Are Fallen Angels Demons?

How Some Angels Became Evil Spirits Called Demons

Fall Angel Statue

Kim Steele / Getty Images 

Angels are pure and holy spiritual beings who love God and serve Him by helping people, right? Usually, that’s the case. Certainly, the angels that people celebrate in popular culture are faithful angels who do good work in the world. But there’s another type of angel that doesn’t get nearly as much attention: fallen angels. Fallen angels (who are also commonly known as demons) work for evil purposes that lead to destruction in the world, in contrast to the good purposes of the missions that faithful angels fulfill.

Angels Fallen From Grace

Jews and Christians believe that God originally created all angels to be holy, but that one of the most beautiful angels, Lucifer (now known as Satan, or the devil), didn’t return God’s love and chose to rebel against God because he wanted to try to be as powerful as his creator. Isaiah 14:12 of the Torah and the Bible describes Lucifer’s fall: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!”.

Some of the angels who God made fell prey to Lucifer’s prideful deception that they could be like God if they rebelled, Jews and Christians believe. Revelation 12:7-8 of the Bible describes the war that takes place in heaven as a result: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon [Satan] and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.”

The fallen angels’ rebellion separated them from God, causing them to fall from grace and become caught in sin. The destructive choices that these fallen angels made distorted their character, which led them to become evil. The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" says in paragraph 393: “It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable.”

Fewer Fallen Angels Than Faithful

There aren’t as many fallen angels as there are faithful angels, according to Jewish and Christian tradition, which says that about one-third of the vast amount of angels God created rebelled and fell into sin. Saint Thomas Aquinas, a notable Catholic theologian, said in his book "Summa Theologica:" “The faithful angels are a greater multitude than the fallen angels. For sin is contrary to the natural order. Now, what is opposed to the natural order occurs less frequently, or in fewer instances, than what accords with the natural order.”

Evil Natures

Hindus believe that angelic beings in the universe may be either good (devas) or evil (asuras) because the creator god, Brahma, made both "cruel creatures and gentle creatures, dharma, and adharma, truth and falsehood," according to the Hindu scripture "Markandeya Purana," verse 45:40.

The asuras are often revered for the power they wield to destroy since the god Shiva and the goddess Kali destroy what has been created as part of the natural order of the universe. In the Hindu Veda scriptures, the hymns addressed to the god Indra show fallen angelic beings personifying evil at work.

Only Faithful, Not Fallen

People of some other religions who believe in faithful angels don’t believe that fallen angels exist. In Islam, for instance, all angels are considered to be obedient to God’s will. The Qur’an says in chapter 66 (Al Tahrim), verse 6 that even the angels whom God has appointed to supervise the souls of people in hell “flinch not (from executing) the commands they receive from God, but do (precisely) what they are commanded.”

The most famous of all the fallen angels in popular culture –- Satan -- isn’t an angel at all, according to Islam, but instead is a jinn (another kind of spirit that has free will, and which God made from fire as opposed to the light from which God made angels).

People who practice New Age spirituality and occult rituals also tend to view all angels as good and none as evil. Therefore, they often try to conjure angels to ask for help obtaining what they want in life, without concern that any of the angels they summon may lead them astray.

Tempting People to Sin

Those who do believe in fallen angels say that those angels tempt people to sin in order to try to entice them away from God. Genesis chapter 3 of the Torah and the Bible tells the most famous story of a fallen angel tempting people to sin: It describes Satan, the leader of the fallen angels, appearing as a serpent and telling the first human beings (Adam and Eve) that they can be “like God” (verse 5) if they eat fruit from a tree that God had told them to stay away from for their own protection. After Satan tempts them and they disobey God, sin enters the world damages every part of it.

Deceiving People

Fallen angels sometimes pretend to be holy angels in order to trick people into following their guidance, the Bible warns. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 of the Bible cautions: “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”

People who fall prey to fallen angels’ deception may even abandon their faith. In 1 Timothy 4:1, the Bible says that some people “will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

Afflicting People With Problems

Some of the problems that people experience are the direct result of fallen angels influencing their lives, say some believers. The Bible mentions many instances of fallen angels causing mental anguish for people, and even physical distress (for instance, Mark 1:26 describes a fallen angel violently shaking a person).

In Hindu tradition, asuras derive happiness from hurting and even killing people. For example, an asura named Mahishasura who sometimes appears as a human and sometimes as a buffalo enjoys terrorizing people both on Earth and in heaven.

Trying to Interfere With God’s Work

Interfering with God’s work whenever possible is also part of fallen angels’ evil work. The Torah and the Bible record in Daniel chapter 10 that a fallen angel delayed a faithful angel for 21 days, battling him in the spiritual realm while the faithful angel was trying to come to Earth to deliver an important message from God to the prophet Daniel. The faithful angel reveals in verse 12 that God heard Daniel’s prayers right away and assigned the holy angel to answer those prayers. However, the fallen angel who was trying to interfere with the faithful angel’s God-given mission proved to be so powerful of an enemy that verse 13 says that Archangel Michael had to come help fight the battle. Only after that spiritual battle was over could the faithful angel complete his mission.

Headed For Destruction

Fallen angels won’t torment people forever, says Jesus Christ. In Matthew 25:41 of the Bible, Jesus says that when the end of the world comes, the fallen angels will have to go to an “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”