What Are Demons? Where do they come from?
Undoubtedly when watching Dr. Michael’s Heiser’s latest SkyWatch TV interview and reading his impressive new book Demons, some people will feel hard-pressed to deny the academic support for his narrative.
But are demons as the “illegal offspring of Watchers” the exclusive occupants of the netherworld?
For example, is there any truth to ideas about “aliens” or “ghosts” as Carol Anne so ominously expressed in the 1982 film Poltergeist, “They’re here?”
As for those demons identified by Dr. Michael Heiser, their militaristic interest in people and geography are ontological facts, according to the Bible. In the Old Testament, they are seen as the living dynamic behind idolatry (i.e., Deuteronomy 32:17), and in the New Testament, every writer refers to their influence. Extrabiblical texts including ancient pseudepigraphical works like the first Book of Enoch (FREE WITH DR. HEISER’S WORK HERE) and post-New Testament writings such as the Didache, Ignatius’ Epistle to the Ephesians, and the Shepherd of Hermas agree with this concern. Early church fathers also reinforced the belief that evil spirits seek to thwart the will of God on earth through attacks on the body of Christ in particular and against society in general. What we might call “Spiritual Warfare 101” begins by taking these facts into account and asserting that not only do visible agents exist everywhere around us, but unseen intermediaries—both good and evil—interlope between spiritual and human personalities at home, in church, in government, and in society.
Understanding how and why this is true is defined in demonological studies such as the divine council (a term used by Hebrew and Semitic scholars like Dr. Heiser to describe the pantheon of divine beings or angels who administer the affairs of heaven and earth), where experts typically agree that, beginning at the Tower of Babel, the world and its inhabitants were disinherited by the sovereign God of Israel and placed under the authority of lesser divine beings that became corrupt and disloyal to God in their administration of those nations (Psalm 82). Following Babel, these beings quickly became idolized on earth as gods, giving birth to the worship of “demons” (see Acts 7:41–42; Psalms 96:5; and 1 Corinthians 10:20) and the quest by fallen angels to draw mankind away from God. While the dominion of these entities and their goals are frequently overlooked, close collaboration between evil ones and unregenerate social architects operates on a regular basis outside the purview of the countless multitudes who are blinded to their reality. Behind governors, legislators, presidents, dictators, and even religious leaders, these wicked spiritual powers move about unrestricted, controlling the machine of ecclesiastical and civil governments as freely as they are allowed. Whenever such principalities recognize a religious or political body that has become a force for moral good, they set about—through a sophisticated labyrinth of visible and invisible representatives—to bring that organization down, one righteous soul at a time.
It is within this concealed arena of evil supernaturalism that unregenerate men are organized. Under demonic influence, they are orchestrated within a great evil system (or empire) described in various scriptural passages as a satanic order. In more than thirty important biblical texts, the Greek New Testament employs the term kosmos, describing this “government behind government.” It is here that human ego, separated from God, becomes hostile to the service of mankind while viewing people as commodities to be manipulated in the ministration of fiendish ambition. Some expositors believe the origins of this phenomenon began in the distant past, when a fire in the minds of angels caused Lucifer to exalt himself above the good of God’s creation. The once-glorified spirit, driven mad by an unequivocal thirst to rule, conquer, and dominate, spawned similar lust between his followers, which continues today among agents of dark power who guard a privileged, “cause-and-effect” symmetry between visible and invisible personalities.
And I’m not just talking about Nancy Pelosi and her U.S. House of Representatives, either (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
At Satan’s desire, archons command this supernatural, geopolitical shadowland, dominating kosmokrators (rulers of darkness who work in and through human counterparts) who in turn command spirits of lesser rank until every level of earthly government, secular and religious, can be touched by this influence. If we could see through the veil into this domain, we would find a world alive with good against evil, a place where the ultimate prize is the souls of men and where legions war for control of its cities and people. With vivid testimony to this, Satan offered Jesus all the power and the glory of the governments of this world. Satan said, “All this power [control] will I give thee, and the glory of them [earthly cities]: for that is delivered unto me: and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine” (Luke 4:6–7).
According to the epistle of the Ephesians, it is this dominion, not flesh and blood, where opposition to God’s will on earth is initiated. Whereas people and institutions often provide the “faces” on such hostility, the conflict originates beyond them, in this place where unseen forces scheme.
THE MIDDLE GROUND BETWEEN LIGHT AND SHADOW
Although the hidden region described above represents other-dimensional existence within the supernatural realm, the dark strategies fomented there manifest destructive fallout throughout the material world—wars, genocide, terrorism, Christian persecution, broken marriages, juvenile delinquency, occultism, online trolls, and hundreds of other tangible demonstrations of the infernal influence. Whereas the average person may never understand this assault on his or her corporeal interests as being fundamentally supernatural, Gregory Boyd, in his book, God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict, explains:
God’s good creation has in fact been seized by hostile, evil cosmic forces that are seeking to destroy God’s beneficent plan for the cosmos.¼ The general assumption of both the Old and New Testaments is that the earth is virtually engulfed by cosmic forces of destruction, and that evil and suffering are ultimately due to this diabolical siege.[i]
It is therefore the responsibility of every believer to understand the need to put on:
“…the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:11–13)
In the tenth chapter of the book of Daniel, the Bible lifts the curtain on this inter-dimensional activity in what is considered to be one of the most important Scriptures having to do with spiritual warfare. This is where the prophet Daniel is found fasting and praying for twenty-one days. He had purposed to chasten himself before the Lord in hopes that God would bless him with a revelation of Israel’s future. On the twenty-first day of his fast, while he was standing on the bank of the Tigris River, an angel suddenly appeared to him and said, “From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” (Daniel 10:12).
If a messenger was dispatched from heaven “from the first day,” why did it take three weeks before he arrived? The angel provided the answer by explaining that a powerful Persian demon had opposed him for twenty-one days. Not until the archangel Michael came to assist in the battle was he free to continue his journey. The book of Daniel also describes similar powers at work behind Babylon, Greece, and Rome, revealing an incredible tenet: Demons can control not only individuals, but entire societies, on a territorial scale.
In Persian theology, the spirit that opposed Daniel and his angel would have been identified as Ahriman, whose legend closely parallels the biblical fall of Lucifer. According to Persian religion, Ahriman was the death dealer—the powerful and self-existing evil spirit from whom war and all other evils had their origin. He was the chief of the cacodemons, or fallen angels, expelled from heaven for their sins. After being kicked out of heaven, the cacodemons endeavored to settle down in various parts of the earth, but were always rejected, and out of revenge found pleasure in tormenting the inhabitants of the earth. Ahriman and his followers finally took up their abode in the space between heaven and the earth and there established their domain, called Ahriman-abad—“the abode of Ahriman.” From this location, the cacodemons could intrude into and attempt to corrupt the governments of men.
Besides Persian Zoroastrianism and the mythos of Ahriman (and a host of other ancient origin myths for demons), scholars in the field of demonology offer various hypotheses they believe explain the genesis and motivation of these malevolent entities. What follows is a brief examination of the seven most popular theories.
1. Demons—Offspring of Angels and Women?
As far back as the beginning of time and within every major culture of the ancient world, the astonishingly consistent story is told of “gods” that descended from heaven and materialized in bodies of flesh. From Rome to Greece—and before that, to Egypt, Persia, Assyria, Babylonia, and Sumer—the earliest records of civilization tell of the era when powerful beings known to the Hebrews as “Watchers” and in the book of Genesis as the b’nai ha Elohim (sons of God) mingled with humans, giving birth to part-celestial, part-terrestrial hybrids known as “Nephilim.” The Bible says this happened when men began to increase on earth and daughters were born to them. When the sons of God saw the beauty of the women, they took wives from among them to sire their unusual offspring. In Genesis 6:4, we read: “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”
When this Scripture is compared with other ancient texts, including Enoch, Jubilees, Baruch, Genesis Apocryphon, Philo, Josephus, and Jasher, among others (MANY OF THESE TEXTS ARE FREE IN APOCRYPHA COLLECTION HERE), it unfolds that the giants of the Old Testament such as Goliath were the part-human, part-animal, part-angelic offspring of a supernatural interruption into the divine order of species. The apocryphal Book of Enoch gives a name to the angels involved in this cosmic conspiracy, calling them “Watchers.”
And I Enoch was blessing the Lord of majesty and the King of the ages, and lo! the Watchers called me—Enoch the scribe—and said to me: “Enoch, thou scribe of righteousness, go, declare to the Watchers of the heaven who have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken unto themselves wives: Ye have wrought great destruction on the earth: And ye shall have no peace nor forgiveness of sin: and inasmuch as they delight themselves in their children [the Nephilim], the murder of their beloved ones shall they see, and over the destruction of their children shall they lament, and shall make supplication unto eternity, but mercy and peace shall ye not attain.” (1 Enoch 10:3–8)
According to Enoch, two hundred of these powerful angels departed “high heaven” and used women to extend their progeny into mankind’s plane of existence. The book of Jude describes the judgment the Watchers received for their actions, saying the “angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
Unlike these progenitor Watchers who are currently bound under darkness until the Day of Judgment, the spirits of their dead offspring, the Nephilim, continue to roam the earth as cursed entities or demons, according to scholars.
Those holding this ancient Hebrew idea would agree with Dr. Heiser and perhaps also point to the historical connection between Nephilim and the Rephaim, who were associated throughout the ancient world with demons, ghosts, hauntings, the “shades of the dead,” and spirits in Sheol.
But there are other theories that point to the origin of demons… and/or something else…
2. Demons—Spirits of a Pre-Adamic Race?
According to this field of thought, a pre-Adamic race existed on the original earth before it became “dark and void” (Genesis 1:2). These humanlike creatures lived under the government of God and were presided over by Lucifer, the “anointed cherub that covereth” (Ezekiel 28:14). When these pre-Adamites joined Lucifer in revolt against God, a cataclysm fell upon earth, physically destroying its inhabitants. Only the spirits of these beings survived to roam the earth disembodied. This is offered as an explanation for why demons desire to possess humans, as they were meant to be “housed” in bodies of flesh and are uncomfortable otherwise.
3. Demons—Otherworld Beings?
Since little is known about life outside the limited sphere of our planet, a growing body of people contend that intelligent life forms may have been visiting earth from distant worlds or parallel dimensions since the beginning of time. Some Bible expositors have picked up on this concept, blending it with traditional demonology and suggesting that demons are perhaps entities from another world (or reality) whose structure, like ultraviolet rays, are invisible to the human eye, but nonetheless distinct in atomic design.
Those holding this view note the universal consistency with which extraterrestrials and ufos have been seen throughout history and that continue to be reported worldwide at a rate greater than six sightings per hour. Eric von Daniken’s best-selling book Chariot of the Gods? gave international rise to this concept some years ago by speculating that the earth was visited by aliens in the distant past, leaving behind archaeological evidence that gave birth to legends and mythological gods. Unlike von Daniken, in demonology, these creatures are presented as invisible and menacing, the originators of evil supernaturalism.
While my friend Joe Jordon does not believe aliens “from outer space” are the origin of biblical demons, he does hold that demonism is actively involved in so-called alien abduction phenomena. Joe is the noted researcher who, for the first time in history, provided analytical duplication for what over the past two decades a team known as the ce4 Research Group discovered using guidelines for redundancy similar to methods employed by scientists and investigators to illustrate repeatability, and thus “cause and effect.” Through more than three hundred actual test cases, “experiencers” (as they are called in abduction communities) witnessed their abuse permanently stopped through the power of Jesus’ name. This fabulous research illustrates that, regardless of who or what the abductors are, they are—like everything is—subject to the name of Jesus Christ.
4. Demons—Spirits of Wicked Men Deceased?
This teaching, still popular with a fragment of modern theologians, seems to have its origin in early Greek mythology. The Homeric gods, who were but supernatural men, were both good and evil. The hypothesis was that the good and powerful spirits of good men rose to assume places of deity after experiencing physical death, while the evil spirits of deceased evil men were gods doomed to roam the earth and its interior. At death, their spirits remained in an eternal limbo, unable to perish yet incapable of attaining heaven. Besides Greeks, the ancient Jewish historians Philo and Josephus held similar views, as did many of the early church fathers.
Hollywood often conveys this idea (that demons are the spirits of dead wicked men) through box office hits such as Child’s Play and Nightmare on Elm Street. In Nightmare, Freddy Krueger, played by actor Robert Englund, is the maniacal slasher and indestructible evil spirit of a deceased child molester. In Child’s Play, a doll possessed by the spirit of a deceased voodoo strangler calls upon Damballa, the serpent god, to give him the power of immortality. Warner Brothers, who in association with Wonderland Sound and Vision produces the popular television drama/horror series Supernatural, used my published work on the strigae (vicious owl-like affiliates of the goddess Hecate who flew through the night feeding on unattended babies and during the day appeared as simple old women) in the first season of their series in this regard. Afterward they invited me to join a panel of paranormal activity experts to discuss my research on a special DVD BONUS program celebrating the release of the fifth season, which I declined. The series stars Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester and Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, two brothers who as demon hunters often find themselves pursued by spirits of the wicked dead. While expert input is sought by the screenwriters in order to give series episodes a mode of believability, Supernatural blends numerous religious concepts and worldviews inconsistent with orthodox faith and should not be taken seriously, thus my decline.
5. Demons—Fallen Angels?
Of the seven theories we are summarizing, this is the most popular among contemporary Christians as to the origin of demons. This teaching is based on the assumption that at some time in eons past, Lucifer rose up in great rebellion and declared war on the God of heaven. Somehow, he persuaded one-third of the angelic host to stand with him in insurrection (Revelation12:4). At this point, God cast Lucifer and his rebellious angels out of heaven, at which time they became the demons, a point rejected by Heiser. Less in form and nature than they originally were, they brought darkness and chaos upon the virgin earth. Some believe Ezekiel 28:13–19 is a record of this event:
Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou was upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou was perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
Isaiah 14:12–14 continues the record on Lucifer’s fall:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground which didst weaken the nations! For thou has said in thine heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the Most High.” Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
The apostle John records an event in the book of Revelation (12:7–9) that some believe refers to Lucifer’s fall. John also tells of other angels:
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
6. Demons—Several of the Theories Above?
The proponents of this hypothesis believe a singular concept for the origin of “demons” is a mistake, that in fact what is routinely considered “the demonic realm” could be made up of several of the explanations above, and that this might demonstrate the hierarchy of demons as outlined in the book of Ephesians. In this view, “fallen angels” would rank above the “spirits of Nephilim” and so on, with each being part of the army of darkness. Just as privates in the United States military serve under sergeants who serve under majors, Satan’s forces consist of wicked spirits (poneria: the mass of common demon soldiers comprising Satan’s hordes) under rulers of darkness (kosmokrators: martial spirits that influence or administer the affairs of earthly governments) and powers (exousia: high-ranking officials whose modes of operation are primarily battlefield ops). Above these are principalities or archons (arche: brigadier generals over the divisions of Satan’s hosts). Satan, who reigns as supreme commander and king, is the “prince of the powers of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).
7. Demons—None of the Above?
Some believe all of the theories above are erroneous and that demons exist only in the imagination. These note how primitive men interpreted inherent diseases such as epilepsy as demonic possession and saw volcanoes and other natural catastrophes as the manifested anger of gods. This illustrates a human psychological weakness, they say, which inadvertently assigns “paranormal activity” to events that men cannot otherwise explain.
While this theory is considered incomplete by most demonologists, it is not without credible points. In addition to ailments that cause people afflicted with disorders such as schizophrenia to experience auditory hallucinations, the human imagination can be persuasive when “filling in the blanks” on unsolved mysteries, sometimes leaving people convinced that undefined activity is the presence of ghostly beings. For instance, people have reported spooky apparitions in areas where strong electromagnetic fields are discovered, suggesting to some researchers that persons who are sensitive to these fields may be confusing the effect upon them by electromagnetic frequencies (emfs). Some years ago, scientist Vic Tandy’s research into frequencies and eyeball resonation led to similar conclusions and a thesis called “Ghosts in the Machine,” which was published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. Tandy’s findings outlined natural causes for certain cases of specter materialization. Using his own experience as an example, Tandy was able to show that 19 Hz standing air waves could, under some circumstances, create sensory phenomena in an open environment suggestive of a ghost. The third of Arthur C. Clark’s laws of prediction is also mirrored here, which concludes that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
On the other hand, did Tandy’s experiments open a doorway through which an entity was manifest? Learn more by watching the special program with Dr. Michael Heiser and reading his impressive new book Demons!