By Mark Anderson

For some reason, the film industry is enamoured with demonic themes.  It’s not uncommon these days to see cartoons, young peoples’ programmes and films overtly display demonic images.  The 1973 film ‘The Exorcist’ encapsulates the very real reality of demons and demonic possession[1].  But just how is the believer in Christ to understand this arena of demonology?  It’s been popularized in best-selling publications such as ‘Pigs in the parlour,’ with demons being categorized into various groups, linking them to conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and epilepsy to name but a few.  Then there is the area of generational curses which suggests that a child of God could have inherited a curse from an ancestor.  Does the Bible provide answers to these practices and widely-held beliefs? 

From the outset, I wish to state that Satan is real and demonic power is real.  Jesus Himself acknowledged that Satan has power, but that the believer has greater power:

‘Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you’ (Luke 10:19).

The second point I wish to make, is that believers are not to become paranoid regarding Satan and demons.  Instead we are to be sober and vigilant.  Peter writes:

‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).

Satan has been defeated, so how should the believer respond to suspected ‘enemy activity’?   It’s important to note that the early church did not go looking for demonic activity.  Dealing with demons and climbing mountains to pull down strongholds was not an offensive strategy employed by the New Testament church.  The Apostles and others viewed demonic activity as an interference, and dealt with it accordingly when it surfaced, as they were about their task of preaching the gospel. Bible teachers tend to put Satan’s activity into two categories namely ‘possession’ and ‘oppression’.  It’s not uncommon to hear a Bible teacher state that a believer cannot be possessed, but can be oppressed.  The term ‘possession’ implies total ownership.  If one possesses something it is solely owned, and there is no claim of ownership by a third party.  The believer has been bought by the precious blood of Christ; has been clothed in Christ’s righteousness and has been sealed with the Holy Spirit.  God has placed His stamp of ownership on His children.  As believers, we belong to God; we are His property – His possession and Satan cannot possess us.  Can Satan oppress us?  The word ‘possessed’ as it occurs in many Bible translations is the greek word ‘daimonizomai’ which means ‘to be under the power of a demon’. 

Consider the following:

‘As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil.  And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel’  (Matthew 9:32,33).

The English word ‘demonize’ probably best fits the meaning of  ‘daimonizomai’.   The verb ‘demonized’ means ‘to subject to demonic influence’. ‘Daimonizomai’ occurs thirteen times in the New Testament and on each occasion it refers to someone under the influence or control of an evil spirit.  It is always translated ‘possessed’ and never refers to someone who is oppressed, harassed, tempted or attacked by a demon.   The term ‘to have a demon’ also occurs in Scripture and again suggests ‘demonization’:

‘And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid’ (Mark 5:15).

Demonization always involves an individual being indwelt by a demon.

As believers we are warned in Scripture about the activity of Satan.  We are not immune from his attacks and deception and so we are instructed to stand against him and be clothed in the armour of God[2].   Satan is a legalist and can gain a foothold in our lives if we give him an opportunity[3].  Repentance of known sin and submitting wholly to God will put the enemy to flight[4]. 

What about generational curses?  Can a believer inherit a curse from a distant ancestor?  This teaching I would respectfully say has been propagated on a faulty interpretation of the following Scripture:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments’ (Exodus 20:4-6).

Firstly, there is nothing in the above text to suggest a generational curse is at work.  On the contrary, these Scriptures speak of God’s judgment upon those who hate Him.  This is quite different from a believer having a curse because of an ancestor who was a shaman or freemason.  Every person is responsible for his or her sin.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him’ (Ezekiel 18:20).

If one does not hate God, this judgment does not apply.  In fact for those who love God and obey Him, He shows mercy to them.  It’s important to note that God’s judgment upon the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him, is contrasted with His mercy to thousands of those who love Him.  The phrase ‘three and four’ is contrasted with ‘thousands’.  Mercy triumphs over judgment[5].  As regards to curses themselves: in the Bible, the definitive texts refer to God’s judgment as opposed to demonic activity.  Some will point to the fact that sicknesses can be hereditary.  There is no disputing that, but sickness is physical and not spiritual.  Curses on the other hand are spiritual. When one repents of sin and believes on Christ, a new creation is born.  A creation that did not exist before has now come into existence.  The old has gone, the new has come[6].  Any spiritual influence from one’s former life has been broken at ‘new birth’.  The new believer has to walk in God’s ways, resist old temptations as the Word and the Spirit renews his mind.  Every child of God, whether he is a new believer or a seasoned servant, has the power of the risen Christ at his disposal – power over all the power of the enemy. 

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you’ (Luke 10:19). 

To say a child of God is under a curse because of an ancestor’s sin, undermines the work of Calvary.  We can rest in Christ’s work and rejoice; not that demons are subject to us through Christ’s Name, but that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of Life.

[1] This is not an endorsement or a recommendation to view ‘The Exorcist’.

[2] Ephesinas 6:11-18.

[3] Ibid. 4:27.

[4] James 4:7.

[5] James 2:13.

[6] 2 Corinthians 5:17.