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.”
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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

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]

    31 replies to "Demonology 101: What I Know and Don’t Know About Satan and Demons"

    • Hodge

      I think Second Temple literature clarifies some issues that give us the NT understanding of demons. We usually see demons as fallen angels, but there is a good case to be made that the NT sees demons as disembodied half breeds from angels and humans who were destroyed in the flood. It may only use this language/imagery, however, as a way to describe fallen angels, or a collective of evil desires in general. It’s not clear. The NT certainly talks of fallen angels, but only in apocalyptic imagery or analogy. There may be some understanding them in terms of a hierarchy. In the end, the Bible seems disinterested in talking about them. They seem only to be the foil in displaying the severity of the battle we are in against sin and unbelief, as well as contrasting our devotions to God and our evil desires.
      Of course, I believe they all exist, but as to what defines their reality, we are probably meant to be in the dark on the matter for good reason.

      All that to say that the quest for demons to find a body may be connected to the fact that they once had one, and desire one to sense the physical world again. Who knows?

    • Stuart

      I appreciate your transparency here.

      I personally have always been a little turned off by the authoritative stance some people like to take on something the Bible is relatively silent regarding. I believe there are things we can piece together, but a lot of it has to be taken with a grain of salt.

    • Chandler

      “I am pretty sure that they cannot enter into a believer.”

      Merrill Unger took this position until many responses to his first book on this subject poured in, many from missionaries, which made him start reviewing much of what he said. Subsequently, Unger wrote two more books on this topic in which he, among other things, essentially took back that believers cannot be possessed.

    • Gary Simmons

      A very good and thoughtful post. Thanks again, Michael.

    • EricW

      If you haven’t already, read Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans by Malachi Martin (the original title had “Living” instead of “Contemporary”), and Chapter 5 “Of Possession and Exorcism” in People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil by M. Scott Peck. (It was via Peck that I learned of Martin’s book.)

      Via Google Books you can read more than half the pages of that chapter in Peck’s book, and a lot of the pages in Martin’s book as well.

    • john Tancock

      what a great post Michael. I am I think relatively rare…… I’ve been involved in about 50 ‘deliverance’ situations but still retaining a ‘I dunno’ approach to many aspects of the demon industry taht abounds.

      Your post reminded me so much of me!! Apart from the demons and Christians issue ( I am convinced Christians can have a demon…….when do they leave….at the sinners prayer???) I am with yoiu on each point.
      he difficulty is how to accept ‘experiential’ knowledge without it distorting clear biblical teaching….and significantly knowing where the ‘join’ is!!

      I would commend an approach of classifying any knowledge of this area into one of four ‘columns’..
      1. Things clearly taught in the bible…. that there are ‘deaf and dumb spirits’.
      2. Logical deductions from these points e.g. there are other demons/spirits that manifest in other areas e.g the possibility of a spirit producing rejection.
      3 Experiential addition. e.g. identifying that a particular physical manifestation like very cold skin for example is identified with a particular type of spirit
      4 Logical deduction from an experiential addition!!!! that many of these spirits manifest in reasonably consisitent ways depending what type they are.

      Most books on this sunject dogmatise and systematise based on ‘columns 3 and 4 and are ridiculously light on columns 1 and 2 but dont recognise any difference producing an almost imaginary construct and ‘theology’ sometimes based on conversations with these things.

      Holding experiences lightly and boldly stepping out when things are clear is the best way forward.

      I hope my comments prove interesting and helpful.

    • I love seeing blogs on demons and demonology. It seems to me to be a neglected topic for evangelicals and christians in general in the American western context.

      I have done an extensive amount of research on the topic but would just like to point out a few elements.

      First, I found it interesting that you said you are “pretty sure” they don’t procreate. The curious case of the Nephilim would seem to contradict this position (Gen. 5), unless of course you interpret the “son’s of God” as not referring to angels or some kind of fallen angel.

      Second, I have never found a statement which confirms that “fallen angels” and demons are the same. For Jewish apocalyptic literature, such as Enoch, demons were the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim.

      Third, it may be useful to make a study of the biology and anatomy of demons as it was thought of in the first century among Jews and Christians. Here is an article on this topic. http://bit.ly/cOv8Lr

      Thanks for the great and interesting post.

    • Bible Study

      I think Satan and his demons work mostly on spreading false doctrine than what his is most famous for. He transforms himself as an angel of light. Satan most the time appears to us as “holy” men of God, through false prophets. They may appear to be the most holy men that are severly demon possessed. Satan wants people to believe what they say, so he uses their lifestyle to deceive many. I don’t see him using a beer drinker to spread his lies, most people would steer clear of someone like this teaching the bible. They are more likely to follow one who hardly does anything that appears wrong to man.

    • Dave Z

      Jesus says the devil procreates. He gives birth to Pharisees! “You are children of your father, the devil.” (Whaddya mean that’s not what you meant…)

    • Boz

      I do not believe that angels and demons exist. I am not persuaded.

    • bethyada

      While I tend to equate demons with fallen angels with unclean spirits I don’t think this is a certain position.

      That there is a hierarchy in the demonic realm seems pretty certain from Scripture.

      I think that most “alien” encounters are demonic deception.

      I have not read the book, but if any demon claimed not to believe or know of God I would assume deception. Satan is a liar and an author of confusion. Demons may have spoke out about Jesus partially because they were trying to give information about him prior to the appropriate time.

      I think believers can be possessed by demonic powers. If a possessed person comes to Christ are they automatically delivered? Demonic possession may not be (partially or fully) the fault of the person, I think “doorways” can be opened by others.

      The abyss is not the final abode, it is a temporary one until the final judgment.

    • Cadis

      I always have imagined that the demons operate and are motivated by pure rebellion and hatred toward God. I imagine they are intelligent beings (I imagine much more intelligent than the most intelligent human) but they are condemned without hope of salvation. God has cast them out and created the Lake of Fire for them and they are lashing out before their fate is sealed. I guess I base the last assumption on Rev.12:12 which speaks of Satan but it also gives a glimpse into the motivating force behind why Satan does what he does and it would reason that demons might have the same motivation. I tend to push out the thought that demons are oblivious or deceived by Satan, although I don’t know why I would, seeing he is a deceiver and a liar and Satan being highly intelligent himself is also deceived. It’s not as though to be deceived you must be naive or in the dark. It seems to me if God has condemned them, without hope, ages and possibly eons ago and these are the same then I would assume that they were condemned for more than being deceived by Satan but because they intelligently and rebelliously consented and aligned themselves with Satan way back when.

    • xulon

      Good post, Michael. Here are a couple of my observations:

      When I went to DTS, my Anthropology and Angelology course had 25 sessions on Anthropology and ONE session to cover Good angels, bad angels (demons), Satan and all the rest. I guess if I had read the textbook I wouldn’t feel so short-changed. Wait a minute, I DID read the textbook.

      One thing I repeatedly hear – usually as a precursor to introduce some extra-biblical practice to Christians – is that “Satan cannot create, he is a counterfeiter”. Where does THAT come from?

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      CMP:

      Thanks for this wonderful post. Quite honestly, I too hold to pretty much everything in the first three sub-headings.

      I used to hold that believers CANNOT be possessed by demons. But after reading Swindoll and Unger, I have now moved to the Pretty Sure section.

    • LukeN

      Michael,
      Thanks for this post. I’m not sure, but it seems to me that if you use some other sources it might help you rule out some possibilities. I’m thinking of the understanding of “mind/body” dualism (let’s bring a little philosophical theology into the mix). This would probably help with the issue of possession (what, why, how, and who).

      Do you have any thoughts about wicca or other occultic practices with regards to demonology? Could you categorize them the same way?

    • LukeN

      I’ve heard that demons like to use the ideas of popular culture to perpetuate falsehoods about themselves or other things in general (to encourage a false worldview). Do you have any ideas on this?

      This is probably for another time, but I was specifically thinking of the rUFO (residual UFO) hypothesis (the idea that any UFO without natural explanation comes from the spiritual realm).

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Boz: “I do not believe that angels and demons exist. I am not persuaded.”

      Why?

    • drwayman

      We also know this: Jesus said that Satan was a murderer from the very beginning and that there is no truth in him. – John 8:44

    • Rick

      Jody Dillow wrote a book in the 70s called Chains of the Spirit. It was about his experience with demonized people on the college campus where he served with Campus Crusade. The last half of the book, as I recall, was a limited doctrinal and practical study of demoninaztion.

      Highly recommend this book. God used it to prepare me for dealing with a demonized person. The only one I have ever known. This person was a believer. She had been a Morman and after becoming a believer she was “slain in the spirit” at a full gospel businessmen’s meeting. After being “slain” she was able to speak in tongues. After being freed from the demon she could no longer speak in tongues. There was never a doubt in my mind she was a believer who was being controlled by a demon. She has several behavior issues that she could not control. The demon’s name was Inez. This young woman went on to become a missionary to Mormans and the last we heard of her she had overcome all her behavior issues.

    • Brian

      Sometimes I think that demons aren’t too bright. For example, the Gadarene demoniac. The demons made him run up to Jesus and beg Him not to throw them into the abyss. Smart demons would have made the man run away from Jesus, so they could keep their “house” instead of producing the first recorded occurrence of deviled ham.

    • Jim Jacobson

      Nice, I especially like the clarification: They are not omnipresent or omniscient! This comes up all the time with folks…. the devil is doing this or that… the devil is in one place at one time, and he probably has more important fish to fry than you and I.

    • Boz

      Truth Unites… and Divides, I haven’t seen enough evidence to move me away from the default negative position.

    • Brian

      Boz,

      Your negative position is only the default in a materialist worldview (like the post-enlightenment modernist that only believes what can be empirically reproduced by scientific method).

      It’s not the default position of most of the world throughout history. So I would say the one who has to produce evidence to disprove the true historical default position is you.

    • Boz

      hmm, I responded to a post by Truth Unites… and Divides, but his/her post is not showing.

      Brian, I haven’t met anyone that only believes what can be empirically reproduced by scientific method; as this framework eliminates history. A person working under this method would deny that WW2 occured.

      Am I correct in understanding that your default position is to accept that legendary/magical/mythical/divine creatures exist until they are disproven? If so, do you accept the existence of Banshees, Centaurs, Cyclopses, Griffins, Dragons, Bigfoot, Nessie, Basilisks, Chimereas, Djinns, Angels, Werewolves, Vampires, Gargoyles, Elves, Leprechauns, Harpies, Hydras, Nagas, Pixies, Faries, Ghosts, Wraiths, Unicorns, etc.. ?

    • Dave Z

      Boz, I dated a Banshee in high school. They’re real! 🙂

      Almost all of the “legendary/magical/mythical/divine creatures” you list are, in mythology, physical creatures. I would imagine a real, physical dragon would be a hard thing to miss, so no, people don’t generally believe in them, except for the Komodo type.

      But IF you accept the possibility of a non-physical spiritual state, it would be difficult to say with any certainty that it is NOT inhabited by such-and-such a creature, simply because we are in the physical realm, not the spiritual one. We cannot typically discover such creatures by our senses. Some of your examples fit (more or less) into exactly that category – djinn, faeries and angels. That does not mean they do not exist. The default Christian position is to accept the accounts of the guy who has been there – Jesus.

      And I, for one, do believe in Elvis….oh…. wait, you said elves….never mind.

    • Steve Cornell

      There are only three narratives in the Bible that record the voice of Satan speaking directly to someone. An in-depth study of these narratives unveils the character and strategy of Satan.

      Genesis 3- Satan slanders God to man
      Job 1-2 Satan slanders man to God
      Matthew 1-2 Satan attacks the God-man

      I presented a study of this on Back to the Bible Radio a number of years ago. We also have it on 5 CDs from a conference at Sandy Cove Conference Center if interested.

    • minimus

      Everyone I know who writes or speaks on this subject says that the only reliable way to help people get free of demonic influence REQUIRES Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit speaking to the one leading the “deliverance” about the direction and demonic spirits tormenting the person….can’t imagine how a DTS graduate would process these things!

      May we ALL set our interests on God’s interests and NOT Satan’s!
      Mat 16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

    • minimus

      Rick,

      I’m not sure how your post squares with scripture, especially Luke 11. As “noble Bereans” who examine the scriptures daily to see if what is being said is true, I find your experiential “story” as contrary to scripture.

    • polycrates

      I’m pretty much in agreement with a lot of what this blog suggests. Its refreshing to read something that doesn’t make demons out to be sub-divine super beings. Demons have real limitations more than charismatics and other heavy handed demon experts would admitt. What I find most dangerous about demonology is that if left unbalanced with other doctrines many people will begin to see the demonic in everything to the point that relent much human responsibilty for sin and evil. On finer points I would like to comment I’m just not so sure in christian demonization. It just seems very contradictory and very unlike God to allow his belier to suffer such a experience. I would hope that if the spirit dwells with one it would ward off any such intrusion atleast. Seccondly I have always held that not all demons are in cahoots with one another. It just doesn’t make much sense to me that they would all be in accord with one another seing how that sin produces such dissension in humans. Thanks for demonizing demons again into their proper place

    • minimus

      Rick,

      If someone asks God for the Holy Spirit, He will NOT give them a demon (Luke 11:9-13).

      One of the signs of believers is that they speak in tongues (Mark 16:17-18)–although not a requirement for someone to be a Christian.

      Being “slain in the spirit”, albeit a strange occurence to the human mind, happened to many and varied people in the NT, including Paul and John (John 18:3-6; Acts 9:3-4–also see Acts 26; and Revelation 1:17).

      Please provide ANY scriptural evidence of what you say or recant.

      I have NO DOUBT a former Mormon has opened themselves up to demons, but the implications of your story that it occurred along with biblical consistent practice is severely suspect.

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