Who and What Are the Demons and the Angels in the Bible?

Demons and angels in the bible play a key role in world events. Read on to discover who and what they are.

Jan 11, 2023By Tendai Kashiri, BA Theology


Delving into the supernatural can be exciting. The human mind is curious and always ready for additional information and the spiritual world, where demons and angels live, is vast. The supernatural world is an intriguing topic. Its inhabitants arouse curiosity, for just as their realm is invisible, they are also invisible and mysterious. In Christianity, the supernatural has a significant influence on the physical world, and demons and angels in the bible play a major role in the events that happen here on earth.


The Definition of Angels in the Bible

fresco angels keys st peter
The Fresco of Angels with the Symbolic Keys of St. Peter, by Anselmo Govi, 1939, via Dreams Time


The Strong’s Concordance (an index of biblical terms) defines angels (ἄγγελος) in the masculine form as messengers of God. Vern S. Poythress in his contributions to the Westminster Theological Journal (2004) explains that the masculine forms in Greek and Hebrew literature (the original languages of the Bible) refer to human beings.


This means that they use the male case to apply to both males and females. There is a general assumption that angels are male, however, there is no record of female angels in the Bible. The original meaning of the word angel does not ascribe a specific gender to angels.


st michael angels in the bible
The Archangel Michael Overthrowing Lucifer, by Francesco Maffei, ca 1656, via Nacional d’Art de Catalunya


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Angels are sent to execute God’s purposes on earth. They are supernatural beings with extraordinary powers. They are portrayed as the good guys in the Bible. Hebrews 1:14 refers to angels as ministering spirits. Their permanent residence is in Heaven with God.


The ministering duties of the angels in the Bible are diverse. In Daniel 6:22, the angel’s role was to protect. They protected the prophet Daniel from being devoured by lions. On the other hand, an army of angels with horses and chariots of fire was sent to protect the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 6:15-17).


Angels in the Bible also rescue believers. Acts 12 records Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. It was during the early days of the Christian persecution when Peter was imprisoned for preaching the gospel. A powerful angel appeared to Peter in his prison cell, removed his shackles and helped him to escape.


release st peter prison painting
The Release of St Peter from Prison, by Mattia Preti, 1613-1699, via Lib-Art.com


Human beings tend to associate angels with a lack of character — they all look the same. Angels are imagined as winged creatures and no one ever puts a face to them. However, angels have distinct personalities and do not look the same. There are only two angels in the Bible who are mentioned by name, Gabriel (leader of the messenger angels) and Michael (leader of the Heavenly army who defeated Lucifer and his angels in the heavenly war). These angels, because of their duties, are unique personalities. Angels are individuals that can be distinguished.


Just like human beings, the angels in the Bible have free will, and there is evidence that the free will available in angelic society caused the rebellion of Lucifer. Satan and a third of the angels in Heaven exercised their free will and chose to rebel against God.


The other two-thirds that remained in Heaven chose to stay under the leadership of God, their creator. These are now referred to as the holy angels. They fight spiritual battles for God against demons. The fall divided the angels and now the holy angels have to fight their former brethren who became evil spirits with a vendetta against God and his creation — both human beings and animals.


Unlike demons, the holy angels do not possess human beings. However, they can appear in a human form. Hebrews 13:2 is an encouragement to the believers to be compassionate and treat strangers well, for they might be entertaining angels without knowing it. Thus, angels can visit believers in human form and there is no way of knowing who they are because they will look just like men.


abraham three angels bible painting
Abraham and the Three Angels, by Noel Halle, 1711-1781, via La Gazette Drouot Auctions


Abraham had angel visitors who looked like men (Gen 18). However, he was aware of their true nature, even when they were in their human form. When he saw them (they were three) he immediately ran to them and bowed before them. What is more interesting is that these three heavenly visitors ate the cakes that Sarah had baked, they had milk and ate meat.


The similarities between human beings and the angels in the Bible are obvious. They both have distinct physical bodies, even in their celestial bodies, the holy angels have distinct bodies. It is not surprising because God created men a little lower than angels (Hebrews 2:7). Both men and angels are created to serve God.


The Definition of Demons in the Bible

four captive demons drawing
Four Captive Demons, by Muhammad Siyah Qalam, 1470-1500, via the Met Museum


A demon (δαίμων) is an evil spirit, a fallen angel. Before the creation of the world, these demons were angels. They served and worshiped God until, under the leadership of another angel, Lucifer (Satan) they rebelled against God. There was a war in Heaven (where God and all the angels lived). However, the rebellious angels in the Bible were defeated and cast down to earth.


Demons in the Bible

paradise lost angels bible
Illustration for Milton’s Paradise Lost, by Gustave Dore, 1866, via Wikimedia Commons


Demons started out as angels in the Bible. They served God in Heaven. There was no evil in them. It is only after the devil (Lucifer) deceived them that they opted to follow him, which led to them rebelling against their creator. They sinned and evil took over their holy nature. Whatever the devil told them must have been so convincing that they saw the glory of God as a lie.


The fall of the demons is the first fall, the first introduction of sin to the universe. Before the fall of men (Adam and Eve), the devil and his demons fell, they sinned against God. The devil came to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden from outside. Evil already existed in demons before it existed in men.


Darkness cannot co-exist with light, sin cannot co-exist with holiness. The evil angels had to be cast out of Heaven. They could not live in a holy place and contaminate it with sin. Michael and his army of angels threw the demons down to earth with their leader (the deceiver) Lucifer.


luca fall rebel angels painting
The Fall of the Rebel Angels, by Luca Giordano, 1660/1665, via Google Arts & Culture


“And the huge dragon was cast down and out – that age-old serpent,

Who is called the Devil and Satan,

he who is the seducer (deceiver) of all humanity the world over;

he was forced out and down to the earth,

and his angels were flung out along with him.”

Revelations 12:9


The Bible states the specific location of Satan and the demons in the aforementioned verse. The evil spiritual entities are on earth. That we cannot see them is irrelevant. Their presence and influence is what humanity needs to be concerned about.


Apart from being on earth, they also dwell in Hell. In the Italian classic, Dante’s Inferno, the author describes how the appearance of the devil has been altered greatly in Hell. Satan has three heads and three mouths, while Hell contains demons and evil gods. Demons are powerful spirits. However, they are neither omnipresent nor omniscient, like God. They are mostly portrayed in literature as ugly-looking mythical creatures.


death and the devil print
Death and the Devil Surprising two Women, by Daniel Hopfer, ca 1515, via the Met Museum


Demons can also possess (inhabit) human beings. Strong’s Concordance describes possession (δαιμονίζομαι) as the state of being under the power of a demon or evil spirit. During possession, the demon exerts influence on a human being and this spiritual influence manifests physically, emotionally, mentally, and psychologically.


Mark 9:25-27 is a perfect example of the manifestation of the spiritual into the physical world. Jesus expels a dumb and deaf spirit. This evil spirit had possessed a young boy and caused him to be deaf and dumb. This suggests that demons can alter the condition of a human being. They wield that much power. This does not imply that demon possession causes all physical disabilities. The Bible offers one of many explanations for the cause of disability.


We find more interesting evidence from the Bible about the extent of demonic influence on human beings in Mark 5:1-13. This is a narration of the story of a man who was possessed by a being or group of beings that calls itself Legion. The name Legion refers to the thousands of demons that inhabit one man.


The evil spirits by the name Legion had altered the man emotionally, mentally and psychologically, and everyone knew him as a madman. The man lived in a cemetery, a place of death and hopelessness. He couldn’t live with normal people because of the altered state of his mind.


tissot two possessed devils painting
The Two Possessed Men of Gerasa, by James Tissot, 1886-1894, via the Brooklyn Museum


The answer to what to do with demons or how to deal with demons is to expel them. Demons are evil spirits that are destructive. Jesus’ ministry dealt with demons by expelling them. Through the story of Legion, another secret and mystery is revealed. Not only can demons possess human beings, but they can also possess animals. Legion begs Jesus to be sent into a group of pigs, and he obliges. The evil spirits then possess the pigs, showing that demons can control any living creature.


God’s Will: Demons and Angels in the Bible

expulsion from paradise angels in the bible
The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise, by Giovanni di Paolo, 1445, via Google Arts & Culture


The fallen angels (demons) and those who remained with God are all under God’s authority. They don’t act on their own. When Satan attacked Job (Job 6), he had to ask for permission from God first. This is a revelation that explains the extent of Satan’s and his demons’ power. They cannot tempt or afflict those who believe in God without asking for God’s permission. They are still under God’s authority. God has control over demons and angels.

Author Image

By Tendai KashiriBA TheologyTendai is a Theologian who loves simplifying Christian doctrines so that everyone can understand the Gospel. Fascinated by the power the entertainment industry has on people, I express the simplicity of the Gospel through writing and recording gospel music. As an upcoming Gospel artist, reaching people with the Gospel in melody opens up interactions with people from different cultural backgrounds. I see the Gospel explained in different cultures. This fuels my passion to write about the Christian Gospel that transcends culture, race and age.