I was thinking today about angels and the general topic of the angelic realm, and I realized that I had something written up that I thought I would share on my blog. Here’s a brief, but hopefully fairly comprehensive, exploration of angels, Satan, demons and 3 related issues:
Regarding the spiritual realm,
There is an entire separate spiritual realm in which God, holy angels, holy spirit beings, Satan, and demons normally reside and operate. The Bible nowhere promises that believers will ever have insight into the operations and activity of the spiritual realm, short of what little has been revealed. Angels may interact with people without their knowledge (Heb. 13:2) and at certain times in the past God has given limited temporary insight into the spiritual realm (1 Kings 22:19-22; 2 Kings 6:16-17; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; Dan.10:4-12:13; Luke 22:31; 2 Cor. 12:2-5; Rev 4:1-22:11), but this type of insight is neither promised nor normative for believers. People who claim to “know” the organization, hierarchical relationships and responsibilities, operations and/or plans of agents in the spiritual realm, beyond what is revealed in scripture, are deceived.
Regarding spiritual beings,
Angels are created beings and are therefore not to be worshiped (Col. 2:18-19), but instead they direct human worship to God (Rev. 19:10; 22: 9). Although they are a higher order of creation than man, they are created to serve God in various ways including executing judgments(1 Chron. 21:15; Ps. 35:6; 1 Cor. 10:10; 2 Thess. 1:7-8; Rev. 15:1; 16:1-21), serving/protecting believers (Gen. 19:15-16; 1 Kings 19:5-7; Ps. 34:7; Dan. 6:22; Acts 5:20-21; 12:7-10), delivering messages (2 Kings 1:3, 15; Dan. 7-11; Luke 2:9-14; 22:43; John 20:12; Acts 8:36; 10:3-7), gathering mankind (believers and unbelievers) at the return of Christ (Matt. 13:40-41; Mark 13:27), etc. One of the main activities of the angels is the worship of God (Luke 2:9-14; Heb. 1:6-7, 14; 2:6-7; Rev. 5:11-14).
Besides angels, there is another category in the spiritual realm revealed in Scripture- Cherubim. Little is revealed about these beings in the scripture and though like angels, they are not identical to angels. Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John record seeing six-winged creatures with human hands and four faces variously called s’raphim (Hbr. “Burning Ones”), chay’yot (Hbr.) or zo’on (Grk.) (lit. “Living Ones”), k’rubim (Hbr. “Cherubim”) (Is. 6:1-4; Ez. 1:5-14, 22-24; 10:10-14, 21-22; Rev. 4:6-8.). Four of these beings reside around the throne, continually worshiping God (Ps. 80:1; 99:1; Is. 6:1-3; Rev. 4:8-9; 5:6-14; 7:11-12; 19:4) and working in a mysterious mediatorial role involving an altar of burning coals (Is. 6:6-7; Ez. 1:13-14; 10:2, 6-8; 28:14, 16). They apparently mobilize the throne of God in times of judgment, effectively making God’s throne a chariot (2 Sam. 22:10; Ps. 18:10; Ez. 1:15-21; 10:9-20). One of these guarded the entrance to Eden after Adam and Eve’s expulsion (Gen. 3:24), and “guarding” seems to be the main thrust of their role; they guarded the tree of life (Gen. 3:24), they guarded Elijah when he was taken up to Heaven (2 Sam. 22:11); they symbolically guarded the ark of the covenant, the holy of holies and every temple (read the temple building/decorating passages in Ex. 25, 26, 36, 37; 1 Kings 6-7; 2 Chron. 3; Ez. 41), and they guard people from getting too close to God (Is. 6:1-4; Ez. 1:5-14, 22-24; 10:10-14, 21-22; Rev. 4:6-8) . Satan was one of these beings before he fell (Ez. 28:13-16). These beings announce God’s judgement and deliver it to the angels, who administer God’s judgment (Rev. 6:1-7; 15:6-7).
Satan was originally a Cherubim who rebelled and was cast out of heaven (Ez. 28:14-16; Luke 10:17-20; Rev. 12:7-17). Satan is the ruler of the fallen angels (Mark 3:22), disguises himself as a holy angel (2 Cor. 11:4), and wars against both believers and the unbelieving world. He tempts believers (Matt. 4:3-10; 1 Cor. 7:5; Eph. 4:25-27), accuses believers (Zech. 3:1), attempts to thwart the righteous plans of believers (Mark 8:33; 2 Cor. 2:10-11; 1 Thess. 2:18), desires to cause believers to forsake God (Job 1:6-11; 2:1-6; Luke 22:31), attempts to mislead believers (Rev. 2:24), deceptively places false believers in the church (Matt. 13:37-39), raises up false teachers along with false confirming signs (2 Thess. 2:9-10), accuses believers before God (Rev. 12:10), and very rarely physically attacks believers indirectly (Job 1:9-19) and directly (Job 2:4-8; Acts 19:16). In the world, Satan misleads people (John 8:44-47; 1 Tim. 5:15; Rev 12:9; 20:7-10), tempts (John 13:2; Acts 5:3), and even indwells unbelievers for the acting out of his purposes (John 13:27), though possession is via demons and not usually directly via Satan himself (Mark 1:32; 3:22; 5:15-18; 9:17-27; Matt. 15:22). Though Satan is the ruler of this world (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 6:12), both Satan and his minions are destined for the judgment of eternal suffering in the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:7-10)
Demons were originally holy angels in heaven who rebelled against God (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). Demons are the true subjects of all pagan worship (Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20), and thus one cannot partake in any form of paganism (i.e. divination, astrology, Reiki, etc.) and Christian worship (1 Cor. 10:21-22). Demons are also the true sources of false teaching (1 Tim 4:1-2; James 3:14-15) and may possibly produce miraculous signs for the purpose of validating their false teaching (2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 16:14). They will be judged for their rebellion by God (Matt. 8:30; Luke 4:34) and believers (1 Cor. 6:2-3).
Regarding spiritual warfare,
Spiritual warfare is neither offensive assault against the forces of Satan nor physical conflict against those who follow Satan (Eph 6:12). Spiritual warfare is ideological in nature (2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:12-19; 2 Tim. 2:14-26), and the Christian is only given 3 imperatives regarding spiritual warfare:
1. Resist the Devil and his schemes (Eph 6:11, 14; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9).
– Resist by growing in the growing in knowledge of the scriptures and the body of doctrine therein (Eph. 6:14-17; 1 Peter 5:9).
– Resist by prayer (Eph 6:18-19).
2. Tear down arguments and arrogance that are raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
3. Submit to God and draw near to him (James 4:7-8).
That is the extent of the biblical discussion of spiritual warfare, and modern “experts” on spiritual warfare who far surpass the aforementioned points need to be challenged to account for both the source and content of all their extra-biblical “knowledge” of spiritual warfare. If information about the spiritual realm doesn’t come from God, it cannot be trusted. Satan and demons are liars, and mankind doesn’t have any objective perspective on the spiritual realm.
Regarding Contemporary Exorcism,
Though demons are real and may possess unbelievers, angels neither slander nor casually interact with the Devil or his forces (Jude 1:8-9) and lack any authority over demons (Jude 1:9). Scripture shows that the apostles (Mark 3:15; Luke 9:1-2) and the seventy-two (Luke 10:17-20) were personally given authority to cast out demons by the incarnate Christ, and Paul was also given the same authority by the resurrected Christ (Acts 16:16-18, 19:15). Other than Christ and his apostles, scripture has two instances of non-apostolic exorcism. The first was the anonymous exorcist of Mark 9:38-39 (of which all that is known is that he was not an apostle) and the second was the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:11-16 who were mocked and beaten severely by the demon-possessed man after the demon informed them that they lacked the authority to cast him out (Acts 19:15). The Bible nowhere teaches that Christ personally gave his authority over demons to anyone but the seventy two and the apostles. In modern cases of actually encountering the demonically possessed, believers should concentrate on proclaiming the gospel to the demonized individual and resist foolish temptations to exercise authority that they have no reason to believe they possess. The demonically possessed remain common sinners and the word of God has more power than any believer (Acts 20:32; Rom. 1:16; 10:17; Heb. 4:12; James 1:21). Beyond exorcism, people who follows the various practices of many contemporary exorcists (‘power encounters’, demonic interviews, spiritual mapping, offensive prayer, hedging, etc.) partake in foolish activities that are explicitly forbidden in scripture and spiritually fatal (Acts 9:8-24, 19:13-19; Jude 1:8-10).
Regarding the frequent question of the demonic possession of believers,
There are three points worth mentioning. Seeing that the Holy Spirit indwells believers (Rom. 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:22; Tim. 1:14), a believer is under either the influence of the Holy Spirit or the sinful nature (Rom. 8:9; Eph. 5:15-18) but never demons, and a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Matt. 12:25-26 – i.e. if God graciously regenerates elect sinners and then allows corrupting demons to simultaneously indwell them along with the sanctifying Holy Spirit, he is divided against himself). This means that it is impossible for a true believer to be demonically possessed. Secondly, it is a consistent pattern of scripture that demons always attempted to flee from the presence of Christ (Matt. 8:29-32; Luke 4:33-34), and those from whom demons were expelled longed to be in the presence of Christ (Mark 5:18; 9:20). It seems logical to suggest that no demon would ever want to be in proximity to God, let alone possess a believer who was indwelt with God’s Holy Spirit. Thirdly, if consciously attempting to simultaneously worship both God and demons will arouse God’s jealous wrath (1 Cor. 10:20-22), it would be irrational to imagine that God would allow concurrent dwelling of both the Holy Spirit and demons in an unsuspecting believer.
There is much more to say, but perhaps this short exploration of the topic will be informative and helpful for some of my readers (especially the last 3 points). As always, comments and challenges are welcome!
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “The Armchair Angelogian” Unger