The Truth About Angels and Demons
Whether you believe in the literal existence of angels and demons, or subscribe strictly to the symbolism of such creatures, there is no denying that they are representative of the eternal struggle between good and evil. With demonology and angelology dating back thousands of years, the lore surrounding these supernatural spiritual warriors is extensive. In modern times, the true identity of angels and demons has become skewed and is no longer representational of the aspects that make these beings fearsome. And believe me, they are fearsome.
Let’s start off with the angels because in most literature, it is assumed that the angels and the demons are one in the same, with the demons merely being fallen angels. If you aren’t familiar with the biblical theology of angels, here’s a few things you should know first.
Angels are present in all three Abrahamic religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The manner in which angels are revered differs amongst these three branches of belief, but angels are respected and viewed as having direct access to God in all three. Similarities include their being tasked by God to carry out certain works and judgments, guarding and attending to his holiness, ministering to God’s children, and even guarding humans.
Of the many types of angels, some are anamorphic while others are an amalgamation of various elements. Angels are sometimes presented as inhabiting the very forces of nature and thus carrying out God’s work and will by being instrumental in occurrences such as weather, earthquakes, fires, etc.
In Judaism, too, the angels are believed to be agents of God and sent out to do his bidding. However, in Judaism there is a vast hierarchy of angels that exist in the heavenly realms including the four archangels Gabriel, Michael, Uriel, and Raphael. This hierarchy actually lists archangels as nearer to the lower rank of angels, with Cherubim and Seraphim being at the top.
In Christian theology, angels are divided into three orders, each being further divided into three levels. The highest order consists of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. In the next level we have Dominions, Virtues, and Powers. The third order is made up of Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. From the descriptions given in the bible, the Seraphim and Cherubim are vastly different from our idea of what an angel is.
Seraphim, the highest of the hierarchy and also one of the most interesting angelic beings, is described as being a fiery creature with six wings. The word seraph is synonymous with snake, so I suppose you could conclude that they appeared as a flying, six-winged serpent?
Cherubim have four wings full of eyes but have four faces as well. They have the face of an ox, a man, a lion, and an eagle. These angels guard the throne of God and the way to the Garden of Eden. Some theologians believe that Satan was a Cherub. This presents an entirely different picture of the chubby little babies we see depicted as Cherubs.
The Thrones were the embodiment of God’s justice and authority and were different in their appearance looking like wheels or thrones. Dominions rule over the lower angels, virtues perform signs and miracles, and powers ensure that the physical aspects of the Creation are kept in order. They are warrior angels that battle against evil spirits on our behalf. Principalities guide nations and the church and preside over the ministry of the angels. Archangels and angels are tasked with watching over specific nations or individuals.
Now then, to the part where things get wonky. Demons are typically considered to be evil, and for the purposes of this article and to confer with the majority, I will use that understanding here. Though demon lore varies from culture to culture, most define a demon as either a disembodied spirit that seeks to do harm upon mankind or a fallen angel.
The kind of mayhem demons cause depends upon the religious belief system that particular demon inhabits. For biblical demons, that could mean anything from tempting the believer to sin to causing disease, starvation, or war. There are specific demons that engage in sexually debasing humans, incubi and succubi, both of which could cause madness or death if contact is continued. There could also be monstrous offspring that would be deformed or, in some cases, vampiric. (Keep your kinks in check, peeps. 🙂 )
In the Testament of Solomon, King Solomon tells the story of how the temple was built by demons that he himself enslaved. While he was at it, he questioned them as to how they could be controlled and documented everything he learned from them in this book.
Sometimes demons are classified by their particular work in the natural world. They can also be classified by the seven deadly sins that they tempt man with. A Catholic Bishop by the name of Alphonso de Spina made his own hierarchy in the middle ages, listing demons and wandering armies, incubi and succubi, familiars, drudes(nightmares), demons that attack believers, and demons that lure women to become witches.
King James himself wrote a kind of dissertation on the subject of demons, where he ascribes all magic to demonic activity. This ultimately propagated more witch hunting and public executions. James believed the demons were of one of four groups: Spectra (ghosts), Oppression, Possession, and Fairies. In many medieval works, the fairies were simply mischief makers.
So how did this massive rebellion of heaven take place? Satan was among two hundred angels called Watchers that were charged with watching over the earth. Rather than hold to their duties, these angels lusted after the daughters of men and abandoned their posts to have relations with them. When God saw this, he condemned the offspring to die. Some bible scholars believe that this is when the flood took place, to destroy contaminated humanity.
Other myths about Satan say that he was at the right hand of God and that he was among the most powerful angels in Heaven, but that he refused to bow before Adam, the newly created man. The name Lucifer means light, so that infers that Satan wasn’t always dark. In this mythology, Satan gets to thinking that he is more beautiful, more powerful, and stronger than God. His pride leads him to start a war in Heaven with a third of the angelic host following him. In the end, God casts them out of Heaven and they are damned.
In the Hebrew bible, Satan has many names including Ba’al Zabul, or Ba’al the Prince. It is sometimes written Beelzebub. He is sometimes referred to as Abaddon or Apollyon, place of destruction or simply destroyer.
The group of angels that followed Satan in his rebellion against God are considered to be fallen angels or demons. Satan and his demons are thought to exist to tempt humans to sin, prosecute and accuse them before God, and then punish them for the sins he tempted them to commit.
The demons help Satan to trip up believers by continually offering them ways to sin or by putting evil thoughts into their minds. Demons are also thought to be capable of possession, or inhabiting a human’s body, thought most bible teachers do not think they can possess true believers because they cannot inhabit a body in which the Holy Spirit lives.
People who study the Abrahamic faiths, especially Judaism, believe the devil is still subservient to God. For a long while during the Middle Ages, anything that went contrary to the church’s beliefs was attributed to Satan. This is precisely how some fifty or sixty-thousand people were killed for witchcraft during this time. Church elders used the members fear of Satan to control the populace and since only the monks and priests could read at that time, the people believed them.
During modern times, our beliefs in these entities has dwindled. For some, their beliefs have combined with what they see in books and movies to become something altogether different from what theology teaches. For others, science has made demons and the devil a thing of the distant past, a relic from days when we didn’t understand our surroundings.
Some say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was making you believe he didn’t exist.