‘The lost Gospel of Q’ by Burton L. Mack, on pg 91, quotes Luke 11:24-26 seen below (compare Matthew 12:43-45)

"When an unclean spirit leaves a person, it wanders through arid regions seeking rest without finding it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes it finds the house swept and tidy. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, they go in and settle there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."

Does that mean
1) The house is a person and he should be untidy mentally and physically?
2) The house refers to the actual house of the person?

In both cases, we should keep ourselves and the house unclean so the spirit doesn’t return? Doesn’t make sense to me. Particularly, after statements such as "Cleanliness is next to Godliness".

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    It would be better to use Bible references here, the parable is found at Matt 12:43 , Luke 11:24 and following verses. The commentary page bible.ca/ef/expository-matthew-12-43-45.htm gives one explanation of the parable.
    – Bit Chaser
    Nov 15, 2018 at 22:02
  • Maybe in this context "swept and tidy" means "attractive to demons"; in that sense, we should try not to be swept and tidy.
    – Andreas Blass
    Nov 15, 2018 at 23:26
  • mmm...Or, Since, Jesus spoke those words in Anger, it may mean that if one is open minded or neutral with clean thoughts with no predispositions to Evil or Good or without piety then it is quite easy for the demons to corrupt you by providing logical ideas that may sound cunningly correct but will later on force you towards greater evil ( more demons)- summarizing the Devil's great deception. Now, how would you spot such trickery and get out of it is what I'm thinking...
    – Gopal Anantharaman
    Nov 16, 2018 at 20:06

9 Answers 9


To the best of my understanding, it appears that perhaps the person may have cleaned their "house", but they may not have replaced the evil with the Golden Rule, since Jesus specifically added and emphasized this Commandment. To do unto others as one would have others do unto them, according to God's Will (another specific Jesus emphasized), would effectively replace the evil with the practice of a specific good action, therefore there would be no place for the evil to have or function in that person, should the evil return and try.

It gives a whole new meaning to "no room at the inn".

  • Thanks...Ms Patty! As long as the rule is unequivocal! "The fear of the ...<signiifying the ineffable Almighty>.. is the beginning of ALL ..." "openbible.info/topics/the_fear_of_the_lord" Proverbs 16:6 & Proverbs 9:10 to be precise... :-) Feb 14 at 19:37
  • John 14:26 as well Ay :-) Feb 14 at 19:46
  • I will accept this answer! Best Wishes! Feb 14 at 21:30
  • @ Ms Patty - It would have been appropriate to define "the house" first, as the soul of a person who has been recently delivered from evil spirits. And that when a person resorts back to an evil life-style, he is letting in evil spirits back into his soul in a worse way! Keep studying the Bible; it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Feb 15 at 22:05

In this parable, Jesus pictures the consequences of moral, ethical and religious reformation apart from a righteous relationship with Him.

The main character in this illustration is an unclean spirit. Unclean of course represents the wicked, vile nature of all demon spirits; but this particular spirit was not as evil as he could have been because later in this parable, he has his other demon friends who are worse than him join him.<

We are not told why this unclean spirit went out of the man. Possibly the man made a moral decision to forsake the sin in which this demon had entrapped him and the demon no longer had control over the man. < It may have been that Jesus had cleansed the man of the demon, but just as many people whom Jesus cleansed and healed, did not trust Jesus for salvation. The Bible does not say but what ever the reason, the man was temporarily relieved and freed from the demon's presence and influence.

After he left the man, this demon "passed through waterless places, seeking rest and did not find it". It would seem here figuratively that "waterless places" represents desolation, barrenness and discomfort. The demon was seeking greater satisfaction than before.

When the demon could find no other satisfactory place to dwell, he decided to go back to his former residence: "I will return to my house from which I came". I would think that "my house" would indicate a strong sense of ownership and possessiveness.

When he found the man's "house" unoccupied (that is unoccupied by another demon) swept, and put in order would suggest that a genuine moral and ethical reformation had taken place.< Whether this was of the man's own will or by the cleansing of Jesus we do not know.

Through fear, disease, social stigma, financial ruin and many other motives, a person can manage to rid himself of certain sinful habits. Sometimes it can be because of a person's determination to change because of love for wife, Husband or children. But ones self determination and no matter what the motivation-----it will never be permanent without the true saving grace and faith in Jesus Christ.

When the basic sin nature is not dealt with through the miracle of repentance and trust in Christ, the removal of a particular sin or even a demon leaves a person's spiritual "house....unoccupied, swept and put in order", but is always subject to reoccupation by "by seven other spirits more wicked than" the first. "and the last state of the man becomes worse than the first".<

Where Christ does not live, demons are free to live. Self-righteousness desensitizes a person to sin to a point that he is not aware that his very soul is rotting away under demonic corruption. <

We as Christians cannot bring about salvation with our moral, ethical and self righteousness.Salvation belongs to our Lord Jesus. It is a gift.

God's word is unequivocal and unmatched in its standards of righteous living, justice and social responsibility.

Scripture makes clear that moral values by itself, without a right relationship to God is in many ways more dangerous than immorality. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that moral outward righteousness is one of the greatest hindrances to the gospel.

To preach morality, even according to biblical standards of behavior, but not salvation through Jesus Christ promotes a religion that drives man further from God than before they tried to reform their own selves.

This parable indicates that this man was relieved of the demon and found rest for a short while in his own strength. The "house" indicates his heart. His own self will cleansed himself for a short while but he was unable to maintain his moral and ethical standards in his own strength, therfore other demons returned to the man making his condition even worse.

Until we relent and truly come to saving faith in Jesus, we will always be subject to the wiles of demons. Our own self righteousness can and will never keep us safe. We are to cleanse our inner parts (heart) and give our life to Jesus. It is much easier to reach someone who is overwhelmed with a true sense of his sin than someone who is overwhelmed with a false sense of his own righteousness.

The context of this explanation is based on the reading of the John MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Matthew 12:43-45

Thank you for your time and question. It gives us much to ponder!

  • Thank you Gopal Anantharaman, I will attempt to give answer to your 2nd comment then proceed to your 1st comment : yes indeed evil and spiritual wars are very real in our day and time. It will continual until our Nov 18, 2018 at 1:08
  • 1. Emphasises on Jesus because He atoned/or took the wrath of God for OUR sins and contributed His righteousness to us. He died for us, suffered Gods wrath and arose 3 days later for YOU and ME and all Nov 18, 2018 at 1:39
  • That would believe upon His holy name. As a Christian I believe in the Trinity. I believe Jesus is our savior and son of God but we believe that Jesus is God. 3 in 1. This would entail another question on another forum to give proper answers but yes, yes Jesus alone saves us. Atheists do not believe in Jesus and His saving faith therefore their good works are not seen by God. Good works and moral ethics do not save us. Belief, trust and faith in Jesus is our only hope. This is the basic of Christian faith. Thjs is my faith. What a mighty savior we have in Jesus. Hope this helps Nov 18, 2018 at 1:54
  • I accidently deleted my 2nd paragraph. Yes evil will continue until the return of Jesus. His followers will experience eternal bliss and life with Him forever. Unbelievers will experience judgement and eternal damnation. GA if you have not come to saving grace and faith in Jesus, please read Gods word. Ask Him to come into your life. Confess your sins to Him and ask for forgiveness. Trust that He alone will give you eternal life. Believe His word and worship Him. He alone is our only hope. God bless you Nov 18, 2018 at 2:14
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    Hello, please make it clear in this answer what you've quoted directly from the John MacArthur New Testament Commentary and what is your own content. You may do so by using the edit button above and inserting a > before each paragraph that is a direct quote. Thank you.
    – Susan
    Nov 19, 2018 at 18:20

There is a simple answer to this question that seems to have missed. By prayer and fasting they were expelled, and by prayer and fasting they should be prevented from returning. The OP offers us two choices:

  1. The house is a person and he should be untidy mentally and physically?
  2. The house refers to the actual house of the person?

We can safely rule out # 2, but # 1 is also quite wrong. The "house" is indeed the person's mind and body, which has been made "clean and tidy" as a result of the unclean spirit leaving. Jesus did not give a formula that protects a person from the influence of such spirits when they return. But clearly making oneself "untidy mentally and physically" is not the answer. The person should repel these spirits in the same way that they were cast out in the first place: by prayer and fasting together with good moral habits. Fasting deprives the evil spirit of some of the energy it seeks from the person, and prayer provides a spiritual shield. Meanwhile the fellowship of believers in a high spiritual atmosphere will provide additional protection.

Later Christian tradition would teach that baptism shields a person from the influence of evil spirits and in the Catholic tradition, there exists a liturgical formula for protecting the person after an exorcism is performed. It concludes:

Almighty God, we beg you to keep the evil spirit from further molesting this servant of yours, and to keep him far away, never to return. At your command, 0 Lord, may the goodness and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, take possession of this man (woman). May we no longer fear any evil since the Lord is with us; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

Conclusion: The person should repel the evil spirits in the same way that they were cast out in the first place: by prayer and fasting together with good moral habits and fellowship with other believers.

  • Perhaps you should also point out that inviting Jesus to live in that “house” and surrendering every area to him is the best way to leave no place for a demon.
    – Praesagus
    May 8 at 15:48

Just some thoughts to ponder for an answer to the question….

In Luke 11, we find this parable about the unclean spirit in response to those who said that Jesus was casting out devils through Beelzebub….an evil, false accusation.

Luke 11:15 KJV (15) But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.

For me, the “house” is ourselves….our mortal bodies….and what comes out of the mouth defiles it. Some were falsely accusing Jesus with their evil words.

This is about not rendering evil for evil when a person speaks evil of us. An evil slant upon our character shall not come to rest upon us if we do not return evil for their evil…. ”railing upon railing”. Rather than returning evil for evil, we are to bless our enemies and not curse them.

1 Peter 3:8-11 KJV (8) Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: (9) Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. (10) For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: (11) Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

We see in Proverbs 26 that a causeless curse (vilification of our character spoken by another) will not come to rest on us….if we do not return evil for evil. It wanders around aimlessly and flies by us not coming to “rest” upon us when we do not engage them in their evil words. Bless and do not curse our enemies. There is real power in this.

Proverbs 26:2 KJV (2) As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.

There is real power in this. By not returning evil for evil of those who speak evil of us (overcoming evil with good), then we give place for the judgment (wrath) of God upon those who do speak evil of us. We are to suffer for good rather than for doing evil in return for their evil.

Romans 12:17-21 KJV (17) Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. (18) If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (20) Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. (21) Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

When the unclean spirit (breath) comes out of a man (by him speaking outwardly evil words of us), then we are not to return evil for their evil thereby not giving his evil spirit “rest” upon us.

We share in that man’s evil spirit when we return evil for evil and it gives the original speaker satisfaction/rest to hear it. The evil spirit (breath) finds a new home within us when we engage in their evil.

If we do not render evil for the original speaker’s evil words, then the “unclean spirit” that came out of his mouth walks about through dry places seeking rest and finding none upon us. When we do not return evil for their evil…. our mouths are “dry” of evil words.

What happens then is that the causeless vilification goes back to the original speaker who has not kept the Word in his heart who then waxes worse and worse in evil speech as judgment. There is no rest for the wicked when his evil words do not find a receptive audience for them. We “cool” their tongues so to speak by returning evil for their evil as they are satisfied by our evil response.

Luke 11:24-26 KJV (24) When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.

The unclean breath comes back to the original speaker of evil words and the Word of God is not found within that man’s heart (swept of the Word) and he is not being remembering to do the Word (the light is snuffed out in his heart). The heart of the man who spoke evil is prime real estate for more evil to come and fully occupy it. He is in “darkness”.

“Garnished” from Strong’s:

Strong's #2885: kosmeo (pronounced kos-meh'-o) from 2889; to put in proper order, i.e. decorate (literally or figuratively) ; specially, to snuff (a wick):--adorn, garnish, trim.

(25) And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. (26) Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

The lamp of the wicked is extinguished out as they forget to do His Word. If we remember to do it, then the light is still burning within us. There is no willing repentance for the evil speaking of those who are in darkness as they do not see that what they do or speak as evil.

Proverbs 13:9 KJV (9) The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.

Those who suffer for good (doing good in face of other's persecutions of us) live godly in Christ Jesus. Yet, evil men shall wax worse and worse. The last state of them is worse than the first.

2 Timothy 3:12-13 KJV (12) Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (13) But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

thanks for reading and considering.


While Jesus is using the example of a single man, his actual purpose in saying the saying is to tell the Jews of that generation what will happen to them because they have rejected their messiah. In the immediate context the Pharisees are suggesting that he is casting out devils "by the ruler of the devils, Beelzebub":

[Mat 12:22-29 KJV] 22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24 But when the Pharisees heard [it], they said, This [fellow] doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast [them] out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.

What Jesus is saying is that since the Pharisees are not happy with devils being expelled by Jesus and his disciples then he can expect them to find the place lovingly prepared and the welcome mat laid out and will return with all of their friends to "haunt" Jerusalem.


Matthew 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-25 are associated with Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 which quote Jesus as saying,

"Whoever is not with me is against me (Jesus), and whoever does not gather with me scatters."

This statement suggests that each individual must choose a side, either with Jesus or against Him, and there is no neutral position. The choice is between eternal life or death.

The story in Matthew 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-25 implies that a person who receives Jesus with a half-hearted attitude will only repent for a short period. Soon, everything will reverse and become even worse.

It is important to understand that believing in Jesus is not just a momentary decision, but a life-long journey of no return.


What is the “swept and tidy” house referred to in Matthew 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24?

The condition of ones home is very much a reflexion of ones spiritual stature, but this applies only to non-pharisees; people who are not skilled in faking it.

Mat 23:25,26 (NIV) “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

So, for non-pharisees, "swept and tidy house" refers to both the home and the person. The reason the home is clean is because the dirty spirit, that previously lived in the person, got evicted. If this dirty spirit manages to implement it's resolve to re-enter it's old abode, the tidiness of that home will revert back to its former dirty stage. And if the spirit manages to introduce other more evil spirits, the home would, probably, get dirtier still.

  • It takes the gift of spiritual discernment (1 Cor 12:10) to be able to distinguish between clean cleans, and clean dirts. Nov 21, 2018 at 8:29

Simply translated means..if another ‘cleans’ and organizes another’s ‘house’ temple…home ..u!..dresses them in a Armani suit…it will smell good for a few days only…they lack .:the respect of maintanence…hence hue-mans are throwbacks…till comes time …u had your chance.//time?…events…to join me in the ‘o’ ..and that’s why ::Christ christened said …seeing ‘is’ believing…rebirth means death…o resistive denying self…hence a u - x

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I found this on classic.net.bible.org:

Matthew 12:43-45


The Return of the Unclean Spirit

12:43 “When 1 an unclean spirit 2 goes out of a person, 3 it passes through waterless places 4 looking for rest but 5 does not find it. 12:44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the home I left.’ 6 When it returns, 7 it finds the house 8 empty, swept clean, and put in order. 9 12:45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so 10 the last state of that person is worse than the first. It will be that way for this evil generation as well!” worse than the first. It will be that way for this evil generation as well!” 1 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. 2 sn Unclean spirit refers to an evil spirit. 3 tn Grk “man.” This is a generic use of ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo"), referring to both males and females. This same use occurs in v. 45. 4 sn The background for the reference to waterless places is not entirely clear, though some Jewish texts suggest spirits must have a place to dwell, but not with water (Luke 8:29-31; Tob 8:3). Some suggest that the image of the desert or deserted cities as the places demons dwell is where this idea started (Isa 13:21; 34:14). 5 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context. 6 tn Grk “I will return to my house from which I came.” 7 tn Grk “comes.” 8 tn The words “the house” are not in Greek but are implied. 9 sn The image of the house empty, swept clean, and put in order refers to the life of the person from whom the demon departed. The key to the example appears to be that no one else has been invited in to dwell. If an exorcism occurs and there is no response to God, then the way is free for the demon to return. Some see the reference to exorcism as more symbolic; thus the story’s only point is about responding to Jesus. This is possible and certainly is an application of the passage. 10 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the concluding point of the story.


https://biblehub.com/interlinear/matthew/12-43.htm https://biblehub.com/interlinear/matthew/12-44.htm https://biblehub.com/interlinear/matthew/12-45.htm

  • 1
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    – Susan
    Nov 19, 2018 at 18:16

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