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What are Demons?

Categories Theology Systematic Theology

Demons are evil angels who sinned against God and who now continually work evil in the world. They are the angels whom God “did not spare . . . when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness” (2 Peter 2:4). But demons did not start out as evil. As part of the original creation, they were part of the “everything” God made, that he considered “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Although the Bible does not tell us specifically when they fell, sometime between their creation and Satan’s tempting of Eve to sin, these demons “did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling” (Jude 6) and were cast into hell.

Satan is the personal name of the head of the demons. He is mentioned by name in passages like 1 Chronicles 21:1, where it says, “Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” Jesus speaks directly to him when tempted in the wilderness: “Be gone, Satan!” (Matt. 4:10). When the disciples tell Jesus that the demons are subject to his name, Jesus responds by saying, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). The Bible also uses the following names for Satan: “the devil” (Matt. 4:1), “the serpent” (Gen. 3:1), “Beelzebul” (Matt. 10:25), “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and “the evil one” (Matt. 13:19).

Satan was a “murderer from the beginning” and the “father of lies” (John 8:44). “The devil,” 1 John 3:8 tells us, “has been sinning from the beginning.” He is the originator of sin, having sinned before he “deceived Eve by his cunning” (2 Cor. 11:3). He also tried to tempt Christ to sin (Matt. 4:1 – 11) so that Jesus would fail in his mission “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Satan and his demons will try to use every type of destructive tactic to blind people “from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). They will also use similar destructive tactics — such as temptation, doubt, lies, murder, guilt, fear, confusion, sickness, envy, pride, and slander — to hinder a Christian’s witness and usefulness.

The devil and his demons are limited both in their own power and by God’s control in what they can and can’t do. They are kept in “eternal chains under gloomy darkness” (Jude 6). Satan himself can be successfully resisted through the authority of Christ: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Satan and his demons cannot know the future, for only God can declare “the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done” (Isa. 46:10). Although they may be able to observe what we do on a daily basis (and from this draw conclusions about our thoughts or our future), they cannot know for certain what we are thinking or what our future holds (see Dan. 2:27 – 28, where no one speaking by any other power than the God of heaven could know the king’s dream).


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Systematic Theology, Second Edition Wayne A. Grudem
This new edition of Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem may be the most important resource you can own for helping you understand Scripture and grow as a Christ...
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Systematic Theology 1 Instructor: Dr. Wayne Grudem
Systematic Theology 1, taught by Wayne Grudem, features a strong emphasis on the scriptural basis for each doctrine; clear teaching, with technical terms kept to a minimum; and a contemporary approach.
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What are Angels?
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