Is the Earth God’s or Satan’s?

Question from a Site Viewer
Who owns the earth? Is it God or Satan? The hymn, This is Our Father’s World . . . rings true to me . . . but some suggest that it belongs to Satan based on the answers that Jesus gave to Satan after his 40 days in the desert. Jesus didn’t deny Satan’s comments. Did this change after Jesus arose from the grave? Or is it still the same until the 2nd coming?

Tim’s Answer
Your question is a good one. The person that owns the world in Scripture is always God. When Moses met Pharaoh during the seventh plague on Egypt, Moses told Pharaoh that the thunder and hail would cease so that:

. . . you may know that the earth is the LORD’s.
Exodus 9:29

When Israel came out of Egypt, God met them at Mt. Sinai and told them:

. . . for all the earth is Mine.
Exodus 19:5

David says in 1 Chronicles 29:11 that:

. . . all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours.

Psalm 24:1 states:

The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.

Psalm 50:12 says:

If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine and all its fullness.

Psalm 89:11 states:

The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them.

Paul says in Acts 17:29 that God is Lord of heaven and earth. Always, in Scripture, God owns the world. And He is Lord of the world, ruling over it and setting up and throwing down its kingdoms (Daniel 4:32; 5:21; Romans 13:1).

However, sometimes the term “world” is used to describe the fallen world system dominated by Satan. It is in this sense that Satan is termed the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:5), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). In John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11, Jesus speaks of Satan as the ruler or prince of this world. It is in the sense of the fallen world system that we are told in 1 John 2:15 not to love the world and it is this same sense of the word that is used in James 4:4 where we are told that those who will be friends of the world will be enemies of God. It is in this sense that we are told that the world will hate us and that we are not of this world.

Thus, in the sense of the corruption of the present world, Satan is the god or ruler. All who follow corruption are under his domain. But, in the sense of the created earth and heavens, God is the God and ruler – always has been, and always will be.

You raise an interesting issue concerning the temptation of Christ. Did Satan have the power to give to Christ the kingdoms of this world? It is interesting to me that this is the only temptation where Satan promises to do something for Christ. I do not know of anything that Satan says that is totally true and I do not think this was the one exception. Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Some argue that Jesus never took issue with the statement of Satan and conclude that therefore what Satan said must have been true. They also argue that if this was a lie, then Jesus would know that it was a lie and then it really was not a temptation at all. But I do not think much of these arguments.

If we follow the Luke account (Luke 3:5-8), Satan makes the astounding statement that all of the kingdoms, the authority, and the glory of the kingdoms have been given to him and that he can give them to whomever he wishes. I wonder if King David, or good King Josiah, or other godly rulers of the kingdoms in this world would agree with Satan. Were they Satan’s pawns, set up by Satan and given glory by Satan? Nowhere in Scripture is Satan’s authority over all of the kingdoms of this world expressly stated. As previously mentioned, both Daniel and Paul state that God is the one who gives the kingdoms to whomever He wills. Daniel said that God is the one who gave to Nebuchadnezzar his kingdom and glory (Daniel 2:37). With the one exception of the Antichrist in Revelation 13:2, I do not find any place in Scripture where Satan has the authority to give to a man a kingdom or glory. But we know that even in the days of the Antichrist the other kings who will be with him will be motivated by God (not Satan) to give their kingdom to the beast (Revelation 17:17).

I do not see that Scripture supports a position that Satan has the power to establish kingdoms or give them glory. And he does not have the authority to give the kingdoms to whomever he wishes. If this was true, then what do we do with Romans 13:1-6? And if Satan truly could give the kingdoms to whoever he wanted, then why would we ever pray about an election, or vote? We pray precisely because we believe that God has a say-so in who becomes our rulers. Contrary to his statements to Jesus, Satan is given no free hand in this area.

I give you one other line of argument. If Satan truly has the power to give kingdoms to whomever he wishes, then how is it that Christians ever become the rulers of countries? And why do countries ever do anything good? The position that Satan’s statements are true simply ignores the evidence of Scripture and reality.

It is because our rulers are subject to God (Proverbs 21:1), not Satan, that we are emboldened to pray for our rulers (1 Timothy 2:1-2), we are called to submit to our rulers (Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14), and we are told to honor them (1 Peter 2:17).

Accordingly, I think the safer conclusion is that Satan was lying to Jesus, just like he lies to us when he tempts us. God has not given to Satan the kingdoms of the earth, their glory, or the ability to give them to whomever Satan wishes. Scripture teaches that it is God, not Satan, who sets up kingdoms, throws them down, and does with them as He wishes.

I know that there are some dear brothers and sisters who disagree with my view of this matter. They may go to passages like Daniel 10:13, 30 and Revelation 11:15 to state that presently the kingdoms belong to Satan but will one day come under the lordship of Christ. Certainly, there is support for the view that one day all of the kingdoms of the earth will worship Christ, and that they do not do so today. But to draw the further conclusion that they are today subject to Satan’s whim and desire is contrary to the teaching of Scripture as I have set forth above. Even when rulers are evil, they are still subject to the rule of God. God, not Satan, holds the control of this world and gives it to whomever He wishes (Daniel 4:32).

I encourage everyone to go read Scripture and see what God says and not simply take Satan’s word for the matter.

I hope this is helpful to you.

a fellow pilgrim,

tim

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