Demons in Christianity
The Origin and Identity of Demons
In Christianity, demons are angels who fell from right standing with God due to their sin an rebellion. According to Christian beliefs, God created angels good (cf. Gen. 1:31), but with a free will and therefore they were able to make good or bad choices. According to the Bible, some angels made bad choices and rebelled against God, and were banished from heaven as a result (cf. Is. 14:12, Luke 10:18, Rev. 12:3-9).
The leader of the rebellious angels was Satan (also called the Devil), who has became God's and humanity's chief adversary. He is identified with the serpent who tempts Adam and Eve in Genesis.
Demons are evil in that they oppose God, who is good and righteous. Because they have sinned in rebellion against God, and are not able to be forgiven like people can be, their fate is hell and eternal punishment. According to the teachings of Jesus Christ, demons are "cursed" and will be thrown into an "everlasting fire" (Matt. 25:41), Peter says they will undergo judgment (2 Pet. 2:4), and Jude says they are sentenced to being in chains in eternal darkness (Jude 1:6).
What demons know and are capable of doing
The Bible teaches that demons believe in God, not in a sense that they are granted salvation because that is an impossibility according to Christian theology, but that they acknowledge God's existence. Verses used to support this idea include the following:
Matthew 8:29, “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (NIV)
Mark 1:23-24, "Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”." (NIV)
James 2:19, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.." (NIV)
The activity of demons
According to the Bible, demons are servants of Satan, so their purposes and agendas overlap. Verses used to support this idea include:
Matthew 25:41, "Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (NIV)
Matthew 12:22-26, "Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” 25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?" (NIV)
Demons are spiritual beings
Demons are naturally without physicality, yet at least some have the ability to influence a person to an extent that they can control a person's body. Passages used to support this idea include:
Mark 5:1-13, "They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. 11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned."
Luke 11:14-26, "Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. 15 But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven. 17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder. 23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”" Learn more about exorcism here.
Demons and Christians
Demons can cause physical and mental anguish, yet Christian theology doesn't teach that demons are always, or even most of the time, responsible for such trials:
Matthew 9:32-33, "32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” (NIV)
Matthew 12:22, "Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see." (NIV)
Mark 5:4-5, "For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones." (NIV)
Luke 8:35, "and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid." (NIV)
The Bible says that demons also...
- Tempt people toward immorality (Matthew 4:1-11)
- Disseminate false doctrine (2 Thess. 2:2; 1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1-3; cf. 2 Cor. 11:14-15)
- Oppose the life and ministry of believers (Rom. 8:38-39; Eph 6:12)
- Encourage idolatry (1 Cor. 10:20; Rev. 9:20; cf. 2 Thess 2:3, 4, 9).
- Influence human governments (Dan. 10:13-20; Eph. 6:12).
- Work in opposition to unfallen angels (Dan. 10:12-13).
Also see: The Salem Witchcraft Trials
The fate of demons
The Bible teaches that the existence and activity of demons will continue until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, it suggests that demonic activity may increase up to, and during, that time. However, the fate of demons has already been decided according to the Bible. Their irreversible sentence unto eternal punishment was sealed when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later, forever defeating sin, Satan, and demons. Although Satan and demons have been "sentenced" they have not yet been "locked up." That part of their punishment will come at the end of time.
The ultimate destiny of all fallen angels is the lake of fire:
- Matthew 25:41, "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
According to Christian theology, demons will be eternally punished and never reconciled with God.