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Angels and Evil Spirits

… All things visible and invisible…

In addi­tion to the vis­i­ble, phys­i­cal cre­ation there is an invis­i­ble world cre­at­ed by God. The Bible some­times calls it “the heav­ens” and oth­er times refers to it as “above the heav­ens.” What­ev­er its sym­bol­i­cal descrip­tion in the Holy Scrip­tures, the invis­i­ble world is def­i­nite­ly not part of the phys­i­cal, mate­r­i­al uni­verse. It does not exist in space; it has no phys­i­cal dimen­sions. And so it can­not be locat­ed, and it has no “place” which can be “reached” by trav­el with­in the galax­ies of the spa­tial, locat­able “places” of the phys­i­cal­ly cre­at­ed universe.

How­ev­er, the fact that the invis­i­ble, cre­at­ed world is pure­ly spir­i­tu­al and is not dis­cov­er­able on a map of the cre­at­ed mate­r­i­al spaces makes it no less real or tru­ly exist­ing. The invis­i­ble cre­ation exists as dif­fer­ent from the cre­at­ed mate­r­i­al uni­verse and, of course, as total­ly dif­fer­ent from the uncre­at­ed, absolute­ly super-divine exis­tence of the uncre­at­ed God.

Invis­i­ble cre­at­ed real­i­ty con­sists of the hosts of bod­i­less pow­ers, generally—and some­what incorrectly—called the angels.


Angels

Angels (which means lit­er­al­ly “mes­sen­gers”) are, strict­ly speak­ing, but one rank of the incor­po­re­al or bod­i­less pow­ers of the invis­i­ble world.

Accord­ing to Ortho­dox Scrip­ture and Tra­di­tion there are nine ranks of bod­i­less pow­ers or the Hosts (Sabaoth means lit­er­al­ly “armies” or “choirs” or “ranks”). There are angels, archangels, prin­ci­pal­i­ties, pow­ers, virtues, domin­ions, thrones, cheru­bim, and seraphim. The lat­ter are described as offer­ing con­tin­u­al ado­ra­tion and glo­ry to God with the inces­sant and ever-resound­ing cry of Holy! Holy! Holy! (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). Those in the mid­dle of the above list­ing are lit­tle-known to men while the angels and archangels are seen as the active work­ers, war­riors, and mes­sen­gers of Yah­weh rel­a­tive to this world. Thus, angels and archangels are seen to strug­gle against spir­i­tu­al evil and to medi­ate between God and the world. They appear in var­i­ous forms to men in both the Old and New Tes­ta­ments as well as in the life of the Church. The angels are those who bring the pow­er and pres­ence of God and who are mes­sen­gers of His word for the sal­va­tion of the world. The best-known of the angels are Gabriel (which means lit­er­al­ly “man of God”), the bear­er of the good news of Christ’s birth (Dan 8:16; 9:21; Lk 1:19, 26), and Michael (which means lit­er­al­ly “who is like God”), the chief war­rior of the spir­i­tu­al armies of God (Dan 11:13; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev 12:7).

Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing the appear­ances of the bod­i­less pow­ers to men are described in a phys­i­cal way (“six-winged, many-eyed”; or in the “form of a man”). How­ev­er, it must be clear­ly under­stood that these are mere­ly sym­bol­i­cal descrip­tions. By nature and def­i­n­i­tion the angels have no bod­ies and no mate­r­i­al prop­er­ties of any sort. They are strict­ly spir­i­tu­al beings.


Evil Spirits

In addi­tion to the cre­at­ed spir­i­tu­al pow­ers who do the will of God, there are, accord­ing to the Ortho­dox faith, those who rebel against Him and do evil. These are the demons or dev­ils (which means lit­er­al­ly those who “pull apart” and destroy) who are also known both in the Old and New Tes­ta­ments as well as in the lives of the saints of the Church.

Satan (which means lit­er­al­ly the ene­my or the adver­sary) is one prop­er name for the dev­il, the leader of the evil spir­its. He is iden­ti­fied in the ser­pent sym­bol of Gen 3 and as the tempter of both Job and Jesus (Job 1:6; Mk 1:33). He is labelled by Christ as a deceiv­er and liar, the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44) and the “prince of this world” (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). He has “fall­en from heav­en” togeth­er with his evil angels to do bat­tle with God and his ser­vants (Lk 10:18; Isa 14:12). It is this same Satan who “entered Judas” to effect the betray­al and destruc­tion of Christ (Lk 22:3).

The apos­tles of Christ and the saints of the Church knew from direct expe­ri­ence Satan’s pow­ers against man for Man’s own destruc­tion. They knew as well Satan’s lack of pow­er and his own ulti­mate destruc­tion when man is with God, filled with the Holy Spir­it of Christ. Accord­ing to Ortho­dox doc­trine there is no mid­dle road between God and Satan. Ulti­mate­ly, and at any giv­en moment, man is either with God or the dev­il, serv­ing one or the other.

The ulti­mate vic­to­ry belongs to God and to those with Him. Satan and his hosts are final­ly destroyed. With­out this recognition—and still more—the expe­ri­ence of this real­i­ty of the cos­mic spir­i­tu­al strug­gle (God and Satan, the good angels and the evil angels), one can­not tru­ly be called an Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian who sees and lives accord­ing to the deep­est real­i­ties of life. Once again, how­ev­er, it must be clear­ly not­ed that the dev­il is not a “red-suit­ed gen­tle­man” nor any oth­er type of gross­ly-phys­i­cal tempter. He is a sub­tle, intel­li­gent spir­it who acts most­ly by deceit and hid­den actions, hav­ing as his great­est vic­to­ry man’s dis­be­lief in his exis­tence and pow­er. Thus, the dev­il attacks “head-on” only those whom he can deceive in no oth­er way: Jesus and the great­est of the saints. For the great­est part of his war­fare he is only too sat­is­fied to remain con­cealed and to act by indi­rect meth­ods and means.

Be sober, be watch­ful. Your adver­sary, the dev­il, prowls around like a roar­ing lion seek­ing some­one to devour. (1 Pet 5:8)

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the dev­il. For we are not con­tend­ing against flesh and blood, but against the prin­ci­pal­i­ties, against the pow­ers, against the world rulers of this present dark­ness, against the spir­i­tu­al hosts of wicked­ness in the heav­en­ly places (Eph 6:11–12).