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Some Christians today talk about 'binding satan' but others say this is not possible. Even Jesus 'cast out' demons and didn't bind them. What does the Bible say?


Thank you so much for your interesting question about binding and loosing and how they relate to satan.

The place to start thinking about this issue is to consider the difference between satan and evil spirits. Satan (meaning 'accuser') appears in both the Old and New Testaments as the chief of many spirit beings who oppose God. Some think the origin of these spirit beings is that they were angels who rebelled against God but this is not a biblical certainty. They are variously referred mainly as 'demons' (meaning 'shades'), but also 'sayrs' (a word from which 'satyr' is derived, meaning something like 'a hairy goat-like spirit being', and sometimes simply as evil spirits. Paul describes them as principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12), a phrase which suggests that some of them are greater in power than others. A key New Testament passage is the account of Jesus' disciples when they returned from conducting a mission to their Jewish communities, in Luke 10:27ff:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

It is evident from this that the disciples were given power over evil spirits because of Jesus. Jesus says that this is a sign of satan 'falling from heaven'. Jesus may have meant simply that a fundamental change had begun in the spiritual realm by giving the disciples his authority to overpower evil spirits. What is certain is that the death of Christ on the cross deposed satan from his power in the world.

Speaking of his death, Jesus prophesied: "Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out" (John 12:31). Some scholars think this is what is meant in the Book of Revelation 20 by satan being bound, while others think it refers to a future period. What is clear is that, even if satan is now removed from his former position as 'the prince of this world' he is still active. He has lost his authority but not all of his power. Paul describes him as active among Christians, for example, by appearing as an angel of light to deceive them (2 Corinthians 11:14). Furthermore, the other evil spirits are not said to be bound or destroyed so it is still the case that believers must exercise their spiritual authority, given by Jesus, to overcome evil spirits.

The basic reality is that there is authority in Christ to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7) and to command evil spirits as did the disciples mentioned above. This is a dangerous thing in which to become involved, however, because some evil spirits are more powerful than others (Mark 9:29) and can strike back at the ignorant or unprepared (Acts 19:15). When people speak of binding evil spirits, they usually have in mind the promise given to the apostle Peter in Matthew 16:18-19, which they take to be extended to other believers once Peter used 'the keys' to open the kingdom of heaven to people on earth:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Whether it is strictly right to speak of binding evil spirits, it is correct to think that by the power and authority of Jesus within us, Christians can resist and overpower evil spirits, commanding them to depart or to be silent as happened in the New Testament. Sometimes people speak of binding an evil spirit rather than sending it away, but this again is not clearly a biblical idea, because binding satan is about dis-empowering him in a general sense.

It is wise to recall this fact and avoid a wrong interest in evil spirits. If God brings us to the need for confrontation with them we will be given the spiritual empowering to deal with it, but to seek these things for less serious reasons invites us to be damaged by forces stronger than our human selves.

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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

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