Satan as the Ruler of this World

     The Bible reveals Satan was originally created a holy angel of the class of cherubim; however, because of pride (Ezek 28:11-18), he rebelled against God (Isa 14:12-14), and convinced many angels to follow him (Rev 12:4, 7). The name Satan is derived from the Hebrew שָׂטָן Satan which means “adversary, opponent…accuser, opposing party…[or] the one who hinders a purpose”[1] The Greek Σατανᾶς Satanas carries the same meaning and is used “in a very special sense of the enemy of God and all of those who belong to God.”[2] Other names for Satan include the shining one, or Lucifer (Isa 14:12), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the tempter (1 Thess 3:5), the devil (Matt 4:1), the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10), the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2), the serpent (Rev 12:9), and the great red dragon (Rev 12:3). Further, Satan is a murderer and liar (John 8:44), is compared to a lion that prowls about, looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8), and one who disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).

Fallen angel     Lucifer became Satan at the time of his rebellion when he declared, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  (Isa 14:13-14). “The desire of Satan was to move in and occupy the throne of God, exercise absolute independent authority over the angelic creation, bring the earth and all the universe under his authority, cover himself with the glory that belongs to God alone, and then be responsible to no one but himself.”[3] Satan seeks to operate independently of God’s plan for him, and he leads others, both saved and unsaved, to do the same. Lucifer introduced sin and death to the first humans when he convinced them to turn from God and eat the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-7). At the time of the fall, Adam handed his kingdom over to Satan, who has been ruling this world since (Luke 4:5-6; Rev 11:15).

     Satan is permitted, for a time, to rule over the majority in this world. At the time when Jesus began His public ministry, He faced a series of tests from Satan, one of which was an offer to receive the kingdoms of the world without going to the cross. Satan told Jesus, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4:6). Satan took possession of “this domain and its glory” by God’s permission and man’s sin, presumably, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and follow Satan (Gen 3:1-8). Satan said to Jesus, “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours” (Luke 4:7). Satan’s offer had to be true in order for the temptation to be real. At some time in the future, Satan will share his authority with the Antichrist, because he advances his agenda (Rev 13:1-2). Three times Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Other passages of Scripture call Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), informing us “that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Satan rules as a tyrant who has “weakened the nations” (Isa 14:12), and currently “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He personally attacked Adam and Eve (Gen 3:1-7), Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-13), David, (1 Chr 21:1), Joshua the high priest (Zec 3:1-2), Jesus (Matt 4:1-11), Judas (John 13:27), and Peter (Luke 22:31-32). He continues to attack God’s people today (1 Pet 5:8), practices deception (2 Cor 11:13-15), and has well developed strategies of warfare (Eph 6:10-12). Furthermore, humanity is living in an “evil age” (Gal 1:4), under “the dominion of Satan” (Acts 26:18), whose sphere of influence is called “the domain of darkness” (Col 1:13).

     As Christians, we have victory in Christ. At the moment we trusted Christ as Savior, God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14). As Christians, we have been gifted with God’s own righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9), and will never face condemnation (Rom 8:1). Furthermore, God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3), and called us to serve as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20), sharing the gospel message with others.

     God the Father has promised to give Jesus the kingdoms of this world, saying, “I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Psa 2:8; cf. Isa 2:1-5; Dan 2:44; 7:14). This will occur after the seven-year Tribulation; at which time it will be said, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15; cf. 20:1-3). Satan was judged at the cross (John 12:31; 16:11; Col 2:14-15), and awaits future punishment. His judgment is very near when he is cast out of heaven during the Tribulation (Rev 12:7-12); at which time his wrath is greatest against Israel. After the return of Christ (Rev 19:11-16) and the establishment of His kingdom (Rev 20:1-6), Satan will be confined to the abyss for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-3). Afterwards, he is released for a brief time and will again deceive the nations and lead a rebellion against God (Rev 20:7-8), but will be quickly defeated (Rev 20:9), and cast into the Lake of Fire, where he will remain, with his demons and all unbelievers forever (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:10-15).

Dr. Steven R. Cook

Audio lesson on Satan as the Ruler of this World

Related Articles:

  1. The Sovereignty of God  
  2. Holy Angels and How They Influence Mankind  

[1] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 1317.

[2] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 916.

[3] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil (Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan Publishing, 1969), 25-26.

 

The Noetic Effects of Sin

     The NoeticThe noetic effects of sin refers to the affect sin has on the mind of every person. Sin impacts our ability to think rationally, especially about God, Who has made Himself known through general revelation (Ps. 19:1-2; Rom. 1:18-20) and special revelation (1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Tim. 5:18; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).[1] God’s revelation disrupts the mind of man, confronting wrong thoughts and inviting conformity to the mind of God. Though God’s revelation is clear, rebellious people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18), and their foolish heart is “darkened” (Rom. 1:21). When confronted with God’s revelation, the person who is negative to God either denies His existence (Ps. 14:1), or reduces Him to the status of a creature (Rom. 1:22-25).

     The biblical record of mankind is dark. It reveals that the majority of people throughout history think evil thoughts and are consumed with themselves and their own agendas rather than God’s will. Moses wrote of Noah’s contemporaries, saying, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Later, Solomon declared, “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives” (Eccl. 9:3). And Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). One would think that when Jesus came into the world that mankind would rejoice in His light. However, the Scripture provides a different picture, telling us, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19; cf. 1:4-5). And Jesus Himself spoke of the human condition, saying, “for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19).

     Sin permeates every aspect of our being, corrupting the mind and will, so that the natural tendency of our heart is to think according to the ways of the world. A hostile heart may search the Scriptures to know God’s Word and yet be completely closed to accepting its message. This was the case with the religious Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day (John 5:39-40). When talking to religious Pharisees, Jesus declared, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word” (John 8:43). This is true of all unbelievers, for “the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). Even something as simple as the Gospel message is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18), in whose case “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

God Has a Solution

     Sin infects us all. We can’t control it and within ourselves we don’t have the cure. Without God, we are helpless. But God has a solution for a mind damaged by sin. First, one must be born again as a Christian and given a new heart (1 Pet. 1:3, 23) before the mind can be renewed to think as God intends (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23). The new heart means we have the ability to accept what God says and the power to obey (Rom. 6:8-14). Second, is having a heart that fears the Lord. Solomon writes, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). There is both a healthy and unhealthy fear. To fear the Lord means we reverence and obey Him, turning away from evil (Prov. 8:13; 16:6), and fear His loving discipline when we sin (Heb. 12:5-11). Third, there must be a desire to do God’s will. Jesus said, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17). God’s revelation is understandable to the willing heart. Fourth, there must be a humble submission to the Lord (Jam. 4:7). Submission means we surrender our lives to God “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). This is a commitment to the Lord that lasts for a lifetime. At times, the Christian may fail; but relapse does not have to mean collapse, as the Christian can confess his sin and be restored to fellowship with God (1 John 1:9) and resume a life of obedience (Rom. 6:16-18; 2 Cor. 10:5; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). Fifth, the Christian must embark on a lifetime of learning God’s Word. This is a daily choice to study Scripture (2 Tim. 2:16) and to apply God’s Word in order to advance spiritually (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2). Sixth, one must endure trials throughout life, seeing them as opportunities to apply God’s Word by faith to each and every situation (Heb. 11:6; Jam. 1:2-4).

     Lastly, there is a warning to Christians, for we are all born on a spiritual battlefield and throughout our lives we will face opposition to the work of God.  The enemy will use pleasure and pain, success and failure, friends and enemies, to pull us away from God in order to stifle our walk.  We will experience opposition from out sin nature (Gal. 5:17, 19-21a; Rom. 6:6; Col. 3:9), the devil (2 Cor. 11:3; Jam. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8), and the world-system that is all around (Col. 2:8; Jam. 1:27; 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16). These three can work together or by themselves to stunt our spiritual walk and we must always be on guard against attack. Our spiritual success depends on a surrendered life to God, as we bring our thoughts and actions into conformity to the Word and character of God.

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

Related Articles:

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  2. When God’s People Sin  
  3. When a Believer Perpetually Sins  
  4. When Believers Hide  
  5. The Doctrine of Simultaneity  
  6. The Sin that Leads to Death  
  7. The Sin of Idolatry  
  8. The Worthless Person  
  9. The Sin Nature Within the Christian
  10. Our Enemy the Devil 
  11. Satan’s World System  
  12. The Gospel  
  13. Steps to Spiritual Growth  
  14. Learning to Live by Faith  

[1] At times God spoke directly to people (Ex. 19:9; 1 Sam. 3:1-14; Isa. 6:9-10), and at other times He revealed Himself through dreams (Gen. 28:12; 31:11; Dan. 7:1; 12:8-9), visions (Isa. 6:1; 1 Ki. 22:19), and angels (Dan. 10:10-21; Acts 27:23-24). Most specifically and clearly, He revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14, 18; 14:7; Heb. 1:1-3), and in the written Word (1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 3:14-16).  Jesus Christ is now in heaven and therefore not subject to observation such as when He was on the earth. Though God continues to reveal Himself through nature and acts of providence, it is Scripture alone that informs and guides the Christian concerning faith and conduct.

Our Enemy the Devil

The devil is a real, personal being who opposes the Christian and seeks to make him ineffective in his Christian life. He is a formidable enemy of the Christian since he is intent on devouring Christians (1 Pet 5:8); hence, the Christian is called on to resist the devil (James 4:7). This can be accomplished through putting on the armor for a spiritual battle (Eph 6:10–17).[1] 

Fall of LuciferBefore his self-induced fall, Lucifer was a wise and beautiful creature, having “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezek 28:12). He was an angel, called an “anointed cherub” (Ezek 28:14). However, this perfect angelic creature produced sin from the source of his own volition, and the Scripture states, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you…and you sinned” (Ezek 28:15-16a). Concerning Lucifer’s sin, the Lord says, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor” (Ezek 28:17a). Self-centered pride turned Lucifer’s wisdom into foolishness, and in his madness he sought to usurp God’s throne and rule over His creation. Lucifer became Satan (a term meaning “the adversary”) at the time of his rebellion when he declared:

I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.  (Isa 14:13-14)

       These five “I will” statements by Satan reveal that it was his every intent to set his will against the will of God and to make himself lord of the universe. Satan seeks to operate independently of God’s plan for him.  He leads others, both saved and unsaved, to do the same. J. Dwight Pentecost writes:

The desire of Satan was to move in and occupy the throne of God, exercise absolute independent authority over the angelic creation, bring the earth and all the universe under his authority, cover himself with the glory that belongs to God alone, and then be responsible to no one but himself.[2]

       After his fall Lucifer is called Satan (Job 1:6), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the tempter (1 Th 3:5), the devil (Matt 4:1), the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10), the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2), the serpent (Rev 12:9), the great red dragon (Rev 12:3), and the angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). It is this last designation that often catches people by surprise, because most think of Satan as a dark creature so nefarious in appearance and action that he’s easily recognized and guarded against. However, Scripture warns us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” and that “his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor 11:14-15). Both Satan and his representatives appear as beautiful, friendly, and attractive people, and it is this charade that often deceives and traps people into believing false teaching.  Satan and his representatives are ultimately identified “according to their deeds,” which do not line up either with the character of God or the plain teaching of Scripture. It is from the place of biblical knowledge and spiritual adulthood that the Christian is able to discern the enemy and his tactics, especially when Satan is disguised as “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).

       Lucifer created his kingdom of darkness when he rebelled against God, convincing a third of the angels to rebel with him (Rev 12:4), and through temptation he brought down to death the first humans when he convinced them to turn from God and follow his advice to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-7). As stated earlier, all men are born into this world of darkness, into Satan’s kingdom, born in Adam, born in sin. The minds of all men are darkened by the sin nature and have a propensity toward rebellion and foolishness. Even after regeneration, men’s minds are not suddenly wise, but still dark from a lifetime of exposure to all the world’s humanistic philosophies. Every person born in the world (with the exception of Jesus) is born into the family of Adam (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:22), spiritually dead (Eph 2:1-3), enemies of God (Rom 5:8), and powerless to save themselves apart from God’s  grace (Rom 5:6; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5). Without Christ men have no hope of being delivered from their state of spiritual death and darkness. 

       We find in Scripture instances where Satan has personally attacked people such Adam and Eve (Gen.3:1-7), Job (Job 1-2), Jesus (Matt 4:1-11), and Peter (Luke 22:31-32)  However, being the finite creature that he is, Satan must rely on others, both demons and people, to execute his plans. Warren Wiersbe writes:

The devil is “the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” This does not mean that Satan is personally at work in the life of each unbeliever, since Satan as a created being is limited in space. Unlike God, who is omnipresent, Satan cannot be in all places at one time. But because of his demonic associates (Eph 6:11–12), and his power over the world system (John 12:31), Satan influences the lives of all unbelievers, and also seeks to influence believers. He wants to make people “children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2; 5:6). He himself was disobedient to God, so he wants others to disobey Him too.[3]

       Demons are fallen angels that willfully joined Satan in his original rebellion against God and continue to follow him and promote his kingdom of darkness. Demons are spirit beings with intellect and emotion (Matt 12:43; Mark 1:23-26), can inflict disease to oppress men (Matt 9:32-33), can possess both beasts and unsaved men (Mark 5:13; 9:17), promote a system of teaching that leads to immoral behavior (1 Tim 4:1-3), and are highly organized by Satan to maximize their effectiveness in opposing God’s will in the lives on men (Eph 6:11-12). J. Dwight Pentecost states:

In Ephesians 6:12 Paul tells us that Satan has followed the pattern of God’s arrangement and has ordered his demons into different hierarchies called principalities and power and rulers.  To each of these hierarchies is assigned a different responsibility. Scripture does not tell us the responsibilities assigned to these different groups. We do know that they have one common purpose: to oppose God and to defeat God’s program for men in the earth as that purpose is revealed in the Scriptures.[4]

       Another aspect of Satan’s work is that he seeks to promote false teachers, both inside and outside the church (2 Pet 2:1-3; cf. Acts 20:29-30). Many of Satan’s false teachers are charming, friendly, well dressed, moral individuals who pray and give of their resources, and this is done with the intention to deceive Christians and draw them away from God and the truth of Scripture. Paul encountered some of these false teachers and described them as “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13), men who deceptively “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor 11:15). Though very religious, false teachers are spiritually dead, children of Satan, and bound for the Lake of Fire unless they turn to Jesus as their Savior. Some religious groups such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses fit well into Satan’s system.

       Satan will even use well-meaning believers to accomplish his plans. On one occasion Jesus was telling His disciples that “He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matt 16:21). Jesus was telling them of His Father’s will for Him to die by the hands of sinful men and be resurrected; however, Peter was alarmed by the news and rebuked the Lord.

And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This [suffering and death] shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; [opposing God’s will] for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”  (Matt 16:22-23)

       Peter loved the Lord, and though he meant well, he was resisting God’s will because it was offensive to him. Jesus was forced to rebuke him for getting in the way of the cross, declaring “you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” For a few moments, Peter slipped into worldly thinking, and briefly became an enemy of the cross, for he was opposing it. Later, Peter would preach the cross and many thousands would be saved (Acts 2). 

       Satan is an enemy who is bent on our destruction and is described as one who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). We must “resist him firm” in our Christian faith, and this can only be done as we regularly “submit to God” by learning His Word and living His will (1 Pet 5:9; Jam 4:7). It is only from the shelter of our right relationship with God that we find safety from the enemy. The Christian becomes his own worst enemy when he turns away from the Lord and abandons Scripture as his guide for life. Satan wants to trap and isolate us from God and His Word, because it’s only through worldly thinking that he can take advantage of us. The Christian who is filled with the Spirit and walking in the light of Scripture cannot fail, though great satanic storms are hurled against him.

       Satan is a defeated creature. Though he advanced himself in heaven and on earth by convincing others to follow him (angels and men), both he and his kingdom have been judged by God (John 12:31), and his punishment is coming (Matt 25:41). Attack is inevitable for Christians living in the devil’s world, but victory is certain for the believer who lives in God’s will and advances in his spiritual walk. 

Excerpt from: The Christian Life – pages 119-125

Dr. Steven R. Cook

Related Articles:


[1] Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich., Kregel Publications, 1995), 314.

[2] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil (Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan Publishing, 1969), 25-26.

[3] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 2, 18.

[4] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil, 139.