Scripture provides us with many accounts of Christ confronting and casting out demons, yet few have addressed the question of why this happened. It was not by accident or coincidence but was an important aspect of the mission of the Messiah.
One of the central reasons for Jesus Christ confronting demons was to signal to his disciples that He had a unique authority that even the demons were forced to acknowledge.
Genesis 6 and the Nephilim
One of the keys to understanding the full mission of the Messiah is an understanding of Genesis 6 and what it actually means. In order to do so, we have to engage in a bit of hermeneutical exploration.
In this case, we need to look to the apocryphal book of Enoch, an ancient Jewish writing that was held as canonical by many Church Fathers.
I realize that many Christians object to this, but it is a necessary part of extra-biblical comprehension. As Dr. Mike Heiser points out: “We must be committed to the biblical text, read and interpreted in its own ancient context — not a later context — for our theology.”
This is, in fact, a principle of hermeneutics. That is, every seminarian is taught to first attempt to understand what Scripture says as if you were the original audience.
This means we have to approach the text with the unique culture and commonly held beliefs of the Israelites of that time.
Below is the biblical account of the Nephilim, who are called Watchers and are detailed in the apocryphal book of Enoch.
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days — and also afterward — when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown(Genesis 1:1-4).
So, what is this data? In brief, Enoch tells us of a group of rebellious spirit beings known as Watchers. These Watchers made a pact among themselves to leave their proper habitation in the heavenly realm and take human women as their wives.
They understood that this was forbidden, but due to their lust for the beautiful women, they defied God’s divine order. They descended to earth at a place called Mount Hermon.
Once they had taken wives, they also began to teach men various things, such as how to make weapons of war and numerous occult practices. Eventually, their forbidden union with women brought forth children, whom both Scripture and Enoch refer to as Nephilim.
These hybrid beings were vicious. Due to the dramatic increase in sin, due to the influence of the Watchers, and of violence by the Nephilim, God chose to cleanse the earth with the Flood. This is what is referred to in Genesis 6:1-4.
This is the understanding of the early church as well. “The angels, the Watchers, transgressed this appointment and were captivated by love of women. And they begat children, who are those who are called demons” (Justin Martyr).
“In the days of Noah, He justly brought on the Deluge for the purpose of extinguishing that most infamous race of men then existent, who could not bring forth fruit to God. For the angels who had sinned had commingled with them” (Irenaeus).
“Such was the beauty of women that it turned the Watchers aside. As a result, being contaminated, they could not return to heaven. Being rebels from God, the uttered curses against Him. Then the Highest uttered His judgment against them. And from their seed, Nephilim are said to have been born” (Commodianus).
The data from both Genesis 6:1-4 and Enoch perfectly align, which is why the early church accepted the narrative. So, what does this have to do with the Messiah, and why does it connect to Jesus casting out demons?
The Messianic Mission
In part, the mission of the Messiah was to put the rebellious angels and demons on notice that God, in the person of the Only Begotten Son, was taking back His creation, bringing an end to their dominion. This meant He had to display His authority.
When we read the account of the demoniac living in the tombs, the place of the dead, in Mark 5:1-20, we see a clear example of the authority of Christ being recognized by the demons. This is why they beg Him not to torment them and to allow them to enter the pigs.
It is also noteworthy that the man who was now free of his demonic torment was told by Jesus to go tell others what had been done for him. Two audiences needed to hear that Jesus held authority over the demons: the demons and man.
We find a similar story in Mark 9:14-27, wherein Jesus is brought a demon-possessed boy, and seeing that a crowd had gathered, He then casts the demon out. Again, demonstrating His authority to both demons and men.
What is most important for Christians is the knowledge that Christ has granted a portion of His authority over the demons as a member of His Body, the Church. Your authority is a derived one.
That is, you have the authority to cast out demons in the name of Jesus Christ, and not in your own name, or by any power you possess. The ability to cast them out is purely His, and He exercises it when you are living a holy life and sincerely pray that He casts the demons out.
The 72 disciples understood this well, as is noted in Luke 10:17. You will very likely encounter those who will claim that you have no authority to cast out demons, but a pastor or priest must do so. This is false. Each man and woman has authority over their children and home.
When that authority is in submission to Christ and is exercised within the parameters of His derived authority to battle demons, you are perfectly within the biblical teaching on spiritual warfare.
A good example is Philip, who was not one of the 70, nor was he one of the 12 apostles (Acts 8:4-7). So, understand that Jesus demonstrated His authority over demons, announcing the end of their dominion over man and sharing that authority with you.
Michael Heiser, Reversing Hermon (2017) Defender Publishing
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Thomas Soeliner
J. Davila-Ashcraft is an Anglican priest, Theologian, and Apologist, and holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from God’s Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a recognized authority on the topic of exorcism, and in that capacity has contributed to and/or appeared on programming for The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. He is the host of Expedition Truth, a one-hour apologetics radio talk show.