As much as Halloween “celebrates” supernatural beings, popular culture gives many inaccurate descriptions about the spirits explicitly mentioned in the Bible, specifically the Holy Spirit, angels, and demons. These are dangerous subjects to skip over because, while many people downplay spiritual powers, the Bible makes it very clear that there is a spiritual war constantly being waged for the hearts of man. Because we are in the Halloween “spirit season” and the Bible warns Christians to actively guard against evil powers, I thought now would be a good time to dive into what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit, angels, and demons.
The Holy Spirit, sometimes called the Holy Ghost or the Spirit of God, is the third person of the Holy Trinity. According to the Nicene Creed, the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son,” but because He has equal power and glory as the Father and the Son, the Spirit is also “worshipped and glorified” with them. The Holy Spirit plays a crucial role in the creation, salvation, and sanctification of humanity. The Old Testament describes the Spirit of God as “hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit blessed Elizabeth in her pregnancy (Luke 1:41) and John the Baptist so that he could prophesy the coming of Jesus (Luke 1:15). The Spirit allowed the virgin Mary to conceive Jesus (Luke 1:35), and after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles (Acts 2:2-4) and gave them the grace to spread the Gospel and establish the early Church. Since then, the Holy Spirit has guided Christians in speaking the Truth (1 Cor. 2:13) and has helped people “enter the kingdom of God” through baptism (Matt. 28:19; John 3:5), spiritual growth (2 Cor. 13:14), and other graces. Christians constantly struggle with sin because of their human condition, but God imparted His Holy Spirit to convict Christians of their sins and lead them to repent. Thus, although members of the Church sometimes diverge from God’s will, the Holy Spirit guides the Church and reminds her of her devotion towards Christ.
In the Bible, the Hebrew word rûah and the Greek word pneuma both refer to the Holy Spirit and literally mean “wind” or “life-force.” Throughout the Old Testament, the wind sometimes revealed the power of God’s strength and reminded people to humble themselves. Similarly, in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in the form of a “mighty rushing wind” throughout the house (Acts 2:2). However, the Holy Spirit’s power is not always displayed in full force. He also comes like a soft whisper or breath. One example of this is when the prophet Elijah waited on a mountain to meet God there, and when God came, He came in a “low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). After Jesus rose from the dead, He visited His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit by breathing on them (John 20:22). The Holy Spirit also dwells in our hearts (2 Cor. 1:22) and often tries to speak to us quietly. When that happens, we should quiet our minds and hearts so we can listen.
Angels are real spiritual beings created by God. According to the Summa Theologica, written by medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, angels are “purely spiritual” beings and do not usually have bodies, but they can take on physical forms on some occasions. Angels are very intelligent, but they have limited knowledge, and some angels (demons) can misunderstand reality. Angels do have a will and can choose whether or not to serve God, as evidenced by Satan’s rebellion against God. Renowned 17th-century Christian author John Milton discussed angels’ free will in his fictional epic poem Paradise Lost, in which he wrote that God created angels and man so that they were “sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.”
Angels were originally created by God to serve and glorify Him. The word “angel” comes from the Hebrew word malakh and the Greek word anggelos, which means “messenger.” The Bible often describes angels delivering God’s messages to humans through proclamations (Exod. 3:2; Jdg. 6:11-17, 13:3-5; Luke 1:13-17; Luke 1:28-38) or dreams (Matt. 1:20; 2:19). The Bible also describes various other ways angels serve God. For example, the “archangel” Michael fought for God by leading other angels in a battle against Satan (Jude 9; Rev. 12:7-8). The Bible also describes cherubim (Gen. 3:24; Ezek. 10) and seraphim (Isa. 6:1-6) ministering to God in Heaven and carrying out special duties. Furthermore, angels ministered to Jesus in the desert (Matt. 4:11) and in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). Thomas Aquinas, Dionysius the Areopagite, and other scholars classify the angels in at least nine different hierarchical ranks.
According to The Celestial Hierarchy by Dionysius the Areopagite, a disciple of Paul the Apostle, God loves all of His holy angels, but some angels have more “familiar” relationships with God than do other angels. The seraphim and cherubim are very “familiar” with God because they stay in Heaven and minister to God there. However, some angels like Gabriel carry out God’s orders on Earth and are not as “familiar” with God as the seraphim and cherubim. Because the Bible does not elaborately describe the structure of the angelic hierarchy, many Christians debate about the theological claims about the angelic hierarchy. Nevertheless, the Bible clearly reveals that God created various types of angels that serve to glorify Him.
Demons are angels that have unsuccessfully rebelled against God. Throughout the Summa Theologica, Aquinas regards demons as “wicked angels” or simply “bad angels.” Demons are real spiritual, intellectual beings like holy angels, but they do not serve God as the holy angels do. Instead, demons strive to corrupt God’s beloved creation, man, and sew discord throughout the world, viewing themselves as princes of destruction (Gen. 3; John 13:2). Two common ways they achieve this are through possessing and/or tormenting men (1 Sam. 16:14; Luke 8:2) and influencing problems in the natural world (Job).
When Christians read about demons in the Bible, it can be easy to confuse Satan/Lucifer with other demons. This is because English words in the Bible like “devil,” “demon,” and “Satan” are translated from various words from other languages. In the Old Testament, there is no specific Hebrew word that means “demon” or “devil,” but sometimes, the word “demon” may refer to pagan gods, mythical creatures, or animals. In the Book of Job, the English word “Satan” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “adversary.” In other words, the demon that torments Job may or may not be the archangel Lucifer. In the New Testament, the word “demon” used in English translations usually comes from the Greek word daimónion or the Greek word diabolos, which both meant “devil” or “[a] spiritual being … [that was] hostile to both God and men.”
When considering why the demons rebelled against God, many Christians quote the passage Isa. 14:12-15, which talks about how Lucifer wanted to be equal to God. However, some Christians also suggest that Satan held envy against God over the creation of man. St. Augustine wrote in the Literal Meaning of Genesis that “envy, caused by pride, brought the devil to ruin.” Despite continuing debates concerning the finer details, scholars can agree that Satan made (and still makes) the choice to rebel against God and tempt His people. However, despite the power of Satan and the demons, God is more powerful than any of His creatures (Neh. 9:6; John 1:3). God sometimes allows evil to happen in this world, but nothing happens outside of His control (Prov. 16:4-5). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has already freed people from the chains of sin (Gala. 5:1) and given them hope in their suffering (John 16:33), but God will defeat Satan and his followers once and for all when Jesus comes to restore His kingdom (Rev. 20:9-10).
While this is only a brief overview of the Holy Spirit, angels, and demons, I hope you found it interesting and informative. As this season of spirits is celebrated, I encourage you to honestly consider the spiritual forces that exist. Spiritual warfare is real: Satan and the other fallen angels are not a myth. Therefore, when people call on evil spirits, their call will not return void. Christians should take spiritual warfare seriously, but instead of cowering in fear, Christians should put on the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11). Christians should guard against evil at times and have faith in the power of God, who often works through His angels and the Holy Spirit.
Note: This article uses quotes from the Scriptures as well as quotes from Christian scholars. However, when we study anything regarding God and His creation, we must be careful when checking the biblical accuracy of other people’s ideas, and we must accept that we cannot know everything about God’s mysteries.