Bible Q&A: Who Really Has the Authority on Earth, God or Satan?

Question: In Bible study the other day, we were studying Luke chapter four. Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days. Satan says to Jesus, “Bow down and worship me, and I can give you all this.” I know he is the father of lies, so was that a lie? Could he have given Jesus all if Jesus had bowed to him, or was it a trick/lie, and he hadn’t any authority to offer Jesus the world?

Which then brought up another question: Does Satan need authority from God to do anything to the people and to the earth? Is that true? Or as one lady said, Satan gets authority from God only when pertaining to Christians believers. But Satan does not have to get permission from God when dealing with unbelievers? -Tammy

Answer: Hi Tammy, Both good questions. Let’s start here:

Satan’s Rebellion

How you are fallen from heaven,
    O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
    you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
    “I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
    I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
    in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.”
But you are brought down to Sheol,
    to the far reaches of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)

This is probably the most detailed account of Satan’s rebellion in the Bible. One thing to notice here, in Satan’s own words, is his desire to “make [him]self like the Most High.” Of course, that’s impossible! Why?

Author-ity: Where Does It Come From?

If you think about the word “authority,” it comes from the word “author.” We know from Genesis 1 that God is the Author of the entire universe (including Satan himself)! Remember, Satan is an angel, created by God. Satan is not divine. He is not God’s equal. The closest Satan comes to being an author is by twisting what God has done, and turning it into sin. He’s the author of lies.

“All authority comes from God, and those in position of authority have been placed there by God” (Romans 13:1). I take this to refer to human authority. Now, notice what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to…” who? Me! Therefore, no authority that God has given has been given to Satan. So any authority that Satan exercises was taken, not given. He is, by definition, unauthorized!

What Kind of Authority Does Satan Exercise?

Jesus referred to him as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and Paul calls him “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). John makes a further distinction when he says: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). These references leave us with the question: In what sense does Satan “rule” the world?

The Bible frequently uses “the world” or “this world” to refer to the present evil system of opposition to God. So, the Bible never teaches that Satan actually rules over the entire world, but that he is ruler over the current system of sinful opposition to God. In other words, he’s leading the rebellion against God.

Satan’s Limited Authority

The book of Job gives further insight into the limited nature of Satan’s power. Satan came before God with other heavenly beings (Job 1:6), and God asked him where he had been (1:7). Satan tells him, and God asks if he knows about his servant, Job (1:8). Satan challenges God, saying he’s put a hedge around him and blessed him, and he asks God to take away the hedge, threatening that if he did, Job would curse God to his face (1:10-11). God removes the hedge of blessing around Job’s life, but restricts Satan’s activity.

It is clear from this that Satan could do only what God had given him permission to do, and nothing more. Job was certainly a believer, but there is no reason to think that Satan somehow has unrestricted authority over unbelievers. This Scripture tells us the reason that Satan has any authority at all, because God allows it to be so…for now.

All the Kingdoms of the World and Their Authority

Back to your question: If Jesus had bowed his knee to him, could Satan really have given “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matthew 4:8) to him? If we take what we’ve learned so far, we can reframe the situation a bit. The kingdoms of the world are made up of people and systems in rebellion against God.

Satan was essentially tempting Jesus to join his rebellion against God.

How would Jesus do this? By choosing to bypass God’s plan for him to humble himself, die on the cross for our sins, rise to new life, and receive the kingdom of God from his Father (Ephesians 2:5-10). Instead of bowing to God, and being obedient to him, Jesus could bow to Satan, avoid the pain and suffering of the cross, and immediately become king of Satan’s rogue kingdom.

Why the Son of God Took on Flesh and Blood

Yes, Satan could have given this kingdom to Jesus. But the very reason that the Son of God took on flesh and blood was “that through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). When Jesus died on the cross, he took away our sins, satisfying the demands of God’s law, and he triumphed over Satan, disarming the power that he holds over people–the power of death, because sin leads to death (Colossians 2:13-15).

Instead of joining his rebellion, Jesus now waits for the final judgment and the decisive victory over Satan to be accomplished, when he will be “thrown into the lake of fire” and “tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10), and his kingdom and authority will be taken away from Satan and given back to King Jesus, its rightful Author and Owner. Amen.

Hope this is helpful to you,

Pastor Tim

RELATED POSTS:

satan

Tim serves as the resident pastor, writer, and editor of Unlocking the Bible. He was born and raised in northern Wisconsin, came to faith in his 20's while working in the business world, and received a Masters in Divinity from Trinity International University. He is author of the children’s book “Man on the Run,” and co-author of “The One Year Unlocking the Bible Devotional” with Colin Smith. Tim and his wife, Janna, and their four kids live in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Date Posted: Aug 9th, 2016

  • patrick

    you are correct

  • Great explanation Pastor Colin!

  • Tonio

    I agreed with everything except Isaiah 14:12-15. How can you say that is satan when it only appears one time in the whole bible. Plus it means day star and 2 Corinthians 11:14 suggest it might be a case of mistaken identity. And why when in Rev 20:2 all the names he was know by was called, it wasn’t one of them…….

  • Tonio

    I agreed with everything except Isaiah 14:12-15. How can you say that is satan when it only appears one time in the whole bible. Plus it means day star and 2 Corinthians 11:14 suggest it might be a case of mistaken identity. And why when in Rev 20:2 all the names he was know by was called, it wasn’t one of them…….

    • Eric Bragg

      > Plus it means day star and 2 Corinthians 11:14 suggest it might be a case of mistaken identity.

      That “suggestion” is a localized opinion of the publisher of the bible; not likely found in all study bibles, and certainly not mine. Also, there are many names for Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God, and Satan. Even we are destined to have at least one other name, as promised in Revelation (if we overcome those obstacles that we struggle with the most).

      The thing about the bible is that it claims to be, “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 – NIV) ….. and
      “All Scripture is God-breathed.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

      The choice you have to make is whether you believe the bible is accurate or not. There are a lot of reasons people come up with to argue that it cannot be 100% accurste. But until you can settle it in your heart that God, if He really is perfect, is ABLE and WILLING to give us an unadultered, perfect book… you will always have doubts about what it says. And there will always be opinions that agree with such doubt, which is the perfect example of what is meant by the deception Satan has introduced in our “logical” mindsets.

      • Jeremy Benson

        God CAN give us an unaltered perfect book, but he didn’t. I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe this happened.

        Matthew Jesus family is called out of Egypt because king Herod is dead, and his pursuers.

        Acts Herod arrests a man, it pleases the Jews, he arrests two apostles also.

        This is not something that can happen in a perfect book. It’s impossible to be dead and arrest people 30 years later…

        Anyway, I’m a Christian, but I don’t support the bible as the word of God, but rather a book containing the word of God. I even gather it’s really close to the truth, just not it…

        Also how can you have an unaltered book that’s got revisions, which in of itself is the definition of altered?

        • Liam L

          There was more than one Herod in history! Please research this.

        • Tina Bradley

          To my understanding, according to the Bible & the Qu’ran the word of God is Jesus. Out of all the books that make the bible only 66 were chosen…out of thousand. Guess who chose? Also the bible has human fingerprints all over it, it has been revised many times. As a matter of fact the bible I have been told is the most accurate is the Strongs Exhaustive. If you compare this original to some of the bibles that are used today there are verses actually omitted. To make one think worldly thought vs heavenly thoughts. Look it up…it’s all out there. Religion is a prison. God wants each one of us to develop a relationship with him. I am very confused because when you look at what the United States was built on it’s scary…A lot of satanism.

  • Leo

    Thank You pastor , God is great !!!!

  • mathew

    if satan needs permission from god as described in job then does that means that all the evil, wicked, cruel and hatred we see around us are done by satan by the permission of god? so did god actually allowed such evil things to happen on earth? why god gives satan such permission?

    • David P Odom

      Isaiah 45:1-7; Amos 3:6; Lamentations 3:38; Micah 1:12. These are just a few.

  • sheckyshabaz

    I’ve been teaching ancient Hebrew, Greek, ancient eastern history and culture for almost 30 years. When i read articles like this i shake my head in sadness at how easily people are mislead. Let me correct a lot of misunderstandings:

    1. Sin – Is not about obeying or disobeying. This is a misunderstanding of the ancient Hebrew word. The concept developed heavily in ancient Hebrew civilizations and then was heightened during the middle ages of European history. The first instance of something in the bible albeti an event or a word usually sets the tone going forward. The first time the word “chatta’ath” is used in the bible is in Genesis 4 and it comes from the root word “chata” which means to miss. This can perceived in 1 of 2 ways. To miss the target as in archery such as not aiming correctly or listening to the rules. This concept breeds the self righteous doctrine of “earning” your acceptance while the correct understanding of ancient Hebraic culture is to “miss the target” as in “Missing something” such as I’m missing my keys, or I’m missing my hat. We as people are missing something which is an awareness of who god made us to be. This happens because it’s been hidden and concealed from us due to the god of this world blinding the eyes of people. The last thing Satan wants is for mankind to realize exactly who they are because this would rob him of his control in the world. Instead he sets out to make us feel guilty, ashamed, afraid, inadequate, unloved, and ultimately tries to portray god incorrectly which will lead to our disillusion of who we are.

    2. Satan was not being described in Isaiah or the old testament regardless of what the English translations say because the truth is, Hebrews did not believe in Satan in the same way westerns do. The Hebrews believed that Satan worked for Yahuah and Yahuah was both light and darkness, evil and good, love and hate. They attributed both characteristics to Yahuah. This is why there is so much confusion and contradictions throughout the old testament and the new testament. Remember that “testament” is the opinion of truth as one sees it. This does not mean that it is truth, just what a person believes. Because of these misunderstandings you will notice the Hebraic writers using Lord and God interchangeably with evil and loving actions. The Hebrews believed Yahuah killed and created life. This is why naysayers claim the god of the bible to be a monster, but like much of humanity they have no clue who the creator truly is.

    3. Jesus or the proper pronunciation is Yahusha, is the measuring stick as to the character of the creator named Yahuah. Yes “Jesus” is not the correct name or pronunciation of his name and nor is “god or lord” the name of the creator. The creator has a name and so does the son. Ancient Hebrew did not use vowels in their writing. The vowel sounds had to be inferred and carried down throughout history by the spoken tongue. The correct way to pronounce the name of the creator is YAHOO+AH. We would spell it in English as Yahuah. The son’s name is pronounced as YAHOO+SHA or spelled in English as Yahusha. Yahusha (Jesus) is the perfect depiction of who Yahuah (god) is. He came to reveal the father. Revealing meant that the people didn’t already know who the father was, evidenced in how the Hebrews attributed both good and evil to the father. This is why the old testament contradicts the actions of Yahusha.

    4. God is not angry as anger stems from fear of losing something and an omnipotent being can’t lose anything because he already owns everything and nothing is greater than that which is omnipotent. God does not change as he’s constant, the only entity in existence that does not change, and the list can go on. God created mankind for their own benefit not his own, because an omnipotent being is self sufficient. The kingdom of earth, our culture as humans is to serve the one in power, yet an omnipotent being is not in need of service, he is self sufficient and complete. The kingdom of heaven (not a place) is about the greater being serving the lesser beings (evidence in how Yahusha served his disciples). Another lie Satan has made mankind believe is that it’s their duty to serve god as if god needs servants!!!

    5. Satan has blinded the eyes of people to make them believe that we are to wait, endure suffering and persecution, live in poverty, illness, divorce, breakups, lack of any kind, and even bodily death and aging. He has made mankind think they have to wait for Jesus to return at some future date to fix these problems when god created mankind for the purpose of eradicating this evil now. It’s our job to remove the unseen powers of the darkness through our words and our belief, but it’s the belief that we are missing. The awareness of who we are.

  • Adam Wall

    Not sure if someone commented regarding this yet, but when Christ says “all authority has been given to me…” he says that AFTER rising from the dead; wouldn’t that infer that before his death and resurrection he did NOT have it? Satan had authority and reign over the world before hand (and it was given to him inadvertently when A&E sinned, for God had given it to them in the first place). Christ’s resurrection began a war between the two kingdoms (light and dark) as He was bringing the Power of God to over through the “strong man.” Glad Christ is the “stronger man!” Christians are now called to rescue those still in the darkness…our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of the evil one. One more note: The idea that God has to grant Satan permission to do bad things casts a pretty gross shadow on God and makes Him appear untrustworthy. Would love your thoughts, thanks! and I had to post as a guest because I didn’t have my password and wouldn’t let me sign in with FB :( I’ll check back for a response).

    • Adam

      “overthrow”* :) Thought I had fixed that…

    • Pastor Tim

      Hi Adam, this is Pastor Tim from Unlocking the Bible. The Bible gives answers to many of these questions, but they are sometimes difficult to unravel, not simple or obvious, as is sometimes suggested. There are many opinions about the answer to your questions, even among bible-believing Christians. It seems to me that the death and resurrection of Christ signals the “binding of the strong man.” Satan was planning to defeat Jesus by having him crucified, but in atoning for sins (on the cross) and overcoming death (in the resurrection), God has made a way to “steal” people out of the kingdom of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Jesus is the Savior. We are the ones who get to announce to victory of Christ and freedom for the captives through faith in him. The problem of evil that you raise is a much bigger question. I recommend a more thorough and helpful treatment like “If God Is Good,” by Randy Alcorn. May you know God’s richest blessing even as you wrestle with these things, Adam. -Pastor Tim

  • Jenny Jones

    So again Does God give permission for trials and sicknesses or not? If you use the story of Job then YES he does?? I have pondered this for years and would really like a BIBLICAL answer ??
    I just can NOT accept that God allows children to be taken and molested and murdered :-(

  • Silenced_One

    “All authority comes from God, and those in position of authority have been placed there by God” (Romans 14:1)

    Romans 14:1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.

  • Excelsior

    We are duped into thinking we are less than the righteousness of God in this world. Jesus, has returned. He is in each of us. It is incumbent on us to produce fruit in keeping with righteousness. Satan’s biggest fear is “if we understand we are now (not going to be, but NOW) the righteousness of Christ.”

  • trudy cary

    You said “Instead of joining his rebellion, Jesus now waits for the final judgment and the decisive victory over Satan to be accomplished, when he will be “thrown into the lake of fire” and “tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10), and his kingdom and authority will be taken away from Satan and given back to King Jesus, its rightful Author and Owner. Amen…”……………..which tells us Satan has the kingdom and authority and it will be taken away from him and given back to The Ancient of Days. In those words then is the answer.

  • Adam David Bungart

    Thank you, I know I’m okay, but it’s so sad these days. Seeing so much evil being pushed on our children torments me. Bless you

  • Triumphant A A Joe

    Romans 13:1 ”Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in position of authority have been placed there by God”. Pastor Tim, please effect the necessary change.
    God bless you for the explanation.

    • UnlockingtheBible

      Thank you for the correction!

      Kristen Wetherell

      Ministry Content Manager

      Unlocking the Bible

      866-865-6253 (Main)

      847-277-2994 (Direct)

      P.O. Box 3454 | Barrington, IL 60011

      http://www.unlockingthebible.org

      Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

  • faye

    Beautifully explained Pastor Tim. Thank you for aiding in my clarification . God Bless you and your ministering of the word.

  • Mark

    If God has the authority over Satan then wouldn’t all terrible tragedies come from God and worked through the evil one

    Also if God has a plan or will for his people what good is prayer, no amount of prayer can protect you from god’s will,

    I believe we should totally fear God, not much evidence he loves us.