Beliefnet
Have a scriptural question? Write to Ben Witherington III at columnists@staff.Beliefnet.com.

In this column, Ben Witherington answers questions about the Bible and:

Demonic possession
The number 144,000
Ghosts
Women wearing pants
Severe weather


Q: I have a nephew who is 14. He has been told by other Christians that he has a demon in him. My question is can he have a demon in him as he declares he knows Jesus as his savior? I have searched the scriptures and cannot locate my answer. --Sherri

According to Christian theology, if a person is truly a Christian, then the Holy Spirit dwells within them and Christ is the Lord of their life. If this is the case, there is no room for demons. The powers of darkness can pester or bother Christians, but not dwell in them. Demonic possession is a form of lordship over the human soul, and there is no room for two lords in one soul. Thus if you are in Christ and Christ is in you, there can be no demonic possession, for greater is He who is in us than any of those dark powers.

Q: Is the number 144,000--used when speaking of the people that will come to Heaven--a specific number, or a number that symbolizes many people? --Anita

The number is clearly symbolic, as are other numbers in apocalyptic literature like Revelation. 144,000 is a multiple of 12, as in the twelve tribes or the twelve apostles. As such it symbolizes the whole people of God, however many actual numbers of them there may be.

Q: As Christians, should we believe in ghosts? Can they actually harm Christians if God is with them?

If by ghosts one means spirits of the dead, they do exist, as the story about Saul visiting the medium of Endor shows. But whether it is possible for them to haunt us or inhabit material spaces is another question. Nothing in the Bible suggests that such things can happen.

Q: I have two married daughters that are of the apostolic Pentecost faith. They believe women should not wear slacks or jeans. Can you tell me what scripture this is found in? --minpin

There is nothing in the Bible about men or women wearing pants; pants are not mentioned in the Bible. Presumably, the issue is whether women should wear what is traditionally men's clothing or vice versa. Since styles and fads come and go, one cannot really make a dogmatic statement on this. Jesus and his disciples wore robes that would look like long dresses to us today, but that was their custom. The Bible doesn't dictate on this issue one way or another.

Q: I once heard a preacher say that God did not control the weather, that the power to control the weather was given to the devil or one of his minions. Is this true? --ajredd

There is absolutely nothing in the Bible about Satan controlling the weather, and much to associate God with the weather. See, for example, the story of the plagues in Exodus, or the discussion in Revelation about final judgment, which involves, among other things, catastrophic weather.

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