By Mark Larson
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation (Matt 12:43-45, NKJ).
The Scriptures teach that demon possession came to an end when Christ completed his Messianic mission and the Kingdom was established and confirmed by apostolic signs. With the coming Messianic kingdom, demons were to pass away for good as prophesied by Zechariah (Zech. 13:1-2). This prophecy was fulfilled (Acts 10:38). Although there are no unclean spirits as such that possess our bodies today, there is still a powerful lesson we can learn from the parable of the empty house and eight spirits.
The parable is addressed to “this wicked generation” or to the people of Israel during the time of Christ. Perhaps the evil spirit could represent the idolatry that Israel was engaged in as a result of their Babylonian captivity. Once they were delivered up from slavery they got rid of their idolatrous practices. However, the people of Israel failed to replace that evil with good. Genuine love for God and faith in the Lord did not replace the gap that remained in their hearts. As a result, Satan sent seven more demonic spirits along with the first to lead Israel into a deeper apostasy. Since the people of Israel failed to fill the void with good and righteous things, it made the last condition of their “house” worse than the first.
For the present generation of God’s people, the lesson is very much needed. We too must heed the warning of this parable. When we dispose of our sins, we must be sure to replace those sins with the good things that God commands. Otherwise, we are like “sitting ducks” just waiting to be devoured by the adversary the devil (1 Pet. 5:8). No one is safe who leaves his or her house “empty.” It is not enough to simply avoid doing evil, we must replace the evil by doing good.
To begin with, we must not leave vacant minds for Satan to fill. Jesus taught that even to look on a woman lustfully is adultery (Matt. 5:27-28). Therefore, even our thoughts must be pure. After those immoral thoughts are removed, what do we then replace them with? Rather than being held captive through philosophy, deception, traditions of men, and principles of the world, instead we should let our mind be captive to Christ (Col. 2:8). Let us put on the mind of Christ and dwell on those things that promote godliness and goodness. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8, NAS). This of course does not take place easily without some effort on our part. We must watch, listen, and read about those things that edify and promote purity of mind (Bible study, conversation with godly friends, wholesome TV shows and music, sermon tapes, etc.).
The same is true with reference to our speech. We are warned by God through the apostle Paul not to even speak about the wicked things people do in secret for it is shameful (Eph. 5:11-12). Once evil speech is removed from our mouths, what do we talk about? It is not enough to simply keep our mouths shut. We must replace rude, slanderous, lewd or corrupt speech with “what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). Rather than be void of speech, we are to offer words of encouragement, exhortation, joy, and comfort.
In addition, we must not leave our lives empty after removing those evil activities. The Bible emphasizes replacing the old man of sin with the new man created according to God (Eph. 4:17-24). Becoming a Christian is indeed more than just simply giving up a few bad habits, it is about living for Jesus and doing those things that are required by his word. “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (Jas. 4:17, NIV). Let us do the good we know we ought to do such as prayer, evangelism, serving others, hospitality, giving, Bible study, visiting the sick, etc. so that our “houses” may be filled up with no room left for evil.
There are severe consequences of failing to replace the evil with good. Satan will re-enter our lives with greater force: “Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Matt. 12:45). In order to avoid such a fate, we must not leave an empty house. We must take heed to the dangers of temptation and sin because not a one of us is exempt. “For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Pet. 2:20, NAS).
All who have been “born again” (John 3:3) through obeying the gospel (Acts 2:38) are regenerated into new creatures in Christ Jesus (Tit. 3:4-7; 2 Cor. 5:17) by God and his word. Let us not only reform ourselves by getting rid of evil practices. May we also allow Christ into our hearts, lives, and “houses.” May we all be committed to replacing evil with good.
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Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 12 p21 June 15, 2000