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|Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky|
Orthodox dogmatic theology
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The fall in the Angelic world; Evil spirits.
According to the testimony of the word of God, the origin of sin comes from the devil: “He that
committeth sin is of the devil — for the devil sinneth from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). The word
“devil” means “slanderer.” Bringing together the evidence of Sacred Scripture, we see that the
devil is one of the rational spirits or angels who deviated into the path of evil. Possessing, like
all rational creatures, the freedom which was given him for becoming perfect in the good, he
“abode not in the truth” and fell away from God. The Savior said of him, “He was a murderer
from the beginning and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh
a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He drew the
other angels after himself into the fall. In the epistles of the Apostle Jude and the Apostle Peter,
we read of the angels “which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation” (Jude, v. 6;
compare with 2 Peter 2:4).
What was the cause of the fall in the angelic world? From this same Divine Revelation we
can conclude that the reason was pride: “the beginning of sin is pride,” says the son of Sirach
(Sir. 10:13). The Apostle Paul, warning the Apostle Timothy against making bishops of those
who are newly converted, adds, “Lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of
the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).
The evil spirits are mentioned in only a few passages in the Old Testament Revelation. We
read of the “serpent,” the tempter of the first people in the third chapter of the book of Genesis.
The activities of “satan” in the life of the righteous Job are related in the first chapter of the book
of Job. In First Kings it is said concerning Saul that an evil spirit troubled him after the Spirit of
the Lord departed from him (1 Kings 15:14 — 1 Sam. In KJ). In First Paralipomenon (Chronicles),
chapter 21, we read that when the thought came to King David to make a census of the
people, it was because “satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.”
In the book of the Prophet Zacharias it is said, concerning his vision of the chief priest Joshua,
that Joshua resisted “the devil” (“satan” in KJ; Zacha. 3:1). In the book of the Wisdom of Solomon
it is said that “through the devil's envy death entered the world” (Wis. 2:24). Likewise in
Deuteronomy 32:17 it is said: “they sacrificed unto devils, not to God;” and in Psalm 105:35:
“And they sacrificed … unto demons.”
An incomparably more complete representation of the activity of satan and his angels is
contained in the New Testament Revelation. From it we know that satan and the evil spirits areconstantly attracting people to evil. Satan dared to tempt the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in the
desert. Evil spirits rush into the souls and even into the bodies of men; of this there is the testimony
of many events in the Gospel and of the teachings of the Savior. Concerning the habitation
of evil spirits in men we know from the numerous healings by the Savior of the demon possessed.
Evil spirits, as it were, spy on the carelessness of man so as to attract him to evil. “When
the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth
none. Then he with, I will return into my house from whence I came out, and when he is come,
he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other
spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there, and the last state of that man
is worse than the first” (Matt. 12:43-45). With regard to the healing of the bent woman, the Savior
said to the ruler of the synagogue, “And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham,
whom satan hath bound, to there eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
The Sacred Scripture calls evil spirits “unclean spirits,” “spirits of evil,” “devils,” “demons,”
“angels of the devil,” and “angels of satan.” Their chief, the devil, is also called the
“tempter,” “satan,” “Beelzebub,” “Belial,” the “prince of devils,” and other names like “Lucifer”
(the morning star).
Taking the form of a serpent, the devil was the tempter and the cause of the fall into sin of
the first people, as is related in the third chapter of the book of Genesis. In the Apocalypse he is
called the “great dragon, that old serpent” (Apoc. 12:9).
The devil and his angels are deprived of remaining in the heavenly dwellings of light. “I
beheld satan as lightning fall from heaven, said the Lord to His disciples” (Luke 10:18). Being
cast down from the world above, the devil and his servants act in the world under the heaven,
among men on earth, and they have taken into their possession, as it were, hell and the underworld.
The Apostle calls them “principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world”
(Eph. 6:12). The devil is “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and his servants, the
fallen angels, are “the spirits of wickedness under the heaven” (Eph. 6:12).