry Potter. I said that the only reason they don't like Harry Potter is because he has made overt what is really covert in many films. Any film, any work of literature, any novel that is expressing morality apart from God is producing demon influence. We just never think of it that way. We think that somehow this is good because it is morally good, but in another sense it is a moral good that is wrapped up in the context of a rationale of independence from God; that somehow we can do absolute good that is pleasing to God without going to the cross and walking by the Spirit. That is just a lie from the pit of Hell.

So I am challenging us to think more correctly about how we look at some of these different things. If you are upset about reading Harry Potter then don't read any literature. Don't go to any movie whatsoever. The issue isn't that it talks about witches or magic or any of those things, the issue is any literature, anything that promotes morality, goodness, utopian thought, anything, apart from absolute one hundred per cent dependence on God. Unless it is promoting one hundred per cent absolute dependence upon God it is just the lie of the devil. Therefore that is by nature demon influence or satanic influence.

This dominates the cosmic system, the world system, until Jesus comes back. At the first advent He offered the kingdom. In the kingdom there would be this overturning of Satan's power. And when we go to Revelation 20:1-3 we discover that when Jesus does establish His kingdom, what happens to Satan and the demons? The demons aren't mentioned in Revelation 20. What happens to them? They are confined to the abyss for a thousand years. It is important to understand that because that is what happens in this episode.

We have to understand the message of Matthew to understand Matthew. The message of Matthew is, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". The issue is, will they accept the kingdom? When we get into this episode with these demons their question of Jesus doesn't come out in Matthew but it certainly comes out in the parallels in Mark, and especially Luke chapter eight where the demons say: "Are you going to torment us before the time, are you going to send us to the abyss?" That is the key word here. When does that occur? That occurs when Jesus establishes His kingdom. Here is Jesus showing up on the earth at the first advent offering the kingdom, and they are saying: "Are you here already?" They understand the whole pre-millennium kingdom message of Jesus' first advent. The Jews rejected that but they understand it. That is what they are afraid of, that their time is up and they are going to get sent to the abyss. They are not because the kingdom is going to be rejected and therefore postponed.

All of that gives us just an understanding and orientation to this episode as to why it is included in the Gospels and why it is important. It demonstrates that Jesus has authority over Satan and the fallen angels, the demons. He is their creator. Second, it shows that He is the creator God who sustains and controls creation in the midst of satanic infiltration and control. And third, it shows that He has the power to deliver the creation eventually from the control of Satan.

Defining demon influence: Any thought, any framework of thinking that is built upon a foundation that we can find life apart from one hundred percent dependence upon God.

A lot of things are produced as demon influence. All of the philosophies of man, all of the religions of man are the result of demon influence. They can take many different forms, even opposing forms, but they all fit under the umbrella of demon influence, human viewpoint thinking, worldly thinking, cosmic thinking; all of these describe the same kind of thing. Whether you are talking about Buddhism, Mormonism, Islam or Hinduism, they are all part of the devil's world and they are all part and result of demon influence.

Demon possession is something that is different. It takes place when an individual—an unbeliever always; never a believer—is invaded by one or more demons and they are able to take control of his body functions to an extraordinary degree. They override the personality and the volition of the individuals, but not absolutely because that personality, that individual and his volition are still in that person and they can still respond to the gospel, which is the solution.

Matthew 8:28 NASB " When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. {They were} so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way."

It appears as you read through the English text that this comes immediately after the storm. That is not necessary. Remember that Matthew is just taking different episodes. We see a chronological development a little better in the Gospel of Luke but here Matthew is just moving to the next example of Jesus' power as the Messiah. Gadarenes: the majority of manuscripts have Gergesenes. There is a textual variant here that shows up in a couple of the more ancient documents and that is the basis for the Nestle or the Critical Text, which is the basis for a lot of modern translations such as the NASB, NIV, ESV. This is a notoriously difficult problem. I think the solution is rather simple, and that is to go with the Majority Text view.

According to the Gospel accounts, when Jesus arrives He is met by two men who were demon possessed. In Matthew it says there are two men. In Mark and Luke they only focus on one man. Both men came but apparently one man was the passive partner there and didn't say much, it was the other who was the most fearsome, powerful and vocal and carried out most of the conversation. So Mark and Luke just focus on the one man, whereas Matthew tells us there were actually two men. They are naked; they are covered in crusty dried blood; they had been living among the tombs and according to the Mosaic Law were unclean because they were living among the dead. It signifies their identification with Satan and that which is unclean. They are a terrifying sight, and anyone who saw them approach would naturally want to flee from them. They come running up to Jesus as soon as He gets off the boat.

Matthew 8:29 NASB "And they cried out, saying, 'What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?' "

In the Mark account the man bowed down before Jesus (Mark 5:6). This is not worshipping. It is the same word, PROSKUNEO, and it literally means to bow down. They are under the authority of God and so they are bowing down to Jesus, the eternal Son of God. They recognize who He is and so they have to bow down to Him; but they are not worshipping Him. This isn't a positive thing. And it is not that the man is bowing down. This man's personality is totally in the background; it is the demons using the man's voice. In Mark 5:7 he says: "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!" So they recognize who Jesus is. This doesn't mean they are saved, it just means they know who God is. Demons and Satan know who God is but that doesn't mean that they are saved.

They ask the question: "Have You come here to torment us before the time?" That time is related to the establishment of the kingdom. When the kingdom is established Satan will be confined for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3). This passage, as indicated in Luke, would suggest that not only will Satan be cast into the abyss for a thousand years but all of the demons as well, to be released at the end of the millennial kingdom.

These men ask basically three questions. First, "What have we to do with each other, Son of God?" They recognize His authority and no matter what they want to do they must submit to His authority. The principle there is that no matter what happens in this life when there is demonic involvement demons can only do what God allows them to do. Demons and Satan do not operate free from God's authority. In the book of Job which gives us an understanding of how the angelic conflict is related to human suffering Satan can't do anything to Job unless first he gets God's permission. So God is in control, and here we see the same thing; Jesus is in control.

Third question: Matthew 8:31 NASB "The demons {began} to entreat Him, saying, 'If You {are going to} cast us out, send us into the herd of swine'."

"Cast us out" in the Greek is EKBALLO. It is important to understand these terms as we see them related to demon possession because it helps us understand and define demonism. There is a big battle over this among evangelicals, and in reading recent commentaries they have all succumbed to this fraudulent view of the language, in my opinion, and they say, well DAIMONIZOMAI really doesn't mean demon possessed. What they do is look at the dictionary for the word possessed and the first meaning means ownership and so they say these people aren't owned by Satan, therefore there is no such thing as demon possession. Well the second meaning of the word is to dwell somewhere, to take up habitation somewhere. If you are living somewhere then you are in possession of that domicile, that home. So they pick the wrong meaning for possess and then say that wouldn't happen in the New Testament.

The word DAIMONIZOMAI is a passive participle that indicates that one is acted upon by a demon. It doesn't talk about just being indwelt by a demon. It is a general word but in all of these contexts there are specific words that help us understand the specific meaning of DAIMONIZOMAI. It never shows up in any passage related to demon influence, it only shows up in passages that have these other three words: a) EISERCHOMAI. ERCHOMAI is the root word meaning to come or to go somewhere. The prefix EIS means to go into something. When Jesus cast out a demon the word for casting or throwing is BALLO; EK is the prefix that means out of. To cast a demon out of implies that the demon previously had to be in something. This is the word that describes EXERCHOMAI, to come or go out of something. We see this specifically stated in the language of the Mark passage where the demon says, "If you are going to cast us out [EKBALLO] then send us into [EISERCHOMAI] the herd of swine." They are going into the pigs.

Matthew 8:32 NASB "And He said to them, 'Go!' And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters."

Jesus commanded them to come out of the man [EXERCHOMAI] and to go into [EISERCHOMAI]. Those terms are very precise, and they show up in all of these examples where there is more than just a summary statement. All of these are examples of demon possession, therefore DAIMONIZOMAI clearly means by usage that a demon has gone into somebody, and the solution is that that demon needs to come out of somebody.

How do you know if a person is demon possessed? There have been a lot of suggestions over the years as to how you identify demon possession. I challenge anybody to find a passage of Scripture that gives us that information. The reason we know these people in the Gospels were demon possessed—not crazy, not on drugs, not having too many hallucinogenic mushrooms to eat, or whatever it might be—is because the Bible tells us they were demon possessed. Otherwise, how would we know? There have been people down through the generations who have given us lists so that you can tell how a person is demon possessed. This is all guesswork. It has no foundation in Scripture, it is based on people's experiences or their imagination, or the way they think it ought to be. 2 Corinthians 12 tells us that Satan and his ministers (demons) appear as angels of light. They are engaged in a lot of counterfeit operations. They appear to be good when in fact they are evil.

Here is one example of a rabbi in the third century AD who said there were four characteristics that would describe someone who was demon possessed: a) walking about at night; b) spending the night on a grave; c) tearing one's clothes; d) destroying things you have been given.

Another list was given in Puritan literature in the 1600s. a) If you led a wicked life; b) If you were persistently ill or you fell into a heavy sleep; c) vomiting unusual objects—toads, serpents, worms, stones, nails, pins, etc.; d) if you blaspheme; e) if you make a pact with the devil or are troubled with spirits; f) if you show a frightening or horrible countenance; g) if you are tired of living; h) uncontrolled and violent; i) if you make sounds and movements like an animal.

Then we fast forward up to the 20th century and there are several people who have made different lists. There was one German Christian evangelical by the name of Kurt Koch who wrote several books on the topic. He said that evidence of demon possession was cursing, grinding teeth, suicide, or falling into a trance. He said that possessing demons emit a scornful laugh if you hear someone talking about the cross of Christ or the blood of Jesus, and that the person possessed will display evil and hateful expressions, especially if spiritual things are talked about.

All of these things are just guesses. The Scripture doesn't tell us. People have deduced from their experience, but that doesn't mean that it has any basis in fact. Another one of these examples is this idea that a demon can attach itself to an object. I'm not saying yes or no, but this has entered into a sort of modern demonology that you can buy an object that has been used in some other religious worship somewhere and if you bring it into your house you run the risk of having a demon in the house. Hal Lindsey has several anecdotes in his book about that. It is just an experience-based supposition; it is not an absolute; it is not in any way something that is actual.

Matthew 8:30 NASB "Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them." Mark tells us there were about 2,000. We are also told in a parallel passage that Jesus enquired of the demon what his name was. He said his name was legion. A legion was also about 2,000 in the Roman army, so there is a connection there—2,000 pigs, 2,000 demons, and each one can have his own little piggy home!

He begs Him then: "If You {are going to} cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." This seems to indicate that the demons like to have something to possess. They want to have a material connection to the material world. Jesus gives them permission. At this point they come out and the whole herd runs off violently down the cliff into the sea, and they all die.

Some people have said there shouldn't have been any pigs there because this is Jewish. On that side of the Sea of Galilee it was a Gentile area. There were a number of Jews living there but it was predominantly a Gentile area, and so the Gentiles were perfectly fine raising pigs. But they have lost their livelihood, and there is a negative response. Matthew introduces us for the first time to opposition to Jesus. It comes from these Gentiles on the east side of the Jordan River.

Matthew 8:33 NASB "The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. [34] And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region."

They didn't want Him interrupting their lifestyle. The eternal Son of God has invaded into the world and they are rejecting Him. This is the first sign of coming rejection.

What we learn from this episode is that Jesus is in complete authority and control of Satan and the demons. This will not come to its full evidence until the millennial kingdom when Jesus casts the demons and Satan into the abyss. But is shows us that He has control. Christians should not fear or worry about the demonic. 1 John says, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." Greater is the Holy Spirit than Satan or the demons that are in the world. We can have complete confidence in that. We can be confident that Christians can't be demon possessed, very simply because we are a temple of the Holy Spirit. In the past people have simplified that in the wrong way and said, well God can't reside where a demon resides or a demon can't be in the same place as God. But in passages of Scripture Satan enters into the throne room of God. The real issue there was missed. It is an exegetical issue. The word for temple used in 1 Corinthians 3:16 is NAOS. There are two words for temple. There is HIEROS, which involves the whole temple precinct, and NAOS, which is the holy of holies. NAOS is the inner sanctum, the holiest of holy places. We are made a NAOS of God, not a HIEROS; nothing evil can enter in. In the Old Testament if anything entered into the holy of holies they instantly died. It was the most sanctified place, and that is how our bodies are described. On that basis we don't have to be concerned about demon possession.

However, when we are in carnality and we are not studying the Word we must be worried and concerned about demon influence. That is what our sin nature feeds on to develop its rationales of disobedience to God. That is what we must focus on. The only way to have victory over demon influence is, as Paul puts it in Romans 12:2, we are not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our thinking. That only comes by constant study of the Word, reading the Word, letting our thinking be completely overhauled by the doctrines that are in the Scripture.