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Holy Scripture on evil spirits

The Holy Scriptures teach that besides the visible, material world there exists a vast and varied spiritual world. This world is so different from ours and so much richer that we cannot completely understand its state; we cannot even satisfactorily imagine it. Nevertheless, regardless of the existing separation, the spiritual and physical worlds interact with one another in known ways.

The spiritual world falls into two different and even contradictory spheres of being. One of these is called Heaven — this is the kingdom of light in which God reveals His glory to the blessed spirits. It is inhabited by angels and the souls of the righteous. The other sphere — this is hell — is the kingdom of darkness and the place of suffering, in which are tormented the demons and the souls of unrepentant sinners.

The demons, like the angels, are not self-existent. Although they are immortal, they are not eternal. Only God alone is eternal. Long before the foundation of our physical world, God created the spiritual world and inhabited it with angels, intelligent and kind creatures that He endowed with intelligence, free will, and different capabilities similar but more perfect than ours.

At a certain point in its existence, obviously before the foundation of our own material world, a tragedy occurred in the angelic world. A certain part of the angels, headed by Lucifer — one of the angels closest to God — abandoned its obedience to the Creator and initiated a rebellion. The Apostle John the Theologian describes the event in this way: "And there was war in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in Heaven. And the great dragon was cast out — that serpent of old called the Devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world. He was cast out onto the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev. 12:7-9). The Lord Jesus Christ refers to this incident only briefly, saying that He "beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18). The Apostles Peter and Jude mention this occurrence also very briefly, communicating only that a few of the angels did not preserve their worthiness but left the abode appointed to them. For this, they were bound with the chains of eternal darkness in the expectation of the final judgment of God over them (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6).

Note: At a first reading of the text quoted just above, the reader might think that the war in the angelic world occurred when the earth already existed. However, it should be taken into account that in not a few instances the book of Revelations unifies in one vision several events connected with one another not chronologically but conceptually. It is thought that this apocalyptic picture does not indicate that the world already existed when the devil fell away from God but that a war which the devil now prosecutes against us on earth actually began in Heaven and that he lost that war just as he loses the present war when the Lord comes and completes His judgment upon him.

From a comparison of different passages of Holy Scripture, it is gathered that the reason for the fall of Lucifer was his pride (Sirach 10:15, 1 Tim. 3:16). The prophet Isaiah colorfully illustrates the arrogance of Lucifer when he depicts him in the form of a pagan ruler: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, who didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.’ Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15). This picture by Isaiah is supplemented by the prophet Ezekiel, painting Lucifer in the form of a proud, tyrannical king: "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering: the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold; the workmanship of thy taborets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth, and I have set thee so; thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned; therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God; and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness. I will cast thee to the ground; I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee" (Ezekiel 28:12-17).

So, one of the highest angels, a bearer of the divine light, fell by pride away from the Source of Light and became darkness and a sower of gloom. He wanted to be equal to his Creator, to carry off His glory and might, but he only revealed his pettiness and ingratitude. Being powerless to give others anything truly of value, he made the lie his most important instrument of seduction because it was as if the lie had become his essence. Everything that he says, does, and promises are most impudent lies, though at times cleverly clothed in the toga of genuineness. Because he continuously lies, Holy Scripture named him Satan, which in Hebrew means slanderer. In Greek this corresponds to devil. Others of his names, such as serpent, dragon, Beelzebub, Belial, prince of darkness, prince of demons, adversary, prince of this world, enemy of the human race, liar, and so forth, show his ferocity and the destructiveness of his activities. The Scriptures call the angels that followed him demons, devils, and unclean or evil spirits.

Having lost access to Heaven, the devil concentrated all his attention on Adam and Eve, who were created clean and innocent. The third chapter of the book of Genesis brings out the details of the temptation of the first human beings. Thinking that Eve appears to be more pliant than Adam, the devil addresses himself to her with this evil question: "Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?" (Gen. 3:1). Eve, not noticing the wickedness in the question, explains to the tempter what is permitted and what is forbidden. Finding Eve to be naive and talkative, the devil begins to win her over explaining that God does not want them to taste of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil out of selfishness, because if they did eat of the tree they would become like gods themselves and understand all secret things. Having persuaded Eve to break God's commandment, with her help he also seduces Adam. So with the deadly poison of sin, the devil strikes at human nature. Pointing at this tragic moment in the life of our ancestors, the Savior calls the devil "a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44).

Having sinned, Adam and Eve were deprived of the joy of communion with God and the possibility of living in Eden. The balance between the spiritual and physical forces in them was broken, and they became morally weak and inclined to sin. Having become sinners, they lost their access to the tree of life and they became mortal. The author of the book of the Wisdom of Solomon sees in the devil the first cause of all the unhappiness of mankind: "For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world" (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-24).

Having struck at naive humanity with his deadly sting, the serpent celebrated. But the Lord foretold to him that the war begun by him had not ended but had just begun and that he, the tempter of the woman, would suffer a blow from her Descendent: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel" (Gen. 3:15). This notable prophecy made in the distant history of humanity became a reality a war between the spirit-seducer and human beings seeking God. In the narrowest sense, this prophecy was fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ, having suffered on the Cross (having endured the bruise of his heel), smashed the head of the old dragon. Then on the Cross the Lord "having despoiled principalities and powers (the kingdom of darkness), he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15). In a wider sense, this prophecy is also fulfilled in the life of every Christian when he, armed with the strength of Christ, repulses the tempter (Luke 10:19), although he, like Christ, sometimes also undergoes physical sufferings. The earliest narrations of the Old Testament speak little about the devil. Nevertheless, they continually describe him as the evil seducer and sower of every iniquity. So, for example, the devil inflicted the righteous Job with terrible puss-forming sores from head to foot (Job 2:7), and he seized King Saul and tortured him (1 Samuel [1 Kings LXX] 16:14-15). The devil inspired in David the vain thought to conduct a census of his people (1 Chr. 21:1). The demon Asmodeus killed the husbands of Sara, the daughter of Raguel (Tobit 3:8). Also in the book of Kings (1 Kings [3 Kings LXX] 22:19-23) and in the book of the prophet Zecharaiah (Zech. 3:1-2), the evil spirit is described with these very affinities of envy, cunning, and wickedness.

Taking into account the natural religiousness of humanity, the devil tries to pervert this religiousness, steering it in the direction of superstition and fanaticism. For this he taught humanity to deify all possible kinds of false gods — forces of nature, stars and planets, legendary heroes, animals, prodigies, and all that was able to agitate the imagination of primitive man. The gentiles, muddled by superstitions, did not understand that by deifying different objects they gladdened the demons, who took these reverences as pertaining to themselves (Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20).

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