We have many more questions about angels and demons than we have answers. Many times we have to make guesses and assumptions based on a few biblical facts. Frank Peretti’s popular novel This Present Darkness had angelic beings crossing swords and demons disappearing in puffs of red smoke when they were slashed in two. It made for a fun read, but there was more imagination than biblical precision in Peretti’s pages.
Angels are essentially spiritual beings without bodies. Hebrews 1:14 calls them ministering spirits. When they appear to people, they normally are seen with bodies. Sometimes they appear as ordinary men (Hebrews 13:2) or incredibly glorious men (Daniel 10:16) and sometimes as fantastic creatures (Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 1:4–14). However, since angels do not have bodies, these forms are only manifestations in material/visible form. They do not represent what the angel actually “looks like” because a spirit is essentially invisible, at least to the physical eye. Angels sometimes appear with wings in Scripture and are often depicted with wings in art, but physical wings are used to move physical bodies through physical air, and again, angels are spirit beings.
Since angels do not have physical bodies, they cannot be hurt in the sense of suffering physical harm in the same way a human being with a body could be hurt. Likewise, angels cannot die in that sense, either. Physical death is something that humans experience when their bodies cease working and their spirits depart from their bodies. Since angels do not have physical bodies, they cannot experience physical death.
It is possible that angels do encounter some perils in the spiritual world, perils that are beyond our normal experience or comprehension. An angel was sent with an answer to Daniel’s prayer but was detained by “the Prince of Persia” (a fallen angel/demon) and prevented from coming to Daniel for 21 days (Daniel 10:12–13). How was the angel detained? We are not told. Even though they are spirits, angels are not omnipresent, so they do have some kind of localized existence that apparently can be contained. When angels “fight” with demons, do they get injured by each other? Perhaps, but we are simply not told what this type of fighting entails. When we are in battle with spiritual forces, we do not use physical weapons but the armor of God detailed in Ephesians 6:10–18.
If demons are fallen angels, then we know that angels can suffer. When Jesus cast demons out, they sometimes feared that Jesus was going to torture or torment them (see Matthew 8:29; Luke 8:28). Legion begged Jesus not to send them into the Abyss, a holding place for fallen angels/demons (Luke 8:21). If they feared going there, they must be able to suffer in some way. At the final judgment, all of the fallen angels will be cast into the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41), which is the “second death” (Revelation 20:14). There, fallen angels will experience spiritual death, which is defined as separation from God. How can a spiritual being be tormented by flames of fire? We don’t know. As spiritual beings who were meant to enjoy fellowship with God, isolation from God will result in the worst kind of torture.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we have many more questions than answers. As beings bound by time and space, we have difficulty imagining the experience of spiritual beings.