If you were to walk up to people on the city streets and ask them questions such as what’s an angel, what is a demon, what qualities do they have, are there limits to what they can do, can people be demon possessed, or can Christians be demon possessed, you would likely get a wide variety of answers. Though some may not have clear concepts as to what angels and demons are and do at all, they would claim to recognize they exist. Others may have vague thoughts but admittedly nothing concrete to hang their hat on to confidently answer your questions. Some may have vivid opinions of the supernatural and possibly have latched on to movie or TV influenced, graphic artistic images such as Cupid and Devil with a pitchfork and tail as well as descriptions that have informed their understanding and even visual view in their mind. Others may have answers influenced by tragic and terrible experiences with the occult.
If I were to ask you the same questions, how would you respond? In seeking to be good students of the Word, in seeking to learn from the whole counsel of God, it’s wonderful to know that God hasn’t left us in the dark about the creation of angels, as well as their nature and actions, along with the sin, fall, and actions of demons. Therefore, it’s good and right to make angels and demons part of our biblical diet and course of study. This is helpful not only for our own biblical grounding, edification, and peace, but also to be able to help others become established and grow in the same. For many are tossed to and fro by various winds of doctrine, myths, and superstition on the subject. Some are heavily burdened, scared, or nervous about angels and demons and their presence and activity. Such study and growth in the truth of Scripture and biblical understanding can help bring more insight and healing to thoughts, fears, and feelings as well.
To begin, “What is an angel?”
Angels are spirit beings. They are a different kind of being, with differing qualities from men, yet it’s important to know and remember that they are created beings. They aren’t eternal. They aren’t created in the image of God. Further, know the word “angel” in Hebrew (malak), and the word “angel” in Greek (angelos), both carry the meaning of “messenger.” They are messengers of God to the people.
Did you know that angels weren’t merely created in God’s work of creation, but were also part of His eternal decree? The Westminster Larger Catechism QA 13 helps us learn about this:
- What hath God especially decreed concerning angels and men?
A. God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of his mere love, for the praise of his glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, hath elected some angels to glory; and in Christ hath chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof: and also, according to his sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of his own will (whereby he extendeth or withholdeth favor as he pleaseth), hath passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonor and wrath, to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of his justice.
- Paul refers to the “elect angels” in 1 Timothy 5:21, “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”
Of all the angels God created, He made some to be elect angels, and He passed by the rest and foreordained them to dishonor and wrath.
How did God create the angels? What attributes did He give them? Westminster Larger Catechism QA 16 teaches us:
- How did God create angels?
A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.
- Paul taught the saints in Colossians 1:16 “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”
- Psalm 104:4 “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.”
- Matthew 22:30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.”
- Luke 20: 35-36 “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”
See here how God created angels as holy, immortal spirits who excel in knowledge, but aren’t omniscient. They are powerful, but not omnipotent. They aren’t omnipresent. God created them to carry out His commands and praise Him, yet they could fall. Some angels (the non-elect) indeed did fall and followed Satan. They are referred to as fallen angels or demons. More on this in upcoming editions.