Demons—Are they Fallen Angels?
A demon is an evil spirit (Luke 8:1-3), which is an unclean or filthy spirit. We see this in Jesus’ encounter with the demon-possessed man in the region of Gerasenes (JAIR-ah-seens): The man is described in Scripture as being possessed by numerous evil spirits who spoke to Jesus through the man:
The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” (13) He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs.
This and other passages show that demons are synonymous with evil spirits or impure (unclean) spirits.
Are evil spirits fallen angels? I would answer “obviously,” but some people have brought this into question with highly creative alternative views, which we’ll consider momentarily. First, let’s establish that…
Satan was a “Cherub” who Fell from Heaven
Jesus said he “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). This monumental event is chronicled in the Old Testament using the kings of Babylon and Tyre as types (Isaiah 14:12 & Ezekiel 28:12-17). The passage in Ezekiel shows that Satan was once a “cherub” (28:14,16), an angel.
The New Testament shows that Satan & his angels will once again attempt to dethrone the Almighty in Heaven during the further Tribulation:
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. (8) But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. (9) The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Verse 4 figuratively indicates that a third of the angels fell with the devil to the Earth.
The Devil & His Angels Dwell in the Underworld—the Dark Heavenly Realm that Underpins the Earth
So Satan is described as a cherub—an angel—who was kicked out of Heaven, along with a third of the subordinate angels who rebelled with him.
Jesus said that the lake of fire was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) as their eternal tormenting prison, but they currently roam the Earth, not in the physical realm, but the spiritual:
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.
The underworld is the dark spiritual dimension that underpins the Earth & Universe (Philippians 2:9-11 & Revelation 5:2-3). This is where the devil & his fallen angels dwell. It’s from this dark realm that the devil & his filthy spirits operate—“roaming the earth, going back and forth in it” (Job 1:7 & 2:2). This explains something Peter said:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8
All this biblical data helps us conclude with confidence that demons or evil spirits are fallen angels.
Addressing Two Alternative Views
Some people have challenged this by suggesting that evil spirits are either (1.) the spirits of the Nephilim (NEF-ah-lim), which were wiped out in the worldwide flood of Noah’s day, or (2.) the spirits of a mysterious “pre-Adamic” race who were wiped out in a worldwide flood that occurred sometime between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.
The reason such people argue that demons aren’t fallen angels is because of two New Testament verses which show that fallen angels are imprisoned in tartaroó (tar-tar-OH), awaiting judgment from God (2 Peter 2:4 & Jude 1:6). However, these passages don’t refer to all fallen angels because, after all, the chief fallen angel, Satan, is still roaming about (1 Peter 5:8).
In regard to demons being the spirits of the Nephilim who died in the flood: While the Nephilim were powerful and legendary because their bloodline was mixed with demonic DNA, the Bible nevertheless describes them as “men” (Genesis 6:4). As such, when they died their lifeless souls went to Sheol (Hades) to be held for Judgment Day, just like the souls of all unregenerate people (Revelation 20:11-15). Nowhere does the Bible suggest that the spirits of the slain Nephilim are wandering the Earth. For details on why some fallen angels are imprisoned in tartaroó and the nature of the Nephilim click the corresponding link (which is also available at the bottom of the page).
Even more creative is the nigh absurd idea that demons are the spirits of some ambiguous “pre-Adamic race.” The small number of people who embrace this odd theory are gap theorists who suggest that Satan ruled nations of a pre-Adamic race—a race that they won’t call human because the Bible clearly refers to Adam as the “first man” (1 Corinthians 15:45,47). If they weren’t actually human, then what exactly were they? Sasquatches maybe? Cha-Ka’s cousins perhaps? (I’m being humorous, of course). Whatever the case, this issue is addressed here (scroll down to the section A Pre-Adamic Race?).
Why Do Demons Desire to Possess People (and sometimes even Animals)?
Evil spirits seek to possess people in order to operate more concretely in the physical realm. Being spiritual in nature, they’re limited to the spiritual realm and can only operate in the physical realm in an indirect manner, unless they can totally take possession of a human, which they can only do so with the person’s permission. This is why they seek to possess people.
The afore-cited Mark 5:12-13 shows that demons sometimes even seek to possess animals, but — as this passage shows — they can only do this with permission from the Sovereign God, obviously since animals lack the ability to give or reject permission.
That said, there was a curious event that happened in the distant past that showed that demons have the power to operate in the physical realm in a more direct manner. I’m talking about Genesis 6:1-4 where some fallen angels, referred to as the “sons of God,” copulated with women, which gave birth to the aforementioned Nephilim (NEF-ah-lim). God considered this a great transgression and so imprisoned these fallen angels in tartaroó (tar-tar-OH) to be held for judgment (2 Peter 2:4 & Jude 1:6). As such, the rest of the fallen angels have never again sinned in this manner and, therefore, the height of their manifestation in the physical realm is via possession.
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