Angelology: Doctrine of Angels, Demons, and Satan
Angels make an appearance on the biblical stage in both the Old and New Testaments. Who are they? What are their jobs? Where did they come from? The Bible goes into little detail. When Billy Graham wrote his book on the subject, he pointed out that:
When I decided to preach a sermon on angels, I found practically nothing in my library.
Therefore, at the very beginning of our study, it is important
to note that the Bible gives us very limited information about
angels. Therefore, we must be careful in the conclusions we draw.
We have insufficient information to say much of anything about
The Hebrew word for angel is mala'ak; in meaning it is equivalent to the Greek word, angelos from which the English word is obviously derived. However, in both Hebrew and Greek, the term simply means "messenger" and was used for both God's messengers as well as those of a king or ruler on Earth. For a list of all the appearances of the Hebrew term, look at Appendix Four.
Three other terms are found in the Old Testament for angel. Seraphim (singular Seraph) simply means "flame". It only shows up twice, both times in Isaiah, and both times in one chapter: Isaiah 6:2 and 6.
The second term is considerably more common, and is transliterated into English as "Cherub"; it is these angels that are described as particularly unusual to look at; Ezekiel 1:4-28 contains the most detailed description we have of them. Whether this is their normal appearance, it's hard to say. They reappear in Revelation in virtually the same form. They appear most frequently, though, as a decoration used in the temple. For a complete list of all the references to the Cherubim, look at Appendix Four.
The third term that is generally thought to refer to angels is found in only a handful of places. It is usually - though not always - translated as "the sons of God". How to understand the term is a topic of great controversy, especially in Genesis 6:1-4, where the reader is told that the sons of God had sex with the daughters of men:
When men began to increase in number on the Earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then Yahweh said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
The Nephilim were on the Earth in those days - and also afterward - when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
Three possible explanations for this incident have been proposed:
1. The sons of God are the sons of Seth.
2. The daughters of men are the descendants of Cain.
3. The sin in view is the marriage of the holy to the unholy (see Deut. 7:1-6; Gen. 34:9; Josh. 23:12; 1 Kings 11:2; Ezra 9:14; and 2 Cor. 6:14-18).
4. The lines of evidence given to support this position are as follows: a) the concept of a holy line seems to have been established with the distinction made between the genealogy of Seth and that of Cain; and b) the sin of marriage of the holy to the unholy becomes a common theme throughout the Pentateuch.
5. But, there are some serious problems with this theory of two human lines: a) the term "sons of God" cannot be demonstrated to mean "the line of Seth", or a holy line of people, any place else in the Bible. b) There is no evidence that the lines of Cain and Seth remained totally separate. The theory also fails to account for the many other children Adam and Eve had besides Seth and Cain (Gen. 5:4). c) It cannot be demonstrated that God had begun working through only one line at this early period of history. d) The term for "men" used in this passage is general, with no demonstrated special meaning. There would have to be some evidence elsewhere in the Bible in order to legitimately narrow its meaning here to "Cain" or "the unredeemed". e) Finally, and most damning, is the underlying false theological presupposition, that a line of people could be wholly wicked, with no possibility of redemption. This smacks of both racism and salvation by works - neither of which is a biblical concept.
1. The "sons of God" are dynastic rulers.
2. The "daughters of men" are commoners.
3. The sin in view is polygamy.
4. The evidence for this view is that magistrates or rulers
are often referred to as gods or the offspring of gods in the Ancient Near East (Note Ex. 21:6; 22:8-9; and Psalm 82:1, 6).
5. The problem with this second theory is twofold: one, kingship has not been expressed in any way in this passage or in the preceding, and two, Scripture does not consider kings to be the actual sons of a deity, nor does Scripture accept such designations as legitimate. One of the striking differences between the kings of Israel and the neighboring kings of other lands was that Israel's rulers didn't claim divinity.
1. The "sons of God" are fallen angels.
2. The "daughters of men" are mortal women.
3. The sin in view is the marriage between supernatural and natural.
4. The evidence for this view is: a) "sons of God", in all other Old Testament passages, means "angels" (see Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Psalm 29:1; 89:7; Daniel 3:25); b) Jude 6-7, 1 Peter 3:19- 20, and 2 Peter 2:4-6 seem to refer to the incident as an interaction between fallen angels and people. Notice that Jude 7 reports that "in a similar way" to what happened before the flood, the people of Sodom perverted themselves (they also desired sex with angels: Genesis 19:5); and finally c) Jesus in Matthew 22:30 says that angels do not marry; he doesn't say they are incapable of sex; furthermore he is discussing the righteous angels, not the unrighteous demons (besides, the point of Christ's argument is that people will not marry in heaven - he is not intent on discussing the sexual habits of the angels).
5. The problems with this third theory are, one, that it gives a somewhat mythological tone to the story, and two, that there had not been a previous mention of angels in the narrative.
Personally, I believe neither of the objections to the third theory are convincing. The charge that it sounds mythological is hardly a valid reason for rejecting the interpretation, while the second one, that angels were not previously mentioned appears weak: after all, there is a first time for everything. I believe, therefore, that theory three has the strongest arguments in its favor, and it seems the most natural reading of the text.
Only two angels are mentioned by name in the Bible. Michael - whose name means "who is like God?" - is mentioned in Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1, Jude 9, and Revelation 12:7. Gabriel, "soldier of God", is mentioned in Daniel 8:16; 9:21, Luke 1:19 and 26.
What do we know about angels? Not a lot. We know that in the Bible
they are predominantly male (there are a couple of references
in Zechariah that appear to be feminine: see Zech. 5:5-10 and
6:4-5). In fact, if the incident in Genesis 6 refers to angels,
then they are masculine to the point of being able to mate with
human women. However, the paucity of feminine angels in the Bible
is not sufficient evidence to conclude that angels are never feminine.
After all, arguments from silence are not particularly convincing,
especially when so little is said to begin with.
We know that angels are frightening, at least sometimes. Ezekiel gives us a description of the Cherubim in Ezekiel 1:4-28. A reading of that passage gives us the following characteristics: their basic form is that of a human biped (1:5), but they have four faces (1:6) and four wings (1:6). Their feet look something like those of a calf (cloven hooves?) and are shiny, as if they are made of burnished bronze (1:7). The four wings are spread out, one on each of their four sides. Under each wing is what looks like a human hand (1:8). Their heads have four faces, one on each of the four sides (1:10). One face looked human, one resembled an ox, one a lion, and one an eagle (1:10). As a result of having a face on each side of their bodies, they didn't have to turn to change direction; no matter which way they decided to go, they were already facing that way (1:9, 12). The sound their wings made was quite loud (1:24). When an angel appears to someone, often one of the first things he has to say is "do not be afraid". After Ezekiel's description, we should not be surprised.
Yet - despite the description in Ezekiel - Genesis 18 and Joshua 5:13-15, plus most New Testament references indicate that angels most often take on human form - or have human form - being indistinguishable from ordinary men. But in any case, 2 Kings 6:16-17 and Numbers 22:21-35 make clear the point that angels are not usually visible to human beings at all.
They serve as God's messengers, to bring information to his servants (Daniel 10:12-14). They fight for God's people (Joshua 5:13-15; 2 Kings 6:16-17), and they protect and help God's people (Psalm 92:11-12)
Where Did Angels Come From?
There is not an easy answer to the question, "where did the angels come from?" Nehemiah 9:6 records:
You alone are Yahweh. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You gave life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
This passage would seem to make clear that the only uncreated
being is God; therefore, the angels are created beings. However,
one will search in vain for any explicit biblical statement that
God created them, or one that explains when they were created.
Some commentators feel strongly that they were created before
the six days outlined in Genesis one. Others feel just as strongly
that they were created on one of those six days, though there
is no way of telling which one. Unfortunately, the Bible is silent
on the matter. Furthermore, the Bible never explains why an omnipotent,
omniscient, and omnipresent God would ever need angels. But of
course he doesn't need us, either, and never really explains why
he created human beings.
A particularly weird explanation that I invented for use in a novel, though outlandish, has as much scriptural backing as any other possible theory: i.e., none. A little background information in science will be necessary for understanding my position.
Modern physics has been described as "stranger than science fiction", as the following quotation from Gary Zukov's book shows:
According to the Many World's theory, whenever a choice is made in the universe between one possible event and another, the universe splits into different branches.
In our hypothetical experiment we decided to throw the switch into the "up" position. When the experiment was performed with the switch in the "up" position it gave us a definite result (a certain number of clicks in each area). However, according to the Many Worlds theory, at the moment that we threw the switch up, the universe split into two branches. In one branch, the experiment was performed with the switch in the "up" position. In the other branch, the experiment was performed with the switch in the "down" position. Who performed the experiment in the second branch? There is a different edition of us in each of the different branches of the universe! Each edition of us is convinced that OUR branch of the universe is the entirety of reality....
...we are led to the Many Worlds theory in which the world continuously is splitting into separate and mutually inaccessible branches, each of which contains different editions of the same actors performing different acts at the same time on different stages which somehow are located in the same place.
Not only is this very weird to think about, it could allow for a very peculiar explanation for who the angels and the demons are. If the world branches into alternate universes whenever a choice arises, then it could be that the universe split in three at the Garden of Eden. In one version of the universe, Adam and Eve didn't eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in which case they would have remained sinless and immortal: the angels. In a second version, they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but also manage to eat of the tree of life, and so will live forever: eternally irredeemable, since Christ can't become one of them and die - they don't die: so they are the demons. The third branch is the one we are familiar with, where Adam and Eve sinned and did not eat from the tree of life. Odd ideas, no doubt, but no more or less reasonable than any other explanation. Where the Bible is silent, speculation can take monstrous proportions.
Where Did the Devil Come From?
Satan is first mentioned by "name" in Job 1:6-7:
One day the angels came to present themselves before Yahweh, and Satan also came with them. Yahweh said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"
Satan answered Yahweh, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."
Here God asks where it is that Satan comes from; however, it is not a question of ultimate origins, but of "what have you been doing lately?" From the story of Job, we learn that Satan is responsible for bringing misery and suffering to people. In 1 Chronicles 21:1 we see him active in tempting a person to sin. The only other place that Satan is mentioned in the Old Testament is Zechariah 3:1-2, where he is seen accusing the saints; and of course that is exactly what his name "Satan" means: "the accuser". In fact, in the Old Testament "Satan" is always preceded by a definite article, from which we gather "Satan" is more a designation of his character than an actual personal name. His actual first appearance in the Bible is generally assumed to be at the very beginning, in the form of a serpent, when he convinces Eve to doubt God's goodness. If this serpent is indeed Satan (there is no explicit biblical indication that it is), then Satan is responsible for creating all the misery that exists in our world today.
How Did the Devil Turn Bad?
Since God is not the author of evil, then Satan, as a created
being, could not have begun wicked. What happened to him?
Some commentators have taken Isaiah 14:12-15 as a reference to Satan's fall. The King James translation has contributed to this interpretation by translating 14:12 as follows:
How art thou fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How art thou cut down to the ground,
who didst weaken the nations!
The word "Lucifer" for some reason has been accepted
as a name for "Satan", although this is the only occurrence
of the word in the entire Bible; it was taken over from the Latin
Vulgate, and means simply "morning star" - which is
the proper translation of the underlying Hebrew word. There are
several problems with an interpretation of this passage as a reference
to Satan: First, the person referred to in 14:12-15 is explicitly
said to be the king of Babylon (14:3). Second, he is called a
man (14:16-17). Third, he is said to be dead (14:9, 11, 19), and
fourthly, he is said to have destroyed his land and his people
(14:20). Finally, no other reference to this passage in the Old
or New Testament indicates that Isaiah 14:12-15 should be interpreted
as a reference to anyone other than the king of Babylon, a man
filled with great pride (cf. Daniel 4:28-32; 5:18-30). Instead,
all the evidence points to it being a description of a human ruler.
To interpret it any other way necessitates taking the passage
out of context.
The other passage which is mentioned in relation to how Satan became evil is Ezekiel 28:12-15. Again, the problems faced by those who wish to interpret this as a reference to Satan are insurmountable. 28:12 itself identifies the individual in view: the king of Tyre. If one looks back to earlier portions of the same chapter, one finds that this king was guilty of the most incredible pride, a pride not especially unusual in kings of this time and region. Look at 28:1-10:
The word of Yahweh came to me:
"Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre,
'This is what the Master Yahweh says:
"'In the pride of your heart
you say, "I am a god;
I sit on the throne of a god
in the heart of the seas."
But you are a man and not a god,
though you think you are as wise as a god.
Are you wiser than Daniel?
Is no secret hidden from you?
By your wisdom and understanding
you have gained wealth for yourself
and amassed gold and silver
in your treasuries.
By your great skill in trading
you have increased your wealth,
and because of your wealth
your heart has grown proud.
"'Therefore this is what Master Yahweh says:
"Because you think you are wise,
as wise as a god,
I am going to bring foreigners against you,
the most ruthless of nations;
they will draw their swords against your beauty
and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor.
They will bring you down to the pit,
and you will die a violent death
in the heart of the seas.
Will you then say, "I am a god,"
in the presence of those who kill you?
You will be but a man, not a god,
in the hands of those who slay you.
You will die the death of the uncircumcised
at the hands of foreigners.
I have spoken, declares the Master Yahweh.'"'"
These words about the king of Tyre could be compared to those of Suppiluliumas, a Hittite king. At the beginning of one of his decrees he wrote:
These are the words of the Sun, Suppiluliumas, the great king, the king of the Hittites, the valiant, the favorite of the Storm-god....
Just like the king of Tyre, it was common for Near Eastern kings
to picture themselves as gods incarnate. For instance, the Pharaoh
was always, even as late as the time of Alexander the Great, pictured
as the incarnation of the Sun god Re. Alexander, because it made
his Near Eastern subjects happy (and padded his ego), declared
himself to be a god.
In any case, the author of the lament that is then raised for the king of Tyre in 28:12-16 does not have the fall of Satan in mind at all. This has not prevented some from taking the words in verses 12-16 as being absolute proof that this has to be Satan, forgetting the very context of these words. Let's look at the objections raised against a purely human setting for this passage. In verse twelve we are told that this king was "the model of perfection"; those who wish to see Satan in this passage argue that this is an indication of Satan's sinlessness before he rebelled against God, and since all people are sinners, this statement can hardly be applied to a human king. But in answer to this, since when does the word "perfect" when applied to people indicate sinlessness? Are not many Old and New Testament persons called perfect? No special significance can be found in the current use of the term.
Verse 13: "You were in Eden, the garden of God..." What does this mean? Look back one chapter to Ezekiel 27, where the trading empire of Tyre is described. In 27:23, Eden is mentioned as one of the places Tyre traded with. Notice that all the precious objects with which the person of Ezekiel 28:13 is decked are the items Tyre traded for in 27:1-24. Please note also Ezekiel 31:9 and 16-18, where, in a message to the king of Egypt, Lebanon (where Tyre was located) was called Eden:
I made the nations tremble at the sound of its fall when I brought it down to the grave with those who go down to the pit. Then all the trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, all the trees that were well-watered, were consoled in the earth below [vs. 16].
Eden, because it was the perfect place from which humans had fallen, was taken into Israelite thought as the picture of the ideal place; it became a figure for God's favor. Look at how it is used in Ezekiel 36:33-36, which speaks of a restored Israel:
This is what the Master Yahweh says: "On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, 'This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.' Then the nations around you that remain will know that I Yahweh have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I Yahweh have spoken, and I will do it."
In verse 15 Ezekiel talks about the king's ways being blameless
since "the day he was created." Obviously, say those
who see Satan here, this refers to the creation of Satan. But
in Ezekiel 21:30 the same word "created" is used of
the Amorites - human beings, not the devil. Isaiah uses it in
Isaiah 43:1 and 7 in speaking of the origin of Israel and in Psalm
102:18 it is clearly referring simply to birth. Though the word
is used to describe the creation of the universe (Gen. 1:1), we
must be careful to recognize the full range of its meanings.
So what about the "guardian cherub" of verses 14 and 16? Explain that! Okay. Please look at 1 Kings 6:23-30:
In the inner sanctuary he made a pair of cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high [approximately 15 feet]. One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long, and the other wing was five cubits - ten cubits from wing tip to wing tip. The second cherub also measured ten cubits, for the two cherubim were identical in size and shape. The height of each cherub was ten cubits. He placed the cherubim inside the innermost room of the temple, with their wings spread out. The wing of one cherub touched one wall, while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. He overlaid the cherubim with gold.
Also notice Genesis 3:24, the only place that mentions cherubim in association with the Garden of Eden:
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Genesis 3:24 seems to strike the final blow against an identification of the personage of Ezekiel 28 with Satan, because the guardian cherubs were those who came after Satan had done his foul deed. The guardian cherub cannot be identified with the devil. Notice too, the characteristic of the cherub: they guarded the way to the tree of life, or were decorations at the entrance to the Most Holy Place in the temple, where the high priest made atonement for the sins of the people. Likewise, the king of Tyre was guardian for the livelihood and wealth of countless nations, and he bore responsibility for his own people's welfare. Notice the reaction to the downfall of the king of Tyre:
The ships of Tarshish serve
as carriers for your wares.
You are filled with heavy cargo
in the heart of the sea.
Your oarsmen take you
out to the high seas.
But the east wind will break you to pieces
in the heart of the sea.
Your wealth, merchandise and wares,
your mariners, seamen and shipwrights,
your merchants and all your soldiers,
and everyone else on board
will sink into the heart of the sea
on the day of your shipwreck.
The shorelands will quake
when your seamen cry out.
All who handle the oars
will abandon their ships;
the mariners and all the seamen
will stand on the shore.
They will raise their voice
and cry bitterly over you;
they will sprinkle dust on their heads
and roll in ashes.
They will shave their heads because of you
and will put on sackcloth.
They will weep over you with anguish of soul
and with bitter mourning.
As they wail and mourn over you,
they will take up a lament concerning you:
"Who was ever silenced like Tyre,
surrounded by the sea?"
When your merchandise went out on the seas,
you satisfied many nations;
with your great wealth and your wares
you enriched the kings of the earth.
Now you are shattered by the sea
in the depths of the waters;
your wares and all your company
have gone down with you.
All who live in the coastlands
are appalled at you;
their kings shudder with horror
and their faces are distorted with fear.
The merchants among the nations hiss at you;
you have come to a horrible end
and will be no more. (Ezekiel 27:25-36)
In the final analysis, it must be concluded that the Bible does not reveal where Satan originated. It is enough that we are told he exists, and that he must be resisted (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8-9).
What Do Angels Do?
The word "angel" means "messenger"; that gives
some hint of their primary role. Steven and Paul both state that
the law was delivered to Moses by way of angels (Acts 7:53; Galatians
3:19). Elsewhere, we find angels delivering messages to people,
for instance to Hagar (Genesis 16:7), Samson's parents (Judges
13), Mary (Luke 1:26ff), and Joseph (Matthew 1:20).
One finds them forced into conflicts in Daniel when they were attacked on their way to deliver a message (Daniel 10:13; an assumption is made here that the prince of Persia is a demon or Satan. That is possible, but not necessary; if we can entertain angels unawares - Hebrews 13:2 - it would not seem impossible that people could oppose and fight them unaware, also). At the end of time, one sees them coming with Jesus to establish the kingdom, and we see them at around the same time in armed conflict with the host of Satan.
What else angels might do is simply not discussed. They are minor characters in the plot of Scripture.
What Do Demons Do?
Scripturally, one never finds demons taking possession of places,
objects, books, or buildings. Instead, they associate themselves
exclusively with people, except for one brief instance (Mark 5,
Luke 8) when they took over a herd of pigs which promptly committed
suicide en masse.
Consequently, I find it hard to take seriously those who claim to find evidence of demon activity based on certain "unwholesome" items in their homes. The only problem with "unwholesome" items is that they are unwholesome. Demons have nothing to do with that fact. Furthermore, most evil in the world is done by people, by themselves. Human beings need no help from the spirit realm to come up with nasty things to do to one another.
Demons and Spiritual War
The eyes shifted from side to side, the only announcement that
I was no longer talking to Jeff. "Why are you there?"
"Suppose..." said Jeff, though the voice was not quite Jeff's. There was a lengthy pause. "I suppose I'll have to leave now."
"You have no right to be there."
"Where's the Preacher Boy?"
"He's not here right now, and that doesn't matter."
"What authorization do you have?"
"The Lord Jesus Christ died for Jeff's sins. You have no right to be there."
"Where should I go?"
"That's up to Jesus."
"I was afraid you'd say that."
"Jesus died on the cross for Jeff's sins. You have no right to be there."
"I wish you'd stop saying that." The expression of disgust and discomfort on his face was extreme - not exactly fear, but more as sense of failure and, "I wish you wouldn't bring up that mistake again."
"In Jesus name, you need to go. If you go, you won't have to listen to me say "Jesus" any more."
And then the demon was gone and it was only Jeff. This was the second demon that had been removed, and there would be at least two more before it was finished, about a week and a half later.
Jeff was a multiple personality, made so by ritualized abuse and Satanic cult activity as a child. His personality had fragmented and though the dominant personality had been a Christian for a number of years, the fragmentation in the personality still existed. The demons had become trapped among the fragments and had been hiding for a number of years. Now they were finally being disabused.
So how could a person that was a Christian have demons? The situation was unusual in that it was a multiple personality. Secondly, they weren't possessing the person in the traditional sense of controlling or dominating. Rather, I got the impression that they were hiding, as if Jeff were a house and they had slithered under beds and into closets when the new owner showed up unexpectedly. Had they known that Jeff was going to get saved, they'd have vacated long before; now, they were trapped and terrified of being found out for fear of what the new owner might do to them. They had been very quiet for a long number of years.
From my limited experience with them, demons are rather pathetic, fearful creatures, and to a Christian, powerless. Their only weapon is illusion - to try to trick the believer into thinking that they have some power. I felt no fear of the demon, only great annoyance - the sort of annoyance one feels when a creditor claims you haven't paid, but you have the canceled check in your hand. You wave it in his face and tell him to get the hell away from you. That's what it's like for a Christian dealing with a demon.
However - and this is critical - if you arrogantly try to do it on your own, you will fail. It is Jesus, and Jesus alone who can get rid of demons. You can't do it yourself, and you have nothing to do with what happens to the demon at all. You must keep the contest between the demon and Jesus at all times. You are not using the name "Jesus" as a magic talisman. The name without the person it is attached to is of limited value (cf. Acts 19:13-17; the sons of Sciva invoked the name, but not being Christians they didn't know the one to whom the name was attached). The person of Christ has to be present. It's as if you and your good friend "Guido" happened down a dark alley and some scurvy little thug has jumped out brandishing a penknife. You just step behind "Guido" and tell the scurvy thug to take it up with "Guido". Needless to say, you have no problem. But if "Guido" isn't there, the guy with the penknife can cut you to ribbons pretty easily.
Christians will get themselves into trouble with, or be afraid of demons only if (1) they rely on themselves, or imagine that they somehow have something to do with solving the problem and (2) they believe the lies that are likely to come from the demon.
In dealing with a demon, there is no need to ask it it's name, to converse with it about theology or any other questions, to defend yourself or someone else. There is no formula or ritual. Whatever name a demon might give is meaningless. "Legion" was the name that a group of demons claimed that wound up in a bunch of pigs (Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39). You may hear others call themselves "Lust" or "Destruction" or "Death." They are blowing hot air and attempting to intimidate. "Destroyer" sounds better than "Weenie", after all, though something like "Wimpboy" would be far more accurate a description. Those are not their real names, anymore than a CB or Internet chatroom handle like "Biker" or "Funtime Charlie" are real names (in fact, I suspect the motivation in demons associating with human beings is primarily entertainment, similar to the enjoyment we might find in a computer virtual reality simulation). Demons are pathetic and frankly impotent in the face of Jesus. Demons are to Jesus what a single match is to the sun. All that you need to do is keep talking about Jesus, and keep telling the demon that Jesus wants it to leave. For a Christian, there is no feeling of pride, no feeling of accomplishment in seeing a demon vanquished. There are no sparks, no pyrotechnics, no special effects. It is quiet, bland, and unexciting. And you will become very conscience of the fact that it is entirely Jesus and has nothing to do with you at all. As Jesus told the disciples,
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20)
It is critical, of course, in the face of a demon associated with a person, to ascertain that the person does not want the demon to be there. If the person has no desire to be rid of the demon, then there's not much that can be done. A person that doesn't want to be rescued is unrescuable.
In summary, dealing with demons is not exciting. It is merely irritating. Annoying is the best word to describe it.
Motivation of Satan and Demons
A mistake that some make is to imagine that Satan and his cohorts
are little more than imps or gremlins, delighting in disruption
and attempting merely to cause trouble for trouble's sake. This
is to seriously underestimate them, as well as to mythologize
them and hence make them little more than things that go bump
in the night.
Christians make a mistake if they are quick to blame every error, every problem in their lives on demon activity. The fact that you lost your job, or your car won't start is very unlikely to be due to demons. Far more likely, it's simply the consequence of living on a fallen planet. Likewise, when people are evil, it is not because they are demon possessed, it is because they are human beings and that is the nature of human beings.
On the other hand, we must be careful not to think that demons don't exist, or that they are make believe. They are very real.
In arriving at the motivation of Satan and his helpers, a few thoughts should be brought together. One, Satan is aware of his ultimate fate. He can read the Bible the same as the rest of us, and the news, for him, is much less than cheerful.
Now, if you as a human being were aware of some awful calamity that would befall you tomorrow, what would you do? Obviously, you would try to avoid the calamity, either by being elsewhere than where the calamity is supposed to occur, or by altering events to try to prevent the calamity.
Therefore, I would suggest that the primary motivation for Satan (and the demons) is a desperate desire to avoid the last judgment. Therefore, whatever Satan or his cohorts do, it will be done in combination with asking themselves the question: "how does this further my cause of avoiding God's judgment in eternal Hell at the end of time?" Demons and Satan are unlikely to bother themselves with anything that does not contribute toward their cause.
The hopelessness of the situation does not stop their struggle; after all, even condemned criminals tied to their chair in the gas chamber, will hold their breath and struggle against their bonds. It is a serious probability that the demons and Satan are no longer entirely sane any longer, either, making them that much more dangerous and nasty.
The hint that this is indeed the motivation of the demons and Satan comes in a couple of passages. In 1 Corinthians 2:8 Paul writes that if they had known the consequences of killing Jesus, they never would have done so. The irony here is heavy. Satan imagined that in killing Jesus (and one can see the importance he placed on this event, in that it is in Christ's betrayal that we have the only reference to Satan himself taking possession of a person [Luke 22:3; John 13:27]; obviously, he wanted to make sure the job got done right), he would thwart God's plan; but rather than thwarting God's plan, he fulfilled it and sealed his own doom.
Knowing that Jesus was a human being, Satan tried to corrupt him, first, in the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 1, Luke 4, Mark 4); Satan knew that Jesus was key, and that if he could somehow disrupt God's plan, then he could achieve his goal: to be left alone in peace by God, never to suffer punishment. When the temptation failed, he then tried repeatedly to kill him, finally succeeding at Calvary. Like the disciples, the Jewish leaders, everyone, in fact, Satan was just as oblivious to Jesus' actual purpose in coming. In hindsight, it seems hard to fathom how everyone could have been in the dark; but that they were.
An analogy comes to mind when I think in terms of what spiritual
warfare is like. My wife and I were foster parents of a little
girl named Vanessa. She had come to us at four months of age on
December 17, 1993; she weighed eight pounds and was classified
as "failure to thrive." She had been born with Heroin
in her system, to a mother addicted to the drug who also drank
heavily during the pregnancy. The mother was fifteen when Vanessa
was born. Now, at four months, Vanessa was dying. The reports
to us were that she cried all the time, wouldn't eat, and hardly
When we got her, she was dirty and huddled in a fetal position; she behaved, not like a four month old, but like a newborn. But, a remarkable thing happened. She ate when we gave her food, and she stopped crying when she ate. The first night we had her, she slept through without waking for a full eight hours. This, in fact, became her pattern from the first night on. We fed her regularly, scheduled feedings and she gained weight.
Two months after we got her, at a regularly scheduled court hearing to review her case, she was removed from our custody and placed in the custody of her maternal aunt. Almost at once, Vanessa got sick, and, since the paperwork was unfinished, only my wife and I still had the authorization for having her treated. Moreover, the aunt encouraged us to maintain contact and let us keep her over the weekends (the aunt, after all, was only eighteen and had other things she'd rather do on the weekend). After ten days, the aunt voluntarily relinquished custody back to us, explaining that "she couldn't handle it."
Over the next two years, we had varying amounts of contact with the biological mother, averaging less than one, one hour visit per month. In fact, from April 1995 through December 1995 there was no contact whatsoever.
Attempts at family reunification were terminated in May of 1995 and on February 7 , 1996, the biological mothers parental rights were finally terminated, freeing Vanessa up for us to adopt her. The adoption should be finalized by this time in 1997.
During these two years and two months of ordeal for us, Vanessa lived a perfectly normal, happy life. She learned to turn over, to sit up, to crawl and to walk. She called us "mommy" and "daddy". She never knew her biological family, and as far as she knew, we were her only parents. She began talking, went to church, learned Sunday School songs, even while all this turmoil swirled around her. But she never knew. And really, it doesn't matter. She is ours now, legally. But she was always ours, from the moment we first picked her up so long ago as an eight pound four month old.
Thus, I suspect, it is with us. Much of the turmoil, the battles between God and his angels and the forces of darkness occur beyond our knowledge -- in fact, beyond our ability to comprehend; just as Vanessa could never understand what was going on around her. And frankly, there was no need for Vanessa to know. She could do nothing about it, even if she had understood. Thus for us, the fact that we glean so little in the Bible about angels and demons and "spiritual warfare" should give us a clue as to what is really important: loving each other and, consequently, spreading the good news about God's love for the human race.
Copyright © Quartz Hill School of Theology. All Rights Reserved.