The demons are basically the evil equivalent of Angels. For instance, in Matthew 25v41, Jesus speaks about the Lake of Fire prepared for the devil and his demons. In Greek, the word for “demons” is actually “angels”, and some translations do translate the word as “angels”, while other translations opt for “demons”.
In fact, the demons are called “fallen” angels because they used to be good angels in God’s court. However, when the devil (he himself originally an angel in God’s court) rebelled against God, some angels chose to follow him in his rebellion.
In Revelation 12v4 the Bible talks about the dragon (symbolising the devil) using his tail to draw away a third of the stars of heaven. I believe it is from this verse that many Christians believe that a third of the original angels in heaven “fell” with the devil; people who understand this verse in this way would interpret the “stars of heaven” as the angels.
Like the angels of God, the demons are spiritual beings, they are personalities, they have names. I believe that on falling from Heaven, demons kept many of their angelic attributes, but these were now corrupted to be used against God.
Like the angels, demons do not have physical bodies. So like the angels, we cannot see or touch them, ordinarily. The Bible teaches that the devil transforms himself into an angel of light 2 Corinthians 11v14. However, from this I am not sure whether the devil or demons can appear to people,(the account of Jesus’s temptation by the devil in Matthew 4 does suggest that the devil may have appeared to Jesus) but in a way demons don’t have to appear to people, because the devil can bring evil suggestions straight to our minds through our sinful natures which are also fallen, so our sinful natures naturally speak the same language as the devil and his demons; they don’t have to make any special effort to communicate with us.
Demons are spiritual soldiers in the army of the devil.
Because the devil comes to cause disorder and mayhem, it would be easy to assume that his kingdom is disorganised and chaotic. However the “kingdom of darkness”, meaning the devil and the demons, are, like the Kingdom of God, a highly organised army, with specialists in different areas. Unlike God, and unlike people, the devil has no creative ability of his own. (We human beings are creative because we are made in the image of God, the ultimate Creator. However the Bible does not specifically teach that angels or demons are made in God’s image.) The devil can only twist or corrupt things that God has created. For instance, the devil cannot create people. The devil cannot create new demons. However the devil can corrupt people, as he successfully corrupted the demons. Therefore Jesus teaches us in John 10v10 that the thief (the devil) only comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. That is the devil’s only mission. So the demons as the devil’s subordinates also seek to destroy and to thwart at every turn the plans of God, especially God’s special plan of salvation for the world through Christ.
How demons work:
In the New Testament and Gospels, Jesus would often cast out demons from people. This suggests that demons can take up residence within people. Even though we all have sinful natures, the Bible seems to suggest that demonic possession is something over and above our sinful natures, so demonic possession is not the usual or default state of a human being. I believe that, because demons are spiritual beings, this works by spiritual means. Jesus uses the analogy of a house to describe demonic possession, where the demons are like occupants in a house. Matthew 12v43-45. So it is as if a demon manages to “take over” someone’s spirit, and manages to control them to do whatever he the demon wishes. As Christians, we are not supposed to be “possessed” by the angels, but directly filled with the Spirit of God Himself, the Holy Spirit.
Theory about demonic possession is very, very, difficult, and very, very, controversial because in the Bible people are described as demon-possessed whom we would today talk of as being epileptic, or mentally ill. So the suggestion might be that anyone who is epileptic, or mentally ill is demon-possessed (and therefore evil, or manipulated by evil). However, the Bible does distinguish between people who are merely ill, and those who are actually demon-possessed. However, I would suggest that demonic-possession can sometimes manifest itself in illness. Thankfully, in the Bible, the main Person who went around casting out demons was actually Jesus Himself, and I think that we can trust that He knew the difference between people who were merely sick and those who were possessed. Perhaps a constructive way to think about it is that sickness or illness can often have a demonic root, and when Jesus cast out the demon, He was cutting off the demonic source of the illness?
Sincerely, as a Christian, this is one topic I usually steer very clear of, as I know I am just not qualified to distinguish between mere illness and anything more spiritually significant. Getting this matter wrong can be something that can obviously affect people’s lives very seriously. Unfortunately, some Christian leaders greatly abuse their authority by going about diagnosing demon-possession quite casually, and sometimes they are very quick to make these judgements especially about people who disagree with them. This is a subject that has to be handled with immense carefulness, prayerfulness, maturity, knowledge, wisdom, spiritual discernment, experience and integrity. Sadly, it is in those very churches where these attributes are most lacking that the leaders are most likely to casually make such diagnoses.
To complicate matters further, the Bible also differentiates between people who are demon-possessed, that is, that a demon resides within them, and those who are oppressed by a demon, that is, that a demon has caused their trouble, even though no demon might actually reside within them.
Demons also work to fight unseen against the Kingdom of God in the spiritual realm. In the Book of Daniel, we hear about the Prince of Persia, (a demonic entity) who withstood God’s messenger, bearing a special message to Daniel, for 21 days. (Daniel 10) The archangel Michael eventually came to strengthen this messenger, who was then able to present his message. However, this victory only eventually came about when Daniel had fasted for all those 21 days. The Bible teaches that there is an unseen war between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil. This often occurs in our own hearts and minds, in choices that we can make or decisions that we can take, or attitudes that we can embrace. However, from this Daniel passage it suggests that the arena of spiritual warfare also exists completely outside us as people. The Bible teaches that God asks us to partner with Him and the Angels in this fight against the kingdom of the devil through our prayers and our living for God. In Ephesians 6v12 the Apostle Paul tells us that our battle is not against “flesh and blood” (that is, other people) but rather against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world – that is, against demonic entities, the demonic kingdom.
The Word of God, the Bible, is a powerful weapon, (Hebrews 4v12) and by regular, prayerful and determined meditation upon it, we can use it to defeat demonic attacks (that is, evil suggestions, temptations) which occur in our own hearts and minds. The Word of God can also bring victories in areas that lie outside of our own hearts, for instance when other people are ill, or when issues do not specifically originate within people at all. (Eg, natural disasters)
The Book of Revelation teaches that our prayers are also like mighty weapons. Revelation 8v4: when our prayers are offered up with incense before the throne of God, the resulting fire, when thrown down to the earth, causes powerful things like noises and thunderings and an earthquake.
Victories that we win in the spiritual realm through our proclamation of the Word of God and through our prayers are then manifested in the physical realm, that is, the world that we can see around us. Jesus expressed it like this “What you bind in heaven…” (that is, in the spiritual realm) “..will be bound on earth, and what you loose in heaven will be loosed on earth.”: Matthew 18v18
An equal battle?
A Facebook friend pointed out that from this article, it might appear that the battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil is equally matched, as if God and the devil are merely opposites, or opposite forces, like yin and yang.
However, this is completely untrue.
God and the devil are not opposite types of the same force. Actually, God created the devil as well as all the angels, including those who would eventually rebel against God and become demons. The devil himself was originally an angel.
Because God is the Creator, firstly, because of that He is overwhelmingly bigger than the devil. Secondly God has powers and abilities that are completely beyond those of any created being, including the devil and the devil’s demons. God is everywhere at once – or omnipresent, but the devil is not. God is all powerful – or omnipotent – that is, He can do absolutely anything, but the devil cannot. God knows absolutely everything – or He is omniscient – but the devil is not. In fact, if the devil really knew anything, then surely he would know that it is utterly futile to fight against God! Because God knows everything, God can see right into our hearts and read our thoughts. The devil cannot do this. What the devil has to work with for the sake of sowing temptations and suggestions is what we do and what we say. However, on earth, it may seem as if the devil and the demons have “the upper hand”, because our sinful natures are already predisposed towards selfishness. All the devil and the demons need to do is whisper ways that we could act selfishly – and time after time, we listen to their lies.
Ultimately God is overwhelmingly more powerful than the devil and the demons, God has already won; if we are Christians, then we need to see the battle that we are fighting for what it is. We need to rise up, and use the weapons of the Bible and prayer that God has put at our disposal, and we need to fight!
Photo of cat’s eyes from Pixabay