What Are Demons?

Updated on July 15, 2019
Larry Slawson profile image

Larry Slawson received his Masters Degree in History at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.

Demons: Who Are They? Where Do They Come From?
Demons: Who Are They? Where Do They Come From?

Introduction

Throughout this work, we will examine the reality of demons, according to the Bible. Who are they, and where do these spirits come from? In more recent years, there has been a growing sense of “unbelief” in churches pertaining to the existence of Satan and demon spirits. Many churches today teach that there is no such thing as a “personal” Satan, and that the devil only serves as a representation of evil, personified. A thorough examination of Scripture, however, shows us that Satan and demon spirits (or unclean spirits) not only exist, but thrive across the world today. The basis of this article (and this author’s knowledge) relies exclusively on the Word of God. However, as with any reading or interpretation of the Bible, it is this author’s hope (and belief) that his readers will thoroughly research any of the statements contained in this work; using the Bible as their sole source of inspiration and revelation, and not the words or interpretations presented by one individual.

Are Demons Real?
Are Demons Real?

Are Demons Real?

The Bible clearly states that there is a personal Devil and demon spirits that inhabit our world today. It also teaches that demons are encountered at every turn of the road, and that their main mission is to prevent individuals from getting to Christ. To do so, they often work through both friends and foes to provide resistance to individuals who seek to understand Christ and his Word. The Bible teaches us that there are two great spiritual forces at work in the world today: one is the Holy Spirit, who works in the hearts and lives of born-again believers, while the other is Satan, who works through his fallen angels and demon spirits in the lives of the lost.

There are numerous Bible verses that discuss the existence of Satan and his demons. James 2:19, for example, states: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” “Devils” in this context translates to “demons,” and is represented in the plural form, indicating the presence of many. Revelation 9:20 also states: “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons (plural) and idols of gold.”

Powers of Demons
Powers of Demons

Powers of Demons

Satan (and demons in general) are capable of performing supernatural phenomena, or imitations of the Holy Spirit that are often difficult for unsaved individuals to distinguish between. As a result, their work is often deceitful and can, at times, appear as both honest and good-natured at first-glance. The Bible also teaches us that demons are spirits. In Matthew 12:42, 45, the Bible states: “When the unclean spirit is gone and out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none…Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there.” Scripture often refers to demons as “unclean spirits,” “wicked spirits,” “dumb spirits,” or “vicious spirits.” In Ephesians 6:12, the Bible states: “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.”

Bible doctrine also shows us that demon spirits are both real and personal, and even spoke with the Lord Jesus Christ during His time on Earth, and recognized His position of supreme authority. In Matthew 8:31, the Bible gives us a recorded conversation that demons carried on with Christ. It states: “So the demons besought him, saying, if thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.” Likewise, Mark 1:23-24 states: “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.”

As this verse demonstrates, demon spirits are capable of both entering and controlling man and beasts. Once they get complete control of an individual, the victim is often completely helpless. Only the power of God can break demon control and deliver the individual from his power. This point is illustrated in Mark 5:8, when Christ commanded a demon to “Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” This verse not only shows that the unclean spirit had absolute possession of the helpless individual, but that it could only be released by the direct command of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Mark 5:11-13 elaborates on this truth, further, by stating: “Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the demons besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.”

This portion of Scripture shows us that demon spirits not only knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but that they also recognized his supreme authority and the future fate that awaits them in the pits of hell. Despite this recognition, however, notice that demons never refer to Jesus as “Lord.” In the eighth chapter of Matthew, the demon spirits stated: “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” Rather than giving Jesus his appropriate title of “Lord,” the demons refer to him as “Jesus of Nazareth,” or “Jesus, thou son of God.” Some scholars believe that this is one way to determine the presence of demon-possession in an individual. Nowhere in the Bible will you find an example of a demon referring to Christ as “Lord,” as they do not recognize his “Lordship.” Jesus is Christ’s name in His humiliation as our Saviour; whereas Christ refers to the “Anointed One” which refers to His office as Priest. “Lord,” however, refers to His title, and means “Jehovah,” which is “God on the throne,” and “God as Sovereign.” Why does this matter? Knowing Jesus as LORD is the only way for an individual to be saved. As Romans 10:9 states: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth JESUS AS LORD, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the death, thou shalt be saved.” No individual can believe in his heart for salvation until he first bows and confesses Jesus as his personal LORD. The Saviourship of Christ is hidden in the Lordship of Christ, and the work of demons is to keep individuals from bowing to Him as Lord. This is why demons never call Him “Lord.”

Finally, also notice the final portion of the eighth chapter, which states: “Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” In this final statement, it is clear that demons understand that they will eventually be confined to a place of torment. “Before the time” is indicative of this understanding.

What Are Demons?  Where Do They Come From?
What Are Demons? Where Do They Come From?

What Are Demons? Where Did They Come From?

As we have already discussed, the Bible teaches us that there is one devil called Satan, which is also known as the dragon, the old serpent, the accuser, slanderer, or the adversary. I Peter 5:8 gives a description of Satan with the following: “Your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is also referred to as the “old serpent,” which points to not only his cunning character, but also his subtleness that allows him to poison all that he touches under the guise of freedom and “the good life,” while his description as “the old dragon” denotes a spirit that is bent on the destruction of human souls.

The Bible also teaches that there are two types of spiritual beings that follow in the work of Satan. Satan’s angels, are fallen angels who fell into sin and rebellion and were cast out of heaven along with Satan. Fallen angels, according to the Bible, are under the direct rule of Satan. This fact is recorded in Matthew 12:24, which states: “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils (demons) but by Beelzebub the prince (or chief) of the devils.” There is also a second class, however, known as demon spirits which are distinct from the fallen angels in that they are disembodied spirits. The Bible never states clearly who these spirits are. The only clear thing about these spirits (along with fallen angels) is that they are ruled by Satan. As Ephesians 6:12 states: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Bible scholars believe that fallen angels represent both “principalities and powers,” in this verse, whereas demon spirits are representative of the great host of wicked spirits in the heavenlies.

Are Demons Fallen Angels?
Are Demons Fallen Angels?

Are Demons Fallen Angels?

One particular question that arises, however, is where did demon spirits come from? If fallen angels once resided in heaven, where does this second class of demon spirits come from? Are demons fallen angels? According to Genesis 1:28, we learn that when God created man and placed him on the Earth, He said to Adam and Eve, “Be Fruitful, and multiply, and REPLENISH the earth, and subdue it.” Notice the word “replenish,” which in this context means to “fill again” or to “repopulate” according to definitions set forth in any dictionary source. The Lord made this same statement to Noah after the Flood in Genesis 9:1, saying again: “Be fruitful, multiply, and REPLENISH the earth.” Some Bible scholars have posited that this means that the earth was inhabited with some sort of race before they were destroyed in Genesis 1:2, and that demon spirits may have derived from disembodied spirits from the pre-Adamic race. As the Bible does not elaborate on this matter, however, it is impossible to know the answer to this with any level of certainty.

Characteristics and Traits of Demon Spirits

A major characteristic of demon spirits, according to the Bible, is that they always seek a body to live in. Bodies can be in the form of both man and animal. It is also clear that these spirits do not like to wander about the world as disembodied. In the case of the man who was possessed in Gadara, this point is illustrated exceptionally well, as the demons asked the Lord Jesus: “Do not send us to the abyss, but let us go into the herd of swine.”

Another characteristic of demon spirits is that they are both wicked and unclean. In Luke 4:33, this point is illustrated in the description of a man who was possessed. It states: “And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean demon, and cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone.” In the majority of cases in the Bible, demons are described as “unclean,” which means that their purpose is to lead individuals into a life of lust and adultery. This gives us cause for both their fall and God’s judgement upon them. Perversion and lust, as a result, are often indicative of the influence of demons.

Demon spirits are also rebellious. Recall how we discussed the refusal of demons to recognize Jesus as “Lord.” Although they are bound to His authority, they refuse to recognize His title. You will not find one instance in the Bible where Satan, his fallen angels, his demon spirits, or enemies of Christ referred to Jesus as “Lord.” In addition to their uncleanness, this is another reason why these spirits fell, as they would not obey Christ as Lord.

“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Satan), the spirit (demon) that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”

— Ephesians 2:2 (KJV)

Influence of Demons

Every individual walks after the will and energy of demon spirits, according to Ephesians 2:2: “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Satan), the spirit (demon) that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Every individual out of Christ (that is not saved by His redeeming blood), is either demon possessed or influenced by demons. However, these individuals do no realize it, and never will until the Holy Spirit awakens their heart and mind to their depravity. It is only through God that an individual is awakened to this truth, and realizes that they are controlled by a power beyond their own strength and will (demon spirits). Even Mary Magdalene was possessed by demons, and had seven of these unclean spirits cast out of her. The man of Gadara possessed an entire legion of demons. If we follow the number of individuals represented by a Roman legion of foot-soldiers, the term “legion” refers to a number somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 demons in this one individual alone.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 also lays out the sphere of demon activity in this world. It states: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” The word “seducing” means to lead astray, lead out of the right path, lead contrary to God’s Word and God’s Will. That is one of the main purposes and characteristics of demon spirits, as they possess a deep hatred of God. This verse also shows us that in the last days, there will be a great falling away from the body of Divine Truth, with many individuals listening wholeheartedly to the doctrines espoused by demon spirits and their twisting of Scriptural truths. So influential are these spirits that unsaved individuals (particularly unsaved religionists) will believe these false doctrines to be the actual Word of God. Demon spirits often work directly with the Scriptures in their influence, as it allows them to not only minimize the blood redemption of the Lord Jesus, but also allows them to belittle Christ, caricature the Bible, and shave all the doctrines of God’s salvation of their positive edge; coloring Scripture with their own perverted doctrines in the form of false cults, false religions, and false teachings. By working in the realm of religion, demons are able to lead individuals astray while simultaneously corrupting the Word of God.

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Conclusion

In closing, the only hope for individuals in a world corrupted by the influence of demons and demon spirits is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that is preached under the power of the Holy Spirit. Only through the Lord Jesus can an individual escape the captivity and influence of demon spirits, and be delivered from their presence. No work or action can diminish this fact. Only through Holy Spirit conviction and the blood atonement of Christ can the influence of demons be destroyed in one’s life.

Works Cited:

Shelton, L.R. “The Reality of Demons: Who They Are and How They Work.” Walker, Louisiana: Radio Missions, “Voice of Truth.”

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Larry Slawson

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      • deborahodaniel profile image

        Deborah O Daniel 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, TX

        Very Good Post! However, I need to point out that Mary Magdalene was not the earthly mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ (as you stated). Mary Magdalene was a Jewish woman who was demon-possessed, but gladly delivered by Jesus Christ. She became one of His closest followers soon afterwards, and supported His ministry to a very large extent. She was also privileged to have witnessed His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Shalom!

      • profile image

        Deborah O Daniel 

        3 weeks ago

        Very Good Post! However, I need to point out that Mary Magdalene was not the earthly mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ (as you stated). Mary Magdalene was a Jewish women who was demon-possessed, but gladly delivered by Jesus Christ. She became one of His closest followers soon afterwards, and supported His ministry to a very large extent. She was also privileged to have witnessed His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Shalom!

      • Larry Slawson profile imageAUTHOR

        Larry Slawson 

        7 weeks ago from North Carolina

        Thank you everyone! I'm glad each of you enjoyed. Not sure what motivated me to write this Hub, but I'm glad I did. I hope everyone finds it informative.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        7 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

        I am glad that my church believes in the literal translation of the Bible. I have read those verses, and you wrote exactly what the Bible teaches. Nice article Larry.

      • Cheryl E Preston profile image

        Cheryl E Preston 

        7 weeks ago from Roanoke

        Excellent. 100% accurate based on what I have read.

      • Pam Morris profile image

        Pam Morris 

        7 weeks ago from Atlanta Georgia

        Hello Larry, you wrote on a topic that needs to be put out in the open. It a subject that many fail to understand or refuse to gain understanding. Except they truly do not know the importance of knowing who the "Devil" is and what are "Demons?" It is a difference between the devil and demons. The devil is one and demons mean more than one(many). What most do not know the characteristics of Demon spirits nor do they understand the power of demons. People fail to perceive unless you know what demons are you can't be covered or protected against them.

        Also, some people try to have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 we can't do that. 20: No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21: You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.

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