Why Aren’t Demons Saved?

The eternal damnation of unrepentant sinners has long been the cause of no small amount of anguish among both Christians and unbelievers. Some may wonder how a loving God could allow people to suffer eternal punishment. Others may worry that they have not done enough to bring the good news to friends and strangers alike.

But who has ever shown any concern for what happens to the fallen angels, the demons, who also suffer eternal torment?

We should care about the fate of demons—not out of concern for the demons themselves, but because their lack of salvation casts our own redemption in a new light.

Like us, the demons sinned and experienced a fall. Like us, demons are self-aware, have minds, and possess a will—the ability to choose between good and evil. This makes demons rational beings like us.

But we were offered a chance at redemption while demons were not. Why is this so?

This question certainly pressed upon some of the early Church Fathers. A few even made statements that have been historically interpreted as expressing support for a belief in the salvation of demons. Most famous is Origen who wrote this in his commentary on John:

The Savior, then, is the first and the last, not that He is not what lies between, but the extremities are named to show that He became all things. Consider, however, whether the last is man, or the things said to be under the earth, of which are the demons, all of them or some.

This statement is backed up in another text where Origen states that Christ came to redeem ‘every rational being.’ Other Fathers pondered the fate of the devil and demons as well, even if they reached different conclusions. For example, St. Augustine, in the City of God, addresses such questions as whether the bodiless demons could be burned in the everlasting fires of hell and whether the devil would be in hell for all of eternity. (The answer in both cases yes.)

So why there is no salvation for the demons?

The answer hinges on the differences between their sin—and ours—and the unique character of Christ’s redemptive work.

Like humans, spirits—angelic or demonic—are understood to have a free will, according to St. Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of the topic in the Summa Theologica. Yet, even though it is free, the will of a demon or an angel nonetheless differs from ours in at least one major respect. For humans, our will is ‘moveable’—in other words we have the ability to change our minds and move from one thing to its opposite, say from faith to unbelief.

But it is not so with the spirits, Aquinas writes. Once they have made their choice, it can’t be undone:

So it is customary to say that man’s free-will is flexible to the opposite both before and after choice; but the angel’s free-will is flexible [to] either opposite before the choice, but not after. Therefore the good angels who adhered to justice, were confirmed therein; whereas the wicked ones, sinning, are obstinate in sin.

This difference is rooted in our differing natures. We humans, according to Aquinas, reach the perfection by ‘change and movement.’ In other words, we come to reach ‘perfection in the knowledge of the truth’ by advancing in steps, from one discovery to another, Aquinas writes. This should sound familiar to all of us: all of us have to journey by faith to God, whether it’s the lifelong doubter who finally finds faith on his deathbed, or the cradle Catholic who has been nurtured in his or her faith since infancy and never stops growing. Scripture confirms that in this life we will never stop learning and growing in our faith: on this earth, our vision of God will always be through a ‘glass darkly’ as St. Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians.

Heavenly creatures, on the other hand, by their very nature already have their ‘last perfection,’ according to Aquinas. In other words, there’s no more room for them to grow and develop beyond where they are. While we have a ‘longer way’ to beatitude, the angels could grasp it almost immediately from the moment they are created, Aquinas says. Again, this makes sense: after all, they started out in heaven.

Now we can begin to understand on a deeper level why demons are damned without any offer of redemption: we can infer from what Aquinas says that they were more spiritually advanced than we were—therefore, it stands to reason that their fall from grace was not only that much worse but also irreversible.

Origen’s views on the origins of demons and their possible salvation were roundly condemned as heresy in the Second Council of Constantinople, held in 553 AD. The seventh canon condemning his views hints at a second explanation for the lack of demonic redemption, warning that this position becomes a backdoor denial of the Incarnation:

If anyone shall say that Christ … had different bodies and different names, became all to all, an Angel among Angels, a Power among Powers, has clothed himself in the different classes of reasonable beings with a form corresponding to that class, and finally has taken flesh and blood like ours and is become man for men; and does not profess that God the Word humbled himself and became man:  let him be anathema.

In other words, the false belief in demonic salvation stretches and twists the truth of the Incarnation to unrecognizable extremes. The teaching that God became man in order to save men, by definition, it seems, precludes the salvation of the demons. Thus, the question of the salvation of demons is ultimately connected to the far broader mysteries of the Incarnation and man’s role in the order of creation, as a being ‘made in the image of God.’

All this is more than merely an exercise in curiosity—it gives us a deeper and richer understanding of our own sin and how God saves us from it. In fact, this is exactly the context in which the New Testament writers raised the question of demonic salvation.

In the Epistle to James, second chapter, we are warned against faith without works—a faith that does not respond to God with love—by comparison to the demons, who certainly have knowledge of God. “You believe that God is one,” the epistle states. “You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.” St. Peter too, is his second epistle, uses the example of the demons who have no salvation to assure his readers that God “knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment.”

So let the damnation of the demons be both a cause for renewed hope in our own salvation, knowing that our story is different from theirs, and also a cautionary tale in how far one can fall from grace.

 

 

Stephen Beale

By

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mikepeligro Michael Peligro

    This article is so true and hits all the right spots. The demons (as angels before their downfall) had a beatific vision of God and lived in His almighty presence. We humans while living on earth can only imagine this beatific vision. We struggle to live out our perfection in an imperfect world full of sufferings and temptation. The demons had full knowledge of God’s will and power. They lived in His eternal love. This state of eternal bliss during their existence as angels is as perfect as it can be. To rebel in this state of perfection is truly damnable and will not warrant a second chance, for God cannot offer beyond the perfection of His love and presence.

    Adam and Eve wouldn’t have disobeyed if there was no tempter to distort the truth in the first place. The presence of a tempter is some kind of a mitigating circumstance that somehow lessened our culpability. In the case of the demons, to repudiate God in the absence of a tempter while in full comprehension of His will is indeed a damnable offense that will not warrant a salvation.

  • J D

    My perspective is a bit different, however, but based solely on my opinion. There are many cases of exorcisms available publicly and a good deal of APPROVED Catholic Mystics/Saints that give us a snapshot of the demonic.

    What’s clear and consistent, at all times, are the demon’s affinity for blasphemy of a sexual nature. Black masses usually follow the desecration of The Blessed Sacrament, or the killing of something or someone, with an orgy around an ad-hoc altar. The cults of baal and moloch, and today’s baphomet, do similarly. Our Lady of Fatima said most souls go to hell for sins of the flesh. When demons are confronted, their mouths speak with their dark hearts are full of (As Our Lord Said..), and they are, almost too predictably, blasphemies of a sexual nature.

    The Epistles are full of warnings about the dark revelry of the flesh. If you’re given to formal or mental prayer (and I hope you are) spontaneous assaults usually spring forth invoking the appetites of the flesh, and typically it would seem, one area.

    While The Fathers, Thomas Aquinas in particular, tell us that Lucifer was jealous of God becoming man, such theological epithets never seem to come up from the vomit-king and his minions, but again, only the base and carnal.

    Our Lord seem to passively watch as The Father causes “satan to fall like lightning from the sky..”

    Even for the irreligious, sexual molestation of children, infants are felt as the most reprehensible. All violence against perpetrators seems justifiable.

    What if Lucifer’s intent was for men to serve Angels like Angels serve God, but with a proud debased bent to use them as instruments instead of recognizing and respecting the Image of God in them.

    What parent out there would invite into his home a monster whose intent was to rape their children. Yea, even to entertain using the parents for the same purposes (“..bring them out that we may KNOW them..”)?

    The Father acted to protect his children, the future Church Triumphant, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    Lucifer would spiritually fornicate with Eve, Adam would deny God for Eve’s new debauchery, and Salvation history would begin..

    Just a thought..

    VIVA CHRISTO REY!!!

    ,

  • Peter Nyikos

    I don’t think we should accept Aquinas’s opinion on everything, especially not on things for which there is such scant support in scripture as the inability of angels to change their minds. Even when the support is greater, he makes some blunders. For instance, one of his pieces in Summa Theologica goes something like this.

    It would seem that the Garden of Eden no longer exists.

    His answer: The Garden of Eden is still somewhere on earth, physically, but it is beyond our reach, perhaps behind impenetrable mountains, …

  • Henry Ramos

    “In other words, there’s no more room for them to grow and develop beyond where they are. While we have a ‘longer way’ to beatitude, the angels could grasp it almost immediately from the moment they are created”

    This can not simple be correct. If this is, then at the time of the rebellion they (the fallen) would have needed to be created in the same moment they choose to turn away from GOD, but the angels in question were created long before they ever rebelled.

  • jmstalk

    This is an old article but I will comment for those who stumble upon it in the future. It’s been a very long time since I read the Mystical City of God by Venerable Mary of Agreda but the first volume of this book does a splendid job of describing the fall of the angels. If I recall, Lucifer began to grumble interiorly when he was presented with the fact of the future Incarnation of God, but he fell into a rage when he was shown the Immaculate Conception of Mary and that she would be above the angels.

    So, in a way the article above is accurate, in that Satan immediately started to swing toward rebellion as soon as he learned about these truths, but at the same time, it was no instantaneous fall. First he leaned in one direction and obviously was unable or unwilling to turn himself around. He moved in the direction of what he really was, in the same way that Judas became what he really was as information was presented to him. I think Judas finally fell when he realized that the religious authorities were against Christ and he had to choose sides. Also, the Gospel of Jesus was something he could not accept in the same way that Lucifer could not accept the story of the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In both situations, information was presented to them sequentially, and so they followed their inclinations to their natural and true states of being (who they really are).

    Incidentently, it takes humility for a being that is uncomfortable with the facts to bend his/her will to accept it because it comes from God. God allows these uncomfortable facts to try us in obedience, humility, and faithfulness and both of these failed.

    Here is a link to the online book. Read the first volume.

    http://www.themostholyrosary.com/mystical-city.htm

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