Many theologians and Bible experts have traditionally taught that demons are simply fallen angels who have chosen to no longer do the work of the Lord, but Dr. Michael S. Heiser, a scholar who has studied ancient history and Hebrew, has a surprisingly different take on the matter.
Heiser, a scholar-in-residence at the Faith life Corporation and the author of “The Unseen Realm” and “Supernatural,” told The Church Boys podcast that he believes that those who embrace the “fallen angels” paradigm have it all wrong, proposing, instead, that demons are actually the spirits of the Nephilim who are briefly mentioned in the Old Testament.
“It might surprise a lot of people who are familiar with the Bible … to know that the Bible never offers a point-blank explanation for where demons come from,” he said. “A lot of what we think about that is really filtered through church tradition.”
Heiser said that the closest place that one comes to demons being fallen angels can be found in Revelation, the final book of the Bible.
“Revelation 12 … talks about a war in heaven and angels being cast out,” Heiser said. “But if you actually read Revelation 12, that discussion … is associated with the first coming of Jesus … demons were around a long time before that.”
While he embraces the notion that it is possible for people — mainly occultists, Satanists and practicing polytheists who solicit evil forces — to become possessed, he believes that the spiritual forces behind it simply aren’t angelic in nature.
“What the New Testament refers to as demons, Jewish texts in between the Old and New Testaments actually have a very clear answer for this — and that is demons are the disembodied spirits of the deadNephilim from Genesis 6:1-4,” Heiser said. “The dead giants of the pre-flood era and the post-flood era as well.”
Nephilim are mentioned twice in the Bible in the aforementioned Genesis 6 chapter as well as in Numbers 13. Here are the specific verses:
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)
We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anakcome from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33)
Overall, there’s not a lot written about the Nephilim in the biblical text and Heiser admits that it “sounds kind of crazy,” but he further explained why he believe that these spirits that were once in bodily form are once again seeking human hosts to reside in.
Heiser said that Jewish texts fill in the blanks, leading him to believe that the Nephilim are actually the demonic forces that some believe hold the power to terrorize and possess humans.
As for Christians who might reject the Nephilim theory or the notion of demons more generally, Heiser said that he believes that evangelicals, in particular, are sometimes “selectively supernatural.”
“I like to ask Christians, ‘Well, what’s so normal about the virgin birth? What’s so normal about the trinity?” he said.
Some critics, of course, maintain their belief that demons are most likely fallen angels, with Christian resource GotQuestions.org embracing the traditional notion and pushing back against those who embrace the Nephilim theory.
“The most common alternate explanation for the origin of the demons is that when the Nephilim of Genesis 6 were destroyed in the flood, their disembodied souls became the demons,” the site reads. “While the Bible does not specifically say what happened to the souls of the Nephilim when they were killed, it is unlikely that God would destroy the Nephilim in the Flood only to allow their souls to cause even greater evil as the demons.”
GotQuestions.org continued, “The most biblically consistent explanation for the origin of the demons is that they are the fallen angels, the angels who rebelled against God with Satan.”
Written By: Billy Hallowell