Category Archives: E – Angels

Satan and Demons

How are you fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How are you cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will make myself like the Most High.”
But you will be brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the Pit.

Although this passage (Isaiah 14:12-15, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV) is addressed to the king of Babylon, it seems too strong to refer to just a human king. Thus many take it as being also addressed to an angel who sometime before the fall of humans led a rebellion against God, bringing sin into God’s creation. We know the angel as Satan and at least some of his followers as demons.

My family and I have just finished reading Chapter 20, “Satan and Demons,” of Wayne Gruden’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our family Bible-reading time. Here I’ll share some of what we learned from our reading and of what I learned from other sources in preparing for our family reading. I’ll consider the origin and nature, the activity of, and the relationship to us of Satan and demons, and I’ll suggest some benefits of studying about good and evil angels. For a list of the other sources which I consulted, see the bibliography for my December 17 post on angels.

The Origin and Nature of Satan and Demons

In my August 9 post on Satan I quoted from two other passages which suggest the fall of Satan and his followers, Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Revelation 12:3-4. Grudem also refers to the following passages:
– “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).
– “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains until the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).

However these passages refer to fallen angels who are confined, whereas the Bible, especially the Gospels, shows Satan and demons as active in the world. Grudem suggests that they have Hell, rather than Heaven, as their home but are able to range from there to affect people and events in the world.

Being angels, Satan and demons fit the description which I gave of angels in my last post except that they work against instead of for God. Thus they are “spiritual beings created by God” without physical bodies, “personal beings who can be interacted with,” and “moral creatures who can be characterized as good or evil.” Like angels “they have superhuman knowledge but are not omniscient” and “have superhuman power but are not omnipotent.” Grudem suggests that since sin has a weakening and destructive influence, Satan and demons have less power and knowledge than they originally had.

The Activity of Satan and Demons

As I observed above, sometime before the fall of humans Satan led a rebellion against God, bringing sin into God’s creation. Genesis 3:1-5, 14-15 describes his temptation of Eve to disobey God and his punishment by God for tempting her. Since then his activity has been to tempt us to sin. Thus Grudem says, “The devil’s characteristic has been to originate sin and tempt others to sin” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, page 415).

Augustus Hopkins Strong describes these activities of demons:
1. They oppose God and strive to defeat his will.
2. They hinder man’s temporal and eternal welfare,–sometimes by exercising a certain control over natural phenomena, but more commonly by subjecting man’s soul to temptation. Possession of man’s being, either physical or spiritual, by demons, is also recognized in Scripture.
3. Yet, in spite of themselves, they execute God’s plans of punishing the ungodly, of chastening the good, and of illustrating the nature and fate of moral evil.
(Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1907), pages 454-459.
I haven’t given Biblical examples of demons’ performing these activities because there are so many of them. If anybody reading this post wants examples, ask in a Reply to this post and I’ll give some.

Our Relationship to Satan and Demons

The bulk of Grudem’s chapter on Satan and demons is about our relationship to demons. Here I’ll summarize the main points that he makes:
– Demons are active in the world today. Our still being in the church age, there’s no reason to think that there is any less demonic activity in the world today than there was at the time of the New Testament.
– Not all evil and sin is from Satan and demons, but some is. If there is a continued pattern of sin in a Christian’s life, the primary responsibility rests in his or her choices to continue that pattern. However if the Christian has struggled for some time to overcome the sin, he or she may also consider whether a demonic attack or influence could be contributing to it.
– Whether a Christian can be “demon possessed” depends on how the term is defined. If it is defined as the Christian’s being completely dominated by a demon so that he or she has no power left to choose to obey God, then the answer is “No” (“For sin will have no dominion over you,” Romans 6:14). However is it is defined as a Christian’s being under attack or influence by demons, then the answer is “Yes” (“A thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited,” 2 Corinthians 12:7).
– Demonic influences can be recognized by the affected person’s exhibiting odd and often violent behaviour (as in Mark 1:23-24) or making blatantly false doctrinal statements (as in 1 Corinthians 12:3) and/or by a subjective sense of their presence. 1 Corinthians 12:10 notes that some Christians are given “the ability to distinguish between spirits,” and Grudem suggests that all Christians have something similar to but not as developed as that gift.
– Jesus gives all believers authority to rebuke demons and command them to leave. The basis for our authority over them is the work of Christ on the cross and we exercise it as children in God’s family. In actual practice we may simply command, in the name of Jesus and possibly with a quotation from the Bible (as Jesus did when tempted by Satan), the demon to leave. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
– Grudem suggests several other considerations that a person should take into account in ministering to other people whom he or she suspects are under demonic attack or influence. If anybody reading this post would like to know what he suggests, ask in a Reply to this post and I’ll summarize his suggestions.
– We should expect the gospel to come in power to triumph over the works of the devil. After all, “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

Benefits of Studying Angels, Good and Evil

In my last post I shared a list of practical uses of the doctrine of angels given by Strong. It was actually a list of uses of the doctrine of good angels, and he also gives a list of uses of the doctrine of evil angels. However, instead of sharing that list here, I’ll share the benefits suggested by Millard J. Erickson of studying all angels, good and evil.
1. It comforts and encourages us to realize that angels are available to help us. Grudem illustrates this benefit by referring to the relief that Elisha’s servant must have felt on seeing the army of angels that surrounded the city of Dothan when it was under attack by the Syrians (2 Kings 6:17).
2. The angels’ praise of and service to God gives us an example of how we should act towards God.
3. Some angels’ yielding to temptation and falling reminds us of the need for us to be careful. Grudem quotes 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
4. Knowledge about evil angels alerts us to how dangerous they can be and gives us insights into how they work.
5. We receive confidence from knowing that, although they are powerful, there are limits to what Satan and demons can do. We can resist him successfully with the help of God, and his ultimate defeat is certain.
(Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013), pages 419-420.

Angels

Angels, from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!
(James Montgomery (1771-1854)

This verse of the familiar Christmas carol “Angels From the Realms of Glory” is drawn from Luke’s account of angels announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds watching over their sheep at night (Luke 2:8-14) and illustrates one activity of angels, bringing God’s messages to people.

My family and I have just finished reading Chapter 19, “Angels,” of Wayne Gruden’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our family Bible-reading time. Here I’ll share some of what we learned from our reading and of what I learned from other sources in preparing for our family reading. I’ll consider the nature and work of angels, our relationship to them, and practical uses of the doctrine of angels.

The Nature of Angels

Angels are spiritual beings created by God to serve as attendants and messengers for Him. Since they are spirits (Hebrews 1:14), they don’t have physical bodies (Luke 24:39). Therefore they can’t be seen by us unless they take on a bodily form so that we can see them or God gives us a special ability to see them (see Numbers 22:31 and 2 Kings 6:17).

Like humans, angels are personal beings who can be interacted with and moral creatures who can be characterized as good or evil. They have superhuman knowledge but are not omniscient, both being suggested or indicated by Jesus in Matthew 24:36, “But concerning that day and hour [the day of his return] no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (ESV; all Bible passages quoted are from the ESV). Similarly they have superhuman power but are not omnipotent, both being illustrated in the account of Satan’s testing of Job in Job 1-2. Their travelling from one place to another, as in Daniel 10:12-14, shows that they are not omnipresent.

The Bible refers to three other types of heavenly beings–cherubim, seraphim, and “living creatures.” Cherubim are referred to in several places between Genesis 3:24 and Hebrews 9:5; seraphim in Isaiah 6:2-7; and “living creatures” in Ezekiel 1: 5-25 and Revelation 4:6-8. It is uncertain whether they are special types of angels or are heavenly beings distinct from angels. In Ezekiel 10:15, 20-22 the “living creatures” of Ezekiel 1 seem to be identified as cherubim and so they may not be distinct from them.

The Bible indicates that there are an amazingly large number of angels; for example, Revelation 5:11 describes them as numbering “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.” The Bible also indicates that there is rank and order among them, Michael’s being called an archangel in Jude 9. The only angel besides Michael who is given a name in the Bible is Gabriel, who carried messages from God to Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21) and to Zechariah and Mary (Luke 1:19, 26-27). Some speculate that he is also an archangel.

Some passages in the Old Testament refer to “the angel of the Lord” in a way that suggests that he is God Himself in human form. For example, “Then the angel of God said to me in a dream, ‘Jacob…I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me'” (Genesis 31:11, 13) and “The angel of the LORD appeared to him [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush…and he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'” (Exodus 3:2, 6). However there are also passages where God and the angel of the Lord are distinguished. For example, God speaks to the angel of the Lord in 2 Samuel 24:16 and the angel of the Lord speaks to God in Zechariah 1:12. The three main theories of who the angel of the Lord is are: (1) an angel with a special commission, (2) God Himself temporarily visible in human form, and (3) Jesus Christ, making a preincarnate appearance.

The Work of Angels

In his Christian Theology Millard J. Erickson (see Bibliography below) describes these five activities of angels:
1. They continually praise and glorify God.
2. The reveal and communicate God’s message to humans.
3. They minister to believers.
4. They execute judgment on the enemies of God.
5. They will be involved in the second coming.
I haven’t given Biblical examples of angels’ performing these activities because there are so many of them. If anybody reading this post wants examples, ask in a Reply to this post and I’ll give some.

Some people think that each person or at least each believer has an individual guardian angel. Support for this idea is found in Matthew 18:10, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones [children or believers]. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is heaven,” and Acts 12:15, “She [the servant girl who answered the door and recognized Peter’s voice after he was freed from prison by an angel] kept insisting that it was so [that Peter was at the gate], and they kept saying, ‘It is his angel!'” However the “little ones” angels could be angels assigned to watch over them as a group, and the reply to the servant girl just points to a belief of those gathered in the house. Thus the evidence is insufficient to demonstrate that each person or each believer has a guardian angel.

Our Relationship to Angels

I enjoyed watching the Touched by an Angel series when it originally appeared and still occasionally watch repeat showings of episodes from it on VISION TV. It shows angels serving God by ministering to us in our daily lives. The Bible indicates the same thing in such passages as Psalms 91:11-12, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in your ways. On their hands they will bera you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone,” and Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” We should be aware of and thankful to God for angels’ participating in our daily lives.

However the Bible also gives cautions regarding our relationship to angels. Grudem elaborates on these two cautions:
– Beware of receiving false doctrine from angels. Paul warns the Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
– Do not worship, pray to, or seek angels. God is the only one whom we should worship or pray to.

Practical Uses of the Doctrine of Angels

In his Systematic Theology Augustus Hopkins Strong (see Bibliography below) lists these uses of the doctrine of angels:
1. It gives us an increased appreciation of God’s greatness to think of the multitude of unfallen beings who executed His purposes before we appeared.
2. It strengthens our faith in God to know that beings of such high rank are appointed to minister to us.
3. It teaches us humility that beings with knowledge and power so much greater than ours gladly perform services on our behalf.
4. It helps us in our struggle against sin to know that angels are near, observing our wrong doing if we fail and sustaining us if we resist temptation.
5. It enlarges our conception of the possibilities of our future existence to think of how angels praise and serve God unceasingly in Heaven.

Bibliography

Most of my Bible dictionaries/encyclopedias and systematic theology textbooks have good articles/chapters on the topics of this and my next post, good angels (this post) and evil angels (next week’s post). Before beginning my study of angels, I browsed all of those articles/chapters and selected a few to read carefully and to consult in our family reading of Chapters 19 and 20 of Grudem’s Systematic Theology and in my preparing the two posts here on angels. These are the ones which I selected:
– Baker, Carolyn Denise, and Frank D. Macchia. “Created Spirit Beings.” Systematic Theology. Edited by Stanley M. Horton. Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1994. Pages 179-213.
– Erickson, Millard J. “God’s Special Agents: Angels.” Christian Theology. Third Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013. Pages 403-420.
– Strong, Augustus Hopkins. “Good and Evil Angels.” Systematic Theology. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1907. Pages 443-464.
– Thiessen, Henry Clarence. “Angelology.” Lectures in Systematic Theology. Revised by Vernon D. Doerksen. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979. Pages 133-148.

Satan

In my last post I considered how evil entered humanity through Adam and Eve’s disobeying God as a result of Eve’s being tempted by Satan. In this post I’ll consider the one who tempted Eve, Satan or the devil. He is referred to in many passages of the Bible but none gives a full account of him. Thus what the Bible tells about him can only be ascertained by combining scattered references from throughout the Bible. I’ll present some of them in four sections dealing respectively with his rebellion against God, his temptation of Eve, his present activity, and his final fate. Because Bible texts comprise so much of this post, I’ll give them in a public domain version of the Bible, the perrenially popular King James Version (KJV).

Satan’s Rebellion against God

Satan and his followers are angelic beings who were created good but became evil by rebelling against God. Their fall is referred to in Revelation 12:3-4 and suggested by Isaiah 12:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:11-15.

Revelation 12:3-4

3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

Isaiah 12:12-14
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Ezekiel 28:11-15
11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
12 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

Although Isaiah 12:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:11-15 are addressed respectively to the kings of Babylon and of Tyre, they seem to transcend any earthly ruler and to picture Satan in his original position as a high angel and in his rebellion against God. The passage in Isaiah suggests that the reason for Satan’s rebellion was his being lifted up in pride. Since Genesis 1:31 says “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold it was very good,” some wonder how pride could have arisen in Satan. The same question could be asked about Adam and Eve’s disobeying God.

Revelation 12:3-4 suggests that the rebellion involved a third of the angels. Apparently their eternal destiny was determined individually by their participating in the rebellion against God or remaining loyal to Him when the rebellion occurred. This suggests that at the rebellion something occurred in the angels who didn’t rebel that enabled them to remain loyal to God from then on. It seems likely that the same kind of change will take place in the inhabitants of the new earth.

Satan’s Temptation of Eve

Genesis 3:1-5, 14-15 describes Satan’s temptation of Eve to disobey God and his punishment by God for tempting her:

1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Although the serpent is not identified as Satan in the above texts describing its temptation of Eve and punishment for tempting her, it is identifed as him in Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world.” God’s telling Satan “It [the woman’s seed] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” points to the conflict between Jesus Christ and Satan in which Jesus overcame Satan (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8) but was bruised by him.

Satan’s Present Activity

Between his rebellion against God and his being cast into hell, Satan has waged, wages, and will continue to wage war against God despite his power having been broken by the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross which he spoke of in John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” Here are some New Testament passages that refer to that war:

Mark 1:13 – And he {Jesus] was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

Luke 13:16 – [Jesus is answering the objection of the ruler of a synagogue about his healing a disabled woman on the Sabbath.] And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?

Luke 22:31 – And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

Acts 5:3 – But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

1 Corinthians 7:5 – [Paul is addressing husbands and wives.] Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

2 Corinthians 4:4 – In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

2 Corinthians 12:7 – And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

Ephesians 2:1-2 – 1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Ephesians 6:11-12 – 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

1 Thessalonians 2:18 – Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

1 Thessalonians 3:5 – For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.

2 Thessalonians 2:9 – Even him [the AntiChrist], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

Hebrews 2:14 – Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

I Peter 5:8 – Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

God remains in control during this war and, as illustrated in the book of Job, allows Satan to attack us only within set limits. However the evil manifested and the suffering experienced during the war have prompted some to question God’s allowing it to continue so long and even whether He will ultimately prove victorious in it. Theologians answer that God He is delaying His final judgment against Satan and his followers to demonstrate further such attributes as His love.

Satan’s Final Fate

On the return of Jesus Christ in glory Satan will be bound for a thousand years. After the thousand years he will be loosed for a short while and lead a final effort to overthrow God, but he will be defeated and cast into Hell forever. This is described in Revelation 20:2-3, 7-10:

2 And he [an angel] laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Next week I’ll resume sharing from Randy Alcorn’s “If God Is Good: Why Do We Hurt?” booklet, considering its section “What Causes Natural Disasters?” (pages 22-24).