A Brief Study of Angels
Where do demons dwell?
Most of us are familiar with the idea, popularized by both classical literature (i.e., Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost) and modern day cartoons (i.e., Sylvester the cat dying nine times and going to hell where a big bulldog is the devil) that demons make hell their home. Not only do they live there but they also thrive and rule there, picking on and punishing unfortunate souls who are consigned to that terrible place. This notion is not biblical in the least. As we will see, demons do not relish the idea of being in such a place anymore than people do.
So the question becomes: “If they do not live in hell, then where?” Again, we start with the observation that since angels and demons originally began as the same sort of beings, it stands to reason that their dwelling place would also be similar. In other words, they dwelt primarily in the second heaven (space) with access to the first heaven (our atmosphere) and third (where God dwells) as required (see same topic under Holy Angels for more on this). For the most part we assume that this continues but after the fall of the wicked angels from their state of holiness, some changes occurred. The most common way of putting it is that they were “cast out.” Dr. Stanley Outlaw describes the casting out of Satan and his angels as a three step process. First was the original casting out back in eternity at the original rebellion (Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:12-17; Luke 10:17). Next was the redemptive casting out in which Jesus’ death on the cross and His subsequent resurrection defeated Satan for all time (John 12:31-32). The third and final casting out is yet to come. The third casting out is itself in three stages: 1) Satan and His angels are cast to the earth after the war in heaven won by Michael. At this point, he has no more access to the third heaven to accuse God’s saints (Job 1:6; 2:1; Rev. 12:7-12); 2) He is bound for 1000 years after the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. 20:1-3); 3) He is cast into the lake of fire for eternity (Rev. 20:10).
To clarify, although certainly we don’t believe that angels and demons hang out together, they probably dwell primarily in the same basic spheres, that is, the second heaven and the first heaven (or on earth, if you will). But there is an additional factor about demons that we should also explore. According to the Bible not all fallen angels are free to roam and do Satan’s bidding. Some seem to be confined. This can be inferred from the following scriptures: Luke 8:31; I Peter 3:19; II Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 9:1-3, 11, 14. Before we get into this discussion, we must understand that this is a much debated subject among conservative Bible students and scholars. Many do not agree that the verses above support the conclusions that others have drawn and which we are about to see. In the interest of balance, I will
share the opposing views that are relevant to our study. What we must understand above all is that though some of the views may make more sense than others, they are mostly conjecture and speculation. A major principle of Bible interpretation is that you interpret those passages which may be vague in light of other passages which speak clearly about the same subject. These are some of the most obscure verses in the Bible in that they refer to things beyond our ability to investigate personally and they have very little cross reference in other scriptures which can shed light on them. In short, these are not issues about which we should be dogmatic. They are interesting and are a part of our teaching about angels but they are not vital doctrines. One day, no doubt, we will know more about this matter.
Some scholars believe there is only one place of confinement for these wicked angels and that all the above scriptures refer to it, while others believe there are two places of imprisonment. Why would there be two such places? The distinction is that the occupants of one will eventually be released for a time while the inmates of the other will remain there until the day of judgment.
If the latter view is correct, the first is called either the abyss or the bottomless pit. We saw it referred to in Luke 8:31 and Revelation 9. The idea that these prisoners will eventually be loosed comes from the passage in Revelation where we saw many awful creatures come out of the “bottomless pit” to participate in the horror of the Tribulation period (some take these creatures to be demons). Also the four angels bound at the Euphrates river are seen to be part of this class of demon. Why are these demons confined in the abyss? Merrill Unger comments: “Why these demons are imprisoned is not explained in Scripture. They were originally numbered among Satan’s free hosts, who roam the heavens. Perhaps their loss of freedom was the divine penalty for possessing human beings to satisfy their illicit desires or to perpetrate especially heinous crimes. Perhaps their victims’ suicides left them helplessly exposed to the abyss. Apparently demons expelled from possessed people were automatically confined to the prison of depraved spirits as in the case of the Gerasene demoniac (Luke 8:31). (Demons in the World Today, p. 15.)
Perhaps Unger is correct in that demons who dare to possess human beings are confined in the abyss, but his statement that it is automatic does not line up very well with Luke 11:24-26. A more general statement of his on p. 14 may be more accurate: “This is evidently a temporary prison for evil spirits who are apparently too depraved and harmful to be allowed to roam upon the earth.”
The second prison for demons is seen in II Peter 2:4. It gets its name from the Greek word translated “hell” which is Tartarus. Again the thinking about this place demons consigned there will never be released until the day when God judges them for their wickedness. This seems to be reinforced in Jude 6. Now for the big question: Why are these particular demons confined in Tartarus? That they must have committed a grievous sin in addition to the original rebellion with Satan is obvious or else all demons would be there. What could it be? Here is where the debate grows most controversial.
Some scholars believe that the evidence suggests that these demons are the “sons of God” referred to in Genesis 6:1-4. The thinking is that these wicked angels in their lust and perversion assumed a material form in order to attract and have sexual relations with human women. The result was a monstrous offspring and God’s judgment in the form of the worldwide flood. What is the evidence that causes them to make this link? First, in I Peter 3:18-20 the “spirits in prison” are connected to the days of Noah (as well as in II Peter 2:4-5). Second, the sin they may have committed seems to be associated with sexual misconduct in Jude 6-7 (and again this is mentioned in II Peter 2:4-6). Robert Lightner is an advocate for this view (versus the more traditional view that the “sons of God” are men from Seth’s line and the “daughters of men” are women from Cain’s line) because he believes that it gives the best answers to the following four questions concerning the passage in Genesis 6:1-4: 1) How does the view account for the unusual title “sons of God” in the context?; 2) How does the view acount for the Flood that followed the union of the “sons of God” with the “daughters of men”?; 3) How does the view account for the strange progeny, the Nephilim, or giants?; 4) How does the view account for the confinement of some wicked angels in conjunction with the flood of Noah’s day? (Angels, Satan, and Demons, p. 96.) Merrill Unger is another who also supports this view.
With regard to the problems of this view, Lightner makes several observations. A chief objection is based on the fact that angels are spirit beings and further in Matthew 22:30 Jesus says that angels “neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
This objection is not conclusive because in Genesis 18:8 (cf. 19:1) we see that two angels ate material food while Abraham watched. Further, Lightner asserts that Jesus is speaking of holy angels, not demons. Also that Jesus’ statement teaches that angels do not propogate within their species but does not say they cannot cohabit outside their species. Finally, he remarks that Christ said they do not marry but he did not say they were not capable of sexual activity. (Angels, Satan, and Demons, p. 97.) In my opinion, some of these points may be technically correct but
are nevertheless somewhat dubious. That this is the major issue among scholars about this particular interpretation is unquestionable. Robert Picirilli calls the idea “patently preposterous” (Randall House Bible Commentary on I Peter, p. 181).
Another objection is that while the term “sons of God” may indeed refer to angels in Job 1:6 and 2:1, it seems strange that fallen angels would be referred to this way. To this Lightner has no answer unless it simply refers to the fact that they were directly created by God. We must note that when Job tells us that Satan was “among them” it is hard to tell whether this is meant inclusively or if it is pointing out an exception to the rule.
In addition to these, we must also note that in I Peter 3:18-20 some scholars interpret the “spirits in prison” as human spirits not as fallen angels (though this has problems as well, namely that it has been taken to mean that some sinners may have had a second chance after dying to accept the message of Gospel). The point here is that if this is true then the connection with Noah has nothing to do with demons. Still another issue is that the passage in Genesis can be interpreted to say that the “giants” were on the earth before the “sons of God” and “daughters of men” came together and also were on the earth afterwards. Their offspring was, in reality, not the Nephilim but the “mighty men...men of renown.” If this is true, there is no need to account for the giants being born as as result of these unions.
Both of these views (“sons of God” as either fallen angels or as only men from the line of Seth) have serious problems and are somewhat unsatisfactory. Perhaps a good compromise is a view offered by Henry Morris. Morris has an especially difficult time accepting that God would allow a monstrous offspring of half-human and half-angelic being if such a thing were even possible. He asserts that the bodies involved when the “sons of God...took wives” were all totally human but that they were all also possessed by evil spirits. These depraved demons enjoyed these experiences vicariously. In this way they went beyond their “proper domain.” Because of this they were punished with permanent confinement in Tartarus. This was an extremely widespread situation in which Satan was in control of the population of the earth with the notable exception of Noah and his family. People were obsessed with sex and wickedness. It was this situation that caused God to respond with the judgment of a worldwide flood. (See The Genesis Record, pp. 164-170 for a full discussion.) Remember that the opinions on these matters are just that--opinions. We cannot know for sure what the reasons are for the detention of these demons. All we do know is that they are imprisoned somewhere. We need not be concerned about it. What should concern us is that we and our loved ones do not end up confined with them at the end in the place created for them (Matt.25:41).