A Brief Study of Angels
Where do demons come from?
Among those who accept the existence of demons there are various views with regard to their origin. In ancient times, many thought that such beings were the spirits of deceased wicked people. According to Merrill Unger, this thinking was popularized by Greek thought and culture and, among others, the Jewish historian, Josephus, took this view (Demons in the World Today, p. 11). Some still believe this just as many believe that holy angels are the spirits of good people. Of course we have already seen from Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 that the spirits of people who die have a destination to one of two places. They are not left to wander the world making mischief.
Another view among some is that demons are the disembodied spirits of a pre- Adamic race. That is to say, some believe that God created a race of men prior to Adam. But God destroyed this race and their world completely and started over (which is where Genesis 1:3 picks up). However, their spirits survived and became what we know today as demons. Those who believe this make a sharp distinction between the words “angels” and “spirits” in order to support their view. They assert that “spirits” always refer to human spirits while “angels” are beings God created separately. In light of Hebrews 1:14 this distinction is certainly refutable. It must also be noted that there is no scripture which supports the concept of a pre- Adamic race whatsoever. Also, there must be an imagined gap between Genesis 1:1 and v. 2 in which all the rebellion, destruction and the resultant chaos occurred. Proponents of this theory sometimes point to the use of the Greek word for demons in the New Testament. In classical Greek literature its meaning was “the good spirits of departed men of the golden age” (Unger, Demons in the World Today, p. 12). However that usage was several hundred years before the writing of the New Testament and the meaning of the word had changed before it was used by the Apostles and other writers. This view has very little (if anything) to recommend it.
Still another view is that demons are the offspring of an unnatural union between the “sons of God” (wicked angels)and the “daughters of men” (human women) recorded in Genesis 6:1-4. The theory is that the children of this union were wiped out in the flood which followed and their spirits became the demons. If we assume, for argument’s sake, that this is the correct interpretation (angels cohabiting with women), still we are faced with the fact that nowhere does the Bible address what became of the offspring after their deaths. Obviously this view of the origin of demons is highly speculative. (More later on the Genesis 6:1-4 passage.)
These are all minority views based on incorrect ideas about the Bible or filling in where God’s word is silent. Now in the interest of honesty and accuracy, we must admit that there is no specific passage in the Bible that spells out in plain, simple terms exactly where demons do come from. Some of the background details related to this matter are definitely sketchy. But the Bible does provide information which helps us deduce a much more reasonable explanation than the ones above. The majority view among fundamental Christians is that demons were originally angels who fell from their holy state by committing sin against God.
When did this happen? We cannot place a precise date on it just as we could not say exactly when angels were created. However, we can make some general deductions based on what we know from the Bible. Scripture reveals that these beings are directly connected to Satan (Matt. 12:24-26; 25:41; Luke 10:17-20; Rev. 12:7). Therefore it seems logical to assume that these angels (also called “spirits” and “unclean spirits” by Jesus--cf. Matt. 17:18 and Mark 9:25) fell at the same time Satan did by joining him in his rebellion against God (more on this when we focus on Satan). The only other specific detail with regard to the timing of their fall that we can nail down is that it occurred before the fall of Adam and Eve in Eden since Satan was the instigator there (cf. Gen. 3; Rev. 20:2).
How many angels fell from their state of holiness to become demons? We are given no exact number but there is a passage that may address this issue to some degree. Some think that Revelation 12:4a is a reference to the angels who fell with Satan. You may remember that we talked about how there seems to be some sort of connection in the Bible between angels and the stars (though we dare not make too much of it). Here is a verse that may be making that link. If indeed this is the meaning (and many do not believe it is) then about one third of all the angels God created fell along with Satan. How many is that? Again, we have no exact numbers but previously we concluded that based on biblical language (“hosts, thousands of thousands, myriads”) there are millions and perhaps billions or even trillions of angels. A third of a number like that would be sizeable and would be consistent with the Bible (Matthew 5:8-9) and also what we see in the world around us.