Demons

DEMONS (Gr. daimonia). Evil spirits (Matt.8.16; Luke.10.17, Luke.10.20; cf. Matt.17.18 and Mark.9.25). The immaterial and incorporeal nature of both Satan and his demon hosts is graphically set forth by the apostle Paul when he describes the believer’s intense conflict as being “not against flesh and blood” but against “rulers,” “authorities,” “powers of this dark world,” and “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph.6.12). Again the nonmaterial and incorporeal character of demons is hinted in the expression “The prince of the powers of the air, the spirits that are now at work in the hearts of the sons of disobedience” (Eph.2.2 weymouth).

The apostle John likewise stresses the incorporeality of demons in his reference to pneumata daimoniōn in Rev.16.14. The construction is a genitive of apposition that defines the general term “spirits,” which may be either good or bad, in this case bad or “demon-spirits.”

As purely spiritual beings or personalities, demons operate above the laws of the natural realm and are invisible and incorporeal. The Bible presents them as such, and thus they are free from the magical rites and exorcistic rigmarole that contaminate ethnic and rabbinic demonology. The Word of God, however, does recognize the miracle whereby natural law may be temporarily transcended and residents of the spirit world glimpsed (2Kgs.2.11; 2Kgs.6.17). On this principle John in apocalyptic vision saw the awful last-day eruption of locust-demons from the abyss (Rev.9.1-Rev.9.12), as well as the three hideous frog-like spirits that emanate from the satanic trinity (the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet) in the Tribulation to muster the world’s armies to their predestined doom at Armageddon (Rev.16.13-Rev.16.16).

As spirit personalities, demons have an intellectual nature through which they possess superhuman knowledge. Plato’s etymology of daimōn from an adjective meaning “knowledge” or “intelligent” points to these as the basic characteristics of demonic nature. Scripture features the shrewdness of demons. They know Jesus (Mark.1.24), bow to him (Mark.5.6), describe him as “the Son of the Most High God” (Mark.5.7), entreat him (Luke.8.31), obey him (Matt.8.16), corrupt sound doctrine (1Tim.4.1-1Tim.4.5), conceal the truth of Christ’s incarnate deity and sole saviorhood (1John.4.1-1John.4.3), and comprehend prophecy and their inevitable doom (Matt.8.29).

Because of their superhuman knowledge, demons are consulted by spiritistic mediums, who allow themselves to get under the control of evil spirits for oracular purposes (1Sam.28.1-1Sam.28.25; Acts.16.16), as is seen in both ancient and modern spiritism, erroneously called “spiritualism.”


In addition to their superhuman intelligence and moral depravity, demons possess terrible physical strength, imparting it to the human body (Luke.8.29) and binding their victims as with chains and with physical defects and deformities (Luke.13.11-Luke.13.17) such as blindness (Matt.12.22), insanity (Matt.8.26-36), dumbness (Matt.9.32-Matt.9.33), and suicidal mania (Mark.9.22).

Demons under the leadership of Satan seek to oppose God’s purposes and to hinder man’s welfare. So intimately bound up are they with their prince leader that their work and his are identified rather than differentiated. Thus the earthly life of our Lord is said to have consisted in going about “doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts.10.38). Certainly much of this so-called oppression by the devil was the work of the demons, as a cursory examination of the gospel records will show.

Demons are of two classes—those who are free with the earth and the air as their abode (Eph.2.2; Eph.6.11-Eph.6.12; Col.1.13) and those who are imprisoned in the abyss (Luke.8.31; Rev.9.1-Rev.9.11; Rev.20.1-Rev.20.3). The abyss is only the temporary prison house of evil spirits, which must surrender its doleful inhabitants to Gehenna or the “lake of fire” (Matt.25.41), the eternal abode of Satan, demons, and unsaved human beings.

Bibliography: E. Langton, The Essentials of Demonology, 1949; G. B. Caird, Principalities and Powers, 1956; M. F. Unger, Demons in the World Today, 1971; J. Richards, But Deliver Us From Evil, 1974.——MFU