In responding to allegations that he drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, Jesus says, among other things:

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, "I will return to my house from which I came." When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.

—Luke 11:24-26 (NRSV)

What is his point here? What action does he expect his followers to take to avoid such a fate?

5 Answers 5


Considering the context that Jesus was engaged with the Pharisees and the subject that He alone was powerful enough to remove the Devil from his kingdom, various commentators seem to conclude that this is a parable to expose the true nature and hypocrisy of religion without Christ.

Religion pretends a higher morality than the common man and tries to show it by external boasts of ritualistic practices and avoidance of external common sins. Jesus says this is like a room that has been swept clean. However this, when without faith in Messiah is not filled with God, therefore all the better habitation of Satan in that he can live there without being noticed.

Some commentators explain the dry lands as the Gentiles, others as referring to Jewish legends about Devils, but this is not relevant to the main idea.

Naturally Christians apply this to the Jews. Some think it prophetical about the near future total depravity of Israel after rejecting her own Messiah. Others see this as historical in that after the Babylonian exile Israel has finally purged herself of idolatry which was considered the only Devil, yet this "sweeping" led to the greater wickedness of self-righteous pride and legalistic hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

I prefer the historical view as there is nothing in the verses directly indicating a future tense. This is the view taken by the Jewish Historian and Theologian Alfred Edersheim:

he came back ‘with seven other spirits more wicked than himself’—pride, self-righteousness, unbelief, and the like, the number seven being general—and thus the last state—Israel without the foulness of gross idolatry and garnished with all the adornments of Pharisaic devotion to the study and practice of the Law—was really worse than had been the first with all its open repulsiveness. (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim 2.201)

Therefore the action his disciples were to take is to ensure they do not just do a surface clean through vain religion but by faith receive Christ as the only "strong man" that alone can cast the kingdom of Satan from a heart. Otherwise, all one's religion and good works will be the perfect nest for every evil.


It would seem that the most simple interpretation is this: When an evil spirit is cast out, you MUST replace it with The Good Spirit [Christ - the strong man who kicks out the Devil]. Failure to do so will result in more evil filling the empty space, because that's just what the human heart gravitates towards, and demonic forces are happy to oblige. The application is both broad (Israel's law-based self-righteousness replacing their blatant idolatry) and individual (me becoming proud because I kicked one bad habit). If the heart and soul of a nation, or an individual, is not being filled with the Holy Spirit, it will just get filled with more other junk. Jeremiah says that the heart is "desperately wicked". So, if the heart is only temporarily purged of an evil spirit, but no good seed is planted there, namely, the very presence of the Holy Spirit, the "weeds" of evil with fill the void with a vengeance. Satan and his demons find sanctuary in hearts that don't have Christ.

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  • From my own experience (not from my own mere interpretation), Mike's answer is exactly what this scripture means. Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 17:58

The historical view doesn't tie with the parallel in Matthew: "So shall it be with this generation." Jesus was casting the demon out of Judah and would send His Spirit to replace it, to occupy the house, to "fill it up." Those who rejected Pentecost would be filled with seven worse demons (perhaps the ones cast out of Mary?) which is why 1) the Jewish rulers persecuted and murdered the saints, 2) the apostles had to fight false teachers (Judaizers), and 3) the Jewish rulers finally roped in Rome against the Church as they had done against Christ, leading to their annihilation. They were worse off than if they had never heard the Gospel. The fire Jesus kindled had fast-tracked the good fruit and the bad, and the bad had "filled up" their sins.

There is certainly an aspect that relates to the Restoration Covenant. Idolatry was exorcised from Israel, seen by Zechariah as a wicked woman inside a false Ark of the Covenant, enshrined in Babylon. But it seems this harlot had returned and been welcomed -- but it was idolatry in a more subtle sense. Revelation pictures her enthroned, self-exalting, and at the height of her powers.


To understand this "weird" teaching, one has to realize the relation between demons and our sinful passions. When we are tempted, we are not tempted either by God or by demon, but by our own sinful inclination, that dwells deeply in the hidden and dark recesses of our hearts (cf. James 1:13-14). When we succumb to them, we die with a greater, metaphorical death, than the physical death (cf. James 1:15), for physical death does not deprive us of communion with God (Phil 1:21; or Psalm 63:3, which says "Your Mercy is better than life", for when we die as martyrs witnessing God's Mercy's presence in us, by this we are entering the true and eternal life passing through this physical-biologial death to indestructible divine life of our souls /John 5:24/), while true death is to get deprived of this communion even while physically-bilogically living. And then demons are jubilant, they come and "dine" in our hearts and foment even more strongly our sinful passions so that we may erroneously identify ourselves with them. Now, when Son of God comes to stay in our hearts eternally (John 8:35) together with Father (John 14:10), He defeats the demonic influence in us (Mark 3:27) and heals our sinful inclinations, and our "home" that is to say, our heart, becomes clean and bright, and our mood is jubilant in God, for there can be nothing more desirable and admirable than feeling of a presence and communion with God (cf. Matt 17:4), for such a person smacks of and enjoys the Eternal Kingdom already in this life, for what is the Kingdom of Heaven, but communion with God's Spirit, who also dwells in our hearts with the Father and the Son, giving unspeakable peace and joy (Romans 14:17).

And now comes that dramatic caveat of what could happen next, (for Jesus does not say that it will necessarily happen, but implies that it could or may happen)? If one's heart is cleansed and purified, it is not a static thing, but purification, assimilation to God, admiring a greater and greater intensity of His presence is a dynamic and on-going process! That is why David says: "cleanse me even more, so that I may become whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7), "whiter than snow" metaphorically implying the saturation by uncreatedness and deification, for there is nothing whiter than snow in the created universe, so the "whiter" implies that the mortal and perishable in us is consumed and clad in immortal and imperishable (1 Cor. 15:53). Yet, this does not happen automatically, and we have to work for it together with God and His grace present in us, for the Heavenly Kingdom is "conquered" only by those who through full concentration of their efforts "force their way into it" (Luke 16:16). But if we are idle and not do it, that is to say, if we do not co-act with the cleansing grace present in us, what then?

And exactly here comes what Jesus warns us about in Luke 11:24-26! We are not growing in God, and since this implies that we start getting indifferent towards the salvific and healthy pleasure of His presence, we start in the depth of our hearts gradually to betray Him, by feeling nostalgia for our sinful pleasures (be it drugs, excessive alcohol or unseemly sexual pleasures etc.), because with total deprivation of any pleasure human heart, which naturally desires for pleasure, cannot live at all! Thus, our hearts incline naturally towards pleasure and happiness. Thus, when God ceases to provide the deifying pleasure to such an apostate heart - not due to God, but due to the sloth of the person himself - then this heart desires even more strongly the sinful pleasures it had refused and abandoned at the time of his conversion; now, the nostalgia for them grows greater and greater, as of somebody who has not seen one's homeland for a long time. Eventually, this nostalgia brings back an apostate heart, as to a homeland, to the same sinful passions from which it had departed, but now with a novel impetus, novel and greater strength, endearment and passion! So, such a heart embraces the previous sweetness of sins with a greater thirst and a greater thrust. Thus, the condition of such heart will be more miserable, because the committed sin engenders death (James 1:15), and deeper the sin - deeper the death. This greater depravity of heart means that the demonic presence in it will also become more intense and more difficult, if not next to impossible to get rid of it. This is the meaning of the metaphor "7 more demons" in fact. Yet, "next to impossible" or even "impossible" for men is possible through loving God (Luke 18:27), for gates of repentance are always open.


Four year ago I was sick. The diagnosis was polymyositis, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the muscles. While I was in the hospital, my mother prayed for me prayers of deliverance. Unclean spirits started to leave me.

I was not one that grew up in the Church. So I was skeptical at first. But as more of these spirits left me, so did the skepticism.

My mother brought to the hospital a pastor that specialized in deliverance. More spirits left me. Then, at home, my mother and I continued the deliverance prayers until all those spirits were gone. The polymyositis went into complete remission.

For years later, I'm now dealing with arthritis. Also, symptoms of polymyositis have returned. Just two weeks ago, my mother and I started praying again. Lo and behold, more unclean spirits began to leave me. Unclean spirits had returned to me!


Look to Mike Sewal's answer:

It would seem that the most simple interpretation is this: When an evil spirit is cast out, you MUST replace it with The Good Spirit [Christ - the strong man who kicks out the Devil]. Failure to do so will result in more evil filling the empty space...

When I was going through that ordeal for years ago, I became 'holified'. I prayed everyday, and stayed in the word of God. Well, after God healed me, I faded away from him, and returned to living the ways of the world.

Therefore, I became empty, giving room for the unclean spirits to return. I've learned my lesson.

Regarding the question of the OP:

What is his point here? What action does he expect his followers to take to avoid such a fate?

The point is that unclean spirits are real. To avoid the fate of being a house for unclean spirits, one must fill himself with His word so that there is no room for these spirits to dwell.

If we read the next two verses:

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.

—Luke 11:27-28 (NIV)

Keep the word and be blessed, otherwise, be plagued with unclean spirits.

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    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 9:03
  • (-1) This is an interesting first answer, but relies almost entirely on personal experiences, rather than applying hermeneutical principles starting from the text. Personal experiences are valuable for critiquing and weighing different interpretations, but are not the ideal way to begin interpreting texts. If we don't begin with the text in its original context, we risk missing the actual intended meaning of the passage.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 9:05

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