Do you believe in angels? What about demons? What do you think they look like? What do they do? Let’s explore what the Bible says!
What are angels?
God created angels to serve and glorify Him. They are mighty in strength, obeying and performing God’s Word, and doing His will. (Psalm 103:20-21) Angels are created beings. “Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His heavenly armies . . . for He commanded, and they were created” (Psalm 148:2, 5).
The Bible tells us that angels are spirits. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to provide service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)
Although the Bible often mentions myriads and thousands of angels, only two angels are named in the Bible:
- Michael the archangel: The Bible never records Michael as speaking to humans, but he helped fight against the “prince of Persia” (Daniel 10:13, 12), stands guard over the Israelites (Daniel 12:1), disputed with the devil over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9), and will wage war against Satan (Revelation 12:7).
- Gabriel: He appeared to the prophet Daniel twice, to explain visions (Daniel 8 and 9). Gabriel appeared twice in Luke 1, to the priest Zechariah to announce the impending birth of John (Luke 1:11-20), and, six months later, to announce to Mary she would give birth to Jesus (Luke 1:26-38).
What are demons?
Demons are fallen angels, also known in the Bible as evil spirits or unclean/impure spirits. Like angels, they are created spirit-beings and are powerful. Demons are “angels who did not keep their own domain but abandoned their proper dwelling place” (Jude 1:6).
Who do angels work for?
Angels work for God and on behalf of God’s people.
Who do demons work for?
Demons follow Satan (the devil, Lucifer) – chief of the fallen angels. Satan is in no way equal to God – he is created, with limited power and under God’s authority.
Satan and other angels rebelled against God. Several verses in the King of Tyre’s lament (Ezekiel 28:11-19) clearly aren’t about a human king, but about an “anointed cherub” who was in Eden – describing Satan’s fall:
“You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering . . .You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God . . .
You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you. . . You were internally filled with violence, and you sinned.
Therefore, I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, you covering cherub . . . Your heart was haughty because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I threw you to the ground.”
What do angels do?
1. Angels worship God.
Thousands of angels surround God’s heavenly throne, shouting praises (Revelation 5:11-12). The shepherds to whom an angel revealed Jesus’ birth were graced by the heavenly army of angels praising God (Luke 2:13-14).
2. God sends angels to bring messages to humans.
- Two angels told Abraham that his wife Sarah would give birth in the next year (Genesis 18).
- The same angels warned Lot to escape Sodom before God destroyed the city. When Lot hesitated, the two angels grabbed the hands of Lot, his wife, and his two daughters and ran with them out of the city (Genesis 19).
- An angel appeared to Joseph three times in dreams, telling him Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20-23), to flee to Egypt from King Herod (Matthew 2:13), and to return to Israel after Herod died (Matthew 2:19-20).
- Two angels greeted the women at Jesus’ tomb, told them Jesus had risen and to go tell His disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7).
- As Jesus ascended into heaven, two angels informed the disciples that Jesus would return in the same way they saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1:10-11)
3. Angels serve and support God’s people.
They are “ministering spirits, sent out to provide service” (Hebrews 1:14) They comforted the prophets Daniel and Zechariah, gave understanding of the visions they saw, and told them what to proclaim. (Daniel 9:21-27; Zechariah chapters 1-6).
4. Angels protect God’s people and little children.
- “He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways. On their hands they will lift you up.” (Psalm 91:11-12)
- “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him and rescues them (Psalm 34:7).
- Daniel explained, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me” (Daniel 6:22).
- Michael, prince of angels, stood guard over the Israelites (Daniel 12:1).
- When King Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed, an angel destroyed the Assyrian forces that were threatening Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:20-21).
- When the King of Aram sent an army to capture the prophet Elisha, God sent His own army of angels with chariots of fire (2 Kings 6:8-17).
- Jesus said, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)
- An angel rescued the apostles from prison, twice (Acts 5:17-20, Acts 12:7-10).
5. Angels carry out God’s judgment
- 70,000 men died of a plague in one morning. When King David saw the angel, he confessed and repented, and God told the angel to drop his hand (2 Samuel 24).
- King Herod allowed the people to worship him as a god, so an angel struck him, and he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:21-23).
- Seven angels will pour out the bowls of God’s wrath (Revelation 16:1).
- An angel will bind Satan with a great chain and throw him into the abyss for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-3).
6. Angels will wage war against Satan and his demons and people who reject God.
- They will return with Christ as a great army (Matthew 16:27) “in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
- God and His angels will war against Satan, the beast, the false prophet, the demons, and the nations and people that rebel against God and receive the mark of the beast (Revelation 18:1-2, 21-24, 19:11-21).
What do demons do?
- Demons enter humans, causing illness, disability, and symptoms of mental illness.
Some examples are the “deaf and mute spirit” in the boy with seizures (Mark 9:14-29), the woman bent over double for 18 years (Luke 13:11-13), the man possessed by a “legion” of spirits who ran naked through the tombs and had power to break chains and shackles (Luke 8:27-38), and the mute man (Matthew 9:32-33).
2. Satan and his demons tempt people to sin
(1 Chronicles 21:1, Acts 5:3, 1Thessalonians 3:5, Matthew 4:1-11, 2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan lured Adam and Eve into sin by questioning the goodness of God and the consequences of disobeying Him (Genesis 3:1-5). Satan entered into Judas before he betrayed Jesus (John 13:27). Satan is the crafty, cunning, great deceiver.
3. Satan and his demons are our adversaries.
They prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. We are to be on the alert and resist the devil and he will flee from us! (1 Peter 5:8-9, James 4:7) We should not give demons a foothold through our anger (Ephesians 4:26-27) nor an advantage through unforgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:10-11). We put on the full armor of God to withstand Satan’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11-18).
4. Satan, the chief demon, is the ruler or “god” of this world
(John 12:31, 2 Corinthians 4:4). He blinds the minds of the unbelieving and deceives the nations. He snatches away the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 13:19). Unlike God, Satan is not omnipresent, so his evil work is likely carried out around the world by his demons. Presently, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).
5. Satan and his demons can perform false signs and wonders
(2 Thess. 2:9, Deuteronomy 13:1-2, Matthew 24:24). This is why the Bible tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1).
What do we know about angels?
- Angels have a hierarchy. Michael is called an “archangel” (chief angel of superior rank) in Jude 1:9. Michael is called “one of the chief princes” in Daniel 10:13 and the “great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people” in Daniel 12:1.
- Angels do not get married (Matthew 22:30, Luke 20:34-36). The Bible never mentions female angels.
- Angels are incredibly powerful. One angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (2 Kings 19:35). Angels are “greater in might and power” than humans (2 Peter 2:11). However, in the age to come, we who are believers will judge the world – including angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).
- People who saw an angel were often struck with fear. The shepherds were “terribly frightened” when the angel announced the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:9). When the soldiers saw the angel at Jesus’ tomb, they “shook from fear of him and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4).
- We are not to worship angels. (Colossians 2:18) When John fell at the feet of an angel to worship him, the angel rebuked him, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brothers and sisters who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God!” (Revelation 19:10)
- Angels are keenly interested in humans’ relationship to God. “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Angels longed to look – to have a clear glimpse – of the gospel of Christ’s sufferings and the glories to follow and the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (1 Peter 1:11-12).
- Angels conveyed God’s Word to Moses and other Bible writers. “The word spoken through angels proved unalterable” (Hebrews 2:2). The law was “ordained by angels” (Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19). Moses “is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him at length on Mount Sinai” (Acts 7:38).
What do we know about demons?
Demons also have a hierarchy. Satan is “the prince of the power of the air . . . the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Like the good archangel Michael, some chief demons apparently have authority over specific regions. An angel told Daniel that he had immediately set out to bring the answer to Daniel’s prayer, but “the prince of the kingdom of Persia was standing in my way for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” (Daniel 10:13) A human prince would not have been able to block this magnificent angel – the prince of Persia was obviously a powerful demon.
Jesus gave His disciples power and authority over all the demons. “Now He called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all the demons, and the power to heal diseases” (Luke 9:1). “Now the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!’ And He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to walk on snakes and scorpions, and authority over all the power of the enemy’” (Luke 10:17-20).
Despite rebelling, demons believe that God is one – and shudder (James 1:19). We are not saved by correct theology (although it’s an important first step), but by our living faith in God –walked out in obedience.
How do angels react to God?
Angels react in love, adoration, and obedience. Angels obey God’s voice and perform His Word (Psalm 103:20). They praise God for His glory and strength (Psalm 29:1). Myriads of angels surround God’s throne, shouting out that the Lamb of God is worthy! (Revelation 5:9-10, 12-13)
How do demons react to God?
Demons shudder in fear (James 1:10) knowing they will be tortured at the appointed time (Matthew 8:29). When Jesus walked the earth, demons knew who He was (Mark 1:34), shouting, “You are the Son of God!” Jesus rebuked them, commanding them to be silent, as He cast them out of the people they were tormenting (Luke 4:33-35). The legion of demons possessing a man fell down before Jesus, begging Him not to send them to the abyss (Luke 8:26-33). Even in their rebellion, demons recognize God’s authority over them.
What do angels look like?
Angels are spirit-beings, so humans usually can’t see them unless God opens our eyes to see them. In Numbers 22:22-31, the donkey could see the angel blocking the road, but Balaam could not–until God opened his eyes. Elisha knew that angel armies surrounded their city, but his servant could not see them until God opened his eyes (2 Kings 6:15-17).
When God sends angels to bring messages to humans, they appear in human form, looking like a man, often wearing a dazzling white robe (Daniel 8:15, Matthew 28:2, Acts 1:10). When the women entered Jesus’ tomb they saw a “young man” wearing a white robe (Mark 16:5). Some angels appear so ordinary that they aren’t recognized: “Do not neglect hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
What do demons look like?
The Bible never describes a demon’s appearance (except Satan, before the fall), only what they said and did.
Daniel described one angel as “a certain man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold . . . his body was like beryl, his face like the brilliance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of polished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” (Daniel 10:5-6)
The appearance of the angel who rolled away the stone from Jesus’ tomb “was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).
The Bible gives extensive descriptions of several apparently angelic beings:
- Cherubim: Psalm 99:1 says that God is enthroned above the cherubim. Ezekiel 10 describes the four cherubim in the temple as having human-like hands under their four wings, and their appearance was like a wheel between a wheel. Their bodies were covered with eyes. They have four faces (a lion, a cherub, an eagle, and a man).
- Seraphim: Isaiah 6:2 says they stand above God’s throne and have six wings (they fly with two, cover their face with two, and cover their feet with two). Isaiah heard one cry out to the other, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of armies, the whole earth is full of His glory,” and the foundations of the temple shook at his voice. The word “Seraphim” means “fiery one.”
- Four living creatures: Revelation 4:6-11 says they surround God’s throne, having six wings, four faces (a lion, a calf, an eagle, and a man), and full of eyes. They might be the seraphim of Isaiah 6 (both have six wings, and they both cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord”), but the four faces and body full of eyes also seems like the cherubim.
Four living creatures are also described in Ezekiel 1: each have four faces (a lion, an ox, an eagle, and a man), but four wings (like the cherubim) instead of six. These creatures are under the throne of God, so likely they are cherubim.
The Bible only describes the prince of demons, Satan, who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Angels’ eternal destination
The eternal destination of angels is with us in heaven! Revelation 19-22 describes them as being there, with God, falling down and worshiping Him, at the marriage of the Lamb, waging war against the nations, and with God in the new heaven and earth.
Demons’ eternal destination
Revelation 20:10 tells us “the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Demons will join Satan there, as Jesus said the eternal fire was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).
Myths about angels and demons
We often see angels depicted in artwork as fat babies or kind women. Yet, the Bible never speaks of child angels or women angels.
Another common myth is that people become angels when they die. “They got their wings,” is a common saying. Humans do not become angels – ever! God created us in His image. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him” (1 John 3:2).
A third common myth is the appearance of Satan and his demons dressed in red with horns, a pointy tail and holding a pitchfork. All myth! Nothing like that is in the Bible. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. He and his demons operate in deception.
What the Bible says about angels and demons is intriguing and faith-building. We rejoice that God’s angels serve, support, and protect us, and that we can join with them in worship of God (Hebrews 12:22). We need to be on the alert against the strategies of Satan and his demons, so we are not led astray into sin or false beliefs.