Angels of God and evil spirits are plainly revealed in Scripture and are interwoven with human history. Many think that the holy angels who “minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14) are actually the spirits of the dead. But the Scriptures present proof that they are not disembodied spirits of the dead.
Before God created human beings, angels were in existence, for when the foundations of the earth were laid, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). After the fall of Adam and Eve but before any human being had died, God sent angels to guard the tree of life. Angels are superior to humans, for man was made “a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5).
Says the prophet, “I heard the voice of many angels around the throne.” In the presence of the King of kings they wait—“ministers of His, who do His pleasure,” “heeding the voice of His word,” “an innumerable company.” (Revelation 5:11; Psalm 103:21, 20; Hebrews 12:22.) They go out as God’s messengers, “in appearance like a flash of lightning,” their flight is so swift. The angel that appeared at the Savior’s tomb, with his face “like lightning,” caused the soldiers to quake with fear of him, and they “became like dead men.” When Sennacherib blasphemed God and threatened Israel, “the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand.” (Ezekiel 1:14; Matthew 28:3, 4; 2 Kings 19:35.)
God sends angels on missions of mercy to His children. To Abraham, with promises of blessing; to Lot, to rescue him from Sodom’s doom; to Elijah, about to die in the desert; to Elisha, with chariots and horses of fire when he was surrounded by his enemies; to Daniel, when he was abandoned to become the lion’s prey; to Peter, doomed to death in Herod’s dungeon; to the apostles in Philippi’s jail; to Paul in the stormy night on the sea; to open the mind of Cornelius to receive the gospel; to send Peter with the message of salvation to the Gentile stranger—in all these ways holy angels have ministered to God’s people.
God has appointed a guardian angel to every follower of Christ. “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” Speaking of those who believe in Him, Jesus said, “In heaven their angels always see the face of My Father.” (Psalm 34:7; Matthew 18:10.) God’s people are exposed to the unsleeping hatred of the prince of darkness, but God assures them that the angels never stop guarding them. God gives them this assurance because they will have to face mighty agencies of evil—agencies that are numerous, determined, and untiring.
Evil Angels Oppose God’s Plans
Evil spirits were originally created sinless. They were equal in nature, power, and glory with the holy beings that are now God’s messengers. But now they are fallen because of sin, and they have joined together to dishonor God and destroy humanity. United with Satan in rebellion, they cooperate with him in warfare against divine authority.
Old Testament history mentions their existence, but during the time when Christ was on earth evil spirits showed their power in the most striking ways. Christ had come to redeem humanity, and Satan was determined to control the world. He had succeeded in establishing idol worship in every part of the earth except Palestine. Christ came to the only land not fully yielded to the tempter, stretched out His arms of love, and invited all to find pardon and peace in Him. The angels of darkness understood that if Christ’s mission were successful, their rule would end soon.
The New Testament clearly states that people have been possessed with demons. Such people were not simply suffering with disease from natural causes. Christ recognized the direct presence and influence of evil spirits. The demon-possessed men at Gadara were wretched maniacs, writhing, foaming, and raging, and they were doing violence to themselves and putting everyone else in danger who came near them. Their bleeding, disfigured bodies and deranged minds made a spectacle that pleased the prince of dark-ness. One of the demons controlling the sufferers said, “My name is Legion; for we are many” (Mark 5:9).
In the Roman army a legion consisted of from three to five thousand men. At the command of Jesus the evil spirits fled from their victims, leaving them subdued, intelligent, and gentle. But the demons swept a herd of pigs into the sea. To the people living in Gadara, the loss outweighed the blessing Christ had brought, and so they asked the divine Healer to leave. (See Matthew 8:23-34.) By blaming Jesus for their loss, Satan stirred up the selfish fears of the people and prevented them from listening to His words.
Christ allowed the evil spirits to destroy the pigs as a rebuke to Jews who were raising unclean animals for profit. If Christ had not restrained the demons, they would have plunged not only the pigs, but also their keepers and owners into the sea.
Furthermore, God permitted this event so that the disciples could witness the cruel power of Satan on both people and animals and would not be deceived by his delusions. Jesus also wanted the people to see His power to break Satan’s hold and release his captives. Though Jesus Himself went away, the men He had delivered so amazingly remained there to tell about the mercy of their Benefactor.
The Bible records other examples: The daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman, severely afflicted with a devil whom Jesus cast out by His word (Mark 7:25-30); a youth who had a spirit who had often “thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him” (Mark 9:17-27); the maniac, tormented by a spirit of an unclean devil who disturbed the Sabbath quiet at Capernaum (Luke 4:33-36)—the Savior healed them all.
In nearly every instance, Christ addressed the demon as an intelligent being, commanding him not to torment his victim ever again. The worshipers at Capernaum “were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, ‘What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out’” (Luke 4:36).
In order to get supernatural power, some welcomed the satanic influence. Of course, these people had no conflict with the demons. Included in this group were those who had the spirit of divination— Simon Magus, Elymas the sorcerer, and the slave girl who followed Paul and Silas at Philippi (see Acts 8:9, 18; 13:8; 16:16-18).
None are in greater danger than those who deny that the devil and his angels exist. Many accept their suggestions while they think they are following their own wisdom. As we approach the end of time, when Satan will work with his greatest power to deceive, he spreads everywhere the belief that he does not exist. It is his policy to conceal himself and his way of working.
The great deceiver is afraid that we will become acquainted with his deceptions. To disguise his real character he has influenced people to portray him as something to ridicule or despise. He is pleased to be painted as comical, misshapen, half animal and half human. He is pleased to hear his name used in jokes and mockery. Because he has masked himself with superb skill, many people ask, “Does such a being really exist?” Because Satan can easily control the minds of those who are unaware of his influence, the Word of God reveals to us his secret forces, and this puts us on guard.
Safety With Jesus
We may find shelter and deliverance in our Redeemer’s superior power. We carefully make our houses secure with bolts and locks to protect our property and lives from evil people. But seldom do we think of the evil angels and that, in our own strength, we have no defense against their attacks.
If they are allowed, they can confuse our minds, torment our bodies, and destroy our possessions and our lives. But those who follow Christ are safe under His watchful care. Angels that excel in strength are sent to protect them. The wicked one cannot break through the guard that God has stationed around His people.