God’s people in every generation have had to be careful lest their views on spiritual matters conform to the culture around them and not the Word of God. Today, we are no less immune to the influence of nonbiblical thinking, particularly in the study of angelology and demonology. Between artistic depictions of chubby childlike cherubs, television shows about guardian angels, and movies wherein demons are fought back with arcane rituals or even the protagonists’ bare hands, it is easier than we think it is to have our views of angels and demons shaped by the popular culture.
Angels must be seen under the general heading of God’s providence. The Lord created the world, but He also sustains and directs creation so that all things work out “according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11; Heb. 1:1–4). Yet He is not the sole cause of everything that happens; rather, He employs created agents—both their wills and actions—as subordinate, secondary causes within His providential rule. This includes angels, who themselves are not divine beings but creatures with an origin in space and time. God “created all things,” including angelic spirits (Rev. 4:11; see Gen. 1:1).
Scripture shows us that angels play vital roles in the outworking of God’s plans. They are essential players in many miracles. For example, an angel rolled away the stone from Jesus’ tomb (Matt. 28:1–10). Angels also seem to have some kind of role in directing the course of ordinary human history, including the rise and fall of nations and empires. The book of Daniel, for instance, refers to Michael as the “great prince” with charge over the people of Israel (Dan. 12:1). Elsewhere in Scripture, Michael is identified as an archangel, indicating some kind of hierarchy in the angelic host (Jude 1:9). Daniel 10:12–14 explains that Michael had to help another being, presumably another angel, fight back an enemy, the prince of Persia, so that the angel carrying the interpretation of Daniel’s vision could reach the prophet. It would not be too speculative to suggest that this prince of Persia was an evil angelic being—a demon—because he opposed the Lord and His people.
Angels, we shall see, are ministers to God’s people (Heb. 1:13–14), but they are not cute little creatures who wait on us hand and foot. They are enforcers, a hierarchical army that advances the purposes of our Creator.