- Religion and Philosophy
History of Angels and Demons
A Belief That Spans Cultures
The belief in angels spans generations, cultures, countries, and religions of all different kinds. Angels have been painted into pictures, on the ceilings of famous, important buildings, and woven into stories in religious texts. Angels have been known to "save" people from tragedies, to bring messages to people in times of need, and to fight off the "legions of darkness". But what are angels exactly? Can we attribute them to one particular set of religious beliefs or are they indeed beings that bridge the religious gaps?
What about demons? Are demons truly "fallen angels" and are they here on Earth to reik havoc and chaos in our lives? Demons have been around just as long as angels have, creeping up in ancient texts from some of the oldest civilizations such as Sumer, Babylon, and ancient Egypt. But were they always called "fallen angels" or "demons"? Is it possible that the Christians' "demons" are the same as all other dark spirits from other religious beliefs? Do we have anything to really fear from these so-called demons?
Let's explore the history of angels and demons and look at some of the most compelling human experiences with these beings.
Angels from a Biblical History
The Holy Bible is filled with passages about angels, but only a few verses actually mention the "archangels" that so many think of when the term angel comes to mind.
One verse can be found in Jude 1:9 - "Yet Michael, the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."
That particular verse in the Bible specifies Michael as the archangel. Who is Michael the archangel? Can we determine from what the Bible tells us? In a couple of passages, the Bible speaks of Michael not as an archangel but as a "great prince"...which leads some to believe that Michael is just another term for Jesus. Just speculation, of course.
In the New Testament's last book, Revelations, in Chapter 12 verse 7, Michael and "his angels" are said to fight against the dragon. It appears that the Bible refers to Michael as being almost a leader of the angels. Because of this, many pieces of artwork and literature have been produced with the great, powerful image of an angel (more specifically Michael the archangel) defeating Satan. One particular work pictured to the right, actually depicts Michael the archangel crushing Satan under his feet.
In addition to the great Michael the archangel in the Bible, what other passages talk about angels? Well, one pretty popular passage tells us that angels appeared to a group of shepherds who were tending their flock to inform them that the Savior had been born. Obviously this was at the birth of Jesus and can be found in the book of Luke, passages 2:8-15. The angels in this role play only the part of messenger and have no physical action as compared to Michael the archangel in the passages he makes his appearance.
So we know that angels appear a few times in the New Testament, so besides Michael's appearnace in the Old Testament in Jude and Daniel, what other angels are mentioned in the Old Testament? Angels make some of their first appearances in the book of Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, when they appear to Lot to inform him that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed in Genesis 19 and then when Raphael (also supposedly an archangel) appears to Tobias in the form of a human being.
When Adam and Eve are thrown out of the Garden of Eden in Chapter 3 of Genesis, the Bible mentions that God stationed cherubin with swords of fire to guard the Tree of Life.
Is the Bible ever really clear on exactly what angels are? Were they created by God or have they always been around, as long as God has? Are they indeed warriors, friends, messengers, or bidders of God's will? Or are angels all of these things and more?
To find out more about angels, let's take a look at some of the other world religions' views on angels.
Read More About Angels History & Beliefs
Angels in Other Religions
Angels aren't just a belief to Christians, they are a belief that span many religions throughout the world. One of those religions is the religion of Islam.
In the Quran, angels are mentioned quite a few times, including mention of Michael, Gabriel, Israfeel, and Malik. It is said that they believe that only the number of angels is known by God, but that there is seventy thousand angels that praise God above the Kaaba (which is a sacred place that it believed to be over top of the city of Mecca).
The idea of "Guardian Angels" that watch over each individual on earth seems to have come from the Quran more so than from the Holy Bible. Then again, the angels mentioned in the Quran seem to have many more duties and tasks than the angels mentioned in the Holy Bible. Angels from the Quran can be guardian angels, warriors, guardians of Hell, testing people "in the grave", breathers of life into babies, worshippers of God, and more.
In Hinduism, angels are referenced more as "divine beings" instead of messengers of God. Because Hinduism is more of a polytheistic religion, they believe in more than just one type of divine being, but angels are definitely included in these beliefs...though they may indeed refer to them as some type of god or demi-god. (If you are Hindu and want to add to this, let me know. I'd love to hear more about angels and how they relate to Hinduism).
In addition to the beliefs of angels expressed in the Quran and the Holy Bible, many New Age belief systems and Pagan belief systems incorporate the angels into their practices. They may call on them for help to aid in certain desires or needs such as monetary gain but usually for protection.
Let's hear about some of the most interesting experiences with angels told from people like ourselves.
Angel Sightings & Experiences
All over the world for centuries people have been having experiences with angels. Whether they see them, hear them, or feel them, these experiences are not based on fact but if you were to question that person's belief in angels, you would be in for a rude awakening. The belief in angels is so strong that it spans many religions and cultures, as we've learned in the past sections of this article.
One man in Chicago told a story about an angel that appeared to him in one of his family's times of need. He and his mother were at a grocery store and in need of money for bags and money for a ride home. They were poor people, but really needed the food that they had just purchased. The boy was about 15 and had asked God for a sign to believe in him more. An angel appeared in a long, white gown, handed the boy some bags and as he and his mom left the store, a friend showed up and asked if they needed a lift. The boy searched all around the store and outside for the man who gave them the bags, but no one knew what he was talking about. To this day, he is convinced that it was one of God's angels, sent to help his family out in a time of need and to strengthen his faith in God (www.catholic.org).
Some people believe that angels and saints come to them in the form of human beings (similar to Tobias' story in the Bible). One man says that he gave a man in need a ride home one night, against his belief to not allow strangers into his car. He said that the day before he had prayed to St. Anthony, asking for help in acquiring a job that he had recently applied for. The stranger said things to him during their ride that really struck home such as "your cup is empty until you fully give." The next day, the man got a phone call that he received the position and he also realized that that was the day of Saint Anthony. He believed this was indeed Saint Anthony who appeared to him...
Demons from a Biblical History
On the opposite spectrum of the beings of light called angels, there are beings of darkness and destruction that Christians call "demons". These beings are said to be the Devil's helpers and are said to be condemned by God for following Satan's will against God. These demons are also called "devils" in the Holy Bible but are still commonplace referred to as demons.
The funny thing to me is that there is no passage in the Holy Bible that says that Satan has followers who are fallen angels and that they do particular things against the human race now. There is much mention of people who were "possessed with devils" and there is even mention in more than one place in the Old Testament that God himself sends an evil spirit or a devil to torment someone who has turned away from him, including King Saul.
Where did the idea of "fallen angels" and "Lucifer" get collaborated with the idea of Satan and the idea that Satan has followers or workers? Is this indeed a Christian Holy Bible belief or have these beliefs been created and passed down through the centuries since Jesus Christ lived? From my research, there is nowhere in the Christian Bible that gives clear and concise explanations as to this teaching that Satan is indeed "Lucifer" and that his followers are fallen angels, as is he. The concept that Satan is Lucifer and that he is a fallen angel comes from other religious texts and belief systems aside from Christianity by itself.
Lucifer as a fallen angel (and his minions of fallen angels) who was kicked out of Heaven to Earth is a concept that is rooted in the Book of Enoch, which is not a part of the New Testament nor is it a part of the Hebrew Bible. Even though these "fallen angels" aren't mentioned in the Christians' Bible, it has become a part of their core belief system of the enemy of God and man...Satan and his followers or "demons".
Let's take a look at some of the other world religions' beliefs about demons.
Demons in Other Religions
Though not referred to as "demons", the Quran (being the Islamic religious text) states that there are beings known as Jinn who have the ability to choose between serving God (Allah) and not serving God. This means that they could indeed turn to "evil-doings", such as the demons of the Christian faith. Jinn are also thought to be beings that inhabit a different spiritual dimension than the mundane world that humans reside within. Jinn are a part of Arabic folklore as well as Islamic beliefs and are often also called Genies. The image of a Genie slithering out of a lamp amidst smoke to grant three wishes usually comes to a Westerner's mind when hearing the word Genie. Though this image is not always correct in accordance to Islamic beliefs. Jinn have been said to do good but also can do evil...an example of this is the fact that one fellow hubber informed me that my bouts with sleep paralysis could indeed be attributed to an evil Jinn plaguing my spirit and thereby my dreams. So while Jinn have the right to choose between good and evil, we can see how the evil Jinn can be closely related to the Christian and Hebrew beliefs in fallen angels or demons.
Much of the beliefs that modern Christians hold have also been theorized to have come from Zoroastrianism. Specifically this eternal battle between good and evil, the battle between heavenly hosts and the hosts of hell, or between angels and demons is widely attributed by theorists to Zoroastrianism. This is a religion that was once one of the largest religions in the world, stemming from Iran and the Middle East. Dualism and monotheism are both key concepts of many modern day religions that can be traced back to before the birth of Christ when Zoroastrianism reigned over much of the Middle East.
Demonic Possession, Sightings, & Experiences
Since the belief in evil spirits or "demons" has been around, there have been beliefs that people can be possessed by demons and evil spirits. This is called quite simply possession because it is believed that a demon or evil spirit has the ability to get inside of a person's mind and body and literally possess them as if they were nothing but a costume. There are accounts of demonic possession in the Bible, but they are most commonly referred to as someone being "possessed by devils". Modern society has taken the demonic possession belief and mutated it to fit into Hollywood's pretty, little money-making box. We've seen movies called The Exorcism and Insidious...but are they rooted in truth?
The Exorcism, the original movie, was based on a little boy's supposed experience with demonic possession. His story (yes, I said his because it was a little boy and not a little girl as the movie presented it) began in Washington, DC, where he first became "possessed by the devil" (according to the Washington Post during the time of the boy's possession in the 1940s). Apparently the boy's family became scared when they heard incessant scratching noises on the walls of their house and when the boy's bed would shake violently whenever he was lying in it. They also said that objects would fly off shelves whenever the boy would stand. This began the research of a couple of different Catholic priests who stayed with the boy to confirm that he was indeed possessed by demons. The confirmation happened and the boy allegedly underwent a long, drawn out exorcism by the Catholic Church within two hospitals - one in St. Louis, MO and the other being Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC. It was said in one of the newspapers that the priest who performed the exorcism claimed that the boy was cursing, screaming, throwing things, and speaking in Latin phrases during the Exorcism. Once the exorcism was over, the boy had said that he saw a vision of Saint Michael the archangel defeating Satan...then he was freed.
Many more tales of demonic possession have been documented throughout history - both ancient and modern times. Many people claim that the ouija board is one portal to opening oneself to demonic possession...others simply believe that demonic possession can only occur in people who are willing for it to happen such as Satanists and evil souls.
Demons can be seen outside of occupying a human body. Some say that the shadow people are actually demons...parading about at night and hiding in the darkest corners of buildings and in our imaginations. Sleep paralysis, a strange and unproven sleep disorder, is sometimes attributed to demons (or as I previously mentioned the Jinn). Demons have been seen in cemeteries, abandoned buildings, castle ruins, bars and clubs, and even on the streets.
If you have an experience with demons that you would like to share, please let us know below in the comment sections.
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