Angelology – the study of Angels and Demons
[NOTE: Some systems of theology treat ‘demons’ under a separate topic called ‘Demonology’. It is the opinion of the author of this article that, since demons are ‘fallen angels’, they should be studied under the same category.]
Angels are spiritual beings believed to act as an attendants, agents, or messengers of God, often appearing in human form, but sometimes having other characteristics and appearances. They were created as ‘free moral agents’ like man, and have the ability to choose right from wrong.
Demons are ‘evil’ spirits or ‘fallen’ angels, especially one thought to possess a person or act as a tempter or tormentor.
Satan was Lucifer (“Light bearer”), God’s highest angel who stood in His presence. Out of envy, Lucifer desired to be like God and rebelled against his Creator. 1/3 of the angels rebelled with him. They were cast out of heaven by Michael the archangel. Lucifer is now known as Satan, which means “Adversary” in Aramaic. The other fallen angels are now called “demons” or “evil spirits”. Although they were cast out, they were not stripped of their powers and authority over their assigned territories in God’s creation. They will be stripped of their authority at the Last Judgment.
I. Angels and Demons in the Bible.
- The world the New Testament describes is filled with angels and demons.
- What is it about the existence of angels that is so unbelievable?
- In the teachings of Christ, angels are discussed more than love or sin.
A) An early heresy in the Church was that Jesus was actually an angel. The author of Hebrews challenges that assumption (See Hebrews 1).
B) Angels are created beings that have various functions.
- Mysterious: invisible, visible, various shapes and forms.
- Ministering spirits: seraphim, cherubim; help to Jesus.
- Messengers: announcing John’s and Jesus’ births; making Old Testament visits.
C) Angels are involved in God’s work of Creation in that they have powers and authority over certain territories in God’s Creation, and are assigned to uphold and enforce the natural laws which govern the Universe.
2. How do “fallen” angels differ? They are lesser angels who fell with Satan and are under his command. Satan is not God. Particularly, he is not all-knowing and all-present. Do not attribute too much power to Satan.
A) Satan is called in Scripture:
- Accuser (Rev. 12:10).
B) A warning: Satan, like other angels, is metamorphic. He can change images as easily as we change our clothes. He can appear as something good – pure as light.
3. The Bible on angels:
- The Greek word ‘angelos’ occurs more often than the word ‘agape’ in the New Testament Scriptures. Angels are also found at the very beginning of the Biblical narrative (Gen. 3:24), and continue to show up throughout the text.
- “Angelos” simply rendered, means “messenger.” It almost exclusively refers to supernatural beings, as well as their activities in heaven and earth.
A) Revelation chapter 4: The throne of heaven.
- The myriads of angels that surround the throne of God and attend to the presence of God are called “the host of heaven”. “Host” in the Bible is synonymous with “army.”
- Angels worship God because He is worthy. And they worship Him constantly—that is, without end.
B) Angels often come in the likeness of human beings. For example, in Genesis 18, “the LORD appeared to [Abraham] by the terebinth tree” (v. 1).
- This angel of the LORD is so closely associated with God Himself, that he accepts worship, and so must either be a Theophany or a Christophany.
- Angels appear many times in Scripture as ministers to God’s people.
- Angels as “messengers”. The quintessential angelic messenger—Gabriel—appears in the biblical narrative at precisely the most intense times, announcing God’s cataclysmic plans for the world.
C) Other facts about angels:
- Angels are spirits (Heb. 1:7).
- Angels are corporeal (they are also physical).
- Angels are masculine (It is an error to say they are sexless. They are always manifested in the form of a man).
- Angels are celibate (There is no record of angels ever marrying other angels, although this may be because there are no female angels. See Genesis 6:1-2).
II. The cursed angel of darkness – Satan.
- Everywhere in the Bible he is described as the “adversary” of God and His people on earth.
A) The Scriptural witness about Satan.
- The word “Satan” literally means “adversary”.
- He is especially the arch-enemy of Christ Jesus Himself.
- He is crafty, like the serpent, who with subtlety attacked our first parents.
- He is a liar, indeed, he is the father of lies. His greatest lie of all is that mankind can act autonomously, that is, without subjugation to the almighty God.
- He is incredibly powerful. While he is far beneath God, he is much stronger than we are. Consider the time when Jesus informs Saint Peter that he will deny Him (Luke 22:31–34). Satan desired to “sift like wheat” the apostle.
- Consider also this metaphor Saint Peter uses to describe him: “… Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
- This view of Satan, however, must always be tempered with the fact that his strength is limited. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” James says in chapter 4: verse 7).
B) Satan’s metamorphic character.
- Satan apparently has the ability to manifest himself sub species boni, or, “under the auspices of good.”
- He often appears as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:4).
- The “tempter” and “accuser” (Revelation 12:10).
- In the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to pray for our deliverance from him everyday: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13).
C) ‘Daemonia’ – Latin, “Evil spirits”.
- Satan has a whole army of soldiers, commonly called “demons.”
- Notice that there was heightened demonic activity during the Incarnation. There are numerous accounts in the Gospels of possessions, oppressions, physical harm, and property damage.
- Regenerate persons cannot be held hostage by the power of Satan through demon possession. But the Church can be oppressed, harassed, tempted, and even attacked. Through all the fiery darts of the devil, however, God’s people must always cling to the fact that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
III. Salvation was not made available to fallen angels.
“To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.” – 1 Peter 1:12
[For more on this subject, please refer to my article entitled “The Christian and Spiritual Warfare”.]