A Biblical Case for Demons and Fallen Angels being the Same Thing…and Why it Matters
By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
I bow before our Lord and offer this blog in a spirit of tenderness and humility…and gratitude to the Lord Jesus who triumphed over all evil.
Let us begin this study with a clear affirmation of the victory of the Lord Jesus over all evil!! Amen!
Colossians 2:15 “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Many godly, sincere, and knowledgeable people are stating that there is a distinction in the bible between demons, unclean spirits, and fallen angels. Indeed, not a few respected folks state that fallen angels are particularly in doubt regarding their identity. However, I humbly offer this analysis in an attempt to show that all three are the same….focusing on the identity of Fallen Angels.
A year ago I posted an extensive blog which shows that unclean spirits and demons are the same thing in the bible.
Here is the link:
Please see comments on Revelation below as well). Not a few people were saying demons and unclean spirits were different beings, and I felt the need to address the issue. Please keep in mind that my main goal in this blog is to analyze fallen angels…but, specifically, I want to show that they are the same as unclean spirits and demons. My intent is NOT to focus on the question of when fallen angels fell, but their identity. I personally think that the classical view is correct—Satan and 1/3 of the angels “fell’ sometime before the creation of man, and Genesis 6 is a further rebellion of some of the already fallen angels/demons.
In my theological tradition/denomination (Reformed/Presbyterian) the identity of fallen angels is not in dispute. The classical view is pretty much universally held amongst Reformed theologians. For example, I was reading Jonathan Edwards recently and my views line up with his. But the ultimate guide must be the bible, and not a theological tradition, the book of Enoch, or any other non-canonical book. In addition, we must avoid the temptation to believe the views of someone regarding fallen angels simply because we deeply admire their piety, ministry, etc. Sola scriptura!
Colossians 2:15 “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him”. Let us keep this truth center stage!
There are numerous words used in NT just to describe Satan: devil, evil one, Lucifer, Angel of Light, Accuser, etc. In His all-wise sovereignty, God chose to use different words to identify Satan. Surely one reason was to reveal to us the multi-faceted nature of his being and work, so that we might be all the more informed and prepared—and the more we understand the evilness and power of our enemy, then the cosmic victory Jesus won on the cross will shine with all the more luster!
And of course, think of the dozens of names and titles of our Lord Jesus in both the OT and NT, which accent different aspects of the multi-splendored nature of His Person and Work!
So, we have a precedent/s in which the same person (Satan) or Person (Jesus) is called many different names, in God’s all-wise revelation to us. Hence, should we not expect that the devil’s subordinates would have multiple names as well, yet be the same entity? I believe that what holds true of Satan, is also true of his subordinates--evil spirits, demons, unclean spirits, elemental spirits (Col. 2:9, 20), rulers, authorities, cosmic powers (Eph 6), the devil’s angels (Matthew 25, Revelation 12) are different names for the same entity. That is my premise. Each of these is designed to accent a certain aspect of their nature and activity. But once again, the darkness of evil is the backdrop against which the brilliance and refulgence of God’s glory in Christ shines more brightly!
It simplifies the biblical data without endlessly multiplying the entities populating the spirit realm…and we’ve seen the precedents for this practice of multiple names for the same Person or person.
What’s the big deal? Why waste time on this issue? And aren’t you fixating on evil instead of Jesus?
If the spirit realm is populated by more than one kind of evil spirit, then are we to deal with these different spirits in different ways? Is one stronger than another? I have heard numerous times that fallen angels are the strongest, then demons, and unclean spirits the weakest…or some variation of this. There is no doubt that some demons are stronger than others—as Jesus said that “this kind can only come out by prayer”, as well as the NT words that indicate hierarchy in demonic realm. However, this hierarchy does not imply that these are different “kinds” of entities….just variation in rank and strength. Think of the military—a general and private have different authority, but they are both soldiers.
Once you add even one more spirit, then the slippery slope comes into view. What is to keep us from multiplying these evil spirits phenomenologically--by how they appear and act…which can be endless? But most importantly, we MUST exegete the bible accurately, in honor of God. God’s precious, holy Word is worthy of careful exegesis and analysis of all topics if we are to accurately expound the whole counsel of God, which would include the identity of spirits in the spirit realm. 24/7 we are in warfare with these beings, so it is an immensely practical issue.
Some may say that I am giving the devil too much emphasis, but surely there is a difference between having a clear understanding of our adversaries, and fixating on them. In fact, it is LACK of clarity that can lead to confusion, and thus, fixation. Don’t we naturally obsessively ponder things that are confusing to us? Once it is cleared up (hopefully accurately), then we can enjoy cognitive rest. As always, we must then make a bee-line for the cross.
One last word of introduction: I’m not writing this to score debate points, but with a spirit of brokenness and humility, to God’s glory and to edify the saints.
So, who are fallen angels, and are they demons, as the classical view states? Given that some ‘big names’ have stated publicly that the identity of fallen angels is unclear, we must reaffirm that we are bound by the bible, and not by people that we may deeply respect.
1. My first argument (as defined in formal logic) is admittedly not explicitly biblical. Ockham’s razor states that: the simplest answer that explains the phenomena is to be preferred. Affirming that that unclean spirits, demons, and fallen angels (as well as elementals, etc) are the same entity is clearly the simplest explanation, and can easily and adequately explain all the biblical and experiential phenomena. No, it is not a biblical argument (logical argument, not red-faced screaming), but my reasoning is cumulative. God is the Lord of language, and He knows that using different names can accent different aspects of the same entity. If demons and unclean spirits can be (are) the same thing, then why not fallen angels?
2. 1 Timothy 5:21 speaks of “elect angels”, which is an obvious reference to good angels. In the bible there are elect and non-elect humans (Romans 9), so we may properly infer that if there are elect angels, then there must be non-elect or (bad or fallen) angels. It is the same Greek word for ‘elect’. Regardless of your view of election/predestination, there is symmetry of elect and non-elect. If you don’t like inference argumentation, then hang on.
3. Matthew 25…
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'
40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (to diabolo kai tois angelos autou)
42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
44 Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?'
45 Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'
46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (emphasis added)
Matthew 25….The context is the Second Coming of Christ and the Final Judgment. Note in v. 31 good angels are mentioned, and in v. 41 ‘the devil and his angels” (elect and non-elect) Nobody claims that “fallen angels” is a phrase actually used in the bible, but the key is whether there are bad angels, who had to fall at some time because God didn’t make them bad. Regardless, this text shows ‘fallen angels’ at the public Last Judgment…which means they must have had a very significant role in the overall rebellion against God from the dawn of time. Neither demons nor unclean spirits are mentioned in this text, yet we read elsewhere in Matthew (and throughout bible) of their constant activity of rebelling against God and attacking humans. Clearly, these devil’s angels or ‘fallen angels’ had been the chief agents of spiritual destruction on earth under Satan’s leadership, or they wouldn’t have been singled out so severely by Jesus. Hence, we see a developing pattern of synonymous usage of demons, unclean spirits, and ‘fallen/bad’ angels.
When you read the gospel of Matthew, both demons and unclean spirits are mentioned numerous times, as the agents of diabolical destruction. But in this awful scene of the Last Judgment, Matthew refers to these same entities as the devils angels. I say this gently and humbly, but this one text should be conclusive.
The devil and his angels—that comes as close to what is meant by fallen angels as one can get. Theologians often use terms not mentioned in the bible (like The Trinity) to summarize biblical teaching. Surely, the devil’s angels (as opposed to God’s holy angels) are innumerable, utterly evil, and Satan’s only army since the dawn of history.
At the Last Judgment, the goats (damned humans), Satan, and his angels are consigned to eternity in hell. Demons are not mentioned. Unclean spirits are not mentioned. But ‘Satan’s angels’ are mentioned. Obviously these ‘fallen angels” have been the army of Satan fighting against God/man since the beginning….what we are warned against in Ephesians 6.
Matthew 25 is a summary of all of human and cosmic history, where the Son of Man damns both unbelieving humans, and their spiritual counterparts who have been His adversaries (and ours) since the dawn of time. In light of this one text, how can we say that the identity of fallen angels is in doubt? If you prefer the term ‘devil’s angels,’ that is fine, but that is what theologians mean when they speak of fallen angels.
And most importantly for our purpose, “the devil’s angels” are clearly synonymous with demons and unclean spirits. If they aren’t the same, then why does Matthew show demons and unclean spirits as constantly attacking and possessing humans, but turns around and has God pronounce eternal judgment on the devils angels at the Last Judgment? It makes no sense UNLESS, they are one and the same. There is linguistic and theological symmetry of angels, good and bad, in Matthews’s presentation of The Last Judgment. Other than in Revelation, the phrase ‘the devil/Satan and his angels’ is not used, but these are sufficient. The pronouncement of damnation against the fallen angels has to signify that they have been the same culprits mentioned throughout the NT, but called by different names.
To say that these are the angels mentioned in Genesis 6 is eisogesis because the context precludes that interpretation. Besides, the angels in Genesis 6 are said to be already in hell.
4. Jude….2 Peter
6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day--
7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.
9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you."
10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.
11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion.
14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,
15 to execute judgment
My point about this text is that it is consistently and symmetrically angelic….both good and bad angels. Leaving aside the nature of their sin in v. 6, evil angels (whether they were evil before this event is not clear), clearly the angels are fallen angels now, and some are probably in hell (depending on how one interprets the sin in v.6)—but most are active on earth and being blasphemed by the false teachers. In v. 10 Jude is especially (like Peter in parallel text) concerned with the false teacher’s lack of respect for angelic beings, especially bad angels. Curiously enough, in v. 10 the remaining fallen angels are referred to as “glorious ones”…(Greek, doxas), probably to offset the false teachers flippant attitude toward demonic spirits/fallen angels. This is supported by the next verse in which the arch-angel Michael refused to speak flippantly against his arch-foe Satan (once a mighty, holy angel himself) regarding the body of Moses. And then in v.14 the Lord will come with countless ‘holy ones’—an obvious reference to holy angels. My point is that, if you don’t get bogged down in interpretive details of the sin in v. 6, then the consistency and symmetry of references to both good and fallen angels is clear—even Michael is an angel, though an archangel. The angels who fell into sin (v.6)…Satan a fallen mighty angel…Michael an (arch)angel….and the countless holy angels coming with the Lord. So, the context is ANGELS, and would suggest that the ‘glorious ones’ are fallen angels….and that fallen angels are the same as demons. It makes much more sense than bouncing back and forth between different kinds of evil spirits. This is a tight argument by Jude, in which angels (both good and bad) play a key role in the everyday affairs of mankind, especially amongst the false teachers.
Arguments from Revelation—
There are many different interpretations of this book (only one is right), so I’m not going to go in as much detail as some may like. But there is a general consensus that the movement of the book is from the things that were then present to the future…climaxing with the destruction of God’s enemies and the coming of the new heaven and earth. But within this general temporal movement forward, the visions sometimes ‘double back’ to the present, complementary perspectives on the same event or phase of the conflict between Christ and Satan.
In this flow, back and forth, the Greek word for demon is used:9:20; 16:13-14 (where demons and unclean spirits are used interchangeably);18:2.
In 12:7,9 bad or fallen angels are mentioned…Satan and his angels.
My point is simple: in the midst of the wild imagery of apocalyptic prophecy, there is a natural flow and interchangeability between demons, unclean spirits, and the devil’s angels/fallen angels.
Satan Thrown Down to Earth
12:7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels (hoi angelo autou)fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels (hoi angelo autou)fought back,
8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
This chapter, as with most, is hotly debated as far as when these events occur. May be multi-layered.Some see this as referring to the cross, some to original ousting from heaven, and still others to increased demonic activity prior to the very end. Perhaps there is overlap. Regardless, the cross is center stage at whatever point in redemptive history. In our study of fallen angels, let us not lose sight of that vital fact!
Note in v. 7 that Michael and his angels are fighting against the dragon (Satan) and his angels. There is a linguistic symmetry (hoi angelo autou) as well as symmetry of oppositional parties. Satan’s counterpart is not God, but Michael—the archangel and prince guardian of the church--, and they lead their respective angels against each other in the cosmic battle of the ages—long term and at the end. Good angels vs bad/fallen angels have been in a battle royal for eons. .
Not once, but twice, Satan/serpent/devil/dragon and his angels (hoi angelo autou) are explicitly mentioned as being the infernal army thrown to earth to fight against the Messiah and His people. The timing of this ‘casting down’ is disputed, but certainly the context reveals that Satan and the fallen angels are simply following the same MO that they employed from the Garden—where lies and false teaching continue, as well as persecution and temptation. What are elsewhere in Revelation called demons, are here called “Satan’s angels”—just as in Matthew 25. And the fallen angels are THE spiritual agents of destruction (under Satan) throughout history, aimed at God’s Kingdom…again, as in Matthew 25. My purpose is not to exegete the text in Revelation and the details, but to show that the devil’s angels/evil/fallen angels are center stage in Revelation 12…in what is a classic, significant text in Revelation, no matter how one interprets it.
What is clear to me is that the context reveals that this event is not an isolated one, but signifies the battle in general and that we have the victory in Jesus. Satan has been defanged as far as his ability to accuse us. However, the devil has been thrown down in great wrath, because he knows his time is short. (V. 12) In addition, in v. 4 many interpreters see this as the original fall of Satan and 1/3 of the angels with him.
9:20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons (daimonia) and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk,
21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Again, I’ll not get bogged down in disputed details, but what is clear is that though unbelievers will be tortured by the very demons they worshipped, they don’t take heed from these final warnings. Large numbers of people are subjected to God’s wrath and demonic attack. Whereas in Ch. 12 the oppositional army consists of “Satan and his angels”, in ch.9 the same opposition are called “demons.”.Surely this is instructive.
16:12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east.
13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits (pneumata tria akatharta) like frogs.
14 For they are demonic spirits,(pneumata daimoniown) performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.
In ch.16 the end has come…the final, decisive battle. Divine restraints are removed and Satan and his unclean spirits/demons assemble the world for the battle; climaxing millennia of opposition to God and His people. God will utterly squash this rebellion, based on the finished work of Christ on the cross. Please note that the army which was earlier called “Satan and his angels” is now called “the dragon/Satan and his unclean spirits/demons.” In the span of two verses, John naturally switches from unclean spirits to demons.
Is it not clear by now that demons, unclean spirits, and fallen angels are the same evil beings?
18:1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory.
2 And he called out with a mighty voice, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast
Notice again, how in v.2 demons and unclean spirits are used interchangeably. Destruction has come on God’s enemies. Not focusing on interpretive details, we see that the oppositional army consists of demons or unclean spirits, which were earlier called “Satan and his angels.”
Does not the verbiage in Matthew 25 now make more sense? Putting aside all the apocalyptic imagery in the book of Revelation, we have a clear portrait of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25, which dispels any fog surrounding the sadistic spiritual culprits.
I trust by now that the cumulative effect of these “arguments” has had its desired effect. demons, unclean spirits, and fallen angels are different names for the same entity. I am not interested in winning an argument, but I want to honor God by trying to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
The more clearly we understand our enemy, the more lovely Jesus’’ triumph over this evil becomes. Yes, it is important to know our enemy, but it’s infinitely more important that we relish in the cosmic victory our blessed Savior accomplished.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.