Illegitimate Authority and a Demonic Attack
And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
— Acts 19:16
As we continue looking at Acts 19, we find the evil spirit in this man was inflamed by the seven exorcists’ feeble and ineffective attempts to cast it out. The evil spirit unexpectedly seized the full use of the possessed man’s body to physically attack and injure them. Acts 19:16 tells us, “And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them….” Those exorcists had encroached on demonic territory that they didn’t know how to handle! Let’s look at those words leaped, overcame, and prevailed, because they tell a huge part of this story.
When the text says the man “leaped” on them, it is the Greek word ephallomai, which means to leap upon, to jump upon, or to pounce upon, as a panther leaps on a weak and defenseless animal. This word carries the idea of abruptly taking a victim by surprise, which means these exorcists were completely taken off guard by this attack. Not only did the demon-possessed man leap on them, but the verse also says that he “…overcame them, and prevailed against them….”
The word “overcame” is a translation of the word katakurieuo, a compound of the words kata and kurios. The word kata carries the idea of a force that is dominating or subjugating, and the word kurios is the Greek word for a lord or master. When compounded into one word, the new word means to completely conquer, to master, to quash, to crush, to subdue, to defeat, to force into a humiliating submission, or to bring one to his knees in surrender.
The word katakurieuo leaves no room for misunderstanding — this was a humiliating defeat for these seven exorcists. Their defeat was so complete that the verse goes on to say that the evil spirit “prevailed against them.” The word “prevail” is a translation of the Greek word ischuos, which describes a mighty individual, such as a man with such muscular strength or physical power that he could defeat any opponent.
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It is indisputably clear that evil spirits have the ability to supernaturally energize those in whom they dwell. When they do, the demonized individuals may exhibit inexplicable physical strength. One of the best examples of this is found in Mark 5:3,4. Here we read again about the demoniac of Gadara, who was so supernaturally energized that no one could bind him, not even with fetters and chains. If people were successful enough to attach the fetters and chains around this man, he was so empowered by demons that he could tear those heavy iron chains to pieces and get free almost without effort. Absolutely no one could tame him or bring him under control — except Jesus.
The demons that inhabited this man who lived among the tombs in the Gadarenes were violent beyond any human’s ability to control. It must be noted that ancient Greek literature used the word daimonian — the word “demon” — to portray a person who is mad or insane. But this is not only the classical Greek view. The New Testament also shows that those who were possessed with evil spirits were mad and often afflicted with physical illnesses. This is why Matthew 4:24 says, “…They brought unto him [Jesus] all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.”
Please get the revelation of this, because it is crucial. Jesus had absolute authority over evil spirits when He walked this earth. Then He gave the authority to cast out demons in His name to all those who trust in Him (see Mark 16:17). This was the secret of Paul’s success. But these seven sons of Sceva were not believers; they were simply exorcists trying a new formula. And they soon discovered what happens to those who try to wield spiritual authority they don’t possess. Those men were no match for the demons that indwelt the demoniac at Ephesus!
As the seven exorcists commanded the evil spirit to leave the man, suddenly the evil spirit seized the man’s body and demonically energized it, and the man surged forward like a fierce wild animal and pounced upon them. After being severely beaten and battered, all seven of those men fled the scene in fear. Verse 16 says, “…They fled out of that house naked and wounded.”
The word “fled” in Greek is ekpheugo. This word is a compound of the word ek — meaning out, as to exit or leave a place — and the word pheugo, which means to flee or to run swiftly. When these two words are compounded, the new word conveys the idea that those seven sons of Sceva got out of the house as quickly as they possibly could, making a mad dash or a fast exit. And no wonder they wanted to get out so quickly — they had been injured and had even lost their clothes in the attack!
The verse says the seven men fled out of “that house,” referring to the house where the demoniac was kept. The wording of this phrase implies that this was a well-known house. It wasn’t just a house; it was the house where this savage man lived. It was the place everyone avoided and stayed far from, for too much fear was associated with it and with the violent activities that took place there. And at that moment, it was the exorcists themselves who were escaping from “that house” in great haste!
When the men ran out of the house, Acts 19:16 says they were “naked and wounded.” The word “naked” is gumnos, an often-used Greek word that simply means physically naked. The word “wounded” is traumatidzo, which means to cause injury or harm and is where we get the words trauma and traumatized.
We don’t know the exact details of this demonic attack, how long it lasted, or how badly these seven sons of Sceva suffered. We do know, however, that by the time they exited the house, they were naked, physically wounded, and traumatized.
When people heard that these particular exorcists had miserably failed to exorcise the demon, it was big news in Ephesus. Everyone heard how the evil spirit acknowledged the name and authority of Jesus and even knew the name of Paul, Christ’s servant — yet did not recognize these famous professional exorcists. So even in this worst-case demonic scenario, God’s purposes prevailed as it was noised abroad that only the name of Jesus had been recognized and respected by the demon world, bringing attention to that name all over the city of Ephesus and throughout the surrounding region (see Acts 19:17).
I assure you that the kingdom of darkness knows your name as well. As a child of God, you have the legitimate authority to wield the name of Jesus like a weapon in your hand against everything the enemy might try to throw at you. And when you exercise that authority in faith, every demon that has been sent to harass you will flee in terror! Hell knows you and trembles when you stand in the power of the name of Jesus!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, what an awesome thing to realize that the demons not only recognize Jesus’ authority — they also recognize the authority of those who know Jesus. Of course, Jesus stripped Satan of all his powers (Colossians 2:15) and it should be no surprise to me that he is terrified of Jesus’ name and those who had been authorized to use it. But I am especially thankful to You for bringing me out of the bondage of darkness, for translating me into the kingdom of Your dear Son, and for giving me authority in the name of Jesus Christ!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
Demons may have authority over unsaved people, but I boldly confess they do not have authority over me and others who are in Christ Jesus. I never have to fear a demonic attack like the seven sons of Sceva experienced because the devil is the one who is running from me when I use the Spirit-empowered name of Jesus! I refuse to shrink in fear, and I refuse to let the devil intimidate me, because I have the presence of the Greater One living inside me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- In your lifetime, have you ever heard of anyone who came under a demonic attack similar to the one we read about in Acts 19:16 today?
- I once had a demon-inflicted man pick up a table and try to throw it at me, but he strictly obeyed me and put it down when I authoritatively spoke to him in the name of J Have you had any experiences where demons have quickly obeyed when you used Jesus’ name?
- What faith-building stories can you recall of believers exercising authority over demon spirits?