“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none” (Matt. 12:43).
“And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. 13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea” (Mark 5:12-13).
In May 2022, while listening to a sermon in a church in Florida, the speaker said something rather interesting. While teaching on the Gadarene Demoniac, he spent several minutes explaining that the reason why the demons wanted to go into the pigs was because that they do not like water. “Demons cannot swim,” he said. And then he tried to prove his point by appealing to Matthew 12:43.
Since my curiosity was aroused, I have tried to learn more about this alleged facet of demonology. I have found that a very respectable minister, David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and the Switchblade, taught this idea on November 9, 1992.
This is what Mr. Wilkerson had to say on the subject.
DEMONS CAN’T SWIM
“The title of this message is no joke – I’m not being facetious. I believe the Bible speaks very clearly on this subject of demons: They can’t swim – because they hate water!
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none” (Matthew 12:43). Unclean spirits – or demons – roam about in dry places, where there is no water. (The New American Standard translates dry places as waterless places.) And the rest they seek is possession – a body to live in, a dwelling place that’s dry, without water of any kind.
The Bible gives us a very clear picture of this in Mark 5. Jesus was approached by a Gadarene man who was possessed by a legion of demons (that is, about 2,000 of them). When the demons saw Jesus, a spokes demon cried out: “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not” (Mark 5:7).
The demon begged Jesus to send them all into a herd of swine that was grazing on a hillside nearby. I believe those unclean spirits had every intention of driving the herd into the wilderness – a dry place, where they could wait until they found other humans to inhabit.
Jesus did permit them to possess the swine – but then, Scripture says,
“The herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea (they were about 2,000;) and were choked in the sea” (verse 13). What an incredible scene! I have often wondered why Jesus allowed those demons to enter into the hogs. Why didn’t He just send them into outer darkness, where they could never harass another human?
The fact is, Jesus never said or did anything without a powerful spiritual truth behind it. And I believe this incident has great spiritual significance for us today!
As I was studying this passage, the Holy Spirit whispered to me: “Demons can’t swim!” I answered, “Lord I don’t know what that means. Please show me!” And He began to open to me the significance of what Jesus allowed to happen:
I believe those hogs – suddenly possessed – were compelled by the Spirit of God to run pell-mell down the hill and plunge into the sea. Jesus is Lord over all of nature – and He commanded the swine, “Go! Take them now into the sea!” That was the end of that demonic possession – the Gadarene man was saved and delivered. Yet as the hogs ran into the water, the legion of demons went screaming in terror, out into dry places because they hate water!
“Throughout the Bible,
From Cover to Cover,
Water Is a Type of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Himself said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive)” John 7:38-39).
The Holy Spirit is living water! He falls like rain (both the former and latter rains). He springs up like a well within thirsting believers. And His life is poured out as a flood upon the world – like streams in the desert!
When I say demons can’t stand water, I am talking about the Holy Spirit! Every demon in hell knows that water in the Bible represents God’s Spirit. And they know that since Jesus is now bodily with the Father, their arch enemy is His Spirit – and wherever He abides, they must flee! They can’t stand the water of the Holy Ghost – in you, in the church or in the world. And the sea that the swine were driven into was a type of the Holy Spirit! This was to serve as an object lesson to all succeeding generations.
Yet dryness represents one who is void of the Spirit of God. Dry places are a type of spiritless people – God’s Spirit does not dwell in them. David said, “The rebellious dwell in a dry land” (Psalm 68:6). This is true of the believer who has neglected the Lord: he has become “dry,” empty of all things of God. And dead, dry churches and Christians become the dwelling places of unclean spirits. Demons roam about them, looking for rest – because dryness opens one up to demonic harassment.”
Fortunately, David Wilkerson says that when he teaches that demons cannot stand water, he is really trying to say that demons cannot stand the Holy Spirit, and that is a gospel truth.
However, such a transitional thought is far different from saying, “I know for certainty that demons cannot swim,” and, “I know for certainty that demons do not like water.”
Notice how David Wilkerson came to the revelation that demons do not swim. “As I was studying this passage, the Holy Spirit whispered to me: ‘Demons can’t swim!’”
There is a good reason why the Bible commands Christians to “test the spirits “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
When someone says, “the Holy Spirit whispered to me”, I want to test that whispering spirit by an objective standard, the Word of God, in context.
When the Word of God is consulted, there is not a single verse in the Bible that says plainly demons do not like water, or that demons cannot swim.
For David Wilkerson, or anyone else, to teach dogmatically something new by revelation, is theologically unsound.
Orthodox Christianity maintains the Church has a completed canon of Scripture. There no new revelation that is to be embraced. It does not matter if a new revelation is purported to have come to Joseph Smith, Jr., Ellen G. White, Judge Rutherford, Mary Baker Eddy, or David Wilkerson. It is Scripture, and Scripture alone, that is to guide the faith and practices of God’s people.
While we might smile at the idea that demons cannot swim, the real danger in a new revelation is that it is an additional teaching to Scripture. Such a revelation sets up a new authority, for who can resist believing a person who says, “The Holy Spirit whispered to me”?
Christian, beware of clever sermon titles, and beyond that, new revelation. Turn away from anyone purporting to have the Holy Spirit whisper something to them that cannot be confirmed plainly in the Bible. Therein is real danger.
In contrast to David Wilkerson’s teaching that demons cannot swim, and hate water, is the teaching of Apostle Colin Nyathi, a Senior Pastor and Founder at Harvest House International Churches.
In an article he wrote in March 2014, Mr. Nyathi tries to unmask demonic “Water Spirits” who are associated with the wrong use of water as a source of power. Mr. Nyathi believes that spiritual warfare has been transferred into the water (sea), based on Revelation 12:12.
“Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
From the fertile imaginations of these men comes a conflicting message. One man says the Holy Spirit whispered and revealed to him something new about demons, while twelve years later another Bible teacher declares he is an Apostle and knows the truth about demons.
The only hope for a clear teaching on the subject of Demonology is to return to Scripture and search out the plain simplicity that can be found there.
While you search the Scripture, be very careful of embracing any new revelation, or following after someone who has taken unto themselves a fraudulent authority.
Contend for the truth once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
Personally study the Bible.
Do not let your imagination go beyond the plain and simple teaching of Scripture.
Tell me the old, old story
Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply,
As to a little child;
For I am weak and weary,
And helpless and defiled.