Does Satan Rule the World?
Does Satan Rule the World?
Teal from live chat 1/12/2023-
I am teaching a Bible study and I studied that Satan has dominion over this world, but then someone in our group said that’s not true. I am confused. I researched and I got conflicting messages.
Teal, there’s a good reason why you found a conflicting message – because the message is mixed in the Bible. I wouldn’t say that it is a contradictory message, but it is mixed. There is a sense in which Satan is the ruler of this world, and sense in which he is not.
One Principle: Satan is the Ruler of the Word, the God of this Age
- Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11)
- Satan is the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- Satan is the prince of the power of the air, who now works in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2)
- Satan and his agents are the rulers of the darkness of this age (Ephesians 6:12)
Another Principle: The LORD Reigns: Satan Does Not Have Dominion
Psalm 24:1 (also in 1 Corinthians 10:26, 28)
The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.
1 Chronicles 16:31
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
And let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”
“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
How Do We Understand Both Principles?
God rules and reigns over all. Whatever dominion or authority Satan has, it is because God has allowed it – and God has allowed it because it will ultimately work for the furtherance of God’s great plan of the ages.
Satan does not have “free reign” to do whatever he desires. God restricts what he can and can’t do.
- It is true that Satan walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
- It is true that Satan has some authority as the ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) and the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- Some people think that Satan gained this dominion, this position as ruler because Adam forfeited it to him by his disobedience in the Garden of Eden. In that act – and in every sin since – humanity (in some sense) recognizes the authority of Satan, not the authority of the Lord. This is an idea that can be pressed too far, but I think there is some significance in it.
But Satan can’t do as he pleases. Satan had to ask permission to afflict Job in certain ways (Job 1-2) and Peter in certain ways (Luke 22:31-32).
Ultimately, the work of Satan will further God’s eternal purpose.
What will be the fulfillment or antitype of Rosh Hashanah?
What will be the fulfillment or antitype of Rosh Hashanah? What does Rosh Hashanah represent or possibly foreshadow? Are the trumpets of Rosh Hashanah related to 1 Corinthians 15:52, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16?
1 Corinthians 15:52 – In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 – For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
The real answer to that is found in Leviticus 23. Here’s a link to my commentary on Leviticus 23, where I write about the prophetic significance of the seven feasts of Israel mentioned in this chapter. I find it interesting that these feasts are grouped together. There are four spring feasts that are fairly close to each other, and later in the year there are three fall feasts also grouped together. There’s a separation of time between the last of the first four spring feasts, and the first of the three fall feasts.
As a group, the first four feasts speak of two events. The Feast of Passover clearly points to the first coming of Jesus. Jesus is our Passover. The Feast of Unleavened Bread points to the time of Jesus’ burial and His perfect sinless sacrifice on the cross. The Feast of First Fruits points to the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection. Finally, the Feast of Pentecost points to the birth of the church and the harvest of souls that came from it. Pentecost was a harvest festival. So those are the four spring feasts: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost. All of these feasts can collectively be connected to events in the first coming of Jesus.
After these spring feasts, there is a break in Israel’s calendar of about four months through summer and into the fall. In ancient Israel, those four months were generally a time of harvest. I would say that in our current age, we see an analogy. The first four feasts are connected to events connected to the first coming of Jesus. Next, there is a time of harvest and ingathering. After those things come the final three feasts.
The first is the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah). I believe that the Feast of Trumpets points to the ultimate, holy convocation of God’s people at the sound of a trumpet. That’s what the Feast of Trumpets was historically, and one day there will be a blowing of trumpets to call together the people of God. I think that the ultimate holy day of gathering is going to be the catching away of the church, as described in 1 Corinthians 4:16-17. I would say that this also points to God’s ultimate gathering of Israel for His special purposes in the very last days.
After the Feast of Trumpets comes the Day of Atonement, not only pointing to the ultimate perfect atonement Jesus offered on our behalf, but also of the affliction and salvation that Israel will see during the Great Tribulation. Finally, there is the Feast of Tabernacles, which points to the millennial rest and comfort of God for Israel and for all of God’s people. In fact, Zechariah 14 tells us that the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated during the Millennium.
There is at least some evidence that each of the four feasts pointing to the first coming of Jesus saw their prophetic fulfillment on the exact day of that feast. According to John 19:14, Jesus was crucified on the Passover. The Body of Jesus was buried, and His holy and pure sacrifice was acknowledged by God during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus rose from the dead on the celebration of Firstfruits, the day after Passover Sabbath. The Church was founded on the very day of Pentecost, beginning a great harvest of souls into God’s kingdom.
For this reason, there are some people who suggest that it would be consistent of God to gather His people to Himself on the day of the Feast of Trumpets, the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. There are people who believe that the catching away of God’s people as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 will happen on the Feast of Trumpets. They suppose this because it seems possible that the first four events happened on the very day of those feasts. Could this be the case with the fall feasts as well? Yes, it could be the case. But I wouldn’t say it with a great deal of certainty. I would be reserved in my predictions in that regard.
Do you agree with any of the 5 points of TULIP in Calvinism? (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints) Would you agree with the P (Preservation of the Saints) in TULIP?
I am not a Calvinist, and I am not reformed in my doctrine. But I’m grateful to God that I have learned a lot from Reformed writers from previous generations, as well as from Calvinistic authors and preachers, including some in our own day. I don’t think of myself as being anti-Calvinist or anti-Reformed, but I certainly don’t agree with them on every point of doctrine.
The five points of Calvinism known as TULIP are: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. Much of it has to do with how those statements are understood.
Total depravity: Do I believe that mankind is totally depraved? Yes, but it depends how you define total depravity. Our sinfulness has touched every aspect of our being. There’s no part of our being that’s not fallen in some way. Unconditional election: Does God choose people from before the foundation of the world, and not just based on what they would do? Yes, He does. Again, it’s how a person would state it and understand it. Limited atonement: Did God die for the sins of the world? Absolutely, the Bible says so. But is the death of Jesus only effective for those who believe? Absolutely, the Bible says so. Irresistible grace: I believe that the grace of God can be resisted, but I also believe that God’s purposes will always be fulfilled. Perseverance of the saints: I believe that those who are really God’s people will endure to the end.
So, we could talk about these things, but it oftentimes depends on how these concepts are understood. I could find some way of stating the concepts (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of saints) in a way that I think is biblical. But I think that the way in which most Calvinists and most reformed people take those statements goes beyond what the Scriptures themselves teach.
For me, the essence of Reformed doctrine is not so much the five points. I’m kind of bored talking about the five points with Calvinists. To me, the more significant issue is this: does regeneration comes before faith? Is a person born again before they believe, or do we believe and then we are born again? Without reservation, I believe that God must do a prior work in a person before they can believe. Absolutely. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him.” God initiates. God has to do a work first, or nobody would come to Him. That’s absolutely clear. I just don’t think that there’s biblical warrant to believe that that work of God equals regeneration and being born again. Actually, the Bible teaches otherwise. It’s not that we are born again, and then we believe. I think we believe and then we’re born again. I believe that’s what the Scriptures teach.
I would say that’s the main crux of the difference between myself and classic Reformed theology. Of course, there are many other aspects. Reformed theology goes far beyond the theology of salvation and what a person believes. So, there would be other matters on which I would disagree with Reformed theology.
How do I reconcile faith and God’s will?
We have faith that God’s will is good. Now, that doesn’t make us fatalistic. No, not at all. We believe that God ordains His people to pray and to act. These things are part of His will. And we believe that prayer matters. I’ve been going through the Book of Numbers lately. There are two remarkable instances in the book of Numbers where Moses prays, and at least according to the text of Scripture, God withheld His hand of judgment against Israel because of Moses’ prayer. I think that we have to say that the prayer of Moses mattered. Moses certainly thought it did. And the way God presents the account to us in the Scripture tells us that the prayer of Moses mattered.
If we are so focused on the sovereign will of God that we think that human actions don’t matter, then we’ve misunderstood the sovereign will of God. And we need to recalibrate that thinking. Both things are true. God has a sovereign plan for all the ages which He is unfolding, coming down to the participation of individual lives. Nevertheless, God has given to us real choices to make as men and women. And our choices matter. God uses those choices in the unfolding of His plan.
Ask God to give you greater faith to believe that His will is good. And, to the best of our ability, we are to discern what the will of God is by reading our Bibles. By understanding His Word, we discern what the will of God is, and we pray for God’s will to be put into action. I know that may sound strange and contradictory to some people. Some might wonder, “If it’s God’s will, why do I have to pray for it?” I can’t explain everything about this. Some of it goes beyond our human understanding and rational. However, I would say this. There are aspects of God’s will which He waits to perform until His people partner with Him in prayer. Now, that’s all part of God’s choosing. That’s exactly what God wants to do. But I believe that there are definitely aspects to God’s will that are just like that.
Should a pastor be a political leader?
I believe it’s absolutely fine for pastors to be political leaders and to be politically involved. I think that there should be more of that and not less. Now, certainly not every pastor is called to do so. Probably very few pastors are called to actually take political office, to run for city council, to run for the school board, to run for mayor or some other office. But I see no contradiction to a calling as a pastor and a dual role of doing good in the community through the political process. What they do in that role may be a different matter. In that role, they have the opportunity to honor and glorify God, to stand for His truth, and to display the love and the nature of Christ, and they also have opportunity to do otherwise. But I don’t see anything automatically disqualifying for a pastor to be involved with politics.
Now, here is the tricky part for pastors and believers who are involved politically. I think that Christians should be politically involved, especially in a democracy. If God has placed you in a nation or a community that is a democracy, that means He has given you a vote of participation and a stewardship in it. I believe that you should use that in a way that honors and glorifies God. You should read the Word, you should vote according to the Bible, and according to Christian ethics and morality. I believe that’s very clear.
But here’s the tricky part. I believe Christians should be politically involved and engaged, without putting their hope in politics. This is a very difficult thing for many believers to do. There’s something seductive and powerful about the political process, and in political power itself. It’s easy for Christians who start getting involved in politics, to start putting their hope in politics. Friends, our hope is never ultimately in a politician, in a political party, in laws that are passed, or even in good things that might happen our community. Our hope is ultimately in Jesus Christ. And while we should be engaged and seek to do whatever good we can do in our community through the political process, we need to take care that we don’t put our hope in politics. Our hope is in Jesus Christ.
That’s the message I would give to any pastor or believer who wants to get involved in the political process. You can do a lot of good for your community and God’s kingdom through the political process. But don’t put your hope in politics. I think Christians need to be cautious and careful to understand that politicians often use Christians for their purposes. Christians need to be a little bit cynical about politicians, and always look for discernment from God, as to how they may be being used or being played by a politician. It seems like it’s in the nature of politics to do that.
When we get to heaven, is God going to take away our free will? Or, if we still have our free will, would it be possible for us to sin again (in or after Heaven)?
In a way, our free will is going to be taken away. Our available choices will be constrained in heaven. There will be no opportunity to sin. Perhaps we could sin in heaven if we had opportunity, but there will be no world, no fleshly nature, and no devil in heaven. So, I think we won’t have opportunity to sin.
I would suggest an analogy between humanity and angelic beings. There are faithful angelic beings and there are fallen angelic beings. God gave angelic beings a time to choose. And then, as Revelation 12:4 tells us, the dragon (Satan) drew a third of the stars of heaven with him. Most people take that to imply that one third of the angelic beings aligned themselves with Satan.
Now, the Scriptures don’t specifically say so, but it seems that the time for angelic beings to choose is over. There’s no more time of choosing for them. They had a time of choosing, their choices were fixed, and there’s no more time of choosing. I would say that the same will be true of human beings. God has given us this time on this earth now as a time of choosing. But when we pass from this life to the next, the time of choosing ends. We will go into eternal existence in either heaven or hell with our choices made and no longer have the opportunity to make choices.
What is your view on apologetics in the body of Christ?
I thank the Lord for quality apologetics ministries in the body of Christ. I don’t spend a ton of time looking over these resources. But I see that there are some people who do it well in the body of Christ. My friend Mike Winger does a great job with apologetics on his YouTube channel, Bible Thinker. He has a marvelous ministry. I think Alisa Childers does a great job as well. I’ve been listening to her podcast for several years and occasionally check out videos on her YouTube channel. I think she puts out quality content. I’ve also listened to some of Sean McDowell’s material. I think he does a fine job with his apologetics work.
Now, there are good apologetics ministries out there, but there are also bad ones. From my perspective, it seems that some apologetics ministries are mainly in it for the clicks. They’re out to gain notoriety or promote controversy. They’re exaggerating. They’re not fairly representing those with whom they disagree. It’s a common thing for some of these poor apologetics ministries, to take one verse or one sentence out of an entire sermon and judge a person’s entire ministry based on that one sentence. They’ve got to do better than that.
So, there are apologetics ministries that do a good job, and there are apologetics ministries that I think do a poor job. Use some discernment. Look for the ones that do it fairly and do it well.
Why do you think the judgment of God was so firm on Moses for his disobedience?
First, I think God wanted to show that Moses was not an exception. In the Book of Numbers, when the children of Israel refused to take the promised land by faith, God said, “This generation is going to die in the wilderness except for Joshua and Caleb.” Out of the twelve spies sent out, they were the only two faithful spies who brought back a good report. So, when God said there would be no exceptions, He meant it. Only Joshua and Caleb would enter the land, and that even included Moses. And I think that’s one reason, but maybe not even the biggest reason.
Another reason God did this was to show that no man is above accountability before the Lord. Moses was certainly one of the great men of the Bible, and of all history. Yet he was not above God’s discipline. The nature of Moses’ sin was misrepresenting God in front of the whole nation. We read in the Book of Numbers that Moses struck the rock repeatedly, although God had not commanded him to do so. Moses was angry with the people of God, although God was not angry with them. Both of these were important and significant ways in which Moses misrepresented God before the people. That’s a serious sin for a leader.
In God’s eternal plan, Moses represented the law. Moses was the great law giver. The law was not going to lead the people of God into the land of promise. No, God used Joshua to bring the people into the Promised Land. By the way, the name Joshua is the same name as Jesus. It’s Yeshua in Hebrew, and it’s Jesus in Greek. God wanted it to be clear that the law was not going to lead God’s people into the land of promise. It’s going to be Joshua; it’s going to be Jesus. Those are three quick reasons I can think of why God punished Moses so severely.
Could you speak about God as the Father biblically, and share how you see God as the Father in your own life?
The of God as a Father is not emphasized in the Old Testament. It’s not absent, but it’s not emphasized. I think the imagery of God being the Husband to Israel is more prominent in the Old Testament than the imagery of God being a Father to His people, but it’s in there. Psalm 103:13 says, “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.” What a beautiful description of God’s compassion.
The image of God as Father is emphasized in the New Testament. It is not that God changed. No, God forbid. God doesn’t change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. God is the Eternal One, He does not change. However, the Bible says that the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. In the person of Jesus, there was an embodiment of the love and grace and goodness of God that we just don’t find expressed as prominently in the Old Testament.
God is revealed as a God of love, mercy, and grace in the Old Testament, but it’s more prominent in the New Testament. I think that’s part of God’s revelation as a Father. The Father speaks of love, care, compassion, and authority. It’s also significant that the Scriptures overwhelmingly present God as a Father, in the male representation rather than the female. There are about six places in the Scriptures where God makes some kind of analogy between something female or feminine in Himself. He says, “I would gather you as a hen gathers her chicks.” A hen, of course, is a female bird. He says, “I’ve cherished you like a mother cherishes her nursing infant,” and so on. I’ve counted about six places in the Scriptures where God is beautifully presented to us as having some kind of female characteristic as a mother.
On the other hand, there are probably thousands of places in the Scriptures where God is presented to us in the masculine. Every pronoun that’s used of God in the Bible is in the masculine. The Lord is presented to us in masculine terms as a Father and not as a mother.
Now, it’s not because God is male. God is God. He’s beyond what we think of as male or female. But God deliberately chose to present Himself to humanity in His inspired Word, as overwhelmingly male. I think part of that is because God knows we spiritually need a Father. We need to respect the authority and, if I could say, the patriarchal position of God our Father. God is a King, not a queen. God is God, not a goddess.
I was blessed to have a good father. My father passed away this last year, and he was the first parent to pass on for either me or my wife. I miss my dad. My dad was a blessing in my life. There is something amazingly gratifying about knowing that you please your father. And I feel that that rubs off in my relationship with God. Now, more than a few people didn’t have a good earthly father. But I think even they probably know by intuition what a good father is, even if they don’t know by experience. We can look to God to fulfill and to be that what we need in a perfect Father.
What is a good biblical response for a parent to their adult child living in the home, about that child carrying on an intimate relationship outside of the home?
I don’t know if there’s one universal answer that fits in every circumstance. Family problems are often complicated. They’re a twisted ball of string that needs to be untangled. But I’ll give you some biblical principles.
If somebody lives in your home and is supported by you, you have reason to expect certain conduct from them. I think that if that’s okay to do. It does become difficult if your child just defies you. You might say, “You can’t do this,” but they do it anyway. Then you’re faced with the question of whether you are going to continue to allow them to live in your home. Some tough love may be necessary. Of course, short of asking them to leave your home, there might be the removal of certain privileges or penalties imposed. A parent has the right to set the standard of behavior for any child living in their home.
I do not at all subscribe to the idea that once a child comes to a certain age (15, 16, etc.) when they can live in any way they please, while still being supported by and dependent upon their parents for basic provisions. No matter how the child wants to live, that just doesn’t work.
However, it is important to be careful about making threats or rules or standards that you won’t enforce. It’s a bad thing to imply that your child is no longer welcome in your home if they participate in a certain behavior, yet you don’t do anything about it when they act in that way. It’s important to have standards that you will follow through on.
These are difficult situations. very sorry for this difficulty for you. The general principle is that God has given headship and authority to the parents in the home, especially when the children are minors.
Do demons need to be “invited in” for people to be demon possessed, or can they possess people entirely unprompted?
There are aspects to demonic possession that we don’t quite understand. The Bible doesn’t specifically tell us all the circumstances under which a person might become demon possessed. We often assume that some kind of foothold, some kind of door needs to be open to the demonic for that to happen. And maybe that’s the case, but we have to admit that the Scriptures don’t specifically tell us that.
There are certainly things that people can do to almost invite demonic possession. The occult, drug usage, things just that have to do with the demonic, the black arts, and all the rest. I think there are many things like that. But I’ll also say that it is possible for people to open doors to the demonic realm, but they have no idea about it. In fact, I think that’s probably the case most of the time. I think it would be very rare for a person to invite demonic possession knowingly and consciously. Usually, it’s done deceptively. Yes, it’s true that they may be opening a door, but they don’t understand the ramifications of the door they’re opening.
Regarding the Book of Job and otherwise, if Satan cannot do evil apart from God allowing him, how does this not make God passively responsible for the evil taking place?
There is a sense in which God would have a passive responsibility for evil in this world, under any circumstance. I don’t think this is the case, but let’s just pretend that Satan was a creature who could operate completely independently of God. In other words, he would need no allowance or permission from God whatsoever; Satan could do whatever he pleases. Now, again, we’re speaking only hypothetically. But even if that were the case, God would still have some kind of passive responsibility, because He created Satan. Even if God didn’t do something evil, the being He created did it. God, in being God, has some kind of responsibility for everything, no matter what.
Now, you’re right, in making the very important distinction between active and passive. God allows sin, but God never makes anybody sin. God allows temptation, but God never tempts somebody. God allows evil, but He doesn’t directly work evil in the sense that we normally think of it. I understand the point you’re getting at, but I think that there’s no other way, as long as we believe there is a God.
Here’s the point. The work God is doing through His plan of the ages is greater than if sin and evil had never existed. I love to speak about this theme. God’s goal in His plan of the ages is not to bring humanity back to the innocence of the Garden of Eden. God’s plan in the large scope of His plan of the ages is to give us morein Jesus Christ than we ever lost in the fall. Redeemed man is greater than innocent man. Here’s the thing, though. You can’t have redemption unless you allow a fall. So, in the short term, you could say, “Hey, doesn’t God have some responsibility in that?” But in the long term, you would say, “God deserves all the glory for His good and perfect plan.”
In Psalm 110, David says, “The Lord said to my Lord”. Did the people of the Old Testament know that Yahweh was one God but also 3 Persons?
I would say that they did not have any sophisticated idea of the Trinity in the Old Testament. There are hints of it – you bring up a good example in Psalm 110 – but it was shadowy.
However, this concept is clearly understood and revealed in the New Testament. When we clearly understand the New Testament, we can look back to the Old Testament with understanding and awe at how the Lord did things.