We are doing a bible study on the book of Mark, chapter 5. The question was asked: what happens to demons when their host body dies as in the herd of pigs? Do the demon spirits find another host?
JIM from Unknown City
Clues (Part 1)
I will try to answer you but I don’t think I’ll satisfy you completely because scriptural answers to this question are incomplete. Personally, I’ve wondered a thousand times: why did Jesus give permission in the first place to the legion of demons that possessed the Garasene demoniac? It almost appears that he was having mercy on them by giving them their way. Of course he knew the pigs would rush down the hill and be drowned. So then where did they go? Did they not get their way after all?
We have two hints in this incident and then a story Jesus told in another setting that give us a few clues. The episode of this possessed man is also told in Luke 8:26-39 but a variation in the telling gives us additional information.
In Mark, the demons “began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.” (Verse 10) In Luke it says, “They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.” (Verse 31) Is the country and the abyss the same thing? Maybe but not necessarily. Remember that there was a legion (probably up to 6000 unclean spirits) so they may have been calling out different requests. The region or territory of the Gerasenes may have been a preferential environment for them over Galilee across the lake from where Jesus came. The abyss would refer to hell where they would have no access to “host” bodies of any kind and evidently that would be the worst.
We can deduce a couple of things from this information. First, demons are here on earth in specific geographic locations by God’s permission. Jesus had the authority (which they recognized) to cast them anywhere he chose. For whatever reason, he allowed them to stay in Garasene instead of making them leave entirely. Secondly, demons evidently get some level of satisfaction or “life” from their hosts and don’t want to give it up. Pigs would be preferable, even temporarily, to the abyss.
Where to next? (Part 2)
We don’t have any idea where the demons cast out of the man in this incident went but we can look at another story of Jesus for more information about the way these unclean spirits operate.
In both Matthew and Luke our Lord talks about how demons travel. “’When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” ‘And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.’” (Luke 11:24-26)
Even though Jesus is not teaching on demons per se here we can glean valuable information. When demons don’t have a host body they wander about seeking something to leech off of. Waterless places indicate places without life, refreshment, or nourishment. If they don’t find a new and willing host, they may wish to return and try again with the last one. Maybe they can get back in? Probably so if the person who they left has not replaced the demons with new life, new patterns or any protection, the unclean spirits can come right back. There’s even room now for more of them.
So did the demons in Mark 5 find a new host? I bet they did. They were operating in a godless territory. Remember that the people in Gerasene were keeping herds of swine and so were not observing Jewish law. Those unclean spirits could probably find plenty of willing hosts.
And are they still out there somewhere even today? Again, probably so. Unless God has since sent some of them to the abyss they are still wandering around the earth. We each need to guard ourselves that we are filled up fully with the Holy Spirit and that we leave no door open for unclean spirits to assume a welcome mat into our lives.