Demons: the apostate angels. Their war against mankind
by: Th. I. Riginiotis
It is a basic Christian teaching that God did not create demons as demons; they were originally among the angel hosts created by God in the beginning, who then chose to turn away from Him, thus forfeiting the light and ending up on the 'dark side'.
Three passages of the Bible are considered as pertinent to the fall of the devil and the angels that chose to follow him:
A) Isaiah, chapter 14, verses 12-15 (and further):
“How has the light-carrying angel fallen from the heavens, who arose in the morning? He crashed down to earth – the one who sent light to all nations. You thought in your mind: ‘I shall ascend to heaven; I shall set my throne above the stars of heaven; I shall seat myself on a high mountain - on the high mountains towards the north; I shall ascend above the clouds; I shall be alike to the Most High!’. And now, you shall descend into Hades and the foundations of the earth.”
As a more immediate reference, these words by the prophet could have implied the fall of the king of Babylon. But, as occurring in many prophecies, a second, spiritual reference can also be implied, in regard to the arrogance of a specific, glorious archangel, who ended up an apostate that fell far away from God.
It was from this point on that the ringleader of the apostate demons was nicknamed 'Lucifer' – the Latin rendition of the olden Greek term of ‘Eos-phoros’ meaning ‘he who brings the dawn or the first light’.
The ancient Greeks had named the first star that appears in the morning sky as Áõãåñéíüò (=the Dawn Star -pronounced Av-yeri-nüs); for the Church, this term is often given a positive meaning and is used, not as a reference to the devil, but as a characterization of the Saints, whose teaching had brought the Light of Christ to the whole world - indicatively, the Three Hierarchs, who are also characterized as 'light-bearers’.
The corresponding Latin term of ‘Lucifer’ is derived from the word ‘lux’ (=light) and ‘ferre’ (=to carry, bring).
B) The second verse is in Luke, chapter 10, verse 18. We quote it in context herebelow (verses 17-20):
“And the seventy came back with joy, saying: ‘Lord, even the demons subject themselves to us, in Your name’. And He said to them: ‘I saw Satan falling from the sky like a lightning bolt; behold, I am giving you the power to step on snakes and scorpions and on every power of the enemy, and nothing shall wrong you. However, do not rejoice that spirits subject themselves to you; rejoice that your names are written in the heavens.”
Verse 18: ‘I saw Satan falling from the sky like a lightning bolt’ clearly refers to Jesus Himself having witnessed Satan’s original fall from heaven, when he forfeited his archangelic status.
C) The third verse is in Revelations, chapter 12, verses 3-4 and 7-9:
“And another sign was seen in heaven: and, behold, an immense, fiery-red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon its heads seven diadems; and its tail dragged one-third of the stars of heaven and threw them down to earth. And the dragon stood in front of the expectant woman (who would be giving birth), so that when she did give birth, it would devour her child. [...] And war was taking place in heaven, of Michael and his angels battling against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not win, nor was there any place found for them again in heaven. And the dragon was cast down - the great serpent of old - the so-called Devil - and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was cast down to earth, and his angels were cast down along with him.”
The obvious reference here is to the fall of Eosphoros and his 'angels'.
The significance of Christian Teaching regarding the outcast angels
The Church's teaching (that demons are apostate angels) is of paramount importance when people are confronting evil.
All religions, without exception, acknowledge the existence of evil spirits. But the polytheistic religions - which are almost all the religions throughout history - consider these entities as actual gods, which is why they worship them.
That is also why we see in different religions the worship of gods who are dark, vicious, monstrous and aggressive towards people, and who are often worshipped with human sacrifices or black magic.
The religion of the ancient Hellenes was not exempt of this problem - the gods they worshipped were not ‘good guys’ either, as there were many recorded instances of our ancestors performing human sacrifices - though not as large-scale as the terrifying human sacrifices performed by the Babylonians for example, or by the Aztecs…
By teaching that demons are not gods, but (fallen) angels, Christianity automatically proclaims that they do not deserve to be worshipped, and that we need not fear them. It is not hubris to not worship them. On the contrary, there is only one God and He is the God of love – He alone is deserving of worship, not the wicked spirits. Consequently, this is where the teaching of the Church has completely changed the way man sees evil.
The other point is precisely the teaching that demons were not created evil, but good, and just as autonomous and morally free - as humans. If evil spirits had been created evil, it would mean that evil was also created by God, and not only good. But since everything created by God is good, then logically evil would also be good! It too would be of divine origin, deserving of respect and also necessary for the balance of the world – as basically taught by the religions of the Far East.
But, since God did not create evil (basically, ‘evil’ per se does not exist, it is not 'something', it is simply the absence of good), then evil does not deserve our respect, it is the enemy that we are called upon to fight, until the final prevalence of good...until the fulfilment of 'Thy kingdom come', with the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we fight this evil?
As emphasized by the holy teachers of Orthodoxy (because of their experience), demons – as compared to humans - are very powerful; but compared to God, they are completely powerless. That is why man can confront them - when he is closely connected to God. And this connection is achieved, in Christ and within the Church.
By “church” we do not imply the temple building, but specifically the Christian way of life – with our participation in the holy sacraments which Christ Himself had delivered to us, and with our struggle against our passions (dependencies, weaknesses and defects), and also by cultivating the virtues that are taught and are continuously being taught by Jesus Christ and our saints, through both by their teachings and their personal example.
Of course we are under attack at every moment: basically through submission to sinful thoughts, that is, 'temptations' or enticing thoughts. And far too often, we are defeated and fall into sin.
But return is always an option - the return of the prodigal son. But this requires us to get back up and resume the struggle - not alone, but with God's help, through prayer, fasting, confession, churchgoing, Holy Communion, charity, cultivation of love, humility, and forgiveness.
We must also keep in mind that Jesus Christ (our Lord and God and King of all), Our Lady Theotokos and Queen of Heaven, the holy angels and our saints are always ready to help us - but not the so-called 'angels' that the New Age proclaims nowadays, outside of the Church. Nor will the saints deprive us of any labours, as that would be depriving us of victories without any struggle; they will however stand by us, they will struggle alongside us, but not in our stead. It suffices for us to pray for their assistance every time we truly need it.
And we most certainly should not concern ourselves with demons, nor be interested in them and 'research' them (which is trendy in our times albeit not at all innocent, nor beneficial, but actually damaging); we should instead concern ourselves with Christ, and seek to learn all about Him, the Holy Mother and our saints - our allies – knowing that our connections to them will bring us peace and spiritual progress.
Making the sign of the Cross is our spiritual “gun”; however across from us, the enemy has tanks. A single “gun” is definitely not enough, but we do happen to possess tanks, and castles and armour: the Church, the holy sacraments, the Christian spiritual life, the in-Christ love. These are the 'weapons of light', as the apostle Paul mentions in Romans, 13:12: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.”
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians, chapter 6:10-20).
This is the reason - in rare cases that demons are depicted in orthodox hagiographies (the holy icons of Christ, the Virgin Mary and our saints) - that they are depicted comparatively tiny in stature, thus implying that compared to Christ and the saints they are significantly smaller and weaker.
This is our armour and man cannot embark on a battle without armour. Defeat is the loss of our (by Grace immortal) soul, while victory is our entry as heirs to the kingdom of heaven, as sons and co-heirs of God, co-heirs and co-rulers with Christ: “This (Holy) Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God; and if children and heirs, we are also heirs, we are co-heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ, for Whom we suffer, so that we may also be co-glorified.” (Romans 8: 16-17).
Article published in English on: 13-12-2021
Last update: 13-12-2021