Faith

Are Angels and Demons Real?

Angels and demons engaged in spiritual warfare. Image via Shutterstock.

The Bible affirms the existence and ministry of creatures from another world: Angels. They appear some 103 times in the Old Testament, and 175 times in the New Testament, so belief in their existence and interaction with humans is a key tenet of the Jewish and Christian faiths.

Contrary to popular beliefs, angels are not little naked babies with wings. And unlike the mythical gods of the Greeks and Romans, the angels that serve God do not have their own agenda from time to time. Angels are spirit creatures (Hebrews 1:14) who serve God and always direct man’s attention and worship to God alone. There is a vast number of them (Hebrews 12:22), but only three are named in Scripture: Michael the archangel, Gabriel, and Lucifer (who later fell and became Satan).

They are in higher in rank than humans (Hebrews 2:7), and they are incredibly powerful, but not all-powerful (Matthew 28:1; Daniel 10:13). They do not marry or reproduce (Matthew 22:30) and they cannot die (Luke 20:35, 36). And humans do not turn into angels when we die. Upon death the believer immediately goes to be with God in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Luke 23:43). There is no record anywhere in the Bible of a human being turning into an angel.

Angels serve God. That is their ministry. The Hebrew word for angel is “malak” and simply means “messenger.” The Greek word is “angelos” and means the same thing. The Bible tells us that they are similar to a human army in that there is a hierarchy of angels. Some are cherubim (Genesis 3:24), others are seraphim (Isaiah 6:2). Not too much detail is given about the distinction in ministry between these types of angels, although Scripture does note distinctions in appearance. Others are called “thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers” in Colossians 1:16). Only Michael is called an archangel.

Angels worship God in heaven (Revelation 5:12), although they never receive worship or veneration (Revelation 22:9) . They reveal prophecy (Daniel 9:21-27), guide and sometimes protect believers (Genesis 19:16), and announce the birth of the Messiah (Luke 1:28-33). Angels serve believers (Hebrews 1:14; 1 Kings 19:5-7) and they sometimes appear to encourage (Luke 22:43; Acts 27:23-25).  They are used of God to pour out judgment (Revelation 16:1), and observe our worship services (1 Corinthians 11:10).

In a curious passage, 1 Peter 1:12, it says that the gospel message of redemption to sinful mankind is something “angels desire to look into.” The Greek implies a curious glance at something. Apparently the angels are curious about our salvation; they simply cannot understand how God in grace would stoop to rescue rebellious fallen mankind. (I don’t understand it either, but I sure appreciate it!).

Their counterparts, the fallen angels, are quite active in this world as well. Demons, led by Satan, deceive humanity with a false message (Galatians 1:8,9; 2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15). Through his spiritual agents Satan slanders believers (Revelation 12:10) and schemes to defeat them (Ephesians 6:11).

Though they are not all-poweful, and restricted in their activity by God, they do inflict physical, spiritual, and emotional harm upon believers (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) as well as non-believers (Luke 13:11). It is clear from the New Testament that these malevolent forces seek to influence our minds (2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). From all the wars and social ills in the long march of history we can certainly see how Satan has influenced man’s thinking and actions.

Although the final doom of Satan and his hosts is assured by the Second Coming of Christ (Revelation 19, 20), we are left today with a fallen world to live in; a world that is filled with decaying cultures and deadly agendas. What is the blueprint for Christians today to deal with this? The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-19 and 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4 tells us to fight a spiritual warfare.

We know from his writings and from Daniel 10:13-20 that the righteous angels engage in spiritual warfare as well as the fallen angels, and this celestial conflict influences us here on earth. So, how do we wage spiritual warfare and stand against the decay and debauchery of our day?

Next Page: How do we fight this spiritual warfare?

The New Testament does indeed show cases of demon possession and instances of Jesus and the apostles casting the demons out, and I don’t discount that such activity goes on today. However, it seems to me as I read the NT that most of the commands to participate in spiritual warfare are actually commands to stand against the wisdom and actions of this world and to simply live a holy life. Live a life that is pleasing to God.

We must realize that we are actually in a war. Paul tells us to be awake, to be alert and sober-minded (1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8). Peter says much the same thing in 1 Peter 5:8 that we should be alert because our enemy the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

Paul tells us to know our armor and the weapons available to fight this war (Ephesians 6:11-17). We have our faith which acts as our shield against the slanders of the enemy, the imputed righteousness of Christ which is our breastplate, truth that encompasses us as a belt, the assurance of our salvation which guards our minds like a helmet, feet ready to proclaim the gospel, and the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. We are well armed by God.

Know that the battle is won or lost in the mind. Satan and his hosts assault our senses daily through evil we see, hear, or touch. We cannot let it absorb us. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul tells us to bring every thought to captivity in Christ. Romans 12:1,2 commands us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. How do we do that? The answer is in Philippians 4:6-8. We are to dwell on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report. We are to daily reject what God rejects and fill our minds with what God loves.

Then we must be active. Romans 12:21 says the believer must overcome evil by doing good. We cannot just sit. Truthful thinking compels truthful living. If we are confronted with darkness, rather than just curse the darkness, we must be lights to roll it back. We overcome by exposing the lies of the enemy. We do that by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). And we overcome the darkness in our culture and around the world by overcoming evil by doing good.

Over the centuries, very imperfect believers in Jesus Christ have indeed overcome evil by doing good. In this aspect of spiritual warfare we have seen Christians create such things as hospitals, orphanages, Sunday School (originally to teach illiterate children how to read and write) and child labor laws.

Because of the influence of Christianity slavery was eradicated from the time of the Roman Empire to the early Renaissance. After slavery reared its disgusting head again (in professing “Christian” nations, tragically), it was banished entirely from the western world in the 19th century, led mostly by Christians in Great Britain. Universities and free schools for the public are products of Christians being active in overcoming evil with good.

Freely elected governments with constitutions guaranteeing certain rights for citizens are taken for granted today. However, these types of governments today are the by-products of Christianity, not any other world-view.

Today we still face the evil influence of Satan and his hosts: ISIS, the world-wide sex slave trade, the awful epidemic of drugs, the acceptance of gross sexual immorality in our own American culture, the overwhelming corruption in our own government, the grinding poverty and lack of education and healthcare for millions around the world, and the on-going war against unborn children. And on and on it goes. Satan is indeed a hard worker. He is quite busy. But the way things are now, they will not be forever. His doom is sure, and his time will be up.

What does his future and the future of the rest of the angelic hosts look like? The Bible tells us that Christ will return with his angelic army (Matthew 24:31). Satan and his forces will be disposed of (Revelation 20:10-15). The believers and the angels will reign with God forever in a new heaven and new earth, with a New Jerusalem as the focal point of this new world (Revelation 21, 22).

The spiritual war we fight now will one day be over, thank God. Between now and then, however, do not give up or give in. Let’s follow Paul as he says in Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”