The god of this age (world) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
I Corinthians 4:4
When Scripture teaches that “Satan is the God of this world,” what one needs to understand is that Paul is using “world” in a technical fashion. “World” here means “as this world lies in Adam.” It is a truism that as this world lies in Adam Satan is the God of that world. However, what it does not mean is that Satan is over planet earth. To not see that distinction would give us a contradiction with Scripture that teaches that the Lord Christ is in possession of “all authority” in heaven and on earth as well as those passages that teach that the “Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Obviously St. Paul is not introducing some kind of Manichean dualism by positing two competing Gods … one over things not of this world and one over this world.
Another example of this kind of language is used by John,
I John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world is under the power of the evil one.
What world is John speaking of when he writes that the ‘whole world is under the power of the evil one?”
Well, he is speaking of the world as it lies in Adam and opposed to God. He is speaking of the unregenerate world. We know that the world John is speaking of is not inclusive of Christians who live in the world because John writes that ‘we are of God.’
Neither Paul nor John, are saying that planet earth belongs to Satan. That would contradict passages which speak of Christ as the ruler,
Eph. 1:21 (Christ is) far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church…
Colossians 2: He (Christ) is the head over every power and authority.
So, if this is true of Christ then it cannot also be true that Satan is the God of this age, or the God of this World in the sense that Satan has some controlling ability in this world that rises above God.
So we have before us an example of the necessity of reading and interpreting Scripture in terms of Scripture. It is not proper to locate one verse and then say, ‘see, this proves that Satan is God over planet earth,’ or to say that God rules spiritually but Satan rules non-spiritually.’ We must compare Scripture with Scripture.
What shall we conclude about this. Well, Scripture forces us to say that Satan has been delegated certain authority so it can be fairly said of him that He is God over the people who refuse to bow the knee to Christ and His Lordship.
St. Paul begins to get at this when he writes,
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
You see… formerly they were in the dominion of darkness where the God of this world rules but now they have been rescued by the God who is over the God of this world and are delivered into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. Notice though, if Satan were the absolute ruler as God of this world or age then God could never have rescued His people from Satan. We see then that the God of this world or age is not to attribute to Satan absolute power over any territory. It merely is to teach that those who are of their Father the devil have Satan as their God.
As an aside, this demonstrates again that there is no neutrality. Either one belongs to the God of this age or one belongs to the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. One either belongs to the God of this age or one belongs to the God of the age to come.
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Another passage that supports what I am getting at is John 12:31. St. John quotes Christ as saying,
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” And again,
John 14:30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me,
John 16:11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
In the work of the Cross Satan was driven out. He has no power except to those who are of their Father the Devil, but even then, just as with Job, Satan is a permission seeking being in terms of his designs and intent. The Devil is merely God’s attack dog on a long leash.
The Devil does God’s bidding. The Devil may be the God of this Age but he does the work assigned to Him by God. Scripture is replete with examples regarding this. And it is to those examples we turn.
Book of Job
Then a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will entice him.’ ‘By what means?’ asked the LORD.
So, we see the Devil, evil spirits, do not operate independently of God’s boundaries. The Devil is God’s Devil.
Then there are other passages that says God Himself deceives those who hate him. This passage from Isaiah is quoted frequently in the NT
9And He replied, “Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10Make the hearts of this people calloused; deafen their ears and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.…
Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear.
God Turned them over …. (3x)
Thes. 2:11 For this reason, God will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie,…
So, we see from all this that Satan is not an independent agent. We who are in Christ have no need to fear him or be preoccupied with Him. He is a very real enemy but He is an enemy who has been vanquished. Further, we see that Scripture cannot be appealed to in order to make the Devil out as someone who has a dominion that is outside of God’s dominion. The Devil is God’s Devil and his dominion is held at God’s leisure.
So, dear Christian, as Satan is not literally in charge of planet earth as belonging to him there is no room for surrendering anything in the Cosmos to Satan as if he has right of authority because he is “the god of this world.” Satan is the god of the dung heap, of falsity, of fiat non-reality. He has no hold over this world because in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, God has and intends to continue to redeem the whole Cosmos so that it is even more than Eden ever was.
The age to come has come in Christ and is rolling back this present wicked age that has the prince of the power of the air as its Captain. This mopping up exercise is fait accompli. The “God of this age” is a grifter and the only weapons he has are smoke, delusion, and intimidation. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.
Satan as “God of this world?” Only in the sense that a rebellious three year old thinks he is the “God of his bedroom,” in defiance of his parents placing him there for discipline.
1.) If we belong to God and are members of Christ’s Kingdom Lucifer is not a being we should be over consumed with. Yes, he exists, as do his lieutenants. Yes, they hate God and the Saints. But greater is He who is within us than He who is in the world as it lies in Adam.
2.) Because of this, there should be a growing confidence that is characteristic of us as God’s people. Do we really believe that as we belong to the Sovereign of the universe that anything can do us harm? The truth here should push us to attempt great things for God… to ask great things from God so that His name might be better known. We are more than conqueror because if God be for us (and He is) then truly opposition is insignificant.
3.) We should be extraordinarily wary of any theology that is consumed with the power of demons, evil spirits, or Satan. On the other hand we should be equally wary of any theology that ignores their reality upon those who belong to the God of this world.
4.) Because of all this we should be a people who fear God so much that we would do anything so as not to be deceived. We should be those who cry out for wisdom and to be delivered from all deception. We should hunger for God’s thinking so that we won’t find ourselves turned over.
5.) We see God’s absolute sovereignty once again. We should be preoccupied with God alone. No need to be preoccupied with the devil’s ability to destroy us if we are preoccupied with God’s ability to keep us.
6.) We are safe from the machinations of the God of this World because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. As our catechims notes,
from all the power of the devil.
So we need to make proper distinctions on this matter. The this “world” distinction is critical. When the scriptures say “My kingdom is not of this world” or “love not the world” or that “Satan is the God of this world,” it is not speaking of the Cosmos or physical world and creation of God, but the “way of the world” or the “philosophy of autonomous worldly men,” or the “world as it lies in Adam.” This is a critical distinction, that is too often lost on many in the Christian community.