A question

Who rules the world? God? Or Satan?

This question, if we’re honest, has a very high cringe factor these days. The first wince comes with the premise that the world is ruled by supernatural powers. Then to set it out as a binary opposition—that only God or Satan rule, with no other options—the question feels like some sort of trap.

So why raise it? And why raise it in this fashion?

Because the Bible raises it on a regular basis and in just this way. So much so that if we treat the Bible as God’s word we need to ask and answer this question in biblical terms. The Bible presents all human relationships as aligned either with God or with Satan. And the Bible regularly presents Satan as having more followers than God, many more.

In Genesis 1-3, for instance, God is in charge at the start but the narrative quickly turns to the serpent’s successful scheme to subvert Adam and Eve. Later in Genesis God is presented as virtually throwing in the towel on humanity after the serpent’s rebellion has captured all of humanity apart from Noah. Then in the New Testament the devil also offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” as if they were his to give, and Jesus doesn’t deny his premise (Matthew 4:9). In fact Jesus even spoke of the “narrow” gate and the few who find it, over against the “wide” and “easy” path to destruction that the majority follow (Matthew 7:13-14).

Paul also assumes Satan’s rule over the great majority of humanity when he spoke of all who are “following the prince of power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived . . . “ (Ephesians 2:2-3).

All of this leads to an obvious question: if God is greater than Satan, why does Satan win all the popularity contests in the Bible? Is Satan actually greater than God?

The serpent certainly wishes we all believed that. But it’s not what the Bible says. Instead we find that God is more concerned to draw out quality and not worry about quantity. And what is the basis for this quality? He wants those who find his Son attractive—those who are ready to “kiss the Son” (Psalm 2). That’s not to say that God doesn’t love the world. He does, as we’re told in John 3:16. But he draws out those in the world who respond to the Son’s words: “For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you . . . (John 17:8). God then leaves those who disregard the Son and his words to their preferred enslavement in the serpent’s deceits.

So who ultimately rules the world? If we measure the question with a premise that the majority always wins, then God’s minority position is demeaning. But if God’s real question is, “How shall I find a holy and blameless bride, responsive to my Son’s wooing love?” then we find the minority position is hardly a problem. No proper wedding ever features a groom marrying a bride who despises him. Nor does the groom marry the entire city in which he lives.

What, then, is Satan’s power? In light of God’s refusal to force anyone to love the Son—since coercion is not the stuff of love—he gives the great Narcissist, Satan, the power to cull out those not suited to marry the Son because of their own self-love.

And what is God’s power? The power of love that calls out those who once lived under the serpent’s rule but are now captured by Christ: the Son who reveals his heart of love through his words.

So the ultimate question today and every day is this: who rules our hearts? Do we delight in the Son? I hope and pray so! But most don’t.



  1. Bill

    Ron: You are so correct about the few. here are some warning from scripture.

    Mat 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

    Jesus gathers a lot of people but only a few will seek Him. Next are some warnings, listen and read HIS words.

    Mat_13:47-48 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.

    Mat 14:16-21 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They *said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

    Mat 25:1-12 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. “Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. “For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. “Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. “But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.”The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ “But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. “Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’

  2. Judy

    Dear Ron;
    Thank you for your thoughts. I like the way you put this battle in our everyday worldly thinking with the value of the number always being the winning formula. It is so easy to fall into that thinking as we walk through life. I was a former teacher and numbers and especially the right number was highly prized. It is so refreshing to hear you communicate about God’s thinking and our response to His heart as being the our ultimate focus. Thank you again, Judy

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