Father Fortea, why does God not just annihilate the demons?
God, in His great love, has pledged not to destroy any intelligent being He has created. Demons, by their very existence, are a manifestation of God’s justice, a proclamation that the law of God is not violated without consequence. He who violates this law deforms himself and, if he chooses not to repent of this transgression, his deformation becomes eternal. Such is the case with the demons. They are a terrifying proof of the divine order.
In a certain sense, even the demons enrich the perfect order of God’s creation. Beauty cannot be destroyed by ugliness; rather, ugliness (i.e., evil) makes us see beauty all the more by contrast. A cathedral would not be more beautiful if we took away the monstrous gargoyles adorning it. As has been said, the demons show us the justice of God, His holiness and wisdom in creating such an order. While it would have been better had sin and evil never entered creation, their presence can point the way to what is good, true, beautiful, and holy. Even a majestic cathedral, with its high towers and sculptured beauty, has its gloomy crypts.
For the demons, the centuries pass with no hope. Undoubtedly, being desperate and full of sadness, if they could commit suicide, they would do so in order to end their suffering. But, as a pure spirit, the life of a demon is indestructible. A spirit has no organs, it cannot be poisoned, and it cannot be starved. It cannot even die of sadness. No matter what is done, it will continue to exist forever. (Of course, the same holds true for human beings as well. We will exist forever – either in heaven or hell, by our free choice to obey God or reject him.)
Anyway, as has been said, even though the demons suffer for all eternity, they do not suffer at each and every moment. Even though they do not recognize it, their existence is a gift from God. And even though they fall over and over again into acts of hate, reproach, and remorse, the rest of the time they know and experience a natural existence, which is proper to their nature.
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 for this post on “Why does God Not Just Annihilate the Demons?”: Gargoyles, Magdalen College, Oxford England, 27 July 2009, Own work, Chris Creagh, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; Detail of Padre José Antonio Fortea 2017, photographed by Elgatoconbotaselgatoconbotas, 5 May 2017 own work, CCA-SA 4.0 International; both Wikimedia Commons. Cover of “Interview with an Exorcist” used with permission, all rights reserved.