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Angels - in Heaven, on Earth and in Hell

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Divine Revelation has established the existence of a created world of Spirits. Angels were created by God and are now living in Heaven, sympathetic and helpful to the needs of men, or in Hell where they exist to seduce the human race from allegiance to the Creator. The existence of Angels; their spiritual nature; the fall of the evil Spirits of their own free will; the role of the devil in the fall of man, are doctrines of faith proclaimed by the Church and by the 4th Lateran Council, 2nd Council of Lyons, the Councils of Florence, and Trent, and the 1st Vatican Council.

The Old Testament books early speak of Angels but are always careful in their expressions to steer away from any possible idolatry, so closely related were the Angels to God that they were sometimes erroneously thought of, as attributes of God. Even during Christ’s life the Sadducees denied the existence of Angels.

In the Books of Daniel and Tobit we see Angels in their full glory. Gabriel is mentioned by name as the Angel who foretold Christ’s coming and Michael as the “one who mounts guard over your people.” Daniel speaks of seeing Angels as does St. John at Patmos “ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.” The Book of Tobit through more than half its length is the narrative of the Angel Raphael and his ministrations to Tobias’ future wife and his father. At the end of the story the helpful companion identified himself “I am Raphael, one of the seven, who stands ever ready to enter the presence of the glory of God.”

The Gospels tell of an Angel appearing to Zachary to foretell John the Baptist’s birth; to Mary to announce the Incarnation; to Joseph that his quandary about Mary’s being with child be resolved. Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt at the warning of an Angel, and an Angel told Joseph of Herod’s death and the possibility of the Holy Family’s safe return to Palestine. Angels announced Christ’s birth with their Glorias of praise, in Bethlehem. They came also to confirm Christ in His resistance to Satan in the desert, as well as comfort Him in His agony in Gethsemane. Two of the heavenly host awaited the women to tell them their Lord had risen, “He goes before you into Galilee.”

Christ speaks Himself of more than 12 legions of Angels; the Angels of the innocent; the Angels who will separate the good from the bad on the last day. Peter in prison had his chains loosened and the doors unlocked by an Angel. An Angel also spoke to Philip; another struck Herod with a fatal malady and Paul was protected in his stormy journey at sea by a Spirit friend. St. Paul distinguished several classes of angelic Spirits - Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers and Archangels. Tradition adds Cherubim and Seraphim found in the Old Testament and “plain” angels. These classifications even before the 4th century were known as Choirs and their number accepted as nine. St. Paul writes of the status of these Spirit creatures as inferior to Christ, and of their role as good or bad in relation to man’s salvation - “the good acting as God’s ministers while the bad misled those susceptible to evil.”

Divine Revelation in Bible and Tradition tells us to honor the Angels God has sent us as Guardians. That each of the faithful has his individual Angel is common belief, implied in Scripture and arbitrarily stated by St. Basil who reasons that angelic assistance is part of Christ’s plan for the salvation of the men He died to save. These Guardian Angels are of Divine Providence which works through God’s creatures. These pure Spirits most nearly resemble God and yet are not dissimilar to man, having intelligence and will like us. They are God’s intermediaries between the God they see and mankind whom they are entrusted to lead to the same Beatific Vision.

Some individuals, societies, religious groups, like the Church or Institutes of Charity, secular states, and national or local governments are believed to have special Guardian Angels. Blessed Peter Fabre and St. Aloysius in their letters speak of those saints whose belief and love for the unseen Spirits prompted their prayers for countries over which these Guardians had been placed as well as for the individuals living there, whose supplications their Angels daily present before the throne of God.

Angels’ ministry to protect man is God given but also it is from man to God in an intercessory manner. Catholics should pray, soliciting our Angels’ continued protection and asking them to present our prayers to God. St. Ambrose especially encourages such spiritual rapport between us and our faithful Guardians, and the Church has long encouraged it. Our spiritual needs are our Angels’ main concern but they also have care over our bodily and earthly needs, if such pertain to our salvation and sanctification. Angels sometimes have been man’s go-between, sent by man as well as God to aid others distantly located.

All living religions, Buddhism and Islam believe in devils and in Christianity Satan is identified as a part of Revelation. The first and last book of the Bible describe the devil and his activities in detail. In the beginning Satan tempted Eve, who tempted Adam to act against God’s command. His subterfuge was the argument that if they would be like God they should disobey His unexplained command. Through the ages the devil’s approach has not varied: if anything it has become more subtle in prompting pride, “to be like God” and more sophisticated. St. John depicts the evil spirit in his envious plotting, working on our first parents but today his field of activity is universal: his arena all of God’s faithful. After Lucifer and his cohorts fell, St. John says they passed through 4 stages:

  1. Their disobedience landed them in hell.
  2. They seduced Adam and Eve.
  3. They repeatedly assaulted the Israelites.
  4. In their hatred they opposed the Church of Christ and especially those faithful, who obeying God’s commandments by their words and actions bore witness to Christ.

The devil never rests. His only respite is when he is dealing with a confirmed sinner. So long as there is a chance of weaning a soul from God’s service he is untiring in his glowing presentation of appealing reasons for being proud, envious, impure, disobedient and slothful in doing good. His strategems are unlimited. Our human intelligences without God’s solicited help are no match for his angelic brilliance.

In Christ’s time there were many souls obsessed and possessed by the devil. The Bible relates many instances of Christ driving the evil spirits out of demented souls. St. Mark’s Gospel tells of many such, on whom Jesus took pity and seeing it, the people were in awe at Christ’s power. Some of the Church Fathers speak of the Mystical Body of Satan which besides the evil spirits is composed of those human beings who willfully cooperate with the devil and his work on earth. Their success today is phenomenal. But there is a brighter side to their existence. In the plan of Providence, though the devil’s purpose was to seduce, leading souls away from God’s service, the Lord’s purpose was to strengthen them to resist Satan and thereby draw closer to God. Every act of the devil is evil, hoping to harm man spiritually and eternally if possible, but by man’s resistance by grace, the devil’s enticements are vanquished proving that faith and trust in God gives power. God never allows Satan to tempt us beyond our strength.

  1. The first thing we should remember is that God always supplies sufficient grace to overcome Satan’s lies and blandishments.

  2. Secondly, that the devil is a liar, his name in Hebrew is ‘adversary’ and in Greek ‘diabolos’ and ‘daimon’ meaning liar.

  3. Thirdly that Satan is always logical in what he proposes, seldom suggesting anything not apparently good and reasonable.

  4. Fourth, that he often uses human agents, institutions and people.

To explain in detail, the devil’s technique is cunning, deceitful and always disguised. He adapts himself to the temperaments and tastes of his would-be victims; to the worldly he tempts to the sins of the flesh; to the intellectual usually to pride. The devil doesn’t retain his angelic intelligence for nothing! To defeat him, even to recognize him we must be shrewd and our best recourse is to pray for humility, knowing we need God’s help; also pray to Mary and Michael whose powers Satan fears.

When the Devil operates on a person by exerting his influence by control of their body, it is known as possession. When he engineers his attack from outside the person it is known as obsession. The victim’s soul in both instances is intact. Although many examples of hysterical behavior are falsely labeled as possession, when a person possesses strength beyond his natural capacity or speaks understandably in a language he has never known, we may consider these acts the results of diabolic power. The devil also uses people to do his will, goading them to lay snares for others.

This demonic power becomes a literal slavery when a human being becomes the tool of Satan! Satanism; devil worship; demonology are popular issues today. Many souls are victimized by them. Let us not forget the devil is actual and real and is very much at work today! The person who smiles at his existence will be an easy prey for what Pope Paul called “The Mystery of Iniquity.” The devil is no myth, symbol nor old wives tale.


Affirm Satan’s existence. Admit his actuality.
Be vigilant, stand firm strong in faith.
God is all-powerful and will prevail.
Know your own weakness but be confident in God’s power.
Pray with hope and certainty that He will protect you.
His “Angels will have charge over you and will keep you in all your ways” – if you beseech their care.

The Catholic Catechism, partial source
John A. Hardon, S.J.

Vol25 - #3, October 1979, pp.24-28

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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