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" Apr 14 '15 at 12:14

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.

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    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. Apr 14 '15 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. Apr 16 '15 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
    Apr 17 '15 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)


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.


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.


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.

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    "Jesus has not yet accomplished full sovereign control over this world" - is inconsistent with a omnipotent God. Apr 16 '15 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." Apr 16 '15 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. Apr 16 '15 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. Apr 16 '15 at 17:51
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    This doesn't even mention Satan. I'm not sure it answers the question.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 17 '15 at 1:16

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