Many Christians in the postmodern context find it difficult to believe in the existence of angels and demons or evil spirits. But in most Asian countries there seems to be a preoccupation with the supernatural realm. In most of the Asian polytheistic religions, we could observe a third element related to the supernatural realm – […]
Many Christians in the postmodern context find it difficult to believe in the existence of angels and demons or evil spirits. But in most Asian countries there seems to be a preoccupation with the supernatural realm.
In most of the Asian polytheistic religions, we could observe a third element related to the supernatural realm – spirits of dead people, who have powers to bless or bring calamity in human life. Hence ancestral worship becomes a religious practice in some religions.
We turn to the Bible to help us understand and develop our knowledge concerning angels and demons. Scripturally, angels are considered benevolent. In Luke 1:19 we read, ‘The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news”’.
Read Luke 1:26–38. What is the role of the angel Gabriel in this text? Angel means ‘messenger’. But what are some of the other functions and duties that angels fulfil? Read Psalm 91:11, Hebrews 1:6 and 2 Kings 19:35.
On the other hand, demons are fallen angels and are considered malevolent.
How do we see this explained in 1 Peter 5:8?
Demons rebel against God, deceive God’s people (see Revelation 12:9), tempt God’s people to sin (1 Thessalonians 3:5) and accuse God’s people (Revelation 12:10).
The spiritual power encounter could be seen from the benevolent perspective of God’s Spirit and his angels working to fulfil God’s divine will in his creation. But the power encounter from the malevolent perspective is viewed as God’s power challenging the demons and their unspiritual activities in the earthly realm. As a church, how should we respond to spiritual encounters?
We usually look at the concept of a power encounter in the context of the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the application of the gifts of the Spirit. But our encounter with angels could also be empowerment enabling us to recognise God’s grace and divine protection.
The Bible is full of incidents where God had sent his angels to minister to his people. In Matthew 1:20, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. By what other means do angels serve or support God’s people? Read Matthew 4:11, Revelation 22:1 and Hebrews 13:2.
God’s objective is always to help us in times of trials and weakness and when we need protection in our spiritual journey. It’s an expression of his grace and love for us.
On the other hand, when demons attempt to corrupt people and make them enemies of God, we call this spiritual warfare.
Read Ephesians 6:10–12. What are we really struggling against? What will protect us? (Read on to verse 17.)
Often in our ministry in Asia, we encounter people possessed or oppressed by evil spirits. The first scenario is internal while the second is external. Here cleansing is done in the name of Jesus (see Mark 3:11) and through the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). This would follow with proper discipleship (Ephesians 6:11) and grounding in the word of God (1 Corinthians 10:20,21). Demons use fear and deceit as their weapon, but we in Christ are called to exercise God’s power through his Spirit to overcome the forces of darkness.
We do not have to fear demons. Why not? Read 1 John 4:4.
Angels and demons are indeed real. As theologian and author Ewald M Plass relates in his anthology of Martin Luther quotes, Luther was certain about the presence of angels in the earthly realm: ‘That angels are with us is very sure, and no one should ever have doubted it’ (What Luther Says).
Angels work in our favour and to the glory of God, but demons work against us and God’s will. As Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 10:20), we need to be mindful of what glorifies God and be diligent in practising such things in our Christian journey and missional witness.
Rev Dr Wilfred John Samuel is the director of the Lutheran Study Centre – Sabah, Malaysia, and a former student at Australian Lutheran College.