We’ve talked about who angels are, how many there are and even seen them in action. Now let’s focus on how they do battle in the spiritual realm. One-third of the angels were cast out of Heaven — Satan and his demons. We’ll see why. We’ll also see what the Bible has to say about guardian angels and how we can do battle ourselves in the heavenlies.

If it is difficult for you to believe in another dimension, a spiritual world you can’t see with your eyes, keep in mind that even String Theory proposes at least eight alternate dimensions.

This is a 3-part series

Is there an angel hierarchy?

God is a God of order and authority. There is a chain of command in the angelic world. Since Christ’s resurrection, angels are under his direction and authority. (1 Peter 3:22) These types of angels are mentioned in the Bible: 1) cherubim 2) seraphim 3) the four living creatures and 4) elect angels.

Michael the archangel, whose name means “”who is like unto God?” seems to be the angelic leader. (Dan 10:21; 12:1; 1 Thes 4:16; Jude 1:9; Rev 12:7-10) Gabriel, whose name means “hero of God” is an important messenger, entrusted with delivering news to Daniel, Zechariah and Mary.

“He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24

Cherubim

“He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24

Seraphim

“Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” Isaiah 6:2

Four living creatures

“And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come!’” Revelation 4:6–8

There are also fallen angels, demons, who fall into two categories: free and bound. Some are chained and awaiting judgement (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Some are free and serve under Satan’s command.


Why did some of the angels fall from Heaven?

God operates with complete order and authority. There is a chain of command and the holy angels always do what he says. The angels who rebelled against his authority were cast out of Heaven. 

Lucifer (Satan) was a guardian cherub (Ezekiel 28), one of the angel orders closest to God. He became prideful in his perfect beauty and wanted to be worshipped. (Luke 10) He decided he wanted to become God and take the throne. (Isaiah 14:12-14)

A third of the angels joined Lucifer in his rebellion (Rev 12:4) and they were cast down to earth like lightning. (Luke 10:18) They do not live in hell, they roam the earth and the heavens circling it (Job 1:7), seeking to tempt and separate people from God. (1 Peter 5:8) 

Satan’s defeat was when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, covering our sins and paying our debts that would have sent us to hell with the devil. And the fallen angels’ days on earth are numbered. Jesus is coming back to earth and Satan, along with his demons and unbelievers, will be cast into the lake of fire to be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Rev 20:10) 

And a side note, Satan will not be ruling in hell. He will be tormented, not the tormentor. (Rev 20:10) It is Jesus who holds the keys to death and hades. (Rev 1:18)

Satan is a powerful fallen angel, more powerful than humans, but he has no authority over believers. We are under the authority of Christ, who all things were made through and for.


Ephesians 6-12
Credit: Kevin Carden/Lightstock

How do the angels battle in the spiritual realm?

Who

A third of the angels joined Lucifer in his rebellion against God. (Rev 12:4) Some of those demons are locked up awaiting judgement. (2 Peter 2:4) So we know that there are significantly more holy angels than demons. 

It is important to mention that these two sides of good and evil are not equal. The fallen angel, Satan, is a created being. He is not omnipresent and omniscient like God. He has rebelled against God, but he is still under God’s authority. Satan has to get permission for everything he does! (Job 1) 

Jesus is the commander of all angels, holy and fallen. Demons in every circumstance in the gospels obey Jesus and are in fact terrified of him. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19

What

Spiritual warfare. Angels and demons do not battle to accomplish death (they cannot die), but to either thwart or promote God’s plan.

When

From the time of Satan’s rebellion and Adam and Eve’s first sin until the day that Jesus comes back and casts Satan, his demons and worshippers into the lake of fire for eternity. The war will not go on forever.

Where

The battle takes place in the heavenlies. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

How

The how is not clear. We do know that there are mighty displays of power, swords, battle for territory, but angels do not die. They are, however, subject to torture of some kind. When Jesus encountered demons they were fearful he would torment them (Matt 8:29; Luke 8:28). Legion, a group of demons possessing a man, begged Jesus not to send him to the abysss, where some fallen angels currently are being held.

Can people still be possessed by demons? This is a gray area and I don’t have all the answers, but I still want to address it. I believe possession can occur, but those cases are rare, few and far between. The demons can’t own someone as this suggests, but rather occupy. But the person would have had to give the demon permission through participation of occult or abuse of varying kinds. I heard a message by Alistair Begg once on Moody Radio saying he’d only encountered something like this a couple times in his long pastoral career. He said there’s no question when you do see it.

If you are a believer you can be oppressed, but not possessed. You have the Holy Spirit and Jesus has claimed you as His own. It’s important to mention, however, that oftentimes we voluntarily give over parts of our lives to the devil. We offer him footholds, something to work with, when we habitually sin. Erwin Lutzer writes, “If we walk in obedience, we have no reason to fear the works of the enemy, even though his attacks may be numerous and persistent.”

It is my theory that these possessions we read about in the gospels possibly happened more frequently because 1) The Holy Spirit had not yet descended and 2) Satan could see his defeat was eminent and his time on earth narrowing. He had to pull out all the stops when the Savior walked among men. It almost seems like his tactic has shifted to a quieter, more subtle evil. He is very much still at work, but would prefer to be unseen that way you’re not even sure if he exists or if God exists.

The holy angels, on the other hand, honor all of God’s commands in Revelation in the end of days. Here are some examples:

  • Four angels hold back the four winds of the earth (Rev 7:1).
  • Michael and his angels fight agains the dragon and his angels (Rev 12:7).
  • Seven angels unleash the seven bowls of the wrath of God (Rev 16).
  • One angel locks Satan away for 1,000 years (Rev 20:2). Jesus returns with his most powerful angels. (Matt 16:27, 24:31, 25:31)

Why

Humans were meant to rule creation through the love and power of God. (Gen 1:26) Satan, in opposition to anyone ruling but himself, tries to separate humans from God. He does this by trying convince humans they can be like God and do things apart from him (Gen 3).

Let’s read a few verses describing the spiritual battle playing out here on Earth, starting with my favorite! You will be blessed if you take the time to read it.

“When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. 19 And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.” 2 Kings 6:15-19

Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he returned his sword to its sheath … but David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord. 1 Chronicles 21:27, 29.

And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when the people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses – all dead. 2 Kings 19:35

And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 2 Samuel 24:16


Sword of the Spirit - the Word of God
Credit: Kevin Carden/Lightstock

How can humans do battle in spiritual warfare? 

Spiritual warfare is real and it does play out on earth, but people tend to do one of two things: 1) ignore it all together or 2) give Satan too much credit and think him more powerful than he is. 

“The key to successful spiritual warfare is finding the biblical balance. Jesus sometimes cast demons out of people; other times He healed people with no mention of the demonic. The apostle Paul instructs Christians to wage war against the sin in themselves (Romans 6) and warns us to oppose the schemes of the devil (Eph 6:10–18).” — GotQuestions.org

Here is how you can do battle:

1) You can fight in the heavenlies with prayer. Read this verse from an angel talking to Daniel. God sent the angel out as soon as Daniel started praying! But the angel was held up for 21 days by a high-ranking demon in Persia.

“I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, so I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia and came to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days.” Daniel 10:12–14

2) You can fight in the heavenlies by submitting to God. Put yourself under his umbrella of authority.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

3) You can fight in the heavenlies by putting on the full armor of God. Imagine that the people during Jesus’ time were accustomed to seeing the Roman armor that Paul is referring to:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6:10-18

If you believe in Jesus, you have complete victory over death and no schemes of Satan can separate you from your eternal home. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39


Credit: Kevin Carden/Lightstock

Why does the Bible say so little about angels? 

The Bible mentions angels over 300 times, so why do we still know so little about them? We know that there are millions upon millions of angels, yet we only know three of their names — Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer the fallen angel. We don’t know exactly how many there are or how they interact.

Their mystery is quite purposeful. It is so we do not worship angels and that Jesus is the focus. (Col 2:18) They are mighty, glorious beings and we would be tempted to worship them if we became too knowledgable. But they are loyal to the true king, Jesus Christ, and remain behind the scenes, carrying out his plans.

It is good to know truths about God’s messengers, but it is better to know and follow the Savior.

“And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’ Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19: 9-10


Do I have a guardian angel?

Scripture is clear that angels guard and protect human beings (Psalm 34:7; 91:11–12; Matt 18:10; Acts 12:9–15), but it is unclear if we are each assigned our own angel. 

Although when Peter was released from jail by an angel in Acts 1, the people praying for him couldn’t believe he was at the gate when the servant girl told them. “They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”

Matt 18:10 is another interesting verse concerning guardian angels. Jesus said: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

It’s a possibility that we have guardian angels assigned to us. It is more likely, however, that we have more than one angel who attends to us.

Finally, angels’ primary care is for those who trust in Jesus. Hebrews 1:14 says, “Are not the angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” 

Angels are waiting to carry out the plans Jesus Christ gives them — he is their commander and authority. (1 Peter 3:22) Jesus said, “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.”

If we acknowledge Jesus before others, we are under his authority and under his angelic care. As with the angels, we must submit to the authority of God.


Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for thereby some have entertained angels unawares

Are angels still active today?

We see angels are still active in the book of Acts, after Jesus’ resurrection. They are still active in the prophesies yet to be fulfilled. So yes, angels are still at work today. 

In fact, the writer of Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Not only do angels still serve those “who shall inherit salvation,” it is even possible that we could encounter one!

This war will not continue forever. Satan has a time limit and we are getting closer every day. Jesus will return with his most powerful angels and defeat him forever! (John 12:31, Rev 12:9, and 20:10)


Have more questions?

I find that oftentimes questions answered only lead to more questions! If you’re curious for more, check out these sites for concise biblical answers:


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Discussion guide

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