Who is the Devil? What are demons?

When God first created the world, everything was good—perfect, in fact. But soon after Adam and Eve began to live in the Garden, we see Satan, in the form of a serpent, deciding to tempt Eve and entice her away from God. So at some point between God’s original creation of the universe—including the angelic kingdoms—Satan led a heavenly revolt and many of the angels went disobeyed God along with him.

Satan, also known as Lucifer, was once a beautiful angel with great authority. The prophet Isaiah referred to Lucifer when he wrote, “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High. Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths.”

Like man, angels were created with the freedom to choose to obey or disobey God. Lucifer is an angel, nothing more, who chose to disobey his creator. Many of the angels followed him in disobedience, and, like him, they will suffer for their sin.

Why did God create these angels, knowing that they would rebel? I can’t read God’s mind, but I trust his plan. And even these angels serve a purpose in eternity.

What if I offered you a choice between two ice cream cones that were both the same size and both filled with vanilla ice cream. A choice between vanilla and vanilla isn’t much of a choice, is it? If we did not have the freedom to choose good from evil, we would not have free choice. We would love God because we had no other option, and he wants us to love him because we choose to love him.

What are demons? Should we be afraid of them? Demons are angels who sinned against God and now work evil in the world. They serve Satan, not God. The Bible tells us that demons “did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged . . . God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment” (Jude 6).

In 2 Peter 2:4 we read: “God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment.”

Does that mean that fallen angels are in hell now? Not the hell you think of when you think of a lake of fire. These fallen angels have been thrown into darkness, which is another way of saying that they have been prohibited access to heaven. They are condemned to wander on the earth and in dark places apart from the glory of God. Of course, they cannot escape God’s presence, for he is everywhere, but they are chained and cannot return to their former places in heaven. While they are awaiting judgment—which will come later—they can and do work evil in the world.

Does everything bad in the world come from demons? No. If you are tired or sick, you may simply be tired and sick—it’s not likely that a demon is making you tired and sick. If a friend is addicted to cigarettes, it’s not likely that a demon is making him addicted. If two Christians are arguing, it’s not likely that a demon is making them argue—it may be their pride that is getting in the way of agreement. Even Christians sin, so we have to watch out for pride and selfishness and habits that are not good for us.

Should I be afraid of the devil or demons? No. A lot of Christians quote 1 Peter 5:8 when they speak of the devil: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

Peter’s warning should not be taken as proof that the devil can eat you alive! No way! Because even the devil and the demons are under God’s control, now and forever. If you read the story of Job, you’ll realize that Satan could not touch Job without God’s permission. Jesus could cast out demons with a word. Demons are harnessed by “eternal chains” and they are not stronger than Jesus. Neither is Satan. He may roam about like a lion, but always remember this: that lion is on a leash, and the other end of the leash is firmly in God’s hand!

So what do demons do? They fool people. You may have seen movies where demons do all kinds of scary things, but that’s what Hollywood thinks of demons. Demons can do scary things, but they’re much more likely to do beautiful things in order to fool people into following false religions. Because Satan hates God, he wants to keep people from following God. So he uses every trick in his book, not to convince people to follow him, but to follow anything but God.

Demons are active in many false religions today. People who follow eastern religions often talk of their “spirit guides” to help them “discover the god within.” Don’t be fooled. These are demons and they’re using the same line Satan used on Eve: “You can be like God.”

Demons are real, and the best way to protect yourself against their evil is to remain strong in Christ. John wrote, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4).

The devil is not God. He is not omniscient; he doesn’t know everything. He’s not everywhere. He can’t read your thoughts. He’s not all-powerful. And he’s on that leash.

The Spirit of God, which lives inside every true believer in Christ, is greater than the devil or any demon. You do not need to fear them, but you should also be careful not to fool around with things like Oujia boards, séances, and horoscopes. If you look to a board or a ghost or the stars for influence over your life, you are not looking to God or fully trusting him. The Bible strongly tells us to avoid such things, because many an innocent young person has opened the door to the influence of demons by talking to “spirits” he “met” during a board game or séance.

Guard your heart. Entrust it to God alone. And know that no fallen angel is stronger than Jesus.

Memory Verse: “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Discussion questions:

1. After reading this lesson, did you learn anything new about demons or the devil?

2. Do you know anyone who relies on a horoscope or fortune teller? Do your friends play with a Ouija board? What will you say to them the next time this subject comes up?

3. When the devil came to tempt Jesus, Jesus did something specific to resist the devil. What did he do? If you need help, read the story in Matthew 4:1-11.


  1. Anonymous

    Helpful lesson, Dr. Hunt! Guess I hadn’t read all of Jude for the chain thing was new to me. I really appreciate the paragraphs reminding us that the leash is firmly in God’s hand, and that Satan is less likely to try to convince people to follow him, but to follow ANYTHING but God.

    Once again, a hearty thank you.

    Mary Kay

  2. joanieponytail

    Thank you for the part about demons being “much more likely to do beautiful things in order to fool people into following false religions.” If the only way Satan can keep you from God is to make it seem like all is well, that’s what he’ll do.


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