In Matthew 4:8-9 we read about the temptation of Christ by Satan:

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

In Christ's response, he did not challenge Satan's authority to make such a claim.

Taken together with 2 Cor 4:4 where Satan is described as "the god of this world" it seems we can conclude that Satan is the ruler of the world.

How can we reconcile this with God's sovereignty?

  • It sure would be difficult to claim omnipotent while this being true. In a similar regard, if hell exists as modern pop culture portrays it (ruled by Satan) also would question the omnipotent nature of God. Good question - I'm not sure if it's a truth seeking question though. You may want to ask for the "Biblical basis of" Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 12:14
  • The Interlinear translation is "God of the age" not world. The NIV and a few other translations also use age. I do not think there is anything to reconcile here, other than translational problems.
    – Adam
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 21:40

7 Answers 7


God is and always has been the sovereign ruler of this world. Satan may be an usurper of Adam's throne, but God has ultimate rule.

"The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He will" (Daniel 4:17)

Satan's dominion was one that was wrested from Adam, but the earth is God's. Satan can do nothing except that is allowed by God. Even if all the children of men were to choose Satan as ruler, Christ would still be the rightful ruler.

Jesus chose not to enter into controversy with Satan because Jesus does not need to prove anything to him. Instead Jesus showed His ultimate authority by saying:

"Get thee behind Me, Satan" (Luke 4:8)

Satan tried to tempt Jesus through false deception, he is after all "the father of lies" (John 8:44). Jesus came to live a life of suffering to redeem men and draw men to Him, but Satan instead appear to offer Him exactly this - the earth - but if He would only bow down and worship him. In this temptation, Satan betrays what he has always desired the most, to be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14). However, Jesus would not yield victory to Satan -- He chose instead to continue His mission on earth and drink the bitter cup to the end, ultimately proving the self-renouncing love and righteousness of God and accomplishing the redemption of men.


There is nothing to reconcile with regard to God's sovereignty, for he is the Almighty, the only true God, the maker of Heaven and Earth. Only those who contest or doubt the idea that God is sovereign, who think that the presence of Satan as 'god of this worldly system' somehow invalidates God's claimed sovereignty over all creation, would think there's a need for reconciliation. The need is for us to be reconciled to just who God really is, by rejecting the deceptions and lies of Satan, the would-be usurper of God's rightful sovereignty.

Fortunately, the Bible charts from the start of Satan's strategy to steal from God that which is rightfully God's, through thousands of years of history of God's dealings with sinners, to his crushing of Satan and his followers, to judge the accuser. God's long-term plan to deal with this ancient rebel involves great spans of time because this issue is so utterly foundational to all creation and its Creator, it must be proven to all creation that God's judgment and punishment of this satanic rebel is utterly righteous. Then, nobody again will ever challenge God's sovereignty, for the eternal smoke of the torment of Satan and his hordes will simply be pointed to as the righteous fate of such rebellion and resistance to God's sovereignty (Rev. 19:1-2).

It would take a book to detail all of this progression through scripture, for it starts in Genesis 3:15 (showing God foreknew what would happen in Eden and had his plan of restoration already worked out.) It ends in Revelation 22:20 with the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells, God over all.

However, to give one example of what I mean, and to show that this is not merely my opinion, let me quote from a 614-page book that gives exposition of such matters by opening up the entire book of Revelation. This last book of the Bible is one of the best for showing God's sovereignty has never been overturned, nor have his rights to be God over all his creation been relinquished by him. Everything is under his sovereign control. Here is what it says about Satan and the mystical 'woman' who is depicted symbolically as both a harlot, and a city (Rev. ch. 17):

"The whoredom of the woman is spiritual, invisible, and indiscernible to the world, because it is hidden in a mystery, so that the kings, the great men, and the rulers of the earth are oblivious to the harlot Babylon, and to the concept which this mysterious figure embodies...

The fornication of that concept of the Devil, and Satan, mystically figured as a woman, consists in her revolt against the Creator so as to unite herself with all that has been created and made, in whoredom against him who made it. Thus she usurps the fallen creation, using all the substance, riches and resources of the earth to seduce fallen mankind to seek and live for such things in flagrant harlotry against both the Creator, and the purpose for which all things were created and made...

Thus the whore signifies the usurping of the creation itself - consequent upon the fall of man in Adam - so as to evolve a system utilizing the riches and resources of the whole earth in order to entangle mankind by covetousness, thereby perpetuating the authority and rule of the prince of darkness." The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 461-2, John Metcalfe, 1998 http://www.johnmetcalfepublishingtrust.co.uk/contact_us.htm

This book shows how Satan's 'beastly' system was dealt a deadly wound at Golgotha, when Christ defeated sin, death and Satan by his death and resurrection. At that point, Satan and his followers were cast down to Earth with no more access to heaven, to be "the accuser of the brethren". Satan is cast into an abyss, only allowed out for "a little season" to deceive the nations once more, before Christ suddenly comes to usher in the Day of Resurrection and Judgment. At all times, God is sovereignly in control, allowing evil to do its damndest, yet preventing it succeeding because he IS Sovereign over all creation! Those who doubt that are fair game for the great deceiver, who tries to usurp God's sovereign rights. Waken up to the tricks of Satan, and you will see that there is no question about God's sovereignty.

Make that your starting point for seeing why Christ did not deny Satan's claimed authority over the nations. Yes, Satan deceptively claimed to have all that authority, but he could only do so because God had granted him time to try to prove that his claim was legitimate, instead of being illegal. Because of the righteousness of God, the kingdom of God will triumph over this would-be-usurper, having allowed him all necessary time to try to prove his claim. No wonder Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you" - Matthew 6:33.

Alas for all who are lured into the kingdom of Satan - depicted symbolically by Babylon the Great, the whore, that is also Babylon the Great, the city. That is Satan's domain, granted to him by God to control, for a season. But only those who enter into the kingdom of the Sovereign God by the faith of Jesus Christ the King will "see" the reality of the deceptions of the would-be-usurper.

  • Anne, the sea beast is a religious institution. And it was dealt a deadline wound in 1798 when the pope was exiled by Napoleon. Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 11:30
  • @Dong Li There are different interpretations about the sea beast etc. I have a 700 page book published in 1908, 'Daniel and the Revelation' by Uriah Smith, claiming that 1798 was also the close of the prophetic 1,260 years . It said "the stars fell in 1833", that 1844 was the start of Revelation's 3rd woe, and goes on at length about Napoleon. I have a similar book published in 1968 by a different group who gave different interpretations, claiming 1914 was the all-important date. All I can say is, please get the 1998 book I quote from in my answer and consider it. I won't debate this.
    – Anne
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 14:25
  • The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. There is only one church(woman) in the world that is clothed in purple and scarlet and is rich with gold. Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 15:05
  • You have to understand that this woman rides the sea beast and the sea beast dwells in seven mountains and the only city in the world that sits on seven mountains is Rome, the seat of the Vatican. Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 15:06
  • was given authority(spiritual) over every tribe, language and nation. There is only one institution that can be found in all countries. Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 15:12

This is a great question and one I had to take a few minutes to think through. I am Catholic and I think I have an answer for you- though there may be several others, possibly better ones.

Remember that Satan was one of the most powerful angels when he rebelled, and that he did not get stripped of his nature when he Fell. That means that Satan is an incredibly powerful being who, as seen in the Bible, can exert his angelic power in the planes of existence that humans inhabit (that is to say, the world of spirit and the world of matter). This is probably the way that Satan planned to follow through on his offer of world domination to Jesus.

Also, notice Satan wants Jesus to worship him. This implies that this is something he desires not only from Jesus, but from all humanity. What Satan has been doing since his Fall is pretend to be God Almighty, and treat the world like his playground. If Satan demands worship, this probably isn't the first time he tried to get it. This would be in keeping with St. Paul's comment "the god of this world". Who is the god of this world? Whatever everybody is worshipping. Be that other fallen angels, man's own desires, etc; it all leads back to Satan and his own agenda.

When Jesus comes to Earth, He's coming here like a rightful Prince come to reclaim His Father's throne from the usurper, Satan. God is sovereign, but that doesn't mean others aren't pretending that isn't so.

  • 1
    hmm, citations? My understanding on the Church's teaching on this is that Satan is not properly seen as 'the God of this world' and that that verse is best interpreted metaphorically. The God of this world, in any other context is God, who is truly sovereign and truly present in His creation. Also Satan, the Father of Lies, is not well understood from a Catholic viewpoint as planning on fulfilling his promises. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 18:39
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    Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning "adversary") was a guardian cherub (Ezekiel 28:16 NIV). To call him "one of the most powerful angels" is misleading as he wasn't an angel or archangel but a completely different type of angelic being. It's like saying that apes invented cars since humans are in the ape family. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 13:58
  • A statement of positivity is of the knowledge of good, and a statement of negativity is of the knowledge of evil. Since the fruit is within us from the beginning, the separation between the two happens through a conscious effort. Therefore the prophet who says "Yeah, this good thing is going to happen" or "Yeah, this good thing will be happening" has overcome the negative statement of "this is broke". The type of message, determines the messenger(angel). A good messenger is an angel, a bad messenger a demon. This is why we are not to allow an evil spirit to leave us, returning arguments.
    – Decrypted
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 11:26

The Kingdom of God and The Kingdom of Satan is a mystery that many theologians are trying to unravel. There has been no consensus so far.

It is true that God is sovereign.

The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Psalm 24:1, NIV)

However, according to scripture, it seems the world as we know it today is under the control of Satan.

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19, NIV)

From the fall of the first man, sin entered the world, and Satan as the Father of sin is in control of it since then. When Satan said to Jesus that he will give him the world, Jesus did not argue about it.

The Earth belongs to God the creator but due to the sin of mankind Satan is temporarily controlling it. When the time is right, God will finally destroy the Kingdom of Satan and establish the eternal Kingdom of God on Earth and it will no longer be controlled by Satan.

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever (Daniel 2:44, NIV)


2 Corinthians 4:4 KJV

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

God allows Satan to have his way for now. It is up to us to win souls from his clutches.


God does not hold all power even though he is the origin of all power. Similarly, God delegated authority and sovereignty to the first human couple (as yet unnamed) when he blessed them and gave them dominion:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:27-28)

Although it is not yet mentioned, human dominion was supposed to extend to the angels, who were created as God's servants, not his children. (1 Corinthians 6:3 "Do you not know that we are to judge angels?") Sadly Adam and Eve did not exercise this dominion, but allowed an angelic being (named Lucifer/Satan in Christian tradition) to dominate them instead. When that happened, Satan usurped Adam and Eve's role as the Lord of creation and became the "god of this world" in their place. He has also ruled over much of humankind as a false deity.

However, God's ultimate and eternal sovereignty remains. Satan's sovereignty is partial and temporary, a perversion of the dominion God had intended for Adam and Eve. Eventually Satan will be destroyed and God's sovereignty will be shared only with human beings, as originally intended.


In Revelation 11 it says:

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

The "last trumpet" signals the end of history. This declaration makes it clear that Jesus has not yet accomplished full sovereign control over this world.

In Luke 19:

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return."

Jesus then tells one version of the parable of the talents. Combine this with Luke 12:

But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk...

The clear implication is that human nature is impatient. We want a good king now, and when he doesn't come right away we stop believing and begin to act abominably. Or we act like those in John 6 who use violence to advance their religion:

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

There is no inconsistency in scripture. The conflict is in our hearts. We cannot conceive how a good and all-powerful God could possibly have planned things to go the way they have. However, he announced his plan in advance and is following it. We like having free will, we just don't like God to have it, too.

Response to a comment about how God choosing to not exercise full authority could be compassionate and loving:

The second coming is presented as a final act. Once Christ returns, there is no further possibility of a person changing their allegiance, hence the saved are saved and the lost, forever lost. In this case, God's patience promotes compassion and is a sincere expression of his love. He is giving each person more time to decide. As an illustration, we have the story of Methuselah in Genesis. According to standard conservative chronology, Methuselah died in the year of the flood as the oldest man ever. Some maintain his name means "When he dies, it will come". His name was a prophecy of the coming destruction. If God was more just than loving, then Methuselah would die a young man, so that judgment (part of God's exercise of authority) could come swiftly. But if God was loving to a great extreme, then he would prolong the life of Methuselah to give the world more time to change. Since Methuselah did live longer than any other human has, this is a proof of God's patience and love, and also evidence that he has placed a limit on how long things will go on without him intervening.

Ideas about Kenosis (which is tied to Philippians 2) are very confusing. See http://kenosis.info/index.shtml for one person's critique.

Concerning Satan. As a commenter observed, my answer failed to mention Satan. Clearly my mind was monumentally distracted. Tackling Satan's relationship with the whole world is a huge topic. Addressing his relationship with a single person is more manageable. In the book of Job, Satan asks for permission to test Job and God grants it, within prescribed limits. Satan wants to destroy Job, while God wants to purify him and prove his faith. This principle is also described in Romans 8:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

It seems that it is possible for it to appear on the surface that Satan is in control, while underneath God's plans are being accomplished.

  • 1
    "Jesus has not yet accomplished full sovereign control over this world" - is inconsistent with a omnipotent God. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 17:02
  • Jesus' first coming was as a servant. He voluntarily put aside his authority. See Philippians 2. He could have called a legion of angels to take him down from the cross, but did not. His second coming will be as a conqueror. Do not confuse what God CAN do (he is omnipotent) with what he DOES do (wait patiently in hopes that people will repent). See 2 Peter 3. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 17:12
  • I think you threw me a curve ball. With the assumption that God, Jesus, and the holy spirit are one, then Jesus is omnipotent as is the God head (God the father) and the holy spirit. If God gives up sovereignty of anything then we cannot say that he is omnipotent. If you're saying that God is omnipotent but is allowing the devil to rule the earth, then the devil is not actually ruling anything at all. You're implying that God is watching history play out until his patience runs out. Why would he do that? That would not be consistent with compassion and love. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 17:30
  • See my amended answer above. Also, Philippians 2 is a profound and difficult chapter to grasp. It took me about four years to comprehend it as well as I do. With that understanding came a profound shift in my worldview. Things that seemed impossible or contradictory before became reconciled for me. I cannot communicate to you the experiences that enabled me to obtain that insight, merely point you to the text so that it can work its effect on you. Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 17:51
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    This doesn't even mention Satan. I'm not sure it answers the question.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 1:16

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