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There is a story that's told of John McGraw, a tough character who managed the New York Giants baseball team back in the 1910s to 1930s.
McGraw ran his ball club like a dictatorship. His nickname, in fact, was "Little Napoleon." He didn't tolerate back talk, and woe to the player who made a mistake like missing a sign. McGraw inspired fear and respect in his players.
One day, John McGraw's wife was sitting in the stands during a game and wanted to relay a message to her husband. She started gesturing toward one of the players, waving at him to come over to her, but he didn't see her and walked away. Mrs. McGraw waved some more, but to no avail.
After the game, Mrs. McGraw saw the player and said to him in mild exasperation, "Didn't you see me waving at you? I was trying to get your attention!"
"Good grief, Mrs. Mac," the player said as he turned pale. "Don't tell me you're giving signs too!"
That story can be used to illustrate what happens to many of us as believers when it comes to the subject of angels and demons. We are so busy looking in one direction that we're oblivious to a second sphere of existence that is very active and needs our attention. In this case, however, there are real consequences to ignoring this second world and its principal characters and activities.
God's Word has so much to say about angels (both good angels and demons) that all I can do in this booklet is give you the basic framework and major points of emphasis the Bible makes about them. But this study will give you enough information to help you be aware of the critical role that these supernatural, spirit beings play in God's plan both in history and eternity.
Angels have been in vogue in Hollywood and in pop culture for some time now. And the demonic world has long been a popular theme in television and films. But both angels and demons have a lot more significance than this culture gives them. And much of what we read and hear about angels is really trite when it comes to what the Bible teaches.
What I want to do is discuss angels and demons side by side as we consider their origin, activities, future, and so forth. While angels and demons had the same origin in eternity past as God's creation, they work in opposition to each other in the world.
It's also important to say that we can't talk about angels and demons without getting into the issue of spiritual warfare, which will be part of our focus. This answers the question, "Why do I need to know about angels and demons?" They are fighting against each other, and you are the prize they're fighting for!
Angels Are Created Beings
Let's begin at the beginning by looking at the origin of the angelic world. In Colossians 1:16, Paul wrote: "For by Him [Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him." This verse makes it clear that the angelic realm was not created as an end in itself. The myriads of angels that God created were made to fulfill His divine purposes.
When were angels created? We don't know exactly when, but it was before the creation of the earth and mankind. During His answer to the patriarch Job, God asked this question: "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? ... When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4, 7).
The sons of God were the angels, who formed a choir and sang in celebration at creation. We know these are the angels because back in Job 1:6, the "sons of God" came to report to God on His throne, and Satan was among them. As we'll see, Satan was the greatest of the angels before his rebellion and judgment.
As created beings, angels are not to be worshiped, glorified, or adored in and of themselves. The angels were created to worship, glorify, adore, and obey God. That's where Satan got into trouble, because he wanted to be worshiped as God (Isaiah 14:12-14).
There are many verses in the Bible that talk about the motivation and purpose of the angels. According to Psalm 148:2, the angels find their delight in praising God. The writer of Hebrews said of angels, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" (1:14). When the apostle John fell down to worship the angel who had shown him great things, the angel said, "Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God" (Revelation 22:9).
Even though angels take on human appearance and become visible on occasion, they are spirit beings who do not have flesh and blood. Hebrews 13:2 says, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." When necessary, God will direct one of His invisible angels to become visible in the life of a believer in order to accomplish a divinely ordained purpose.
This happened to Abraham and Sarah when "three men" (Genesis 18:2) showed up at the door of their tent one day to announce that Sarah would have a son at the age of ninety. The custom of the day was to be hospitable to strangers, and Abraham went all out for them. He may have done this because he was a kind and godly person, or because he sensed that these were special visitors. He probably did it for both reasons.
One of the men was God Himself, most likely Jesus in a pre-incarnate appearance, because His promise to Abraham was personal: "I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son" (18:10). The other two "men" were actually angels whom God had sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah 18:20-22; 19:1).
Abraham entertained these strangers without knowing that they came bearing the provision of God for the miracle that he and Sarah needed-the ability to conceive well past the age of childbearing (Romans 4:18-21).
Angels are spirit beings, and the same is true of demons. Paul wrote, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
Angels Are Personal Beings
Angels are pure spirit, but that doesn't mean they are just floating apparitions. Angels are personal beings, and, likewise, the evil angels did not lose their personhood when they became demons. Angels have the three primary attributes of personhood, which are intellect, emotions, and will.
Angels have intellect. According to 1 Peter 1:12, they long to understand more about our salvation. In other words, they can think, and they talk with people. And they have emotions, for we read in Job 38:7 that they were filled with joy at creation. Jesus said in Luke 15:10 that the angels rejoice when a sinner gets saved.
Angels also have a will, because each angel had the choice to follow Satan in his rebellion or remain true to God. Satan exercised his will when he tried to usurp God's throne, which is a subject we'll save for later.
Demons have personal attributes too. In Luke 8:26-39, we read the story of a demon-possessed man who lived naked among the tombs. When Jesus confronted the multitude of demons that were tormenting this man, they exercised their intellect first of all by recognizing Jesus: "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" Then they made a request: "I beg You, do not torment me" (v. 28). So Jesus gave them permission to enter a herd of pigs nearby (v. 32).
The demons also displayed that they have emotions and wills by expressing fear of torment and begging Jesus not to send them away where they could no longer be active. Many Bible teachers believe that the demons calling Jesus by name was not just a recognition of Him, but it was an attempt to gain control over Him. That could be why Jesus often told demons to be quiet when they spoke to Him (Mark 1:25).
Angels Cannot Be Counted
Here's another fact about the origin and existence of angels. They are a host of beings so numerous they can't be counted. We see an awesome picture of this in Daniel's description of God on the throne as Judge: "A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him" (7:10).
"Myriads upon myriads" is another way of saying "ten thousand times ten thousand," which is one hundred million angels. And those were just the ones Daniel saw.
Demons must also exist in vast numbers. Revelation 12:4 indicates that one-third of the angelic host followed Satan in his rebellion. This is one reason you and I need divine help to wage successful spiritual warfare. God's angels are so powerful that it takes only one to oversee the affairs of a nation (Daniel 10:13, 20). And Satan is so clever and intelligent that we are no match whatsoever for him in our own strength. But thank God, in His power we can overcome an army!
The number of angels was fixed by God and will not change, both because they do not procreate (Matthew 22:30) and because, like our spirits that will live on forever in either heaven or hell, they are eternal beings.
Angels Show Up in Different Ways
Angels are glorious beings. Daniel saw this stunning vision of an angel: "I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult" (Daniel 10:5-6).
The reaction was very interesting. Daniel said the men with him didn't even see the angel, yet they apparently sensed the presence of an awesome being and ran away in terror. Daniel himself turned pale and all of his strength left him (10:7-8).
The appearance of angels in Scripture is not only associated with an awe-inspiring presence, but also with the appearance of light. When an angel came to Peter's cell to release him, the Bible says "a light shone in the cell" (Acts 12:7).
In contrast, the Bible doesn't refer to demons as glorious beings, and they cannot make themselves visible as angels can. That's why the demons in Luke 8 inhabited the man and begged Jesus to let them inhabit the pigs. In contrast to the angels, demons need another entity to work through when they want to manifest their presence.
The most glorious angel of all was also heaven's rebel. Before he rebelled against God, Satan was Lucifer, or "light bearer," the most glorious and beautiful creature God ever made.
When he was in his prime, boxer Muhammad Ali used to say he was "too pretty" to ever be marked up in the ring. Well, the Devil got in trouble because he was too pretty. One day he looked in the mirror and said, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?"
The mirror said, "You are, bad boy," and Satan couldn't have agreed more. He let his beauty go to his head, and he tried to overthrow God. Lucifer wasn't happy leading the worship of God. He wanted to be worshiped as God. When he failed and was kicked out of heaven, Satan's beauty was marred but not destroyed.
Angels Are Functional Beings
Angels are not merely heaven's window dressings. They are functional beings, created to fulfill at least three responsibilities.
We've referred to the angels' most important job, which is to worship God. Isaiah saw the cherubim in the temple who cried out, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3). Revelation 4:8 says the four living creatures, who are angelic beings, "do not cease" to offer God praise and worship.
The fact that Satan sought to rob God of the worship due His name shows that the Devil's basic goal is to distort and corrupt God's plan and replace it with his own system if possible. It makes sense that Satan would attack God's worship first, because the one we worship is usually the one we serve.
That's why Paul warned Timothy about "deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" that will come against the church in the last days (1 Timothy 4:1). Satan's deepest desire is still to be worshiped as God, and to do that he has to distort true doctrine and get people to believe his lies.
The second job of angels is to execute the program of God. To put it another way, angels are God's staff to carry out His will. God manages His universe not as a lone entrepreneur, but as the head of a corporation. God could do it all Himself, but He has chosen to work through His creatures, including both angels and humans. So it's not surprising that we find demons seeking to counter God's program. More on that in the upcoming chapters.
The third basic job of angels is the one you are probably most interested in because it affects us most directly. We read earlier that angels are "ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). But there is no evidence that unbelievers benefit from the ministry of angels.
Therefore, the popular view of angels is less than accurate. These beings don't just show up randomly to pluck people from cliffs or perform other feats. God is using the angels for His kingdom purposes, and if it's not related to the kingdom then He doesn't send the angels. In other words, God is not necessarily interested in seeing people get "touched by an angel."
Angels minister to the saints in cooperation with the will of God. One very familiar verse in this regard is Matthew 18:10, where Jesus said of children: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven."
This is the source of the concept of guardian angels. Why are the angels of these children looking into the face of God? In the context of Jesus' warning, they are waiting for God to tell them what He wants them to do with the person who is messing over His kids. Clearly, children have protective angels.
What about adults? The Acts 12 passage we read earlier says that an angel rescued Peter from prison. What's interesting is that after Peter got out and went to the home of Mary where people were praying for his release, the believers refused to believe God had answered their prayer. "It is his angel," they told the servant girl Rhoda when she kept insisting that Peter was at the door (v. 15).
In other words, there was a belief in the early church that believers had angels assigned to them. It's obvious that Peter did, because his angel showed up and got him out of jail.
Now, again, Satan and his demons can counterfeit God's work. People get all excited when some medium at a seance supposedly gets in touch with a dead relative, who starts communicating through the medium. Often the medium will refer to events from the past that only the dead person and/or the person at the seance could possibly know. Someone will say this intimate knowledge proves the medium was in contact with the deceased.
Actually, it doesn't prove anything of the kind. More likely than not, this is demonic activity, because demons have access to this kind of information. And they would love for the living person to think that his departed loved one is fine and having a great time "on the other side," no matter his or her beliefs.
Angels Are Powerful Beings
Let me give you one more attribute of angels as we close this overview and get down to specifics. In case you haven't gotten the idea yet, angels and demons are very powerful beings.
Paul said that when Christ returns, He will be "revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire" (2 Thessalonians 1:7). The angels who rolled the stone from Jesus' grave after His resurrection (Luke 24:2-4) moved the two-ton rock as if it were a pebble.
The angels can also control nature and the weather. The apostle John wrote in Revelation, "After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree" (7:1). There are many other references in Revelation to the angels' work of intervening in nature to bring about God's purposes or execute His judgment on earth during the tribulation.
Excerpted from The TRUTH About ANGELS and DEMONS by Tony Evans Copyright © 2005 by Anthony T. Evans. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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1. The Origin of Angels and Demons / 5
2. The Ministry of Angels and the Program of Demons / 19
3. How the Angels Operate / 37
4. The Domination and Defeat of Satan and His Demons / 50
Posted March 1, 2013