What Are They? What Do They Do? Who Do They Work for?
Warriors for Eternity: The Fallen
C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence, and the other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”1
If our society struggles to keep God’s angels in their rightful place, then the struggle to properly understand demons is no less real. Sincere students of the Bible cannot ignore demons, for the term is mentioned over eighty times in the New Testament. On the other hand, dwelling on demonic activity is unhealthy and unnecessary. Let me tell you that you don’t need to know every word about demons. You just need to know the Word about demons, and that’s what we’ll study here.
In part one of this series, we learned that angels are God’s messengers who minister to God’s people. They are real spirit beings with constraining limitations. We know that they were created early in the Creation week, likely on day two. When we study Scripture’s record of Creation, Genesis 1:31 reveals God’s opinion of His handiwork: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” If angels are part of God’s “very good” Creation, then what are demons, and where did they come from? Who do they work for? How do they interact with humans? What does this have to do with me?
What Are Demons?
Considering that the totality of Creation was “very good” and God’s nature is the very essence of goodness, we can logically conclude God did not create demons. They slinked onto the scene sometime after the world was created. Scripture does not elaborate much upon their origins, but something curious happened between the glorious goodness of Genesis chapter 1 and the appearance of a cunning serpent who would forever change the course of human history in Genesis chapter 3. We must understand God neither invented nor inspired evil; it grew apart from Him.
At the tail end of Scripture, we find a disturbing metaphor in Revelation 12 that provides insight into the origins of demons and evil itself. There is a woman laboring to give birth to a child, and there is a seven-headed dragon. I won’t spend a lot of time on the woman, but I’ll tell you she is symbolic of the nation of Israel. Her child is none other than Jesus Christ. It is the dragon that informs us of the origins of evil. Focusing only on the dragon and his minions, here is what the passage says:
Here, in our mind’s eye, we observe a third of the stars of heaven being thrown to the earth by the dragon as it threatens the woman and her child. Our studies in part one acquainted us with the biblical connection between angels and stars. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to see the metaphor unveiled in verse 8 where we are told that the great dragon represents Satan and the stars are his angels. Evil entered our world when Satan and his angels determined in their hearts to oppose the plans of Almighty God.
Who Do Demons Work For?
Allow me to state it plainly: demons are fallen angels. They are Satan’s servants committed to his plan to thwart the plan of God.
During the interlude between Genesis 1 and Genesis 3, Scripture indicates God continued to be intimately involved with his creation, lovingly appointing the earth in exquisite detail. Genesis 2:8 says He planted a garden, which might be thought of more as an orchard because it contained every tree that is “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” This garden was watered by a river that parted into four riverheads. These rivers flowed into lands full of gold and onyx (Genesis 2:9-14). For all these splendid features, God did not adorn earth with gardens and rivers and jewels for His own benefit. With His throne room in heaven, earth is merely God’s footstool (Matthew 5:35). Rather, earth is man’s abode, and God designed it for man’s enjoyment. Scripture emphasizes this truth by stating twice that God placed man in this lush garden (Genesis 2:8,15).
Most of God’s created angels rejoiced at His outpouring of loving kindness to man; however, there was one who despised it. There was one angel who resented God’s power and plan and authority. His name was Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:12 describes this angel as “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” The passage reveals that Lucifer (also referred to as the King of Tyre) had been in Eden and had been the “anointed cherub who covers” with access to the holy mountain of God (verse 14). Verse 13 suggests Lucifer was created as an instrument of praise with “timbrels” and “pipes.” He had been given a special, distinct commission from God to minister unto Him and cover His glory with music through worship and praise. Lucifer was a walking orchestra. What’s more, this spectacular angel was brilliantly ornamented with every precious stone. In all his radiance, however, Lucifer developed a fatal flaw: he became prideful. Ezekiel’s account explains, “You [Lucifer] were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you…You became filled with violence within, and you sinned” (Ezekiel 28:15-16).
Lucifer Became Satan
A careful reading of Scripture helps us understand Lucifer’s downfall. He was created perfectly; however, inner iniquity and violence led him to sin. Isaiah describes what happened in Lucifer’s heart when he decided it was no longer good enough to be a perfect angel created in the beauty of God. Notice the five “I will” statements of Lucifer found in Isaiah 14:12-15:
How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.”
You may be wondering how could a perfect, holy being fall? How could the first unholy affection arise in his angelic being? I’m convinced the answer to these hard questions lies in the fact that Lucifer was created by God with one attribute exactly like you and I have—he had freedom to choose. Lucifer could have chosen humble obedience; instead, he chose prideful rebellion. Proverbs 16:18 warns us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Indeed. Pride turned an angel into a devil—pride.
What Do Demons Do?
Jumping back to John’s description of the dragon in Revelation 12 who threw a third of the stars of heaven to earth, we recall that these stars are fallen angels who chose to submit to Satan’s rule rather than God’s. Prior to their fall, the fallen angels would have shared all the common characteristics of God’s faithful angels; however, upon joining Satan’s rebel army, demons perverted their created purpose. They knew God as their Creator, but they defied His authority. They were given boundaries, but they did not keep their proper domain. They were ordained to be God’s messengers, but they chose to obstruct His message instead. Equipped with our investigation of faithful angels, let us seek to understand the dark world of demons and their efforts to intervene in the affairs of mankind.
Within the world of demons, there are two categories. I’ll refer to them as “fallen and imprisoned” and “fallen and free.”
Fallen and Imprisoned Angels
Scripture and modern experience both point to demonic activity within our world, yet not all demons are free to roam. Peter makes passing reference to imprisoned angels in the context of warning false teachers, “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). In his brief epistle, Jude refers to “angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode” for whom God “has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6). The key to understanding imprisoned angels is the phrase “who did not keep their proper domain.”
Origins of the Nephilim
At this point, it’s not news when I say that angels are distinctly different from humans. They were created on a different day and for different purposes. Angels have certain characteristics, one of which is that they are invariably masculine. They have clearly defined roles, which we’ve studied. We’ve learned that angels are permitted to materialize selectively and strategically if it suits God’s purposes. However, Scripture indicates a portion of Satan’s fallen angels failed to keep their proper domain by materializing and interacting with humans in ways angels were never meant to do. Genesis 6:1-2,4 provides a glimpse of this interaction:
At first glance, it is not obvious that there is angelic (or demonic) involvement here. However, a passage in Job provides greater understanding. In chapter 38, God is describing His omnipotence to Job by recounting His power over creation:
Now, we’ve learned already that the morning stars are best interpreted as angels. We also know that mankind was not yet created when God laid the cornerstone of the earth, so this reference to “sons of God” is another reference to angels, which means the sons of God in Genesis 6 are also angels. Most Bible teachers will skip over this topic because it’s too hot to handle. But I’ve always been a brave soul, and I want to tell you what I believe this means. The sons of God were fallen angels. When these masculine beings saw the daughters of men, they were filled with lust, and the angels cohabitated with the women. This resulted in offspring that were half angelic and half human who were also known as Nephilim.
God’s Judgment of Nephilim and Their Unholy Heritage
This violation of God’s prescribed boundaries grieved Him so deeply that He decided to immediately send a flood to destroy the whole earth and all traces of these unholy unions. You know this story. It’s the flood of Noah’s day in which God saved only eight souls through the ark, eight souls who were from a godly line and not a product of angelic debauchery. The other part of the story is that the offending angels were cast down to hell and delivered into chains of darkness (2 Peter 2:4). God judged the earth and the aberrant angels to permanently remove them from man’s domain.
Fallen and Free Angels
Earth is free from the influence of fallen and imprisoned angels, but fallen and free angels prowl around as demons, creating havoc in our world today. We can identify three key objectives of demons in Satan’s subversive plan: Demons deceive people. Demons tempt people. Demons destroy people.
Fallen and Free Demons Deceive People
Demons have sought to deceive people since the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3 tells the familiar tale of Satan, cloaked as a serpent, duping Eve into eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent effected this deception by challenging God’s goodness and purposes: “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). Did you notice the first sentence? Satan directly denied God’s truth, and He made disobedience seem desirable. From the very creation of man, fallen angels have been hellbent on dragging as much of mankind to the pits of hell as they possibly can.
Demons, masquerading as God’s faithful angels, have even given rise to false religions. In the year 610, the oppressive religion of Islam was born when Muhammad received the contents of the Koran in a series of visions from someone he believed to be the angel Gabriel. Twelve centuries later, the deceptive cult of Mormonism arose when an angelic being called Moroni supposedly connected Joseph Smith with the Book of Mormon. You see, humans were created for worship, and demons understand that. Therefore, they don’t try to prevent us from worshiping; instead, they try to change the object of our worship to something other than Almighty God.
Fallen and Free Demons Tempt People
Returning to the serpent and Eve in Eden, we can discern Satan’s deception was coupled with temptation. Not only did he deceive her about the outcome of disobeying God’s command, he enticed her with the suggestion that eating the fruit would make her more like God. When we recall the five “I wills” of Satan recorded in Isaiah 14, we are reminded that Satan’s sin was rooted in a desire to “be like the Most High.” Satan knows the tempting power of pride.
In fact, demons are strongly associated with idolatry and immorality throughout Scripture. At least five times the Bible describes demon worship that goes so far as to include the people of Israel sacrificing their sons and daughters to demons (Leviticus 17:7, Deuteronomy 32:17, 2 Chronicles 11:15, Psalm 106:37, Zechariah 13:2).
Repeatedly, the book of Proverbs juxtaposes the wisdom of God and obedience to God with immorality that leads to destruction, particularly chapters 2 and 5. Ezekiel 23:7-9 uses “harlotry” as a metaphor for Israel’s idolatry that caused God to deliver the nations into the hands of the Assyrians:
You see, the essence of idolatry is loving something, whatever it may be, more than loving God. Idolatry is lusting after something apart from God. Just as a husband or wife expects fidelity from their spouse, God expects our faithfulness.
The temptation associated with idolatry and immorality is so strong that they are the only two sins in the New Testament from which we are told to flee. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee sexual immorality.” 2 Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee youthful lusts.” 1 Corinthians 10:14 says, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
Fallen and Free Demons Destroy People
Demons attempt to deceive and tempt us for one reason: they want to destroy us. Their end game is to keep us from enjoying eternity in heaven.
One alarming tactic fallen angels use to keep people in bondage is demon possession. In the New Testament, there are many accounts of such possession. Here is a quick overview of the effects as recorded by Scripture:
- Deafness and mutism (Luke 11:14, Mark 9:25)
- Convulsions (Mark 1:26)
- Fierceness (Matthew 8:28)
- Falling into fire and water (Matthew 17:15)
- Foaming at the mouth (Luke 9:39)
- Gnashing of teeth (Mark 9:18)
- Extraordinary strength (Mark 5:4)
I’ve talked with missionaries who have shared experiences they’ve had with demon-possessed people in India, Africa, and China. They have affirmed that sometimes the incredible power a demon has over that person transforms them into a totally different kind of person with great strength and fierceness. It’s frightening what can happen when a demon possesses a person.
Good News About Demons
Well, I’ve painted a bleak picture, but now I have good news for you: I don’t believe any Christian can ever be possessed by a demon, and I’ll give three reasons why.
First, the Spirit of God permanently indwells every believer.
As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19:
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
Now, watch this. The Holy Spirit lives inside everyone who knows Christ. The moment a person accepts Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in them. That person is permanently indwelt by the Spirit of God. 1 John 4:4 helps us understand why demon possession is scripturally impossible for a Christian:
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
The Holy Spirit is stronger than any demonic being, including Satan himself. It’s just that simple.
Second, there is not a single instance of a Christian being described as demon-possessed in the New Testament.
Not one! In fact, there are no instructions given to believers for casting out Satan. Instead, we are instructed to resist him—and guess what? He will flee from us. According to James 4:7:
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Third, demon possession is distinctly different from demon influence. I wouldn’t be telling the whole story if I didn’t admit that Satan bothers us. In fact, I don’t know about you, but he’s bothered me just this week. The passage from James 4 (above) reflects this truth. We wouldn’t have to resist Satan if he left us alone. We can be sure he will bother us, but we have confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit to help us resist and overcome our adversary.
While faithful angels minister to us, fallen angels surround us—seeking any opportunity to deceive, tempt, or destroy the unwary. However, God has given his children guidance and encouragement for living victoriously as we wrestle against the rulers of the darkness of this age (see Ephesians 6:12).
What Can I Do About Demons?
Thankfully, God has already done the heavy lifting for us. When Jesus Christ ascended from the grave, He conquered every demon, every scheme, every deception that could assault God’s people. So the first step is to appropriate that power in our lives, which is easier than you might imagine. Romans 10:9-10 assures us:
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
It’s that simple—confess and believe. You can do it right now. If this is a new concept to you, I’d like to send you a copy of Your Greatest Turning Point, which will guide you through the foundations of Christian faith. You may also learn more about what it means to become a Christian here.
Once salvation is secure in Christ, God’s limitless power is available to sustain each of us.
Here is a simple action plan for God’s children as they deal with demons.
✔ Refuse to give Satan an advantage by being aware of his tactics. 2 Corinthians 2:11 teaches that Satan gains an advantage when God’s people choose prideful retribution over restoration.
✔ Recognize the difference between messages from faithful angels and fallen angels. 1 John 4:2-3 explains how we may recognize the Spirit of God: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.”
✔ Reject the temptation to be preoccupied with demons. Know what the Bible says about demons and walk in that truth. Immersing yourself in their world is just as dangerous as ignorance.
✔ Resist Satan. I’ve already highlighted James 4:7. 1 Peter 5:8-9 illuminates the same truth: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.”
✔ Run from every connection with the occult. A lot of people, including some of God’s people, wander off course with this. Do you recall those two sins so closely associated with demons from which we are told to flee? Any occult activity lays the groundwork for idolatry and immorality. Some examples are:
- Ouija boards
- Dungeons and Dragons or any similar entertainment
- Music with occult lyrics
- Psychic or other paranormal encounters
✔ Renew your mind daily. Satan’s target is your mind, so you must be vigilant to avoid his mind games. If Satan was able to deceive Eve about God’s truth—the same woman who had walked and talked directly with God in Eden—how much more vulnerable are we who have never had such an opportunity?
✔ Remember who Satan is. He is an angel who was once perfect but now lives in rebellion against his Creator. Satan is not the opposite of God; he is the opposite of Michael. While Satan may be a formidable foe, he is no match for God.
I want to encourage you, friend, Satan and his demons are on a long leash, but they’re doomed. Right now, they have a little power, which has been granted to them under the sovereignty of God. However, they are doomed, judged, and dead in the grass. One of these days, they will be confined forever in the lake of fire. Jesus Christ has won the victory over Satan! As God’s children, we need not be terrorized by demons. Truly, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
As I close this two-part series on Warriors for Eternity, I’d like to invite you to download a useful chart comparing God’s faithful angels with Satan’s fallen angels. May it serve as a reminder of all we’ve studied here.