MacArthur preached a sermon called Jesus' authority over demons, and in it he stated, "And as I said last time, the victims of demon possession are not necessarily the most evil people, sometimes children were possessed, as we shall see in the New Testament. And they're not to be confused with people who somehow aren't functioning normally, mentally, because every time Jesus confronted a demon, the conversation was always comprehensible and rational cause you're dealing with a rational being in dealing with a demon. Somebody who is completely spaced out, flipped out, incomprehensible, talking double talk, nonsense is...you're probably not engaging a demon."
In the scenes in the bible where a demon is present, whether inside a human or as a spirit, we see that they are vocal. In 1 Kings 22:19-23, a lying spirit came forward when God inquired of them how Ahab should be brought to the fullness of his iniquity. The lying spirit spoke aloud and had a rational conversation with God. You often find that when the demons speak, they are rational, lucid. The slave girl following Paul around had a spirit of divination in her and she kept shouting, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." (Acts 16:14-21). Not wanting satan's publicity, Paul commanded the demon to come out of her, and it did that very moment. But she was shouting rationally, and what she was shouting was true.
I've often mused about the impact to our biology when we as Christians host the Holy Spirit inside us and when a non-believer hosts a demon. We don't know what it feels like to have the Spirit leave us, because He is sealed within us, (Eph 1:13, 2 Cor 1:22). And we don't know how it felt to have the Spirit come into us. He is gentle, merging seamlessly and painlessly into our body. But when a demonic spirit enters or leaves an unsaved person's body, it often is recorded that it rips and splits the biology. Going in and coming out are hard on the person. While it is in there, they could cause the human host to cut themselves, they are thrown about, they are caused to scream till hoarse, hurl themselves into the fire, and other biologically hurtful things. Sometimes they are seemingly calm, like when the slave girl was following Paul, but the bible says she was shouting, not speaking. When it is time to leave, demons don't go willingly, as we see in the scene of the Gadarene demoniac. When they left the man they went into the pigs, who immediately went mad and hurtled down the hill and drowned in the lake.
Doing a study from the bible on all the instance of demons inside a person or oppressing a person would be interesting. Look at the person they harass or possess, and their biology. What changes do they cause to their human host physically? Mentally? Emotionally? How do they go in or come out of a person? Do they speak, and if so what do they say, and why? How do they interact with Jesus or God? Those are a few of the ways one could approach a study of the subject.
As to the question of whether children could be demon possessed, first we look to the bible to see if there are any instances of demon possession in children. Is this thing even possible? Always, brother and sister, go to the bible first when a question comes up. We could read books on the subject, but nowadays so many books are fraught with error that I hesitate to recommend even one. So, if child possession is even possible, what does the bible have to say about it?
The bible records several instances of demonic possession. Matthew 9:32-33; Mt 12:22; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 4:33-36; Luke 22:3; Acts 16:16-18.
As a matter of fact, Jesus and the disciples spent a good deal of time exorcising demons and dealing with harassing demons. But were any of them children? Yes. There are two recorded instances of demonic possession in children. In one, the demon-possessed is referred to as a boy, and in the other, the possessed person is referred to as a daughter, later as a child. So we take from these facts that it is possible for demons to inhabit children.
In this example the father said of his boy that his son has been possessed "since childhood":
"Mark 9:14-29-- "And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?” Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
"When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”"
The demon's exit was so horrific, the boy was as dead. I'd surmise that the demons want to do so much damage that though they must obey the voice of God, they shred as much flesh as they can on their way out.
In the second case of a demon-possessed child, it is recorded in Mark 7:26-30; "The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
So a boy and a child are shown to be possessed by a demon. The answer to the original question is "yes." MacArthur expounded in his sermon 'Food from the Master's table'.
“Now she [the mother] has a problem. She kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. She kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. Matthew says the demon was an unclean spirit...an unclean spirit. In a sense, all demons are unclean. Demons are fallen angels who operate in the kingdom of darkness. They indwell unbelievers. This is a little girl. This is a young girl, an unmarried girl under the age of twelve, thirteen, when people got married. Who knows? Eight, nine, ten...seven...who knows? A demon-possessed child. Horrific experience for a mother. I think much more common in the world today than we understand or the demons want us to understand.”
I agree with this statement. Demons are still around. They possess people, adults and/or children. Their presence on earth increased as Jesus first came to earth and their presence will increase in advance of the second time Jesus comes to earth.
"Demons can take up residence in non-believers and they did that in an escalating fashion during the time of Christ, at least they manifested it in an escalated fashion. As I said, they like to stay hidden but under the confrontation of Jesus, they just literally blew their cover. They were just traumatized."
The next logical question comes, "How could God do this to the innocent children!" But that is a false question. He doesn't do it to people, sin and satan's evil causes demon possession. And I often get a reply like, "OK, well, how could He allow it, then?! They're children!"
We have to remember that the world is corrupt. Rather than see the "badness" of God, see the evil of sin and its corrupting effects. Society's most vulnerable are not immune to the ravages of evil in the form of demon infestation. We may live in a beautiful place with green grass and swaying pine trees and undulating blue ocean, with stars twinkling overhead, and all that is beautiful to be sure. But creation groans for release from the evil that permeates it. We humans are corrupt too, Christians are only cleansed because we are saved by the blood of Jesus.
It is a fallen world and all societies that try to create civilization in this fallen world fail. Society's most vulnerable are always most vulnerable. Children, the weak, the lame, the mentally retarded, all vulnerable. Herod killed thousands of children under the age of two because he feared the new King spoken of by the Wise Men. Imagine being that Roman soldier, given a duty to stab babies.
In Ezekiel 5:10 the siege went on so long the people began to eat their children. Children are passed into the fire of Molech. The Old Testament records many such atrocities against children. God allows people their sinful desires and the outcome of those are evil. However, He is always working within our society for the good! What mans sinfully creates as an evil, He turns to the Good.
Remember, He also offers a remedy to those who are lost. We do not have to remain vulnerable to demonic possession. He offers His Son and showers unto us grace through Him. If one repents and accepts His salvation, then one will not be vulnerable to demon possession, not you or your house. Being saved, walking with the Lord, raising up your family in Godly statutes means you are likely to be harassed, but with prayer and constant repentance and bible study, you will recognize demonic attacks when they come- and have the faith to oppose them.
The day is coming when no more atrocities against any person, especially children, will occur ever again.
Here is a final thought from the sermon I quoted earlier, "The point of the text is that Jesus meets this demon-possessed situation and totally dominates the demon. The demon panics under the preaching of the gospel because the gospel raids the kingdom. The gospel steals the man that he's living in and plying his wicked influences and so the demon panics under the preaching."
"Let me tell you something. People run around, "I cast you out, I bind you," that doesn't do a thing to any demon anywhere, anytime. If they laugh, they laugh at that...exorcisms, human manipulations, like Acts, you know, the sons of Sceva going around...they were Jewish exorcists, you know, they had these little incantations, chants and formulas and the demon said, "Jesus we know, and Paul we know, but who are you? We're not impressed." Basically. They shudder not under human manipulation, they shudder under the power of the gospel because the gospel goes into the kingdom and raids it. The gospel goes into the house, ties up the strong man and plunders his goods. That's what smashes their fortresses. I said, that's...that's what frees the souls of their captives and brings them to Christ."
The captives could be adults or they could be children.
The Gospel. It always comes back to the Gospel. Jesus saves. He is the Victor over sin and death. With His Spirit indwelling us, the demons cannot enter. Glory to Him in the highest!