Temporal Abode of Demons
(1) It seems to be referred to as the "abyss" (or "deep," King James Version). In Luke 8:31, by the demons who requested of Jesus that he would not command them to "depart into the abyss". And, in Romans 10:6-7, we are told not to say in our hearts "Who shall ascend into the abyss? (that is to bring Christ up from the dead"). Here the word is used as a synonym of Hades, the place of departed spirits of both the righteous and the wicked between death and the resurrection. From Acts 2:27-31, we learn that in death Christ’s soul was in "Hades" ("hell" in the King James Version) – but was not left there, because he was raised from the dead (vs.22-33). That was also where the unrighteous "rich man" was after death, as told by Jesus in the account of The Rich Man and Lazarus; but there was "a great gulf fixed" between him and the righteous (Luke 16:19-31). His place in Hades is likely the same as that into which the angels that sinned had been cast down and "reserved unto judgment" – namely, Tartarus" – in English usually rendered "hell" (2 Peter 2:4; cf. Jude 6) –but distinguished from gehenna, the lake of fire and place of the eternal punishment.
The Greek work for "abyss" (King James Version, "bottomless pit") is abussos, which describes an immeasurable depth. It is further employed figuratively and symbolically in Revelation 9:1,2,11: 11:7; 20:1,3, in three different settings. The first is 9:1-11, in which the abyss is opened to release smoke darkening the air and a five month plague of diabolical locusts tormenting those not having the seal of God on their foreheads; the second, 11:1-3, in which a beast is represented as coming up out of the abyss to make war against God’s two witnesses and kill them; and third, 20:1-10, in which Satan is represented as being imprisoned for a thousand years in the abyss, so as not able to marshal all the nations for world-wide onslaught to destroy the saints of God until the thousand years are finished. And in the last account the distinction between the "abyss" and the "lake of fire and brimstone" is clearly drawn – the latter place of final and unending torment of the wicked. This contrast with Hades, which will be done away at the time of the final and general judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
It is to be noted that the "locusts" of the "abyss were let loose for a season for a divine purpose. It might, therefore, likewise be true of "demons " – say, to allow a demonstration of the superiority of divine power over diabolic forces, such as by our Lord and his apostles and certain others.
(2) But we have other considerations to take into account, in scriptures addressed to Christians with pagan background and a syncretistic religious environment, involving the "air" as a region of activity.
In Ephesians 2:2, Satan is refereed to in the statement that "ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air [of which we shall have more to say later], of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience."
In Ephesians 6:10-12: "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood [not against man, primarily or only], but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness [spiritual and moral darkness], against the spiritual host of wickedness in the heavenly places" – "heavenly" here not referring to the abode of God. Reference could be either to the atmospheric heavens, or to powerful corporate entities of exalted status on earth under the control of Satan and his imps.
These may very well be "the powers of the air" or 2:2 above. (See 6:12-20 for a description of the "whole armor of God" and how to "stand" successfully against our spiritual enemies.
(3) The fact of highly figurative (and some of it philosophical jargon made use of) must be reckoned with and taken into account in connection with the matters under consideration.
In Colossians we have the following: "God has delivered us [who are Christians] out of the power of darkness [the domain or kingdom of Satan], and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love [Jesus Christ, whose kingdom by implication is one of light (see John 1:1-14; 8:12; 1 John 1:5-7; 2:7-11, where "darkness" and light" are not physical, but spiritual, ethical, moral)]" (1:13)—without any reference to or change in spacial location.
Therefore: "Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the rudiments [or elements] of the world, and not after Christ: for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in him are ye made full, who is the head of all principality and power: … having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it [that is, in his death on the cross]" (2:8-10,15).
The following comment in The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible has much to commend it : "Once more it is stressed that Jesus is the only centre of the Christian life. Speculations about planetary powers and their effect on human destiny are not to be heeded. … In the first century A.D. there were a lot of speculations about divine powers that controlled the universe and about the correct way of coming to terms with them. This discussion was often based on the old myths or legends about gods and goddesses. Its basis was therefore man-made as opposed to Christianity which is solidly based on a historical character, Jesus Christ, and on convincing evidence of his importance as the one in whom God speaks to man. In these speculations the elemental spirits or powers that were thought to inhabit the planets loomed large (see above 1:16*). The word translated here as elemental spirits [rudiments in the American Standard Version, and in its margin, elements] could mean that the fundamental principles of knowledge; it was also applied to the basic elements that made up the natural world (i.e. earth, air, fire, and water) which were sometimes thought of as spirit powers. But the term was also used, as here, of the ‘heavenly bodies’ and the powers that were thought to dwell in them. These were considered to have influence on human affairs, just as people today believe in fate and read their horoscopes in the daily papers, and sometimes take them seriously."
*Colossians 1:16, referred to in the preceding, states that by Christ "were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, thing visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him." And the comment referred to is as follows:
"16, heaven[s] is here a way of describing the invisible part of the universe, and everything in [the ] heaven[s] described superhuman forces of evil at work against God. … In Paul’s time there was a common belief in the invisible orders of angels and superhuman forces, which were sometimes thought to inhabit the planets and have an important say in man’s destiny. These powers described as the invisible orders of thrones etc. often exercised an unhealthy fear on people's minds. … If these forces exist, says Paul. They must be seen in their right perspective as part of the created order, and so subordinated to Jesus Christ. Too often through human credulity and fear they have wrongly exercised a power and influence due to God alone. For him: the sole purpose of the universe is to serve the glory of the one true God."
The above takes for granted (and correctly so, that likely) that Paul was dealing with concepts he did not accept, at least not fully, but nullified their force in a positive way more effectively than likely he could have done by outright rejection and refutation. (See an example of such in his sermon in Athens, recorded in Acts 17:22-34 or Romans 8:37-39.)
Now we turn back to Ephesians 2:2, where Satan is called "the prince of the powers of the air." The Greek text and the King James Version have "power," singular. But as Ellicott’s Commentary remarks, "the word ‘power’ both in the singular and in the plural, is used in this epistle, almost technically, of superhuman power." And, since Satan, whom Jesus once called "the prince of this world" (John 16:11), is also called "the prince of the demons" (Matthew 12:24; Mark 2:22; Luke 11:15-19), it is easy to think of this passage as referring to them collectively as "the power of the air" here meant – "which seems to be, if not abode, yet the haunt of evil spirits" (Expositor’s Greek Testament). (Emphasis is here added, to call attention to the two words as synonyms but not precise equivalents, "haunt referring to a place of frequent resort without necessarily being chief residence—suggesting a possible well worth considering.
On the other hand, Elliott, while granting the possibility of an illusion here to the speculations of Jewish or Gentile philosophy, as above, believes it "more probable that the ‘air’ is here meant simply to describe the sphere, and therefore a power, below heaven and yet above the earth" – that is, without necessarily meaning to designate literally an abode of either Satan or his emissaries.
(4) The bottom line is that we cannot take any of the descriptive terms employed (or philosophical ones in some instances), and construct "geography" of the universe. For figurative uses are involved in all of them, and figures of speech may clash without the concepts they represent being contradictory. For instance, Christ is "the lamb of God" (John 1:36), "the lion of the tribe of Judah" and "root of David" (Revelation 5:5). And "the bright and morning star" (Revelation 22:16, King James Version) – each being descriptive of an aspect of the same individual.
And so with the terms of our present study. The word Gehenna, used figuratively for the place of everlasting punishment for the wicked after the general judgment (and translated into English as "hell"), originally meant the "valley of Hinnom," located on the south and east of Jerusalem. It was used after the days of king Josiah as a dump site for the refuse of the city, including the dead bodies of animals and the unburied criminals who had been executed; and the fires were kept burning to consume such, with worms breeding and feeding in the areas not burned. That furnished the imagery of a "lake of fire" (Revelation 20:10,14,15; 21:8), "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48). But it does not tell where in the universe "hell" (the figurative Gehenna) is located.
The same is true with reference to Hades, which receives the souls of both the righteous and the wicked dead until the times of the resurrection and final judgment, with which (a) the Abyss is equated in Romans 10:7, and (b) may include Tartarus, where fallen angels are reserved for judgment, and (c) may likewise be part of the Abyss or Hades where the spirits of the wicked dead and/or demons are reserved for final judgment.
We need not be concerned about the fact that the "rich man" of Luke 16:19-31 being tormented in "flame," and the angels that sinned being kept "under darkness unto judgment of the great day" (Jude 6), if both are in the Tartarus section of Hades. For we can have fires (flames) in the midst of darkness here on earth. And the Paradise section of Hades could enjoy light (as we suppose it does) while across "the great gulf fixed" there is darkness; for in Egypt the Lord made a distinction between the Land of Goshen, where the Israelites dwelt, and the rest of Egypt where the Egyptians dwelt, giving light in the former while imposing "thick darkness" on the latter for three days (Exodus 10:21-23).
Some of the ancient philosophies distinguished between what they conceived to be the bright "either" of the celestial realm and abode of the great gods (or of God, of the Judeo-Christian religion), and the cloudiness, mist, and darkness associated with the "air" of our terrestrial realm. And, if Hades should be somewhere in space between the two, Paradise (where Jesus went, and we presume all celestial and etherial realm, and Tartarus closer to the terrestrial and aerial realm, that could account for the allusions – as Satan being the "prince of the powers of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), and Paul’s man of 2 Corinthians 12:1-5, "caught up even to the third heaven" (the abode of God) and "into Paradise" (vs.3-4). But of such we cannot at all be certain. Josephus, for instance, believed Hades to be the subterranean region, where the righteous had light but the wicked in another area did not. And the Sheol of the Old Testament, which included the grave and vaguely Gehenna (as Hades does not), and is translated in the King James Version as "grave" (31 times), "hell" (31 times, and "pit" 93 times, was thought of by the ancients as subterranean, which Gehenna could hardly be.
So, the scriptures themselves are not definitive in either the Old or New Testament in regard to the spatial locations of the places under consideration, and for us to attempt to would be highly presumptuous.
(5) As a sort of postscript, one final argument will now be considered, which is related to (2) above but could not be worked in anywhere else as effectively as here. It is that the present abode of demons is "outer darkness" (an expression occurring in Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), and called epourania by Paul (Ephesians 6:12) – translated (in the plural) as "high places" (King James Version; "heavenly places" (in the margin), and pertaining to "aerial regions" (or "air", Ephesians 2:2) – and represented as the Hebrew-Greek name for the region in which there is neither atmosphere nor light, according to Alexander Campbell in the mid-1800s.
He believed, no doubt in harmony with scientific thought of his day, that: "The limits of our atmosphere are the limits of all terrestrial light. These intervals between the atmosphere of the planets are what we call outer darkness. Could a person ascend some fifty miles above the earth, he would find himself surrounded by everlasting night – no ray of sun, or moon, or stars could find him where there is no medium of reflection." And he concluded that "the atmosphere, or rather the regions above it, the etherial and empyrial, and not heaven, nor earth, nor hell, is the proper residence of the ghost of wicked men [which he believed demons to be]."
(The foregoing is adapted from carbon copy of paper written as partial fulfillment of requirements for graduation from Freed-Hardiman College in 1933, and represents the viewpoint of Alexander Campbell as expressed in his Popular Lectures and Addresses, a collection of thirty-seven chapel addresses delivered at Bethany College, published in 1863. The carbon paper slipped and page documentation for the above material was not decipherable.)
But what the scriptures call" outer darkness" is not represented as the "residence of demons prior to the judgment. In Matthew 8:11-12, it is descriptive of the state outside of the "kingdom of heaven" in eternity. In Matthew 22:13, it refers to the darkness of night outside the house in which a wedding feast was prepared. In Matthew 25:30, it likewise refers to the darkness outside of where a master was receiving and reckoning with his servants after he had been gone a long time. And each of these is in a parable representing the doom of the wicked in eternity, not a place of spirits of wicked men prior to the judgment and eternity. Jude 13 contains imagery more nearly in harmony with Campbell’s concept of the temporary abode of demons. But again has reference to the eternal doom of certain unsavory persons, not to the temporary abode of their spirits between death and the judgment. All these passages refer to the same doom as that experienced in Gehenna, but by means of different figurative language – none of which enables us to construct a "geography" of the unseen realms of the universe.Go To Top Of The Page