Part six of a series. Read part five.
The present world-system and unregenerate mankind are "under the sway of the wicked one." He commands a host of demonic beings who do his evil bidding among men.
In previous articles, we have discussed Satan's origin as Lucifer, his essential nature as the adversary of God and the saints, and the father of lies, and his role as the destroyer. Today we turn to a fourth category of Biblical data revealed through Satan's names - his relationship to this present world.
The names of Satan tell us that the unregenerate world is under his personal sway, that he is the bitter enemy of the Word of God in this world, that this physical world is the realm in which he exerts authority, and that he rules a host of demonic beings who do evil at his command.
The Wicked One
I John 5:19 tells us that the present world-system "lies under the sway of the wicked one." (The KJV has "lieth in wickedness" but in this case the NKJV gives a more accurate translation of the Greek.) The context of this verse sets up a contrast between believers, who are "of God," having come into submission to Christ, and the unsaved, who remain in the grip of Satan's influence. The name "the wicked one" means "the morally pernicious one" - the one who is the absolute antithesis of Christ.
The God of This World (Age)
In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Satan is spoken of as "the god of this age." (The KJV has "god of this world" but the NKJV has the more accurate translation of the word aionos, which means "era or system.") Paul says that "if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." As we saw previously in Luke 4:11-12, Jesus said that it is the devil, the false accuser, who comes and takes the preached Word out of the hearts of some, lest they should believe and be saved. The god of this age has been, from the beginning, the bitter enemy of the Word of God in this world.
The Ruler or Prince of This World
In the Gospel of John, Jesus spoke three times of Satan as the one has the whole world under his sway as "the ruler of this world" (NKJV) or "the prince of this world" (KJV):
"Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out." (John 12:31)
"I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me." (John 14:30)
"And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." (John 16:8-11)
The word translated "ruler" or "prince" is archon, meaning the "first one" or "leader." As we shall see, Satan not only has the entire unregenerate world and world-system under his sway, he also commands a host of fallen angelic followers who do his bidding in this world.
The Prince of the Power of the Air
In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul reminds believers that they were once under the sway of Satan, who is "the prince of the power of the air" -
"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others."
The name "the prince of the power of the air" is in the Greek, literally, "the one who is the ruler in the realm of authority of the earth's atmosphere." This name indicates that Satan's realm is physically limited, but encompasses at least the entire inhabitable world and the atmosphere surrounding it - the realm into which Satan and his angelic followers were cast when they rebelled against God (Isaiah 14:12-17, Ezekiel 28:11-19, Luke 10:18, Revelation 12:7-12). Some commentators also say that this name of Satan indicates the great extent of his influence in the spiritual realm. The account of Satan's attacks on Job, which were sanctioned as Satan came into the presence of God Himself, certainly indicates the great extent of Satan's authority and influence, and his ability to operate in both the physical and spiritual realms - and it also tells us that Satan's power has strict limits under the sovereignty of God.
It is significant that when the saints are caught up to be with Christ, they will "meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Just as Christ invaded Satan's realm to accomplish perfect redemption on the cross, He will once again invade Satan's realm to take the glorified bodies of both the living and the resurrected saints home to heaven.
Beelzebub, Ruler of the Demons
In Matthew 12:22-30, Satan is called Beelzebub:
"Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, 'Could this be the Son of David?' Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, 'This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.'
"But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: 'Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.' "
The name Beelzebub ("god of flies") or Beelzebul ("god of dung") is an ancient one. Beelzebub was a Philistine deity that became associated with Satanic idolatry to such an extent that the name later became synonymous with Satan, and was used as a name of Satan. In 2 Kings 1:2-4 we read an example of Israel's sinful dealings with Beelzebub:
"Now Ahaziah [king of Israel] fell through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria, and was injured; so he sent messengers and said to them, 'Go, inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron [a Philistine demon-god], whether I shall recover from this injury.' But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, 'Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, "Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?" Now therefore, thus says the Lord: "You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die." ' "
Commenting on the Matthew 12 passage above, Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest wrote that when the Jews said of Jesus, "He hath Beelzebub," they were really making the blasphemous accusation that "Beelzebub has Him, is using Him as his agent." Wuest goes on to explain the meaning of "prince of the devils" -
The English word "prince" brings to mind a son of royalty, one of noble lineage, one of noble character and bearing. The Greek word is archōn. The word archē [from which it is derived] means "the first in a series of things or persons." Thus, archōn, when applied to an individual, refers to one who is first in order of importance or power. Satan is the prince of the devils in the sense that he is their ruler, the first among them in importance, privilege, and power. The word "devils" here is the translation of daimonion, referring to demons. Here we have the case of a fallen angel, Satan, as ruler over a different order of beings than himself, the demons.
In saying that Jesus cast out demons through the help of the prince of the demons, the Pharisees were arguing upon the basis of the assumption that spirits are cast out by the aid of some other spirit stronger than those ejected. The religious leaders of Israel were trying to break the force of the attesting power of our Lord's miracles done in the energy of the Holy Spirit, by saying that He performed them in dependence upon Satan, thus disproving His claims to Messiahship and linking Him with the Devil.
Next: Satan's Relationship to Believers