Some of these are inspired by Dr Michael Heiser’s writings, though much of it came from my own working through both the Scriptures and tradition. Our problem is that we are all students of Dante, whether we admit it or not. An Enochian worldview, by contrast, sees how “angels” (more on that term later) function within the Divine Realm.
We say things like “we need a biblical worldview” (I used to say “supernatural,” but after talking with some guys on a Reformed online forum, I can’t take that for granted anymore), and we piously nod at the Bible when it says “angels are ministering servants,” but we really don’t let the Bible correct our understanding of Dante.
What Did Dante Say?
You already know this. If I say “hell,” you think of a fiery underworld. More to the point, you think there is a class of beings known as demons/devils/fallen angels. They are either being tortured by fire or torturing others by fire (pop culture tradition isn’t too clear).
But there are some problems with this picture (though it did inspire good music). The Bible contradicts it in various places. If you hold that there is one class of beings called angels, which are subdivided into good and bad, with all of the latter in a subterranean realm (or if you are a bit more sophisticated, another dimension), then the following problems occur:
- Why is Satan called the prince of the powers of the air (Eph. 2:2) if he is locked underground?
- If all the demons are in hell, then why do we wrestle against principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 6)?
- If Ha Shatan is locked underground, then how did he appear before God in Job?
- If all the demons are in hell, then how did they possess people in the NT?
- Yet Peter says some were thrust into Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4).
- Why does Peter use the word Tartarus when he could have simply said hell or hades?
- Was the spirit in 1 Kings 22:19-23 good or bad? If he was good, then was God commanding him to lie? If he was bad, then why was he in heaven?
- Is God the only kind of Elohim? You have to say no, because God (singular Elohim) is often speaking to plural Elohim, and even if the latter are just men, they aren’t the kind of Elohim that Yahweh is.
That’s enough for now. These questions show that the pop worldview about demons is wrong. Now for my own theses, drawn from Michael Heiser and Derek Gilbert.
1. Sons of God in Genesis 6/Psalm 82:Dt.32:8 refer to elohimic beings, not men. I won’t argue that thesis at this point. I also think these are what Enoch called the Watchers (alluded to in Peter and Jude; mentioned in Daniel, though those Watchers are good).
2. Their offspring were the Nephilim.
3. Some church fathers and Philo said that the departed souls of the Nephilim were what we call “demons” today. Maybe. That might not be provable, but it does remove certain problems.
I am closely following Heiser’s analysis on issues like the Rephaim.
4. Rephaim: Heiser–”When the term is translated, it is rendered “giants” (1 Chr 20:4 ESV), “shades” (i.e., spirits of the dead; Isa 26:14 ESV), or simply “the dead” (Job 26:5 ESV)”. Specifically, they are the spirits of dead warrior-kings in the underworld. They are also giants whom the Ammonites called Zamzummim (Deut 2:19–20 ESV).
4a. Og was a Rephaim (Josh. 13:12).
- They aren’t the celestial ones of 2 Peter 2 and Jude. Angels are very cautious in the celestial ones’ presence.
- With Heiser, I highly recommend questions 72-75 of Doug Van Dorn’s primer on the supernatural.
- At this point we see several levels of differentiation:
- The corrupt sons of God put over the nations are called shedim, a term of geographical guardianship (van Dorn).
- The fallen angels, or Watchers, are imprisoned in Tartarus until the Final Judgment (2 Peter 2 and Jude).
- Whatever demons are, they aren’t those above.
- A demon, at least in the Gospel exorcism passages, is an unclean spirit.
- If Jewish intertestamental literature is to be trusted, demons are the departed spirits of dead Nephilim. Granted, this isn’t inspired literature, but it was the worldview/social imaginary of those who lived in the apostles’ time. Jude quoted 1 Enoch, and while 1 Enoch isn’t inspired, Jude acted like it had a lot of truth.