While God’s Word says, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Rom. 16:19), as believers we should know something of and be familiar with what the Bible says on this much neglected subject, demonology. That there is a devil and hosts of demons, no one familiar with the Word of God will deny. All that we know about the “devil,” his demons and their work is told us in His Word, the Bible. Since God has spoken, declaring the existence and depicting to some extent the nature and work of demons, we do well to turn to this source of knowledge for a study of the doctrine of demonology.
Differentiation Between Devil and Demons
There are two different Greek words translated by the one English word “devil” or “devils” in the Authorized Version, which unless one differentiates between them will lead to much confusion. One word is “diamonion”, and its cognates which appear no less than 27 times in the singular and 52 times in the plural in our Authorized Version of the New Testament, and means “knowing ones.”
The other word is “diabolos” which is used at least 35 times. This word means, “a traducer, a false accuser or slanderer,” and always refers to Satan, the devil; the former always refers to the evil spirits who are the servants of the devil. It will help us if we keep in mind that there is only one devil, but there are many demons. We must be careful to differentiate between them.
An outstanding Greek scholar has well said, “The rule for the English reader to follow as he seeks to correctly interpret the passages in which these two Greek words are found, is as follows: First, where the word is found in the plural, as “devils” always translate by the word “demons,” for the word “diamonion” is in the Greek. Second, where you have the word devil in a passage that speaks of a person possessed with a devil as for instance Matt. 9:32, or a person having a devil as in Lk. 7:33, always translate by the word demon. Third, where the king of the demons is in view, that awful personality known as Satan, as in Lk. 4:2, 1 Pet. 5:8, Rev. 20:2, translate by the word devil. In John 6:70, Judas is called a devil by our Lord, the word being “diabolos.”
The seducing spirits of 1 Tim. 4:1 are not men, but the powers of darkness, (daimonion demons) unseen acting under their prince, (“diabolos”, devil), speaking through men, seeking to lead astray the children of God and to keep unbelievers in the bonds of evil doctrine. There are myriads of these invisible spiritual agents (demons) acting under one devil, disseminating errors among men and seeking to seduce believers. To hold the “doctrine of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1) is to deny the Deity, personality, sanctity and the eternity of the Being of the Son of God. To hold the “doctrine of Christ” (2 John 10) is to confess His Deity, personality, sanctity and the eternity of His Being.
Origination of Demons
God has given us one written revelation, and in it He does not gratify idle curiosity and minister to mere human speculation. Consequently, there is much about the spiritual world that it pleased Him not to reveal to us at present.
As to the origin of demons the Scriptures are all but silent. Their nature seems akin to that of the angels in knowledge and powers, but with the emphatic addition of the idea of positive and active wickedness.
Scripture is clear as to their existence as personal beings, able to enter into and control men and animals and possessed of sight, hearing and speech (Matt. 8:28-32).
Satan is called the “prince of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11); “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), “prince of the demons” (Matt. 12:24); that is, he is the recognized chief of all the unholy emissaries which fill the atmosphere, the leader of evil principalities and powers in heavenly places. Since he is so called, and is recognized as such by these “seducing spirits” (1 Tim. 4:1), can it not be inferred that they shared in his sin? If this is so, and since they are called “his angels,” can we not suggest that they form part of the “angels which kept not their first estate”? Thus, “his kingdom” (Matt. 12:26), “his angels” (Matt. 25:41) seem to fall into two groups, the bound and the unbound. There are those who are imprisoned as Jude says, “delivered into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4), and there are those who are at liberty and active, against whom the Apostle Paul warns that the Christian must “stand”. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies” (Eph. 6:12 Margin).
Why and for what reason one group of evil emissaries is bound while the other left to roam the spaces, we cannot say for we are not told. Was there an additional offense against God’s holiness? Perhaps. Some things we know definitely, for Scripture bears abundant testimony to the fact that there are hosts of evil ones who are free to do their master’s bidding, as his agents or representatives in this world, and that others are chained.