Has Satan been given dominion over the earth?

The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world -he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him (Revelation 12:9).

The serpent in the garden is the devil (slanderer), and Satan (accuser), and the deceiver of the whole world. Jesus himself referred to him as “the evil one” (Matthew 13:19) and “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The Pharisees call him “Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (Matthew 12:24). Paul calls him “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). This leads us to the question: Who is the ruler of this world? Has Satan been given dominion over the earth?

There is only one supreme Lord over all the world, and that is God of the Bible. Scripture tells us that God is the Author of the entire universe, including angelic creatures. In Psalm 103:19, David declares: ‘The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.’ The creation story reveals us that the kingdom of God is centered on the relationship between God and his people. When He created Adam and Eve, He shared His dominion with them. Man was given dominion over the earth to be vice-regents for God, that is, vice kings to represent God’s reign on this planet (Genesis 1:26-29).

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth…. 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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” – Genesis 1:26-28

God commands Adam and Eve to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the Earth and subdue it, and rule over every creature’. This implies an active role for man to take charge of God’s creation and to use them for their benefit. This dominion is not without limitation or constraints. Adam and Eve made a terrible mistake by listening to Satan and acting disobediently to God’s command (Genesis 3) and committed the trespass. So, the LORD God banished them from the Garden of Eden. The Fall has not diminished or terminated God’s charge ‘to fill the earth and subdue it –to rule over every creature’. Rather, the Fall simply made human task extremely more difficult. Now the ground is cursed (Genesis 3:17–19), the nature has become hostile to human’s efforts to cultivate and develop it further, and wild animals also pose a threat to human beings. Creation still belongs to God, and the mankind still stands above the rest of creation.

Satan originally lived as a leading angel in heaven, yet rebelled against God in pride, and fell from heaven, and have been cast down to the earth. Satan is the wickedest spirit being who has the capacity to influence human beings for evil. He is the enemy of everything that is good. He is the enemy of all those who put their trust in Christ. Of course his most despise enemy is Christ himself. At the fall, God not only placed a curse upon the earth, curse upon the man and the women, but also a curse upon the serpent. In the middle of that curse, God has announced the gospel promising the future redemption when the serpent’s head is crushed by the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). From that moment through the rest of the redemptive history Satan manifests himself as the adversary of the people of God.

There are two serious distortions about the person and work of Satan. One distortion is to minimize the reality of the existence of Satan, and fail to take him seriously as a real spiritual enemy to us. The other side of the distortion is to attribute to him a greater power and greater significance than he actually enjoys.

The Supremacy of Christ

So often people think that the forces of good and evil are equal forces fighting with each other for equal supremacy. But, the Bible doesn’t say anything like that. The contest between God and Satan is no contest at all. Satan is a creature; he is a created being. He is always and everywhere under the sovereign power and authority of the creator. He is no way equal to God almighty, and he does not possess divine attributes. No angel rises to the level of the Son of God. The cosmic authority is not given to angels; it is given to Christ who is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Christ announces, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28). Therefore, no authority was given to Satan by God. Any authority that Satan exercises was taken rebelliously, not given.

The kingdoms of this world are made up of people and systems in rebellion against the Holy God. The phrase “god of this world” (or “god of this age”) indicates that Satan is the major influence on the ideas, opinions, goals, hopes and views of this world system. His influence also encompasses the world’s philosophies, politics, economics, education, entertainment, and commerce. Above all, false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deceptions. Every time we sin we believe the lie, and set up our own desires over the desires of God. We are denying God’s right to reign over us joining Satan’s rebelliousness.

Humanity was trapped in this world system of Satan. The “present age” is overwhelmed and saturated with evil because sin would seem to have such a strong grip on our lives. Satan is called the “prince of this world” and in 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Satan is a great blinder, but God causes us to see. For those who trust Christ, a liberation has begun to take place. Colossians 1:13 makes it clear: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 confirms, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come”. The “New” that has come is a new age, with new powers and new ways, which has broken in to deliver us from the “present evil age”.

Scripture is clear that the Satan is very powerful. The metaphor that describes Satan in New Testament is ‘roaring lion’ who goes about seeking to devour someone. Lion in the scripture is referred to the image of strength. The positive application of it is ‘the lion of Judah’. Satan is no match for God, no match for Christ, no match for Holy Spirit, but very powerful than any human being, but limited. Because, scripture tells us that Satan’s power can be resisted (James 4:7). And most importantly, Christians possess a greater power that is not inherent to our humanity, a power that is stronger than Satan (1 John 4:4).

The Authority

God is still sovereign. God, in His infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries God has set for him. When the Bible says Satan has power over the world, we must remember that God has given him domain over unbelievers only. Believers are no longer under the rule of Satan (Colossians 1:13). Unbelievers, on the other hand, are caught “in the snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:26), lie in the “power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and are in bondage to Satan (Ephesians 2:2). Satan -the god of this world- has tempted mankind to follow his pride instead. Satan sets the agenda, the unbelieving world follows, and mankind continues to be deceived.

We see in Matthew 4:8, a classic example of Satan tempting Jesus to join his rebellion against God. Satan was tempting Jesus to be humble before him, to disobey God and to commit sin, so that the whole redemptive history would be over. Instead of joining his rebellion, Paul says in Philippians 2:8 that Jesus humbled himself before God and become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. When Jesus died on the cross, He rendered Satan powerless, disarmed his powers (Colossians 2:13-15). That power of Satan was dealt not just a significant blow but a fatal blow by Christ in his incarnation.

The New Testament is perfectly clear on that God the Father gives to Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth. In his ascension, Christ is seated at the right hand of God, where he is crowned as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The one who is in dominion is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ reigns over this world right now. He is the king of this earth. He is the ruler of the whole universe. Book of Hebrews talks about the supremacy of Christ. It begins with the testimony of Christ as the supreme revelation of God: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” (Heb. 1:1). Christ is the Creator of the world and the One who upholds it by His power. He is the Creator of all things and the Heir of all things. He is the very brightness of the glory of God. He is the express image of God’s person, the one who bears God’s image supremely.

Satan’s authority and power are limited and subordinate to the authority that is vested in Christ. Satan’s power is restricted, limited, and temporal. The power and authority of Satan has been dealt a fatal blow by Christ. The Cross, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the Ascension tremendously weakened any power or authority that Satan enjoyed, but it didn’t obliterate him. That will come soon, when Christ completes his work of redemption with the consummation of his kingdom at His second coming. All things will be brought into captivity to him, and every knee will bow to him, including the fallen angels, who will bow in submission to his authority.

Christ promises to every faithful believer -an extension of the promise Christ made to the Twelve while on earth (Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:29-30), a share in the rule of all things under His authority. “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21). An amazing manifestation of grace!

Reference:

Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. John Piper, Tim Augustyn (unlocking the Bible), Dr Ken Baker

Further Reading:

Demons and Devils of the Modern Era by Dr. Phillip Botha
Questions and Answers from the Bible by Robert Gobelet