By Simon Presland
Occult movies like The Rite and The Priest have enjoyed immense popularity. Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons was a runaway best seller. A recent survey showed more than 70 percent of Americans believe in angels and nearly that many believe in the reality of Hell and the devil. A quick survey of Amazon.com shows there are almost 20,000 non-fiction books on spiritual warfare and hundreds of thousands more dedicated to angels and demons.
Yet these spiritual beings are not the result of mythical imagery gone awry; the Bible is replete with accounts of angels and demons and their interaction with mankind. What does the Bible say about spiritual warfare and the roles angels and demons play? Here is a glimpse into the spirit realm as recorded in Scripture.
Understanding Spiritual Warfare
Spiritual warfare occurs all around us 24/7. Ultimately it is a battle over the souls of men. Satan and his demons want to entice as many people as they can to Hell, while Christians and angels “fight the good fight of faith” on behalf of Heaven. Spiritual warfare is a threefold battle that: (1) Satan and his demons wage against the followers of Jesus Christ, (2) Christians wage against the enemy through prayer, and (3) God’s angelic ranks wage against the forces of darkness.
We see the reality of spiritual warfare in Satan’s temptation of Jesus (see Matthew 4:1-11). Satan tempted Jesus to sin by enticing him to use his supernatural power for his own needs, to win over the multitudes, and to compromise for personal gain. Beelzebub lost more than this battle; he lost the ultimate war when Jesus rose from the grave. However, he is still trying to capture as many souls as he can and destroy the lives of Christians everywhere.
Because our enemy is a spiritual enemy, the weapons of our warfare are spiritual as well. Paul reminds us, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (2 Corinthians 10:3, 4). In spiritual warfare, we fight to defend our minds, wills, and emotions; our physical lives, our families and ministries; our cities and country; and the nations of the world.
This warfare actively takes place on three levels.
Satan and His Demons Versus Christians
The enemy’s hierarchy is clearly described in the New Testament:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For 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 (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Satan is a created being, first found in the Garden of Eden. He was perfect when God created him, and full of wisdom and beauty (see Ezekiel 28:13-16). He once walked in truth, but his pride led to his fall (v. 17, 1 Timothy 3:6). He despises God and is the originator of sin and self-deception (Isaiah 14:13-15; 1 John 3:8). He is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). In the Bible, he is called the adversary, devil, dragon, Beelzebub, prince of this world, antichrist, accuser of the brethren, and Lucifer. His ambitions include temptation, enticing people to sin, deception, accusation, affliction, and opposing God and his saints.
Fallen angels are angels who fell with Satan from Heaven—as many as one-third of all the angels in Heaven—preferring Satan’s ways and will over God’s (Jude 6; Revelation 12:4). They function as his messengers (Psalm 78:49; Revelation 12:7-9).
Demons are another name for spirit beings used by Satan to oppress Christians and possess unbelievers. They have both a will and intelligence, and they act according to their evil nature (Matthew 8:29-31; Luke 4:35, 41; James 2:19). Their attacks against us include:
• opposing God’s people(Matthew 13:19;
2 Corinthians 4:4)
• hindering God’s Word (1Thessalonians 2:18).
• holding captives (2 Timothy 2:26; 1 Timothy 3:7)
• blinding the minds of unbelievers
(2 Corinthians 4:4)
• sowing tares (worldly people) among wheat (Matthew 13:37-43)
• seduction (1 Timothy 4:1; Mark 13:22)
• troubling (1 Samuel 16:14)
• vexing (Acts 10:38)
• deception (Revelation 12:9; Matthew 24:4, 5)
• possession (Matthew 4:24; 8:16; Mark 7:24-30; Acts 8:7)
• tormenting (Revelation 9:1-11)
• buffeting (2 Corinthians 12:7)
• resisting (Zechariah 3:1-3)
The words principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness seem to indicate Satan’s army is set up in military fashion. We may assume he has leaders that command demons that attack and control individuals, towns, cities, regions, and nations. Scripture also indicates that Satan’s hierarchy has a great deal of power, and they fight to stop our prayers. Daniel 10 introduces us to what seem to be territorial spirits, the “prince of Persia” and the “prince of Greece,” who worked to oppose God’s work and defeat Daniel’s prayers.
For three weeks, Daniel had mourned and prayed over a vision he had received from God. One of Satan’s powerful subordinates came against the prayers of Daniel and also fought against one of God’s angels. The high-ranking Prince of Persia could not stop God’s answer to prayer, but he hindered it for a time. Victory came only after the archangel, Michael, assisted in overthrowing this
God’s Angelic Host Versus Satan’s Forces
God’s angels are referred to as the heavenly host (see Luke 2:13). In both Hebrew and Greek, the word angel is translated “agent” or “messenger.” Jesus referred to angels many times, and angels ministered to him in times of need (Mark 8:38, 13:32; Matthew 13:41; 4:11).
The book of Hebrews says angels are ministering spirits sent to serve us because we are heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14). Scripture also teaches there is a hierarchy among angels that includes archangels, principalities, powers, seraphim, cherubim, and also legions of angels.
For example, Michael is called an archangel who has command over other angels and is one of the “chief princes” and a prince of Israel (Daniel 10:13, 21; Jude 9; see also Revelation 12:7).
Principalities might function as ruling-class angels, guardians over nations and countries who are involved with the issues and events surrounding these, including politics, military matters, commerce, and trade (Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 1:16).
Powers might possibly be ruling monarchs with higher authority and more power than others (Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16).
Seraphim serve as the high worshippers of God. They surround his throne singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3; see also Revelation 4:8). Seraphim are depicted in Scripture as having six wings: two covering the face, two covering the feet, and two used for flying.
Cherubim are depicted in Scripture as having four faces: one of a cherub, one of human being, one of a lion, and one of an eagle (see Ezekiel 10:13-15). God placed cherubim in the Garden of Eden to “guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). A pair of cherubim were fashioned and placed in the innermost room of the temple (1 Kings 6:23-28).
Angels have a twofold ministry and function: worship and service (Revelation 4:11; Hebrews 1:13, 14). They have access to both Heaven and earth, and have been given charge over the saints of God to protect them. If the Lord were to open our eyes into the spirit realm, we might see countless legions of angels surrounding us for our protection (Psalm 91:11, 12; Matthew 18:10).
Our understanding of spiritual warfare, and roles of angels and demons, must be based on the truth of Scripture. Without a biblical foundation, we cannot truly understand the unseen battle we are engaged in. However, the truth as found in Scripture will help us discern the enemy’s tactics so we can align with God’s angelic host in fighting the good fight of faith.
Simon Presland is a freelance writer in Clinton Township, Michigan, and author of Spiritual Warfare: A Comprehensive Guide to Personal Healing and Deliverance (CreateSpace, 2011).
Parents and Spiritual Warfare
Parents are the frontline in protecting and preparing their children for the very real spiritual forces at work in the world. Many parents shy away from the topic, but addressing it can keep kids safe and build them up into powerful warriors.
“Children, Parenting & Spiritual Warfare” by Tony Kummer
“The Importance of Equipping Kids in Spiritual Warfare” by Nellie Shani
“Full Armor of God” by Kathy Harrington
Protecting Your Teen from Today’s Witchcraft: A Parent’s Guide to Confronting Wicca and the Occult
by Steve Russo
(Bethany House, 2005)
A Parents’ Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Equipping Your Kids to Win the Battle
by Leslie Montgomery
(Crossway Books, 2006)
Amazing Questions Kids Ask About Heaven & Angels
By Lightwave, David Veerman
(Tyndale Kids, 2006)
Bible Angels & Demons
by Rick Osborne, Ed Strauss