Who is Satan and What are Demons?
I. Satan is a fallen angel who has led other fallen angels into a war against God.
A. Satan is called by several names in Scripture.
“Satan” (Job.1:6; Matt.4:10)
“Evil one” (Matt. 6:13; 13:19, 38; 1 John 2:13).
“Serpent” (Gen.3:1, Rev.12:9)
“Devil’ (Matt.4:1; Jn.8:44)
Each title brings out an aspect of his character.
“Satan” means adversary. Satan’s is God’s adversary and the adversary of all that belongs to God.
Satan is called the “Evil One” because he is evil and the perpetrator of evil against God’s moral will and plan.
Satan is called the serpent because he took the form of a serpent when he tempted Eve and he has characteristics associated with serpents. He is crafty, seeking victims to attack.
The “Devil” literally in the Greek means “slanderer”: One who slanders another.
This word describes more than the others what the devil actually does. He slanders God in the presence of man.
Slander is making false statements, lies about someone else in order to damage their character and reputation before others.
This is what the devil is, a slanderer against God. He lies about God so that others may think wrongly about God, who he is, what he is like, and what he desires for us.
In Jn.8:44 Jesus tells the people, “You are of your father, the devil, and you will do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and did not abide in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, you do not believe.”
The devil is a liar and his primary weapon is deceit.
B. Satan is a fallen angel who leads other fallen angels.
The devil is a fallen angel, angelically powerful, more powerful than man, but nowhere near God in power. He is our enemy and he commands a powerful army.
The devil commands a demonic host of other fallen angels. We don’t know how many.
"And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. The dragon stood before the woman, who was ready to give birth in order to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron and her child was caught up to God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought and did not prevail; neither was there a place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world. He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
This passage speaks of the dragon identified in v.9 as Satan waiting when the woman who represents Israel was giving birth to the messiah, Jesus. He wanted to destroy the Son of God, but instead he was victorious rising from the dead and ascending to the right hand of God.
In the future during the tribulation, there will be a great battle between Satan and Michael where Satan will be cast down to earth at the mid-point of the tribulation. For more information on this see “Knowing the Future” on the Titus Institute Website.
V.4 suggests that Satan and a third of the angels rebelled against God which leaves two-thirds of the angels left to minister God's plan. So holy angels probably outnumber evil angels 2 to 1.
Paul tells us in v. 12 describes the power and authorities of the demons we are up against.
Eph.6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
These are our enemies, the demonic authorities.
C. Satan was created by God as a good angel, but pridefully rebelled against God.
Two passages from the Old Testament seem to speak of evil human kings and look beyond them to Satan who is behind them. In both, God sends his prophet to rebuke an evil human king. In that rebuke, strong words are used either as hyperbole of the human king’s self-exaltation or words describing the fall of Satan.
“How you have fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, which didn’t weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. ‘“
“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God, you were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. You have been in Eden the garden of God. Every precious stone was your covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of your timbrels and of your pipes was prepared in you in the day that you were created. You are the anointed cherub that covers and I have set you so. You were upon the holy mountain of God. You have walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. By the multitude of your merchandise they have filled your midst with violence, and you have sinned.
Therefore I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God and I will destroy you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness. I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you. You have defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading. Therefore will I bring forth a fire from your midst. It will devour you and I will bring you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all those that behold you. All those that know you among the people shall be astonished at you. You shall be a terror, and you will never exist any more.’”
Read the chapter before and the chapter after these passages to get the full context. Both passages first speak of the human king that God is rebuking, then they seem to go beyond the human king to the ultimate source of evil, Satan who is working in him.
However, we cannot be sure if it actually does. Conservative Biblical scholars and commentators are divided over the issue.
God does not reveal very much about Satan’s origin and fall, probably because he does not want us to focus on Satan, but on God.
D. Satan’s destiny is being punished in the fires of hell.
In Matt.25:41 Jesus says, “Then he [the Son of Man] shall also say to them [the unsaved] on the left hand, ’Depart from me, you cursed ones into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’”
In Rev.20:10, it says
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. “
E. We are in a spiritual war with Satan and his demons.
God has revealed to us that we are living in the midst of a spiritual war that is being waged by Satan and his demons against the God of the universe and his followers.
Eph.6:11-12 says, ”Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
The word “wrestle” refers to hand to hand combat, not a big battle on a battlefield where armies stand against each other and go at it. The spiritual reality is that each of us face Satan’s temptations individually and personally and it is an intense struggle.
We face Satan’s temptations individually and must stand against him individually.
However, this is not meant to be taken physically as if we physically wrestle with Satan or his demons.
As we will see the Scriptures indicate that Satan can only tempt us externally through the unbelieving world, but here Paul is saying that his temptation will touch us personally. We will not be able to hide from them.
Paul says that it is not against human beings, but against spirit beings.
“Flesh and blood” refers to human beings; “the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” refers to evil spirit beings.
I believe that these descriptions do not refer to different ranks of demons but to demons as a whole.
F. Satan and his demons wield authority over the unbelieving world.
Paul describes all the demons with their leader, Satan, as a whole group in four ways.
1. They are “rulers,” that is, they have subjects they rule over.
They rule over fallen human beings.
Being “rulers” over fallen man has the idea of domination and direction.
They dominate fallen man and they direct them to accomplish their goals.
They do not control their decisions and actions internally, but they dominate and direct externally by deceiving them and by enticing their fleshly desires.
Eph.2:2 “in which in time past you lived according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.”
“According to” means “in agreement with.”
Paul says that when the Ephesian Christians were unbelievers they “lived according to the course of this world.” That is, they lived in agreement with the world’s way of doing things. They followed the world. The world is a term for all unbelievers grouped together and the way of life they follow.
They also “lived according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the son’s of disobedience.”
They lived in agreement with “the prince of the power of the air” who is “a spirit.” This refers to Satan. Then Paul calls him “the spirit who works in the children of disobedience.”
Satan is the one working “in” the children of disobedience. The “children of disobedience” are unbelievers who live in disobedience to God. Satan is working in them. “Working in them” does not mean that he is possessing them, but that what is in them, their values and their attitudes reflects Satan’s work.
If I have a brother who is prejudiced against all races, but white. And my son spends a summer with him where he is influenced deeply by him and becomes prejudiced; I can say that my brother has worked evil in my son.
The reason they are able to do this is because they have authority from God to do this. This authority is limited, but it is authority. Notice, what Paul says next about them.
2. They are “authorities,” that is, they have authority to dominate and direct fallen man.
This rule comes from authority that God himself has given to them over fallen man in judgment on fallen man and for God’s purposes.
They have spiritual authority by God to dominate and direct fallen man. They are limited in this authority. They can only do what God allows them to do, but they have it.
They have authority to accomplish a certain amount of evil in this world and to influence fallen man toward evil.
This is evident in what Paul says in 2 Cor.4:3-4.
“But if our gospel is hidden, it is hidden to those who are lost. In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.”
God has allowed Satan, the god (spirit who rules the world of unbelieving man) of this world, to blind the minds of those who do not know Christ and thus because they are blinded, they can be controlled by the lies of Satan.
This is the foundation of Satan’s rule over fallen man.
They are blind to spiritual truth. Therefore, they cannot see God’s light of truth, so they are susceptible to the lies of Satan.
Satan then spreads his lies among unbelievers, lies about God, about salvation, about life, etc. Unbelievers accept those lies as truth, which then becomes their belief system and their value system.
They then act in an unrighteousness manner as a result. They also teach their children these lies and it is reflected in their books, art, and all electronic media.
Spiritual blindness is the foundation of their authority. Lies are how Satan leads them. Satan does not need to possess everyone or speak to unbelievers; spiritually blind people are easily fooled and led.
How wide is this rule and authority? Their rule and authority is worldwide - all over the world.
3. They are powerful rulers and authorities in the whole world of darkness, of sin and error in the hearts and minds of fallen man.
“Powers” means that they have the ability to dominate and direct. The sphere of their action and control is the “dark world.”
“This dark world” refers to unbelieving human beings who are in darkness, who are entrapped in sin and error. They are living out a life in rebellion against God based on a belief system that does not recognize the truth about God and His Son Jesus Christ.
Satan’s lies form the basis of the beliefs and values of unbelieving man and express themselves in their sinful attitudes, words, and actions.
The world or kingdom of darkness is not a place, but a group of beings, angelic and human who are in rebellion against God.
There are several NT passages that speak of the same truth.
In 1 Jn.5:19, John says that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
In Jn.12:31 and 14:30 Jesus speaks of the “ruler of this world.”
In Jn.16:11 and 2 Cor.4: 4 Satan is called the “god of this world.”
Again, “world” refers to unbelieving people, not land or territory.
4. They are evil spirits operating in the invisible spirit realm.
In v. 12 Paul says calls Satan and his demons “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
a. Satan and his demons dwell in the spirit realm below heaven and above the earth.
They are spirit beings who inhabit the spirit realm.
The term “heavenly realms” is a general word used in the NT of the spirit realm where all spirits (God, good angels, and evil angels) dwell.
In Eph.2:6 “heavenly realms’ is used of heaven where God and holy angels live.
Here, in Eph. 6:12 it is used of the realm where Satan and his demons live.
All spirits inhabit the spirit or heavenly realms.
The spirit realm can be divided into two major areas, which are
1) the realm of heaven where God and his holy angels dwell and 2) the realm above and next to the earth, called the domain of the air. This is where Satan and his demons dwell.
The domain of the air is the spirit region above the earth and next to the earth, but below heaven.
The spiritual kingdom of Satan and his demons is the spiritual realm below heaven just above the earth and around humans.
Paul calls Satan “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” in Eph.2:3.
According to Job 1:6-7, Satan and his demons have access to heaven by God’s permission, but they do not live there.
Satan and his demons were thrown out of heaven so that they can no longer dwell there. However, they are still able to enter and leave it as they go into the presence of God. This is probably the only time they may enter heaven.
From Eph. 6:12 and other Scriptures it appears that every demon has a sphere of authority; they are all rulers and all authorities under Satan. They each have a sphere of influence.
It is probably similar to how we will all be rulers during the millennium. We all reign with Christ according to Rev. 20:4.
However, there is no evidence of the whole earth being a giant battleground where holy angels and evil angels have encamped against each other.
Holy angels dwell in heaven. They do not dwell in the “domain of the air.” They enter and leave this area as they minister to Christians and fulfill God’s will.
Guardian angels regularly dwell in the presence of God; they don’t regularly dwell next to us.
In Matt.18:10, Jesus says, “Be careful so that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I say to you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
Notice, their angels are in heaven. These are what have been popularly referred to as “guardian angels.” Their guardian angels dwell in heaven in the presence of God and are dispatched to earth when necessary.
G. Satan’s goal in this war is to destroy our testimony of Christlikeness and to prevent us from fulfilling the Great Commission, which is bearing fruit for Christ.
What goal does Satan have in attacking us as believers in Jesus Christ? Is he trying to take away our salvation? Or our testimony? Or our fruitfulness?
1. Satan cannot take away our salvation.
In Jn.10:27-29 Jesus says,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish. Neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
In Rom.8:28 Jesus says,
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Notice, Paul says “neither angels, nor principalities” when he shares what cannot separate us from the love of God. He is purposely bringing in angelic beings.
Angels, holy or evil cannot separate us as Christians from God because we are united to Christ Jesus.
2. Satan cannot spiritually harm us.
1 Jn.5:18 says, “We know that whoever is born of God does not practice sin, but he that is begotten of God [Jesus] keeps him, and that the wicked one does not lay hold of him.”
John says that Jesus “keeps us safe” and the evil one “cannot lay hold of us.” “Keeps,” means “watch over, guard, keep, or preserve.”
Christ guards us both directly by his power and indirectly by his intercession. Jesus talks of this in his prayer to the Father in Jn.17:12, where he says, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name; those that you gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
Later, Jesus requested, “I pray not that you should take them out of this world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.” (Jn.17:15)
The verb “lay hold of” means “to grasp onto or fasten himself onto.” It has the idea of to lay hold of in order to harm.
According to the UBS commentary, the devil cannot “lay hold of” him is sometimes rendered analytically to harm/injure, “to do bad things to” or “to do something against.”
This is not talking about physical harm, but spiritual harm.
This is revealing two truths. The first is that Satan has no power or control over us. He cannot spiritually lay hold of us and force us to do anything against our wills.
He cannot possess us. Christians cannot be demon-possessed. He cannot influence us in a way that we cannot simply choose resist. He can only tempt us through his lies and try to deceive us.
He cannot force us to turn away from Christ, toward unbelief and an unbelieving lifestyle.
Paul says the same thing in 2 Thess.3:3-5.
This is why John can also say that we have overcome the demonic spirits who spread lies about Christ.
In 1 Jn.4:1-4, John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Here is how you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; this is that spirit of antichrist, of which you have heard that it should come; and even now already is in the world.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He that knows God hears us; he that is not of God does not hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
There are “spirits” behind the false prophets (those who claim to speak direct revelation from God, but don’t) teaching falsehood about Christ.
See Titus Institute article called “How Satan Dominates The World.”
This is talking about the lies of Satan regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. At the moment of salvation, we overcome Satan and his demonic spirits behind false religion because we now and will always believe the salvation truth about Christ. We can no longer be deceived about the true identity of the Son of God.
3. Satan wants to destroy our fruitfulness for Christ.
In Matt.6, Jesus said to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
Seeking his kingdom means to focus our energy on fulfilling the Great Commission of making disciples. We make disciples by going into to the world with the gospel, then baptizing them when they accept Christ, then teaching them so they might grow in Christ.
God has given each Christian a part in the Great Commission according to the gifts he has given us.
Satan doesn’t care about stopping us as people or just ruining our lives, but stopping us as Christians from bearing fruit for the kingdom.
That is his goal.
In Matt.5:13-16, Jesus says,
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall it be salty? It is from then on good for nothing, except to be cast out, and to be trampled under the feet of men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
In Jn.15:16 Jesus says,
“You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and appointed you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
In Matt.28:19-20 Jesus said,
“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you. And, lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age. “
Satan is trying to prevent us from fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission command.