God's spiritual realm, angels and demons
A study within the context of spiritual warfare
This may be a study few would embark on although many are curious. Exploring this topic, we may be tempted to seek apocryphal or extra-biblical sources of information (some may even read occult references). However, the references about the spiritual realm from the Bible are so ample there is little need to look elsewhere.
Studying God's Kingdom and angelic hosts helps us understand how the enemy is likely to operate. The evil hosts (including satan) are created beings. Although evil hosts operate with a will contrary to the plans and intentions of God, they were created as angels and hence have the same abilities and limitations as holy angels. Understanding holy angels gives us insight into the operation of fallen angels. What we learn about holy angels from the Bible can be applied in contrast to evil hosts.
God is Spirit
In the first place, God Himself is Spirit. Jesus teaches us this (John 4:24). We cannot accept that God is Spirit without accepting that there is a spiritual realm. The Bible is so full of references to the spiritual realm that we simply cannot rationalise it away.
God created the spiritual realm and the angelic hosts
As the Creator of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), everything in existence whether seen or unseen (or yet to be discovered) is made by God (Colossians 1:16; Nehemiah 9:6). All things were made by God's Word of command (Psalm 33:6) and this includes every angelic being (Psalm 148:2, 5). Angels are also referred to as the "sons of God" (Job 1:6). Please note that this is plural and distinguished from the singular "Son of God". Other Biblical designations for angels include "morning stars" (Job 38:7) and a more general term, "hosts" is often assigned (e.g. Genesis 2:1; Nehemiah 9:6; Luke 2:13). In Biblical imagery, "stars" is also used to symbolise angels (Revelation 12:4).
The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly when angels were created but we can reasonably assume that it occurred before the creation of earth since it is written in the Book of Job that the angelic hosts were already present to "shout for joy" when the foundations of the earth were laid (Job 38:4-7). We may have become accustomed to using the word "angel" to denote a benevolent spirit or person even but the Bible uses the word rather generically and an angel can be either Holy or evil (see Matthew 25:41 and Revelation 12:7).
Angels are spiritual beings and they are innumerable
Angels are spiritual beings and they are sent out by God to help us and minister to us (Psalm 91:11-12; Hebrews 1:14); we don’t command them. Their numbers are regarded as innumerable (Hebrews 12:22; Daniel 7:10). With some 300 references to angels in the Bible, the accounts of angels are too numerous to list. However, it is interesting to note that with the exception of one account in Zechariah 5:9, angels always appear in male form, sometimes resembling normal men (see Genesis 18 – "three men"
). There are no biblical references of angels resembling babies with wings.
Angels are powerful but are not omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent
As created beings, angels are of a slightly higher order than humans (Hebrews 2:7) and are of greater strength and might (Psalm 103:20; 2 Peter 2:11). There is no scriptural indication that angels have any ability to create or give life. Scripture refers to God solely as the Spirit of creation (Psalm 104:30) and of life (John 6:63) and resurrection (1 Peter 3:18). Angels are not omnipotent.
Angels have emotions (Job 38:7) and they take an interest in God's plan of salvation (1 Peter 1:12). They have knowledge of all things on earth (2 Samuel 14:20) and thus in all likelihood know more than humans although they are not omniscient as they do not know the timing of the end of the age (Matthew 24:36). We can reasonably assume that angels are intelligent beings.
It is suggested in Jacob's dream (Genesis 28:12) and inferred from Daniel's encounter with Gabriel that angels move freely between heaven and earth. They can be delayed from arriving at a destination, which means they can only be at one place at a time (Daniel 10:13). From this we surmise that an angel is not omnipresent although this does not preclude the constant presence of one angel or another among us.
It is generally accepted that angels are immortal (Luke 20:36); at least not in the sense of mortality as we know it but the Bible does also tells us that there will be a time of end for all fallen angels when they are cast into the Lake of Fire to suffer for eternity (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:14-15). Being immortal and having been created before the foundations of the earth, we can infer that angels are ancient and have observed mankind since Adam and Eve.
Angels are not to be worshiped
Holy angels do not accept or receive worship but will instead redirect worship towards God. We are not to worship angels (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9; Colossians 2:18).
There are various angelic beings, ranks and roles
Although we are not given every detail, scriptural references depict enough about the heavenly order of spiritual beings to let us know loosely that angels have varying degrees of power and authority.
Seraphim and Cherubim
There are the Seraphim and Cherubim. Both are angelic creations bearing the resemblance of creatures rather than human form. Seraphim are described in Isaiah 6:2-3,6; Revelation 4:8 while Cherubim are described in Genesis 3:24; Ezekiel 10:17-20; 28:14; Revelation 4:6-9. Seraphim and Cherubim are also referred to as "living creatures" and we know they are distinguished from angels (Revelation 15:7). Scholars generally regard Seraphim and Cherubim as special category angelic beings. Some argue they belong to the highest order of celestial creations.
Archangels, Michael and Gabriel
The "Archangel" is also regarded as a special category. The title itself means "chief of angels" and it is used twice in the Bible (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 1:9). The titles, "prince" or "chief prince" are also applied interchangeably to denote an Archangel (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1). Given that there is a chief or leader among angels it is not unreasonable to infer that there are at least two ranks among angels if not more. We also know from scripture that there is more than one Archangel (Daniel 10:13). However, Michael is the only angel specifically named in the Bible as an Archangel or chief prince (Jude 1:9; Daniel 10:13). Gabriel whose name means "champion of God" is also traditionally considered to be an Archangel although he is not specifically named as one. Gabriel and Michael are the only names of holy angels given to us in the Bible. Apocryphal texts name more.
Principalities, Powers, Thrones and Dominions
We learn from various passages that there are distinguished classifications of angelic hosts. There are principalities, powers, thrones and dominions (Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 1:16; 1 Peter 3:22). Referring to the enemy, Paul also uses these same classifications in Ephesians 6:12 suggesting that the enemy's ranks are organised in very much the same way as God's heavenly hosts. There is no real agreement among commentators as to how the hierarchical ranking of the angelic realm is actually organised but we don't really have to worry about that. It suffices just to note simply that they are ordered.
Many texts about spiritual warfare mention "territorial spirits". While this term is not specifically used in the Bible, many authors construe mention of the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece (Daniel 10:13, 20) as biblical basis to suggest territorial assignments of angels. It is also generally agreed that the Archangel Michael has charge over Israel and its people (Daniel 10:21; 12:1). Therefore it would seem that both Holy and evil hosts have assignment over (and may even contend for) geographical territories and presumably, both the princes of Persia and Greece mentioned in Daniel are archangels. All this about territorial spirits is however speculative.
Satan is an angel that rebelled, God did not create satan
We can stress emphatically that God did not create evil. The account in Genesis tells us that when God completed creation of the heavens, the earth and all the hosts - He declared it all "very good"
(Genesis 1:31, 2:1-3). From this premise, some scholars deduce that the fall of Lucifer must have occurred some time between the completion of creation and The Temptation in the Garden.
There is general consensus that Lucifer became satan when he fell. The passages in Ezekiel 28:12-17 and Isaiah 14:12-15 are understood as portrayals of satan. Reading them, we get a picture that Lucifer was created beautiful and perfect in his ways till inequity was found in him (Ezekiel 28:15). He was also created full of wisdom but this same wisdom was corrupted when he desired to elevate himself above God (Ezekiel 28:17; Isaiah 14:13-14). The passage in Isaiah describes Lucifer’s corruption and the five "I wills" expressed confirms that Lucifer has freedom of will and by his own free will, chose
to rebel. Consequently, he was cast down from Heaven, becoming an adversary of God. Jesus also relates His personal account of seeing satan cast down from Heaven in Luke 10:18 while Revelation 12:7-9 gives us yet another perspective of satan being cast out of Heaven. Having been cast down, satan directs his malice against mankind (Revelation 12:12).
God did not create evil and He did not create satan. Scripture clearly informs us that Lucifer fell and became satan. I think it would be a great error to suggest in any way that God created satan as a purposeful adversary. This would amount to suggesting that God is an ally of satan and by extension imply that God not only planned evil but is Himself the master behind all evil. I shudder to even mention such a notion but yet it is not uncommon for many to entertain the subtle misdirection that God being creator of all things must have also created satan – there is a 'yes' and 'no' there that is critical to distinguish.
A host of angels fell along with satan and they are the demons we battle against
It is a widely held belief that satan took a third of the angels with him when he fell (Revelation 12:4). We can be sure that the devil directs angels under him. Jesus Himself reveals this when He tells us about the everlasting fire that has been prepared for "the devil and his angels"
(Matthew 25:41). We find further confirmation in Revelation 12:7 where we have a depiction of the war in Heaven with Michael and his angels warring against satan and his angels
We also discover that these same angels of satan are the evil spirits responsible for demonizing people. In His speech and responses, our Lord seamlessly interchanges the name satan, demons, evil spirits and enemy as a matter of course (Matthew 12: 22-29; Luke 10:17-20; Luke 13:10-16). The most telling passage is from Luke 10:17-20 when the seventy returned with the jubilant report that even demons
were subject to them in Jesus' name. Immediately Jesus recounts His witness of satan
falling from Heaven, He gives them authority over the enemy
but also cautions them not to rejoice that spirits
are subject to them but rather because their names have been written in Heaven. Jesus could not have been ignorant of the origin of demons. It is quite conclusive that fallen angels are the same evil spirits that Jesus cast out of the oppressed. The Bible is clear that the demonic spirits that bind and oppress men are of the devil. (e.g. Luke 4:35; 13:16).
Everything in the Spiritual Realm comes under subjection to Christ
By now if consider Jesus' statement that, "My Kingdom is not of this world…"
(John 18:26) it becomes apparent that He was referring to the Spiritual Kingdom. Scripture establishes that this Spiritual Kingdom is created by God. Jesus has disarmed the powers of satan and all principalities, powers, angels and authorities are subject to Him (Colossians 2:15; 2:10; 1 Peter 3:22; Ephesians 1:20-22). The Spiritual Kingdom belongs to Jesus and He is King (John 18:37). Everything comes under subjection to Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11) - one Kingdom, one King.
Although we are bound to this earth by our flesh during our lifetimes, Christians are spiritually citizens of The Kingdom. The Bible tells us we are rescued from the powers of darkness and conveyed into Jesus' Kingdom. This is found in Colossians 1:13-14 and as we read on we learn that this is the spiritual Kingdom that is created by and is subject to Jesus (Colossians 1:16-18). We are conveyed into this Kingdom by faith and we are qualified as children of God (John 1:11-12); we are heirs (James 2:5); kings and priests (Revelation 1:5-6). Under the authority of Jesus, we will someday judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3) - isn't that just incredible!?
We have covered far more than is necessary for supporting an understanding of spiritual warfare. However, since we were already on the subject of angels, I thought we could indulge it a little (and I got carried away). The object of this study was to show that angels are (among other things) innumerable, organised, powerful, knowledgeable, intelligent and ancient. Angels are, by default of God’s creative intent, more powerful than humans (Hebrews 2:7; Psalm 103:20; 2 Peter 2:11). Having observed us since the time of creation, angels innately understand human behaviour. Evil angels are equipped with these same abilities but with malicious intent against mankind.
We need to have an informed respect for our enemy. Yet we also know that angels are limited by God Himself and if He is for us, no evil angel can be against us. We are also assured that God's Holy angels are sent to watch over us (Psalm 91:9-12). We cannot fight this enemy with our flesh. We can only confront the enemy with Jesus in us. Our authority against evil hosts is given to us by Jesus and this authority is exercised in His name only (Mark 16:17; Luke 10:17). Without Jesus we are really no match against angels and we should always remember that resisting the devil begins with submission to God (James 4:7).
In the next entry we will study what the Bible tells us about how we may be influenced by the spiritual realm and consider whether a Christian can be possessed by a demon. After that, we will get into the more practical aspects of spiritual warfare.
Link to next blog in this series: Basic foundations about the origin of sin & evil
Link to previous blog in this series: The Basics About Spiritual Warfare - What every believer should know
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