Who are demons and what is their purpose? The following questions describe
the nature of demons and their relationship to the children of God.
The Reality of the Spiritual Realm
1. What does the Bible tell us about demons?
Authorities, rulers, powers of this dark world, spiritual forces of evil:
Eph. 6:12, Col. 1:16
Authorities: Col. 2:15
Powers: Rom. 8:38, 1 Pet 3:22
Dominions: Eph. 1:21, 1 Cor. 15:24
Thrones: Col. 1:16
Lords: 1 Cor. 8:5
Angels: Matt. 25:41, Rev. 12:7
Messenger of Satan: 2 Cor 12:7
Demons: Luke 8:30, Mark 5:12
Evil Spirits: Mark 9:25, Luke 7:21, 8:2
Goat idols (Satyrs): Lev. 17:7, 2 Chron. 11:15
2. What kind of activity is carried out by demons on earth?
Lying: John 8:44
Murdering: John 8:44
Tempting: Matt. 4:1
Buffeting: 2 Cor. 12:7
Hindering: 1 Thess. 2:18
Sifting: Luke 22:31
Accusing: Zech. 3:1, Rev. 12:10
Binding to disease: Luke 13:16
Deceiving: 2 Cor. 11:3, Rev. 12:9
Corrupting minds: 2 Cor. 11:3
Devouring: 1 Pet. 5:8
Snatching away the word: Matt: 13:19
Testing faith: Job 1:6-12
Blinding minds: 2 Cor. 4:4
Causing natural disaster: Job 1:12-16
Attempt to separate believers from Christ's love: Rom. 8:38-39
Fighting against good angels: Rev. 12:7, Dan. 10:13
False teaching: 1 King. 22:21-23, 1 Tim. 4:1
Mental disorders: Luke 8:26-35
Oppressing people: 1 Sam. 18:10
Indwelling people: Luke 8:2
Indwelling animals: Mark 5:8-14
Used by God to punish evil nations: Psalm 78:49
Used by God to bring judgment on individuals: Judges 9:23, 1 Sam. 16:14
Increasing activity at end of this age: Rev. 9:1-12
Fleeing like a coward: James 4:7
3. Are Satan and demons at work in the world today?First of all, the Bible says that Satan is at work in the world today for
he is the "god
of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4). This statement, along
with the many warnings about Satan and his demons, should be sufficient
to answer this question. Nevertheless, we find the following actions outside
and inside the Church that are the result of satannic influence:
Lying (John 8:44):
Satan is called the
of lies." Lies are his native tongue. Today we
find false teachings in the Church about the nature of God, the deity of
Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ's death, the physical,
bodily resurrection and many other essential truths. Outside the Church,
people are misled to believe that:
Either God is not real or all is God.
The Bible is full of contradictions or it is full of esoteric hidden knowledge.
Jesus never existed or that He never said the things the Bible attributes
Corrupting Minds (2 Cor. 11:3; Luke 4:33,36):
All manner of perversions can be found today in the sexual arena. Things
identified in Scripture as deviant abominations to God are being promoted
as "normal" and even "healthy." Homosexuals, pedophiles, adulterers, pornographers,
and prostitutes lobby for the "right" to practice their abominable sins.
The ultimate corruption might be homosexuals actually being allowed to
adopt children and get "married."
Buffeting (2 Cor. 12:7), Tempting (Matt. 4:1), Sifting (Luke 22:31),
Accusing (Zech. 3:1; Rev. 12:10):
Satan and his demons are working on everyone in these ways, but especially
believers. Many believers are stymied because of guilt, fear, and a sense
of inadequacy. These things are brought on a believer by demonic powers
for they are the antithesis of a born-again child of God. This has led
to a great number of deliverance ministries and self-help movements, similar
to the 12-step program, intended to help people break the bondage to demonic
These are just a few of the ways Satan is at work today. He uses demons,
people, organizations, weather, nations, and systems to carry out his evil
desires. I do not believe he controls everything around the world at once,
as a huge conspiracy, for he is not omniscient, omnipotent, nor omnipresent.
Nevertheless, his actions and his army are quite formidable.
4. Is there a hierarchy (privates, sergeants, majors, generals, etc.) within
the demonic kingdom of Satan?In responding to this question, let us first examine a series of verses
commonly used to support the theory of a "hierarchy" in the demonic realm.
These will be analyzed in terms of their meaning and possible support for
a hierarchy of demons. A number of key word studies will be included to
give further insight into their intended meaning by the Biblical writers.
Finally, this evidence will be summarized and critiqued.
he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at
his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the
present age but also in the one to come. (Eph. 1:20-21, NIV)This could be taken as a simple reference to authority in general: earthly,
spiritual, implied, explicit. The point is that Christ has been exalted
above ALL authority and dominion. This complements Col. 1:16 which makes
a very similar point. Paul's mention of
title" distinct in the list from
and authority" or
and dominion" states a difference between titles
and these other items. This suggests that rule, authority, power and dominion
are not titles for demonic positions. Paul also mentions
rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 3:10, NIV)
which, in context, could be either angelic or demonic. Nevertheless, they
do point to different roles.
our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against
the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12, NIV)Of all the verses cited, this one comes the closest to "proving" some hierarchy
within the demonic world. In this passage, Paul is discussing the struggle
with Satan. Ephesians 6:12 denotes a struggle or conflict that believers
will face in the world. The struggle is not with people, though people
are often used as instruments of evil. Since the struggle is not with humans,
the members of the spiritual realm are clearly in view. He mentions
the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
Since the only evil spiritual forces are fallen angels, Paul is clearly
giving an account of the demonic "army" we face.
It would be natural to assume some hierarchy or grouping of the opposing
force in a battle. This could simply be an exaggerated emphasis by Paul
regarding the depth of the struggle -- each word or phrase being a restatement
of the previous one. I believe the verse suggests different roles among
the demonic beings. As John P. Newport observed, "Paul deliberately seems
to employ a vague and varied terminology in regard to these powers. He
alternates between the singular and plural forms of several of the words."
(Montgomery, John Warwick. Demon Possession, Trinity Press, 1994.)
In conducting word studies, the following analysis indicates real distinctions
in the terms Paul used:
Rulers - From Strong's Concordance,
"rulers" translates "arche" with a variety of possible meanings including
a commencement, or chief (in various applications of order, time, place
or rank):--beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate,
power, principality, principle, rule. The implication of this word is one
who is the head or "in charge". It also appears first in the list which
could indicate its preeminence.
Authorities - From Strong's Concordance,
"authorities" translates "exousia" (in the sense of ability); privilege,
i.e. (subj.) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (obj.) mastery (concr.
magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence:--authority,
jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength. This word indicates those
with powers or influence in this age where evil exists.
Powers of this dark world- From Strong's
Concordance, "powers" translates "kosmokrator" indicating a world-ruler
or an epithet of Satan. "dark" translates "skotos" indicating obscurity
(literal or figurative) or darkness. "world" translates "aion" meaning
an age; by extension perpetuity (also past); by implication the world.
So this phrase would indicate those who rule in this present age of darkness
or evil. It seems to indicate spiritual forces with a very high stature
or perhaps a wide area of responsibility.
Spiritual forces of evil - From Strong's
Concordance, "spiritual" translates "pneumatikos" meaning non-carnal, e.g.
supernatural or spiritual. "forces of evil" translates "poneria" meaning
depravity or wickedness. Obviously, Paul is talking about spiritual beings
on the side of evil.
While these terms might have been used as restatements of the general reference
to demonic beings, I believe the word study shows strong distinctions in
the types of references such that one is not simply a restatement of the
other. They could actually be titles or positions of the demonic order.
They could also be roles that are carried out by different demons. Regardless,
I would order these terms from most to least important as follows:
Rulers - these would be the "generals" in the Army of Satan.
Powers of this dark world - these would be "commanders" or "captains."
Authorities - these might equate to "lieutenants."
Spiritual forces of evil - this phrase may refer to the "GI Joe soldiers"
or the basic rank and file members.
The admonition by Paul to put on the full armor of God is a wise precaution.
These terms regarding demonic forces point out the breadth of power they
can exercise against the believer.
by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible
and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all
things were created by him and for him. (Col. 1:16, NIV)
The picture in this chapter and verse is the supremacy of Christ. Paul's
use of "thrones
or powers or rulers or authorities" could and
should be read to include human, angelic, and demonic powers. Christ is
supreme over all. Christ created all for Himself. Does it explicitly or
implicitly suggest a hierarchy of demonic beings? No, it does not. It merely
enumerates various authorities which, in context, must include both the
forces of good and evil.
Paul used the phrase
[arche] and authorities [exousia]" in several
other passages. In Ephesians 1:21, Christ is seated at the right hand of
God far above all
and authority" meaning human, angelic, or demonic.
A similar reference is made in Colossians 2:10. In Ephesians 3:10, the
mystery of the Church reveals the wisdom of God to the
and authorities in the heavenly realms," indicating
both angelic and demonic beings. Paul's uses
and authorities" in Ephesians 6:12 to mean specifically
demonic beings. And, in Titus 3:1, Paul uses this phrase in reference to
human authorities. It appears to indicate a role in the human or angelic
realm (or both) rather than a type of angel or a title.
having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle
of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:15)Paul is certainly referencing Satan's forces through the terms
These were the forces defeated at the cross. Again, they could refer to
different roles performed or different hierarchical levels. It is not clearly
stated as such in this verse.
is elsewhere translated
in the New International Version. This verse is important for the believer
in spiritual warfare since it emphatically affirms the victory we have
in Christ. The war has already been won by our Lord Jesus Christ! We are
on the winning side and nothing can change that.
In summary, it can be said that Paul definitely indicates distinctions
in the angelic realm, for those on the side of good and of evil. These
distinctions are made consistently in his epistles. They are sometimes
applied to human beings (Titus 3:1). As such, they should not be taken
as a reference to different types of angels since humans are not angels
at all. They may refer to roles or positions in the angelic realm. This
would mean that the angels of God are organized similarly to the fallen
angels. There is, however, no clear verse which would indicate an actual
hierarchy of positions. Though Ephesians 6:12 comes the closest to delineating
such a hierarchy, it is ambiguous because of the vagueness of the terms
It might be inferred, from a human perspective, that since there are
distinctions between demons that some sort of hierarchy must exist. This
is a rather weak argument since it requires the application of the human
need for leadership and organization to the angelic realm. One could point
to other passages, such as Revelation 12:7 and 12:9, which reveal Satan
leading the band of fallen angels. This is at least a two-level hierarchy.
But this is the only clear reference in Scripture that I can find to an
actual hierarchy of positions among the demons.
Whether a hierarchy or series of related roles exist among the demonic
or not, it is clear that the believer should accept the reality of demons
and respect their scope of power. The believer should also accept that
our Lord Jesus Christ has won the war against Satan. Always, we live with
the assurance that
one [Christ] who is in you is greater than he [Satan] who is in the world:
(1 John 4:4).
Next: "The Reality of the Spiritual Realm - Worldviews
and Spiritual Warfare"
Copyright 5/19/2001, Randy Lariscy.