The captive control and influence of a person by an invisible wicked spirit. In Bible times demonized persons were afflicted in various ways: some were dumb, some blind, some acted like lunatics and some possessed superhuman strength. All were woefully mistreated by these invisible bullies. (Matt. 9:32; 12:22; 17:15; Mark 5:3-5; Luke 8:29; 9:42; 11:14; Acts 19:16) Men, women and children were their victims. (Matt. 15:22; Mark 5:2) Sometimes the agony was compounded when many demons gained possession of a person at the same time. (Luke 8:2, 30) When the demon was expelled, the person returned to a normal, sane state of mind. There is a difference between demon possession and ordinary physical sickness and disease, for Jesus cured both types of disorder.—Matt. 8:16; 17:18; Mark 1:32, 34.
Some of Jesus’ greatest miracles were the setting of possessed persons free from captivity to the demons. They were powerless against him. But not everyone was happy with his demon-expelling work. The Pharisees accused him of being in league with the ruler of the demons, Beelzebub, whereas in reality, Jesus pointed out, they themselves were the offspring of the Devil. (Matt. 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15; John 7:20; 8:44, 48-52) Jesus knew from where his mastery of the demons originated, and he openly confessed that it was by Jehovah’s power and holy spirit. (Matt. 12:28; Luke 8:39; 11:20) The demons themselves recognized Jesus’ identity and addressed him as the “Son of God,” “the Holy One of God” and “Jesus, Son of the Most High God.” (Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 3:11; 5:7; Luke 4:34, 41; Acts 19:15; Jas. 2:19) However, at no time would Jesus allow them to witness in his behalf. (Mark 3:12) On the other hand, a man who was set free from the power of the demons was encouraged to publish to his relatives “all the things Jehovah has done for you.”—Mark 5:18-20.
Jesus also gave authority over the demons to his twelve apostles, and later to the seventy that he sent out, so that in the name of Jesus they too were able to cure the demon-possessed. (Matt. 10:8; Mark 3:15; 6:13; Luke 9:1; 10:17) Even one not an immediate associate of Jesus or his apostles was able to exorcise a demon on the basis of Jesus’ name. (Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49, 50) After the death of Jesus, the apostles continued to have this power. Paul dispossessed a “demon of divination” from a slave girl much to the anger of her money-loving owners. (Acts 16:16-19) But when certain impostors, the seven sons of priest Sceva, attempted to do this in the name of “Jesus whom Paul preaches,” the demon-possessed man seized and severely mauled and stripped the seven of them naked.—Acts 19:13-16.
Often the wild and uncontrolled conduct of mentally unbalanced persons is due to direct obsession by these invisible minions of Satan. It is noted that sometimes spirit mediums are reported as casting these demons out, calling to mind what Jesus said: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not . . . expel demons in your name. . . ?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you!” (Matt. 7:22, 23) Compelling reasons, then, for heeding the counsel, “Be watchful,” and, “Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil” and his demons.—1 Pet. 5:8; Eph. 6:11.