Angels and Demons: Jesus is King of 2 Realms
What I’m going to try to do is just basically answer any question on the topic of angels and demons. Just so you know, this sermon series (or a sermon series like this) is really important to me, because I want you to feel comfortable asking questions if you’re just not sure about a few things. I want you to feel like you can get stuff straightened out in your head, or there’s no question that’s off limits here, because sometimes churches give you the impression there’s something wrong with you if you’re asking a question. Well, I don’t want you to feel like that here.
This whole sermon series is built around questions. Some of them you’ve already asked (and I’ll just be honest; you’ve asked some doozies), and some of these, you get a chance to ask live during this sermon today. When the topic of angels and demons come up, as I talk to Christians, I found that they basically fall into one of two categories when it comes to this topic in the Bible.
There are some Christians (you’ve probably met them) who seem a little bit off their rocker to me, because they’re obsessed by angels and demons. They’re the kind of person that thinks everything that goes wrong is because of a demon. “The tire blew out on your car because there was a demon in that tire. My plant isn’t growing in my living room; there must be a demon in my plant.” They’re obsessed by the idea of angels and demons. I’ve met a couple of people like that; maybe you have, too.
But what I’ve found for a lot of Christians is, we swing all the way to the opposite side of the pendulum. We’re not obsessed with angels and demons. We’re the kind of people that are oblivious. We just go through life like it really doesn’t matter at all.
In fact, someone asked a very raw, honest question that I just want to answer right out of the gate on this topic. They said, “Does it really matter? Does it really matter what I believe about angels and demons?” By the time that we get done just with definitions today, I hope that you say, “Oh yeah, it matters. It matters a lot what I believe about angels and demons.”
I remember a time when I was in seminary. Now, seminary students are notorious for arguing the fine points of theology while people right across the street are suffering because of disease or disaster or just going through very serious difficulties. The seminary students are all sitting around a table, drinking coffee, and talking about the finer points of theology.
A couple of times, professors would try to get the subject back on what’s happening in the world today, and they would use this famous question (true story). I heard this question probably 50 times while I went through my theological education. Professors would interrupt the conversation and ask the question, “Hey, how many angels can dance on the head of a needle?” By the way, there’s no answer to this question. It was the professor’s way of saying, “Why are you arguing about the irrelevant when people right across the street are suffering, and they need you to get involved in their lives?”
The question to, “Does it really matter what I believe about angels and demons?” is easy. Yes, it matters. It matters a great deal what you believe. In fact, I’m just going to give you a sentence that I want you to stick away in the back of your mind for this entire mini-series on angels and demons, and I want this to be the overwhelming thought from everything that you hear, not just today, but over the next couple of weeks. Here’s the sentence in a nutshell.
We call Jesus King around here. The reason we use that language is because he is king over two realms. Or if you want to use the name of this church, he is King over two cities. The two realms that I’m referring to come specifically out of the Bible. I’ll show you from Colossians chapter one exactly what I’m talking about, but the name “2 Cities” refers to the City of Man, the realm that you and I live in physically right here on planet earth. It also refers to the City of God, the spiritual or the heavenly city.
Jesus is King of 2 realms
What I need you to know is that Jesus is king over two cities, the City of God and the City of Man. He’s king over two realms, the here and the heavenly realm. And just because you don’t see it, just because you can’t touch it or you can’t measure it with a scientific instrument, doesn’t make angels or demons any less real.
In fact, the Bible doesn’t want you to miss the fact that Jesus is king over two realms. So the one verse that really is going to be the overarching verse for everything that you hear from me today is Colossians 1:16. Here’s how Colossians 1:16 describes King Jesus and his authority over two cities, or two realms. It says this:
Colossians 1:16 For everything was created by Him [Jesus] in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things have been created through him and for him.
Jesus created you, and he created the angels. But Colossians 1:16 ends with these words, three words that you really need to hang on to for this whole sermon series. “Everything was created through him and for him.”
You exist on planet earth to bring glory to King Jesus. The reason he made angels in the first place was for his glory and to declare that he is a good savior to all creation, the stuff that you can see and the part of creation that you can’t see. Now, what we’re going to do for just a few moments, because this word angels is an English word, we’re going to start at the end and work our way backward.
We’re going to start with the English word angels, and we’re going to work our way backward, and we’re going to look at what the Bible has to say. The English word angels really refers to four general categories in the Bible. The first general category that it refers to are the category that you and I would think of, no matter what you have in your mind about this word, angels. It’s used about 350 times in a standard version of the Bible.
Now, forgive me if this sermon today feels like a lecture on hermeneutics. That word just means the science of interpreting the Bible. Forgive me if this feels like an academic lesson, but I need you to understand, when the Bible uses this word angels, there’s a range of meaning in there that it uses, and every Bible translation is a little bit different because when the people translating the Bible make a decision, they have to decide, what exactly do we mean by this word?
So in the Christian Standard Bible, this word appears somewhere around 300 to 350 times, depending on how you translate it, in the entire Bible. But in order to understand where Jesus sits with the rest of the angels, I want to point you to a statement that he made at the end of his life here on earth. He was being persecuted. He was on trial. They were accusing him of a capital offense. He was about to be executed, and he could have defended himself. He could have protected himself, and in Matthew Chapter 26, he wants the people that are accusing him to know the power that he has over the angels. Listen to Matthew 26:53. Jesus answers these religious rulers by this statement:
Matthew 26:53 Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will provide me here and now with more than twelve legions of angels?
What Jesus is saying by the statement (by the way, a Roman legion in Jesus’ day was about 12,000 people) is, “If I were to call my Father in Heaven, he could send 150,000 angels to defend me if I wanted him to, but I’m not going to make that call because the reason that I came is so that I could be a sacrifice on your behalf.” The word angel, the English word, traces its roots back to a word in the New Testament, which traces an idea back to the Old Testament.
Now, very briefly, you are aware that the Bible was written in two primary languages: Greek in the New Testament (and angelos is where we get the English word angel), and Hebrew in the Old Testament. There are a couple of chapters in the book of Daniel, a couple of verses sprinkled throughout the Old Testament and in the language of Jesus’ day, some phrases or words in the New Testament in Aramaic. These are the three languages of the Bible.
sons of God
When this word, angel, shows up (Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek), here’s the kind of words that this refers to most often, and this is ranked in order of appearance in your Bible. Most often this word really refers to (notice the lowercase letter) sons of God, meaning God’s created heavenly beings. Jesus created these beings. We are not sure exactly when he created these beings, but he created these beings for a very specific purpose.
Check this out. Sometimes this word refers to (little g) gods, meaning supernatural beings. You can find references to this on that little handout that I gave you. Some of the major places in the Bible where you’ll see these words being used are like Daniel, like in the book of Genesis when he refers to the sons of god, or in Psalm 82 when he refers to them as gods. But it will also refer to them as ministers. Psalm 103 calls angels God’s ministers on earth. Psalm 78 refers to them as God’s messengers.
And when Joshua is struggling, at the edge of the promised land, and he’s getting ready to go inherit the land that God has been promising for 400 years, God sends his commander to go meet with Joshua, encourage him, and tell Joshua to be strong in Joshua chapter five. This shiny angel shows up at the border of the Jordan River to meet with Joshua when he is afraid.
When you see the phrase in your Bible, the “Lord of hosts”, that word hosts is actually the word for army. Literally translated, that phrase says the Lord of angel armies is on your side, and the one who made the angels, the one who can call 12 legions of angels to defend his son, is also on your side. The Lord of hosts is the Lord of angel armies. That phrase shows up over and over again, especially in the book of Psalms.
You’ll sometimes see them referred to as cherubs. The plural form of the word cherub is cherubim, and this word shows up in Genesis, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel. God sends his messenger envoy angels to people on earth in the book of Psalms. When Isaiah sees a vision of God in Heaven, Isaiah sees angels around God. Isaiah refers to these in chapter six as the seraphim of Heaven. God’s angels that are in his holy throne room and are worshiping him in Heaven. And Daniel calls these angels that show up watchers, watchers over men, watchers over nations.
There is an archangel listed by name for us in the Bible. His name is Michael. Apparently there’s some rank among angels, and Michael is ranked above the other angels, kind of in charge of the angels. In 1 Thessalonians, in Daniel, in Jude, in Revelation, Michael the Archangel is listed for us by name, and in Peter and in Jude, the angels are often referred to as the glorious ones. These are English, these are where you would see the English word angels, a translation of these phrases in your Bible. That’s the first and probably the most often-used category in the Bible, God’s heavenly beings.
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.
The second category created apparently at the same time the heavenly category, or the heavenly beings, were created, these are no longer heavenly beings. We would call them the beings that were kicked out of Heaven. They’re the phrase that you and I would call demons.
Demons are listed a lot in the Bible. They’re listed a lot in the New Testament, but they also show up in the Old Testament. 200 times, at least, demons are mentioned for us in the Bible. I told you today that this worship service is actually an act of warfare. The physical world is warfare for your flesh, and angels and demons are fighting a battle for your soul. That language comes directly from Ephesians chapter six when the Bible tells Christians to have your armor ready and be on guard against the dark spiritual forces that are at work to undermine your faith.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers.” This is reference to the demons, against authorities, against the cosmic powers of this (meaning right now) darkness, against evil spiritual forces in the heavens. There is a real evil that’s trying to undermine your faith, trying to undermine your soul, or trying to pull your attention away from God, and there are struggles and temptations that you will deal with that are flesh and physically oriented. The Bible makes it abundantly clear there are demons that are at work against your soul.
Somebody sent in the question, “When you see false gods mentioned by name in the Old Testament, like the god Baal, is that a reference to a specific demon?” The answer to this question is, well yes and no. In fact, I want to show you all of the occurrences that Bible translators use to refer to demons in both the Old and the New Testament. Here’s the multitude of ways demons are described for us in the Bible.
Beings that oppose God
Beelzebub (god of Ekron)
Satyrs (hairy demon)
Lllith (Female demon/ unclean animal)
Azazel (Goat/ wilderness demon)
Terror at night
King of Terrors
The Satan (accuser)
Satan (Lucifer, serpent, dragon, beast...)
They’re described for us as evil spirits in 1 Samuel, in Isaiah, and in Deuteronomy. They’re described as unclean spirits all the way through the New Testament, but especially in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and the book of Revelation. This is the most prevalent name for demons in the New Testament, unclean spirits (or your translation of the Bible may call them evil spirits).
The word demons is used in Leviticus 17 and in 2 Chronicles, but it’s often described as beings that are in opposition to God. There was a rebellion in Heaven, and many of the demons tried to … get the insanity of this … overthrow God. And in the process, God sentenced these demons to an eternity apart from him.
Jesus says that hell itself was not created for humans; it was created for the demons that were in God’s presence when they opposed God and rebelled against him. False prophets, all false prophecy, the Bible makes very clear is the work of evil spiritual forces. It’s the work of demons.
But now the Bible is going to list a few demons for us by name, and one of those demons that it lists by name is the demon Belial in 2 Chronicles. In 2 Kings and in the book of Chronicles, it lists the demon Beelzebub. By the way, in 2 Kings, it tells us Beelzebub is the false God over the Philistine City of Ekron. In fact, in parentheses, your translation may say, Beelzebub, the God of Ekron, referring to this specific demon by name.
Sometimes demons are called satyrs in the Bible. This is a reference to hairy demons, whatever that means. There’s a female donkey demon that comes up in the book of Isaiah. It is mentioned by name using the name Lilith, and then there is the Azazel, the goat demon. For the goat demon in Leviticus 16, the sins of Israel are placed on the goat demon, and the goat demon leaves the camp of Israel and takes the sins of Israel away from the camp. This goat demon is mentioned by name, Leviticus 16, as the demon Azazel.
But check this out (and you may find this interesting). In the books of Hosea and Habakkuk, the Bible will sometimes refer to plagues as the work of demons. If you’re sitting there thinking, “Wait a second, Jeff. Are you saying that COVID is the work of demons?” I don’t know that I can say that, but Habakkuk and Hosea would tell you that there are evil spiritual forces behind some of those plagues that wrecked humanity.
It will sometimes refer to them in Deuteronomy, Habakkuk, and the book of Psalms as fire demons or as fire bolt or flame demons, meaning fires themselves may be started by false gods or demons. Psalm 95 calls them the terror at night. There really is some evil in the darkness out there that wants to hurt you, and that is the terror of night demons, the king of terrors, Job 18 calls the result of demons. And the great cold in Isaiah and in Psalms is referred to as a demon.
Now, I want you to focus specifically on these last two phrases. You see “the satan”? Notice the and satan are both lowercase, because satan is actually a translation of the word accuser, somebody standing up and accusing you before God of doing wrong. Satan’s name itself is the name accuser. Any time somebody is accusing a Christian of doing wrong in the presence of God, it’s a satan, an act of satan (lowercase).
But then there are specific references to Satan called Lucifer, the serpent, the dragon, the beast. In fact, I used a lot of references to Satan in a Wednesday night study that we did as a church just a couple of weeks ago.
Here’s what I need you to know as your pastor and as a former warrior from the United States Army: I need you to know that there really is a spiritual battle happening around you. There really are spiritual forces out there that want to hurt you and undermine your faith. Please, I beg you, don’t be obsessed by demons, but don’t go through life oblivious because they are there to hurt you or to undermine your faith.
The Angel of the LORD
Now, the last two categories I set apart separately on purpose because of these two uses of the word angels don’t fit what we just read, those heavenly beings that were created by God, the good angels of Heaven, and those heavenly beings that were kicked out, the angels that fell from God’s grace in Heaven. This being is definitely different than everything else that you read about in the Bible. About 60 times, there is a reference to, not AN Angel of the Lord, but THE Angel of the LORD.
Now, do you see how the word LORD is all caps? When you see this reference about 60 times in your Bible, The Angel, sometimes some Bible translations will capitalize the letter A in the word Angels, the Angel of the Lord. It is a specific reference when LORD is all caps to a very specific person in the Bible. The first time that this shows up is way back in the Book of Genesis.
Abraham and Sarah were waiting for God to give them a son, but God was taking too long. So, like us, they took matters into their own hands, and Sarah said, “Abraham, why don’t you just have a relationship with my handmade, my servant girl?” She got pregnant and had a baby. Then after she had this baby, Sarah’s mistress started to become a little bit more important than Sarah was comfortable with. So, Sarah treated her harshly, and Sarah’s servant girl, her mistress, a girl by the name of Hagar, got angry and ran away.
In Genesis chapter 16, Hagar runs into the desert and the Angel of the LORD meets her face-to-face and has a physical conversation with Hagar in the desert. I want you to pay close attention to his words when he speaks to Hagar in the desert, Genesis 16:9-10:
Genesis 16:9-10 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.”
Notice, he did not say “God” will greatly multiply your offspring. He said “I” will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will become too numerous, too many to count. She has a baby. His name is Ishmael. Ishmael becomes the father of the Arabic nations. “You will have so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you couldn’t count them if you wanted to. You go back and you go submit to Sarah, your mistress.”
This Angel of the LORD referenced, when he shows up in the Bible, people realize who’s standing in front of their face and usually they will fall down on the ground like dead and sometimes they will say, “We have just seen the face of God.”
In fact, what the Bible will describe in some of those 60 occurrences of the Angel of the LORD is a physical conversation between a man and another man. Here’s what I’m trying to tell you: When you see this phrase in the Bible, this is God taking on human form. We can just call him by his first name. The Angel of the LORD is Jesus, and Jesus sometimes will show up in the Old Testament. And when he shows up, they will use the phrase the Angel of the LORD to refer to him. He shows up repeatedly the Old Testament, but you don’t see this phrase in the New Testament because now we know who the Angel of the LORD is by first name.
This is a reference to Jesus, and I just want you to know, Church, that God loves you so much that he doesn’t leave you alone to figure life out on your own. It’s not like he’s sitting in Heaven, sipping sweet tea and doesn’t care what’s happening in your life. The amount of times that the Angel of the LORD shows up in the Bible is proof that God loves you and that he’s not left you to go through it alone. Sometimes, he will show up personally to make sure that things go the way that he plans for them to go in your life. And when you see the Angel of the LORD in the Bible, you’re seeing a reference to Jesus Christ himself showing up in the Old Testament, which may be hard for a few of us to understand.
But when Moses is meeting with the Angel of the LORD, God says, “I speak to Moses like a man speaks to another man.” Like, face-to-face we have a conversation together, meaning Jesus just shows up in the tabernacle and has a conversation with Moses and talks to him face to face. By the way, the first time that God shows up to Moses, the Angel of the LORD appears in a bush that starts to burn, and it doesn’t consume. God reminds Moses, “Hey, you’d better take your shoes off, Moses, because the place where you’re standing is holy ground. God is standing on earth in your midst. So take your shoes off because you’re in my presence, big boy.”
The Lord’s messenger
The last category that the word angel is mentioned, it’s only twice; it’s in the New Testament. It’s found in Luke chapter nine and in James chapter two. This one was a revelation to me this week. In fact, this one kind of caught me off guard. Did you know that sometimes when Jesus sends out his people, they’re referred to as angelos, or angels, in Luke chapter nine?
When Joshua was sending two spies into the promised land to go see what the city of Jericho was like in James chapter two, the Bible tells us that these spies were God’s messengers to a woman by the name of Rahab, who apparently has guys show up to her house all the time. James chapter two refers to God’s messengers. Twice in the Bible, Luke 9 and James 2, you are called an angel.
James 2:25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route?
Joshua sent two guys to go visit Jericho. They went to visit Rahab. Rahab took care of these two guys and then sent them back to the camp of Israel, and James interprets that as two angels, two messengers from God, who showed up to visit Rahab. By the way, Rahab and her entire family were spared when the city of Jericho was utterly destroyed because she believed in these messengers.
What I’m saying is, you are God’s messenger, his messenger angels. When you go to minister to people, when you go to love on people, when you go to share the good news of Jesus to people, you are God’s messengers.This is why getting in a life group is such a big deal for us as a church. We want you to minister and to serve other people. We want other people to minister and to serve you, and that ministry is really what Luke chapter nine and James chapter two describe as the Lord’s messengers, the Lord’s angels.