Angels, Satan and Demons
"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Hebrews 1:13, 14)
Why talk about angels?
Because they are part of God's creation (part of our world) and His revelation to us. Mentioned more than 300 times in the Bible; only Ruth, Nehemiah, John's epistles and James (7 out of 66 books) make no mention of angels. Jesus Christ interacted with angels, Satan and demons in his earthly ministry.
God is a Spirit. There is a "host" of other beings normally invisible to the human eye, that are at work all around us, for good or for bad.
- Westerners tend to be less aware (believing) of their reality, although many have an infatuation with books and movies about demons, evil spirits, Dracula, werewolves and paranormal activities.
- In some other cultures, however, angels and spirits are ever-present (and feared, respected or worshipped).
article titled "In Search of the Sacred" observed that "20% of Americans (reportedly) have had a revelation from God in the last year, and 13% have seen or sensed the presence of an angel". There are no statistics for (more secular) Australia, but interest in spiritual beings, the occult, visions and other supernatural experiences is substantial.
ἄγγελος or angelos = messenger, envoy, one who is sent
What are angels like?
Popular images: white, huge wings, play harps, have severe faces/baby faces, halos. These angels only exist in the artist's imagination.
Descriptions of angels in the Bible range from relatively familiar images ("like people" in appearance) to passages that are more obscure.
What does the Bible teach?
- Angels are created beings (Psalm 148:2-5; Colossians 1:16). Created before the human race (Job 38:7). As created beings, they are not to be worshipped (Revelation 19:10; 22:8, 9). Long ago, some allied with Satan (himself an angel), rebelled against God and were ejected. We are forbidden to venerate angels (Colossians 2:18).
- Spiritual beings. Distinct from mankind (1 Corinthians 6:3 - we will "judge angels", Hebrews 1:4). They do not have the same physical limitations as people. Can be visible (eg Gabriel's appearance to Mary, Luke 1:26-28; also Genesis 19:1-3).
- Immortal. They do not die (Luke 20:34, 35).
- Numerous. Revelation 5:11; Daniel 7:10. See also Matthew 26:53; Luke 2:13
- Without gender. They do not propagate (see Jesus' teaching in Luke 20:34, 35).
1 Peter 3:22 implies rankings. See also Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:20, 21; 3:10
- Angel of the Lord. Exodus 23:20-23; Joshua 5:13-15. Had power to retain sin. Received worship. Called "Lord" (Jehovah). Where he stood was "holy ground". Associated with God's presence (Exodus 32:34 cf Isaiah 63:9). He saves. God's angel equated with him (Genesis 32:30; 48:16). Some theologians have concluded that the Angel of the Lord was really the pre-incarnate Christ, a "Christophony".
- Archangel. Michael the only one identified as such. Jude 9; Revelation 12:7 (led the angelic host against Satan and his followers), Daniel 10:14, cf 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Guardian of Israel (Daniel 12:1).
- Gabriel. Stands in God's presence (Luke 1:19). Carries God's messages (Daniel 8:16; 9:21).
- Elect Angels. Some theologians believe they are the angels who stood with God during Satan's rebellion (1 Timothy 5:21; Matthew 25:41).
- Angels of the Nations. Daniel 10:13, 20. Seems to imply each nation has its own angel, but this is inconclusive. "Principalities" in the NT may refer to these angelic "princes of nations" (Ephesians 3:20; Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 6:12).
- Cherubim. High ranking angels associated with God's plan of redemption/ judgement (Genesis 3:24; had great power). One description indicates faces of a man, lion, ox, eagle (Ezekiel 10:14). Isaiah 14:13, 14 suggests Satan originally a cherub.
[Not the same as with cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-22, 37:7-9) and embroidering in the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1) and temple (1 Kings 6:23-28).
- "Wheels" and "wheels within wheels" (Ezekiel 1). Accompanied the cherubim. Had "spirit" (v. 20). Represented heavenly beings in the Apocrypha, eg Enoch 61:10; 71:7. Unclear what they were.
- Seraphim - six-winged beings; in Isaiah 6:1-8 they fly around God's throne singing "holy, holy, holy". See also Revelation 4:6-8. Still part of Jewish tradition.
- Obedient. Given commissions to fulfil (Psalm 103:20; Jude 6; 1 Peter 3:22). God's will is always done in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
- Reverent. They worship God above all else (Nehemiah 9:6; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:6).
- Wise (2 Samuel 14:17), but not omniscient. There are mysteries that they cannot fathom (1 Peter 1:12; Matthew 24:36). If 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 refers to fallen spiritual rulers, it is clear that they are not all-wise; otherwise they would not have orchestrated the crucifixion of Christ.
- Meek. Do not harbour resentments, grudges; do not rail against their opponents (Jude 9; 2 Peter 2:11).
- Mighty. "Excel in strength" (Psalm 103:20). However, they are not omnipotent (Psalm 103:20; 2 Peter 2:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).
- Holy, ie "set apart" for God and His work (Revelation 14:10; Jude 6).
- God's Agents, doing his work
- God's messengers; they send:
- warnings (Matthew 2:13; Hebrews 2;2)
- instructions (Matthew 28:2-6; Acts 10:3; Daniel 4:13-17)
- encouragement (Acts 27:23; Genesis 28:12)
- Revelation (Acts 7:53
- Angels were actively involved in the ministry of Jesus Christ:
- announcement of His birth to Mary and Joseph (Luke 1:26-38)
- announcement to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-15)
- gave the name of Jesus (Luke 2:21)
- warned Joseph to flee to Egypt, then gave clearance for return (Matthew 2:13-21)
- ministered to Jesus after His wilderness temptation (Matthew 4:11)
- Jesus related to angels in his initial encounter with Nathaniel (John 1:51)
- ministered to Jesus on the even of His death (Luke 22:43)
- available to rescue Jesus, had he so wished (Matthew 26:53)
- rolled away the stone on resurrection morning; sat inside the tomb (John 20:10-12)
- present at Jesus' ascension and spoke to the disciples (Acts 1:10-11)
- submitted to Jesus on His return to heaven (1 Peter 3:21)
- will accompany Jesus when he returns in glory (Matthew 16:27; 25:31)
- God's servants sent to minister to His people (Hebrews 1:14)
- sustain (Matthew 4:11)
- preserve (Genesis 16:7
- intercede (Zechariah 1:12)
- protect (Psalm 91:9-12)
- deliver (Numbers 20:16
Men and women in the Bible had no difficulties accepting the reality of angels:
- helped Abraham's servant Ezeazar find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:7, 39, 40)
- rescued Lot in Sodom and from God's judgement against that city (Genesis 19)
- rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Numbers 20:16)
- destroyed part of the city of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 21:14, 15)
- arrayed against the enemies of Elisha (2 Kings 6:9-17)
- rescued the Hebrews in the fire (Daniel 3;28)
- protected Daniel from the lions (Daniel 6:32)
- rescued the Apostles from prison (Acts 5:18-20)
What about guardian angels? Matthew 18:10.
Jewish writers developed the belief in guardian angels during the time between the Old and New Testament (the "Inter-Testamental period"). Some early church fathers believed that each person had not only a good angel assigned to him/her, but a demon as well. The belief in guardian angels has been around for a long time, but there is no explicit scriptural basis for it. However, Scripture does teach that God uses angels in ministering to us.
"For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere." (Ephesians 6:12, Amplified Bible)
We need a clear understanding of this topic because:
- Satan is real (despite assertions by some that he is just an idea, or a "personification of the concept of evil")
- his objective is to pervert, obstruct and overthrow the plan of God
- he seeks to gain worship that belongs to God
- he hates exposure and will do everything in his power to cloud the fact of his existence, and his works
- the Bible urges the Christian community not to be ignorant of his devices (???ľa, or "evil purposes", 2 Corinthians 2:11).
Read Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19. These prophecies are about real people and historical events, but the context and language have led many theologians to believe they also describe the origin and fall of Satan, ie in the spiritual realm.
Satan was not created in his present state, but as Lucifer (lit. "shining one"), was one of the angelic hosts. He fell because of pride (1 Timothy 3:6).
He desired to be like God. He was cast out of heaven with his followers. He is reserved for eternal punishment (Matthew 25:41). Desire to be like God was the basis for the first temptation of Adam and Eve in Eden (Genesis 3:5). Satan still desires to be worshipped (see Luke 4:6, 7). He stirs up rebellion against God in human beings (Ephesians 2:2).
His Character is Revealed in His Names
- Satan - Hebrew for "adversary" (eg Mark 1:13). He is God's (and our) arch-enemy. Since Eden an enmity has existed between him and the "seed of Eve", who would crush his head (Genesis 3:15), referring to Jesus Christ. The first sins in the human story were a result of man's responding to Satan's temptation, based on his opposition to God (1 John 3:12). He works against the church by introducing false teaching (1 Timothy 4:1) and persecution (Revelation 2:10), not to mention pride and disunity. Christians are promised we will ultimately have victory over him (eg Romans 16:20).
- Devil ("diablos") = slanderer. Used 35 times in the NT. He slanders God and man (Genesis 3:2, 4, 5; Job 1:9). He is called the "accuser of the brethren" (Revelation 12:10). [In ancient times an "accuser" was a judicial adversary who profited from the fall of others.] However, Christians have the last word; no one can accuse those whom God has justified (Romans 8:33-38).
- Destroyer - Abadon (Hebrew) or Apollyon (Greek). Revelation 9:11. Some of the best known pagan gods are identified as destroyers (eg the Hindu goddess Kali).
- Serpent. The image of Eden (Genesis 3:1-14). See also Revelation 12:9.
- Tempter. Matthew 4:3. His aim is to destroy.
- Prince and god of this world (lit. "age"). John 12:31, 2 Corinthians 4:4. The whole world lies under his malignant control (1 John 5:19). This includes the world system (literature, business, commerce, politics and government).
- Dragon - Revelation 20:2; 13:2-4
- Beelzebub (lit "Lord of the flies"; comes from Ba'al) - Luke 11:15; Mark 3:22; Matthew 10:25. Prince of devils - Matthew 12:24, 26; Mark 3:23; Luke 11:18. Some theologians believe the word refers to a demon under Satan's authority.
- Belial (lit. "worthless") - 2 Corinthians 6:5. Term was used in NT times to refer to Satan and the Antichrist.
- proud (1 Timothy 3:6)
- powerful (Ephesians 2:2) - but not omnipotent like God
- malignant (Job 2:4)
- subtle (Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3)
- fierce and cruel (1 Peter 5:8)
- liar (John 8:44)
The nature of his work:
- opposes God's work (1 Thessalonians 2:18)
- seeks to hinder the Gospel (Matthew 13:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4)
- enters people's hearts (Luke 22;3)
- blinds (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- deceives (Ephesians 6:11; Revelation 20:7, 8)
- ensnares the wicked (1 Timothy 3:7)
- afflicts people (Job 1:12)
- tempts Christians (1 Thessalonians 3:5; see also Matthew 4:1)
- will kill, if allowed (1 Corinthians 5:5)
- murderer (John 8:44; 10:10)
- sinner from the beginning (1 John 3:8)
If we submit to God we can resist Satan and he will flee from us (James 4:7).
The sphere of his work:
As an angel of light seeks to deceive people (2 Corinthians 11:14). Creates false teaching (1 Timothy 4:1). His ministers pose as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15).
The motives of his work:
To seek to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38). To oppose the work of God. To discredit God's motives and plans (Genesis 3). To secure people's allegiance and worship. To break up the people of God.
The limitation of his work:
Satan is already defeated. He cannot tempt or touch God's people without God's permission (consider the life of Job, Job 1:16). Jesus came to negate the works of Satan in people's lives (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).
Satan's downfall was predicted in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15 , the first Messianic prophecy). He will eventually be chained for 1,000 years and then cast into the lake of fire, where he will remain forever.
4. Wicked Spirits
- Fallen Angels
Many angels sinned by following Satan (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6) and were cast out with him. Some are now believed to be in a location called Tartarus (Greek word translated as "Hell" in 2 Peter 2:4); others are active in the world (John 12:31; 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:7-9). They seek to exercise influence over people (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4; Ephesians 2;2; 6:11, 12).
Many are behind witchcraft (the Bible forbids occult involvement, eg Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27; Exodus 22:18; Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Isaiah 9:19, 20). Includes divination, astrology, horoscopes, necromancy, magic, sorcery and witchcraft in all forms.
However, for Christians this power is broken (Revelation 5:9, 7:13, 14). Jesus defeated Satan on the cross (Colossians 2:15). He gives us spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6:12-17), the power of the blood of Jesus and our confession (Revelation 12:11).
Fallen angels will not participate in redemption (1 Peter 1:12), but will spend eternity in everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:41).
Origin uncertain. Disembodied spirits, which may "possess" people or animals (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2; Matthew 12:43-45). Jesus came to deliver people from demons (Matthew 8:29). Christians have God living inside them (John 14:23).
Jesus came to destroy all the works of Satan (1 John 2:12-14; 3:8; 4:1-6)
- we are not alone
- we are in a spiritual conflict; there are forces at odds with God (as with us, as His children)
- we need not fear Satan or demons, our lives are bound up with the risen, glorified Christ, who is above all principalities and powers (Ephesians 1)
- our real opponents are not people, but spiritual enemies; our response needs to operate in the same realm
- we need to understand and use our spiritual armour (Ephesians 6)
- deception is inevitable when we deny the existence of spiritual enemies
- false religions and idolatry are more than cultural curiosities; they are spiritually based ("The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons." 1 Corinthians 10:20, 21).
- while there is a lot about angels that we do not understand, we have what we need to know; our confidence is ultimately in the grace and power of God and our salvation in Jesus Christ
The Sadducees (the aristocratic, politically powerful, priestly class in Jesus' time) denied the existence of angels (along with the resurrection). They believed the soul perished along with the body.
The term angel (messenger) is sometimes used in the Bible in relation to:
- people (2 Samuel 2:5; Luke 7:24; Haggai 1:13; Galatians 4:14)
- Satan's messengers (2 Corinthians 12:7)
- pastors of churches (Revelation 2:1; 3:14)
Angels - God's Secret Agents, by Billy Graham (various editions)
Understanding Spiritual Warfare, by Pastor Allan Davis