Acts 19:11-18 by Robert Dean
A man with a demonic spirit inside him leaps on seven sons and in a smack-down brawl leaves them battered and naked. No, this isn't the adrenaline-charged plot of an action movie. It's a true incident in the book of Acts. Discover the Greek words for demon possession and different categories of demons. See how Paul, through the power of God, was healing sicknesses and casting out demons, making the jealous exorcists in Ephesus try to copy him. Find out how demon possession was active during the two offers of the Kingdom of God to the Jews during the first century.

Kingdom Offers; Exorcism vs. Casting Out
Acts 19:11-18

Acts 19:11-22 is the story about the apostle Paul and the miracles that were done through Paul—God is performing these miracles through him—and they include healing people from disease and casting out demons. Then there is an extremely humorous story told through these Jewish exorcists. They have become completely immersed in paganism and magic and so they were probably kicked out of Israel, and they are floating through the Middle East performing these magical incantations. Because they had some sort of connection to the priesthood that gives them a level of credibility that they are playing on and they go through this little episode where they hear Paul cast out demons in the name of Jesus. They see it seems to work better than what they are doing so they decide to use his "incantation." So on the basis of the name of Jesus they try to cast out a demon. The demon says it has heard of Paul but "Who are you?" This all relates back to what Acts 19:8 says about Paul teaching in relationship to the kingdom. 

So this lesson is about kingdom offers and we need to go back and reexamine our understanding of the kingdom again, and then exorcism versus casting out demons. We could also call this "My seven sons", or we could call it, "Don't be messing with the name of Jesus."

A question has come up on the kingdom of God. Understanding what the Scripture teaches about the kingdom of God is not easy and there is a plethora of views on the kingdom of God. What I am teaching is what you will only hear from a dispensational, premillennial, pre-Tribulation theology. I am not teaching this because that is what dispensationalism teaches, I am teaching this because it is what the Bible teaches when you consistently apply a literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic. And dispensationalism as a studied theology is relatively new. It was first articulated and really systematized by a brilliant English-Irish lawyer-turned-theologian named John Nelson Darby. That began in the 1830s. He lived until the 1870s and it is through that time that he really developed and systematized dispensationalism. Then it went through a period of expansion and further development under C.I Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, R.A. Torrey and a number of others within that period between the turn of the century and World War II. It went under a further stage of refinement after World War II under the influence of major thinkers such as John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, and numerous of others. 

In the early eighties a shift occurred. What happened within dispensationalism is the same thing that happened to Israel in 1 Samuel chapter eight. The Israelites who were unique and distinct among all the other peoples did not have a king, they had a theocracy and God was their King. They looked round and got bit by the bug and wanted to be like everybody else. They rebelled against Samuel who was a prophet and judge and said, "We want to have a king like everybody else." That really irritated Samuel, but God said not to take it personally, you are not the one they have rejected, they have rejected me. So God gave them a king after their own heart. Later on their king was going to be replaced by a king who was going to be a king after God's heart. Well, what happened to dispensationalists in the 1980s was they wanted to have a theology that was considered respectable by everybody else. They wanted to be respected by everybody else and they sort of invented a new development of dispensationalism which really isn't dispensationalism; it is called progressive dispensationalism.

The key issue in this is the kingdom. The whole idea of what the Bible teaches about the kingdom is very important. When you talk to most Christians who are taught out of an amillennial position—like Roman Catholics, Lutherans or Presbyterians—these aren't issues, because as far as they are concerned the kingdom did come in at Pentecost, the kingdom is roughly equivalent to the church, and the kingdom is a spiritual reign in our hearts. The issues we are addressing would never occur to them to investigate because they don't have a literal view of the kingdom, they don't have a literal interpretation of Scripture.

We have been talking about the kingdom in terms of the transition in Acts. In the beginning of Acts they were still in the age of Israel, still in the dispensation of the Messiah because He was still teaching for forty days after the resurrection about the kingdom of God. This is a major theme all the way through Acts. People are coming to Paul and he is teaching them about the kingdom of God. In many of those verses that is all it says. But there are a few places that do teach us some specifics about what is going on with the kingdom of God.

Last time we talked about the relationship of the kingdom offer and the signs and wonders. This didn't change anything, it added another layer of information to it. In the past the most that has been emphasized is that the signs and wonders gave credibility or validation to the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah and the message of the apostles (1 Corinthians 12:12). But there is another layer to that and that is that these miracles were miracles of healing that were to be associated with the coming of the King, the root of Jesse—a descendant of David. So it is not associated with the New covenant, it is associated with the Davidic covenant. It is associated with the coming of the King and the presence of the King and the message of the kingdom. Isaiah 61 is clear. It is associating all of those miracles—healings, the lepers being healed, the lame walking, the blind seeing—with the presence of the King and the rule of the King when He comes; not with the New covenant. The New covenant has to do with the change of the spiritual life of the people. The Davidic covenant has to do with the establishment of the King and the kingdom.

We all know that when Jesus came it was an offer of the kingdom. This was the message of John the Baptist, the message of Jesus, and Jesus sent His disciples out to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. We followed that as the message, and in the order of Matthew as we will see, up to Matthew chapter eleven, Matthew just lumps all of these miracle events together so that we get a heavy dose of the credentials of the Davidic King. He is healing the sick, casting out demons, giving sight to the blind; all of these things are going on to validate the offer and that He is the Davidic King, the son of David.

In Matthew chapter twelve the offer is rejected and the Pharisees accuse Jesus of performing miracles specifically casting out demons. That is interesting because there are certain parallels between what happens in Matthew 12 (the context is casting out demons) and what is going on in Acts 19, because the emphasis is on casting out demons in the context of Paul's teaching about the kingdom.

There is the first offer that was rejected and rescinded and in Matthew 12:31-41 it is clear that an inevitable, irreversible judgment is announced on that generation because it is "an evil and adulterous generation." From that point on there are no more statements about the kingdom of heaven being near or at hand. It has clearly been postponed. The issue is, how long is that postponement? After the Holy Spirit comes there is a second offer of the kingdom. That does not mean necessarily that that would rescind the judgment statement of Jesus. It is just too clear.

The Olivet Discourse is a response to a question of the disciples: What are the signs of your coming? Matthew leaves this out and just focuses on the long-term eschatological or long-term fulfillment in terms of the Tribulation, the end of the Tribulation, and His coming then. Luke inserts a section that deals with the near judgment related to AD 70. Luke 21:20-23 NASB "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people."

In about 68-69 AD when Nero died, Vespasian who is heading up the armies of Rome went back to Rome to become emperor. When he does that  the armies that have surrounded Jerusalem pulled back to Caesarea and await the change of power in Rome. During that time the Christian Jews who were living in Jerusalem paid heed to this and they left Jerusalem. No Christians were killed in the final siege and destruction of Jerusalem because they left. That was the beginning historically of the great and deep division between Jews and Christians because the ethnic, patriotic Jews in the land viewed the Christians as being non-supportive of the cause against Rome. But they were hating each other too. They were so divided the different factions were attacking each other as the Romans were breeching the walls. This is what this Luke passage is describing. It is not talking about the times of the abomination of desolation in Matthew, it is not part of this; this is the hear fulfillment.

The desolation upon Jerusalem is prophesied here by Jesus. It is very clear that there is going to be that inevitable, irreversible judgment. The issue is what is going to happen next.

In Acts there is a very clear second offer of the kingdom, and it is expressed also in the whole principle in Romans 1:16, "to the Jew first." In Acts 2:37-40 Peter is very clearly making the offer to the Jews in terms of his language there, and also in Acts 3:19-21 where he says that they are to repent—which goes back to the terminology of Deuteronomy 30 (the language is very much shaped by the language of the Old Testament)—and be converted. The word there doesn't really mean converted, it means to turn—epistrepho. It is equivalent to the Hebrew word shub, a form of which is used in Deut. 30 stating that when they turn back to God, he would then restore them to the land. Restoring them to the land is what happens when the kingdom comes in. Acts 3:19 NASB "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away [personal justification and forgiveness: the personal application of their turning], in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."

This is a really interesting verse because this idea of the times of refreshing, the terminology, is used in Isaiah 28:12. This is where we connect some dots. Isaiah uses that terminology: that the teaching of God about the refreshing is the message that generation, the generation that Isaiah is condemning, has rejected. It is a message about the kingdom. And the judgment stated that will come upon the Jews for that rejection is stated in Isaiah 28:11 NASB "Indeed, He will speak to this people Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue." They are going to hear the message in other tongues. That is the verse that Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 14 to show that tongues is a sign of judgment to Israel, to unbelieving Jews.

It is very clear that there is this offer of the kingdom. It is rejected and there is postponement but it is conditioned upon something in the future. That condition on the human side is on Israel's turning.

Dispensational views on the kingdom: The first two are pretty much traditional dispensationalism. There is not agreement on this and it is interesting how this has worked itself out, what the connections are.

1.      The first view is that the kingdom was offered, rejected and totally postponed. The significant thing here is that this group interprets Matthew 13 and the parables. After the kingdom was rejected and Jesus announces judgment upon the Jewish leaders ship in Matthew 12 He goes on in chapter 13 by starting to teach the parables to veil the truth so that only believers will understand Him. The trouble is that the text says He is teaching the mysteries of the of the kingdom. There are some who take it that He is teaching a mystery form of the kingdom. The implication of that terminology is that it would mean that we are in some form of the kingdom today. But this group of dispensationalists says that there is no mystery form, the mysteries of the kingdom is previously revealed doctrine about the kingdom. It has never been revealed before but there is this postponement and there will be an inter-advent age, the church age, that is going to come between the crucifixion and the beginning of the kingdom. How long that period is no one knows. At the time this was written they were all writing at a time when the temple was still standing and they had no clue. Paul thought Jesus could return in his lifetime. They don't have a sense that this is going to go very long. Those who hold this view generally also hold to a second offer of the kingdom in Acts.

Not one person believes that somehow if the Jews had responded to the message in Acts that AD 70 would not have occurred. All believe that as far as the judgment of AD, it was set. But what happened in the subsequent decades after AD 70 is not that the Jews were all taken from the land. It is not like in 586 BC where they were deported. There was still a massive Jewish population in the land. How do we know that? We know that because some sixty years later there is a second Jewish revolt under Bar Kochba when somewhere between 500,000 and 750,000 Jews were killed. So there was still a large presence of Jews in the land after AD 70, which means that in a sense there had been a turning something different would have occurred after the destruction of the temple.

  1. In the second category the offer is rejected, totally postponed, and we are currently in a mystery form of the kingdom. Those who hold this view generally believe that there is any kind of second offer—people like Dwight Pentecost. Dwight Pentecost and Stan Toussaint who had an office next to one another at Dallas Seminary argued about this for years. Pentecost said there is a mystery form of the kingdom and Toussaint said no, there is not. Toussaint said there is no form of the kingdom today; it has been totally postponed. That is my view. I don't see any form of the kingdom today. That is why I tend to deal, like most of those who take that position, with a legitimate offer of the kingdom. And what makes it legitimate is that there was a real opportunity, just like the first one was legitimate, for Jews exercising free will, looking at the signs and wonders and saying these are the signs of the kingdom and we are going to accept Jesus as the Messiah. But not enough of them did; it didn't make a difference.
  2. The third view is the view of the so-called progressive dispensationalists. They believe the offer was rejected and partially postponed, so that we are in an already-but-not-yet view of the kingdom. The kingdom is here is some aspects but it is not fully here. It is gradually or progressively coming in through the age, that is why it is called progressive dispensationalism.

Stan Toussaint wrote an article several years ago called "No, Not Yet." It is not here in any form whatever. He said in his introduction, which really deals with the issue of are we in any form of the kingdom or not: 

"This article seeks to demonstrate that certain contingencies… 

Contingency is a key word. If you are a Calvinist generally you are going to say there is no contingency, because God in His foreknowledge determines what will take place. Foreknowledge in Calvinism is determinative. It says, God doesn't know all that is knowable, all that could or should have happened; God only knows what He determined will happen. That is the determinism in much of Calvinism. There is no real contingency, no real possibility that they could have done things or responded differently.

… exist for the coming millennial kingdom, contingencies that show that the kingdom is not present today because when Israel rejected Jesus the kingdom was postponed. These contingencies include three things: the sovereignty of God …

We don't know the sovereign will of God until it happens, or unless God tells us what is going to happen.   

… the influence of the Spirit of God…

We don't know that either. That is God's domain and is within the secret counsels of God.

… humanities responsibility for repentance, especially Israel's responsibility for repentance.

Mankind doesn't know what is going on in the mind of God, except for what God has revealed. But what God hasn't revealed, like when the Rapture is going to occur, we don't know. That is in the secret counsel of God. That is determined by His sovereignty.

These things [contingencies] were detailed by the prophets, especially Ezekiel and Haggai, but were confirmed in extra-biblical literature and in the Gospels, especially Matthew. They were affirmed in the historical record of Acts and are still anticipated, as exemplified in Romans. Because these three contingencies have not yet been met one can affirm that the future of the kingdom by the words, No, not yet.

In other words, because Israel hasn't repented yet the kingdom can't come. The kingdom can't come until Israel repents. That's it. From the human side that is the only determinative thing.

The word contingency does not mean that the fulfillment of God's promise to establish the millennial kingdom is uncertain … 

It doesn't mean we don't know what will happen, it means that the timing of the fulfillment is based on these three factors. And of those three factors the only factor that man has any measure of control over is Israel repenting. So these are the three contingencies: the sovereignty of God, the influence of the Spirit of God, and this last one. That is why there is still an offer of the kingdom, and in some sense it is still out there today, although not in the sense it was in Acts because you go through this transition period. And that is the only thing that explains all the issues.

Some may ask: "How could God make this offer when He has already announced the inevitability of judgment?" This is an important question. It's very simple, just read the Bible. Jonah.   

Jonah 3:3, 4 NASB "So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days' walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, 'Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.'" He didn't say, "Unless you repent." There is no contingency in Jonah's message. What did the people do? [5] "Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them."

Jonah 3:10 NASB "When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do {it.}" Does that mean that God would have rescinded the judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70? I don't think so. That is one option. The best option is because of the prophetic statements Jesus made that that had to happen. But if that generation had responded even to that judgment by saying they were going to turn back to God, then a different scenario would have unfolded afterwards. Because there was nothing that talked about how long the period would be between that destruction and the return of Christ. There is nothing there. It could have been a short time; it could have been a long time. And that is as far as we can go with it.  

When Paul comes along and he is teaching on the kingdom he is teaching (the same thing Matthew is doing) that the King came, the kingdom was offered, the Jewish people rejected it, and because they rejected it judgment is coming. Judgment and the eventual arrival of the kingdom is now contingent upon one thing from the human viewpoint and that is that the Jewish people have to repent and turn—the same thing Peter is preaching in Acts 3:19. Until that happens the kingdom isn't going to come and that is the focal point of his message.

So this relates to signs, and this is a major issue in the ministry to Jews. John 2:18 NASB "The Jews then said to Him, "What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?" This was early in Jesus' ministry. 

Matthew 16:4 NASB "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah."

John 2:23 NASB "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing." There is a big emphasis on signs all through Jesus' ministry. John is the Gospel that capitalizes on those.

John 3:2 NASB this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You have come from God {as} a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.'" It is really clear that those signs said something about who Jesus was. And how did Jesus respond? [3] "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'" He said, You can't see the kingdom of God. Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about the kingdom of God. It is still the early part of His ministry, still in that phase where the issue was, "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand." The signs are related to the message.

This is particularly significant, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:22 NASB "For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom." (In some general sense what the Jews were focusing on was that they needed to have some sort of sign in order to believe in the Messiah. And they had them in abundance. Greeks were looking after some sort of rationalistic approach to the gospel.

So this is why there are signs coming in and the reason for the significance of signs in Jesus' ministry. It attests to Him as the Davidic King, and it attests to the nearness and the offer of the kingdom. That is still being offered all through the Acts period, and it is connected to these things that go back to the Old Testament: removing Satan because he is removed from the kingdom (he and the demons are all removed at the beginning of the Millennium), to healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, healing the lame and the lepers. This is what gets emphasized in Acts now.  

Acts 19:11 NASB "God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul." This starts to zero in on some specific events that occurred during this time. [12] so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out."

This sounds to us almost magical, but the Scriptures make a difference between magic and the power of God. This is a scene that is very similar to a scene in the life of Jesus. Luke has made it clear back in Acts chapter five that the miracles performed by Peter in that chapter were parallel to the miracles that Jesus performed. Why? They are carrying out that ministry of proclaiming the kingdom. They were still in a predominately Jewish church, and by Acts 19 it was still within a Jewish context. Luke says, See what Peter does, it is parallel to what the Lord did. He is carrying out the same ministry as what the Lord had. The same thing happens here with Paul.

In Luke chapter eight there is an episode of a woman who has some kind of ongoing hemorrhaging. Luke 8:43 NASB "And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, [44] came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped." Immediately she is healed. And immediately Jesus knows that somebody touched Him. [45] "And Jesus said, 'Who is the one who touched Me?' And while they were all denying it, Peter said, 'Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.' [46] But Jesus said, 'Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.' [47] When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. [48] And He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.'" The emphasis is on the fact that she is trusting Him, she recognizes who He is and that He can heal her.

This situation in Luke 8 is very similar to the one we see in Acts 19. Acts 19:11 NASB "God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul." "By the hands of Paul" is the Greek word dia plus the genitive—"through Paul." It shows secondary agency, like how were you saved? You were saved not because of faith, which would put faith as the cause—it is not because of the hands of Paul; Paul wasn't the origin of this—you were saved by grace through faith; same grammar, dia plus the genitive. It indicates secondary means, the instrument that is used. Paul is just a conduit of the healing power of God. Paul is not the source of healing.

The miracles he performed here were extremely unusual. He didn't do this every place he went. There was something about the context of Ephesus that made it significant that he does this. What we learn about Ephesus at the end of the chapter with the episode with Diana of the Ephesians is that this is a culture that is immersed in the occult, the whole concept of pagan magic and power an incantations, and all of these kinds of things. It is immersed in what we call today witchcraft and the dark arts. In contrast to that we have the miraculous power of God, the genuine healing of God, as it is expressed through the apostles. And so just like Jesus, in this situation Paul is conducting more miracles than anywhere else, but it is unique and distinct. Nowhere else are we told that things like this happened with Paul. Verse 12 says, even to the degree "that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out." So just like the woman who comes up and just touches Jesus' garment, it is not that the garment heals her—that is where magic comes in—it is understanding that they are looking to the person and the clothes and the garments are connected to the person. So it is an act of faith, it is not that they think they are going to get magic power from these things.

There are two things mentioned here. The first is translated handkerchiefs from the Greek root soudarion, the second is aprons which is the Greek word simikinthion. There is a lot of discussion about what these are. The handkerchiefs were probably various sweat rags. He is working as a tentmaker there, so this would be just the work clothes that he has. They didn't have air conditioning and if it was warm weather they would sweat. So these would be the various rags that he had. The aprons would be more or less and apron he would wear around his robe so that it would not get stained or get anything on it. So they just wanted to touch him. And these were his clothes. So they would take even his clothes, and they were brought from his body to the sick. They are trusting in God. This is the intermediate means by which they are accessing the healing power of God at this stage of the early church. The church still had the presence of the miraculous and the sign gifts, and they are attesting to his apostolicity, to the veracity of his message, and they always seem to be associated with this kingdom message.

The other thing we learn from this has something to do with the whole issue of demon possession. " … and the evil spirits went out of them." In the Bible, whether you are talking about the Gospels or about Acts, does not talk about disease in terms of demon possession. Liberals love to do that: "See, they are primitive, they are just attributing disease to the spirits." The Bible always distinguishes these as two separate issues. There were some illnesses that could have been produced by demon possession but they are not attributing a superstitious cause to all illness. There are two issues here: illness and also those who are demon possessed. And what is the solution? The demons leave. It is the Greek word ekporeuomai. The work poreuo means to go or proceed; erchomai means to come or go, and poreuo is somewhat of a synonym. So he is casting out demons.

Then we get to the fun story about some of the Jewish itinerant exorcists. According to the literature I have read there seemed to be some apostate Jews who would travel through the Roman empire and would trade on the fact that they were Jewish as if it were some sort of mystical magic thing. They would have these magical incantations for healing and for casting out demons. This is technically exorcism. This is the only time this word is used in the text. The noun is exorkistes. The root verb is horkizo which means to swear or to swear an oath, or to implore someone to do something. exorkistes is where we get our word exorcism. This word is used rarely in the Bible and it is never ever used of anything that Jesus and the disciples did. They never did an exorcism; not one.

A lot of people see the word exorcism and apply it to Jesus, and the Bible doesn't. If verbal inspiration means anything Jesus never exorcised a demon. He cast out demons. That is the term that is used again and again. And the word is ekballo which means to throw something out or to cast something out, and that is the word that that is used of the disciples and Jesus. The magical exorcists were always called by that word exorcist. That word does not refer to anything legitimate; it is just some sort of pagan magical activity.

These itinerate Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to imitate Paul. One day they saw Paul cast out a demon and heard him say "in the name of Jesus." They thought, "He did a better and quicker job than they ever did, his incantation is better than our incantation." The idea in paganism  is to get the name of the demon. Start talking to the demon and ask the demon to give their name. The only time that Jesus did that was in the episode with the Gadarene demoniac, and that was to show that there was more than one demon inside the demon-possessed man. It wasn't to gain power over him because Jesus was more powerful than any demon. The idea in paganism is you have to know their name, and if you call them by their name you have power over them. It's all about power. So these exorcists thought they would use Paul's "incantation." They decided they were going to call on the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits.

Acts 19:13 NASB "But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, 'I adjure [horkizo] you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.' [14] Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this." The word there for chief priests is the same word as used for a high priest. There was only one high priest and he was in Jerusalem. 

There are a couple of different things that could be going on here. First of all, they could just be making a fraudulent claim. They are so involved in pagan magic that they probably were kicked out of Judea for their apostasy. Or, maybe they are from a priestly family and are just making some sort of claim because they have a family connection to the high priest. Or, they are just seeking credibility through some sort of association. We don't really know. But theirs is not a legitimate priestly function. 

They find someone who is demon possessed and they say, "We implore you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.'" 

Acts 19:15 NASB "And the evil spirit answered and said to them, 'I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" It has no impact on them whatsoever. The words for "know" are interesting. "Jesus I know" is ginosko. They knew who Jesus was, and epistamai is used of Paul. They were familiar with him, were aware of him. Then they said, "Who in the world are you? Why should I listen to you?" 

Acts 19:16 NASB "And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded." Notice the words "in whom." It tells us once again that demon possession is when a demon takes up residence inside the body of someone. The word "wounded" is the Greek word traumatizo from which we get trauma, traumatize. It means they just beat the crud out of them. They run from the house naked, and so it is totally embarrassing. 

Acts 19:17 NASB "This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified." It becomes clear that Paul's message is validated and attested to, even by the people who are against him. [18] "Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices."

There are different terms for demons. In Luke 4:33 it is called an unclean demon. In other passages there is also the term unclean spirit. How did it get removed? The command was to come out, and it came out—exerchomai. erchomai is the Greek word that means to come our to go. The prefix is what is important. ex means to come out of; eis means to go into. So if you are going to go into a house you are going to eiserchomai. You go into the building, the house. If you go out of the house you exit—exerchomai.

In Luke 8:2 there is mention of evil spirits cast out of Mary Magdalene. They are called evil spirits and demons, and they had come out of her—exerchomai. You never see exorcist anywhere here.

Luke 8:27 starts the story of the Gadarene demoniac. There is more detail about that one so that becomes kind of a paradigm or model for understanding all the demon possession stories because it makes the vocabulary very clear. He calls the indwelling spirits demons, there is a plurality of them. It is also called a singular demon, an unclean spirit. It is said that he had a demon in the Matthew passage—he had a spirit—and it is described at the end as being demon possessed. Now we know what demon possession is. It is someone who has a demon or demons inside of them.

Then there is the language used: He was going to cast out the demon—exerchomai; the demon was going to come out of him. It had entered into him, Jesus was going to send them into the swine—eiserchomai. Then the demons went out of him and entered into the swine—exerchomai and eiserchomai. So the language is very precise.

How do we know what demon possession is? By this in and out language that is used in all of the episodes. It is very clear that a demon goes into and comes out of a person, so that is how we are able to define demon possession.  

1.      Demons refer to a class of fallen angels who invade human history to afflict the human race.

2.      The term demon is not necessarily used of all fallen angels but we could use it that way in a generic sense. It is primarily used to refer to those who are specifically afflicting the human race.

3.      There are different groups of demons. There are some today that are in the abyss. There are those that afflicted the human race in the episode with the sons of God and the daughters of men in Genesis chapter six. There are those who are reserved under the Euphrates River in Revelation chapter nine, the 200,000,000 demon army.

4.      The only period in the Bible of intense demonic activity the period of the Messiah's ministry on the earth and the beginning stages of the church. There was a little bit around Saul. There was a demon spirit that came upon Saul—doesn't enter him—influencing and oppressing him. So the only time of intense demonic activity is during the time of the proclamation of the kingdom in the Gospels and in Acts.

5.      The term demon possession describes the invasion of a person's body for the purpose of control. That is seen from the terms used—cast out, ekballo; enter—eiserchomai; to go out—exerchomai and ekporeumai.  The problem is that in English possession has two meanings—to own or to occupy. A lot of people think that there is no demon possession because Satan can't own somebody; they emphasize that aspect of it. We are not talking about ownership; we are talking about occupancy. That is the issue. There is no word per se for demon possess, it is to be acted upon by a demon. But all those others are more specific and they give us a specific meaning.

6.      Church age believers cannot be demon possessed because their bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And the word "temple" there is naos, meaning the inner sanctum, the holy of holies. And just as nothing could enter the holy of holies in the Old Testament except the high priest or they would die instantly, the same thing is true. God protects us as His immediate territory. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:13.

7.      There is no example of an Old Testament person being demon possessed. It isn't an issue. Some might ask, well what about today? Yes, it could take place but there is nothing mentioned in the epistles about it. And the epistles were written to give church age believers everything they need to know about how to handle problems of the church. All kinds of problems are mentioned but never demon possession. The silence is deafening. So if the New Testament ignores it then we shouldn't get wrapped around the axles about it.

8.      Does that mean that we believe there are not problems with the demonic right now? Not at all. Ephesians 6 tells us we are involved in spiritual warfare. But the issue isn't demon possession; the issue is demon influence. Demon influence describes the influence of demons on the inhabitants of the world system who think like Satan. To the degree that any person thinks on the basis of human viewpoint anything opposite from the Word of God, anything apart from the Word of God, any non-biblical system of thought, they are thinking on the basis of demonic influence. That means we are all influenced by the demonic to one degree or another.