Whenever there are topics of the Bible that are not explained in the level of detail that satisfies all of a human’s questions, there is a danger of trying to connect the missing points through our own understanding or through our own experiences. Also, whenever there are topics that engage a person’s capacity to think about and understand things that are not visible and provable by measurable methods, and that because of the subject’s nature a person finds interesting and mysterious, there is a tendency for people to insert their own, rather foolish ideas. Especially if they don’t have a standard or source to measure their own ideas and beliefs by, because then they’re only left with their limited knowledge and extensive capacity for speculation (not always a good combination).
Certainly, when it comes to angels, Satan, demons, and spiritual warfare, these two errors apply. There are people who still have questions they want answered that the Bible simply doesn’t give explicitly and so they may try to connect what knowledge they have without clear guidance. And then there is the other error, when a person is interested (as most people are by the idea of angelic creatures) and allows their imagination to think about what they may be like, instead of searching for an authoritative standard by which to test their limited knowledge and beliefs against. I would strongly caution every person against these two terrible mistakes. I would encourage them to look to the ultimate standard and authority, the Bible, as their source and believe what it says. If there are questions they have left, they should be as discerning and wise as possible and not go beyond what the Scriptures say, even though they may need to make an attempt at deducing a possible answer by clear and explicit teachings of Scripture.
Why I Wrote This
I have seen where people have asked questions like, “should we believe in demons today?” or something similar like “is Satan active today?” I find these questions alarming. A study done by the Barna group showed that only around 9% of American adults even believe Satan is real! I can surely understand why someone who isn’t saved would ask a question like this, but it seems to me immature and dangerous if a Christian should ask this question. My troubled mind engaged me to write this so whoever reads it could have some understanding of that the Bible says about Satan and other angelic creatures. The Bible teaches that angels, Satan and demons are real and very active in the world today. I am going to reference several Scriptures but will not write all of them out because of how many there are. I would encourage you to open a Bible so you can read the verses I use and check for yourself.
Please not that I will give some biblical theology about angels and demons, but this is not meant to be a comprehensive explanation of everything the Bible says about them. There is much, much more information that I do not give here because of the purpose of the article (and in an attempt to keep it relatively short).
What are Angels?
There are two categories that we can place everything that exists into: the Creator God by Himself in one category, and then all created things in the other. While it could be argued that the term “angels” only applies to a certain category of God’s spiritual creatures, the messengers, because the Hebrew word for angel means “messenger, “angels” is the most common term that is used to designate all of the spiritual creatures God created. Angels were created before the earth was made (Job 38:7). As spirits, they have no physical form (Hebrews :1:14; Luke 24:39), though they can materialize (Genesis 18:1-8, Hebrews 13:2; Mark 16:5). Angels are personal beings with minds and wills (Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 22:8-9). Some passages indicate that angels are ordered like ranks in the military (Colossians 1:16). Angels have great power and intelligence (Psalm 103:20; 2 Peter 2:11). The bible indicates that they are able to experience emotion (Luke 15:10). They were created by Christ and for Christ (Colossians 1:16).
Why that information about angels? Because Satan and demons are in the spiritual creature category. It is useful to note that God created all angels good, just as He created everything else good (Genesis 1:31).
Who is Satan?
Satan is the Hebrew word for “accuser” or “adversary.” While the word itself doesn’t have to refer to a specific individual, the Scriptures add the definite article “the” in many places and talk about Satan as a personal being in many places. The Bible is consistent in its identification of Satan as the enemy who opposes God and His people. I wanted to give that little bit of information about the name “satan” so people could know, but now let’s return to the starting point where God made the angels good.
While everything was good, something terrible happened. The first time a creature of God committed sin happened. While Adam brought sin into the world (Romans 5:12), Satan was the one who committed the first sin. Satan is an angelic being that was created with great beauty, wisdom, and was highly honored. The following words from Ezekiel are directed to the king of Tyre, though they express truths about Satan who inspired the king and use descriptions that cannot be for a mere human. Therefore, it is believed by many and reasonable to think that this passage is about Satan:
“You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering…
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.”
These verses connect well with another passage of Scripture found in Isaiah. Like the passage in Ezekiel, it is directed to a human king but expresses truth about the character and fall of Satan, and is believed to about Satan:
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’”
(Isaiah 14:12-14) – Note: the New King James Version uses the name Lucifer in verse 12, which is where the name comes from.
From these passages we can see a part of the biblical picture of Satan: he is a creature that was created to serve and worship God, is very beautiful and wise, was created good, but became proud and sinned and was thrown out of heaven. In his rebellion he convinced one-third of all the angels to follow him, and these fallen angels are what we call demons (Revelation 12:1-9). Now, Satan and the demons work to oppose God and His people. They have all of the power and abilities they were created with.
Still Alive Today
I think the only possible answer to the question, “is Satan active today,” or “should we believe in demons today,” is yes. Satan and his demons are active every day, all over the world. Satan is called the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), the “evil one” in whose power the world lies (1 John 5:19), the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2), a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), the “deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9), who makes war “on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17). Satan is the “tempter” (Matthew 4:3). And I could go on.
The Bible teaches that Satan and his demons are real and incredibly influential. Satan is behind the evil world system. Satan is a supernatural, evil, murderous being. Being supernatural, he is more powerful than any human, and far more intelligent. Satan is the creator of all false religions, that is, all religions that either twist the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ to the believer’s destruction (like Mormonism or Islam), or religions that worship entirely false deities (like Hinduism).All of these are creations of Satan. Satan incites violence, being a murderer himself (1 John 3:12; John 8:44). And Satan orchestrates, for example, the enslaving, killing and selling of people around the globe, and many other orchestrations. In America, we are more likely to come across strategies of Satan like convincing people he and his demons don’t exist at all or lying to people about how a comfortable American life is a life well lived, even though it leaves no time for God. It seems as if one of Satan’s favorite things to do to Americans is keep them busy with religious activity at the expense of real, deep relationship with Christ and genuine worship.
Satan is not local. As said above, the “whole world” lies in his power. Think about that. In some sense, Satan really has “all the kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:5-6). Jesus calls him the “ruler of this world” (John 14:30). At this point, it may be easy to be depressed about the situation. I mean, if there’s a supernatural creature that does all of this and the whole world belongs to him, then things look pretty bad, right? But there are other, wonderful realities that everyone needs to know.
1 – Satan Can Only Do what God Permits Him to Do
Everything, including Satan, is inside the control and providence of God. There is nothing that happens that God does not permit or cause or ordain. In the book of Job, Satan must have God’s permission to attack Job’s possession and health (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6). During Jesus’s earthly ministry, He demonstrated that He has authority over Satan and the demons (Mark 5:1-20). Satan’s kingdom is not a kingdom that exists outside of the territory or God’s kingdom, because Christ is King over everything.
The battle between God and Satan is not one where God struggles at times to defend Himself or undo something Satan has done. But rather it is a battle where God is in complete and total control, and it’s impossible for Satan, or anyone else, to do anything or have any power that God does not know about and that He does not allow in His all-wise and all-good purpose.
Anything Satan does, God can turn for good. In fact, He does use everything for the good of His children (Romans 8:28). God uses everythingaccording to His purpose, and we can know that His purpose is always good, and what He does and allows is always the best way for something to happen. Satan used Judas to betray Jesus (John 13:2), only so Jesus could die and be resurrected, achieving victory over Satan.
2 – Jesus Has Already Won the Victory
Through the cross where He paid for the sins of man and His resurrection three days later, Jesus defeated death and destroyed Satan’s greatest weapon. The Bible tells us that death no longer has power over those in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-55; Hebrews 2:14; Romans 7:24-25). Death is not final, because all those in Christ, even when they die physically, have eternal life (John 11:25-26). In fact, for those in Christ, death is gain, because it means that they will enter into His presence (Philippians 1:21, 23).
The cross of Christ disarmed Satan through the cross by taking away his ability to accuse believers of sin (Colossians 2:13-15). For those who are saved, they are completely justified before God and free of the debt they owed God. There is only acceptance and perfect positional righteousness before God, with no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
With this victory over death achieved, there is no reason to fear. Sin is defeated now, even though we wait for the final and ultimate defeat of sin and the full consummation of God’s kingdom.
3 – Satan will Be Judged and bring Christ Glory
All things were created for Christ, including Satan (Colossians 1:16). Though Satan and his demons disobeyed and hate Christ and His glory, they will still bring glory to Jesus. God will do this through the judgment of Satan, where He displays His holiness and justice. Jesus speaks of the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Peter and Jude say that the demons are going to be judged (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
The most well-known and decisive passage is in Revelation, where Satan is actually thrown into the lake of fire “… but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:9-10).
These are indeed wonderful realities. Satan can do nothing that God does not allow, we know that whatever God allows is for good and His glory. Satan has already been defeated, though God still permits him to live and have influence, even though God could simply speak a word and Satan would be no more. And we know that Satan will be finally and totally defeated.
In other words, Jesus is King and there’s nothing that stops His purposes (Matthew 28:18). And even what Satan tries to use to oppose Him, He can turn for good and use to advance His purposes and His kingdom.