1. Demons are fallen angels.
Sometimes our theology textbooks state that sin first came into the world with the sin in the garden, but already there was a fall before the human fall. The serpent came into the garden from the outside and with evil intent (Gen. 3:1–2). The serpent questioned God’s goodness by insinuating that God was withholding something good from his human images. Later in Scripture, the devil is described as “that ancient serpent” (Rev. 20:2). How much more we would like to know about all this. However, Scripture is addressed to us and not to angels. What we do know is that Satan leads an army of rebellious angels (Rev. 12:7–8), who are now cast out of heaven. Demons are these fallen angels. Demons are not ministering spirits, but spoilers.
2. Demons have a leader.
Satan is their leader. Was he a cherub gone wrong or was he an archangel gone wrong? We do not know for sure. Michael and his angels defeat him and his angels in battle. So, he was defeated by an archangel (Rev.12:7). Scripture has a number of titles in addition to “Satan” and “devil” that sum him up. Millard J. Erickson1 provides a handy summary of them: “Several other terms are used of him less frequently: tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thess. 3:5), Beelzebul (Matt. 12:24, 27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15, 19), enemy (Matt. 13:39), evil one (Matt. 13:19, 38; 1 John 2:13; 3:12; 5:18), Belial (2 Cor. 6:15); adversary (1 Peter 5:8), deceiver (Rev. 12:9), great dragon (Rev. 12:3), father of lies (John 8:44), murderer (John 8:44), sinner (1 John 3:8).
This book explores the doctrine of angels and demons, answering key questions about their nature and the implications for Christians’ beliefs and behavior.
3. Satan and his demonic entourage have limitations.
Satan and demons are powerful spirits, but they are not omnipresent, omniscient, or omnipotent. Regarding omnipresence—demons can leave a man and enter pigs (Mark 5:13). Regarding omniscience—angels, and we can safely surmise fallen angels also, do not know the day and hour of the return of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:36). Regarding omnipotence—no angel, ruler or power can separate the believer from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:38). In some Christian circles, devilish power, knowledge, and presence are inflated.
4. The diabolic aim is worship.
It has been said that the world says to us, Conform to me!, the flesh says to us, Satisfy me!, and the devil says to us, Worship me! There is biblical evidence to support each of these. Respecting the last idea of the three, the devil’s tempting of Jesus in the wilderness climaxes with this invitation (Matthew 4:8–9): “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” This appears to be the devil’s ultimate motivation: the desire to be worshipped. But to do so is idolatry. It is worshipping the creature rather than the creator (Rom. 1:24–25).
5. There are two important diabolic guises.
The devil is a deceiver (Rev. 12:9). The apostle Paul warns the Corinthians that the devil can disguise himself as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Paul is writing about the danger of false teachers who disguise themselves as “apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13). These “deceitful workmen” are agents of the great deceiver. False teaching, false gospel, and false teachers still persist and trouble the churches. This may be particularly so in the West. I once heard a pastor who had been imprisoned by the communist regime in the Soviet days say that the DD degree can stand for Doctor of Divinity or Doctor of Darkness.
However, there is another guise that is not subtle at all. It shows itself in persecution. Peter uses a startling metaphor in application to the devil (1 Pet. 5): “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Peter has persecution for the faith in mind as the next verse shows (1 Pet. 5:9): “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” There are Christian brothers and sisters in non-western parts of the world are experiencing the roaring lion as I write.
6. Christ is the victor over Satan.
Jesus came into the world as the incarnate Son of God to accomplish more than one thing. Here is a sampling. Jesus came to reveal the Father (John 1:18), to be a model for the disciple’s behavior (John 13:12–15; 1 John 2:6); to be our great high priest (Heb. 4:14–16); to die for our sins in our place (Heb. 10:1–10; 1 John 4:8–10), and to defeat the devil (1 John 3:8). He defeats the devil by tasting death for us (Heb 2:14–15). The devil’s power lies in bringing death. After death comes judgment (Heb. 9:27–28) and the fear of it. But if Jesus has addressed the matter of judgement on the cross, and he has, then the believer’s fear is relieved (Col. 2:13–15).
7. The demon dwelling is real.
Demon Possession is what the movie is about. The Exorcist is a classic horror movie. However, some scholars question the use of possession to describe demonic control over human subjects. These scholars prefer to describe the people who appear in Mark 5 as demonized. The traditional description is "being possessed by demons". I prefer the descriptor "demon dwelling". Mark 5:1-20 provides an instructive example. Jesus allowed demons to come out of people and into pigs (see Mark 5:10-13). Another example is a parable that Jesus told about a man with an unclean spirit. The unclean spirit returned to the man who was likened to the house, and the returning evil spirit now dwells in the house (Luke 11:24-25). Spatial images are used in both cases. The idea of possession can give the impression of ownership, and demons are squatters. Demonized language can be too broad to be overused.
8. Believers cannot be inhabited by demons.
Can believers be inhabited by demons? This is a question many people ask. Theologically, it is hard to believe that a believer can be both a dwelling place for the devil and a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19 and 2 Corinthians 6:16). However, we have every reason to believe that believers may be oppressed by demonic malice (1 Pet. 5:8-9). Likewise, as Paul tells 1 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:7), the devil may actively seek to harass godly servants. In short: inhabited, no; repressed, yes.
9. Devils and demons have no future with God.
Surprisingly, some very important early church thinkers held very different views. Origen (d. c. AD 354) was one of the greatest speculative theologians in church history. He believed that all people would be saved, including the devil. Gregory of Nissa (335-394 AD) was more cautious about making the same claim. However, he hoped that the devil would be saved. In 553, Origen was condemned by the Council of Constantinople II for his boldness, but not Gregory of Nissa. The biblical testimony is clear - the devil and his servants, false prophets and beasts of the sea, will forever be in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:9-10). It can be speculated that the other servants of the devil, the demons, will also face the same fate.
10. We may have blind spots.
Paul G. Hiebert grew up in India but trained as an anthropologist and missionary in the West. He begins to realize that his Western training has left him ignorant of the spiritual world of good and evil that most of the world has never ignored. He calls this blind spot a "platoon defect." He argues that many Western Christians may have a theology that affirms angels and demons, but in practice has an operational theology, as if God and ourselves are the only wisdom. If we never pray that the risen Christ will continue to bind the strongman and destroy his possessions through the victory of the cross, then blind spots will manifest in our prayers.
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