Angels and Demons
Written by: Brian Bagley, StoneWater Granbury Campus Pastor
Chapter 7: Immortal Combat
Scripture: Psalm 91:1-16
Key Verse: Psalm 91:1, “The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.”
When my military unit deployed to Iraq, we took many force protection measures, like building a well-defended perimeter and placing guards at the entrances to the base. While we were on the base, we experienced a greater level of protection and freedom. We could eat and sleep knowing that we were protected. That is not to say there were no threats to those inside the base. We could still experience accidents or enemy rocket attacks. Sometimes, the enemy would try to get through the guards at the gate, but life in the perimeter was relatively safe. However, once we left the safety of the base perimeter, we were in hostile territory. The levels of threat were much higher, and our freedoms were exchanged for increased safety measures to protect us while on mission.
Many people want the protection of God, but they are not willing to remain under His protection. That may seem like a contradiction, but it happens all the time. Psalm 91:1 instructs us that God’s protection extends to the one who dwells in His shadow. In other words, if we want the protection of God, our obedience to His commands places us in a position to receive His protection. When we dwell inside the perimeter of God’s Word, we live in His shadow. We get the benefits of protection that His Word provides. When we reject God’s Word, then we are wide open to demonic work.
When we are idolaters, we tend to want the protection of God on our terms. If we want God to protect our marriage and family, then we must follow His ways concerning marriage and family. If you are cohabitating or living in a homosexual “marriage,” then you are not able to experience God’s protection. God’s resources (including angelic help) are not available to your “marriage” because you are outside the perimeter of God’s Word on marriage. On the contrary, such relationships invite increased demonic work in the souls of those who participate. God is the only one who can define marriage, because He is the one who created it. He repeatedly defines marriage as one man and one woman joined together in a public covenant (Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 2:18-24, Matthew 19:4-6, 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, Ephesians 5:22-33).
Angelic help in Scripture is always associated with obedience to God’s commands (1 Kings 19:1-8, Daniel 3:1-30, Daniel 6:1-24, Matthew 4:1-11, Acts 5:17-21, Acts 12:6-11). Demonic activity in Scripture is always associated with disobedience to God’s commands (Genesis 3:1-7, Genesis 6:1-4, Ezekiel 28:1-17, Matthew 16:23). Sometimes it is the disobedience of someone else which brings demonic activity into your life. That is why sexual immorality is so dangerous. Many in our society claim that adults can do anything in the privacy of their bedroom. This libertarian and sinful view of sex is endangering our communities and families. No one can do whatever they want in their own bedroom without immediate and lasting spiritual consequences.
If we want God to protect our souls from demonic attack, then we must separate ourselves from our coping mechanisms and turn to Him instead. Rather than trust in drugs, control, manipulation, or sexual immorality to cope with pain and suffering, we must use the resources of God such as forgiveness, prayer and His Word. We must cease our worship of the creation and worship the Creator (Romans 1:25). While obedience is no guarantee of an easy life, nor does it mean there will be no demonic attacks, it does mean the resources of heaven are just a prayer away (Psalm 91:11-12, Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:25-34, Jeremiah 33:3).
Questions for Reflection:
1. What are the persistent sins in your life? If you can’t think of any, ask your spouse or someone who knows you well. These are most likely demonic strongholds. Ask the Holy Spirit for His observations and insights about your life. Write down whatever comes to mind.
2. Let’s invite angels to come to our aid! Make a list of areas where you are struggling to trust God. Pray to Him about each specific area and tell Him that you want to trust Him (Jeremiah 33:3). Repent from your unbelief and ask God to grow your faith (1 John 1:9).
3. Ask for the members of your group to pray with you about each one (James 5:16). God will give His angels orders concerning these requests (Psalm 91:11).
Chapter 8: Guardian Angels
Scripture: Hebrews 2:1-18
Key Verse: Hebrews 2:16, “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.”
Angels are greatly misunderstood in our society today. Caricatures of angels exist that depict them as childlike creatures with harps and halos, such as Precious Moments collectibles. Another common misconception is that angels are the souls of loved ones who died and passed from this life to heaven. There is even a popular Christmas movie called “It’s a Wonderful Life” that illustrates this erroneous belief. Angels, rather, are masculine creatures that have existed before the Lord formed the earth (Job 38:1-7). The Bible is not silent on the topic of angels; therefore, the best questions to ask are, “What has God said about these heavenly beings and what, if anything, should we do in response to His Word on the matter?”
There are three broad categories of angels: cherubim, seraphim and teraphim. Cherubim, also referred to as archangels, are the largest and most powerful angels and they reside around God’s throne. Michael and Gabriel are two cherubim that Scripture reveals to us. Satan was also once a cherubim. Seraphim are the second order of angels and they move back and forth between heaven and earth serving as messengers. The third order of angels is the teraphim who reside on the earth and can take human form when necessary.
We should consider how angels help us accomplish the work the Lord has set before us. Angels benefit God’s people in various ways. First, angels are often referred to as “watchers.” Daniel 4:13 states, “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.” These angels are responsible for watching what is happening to God’s people. These angels see and report activity to the Lord. Christ warns us against causing children to stumble in their faith because their angels will report those actions to heaven (Matthew 18:10). Spiritual forces are constantly observing us. This should bring us comfort and caution at the same time. It is comforting to know that we are always under the watchful eye of the hosts of heaven no matter the difficulty or circumstances. On the other hand, we should be vigilant to resist when tempted to yield to our flesh, knowing that the angels are also present to witness such treachery.
Angels work to protect God’s people. Daniel 6:22 informs us, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Daniel was not alone in the lions’ den. An angel of the Lord was with him to shut the mouths of the lions.
Angels can deliver God’s people from bondage. In Acts 5:18-19, the Bible describes how government officials “arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out.”
Angels serve to strengthen and encourage us. In Matthew 4:11, “the devil left [Jesus], and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” Jesus was starving from his fast and ensuing temptations from the devil, but angels were there to serve him at the command of the Father.
Angels respond to our prayers. Acts 10:1-7 and Acts 12:5-11 record prayers that prompted angelic intervention. When God’s people pray, those prayers move the hosts of heaven to act on behalf of God’s people. Daniel 10:1-14 describes how multiple angels came to the prophet’s aid in response to his prayer and fasting. After receiving orders from God to assist Daniel, demonic forces prevented an angel from responding to Daniel’s prayers. The opposition required the intervention of the archangel Michael. God’s people should persist in prayer even when the answers do not seem to come quickly (Luke 18:1-8). Never doubt the power of prayer.
Angels carry out the judgment of God, whether it be good or bad. In Genesis 18 and 19, angels warned Abraham and Lot of the impending judgment against the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In 2 Kings 19 an angel struck down the Assyrian army that mocked God and sought to destroy the city of Jerusalem. In Matthew 13:50, Jesus instructs that the angels will cast those who reject Him into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. On the other hand, those who accept Christ as Lord and submit their lives to Him have an angelic escort into heaven when they die. Luke 16:22 recounts the story of angels who carried Lazarus to the side of Abraham after his death.
We should be careful not to worship or pray to angels. Whenever humans encountered angels in their heavenly glory in Scripture, the people usually fell to the ground in fear; the angels always corrected that response. Angels know that God alone is worthy of worship and humans should only bow to God. Angels take orders directly from God, and we should not try to command them. It is appropriate to pray to God and let Him know the concerns of our heart and mind. He will provide for our needs using the resource that He desires, whether it be angels or something else.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What are some of the caricatures of angels that you have witnessed?
2. Have these caricatures caused you to make too little or too much of angelic power? Explain.
3. Read and consider Hebrews 2:1-18. How are people recipients of God’s grace in ways that angels are not?
How does this encourage you?
Chapter 9: Dark Spiritual Forces
Scripture: Colossians 2:13-15
Key Verse: Colossians 2:15, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Demonic forces are real and active in this world. Just as there are caricatures of angels, there are also caricatures of demons as well. Some people imagine demons as red-colored human-looking creatures with horns and pitchforks. Others think of them as ghosts that haunt cemeteries and old homes, while others believe that demons are just a metaphor for evil that exists in the world. However, the Bible not only confirms that they exist, but also reveals we can invite demonic activity either on purpose or by accident. Demonic possession and demonic oppression are real, but by far the most common problem is demonic obsession!
What is meant by “opening the door” of your heart, and how can demons get into the door of your life? The Bible describes our body as the house in which our soul resides (2 Corinthians 5:1). We can grant access to our soul by what we choose to believe and do. God warns Cain in Genesis 4:6-7, “You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” In other words, sin is probing you, observing you, trying to penetrate your soul through an opening. For those familiar with the story, Cain failed to keep sin out of his heart and he grew more angry and bitter toward Abel, eventually killing him. On the other hand, Jesus invites us to open the door of our hearts to Him so that He can come and fellowship with our hearts (Revelation 3:20).
So, how could someone open the door to demonic activity in their life? The primary way is to worship other gods or idols. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t have any statues that I worship in my home.” But idolatry is often more sophisticated than simply praying to carved images. An idol is anything we place greater trust and value in than the Lord Christ. Sexual immorality, drug use, occult practices or any addiction can be described as idolatry.
One way to open the door to demonic activity is through participation in sexual immorality. Pornography, prostitution, promiscuity, adultery, transgenderism, pedophilia or homosexuality are just a few of the ways that people can invite demonic activity into their lives through sexual perversion. Idol worship in the ancient world is almost always associated with sexual immorality. Whether the Asherah poles in ancient Israel (Exodus 34:13-17) or the pagan temple prostitutes of the Roman empire (1 Corinthians 6:15-17), sexual immorality was an essential component of idolatry. Today’s obsession with sexual identities and practices reveals how nearly identical the modern world is to its ancient ancestors when it comes to demonic activity. There really is nothing new under the sun.
Seeking out occult practices such as psychics or mediums or simply playing with Ouija boards will open the door of your heart to demonic oppression. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 warns, “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.” Reaching out to the dead can seem like an exciting or interesting activity, but the Bible clearly warns that such endeavors lead to destruction. In reality, you are not communicating with the dead, but with demons and devils. These dark forces have only your destruction in mind when you engage them in witchcraft and sorcery. They give advice that might seem right, but it is full of lies and death. Additionally, the media you consume can certainly make room for the demonic in your life. Horror movies and satanic music will focus the attention of a mind and soul on demonic activity for those who consume them.
Drug use is also a doorway to enter a dangerous spiritual realm. Hallucinogenic and mind-altering drugs take you to a spiritual realm unprotected without the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Getting “high” or “buzzed” communicates to dark spiritual forces that you are vulnerable and open to their input. Drug use is a way in which people try to gain spiritual breakthroughs, primarily as a means to address some kind of suffering, circumstance, or shortcoming. However, by entering the spiritual realm apart from the Lord and His Word, you are defenseless to demonic influence.
So how can you limit demonic oppression? Close the doors and windows! Repent from sin and forgive those who have sinned against you. Colossians 2:13-15 states, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Once you make Christ the Lord of your life, the devil has no legal right to your life. Furthermore, when you forgive others’ trespasses against you, you are transferring their debt to the Lord. The demonic “rulers and authorities” have no legal claim on your life. Because of this reality, you can resist dark spiritual forces in the power and authority of God’s Word and His Spirit (1 Corinthians 10:13, James 4:6-8).
Questions for Reflection:
1. What are areas where you may have opened the door to demonic activity into your life?
2. Read and meditate on Colossians 2:13-15.
3. How has God disarmed the power of demonic rulers and authorities? How does this reality encourage you?
Group Questions (GQs)
1. Start off your group time by sharing how you viewed angels and demons as a kid. What formed your views on angels and demons?
2. Read and discuss with your group question 2 from chapter 7: Immortal Combat.
3. What was something new to you from chapter 8?
4. What are ways that people open doors to demonic activity in their lives? Do you have an example of how you may have opened yourself up to demonic activity at some point in your life?
5. Fighting for King Jesus to rule your life often boils down to trusting him. How might the confession of trust in Psalm 91:2 be linked to the relief from fear in Psalm 91:5?
6. Read and discuss Daniel 10:1-14. How have you seen God move through the consistency of prayer? Share honestly with the group about times you have been discouraged by unanswered prayer.
7. End by confessing to your group an area of your life that you need to exercise more trust in God. Pray for one another.