Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 6:10-12
Scripture is clear that we are attacked by the enemy in various ways and at various levels. But not all demonic activity is the same. What I’ve noticed over the years is that there is a spectrum of demonic activity and influence in a people’s lives. Scripture speaks to this as well. Moving from light to heavy influence, there is the spectrum:
Temptation: this is when we are invited to believe a lie or to do something we know is wrong. The demonic spirit is outside of you whispering invitations and lies to your thoughts and emotions. If we were to use a preposition (which is difficult because we’re talking about things in the spirit realm) it would be “around.” The demonic spirit is circling around you. The image here is flies that are buzzing around your head that you have to swat away. Scripture says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it“(1 Corinthians 10:12-14).
Harassment: this when the enemy seems to target one area of our life and launch continual temptations or attacks on that one area. The feeling is that we’re being hounded by temptation. If we were to use a preposition it would be “upon.” The enemy’s attacks are “landing” as it were. The image here is gnats that swarm around your face and get into your eyes. Harassment happens because we have started to believe the lies and may have given in some to the temptation. Scripture says, “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).
Attachment: this is when we have given in to temptation and harassment and certain demonic spirits have found a foothold in our life. The feeling is that the demonic spirit is always there cranking what should be a level 3 temptation up to a level 8. If we were to use a preposition it would be “on” or “onto.” The demonic spirit is holding onto you and not letting go. The image here is a vulture who has landed on your back and has its talons dug in.
This is usually the point at which deliverance ministry starts to become necessary. At this point we often need the help of others to get free because we’ve given the enemy access to our life. Scripture says, “do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27), and for good reason. When a demonic spirit gets attached, it starts to wreak havoc in a person’s life. When demons that have been attached leave a person, they often just lift off of them. There usually aren’t a lot of fireworks. The person is usually just left feeling a sense of peace and rest.
Oppression/Stronghold: this is when we have consistently given the enemy access to our life through chronic sin or chronic affirmation of lies, and so the demonic spirits move in. Jesus describes our life like a house (Matthew 12:44). Oppression is when a demonic spirit (or spirits) enter our house and set up camp in at least one room of the house. They don’t own the house, but they occupy one room, one part of our life. If we were to use a preposition it would be “in” or “into.” The spirit is inside, trespassing on a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and needs to be kicked out in Jesus’s name.
At this point we often see demons who have been given so much territory and authority in a person’s life that they are able to take over a person’s body, facial expressions, eyes, and voice when they feel threatened. Demons will stay hidden as long as possible (that is their best defense) until they are confronted with the delegated authority of Jesus and the power of the Spirit operating through a person. When they realize they are threatened and exposed, they will sometimes try to puff up and take control of the person they occupy. Deliverance ministry is essential for this. Deliverance ministers function as police officers kicking out the trespasser and revoking its right to be there, all in the name of the King. We see Jesus cast out a number of demonic spirits that fit this category.
In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.Luke 4:33-35
When demons who have entered a person get kicked out, they often try to create a scene (as we see in Luke 4:35). They can sometimes leave violently as they fight to stay in the person. This can look like dry heaving, vomiting, coughing, shaking, flailing, screeching, or yelling. Their goal in leaving this way to create fear and embarrassment in the person, so we try to limit this reaction as much as possible in Jesus’s name. Interestingly, if the person is on antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, we have seen them leave with a yawn (instead of a violent cough or dry heaving).
Heavily Oppressed: this is the same as being oppressed but, in this case, multiple demonic spirits have taken over multiple rooms in a person’s life. If they are a believer in Jesus, we called this heavy oppression. If they do not have the Holy Spirit in them, this would be “possession.” Jesus warned about this possibility in Matthew 12.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.Matthew 12:43-45
And we see the reality of this condition with the Gerasene man who was heavily demonized. He “lived in the tombs” and, “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones“(Mark 5:3-5). He told Jesus, “My name is Legion,…for we are many” (Mark 5:9).
I have seen this reality firsthand. But in our culture, people who are heavily demonized look normal. They don’t live in caves with chains. They simply need the power of the Holy Spirit and the delegated authority of the name of Jesus to help set them free. They need someone willing to fight for them and love them enough to go to battle against the tormentors in their life. They are beloved children of God who just want to be free.
At the lighter end of this spectrum, mostly what we need to be free is an encounter with truth. But as the influence of the enemy increases in a person’s life, we not only need a truth encounter but a power encounter. Conduits of the power and authority of Jesus must come and kick out the trespassers. Both kinds of encounter (truth and power) are necessary for us to experience freedom. And most of all, we need love. We need to know that no matter how far the enemy has dug into our life, we are still loved and cherished by our Heavenly Father. And our Father wants us to be set free even more than we do!