When Jesus was on Earth, did the Demons know Jesus was the Messiah?

Father Fortea, when Jesus was on earth, did the demons know He was the Messiah?

As we have said, demons do not know everything. They do not even know all that happens in this world; they are among us, but they come and go. The demons watch over the saints in a very special way, and they knew that Jesus was a man who was especially holy. They could see that He had never committed a sin or even an imperfection. The devil, though steeped in sin, is the consummate appraiser of virtue. Though the demons could observe Jesus living a perfect life, His divinity is an invisible attribute. When Jesus began performing miracles, the demons would have discussed among themselves whether He was just another prophet or the Messiah. They would have increasingly begun to suspect that Jesus was the Messiah, not only because of what He did but also because of His teachings. While the apostles, in their weak moments, may have been inattentive to Jesus, the demons certainly heard and remembered every word He said.

It was clear that Jesus was not an ordinary man because He performed miracles that were beyond that of angelic nature (e.g., raising the dead). At first, though, the demons could argue that it was not Jesus who performed these miracles but God. They could not distinguish whether He did them by His own power; they only saw their effect. But it soon became clear to them – from all the biblical and theological signs, all the miracles, and Jesus’ goodness – that this man was the incarnate God. This knowledge can be seen in the biblical stories of possessions when the demons ask, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time? “ (Mt 8:29). These words indicate that they knew Jesus was God, the same God who would condemn them at the Last Judgment.


Editor’s Note:  To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. Fortea’s excellent book, Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.

Art: Detail from Fastentuch Gurker Dom Daemonenaustreibung, [Jesus Christ dispossesses (section of painting scenes on the abstinence cloth in the Cathedral of Gurk, Carinthia, Austria)], Meister Konrad von Friesach, 1458 A.D., CC, Wikimedia Commons.

About Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea

Trained by Vatican exorcist Gabriele Amorth, Father José Antonio Fortea is not only an exorcist, but also a writer, calligrapher and parish priest. He once thought he would lead what he has termed ordinary life as an attorney in Madrid, much as his father did before him, but sensed instead a vocation to the priesthood in his adolescent years. A theology graduate of Navarre University in Spain, Father Fortea wrote a thesis there on exorcism. He has been a practicing exorcist for several decades.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

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  • Howard

    The sinlessness of the Blessed Virgin Mary would have been a big hint, too, and when St. John the Baptist (himself without personal sin, though tainted by original sin) said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” it must have removed all doubt.

  • TerryC

    I’m not sure that is true. Did the demons know that the Messiah was God himself? Surely they must have known of God’s Triune nature. The phrases Son of God & Son of Man were not uncommon in writings of the Old Testament. Certainly the Suffering Servant of Isaiah would have been known to them as the Messiah. But did they realize that the Suffering Servant was the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God?
    I would even introduce another complication, that being do fallen Angels share? While I might easily believe that, unless God’s will specifically forbids it Celestial angels do not hide information form each other. After all they stand in the presence of the Beatific Vision, perhaps even when they are on Earth. Why would they hide anything? Demons on the other hand might be more in it for themselves. Knowledge is power. Does Satan tell any of his minions anything he doesn’t want them to know? That being so might it not be possible that Satan was more knowledgeable of what was happening than ordinary demons? Or was even he unsure until Christ broke the bonds of death and released the departed righteous from bondage so they could enter heaven?

  • Howard

    I was not referring to the phrase “Son of God” or “Son of Man”, although there were certainly times when the Pharisees clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. I was referring to the cry of the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world!” The Pharisees were right, and the devils would have known it, to ask, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

  • dougpruner

    Is there a typo in the post?
    “‘What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to
    torment us before the time?'(Mt 8:29). These words indicate that they
    knew Jesus was God, the same God who would condemn them at the Last
    It makes more sense to me this way, which also ‘quotes the quote’ accurately: “What have you to do with us, O Son of God?…” ‘These words indicate that they
    knew Jesus was the Son of God, the same one who would condemn them at the Last

  • Jeremiah H

    Have any theologians or Church Doctors written about what the Devil knew and inferred from the Nativity? Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Matthew narrates how Wise Men from the East worshipped the Christ child. I ask because I’m sure I’ve been told that all the events and words of the Annunciation-Incarnation were hidden from the Devil.

  • Anonymous

    The Mystical City of God: Life of the Virgin Mother of God, written by Venerable Mary of Agreda (1602-1666) gives an in depth history of Our Lady’s life and does discuss what the devil knew or did not know. This article concurs with what I read in that book – that the devil did not know that Jesus was the Messiah until much later, in fact he wasn’t completely positive until almost the last moment and then tried to stop the crucifixion. When it was clear that it couldn’t be stopped, he incited people to make it as cruel as possible.