The following is a question we received in connection with our After Life series.

Are fallen angels demons? And if so, are they roaming the Earth? 2 Peter 2:4 says the angels were cast in to hell and kept until the judgment. 2 Peter was written approximately 67AD and Revelation was written as things to come so I was confused.

I. Are Fallen Angels Demons?

Scripture indicates that in Satan’s rebellion he took 1/3 of the host of angels into his scheme and, as a result, they were expelled from Heaven.

Revelation 12:3-4And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.

While Revelation does indeed speak to future events it does not only speak to future events. The book regularly draws on images and scenes from the Old Testament and history. In fact, there are a number of believers today and throughout history that believe the images of Revelation are repeated throughout human history. It seems likely that this is the case later in the same chapter where John explains the symbols of vs. 3-4: Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 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. (Revelation 12:7-9)

Jesus also refers to the devil and his angels in Matthew 25:41.

II. Are Demons Roaming the Earth?

Based on the testimony of Scripture we conclude that yes, demons are active on the Earth.

The Gospels and Acts are thick with activity of demons – they possess, cause some sicknesses, and generally oppose the work of Christ. However, their activity isn’t found only in the Gospels. Sean McDowell has summarized 1 what the New Testament says about the activity of demons on Earth this way:

Demons work to cause harm in the following ways:

Cause disease (Matthew 9:33; Luke 13:11, 16)

Possess unbelievers and animals (Matthew 4:24; Mark 5:13)

Work against the spiritual growth of Christians (Ephesians 6:12)

Spread lies about God, His work, and God’s people (1 Timothy 4:1)

III. How Can Demons Be Both Locked Away and Roaming the Earth?

A. Some Demons Are Currently Bound in God’s Judgment

2 Peter 2:4-5For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…

Jude 6And 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…

B. Apparently Some Demons Are Free but Fear Being Locked Away in Judgment

In Luke 8:26-33 Jesus exorcises a man containing a Legion of demons. When these demons first encounter Jesus they plead with Him: …they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss (vs. 31).

It appears that the demons who are free to work on Earth are aware of their compatriots held in chains and are terrified at the thought of being made to join them. That also seems to raise the possibility that Christ consigns demons to those chains from time to time.

C. It Is Possible These Demons Will Be Released for a Time in the Future

Revelation 9:1-11 records a judgment where a bottomless pit is opened and locusts which wound like scorpions are released to torment the people of earth. The text never identifies these creatures as demons but their tormenting work is consistent in kind with the work of demons and their being held in a bottomless pit may be a reference to the holding place of fallen angels. This, however, is speculative; it is unclear from the text if we should understand this passage in this way.

Notes:

  1. http://www.seanmcdowell.org/index.php/theology/what-does-the-bible-say-about-demons/

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