Angels and demons are very present and real in the world around us. In an age of skepticism, Western philosophy has strived to tamper down belief in angels and demons. At the same time, popular movies and tv shows have romanticized demons, Satan and their power. In the United States throughout the whole month of October we venerate demons, ghosts and the spiritual realm. There is a fascination of anything that has to do with otherworldly beings. Why does our culture focus so much on demons and not angels? What does the Bible have to say about both? How should Christians respond to the culture and this age of skepticism? Today we will dive into the topic about angels and demons. My hope is that we will walk away with a deeper understanding of God’s nature and the spiritual warfare that all Christians fight.
Angels are created by God and they help Him accomplish His will in heaven and on earth. Angels can choose to reveal themselves to us, but often they remain unseen. The Bible reveals that angels are glorious, awe inspiring beings that are hard to look at or be in the presence of. That is one reason why they often choose to go unseen.
In Isaiah 6:1-7 the prophet has a vision. Isaiah says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
The whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. ‘Woe is me!” I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” What an amazing vision of the glory of the Lord! Isaiah is overcome by the vision he sees. He realizes that he is not worthy to be in God’s presence because of his sins. An angel picks up a coal from the altar and cleanses Isaiah’s lips with it. The description of the angels in God’s presence is striking. Isaiah fears for his life because of the angel’s glory in this powerful vision.
Angels are God’s servants. They bear messages, act as guardians and praise God. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, it was a cherubim that helped protect the Tree of Life for God. Genesis 3:24 says, “He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Here the angel is following God’s will and prohibiting Adam and Eve from returning to the garden of Eden. When they sinned, they lost eternal fellowship with God. Throughout the Bible, God uses angels to do a variety of different jobs for Him. For instance, when the Israelites rebel against God in the wilderness, God uses an angel to lead them the rest of the way to the promise land. Angels play an important role in heaven. I have experienced the divine presence of an angel many times before.
Once, on my way back from home to college, I experienced an angel in an interaction that I had with a young man on the train. This gentleman sat next to me on the Amtrak and struck up a casual conversation. Normally I like to keep to myself when I am on the train, but this young Man kept trying to engage me in conversation. We talked about innocent things like sports and school. Then, there was a dramatic shift in the conversation. This young man opened up to me in a very unexpected way. I felt a very heavy presence around me and the other man. He told me a lot about his past, his fears and where he wants to be in life. Every word I responded with was not mine. I gave him advice that I never would give to a random stranger and I believe that an angel spoke through me. He was struck by what I said, and almost cried. I was overcome by this incredible feeling of joy and peace by what had just happened. An angel used me to convey a very important, life sustaining message to a complete stranger.
Angels can take many different shapes and forms. They are not bound by physics and can appear or disappear rapidly. They are immortal, like God, but created beings. Angels are not unique to Christianity and many other religions describe similar beings. In Judaism, angels are called Malachim. They are God’s messengers, but normally they only perform one task then disappear. In Buddhism, angels are called Devas. They are celestial beings of light that generally avoid interacting with mankind. Sometimes they will reward good behavior with praise or harass people who behave badly. There are many other religions and traditions that believe in celestial messengers or heavenly beings. Christianity is one of the most comprehensive religions to describe angels and the roles they play in our lives. Especially in Western civilizations, Christianity has influenced our ideas about the spiritual realm and its inhabitants. In the Catholic tradition, angels are separated into three classes. The first and highest class is Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. The second class is Dominions, Virtues and Powers. The final class is Principalities, Archangels and angels. Each classification of angel has a different role to play in the shaping of the universe around us. The Bible also has a lot to say about demons.
Satan was a Seraphim, one of the brightest and most important angels in heaven. He desired to take God’s place and for that reason was cast out of heaven. Traditionally, Christians believe this happened sometime after the creation of the world and before God created Adam. Many angels decided to follow Satan instead of God and these are known as fallen angels or demons. They are able to manifest themselves like angels or possess humans. Jesus was very serious about fighting against demons while he ministered on earth. In Luke 11:14-16 the Bible says, “Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, ‘By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.’ Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.” In the Jewish faith, Beelzebub was second in charge of the demons, just below Satan. Some of the crowd believed that the only way Jesus had power over demons was through an even greater demon. The crowd refused to believe their eyes or who Jesus claimed to be. They were amazed by the miracle, but strongly distrusted Jesus who performed the miracle. Jesus rebukes the crowd, explaining that if Satan casts out his own demons than his kingdom cannot last. Jesus has power over demons because he is the Son of God.
There is a spiritual war raging and the deeper we grow in our faith, the more we participate in that war. Satan would rather have you and I believe that he doesn’t exist or have power over the world right now. He loves it even better when people worship or honor him without realizing how very real he is. This spiritual war has been raging for a long time, and it will continue to rage until our king, Jesus Christ, comes back. Paul urges the church in Ephesus to put on the armor of God. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17 In the same way there are classifications of angels, there are also classifications of demons. Rulers, authorities, powers and demons are ranked by the power they have for evil in this world. The war is raging, and Paul wants the church to be ready for the fight. Unfortunately, Satan has convinced many people that he doesn’t even exist, or that if he exists, he is much more powerful than God.
In the United States, there is a fascination with the supernatural. Tv shows and movies have romanticized demonic power and other forms of the spiritual realm. There are many who even claim to worship Satan and harness his power. This should frighten anyone who does not claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Satan does have power in the world right now. There is a real war raging between demons and angels. When Christ returns the war will end and a new heaven and new earth will be created. In other parts of the world, there are radical encounters between angels, demons and human beings.
My grandfather on my mother’s side is a missionary to Asia. His whole life has been dedicated to spreading the word of God in countries where Christianity was illegal. He testified to this amazing story about the deliverance from imprisonment by angels. He and a group of 20 other pastors met secretly in the mainland of China. They were instructing other young men who wanted to be pastors themselves. While they were meeting, they heard a cop calling over a megaphone at them. The cop demanded that they come out of the building so they could lock them up for breaking the law. All of the men in the building began to pray for a miracle. When they finally came out of the building with their hands up, they found all of the cops had been struck blind! They stumbled around looking for the pastors. Every single one of them escaped. What a mighty testimony to the power of angels!
Are we equipping ourselves for the war that is raging around us, or are we denying that the war even exists? Satan DOES NOT want you to participate against him. He would much rather tempt you to sit out the conflict. In the United States, there are many people who believe that God does not exist. Angels and demons are all fictional characters to them. Christians cannot dismiss the spiritual realm in the same way. When we read the Bible, angels play important roles throughout the whole collection of books. We would have to throw away so much of Scripture if angels do not exist. Angels do exist just as demons do. Christians are called to help fight in the war against demons. We need to arm ourselves with the Word of God, with prayer, and with help from the Holy Spirit. With the help of angels, we can overcome the powers of evil.
Jesus sent 72 of his disciples to spread the word of God and perform miracles. In Luke 10:17-20 the Bible says, “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.’” The disciples were shocked that they had the power to cast out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus first declares that he was present when Satan was kicked out of heaven. Jesus as the Son of God was there to witness the fall of Satan and his servants from heaven.
The disciples shouldn’t be surprised that the demons submit to them in Christ’s name. Jesus points out to them that instead of rejoicing in their power of demons on earth, they should be glad that their names are written in heaven. When Christ returns, Satan and his demons will lose their power over the earth forever. Angels and demons are still quite real today. We must be prepared to engage and fight in this war.
There are three things you can do to prepare yourself for the conflict. First, dig deep into the Word of God. Memorize scriptures that comfort and challenge you. Do your best to understand the entire Bible from start to finish. Second, practice prayer. Pray daily for your loved ones and friends. Praise God through prayer. The only way to become better at prayer is to practice it throughout the day. Finally, build the Body of Christ by getting active in a church. Surround yourself with Christians who are more mature in their faith. Learn from wisdom they have gathered from a life of service to God. By doing these three things you can equip yourself for the war around you. Remember, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” You have to equip yourself with spiritual strength to fight in this war. God’s Word, prayer and Christian community can do just that.
God bless you,
Chris Aaron Rice