As a Christian, I believe in angels, demons, and Satan. The Bible is pretty clear about this.
However, outside of coming to passages that speak of them in Scripture, I have never attempted to make a concerted effort to systematize my theology in this regard. I have not developed a course on angels and demons. I have never taught a class entitled “Satan: Understanding Your Enemy” or anything like that. Why? Because I don’t know that much about them. When it comes to “demonic activity,” an Evangelical buzzword, I don’t really know what it looks like. However, I am somewhat persuaded that most of pop Evangelical demonology systematizes itself around many things that we think we know, not allowing for the vast sea of mystery that is involved here.
Just this morning I prayed that God would protect me from “the Evil one” because this is an important part of our battle: calling on God to rescue us from the devil (Matt. 6:13).
Below is my thoughts out loud about what I know, am pretty sure of, don’t know, and imagine to be the case with regard to Satan and demons.
What I know:
- I know that demons, including Satan, are not omnipresent.
How could they be? They would have to be transcendent to be omnipresent. They are not God. So they are not transcendent. They find extension in space just like we do. They cannot be in more than one place at one time.
- I know that demons, including Satan, are not omniscient.
Maybe they are intelligent. Certainly they are crafty. But they, I assume, are like us, learning and relearning, changing and adapting according to the times.
- I know that Satan is an adversary and an accuser (that is what his name “Satan” and “Devil” mean).
- I know that Satan seeks to keep people from having correct thinking (Rev. 12:9; John 8:44).
- I know that Satan wants us to call into question, change, and distort God’s word (Gen. 3:1-7)
- I know that Satan and demons can “go into” people and animals distorting their thinking and actions.
Although, I don’t know what this means, it seems as if they desire to find a “home” or an ontological presence in living organisms. That is just bizarre. Maybe someday we will understand why. Could it be that at their “fall” they lost their “bodies” and don’t want to be without a physical dwelling? Just speculating.
- I know that Satan desires to take the place of God (Matt. 4:8-10)
- I know that Satan and demons seeks to disguise their deception in a way that appears to be trustworthy (2 Cor. 2:14-15)
- I know that demons can bring about physical debilitation (Matt. 9:33; Matt. 12:22).
- I know that Satan and demons have a decent Christology (i.e. they know who Christ is; Mark 3:11).
- I know that we need God’s protection from Satan (Matt. 6:13)
What I am pretty sure of:
- I am pretty sure that all demons, including Satan, are beings that have been around from creation or before.
Although, it could be that only some of them have been around that long. Satan was in the Garden, but when did the rest “fall”?
- I am pretty sure that they cannot enter into a believer.
I know that this will shock some people that I don’t have this under “what I know.” While it seems odd that the presence of a demon and the presence of the Holy Spirit could be in the same habitation, I am only pretty sure of this and for different reasons. 1) The type of “possession” that a demon would take is fundamentally different from the type of possession that the Holy Spirit would take. I don’t believe that the Holy Spirit ontologically indwells believer, while this must be the case when someone “has a demon” (biblical language for demonization). 2) “Demonization” could simply be a matter of degree describing how much control that they have of a person. Not sure it is a black and white issue. Enough on that…
- I am pretty sure that most demons are aware of their eventual fate (Luke 8:31)
Though I may be misunderstanding the way “abyss” is being used.
- I am pretty sure that there is some sense in which Satan is the “ruler of this world” (Jn. 14:30; 16:11; 2Cor 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 1 Jn 5:19).
I don’t know how to process this though.
- I am pretty sure that angels and demons don’t procreate (Matt. 22:30)
Therefore, there is not really a species called “angels” or “demons” in the proper sense. They were all created individually and have no “blood” relation to each other. Each individual angel or demon is its own species, if you will. While they may be alike in many ways, it is not because of genetics!
What I don’t know:
- I don’t know if Satan is the “ruler” of all the demons.
Though there does seem to be a ruler of at least some of the demonic forces; Rev. 9:11. Is there a hierarchy? Do all the demons “like” or agree with Satan? Maybe there is internal disagreements and rebellion?
- I don’t know why Satan battles against the Lord. Does he think he can actually win?
This is perhaps the most bizarre wonderment concerning the issue of Satan and the demons. When Satan entered Judas, betrayed Christ, and had him killed, did he actually think he won? This makes me pause and wonder two things: 1) How much of the future does he really know? 2) Does he not believe the Bible concerning his end? I guess my question is How good is Satan’s theology?
- I don’t know how much demons really know. Are they smart?
Could it be that they have been here so long that they have lost focus in many cases? Could it be that certain types of demons have a really screwed up worldview? After reading Spirit of the Rainforest and hearing of people’s experience with demons, I am confused. Many demons seem very confused. Many don’t not even seem to believe in God. Could there be demonic atheists? Could it be that the noetic effect of sin can be applied to demonic minds.
- I don’t know why demons were confessing a correct view of Christ before other people (Mark 3:11).
What where they thinking? Were they compelled to confess him? It seems rather counter-productive.
- I don’t know why there is no mention of a plan of redemption for demons.
It could be, as Thomas Aquinas thought, that demons, since they are not part of one species called “angels” could not be represented by Christ all at once. In other words, Christ would have to die for each demon individually in order for them to find alternate representation.
- I don’t know how much organization there is among demons.
I don’t know if they have “board meetings” once a month, or if the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. Being finite, both spatially and gnostically, they are limited beings. Do they really communicate that much. How? Is there a central plan? Is there a demonic Facebook?
- I don’t know how they travel.
I don’t think they have the power of transportation, like on Star Trek. It would seem that they have to travel and it takes time (Dan. 10:11-21). This may have implications on how well organized they are.
What I imagine to be the case:
- I imagine that Satan deceives demons into thinking their is hope.
- I imagine that Satan is self-deceived into thinking there is hope.
- I imagine that most demons are aware and believe in basic theological facts but I don’t know how well they put this together.
- I imagine that there is a lower form of demons who are not “up to speed” on things. They are just going about their daily business without much knowledge or concern for any “bigger plan.”
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]