Do Angels and Demons Really Exist?
July 27, 2019 | Brian Bill
Imagine waking up this morning and Iranian tanks and missiles are pointed at your house with members of the Revolutionary Guard shoulder to shoulder encircling your property. They are there because you were accused of espionage. How do you feel? What would you do?
Something similar happened about 3,000 years ago as recorded in 2 Chronicles 6 when the King of Syria became furious because he thought someone in his ranks was a spy. When he was told the Israelite prophet Elisha could hear the “words you speak in your bedroom,” he sent horses, chariots and an immense army to surround Dothan, the city Elisha and his servant were in. Verse 15 says: “When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’” The word “alas” means, “Oh, no!” and refers to deep despair coupled with great fear.
Elisha’s response in verse 16 is startling: “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” I picture his young aide rolling his eyes and saying something like, “Are you kidding me? There’s just you and I here. I don’t see anyone else.”
Then Elisha prays this 10-word prayer in verse 17: “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” The answer comes quickly: “So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” The word “behold” has the idea of surprise and certainty and means something like, “Look now!” Innumerable horses and chariots of fire were around Elisha! I’m sure this made the young millennial think of what happened when Elijah was taken up to heaven in 2 Kings 2:11: “And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
Most of us determine reality through our physical senses, but for Elisha the spiritual world was what was real. Notice Elijah didn’t ask for the angels to show up but instead for his servant to see they were already there.
Right here and right now, there is an invisible world that is more real than the world we live in. Jack Graham says, “There’s more to life than what you see.” Angels and demons surround us; we just can’t see them. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Prayer. Let’s ask the Lord to open our eyes as we begin.
Last weekend we asked the question, “Why is the Christian life so difficult?” We found the answer in Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus calls us to desire, to deny, to die and to be devoted. While salvation is delightful, discipleship is often difficult.
I wanted to add another thought. We are called to be disciples who make disciples. Nino Saldivar, who has a heart for discipling men, passed along a Barna study that asked churchgoers this question: “Have you heard of the Great Commission?” Sadly, over half said they had no clue and another 25% said they vaguely remember it but can’t recall it’s exact meaning. Let me remind you of the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Will you follow Christ and then make sure someone is following you as you follow Him? We have several discipleship groups for men and women and also a number of Growth Groups. I hope you’ll join one.
Our question today is, “Do Angels and Demons really exist?” We’ll start by seeking to understand what the Bible teaches about the good angels and then we’ll learn about evil angels. I do want to give a parental warning since we’ll be focusing on some things your younger children may not be ready for.
Understanding Elect Angels
I grew up going to a church with a lot of angels displayed everywhere, even the ceiling. I became somewhat of an expert on these heavenly hosts. I’d study them intently during the sermon because they were certainly more interesting than anything the pastor had to say! Some of you are looking for angels right now. While you might not see them on walls or windows, they’re certainly here.
Angels make an appearance over 300 times in more than half of the books of the Bible. Angels are created spiritual beings, with individual existences, personalities and high intelligence. Let’s ask and answer some questions.
- Who created angels? According to Psalm 148:2, 5, God created them: “Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts…For he commanded and they were created.”
- When were angels created? According to Job 38:4-7, angels were witnesses to the creation of the world, which indicates they were created by the third day and possibly much earlier: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation…and all the angels shouted for joy?”
- How many angels were created? Hebrews 12:22 says angels are “innumerable.” Daniel 7:10 refers to “ten thousand times ten thousand,” which equals 100 million! Revelation 5:11 lists “myriads upon myriads,” which means millions upon millions.
- Do angels have wings? While we’re not certain if all angels have wings we do know the seraphim, a class of angels, have wings according to Isaiah 6:2.
- Do angels have names? Only two angels are named in the Bible, perhaps because of their high rank and the important roles they played – Michael and Gabriel.
- Do “good” angels still have free will? It’s difficult to be dogmatic about this but it’s likely after Lucifer’s uprising in heaven (more about this later) when 1/3 of the angels fell with him, the good angels remain committed to do God’s will. I base this off the fact that these angels are called “elect” in 1 Timothy 5:21. It seems that God has chosen some angels not to fall. Another way to say it is that angels may have free will but their will is consistent with their natures. Good angels will freely choose to do good and bad angels will freely choose to do evil.
- Do we become angels when we die? It’s a common belief in our culture today to say when someone dies, “Heaven gained another angel,” but there is no biblical basis for this. Human beings are made in the image of God and unique in our nature (Genesis 1:26). We don’t change into something else to enter Heaven. I like the answer Nancy Guthrie suggests when someone tries to comfort you in the loss of a loved one by saying he or she has become an angel: “Oh, I am grateful to know that my loved one is in heaven, but of course she hasn’t become an angel. Angels are their own created order. Humans don’t become angels when they die. But she is with the angels in heaven doing what everyone there does which is worship Christ.”
Activities of Angels
While a lot more could be said, angels are involved in four key activities.
Their primary responsibility is to praise God. Isaiah 6:2-3: “Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” Angels are involved in adoration according to Nehemiah 9:6: “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.”
Close your eyes and reverently reflect on Revelation 5:11-12: “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’”
The word “angel” in both Hebrew and Greek means, “messenger.” Angels obediently carry out God’s plan according to Psalm 103:20: “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do His word, obeying the voice of His word!” These worshipping workers are often sent to help God’s people according to Hebrews 1:14: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
In 1 Kings 19:5, an angel appeared to Elijah when he was fleeing from Jezebel: “And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’” In Matthew 4:11, it was angels who helped sustain Jesus when He was in the wilderness for 40 days: “Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” In Luke 2:10, it was an angel who brought glad tidings about the birth of Jesus and in Matthew 28:5-6, an angel announced the resurrection: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as He said…”
I like what Billy Graham often said, “Believers, look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think.”
While angels are normally invisible, Psalm 34:7 says, “The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” Hebrews 13:2 tells us there are times when angels take on human form, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” This is one of the reasons we’re called to be nice to those we don’t know, to embrace those who are different from us by opening our hearts and our homes.
It’s quite possible to be face-to-face with an angel and not even know it. Look at the person next to you. He or she may be an angel in disguise. Some of you are thinking, no way! As far as I know, I’ve not seen an angel but I do live with someone who comes very close!
We need to remove the image of angels as cute chubby cherub Beanie Babies because angels are called by God to be executioners of His justice. Incidentally, the common human reaction to being face-to-face with an angel is fear and dread. In fact, the first words out of an angel’s mouth are often, “Fear not!” I think of how one warrior angel went to war and annihilated thousands of Israel’s enemies in 2 Kings 19:35: “And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians.”
Revelation 12:7 describes the future fury of the righteous wrath of our holy God: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” In Revelation 19:11-14, when the Lord rides victorious into the Battle of Armageddon, He will be followed by armies of angels.
Write this down. When angels go to war, they always win!
Cautions about Angels
- Don’t put angels above the Bible. While angels deliver messages from God, they never supersede or contradict the Bible. If they do, they are messages of deception sent by the devil. Books suggesting we can speak directly to our celestial friends and obtain new insight from Heaven are deceiving thousands of people today.
- Don’t worship angels. Good angels never draw attention to themselves. They can get our attention, but they always do it for God’s sake, not their own. When Biblical angels discharge their duty and deliver their tidings, they withdraw from human contact. We’re never encouraged to seek, much less establish, an ongoing relationship with them. They don’t stay long because they don’t want us to focus on them — they want us to worship God.
Listen to Revelation 22:8-9: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’”
- Angels are not to be prayed to. They may deliver answers to prayer (see Daniel 10) but the Bible never suggests we should direct our prayers to anyone other than God Himself. The Bible never records an incident where a human being initiated conversation with an angel.
Jesus is center stage; angels are just the supporting cast
4. Angels never replace Jesus. Jesus is center stage; angels are just the supporting cast. Referring to what Jesus accomplished and how people respond to the gospel, 1 Peter 1:12 says angels are peering over the portals of heaven because they are fascinated by salvation: “Things into which angels long to look.” As powerful and wonderful as angels are, they are inferior in position and power to Jesus Christ.
Understanding Evil Angels
In his preface to The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis gives a warning filled with wisdom: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
Who are the demons? Simply put, they are evil angels who sinned against God and continually work evil in the world. Some are bound in chains and others are roaming about according to 2 Peter 2:4: “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.” David Jeremiah says some demons are “fallen and imprisoned” and others are “fallen and free.”
When God created the angels, they were all good. However, when Lucifer, one of the archangels, rebelled against Almighty God, he took about 1/3 of the angels with him. We refer to them as demons or evil spirits. Many believe Revelation 12:4 suggests the great red dragon, representing Satan, took 1/3 of the fallen angels with him when he sinned: “His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.”
There are two passages in the Old Testament that likely describe the fall of Satan.
- Ezekiel 28. While these words are directed to the prince of Tyre, there seems to be another application as verse 2 describes a scene played out in Heaven a long time ago: “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god.” Drop down to verse 8, “They shall thrust you down into the pit.” In verse 14-15, we’re given more evidence this is not just directed to a prince: “You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.”
- Isaiah 14. The most glorious angel was a being named Lucifer, which means “Day Star.” While this chapter is also directed to a man (the king of Babylon), the language is too specific to refer only to a human. Listen to verses 12-15: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, [listen for the 5 “I will” statements to see the prominence of his pride] ‘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 are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.”
Lucifer is called “Satan” in 1 Chronicles 21:1. This is what Jesus calls him in Matthew 4:10. He’s also called “the devil” in Matthew 4:1, the “serpent” in Genesis 3:1, “Beelzebul” in Matthew 10:25, the “ruler of this world” in John 12:31, the “evil one” in Matthew 13:19 and “the prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2. Revelation 12:9 lists five different names: “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
BTW, there are many illusions and references to Satan in the entertainment industry, like Demogorgon in the popular Netflix series, “Stranger Things.”
What Demons Do
1. They attack the person of God.
We just read of Satan’s number one desire: “I will make myself like the Most High.” Since he failed in his plan and was cast out of the presence of God, Satan and his evil angels are set on relentlessly attacking the person of God.
Satan is referred to as the “adversary” 56 times. Pride caused his downfall and pride makes him continue his adversarial attacks on God. While he wanted to rule both heaven and earth, in concert with the evil angels, Satan now rules the earth.
2. They attack the purposes of God.
The devil and his demons are diametrically opposed to everything God is accomplishing today. When referring to his derailed plans to visit a church, the Apostle Paul attributed this delay to the devil in 1 Thessalonians 2:18: “We wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.”
The evil one is all about annihilating the church or neutralizing its effectiveness by causing chaos and conflict. Satan knows if he can get a church to fight against itself, it will lose its effectiveness as a conduit of God’s truth and grace to a hurting world. John 8:44 says Satan is a murderer and the father of all lies.
3. They attack the people of God.
This attack is often different from the first two. When demons assault the person and purposes of God, they do it very boldly. When they attack the people of God, the devil and his demons are often more subtle in their strategy.
Demons often follow a 3-phase attack:
- Tempting Phase. Without blaming everything we do on the devil, we need to recognize part of his strategy is to tempt us (see James 1:13-15). If he can get us thinking something in our minds, he knows it’s a short step for many of us before we put it into action.
- Deceiving Phase. Demons have been deceiving people since the Garden of Eden. Satan deceived Eve by challenging God’s goodness in Genesis 3:4-5: “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” Satan directly denied God’s truth and he made disobedience seem desirable by using deception.
- Accusing Phase. After tempting and then deceiving us, the evil one waits for us to listen to his lies. Once we sin, incessant accusations fly our way. Revelation 12:10 refers to Satan as the one “who accuses them day and night before our God.”
Some of you feel guilty for what you did years ago and you’re still kicking yourself for it today. Others of you feel worthless. You don’t think God could ever forgive because of what you’ve done. Are you swimming with shame and gutted by guilt? Memorize and meditate on Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Remember when the Adversary attacks, born again believers have an Advocate!
4. They attack the pursuers of God.
The devil and his demons will do all they can to keep the pursuers of God from making a decision to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. They will fill your mind with doubts so you won’t surrender and be saved. Satan often snatches away the seed of the Gospel when it is sown in the heart of a hard person according to Matthew 13:19: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.”
The evil one will keep you from attending church by giving you convenient excuses for not coming every week. When you get close to repenting and receiving Christ into your life, the ruler of this world will take away any urgency and fill your mind with other things.
Armed with spiritual scud missiles, Satan and his malevolent minions play insidious mind games with you. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
A Battle Plan
If you’re a born again believer, hold on to the promise of 1 John 4:4: “For He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world.” Here’s a battle plan. We don’t have to be unsettled about the power of the devil and his demons.
Listen to 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Peter is calling us to get serious, to be spiritually alert and watchful. The force behind the command is to stay awake! Be ready! Watch out! Don’t be a spiritual sluggard!
The word “adversary” refers to an opponent or enemy. 1 John 5:19 says, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” The devil and his demons hate Christ and hate Christians. Peter paints a very graphic word picture: “…the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” There are at least four ways the devil is like a roaring lion.
- Lions are incredibly strong. Weighing about 600 pounds and standing about four-feet tall, they are 20 times stronger than we are. We can’t fight Satan in our own strength. In Jude 9 we read even Michael the Archangel wouldn’t go up against the Adversary alone. Instead he said: “The Lord rebuke you!”
- Lions are insatiably hungry. Once they kill and eat they’re ready to do it all over again. Likewise, Satan “prowls around,” as he stalks his next victim. Actually, the word “roar” refers to the howl of a beast in fierce hunger. Satan is actively “seeking someone to devour,” meaning he is always looking for an opportunity to pounce on any weakness he sees. He attacks suddenly when unsuspecting victims are involved in routine activities. The word, “devour” means to gulp down. One pastor put it like this, “Some of you are already lying on his dinner plate, and the sound you hear is the licking of his lips.”
- Lions are intimidatingly scary. A mature lion’s roar can be heard up to five miles away. The main purpose of their roar is to frighten. I’m told one strategy of a pride of lions is for the older lion, who often does not have any teeth, to roar loudly so the prey starts running, right into an ambush of younger lions. Then they put the meal into a blender for the older lion (or something like that). Brothers and sisters, listen. Satan is intimidating and scary…but he doesn’t have any teeth! Jesus has defeated and de-fanged him at the cross.
- Lions are intensely territorial. Another reason lions roar is to announce they are in charge of a certain territory. Satan likes to think he’s in charge as well and hates it when the kingdom of God advances. He can’t stand it when someone is saved and taken out of his domain. That’s why he often attacks new believers and tries to keep Christians from sharing the gospel. He thinks the Quad Cities is his territory, but it’s not. Right?
Drop down to 1 Peter 5:9: “Resist him, firm in your faith…” To “resist” means to “stand firm against” and pictures a face-to-face confrontation. We shouldn’t underestimate our enemy nor should we overestimate him. I’ve heard the worst thing you can do when a lion is coming after you is to run. I don’t have any experience in that regard but when I was in Zimbabwe in the early 80s, an elephant started to charge our group when we were on a safari. Our guide forcefully yelled, “Don’t run. Stand still. He won’t know what to do if you stare him down.” That was counter-intuitive because I wanted to get out of there.
It’s fascinating we’re told to flee immorality, idolatry and youthful lusts, but we’re never instructed to flee from the devil. We’re to resist him, not run from him. Having said that, you should run from every connection with the occult, including Ouija boards, Wicca, witchcraft, astrology and horoscopes, séances, psychics or other paranormal encounters.
Satan’s target is your mind so we must resist his mind games
To be “firm in your faith” refers to being stable. This can only come as we grow in our relationship with God by renewing our minds daily. Satan’s target is your mind so we must resist his mind games. Romans 12:2 says: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” James 4:7 puts it like this: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” We must submit to God before we can stand against Satan.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking Satan is God’s opposite or his equal. He is a defeated foe on a very short leash. His destiny is determined according to Revelation 20:10: “And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” We just sang, “A Mighty Fortress is our God” and were reminded that “we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him!”
Never forget Satan is a counterfeit. 2 Corinthians 11:14: “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Peter says he is like a roaring lion but he’s nothing like the real roaring lion, the Lord Jesus Christ!
In Revelation 5:5 the Apostle John is given a message: “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the protector of Israel in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Because He is the ruler and redeemer from the root of David, Jesus Christ will devour His enemies. Satan and his evil minions tremble before His might.
In Revelation 5:6 the image changes from a lion to a lamb: “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…” These two images could not be more jarring. Lambs are weak and lowly and sacrificed for others. Jesus is both the supreme Lion and the sacrificial Lamb. And as the Lamb, He is standing next to the throne because He is alive and the war has been won. He is a lamb-like lion and a lion-like lamb. When He cried out, “It is finished,” it was with a victorious lion-like roar that defeated death and the devil, thus providing deliverance from our sins. 1 John 3:8: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Satan has been crushed and defeated and is now out on bond…but his time is short.
Some of you have wanted to make the decision to receive Christ for some time now. Don’t put it off any longer. It will have eternal consequences if you do. Listen to what Jesus said in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters reveals some insights into Satan’s strategy. Lewis describes a group of demons discussing how best to keep someone from following Christ.
One suggested they plant seeds of doubt about God. Another thought they could use hypocrisy to keep people away. After a number of other ideas were set forth, one of the younger demons hesitantly suggested, “You’ve missed our most effective strategy…Just tell them they have all the time in the world to decide. Tell them it’s not that important. Tell them to wait another day… ”
Do you want to make the angels celebrate today? If so, get saved right now! Luke 15:10: “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
If you’re ready to repent and receive Christ, pray this prayer right now. Pray and don’t delay.
Lord, I admit I am a sinner and deserve Your just judgment. I repent from trying to follow my own way and now turn to you as the only way. I believe Jesus died in my place on the cross and rose again on the third day and now I receive Him into my life. Please save me from my sins and from Your righteous wrath. I want to be born again so I place all my trust in You and You alone. If there’s anything in my life You don’t like, please get rid of it. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Benediction from Revelation 19:11-16
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.