One reader took objection, and I’m glad he question my assertions, as it’s useful to rethink our positions and make sure we articulate our thoughts clearly. After a little back-and-forth, I thought I should try again to explain myself here.
If you’d like to see what came before, here’s the original post and the resulting conversation.
Okay, so what do I mean by saying God has given control of this world to Satan? First, let me emphasize that it’s God in His sovereignty who gives this control, not Satan who takes it. How so? In the Isaiah 10:5-19, the nation of Assyria provides an example. God gave this godless nation temporary dominion for a specific purpose, yet held them accountable for their sins against Him and His people. God gave Satan limited power to afflict Job, in Job 1 and 2. As Jesus said in John 10:17-18 and 19:11, his persecutors had no power against Him other than what God gave them. Though God calls Satan the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (or “god of this age” or “present age,” depending on the version), that title is only his because God allows it. It is limited, and it is temporary. But it is a fact at this point in time.
But we can’t base a doctrine on one isolated passage, for scripturally, it is only by the testimony of two or more witnesses that the truth is established (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; etc.). In the spirit of scriptural integrity, therefore, let’s take a look at some other places the Bible talks about this.
In John 12:31, Jesus called the devil “the prince of this world” and noted that his position as such is subject to God. Ephesians 2:2 refers to him as the “prince of the power of the air,” the idea being that his power does not extend beyond this planet’s inhabitable surface. This answers one of the questions raised earlier: Satan does not exert control, even to a limited degree, over all the physical universe.
In some versions, 1 John 5:19 says “the whole world is under control of the evil one;” the KJV renders this “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Either way, it’s the whole world—not all of creation.
So what does this means in a practical sense?
In the case of we who are in Christ, our eternal souls are freed from sin’s curse and safe from all harm; we are now, and forever will be, citizens of the spiritual kingdom of God. However, because the kingdom of heaven has not yet been established on this earth, our physical, not-yet-resurrected bodies will continue to be battered by the evil one as long as we inhabit them.
Satan manifests himself in many ways, and they often touch us physically. It hardly seems necessary to show scriptural support of this, because it’s everywhere. Nevertheless, a quick look at the incomplete list of difficulties Paul endured in 2 Corinthians 11:24-33 is a start, and the scriptures give numerous other examples of how the devil causes physical mischief. In fact, most of his attacks are physical; scriptural evidence suggests that the inner (non-physical) struggles we face, such as temptations and uncertainties, often arise from our own fleshly nature and ingrained habits rather than any assault by the devil (James 1:13-14).
What did I mean by saying that it’s not up to Christians to save the broken world? Simply this: though we are citizens of the kingdom of God, we cannot expect to see the kingdom of heaven on earth until Christ returns. In the meantime, no matter how we might try to change things, the truth will continue to be twisted, the innocent will keep on suffering, and justice will be miscarried again and again. Corruption prevails in every government across the planet. Men dethrone one despot only to replace him with another. Medical advances eradicate one disease, and two more pop up to take its place. Whether we give a man a fish or teach him to fish, starvation is never eliminated.
Even Jesus, referencing Deuteronomy 15:11, said there will always be poverty (Matthew 26:11; John 12:8). He wasn’t telling His followers to not bother trying to relieve suffering. Quite the contrary, we are to love mercy and do justice and help others. But in the context of those passages, our first priority should be serving Him. When we focus on the physical, whom do we serve (Matthew 6:24-34)?
Though our souls have been rescued from the power of darkness and delivered into the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13), we do still have physical bodies with physical needs, which we are to tend to with due diligence. Not only are we to keep ourselves pure and unstained by the sin of the world (1 Thess. 4:3-7; 1 Peter 1:13-16), but also, we are to work for a living, providing for ourselves and our family (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; 1 Timothy 5:8). We should be compassionate toward others, relieving distress and sharing our material blessings when God gives us opportunity (James 2:15-16). But, necessary as all that is, it is not the Christian’s highest purpose in life. The Church has a mission, and the devil will oppose it through all the considerable means at his disposal. When we allow ourselves to be distracted from Christ’s Kingdom purposes, we make Satan’s job easier.
Paul warned in Colossians 2:20-23 that sometimes even our efforts to worship God focus on the flesh, putting the emphasis on what we can’t do rather than living freely for the Lord. He goes on to say in Colossians 3:1-3 that, if we are in fact risen with Christ, we are to set our affections on things above (the kingdom of God). We are strangers on earth, and pilgrims. As citizens of the kingdom of God, this present world—the “air” that the devil is the prince of—is not our home.
That’s the practical side. What about the literary ramifications?
First, the question of allegory: the whole physical world is an allegory, and the Bible is so full of allegories there would be little left if you removed them. Why would anyone consider that literary device to be of the devil? It appears, rather, to have originated with God.
But wait, back up a minute: what’s that about the physical world being an allegory? Consider just a very few of the myriad examples: marriage is an allegory for the church’s relationship with Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32). The sunrise is a picture of Christ’s return (Psalm 19:4-6; Malachi 4:2. Just think: every moment of every day, the sunrise brings light to some part of the earth. This planet’s perpetual dawn proclaims Christ’s coming to judge and bring light to this dark world. Talk about awesome allegory!) The tabernacle of Moses was a picture of the true tabernacle in Heaven, and the various rituals and celebrations of the Mosaic Law are allegories for Christ’s works. And so on, and so on, on and on. To an unknown degree that we cannot at this time fathom, the physical world is a shadow of the eternal truth it pictures (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 8:1-5).
I don’t see allegory, parables, fantasy, or any literary genre or device as playing into the devil’s hand. What I spoke of as pandering to the Satan is thinking the Church has either the obligation or the power to de-throne evil. We’re to give him no place in our lives, to be sure; but Christ has already given us the victory there. The world stage is a different matter.
For reasons I explained earlier, I’m uncomfortable with supernatural stories in which demonic forces take on a visible form and/or the reader is led to speculate what those beings’ existence might be like, how they may think or act or behave. A tale in which the hero tries to save the world is fun now and then and can sometimes be instructive. I merely lamented the scarcity of plots that depict the worldview described above.
One more thing, and then I’m done. The statement “Further affiant sayeth not” (originally “Further affiant sayeth naught,” with naught meaning nothing) is the legal language used to conclude a sworn affidavit. It means the person making the statement (the “affiant”) has enumerated all the facts and has nothing further to say. It is wholly unrelated to the idea of “taking the Fifth,” which I would not do in this case. If setting our affections on things above is a crime, I will freely incriminate myself.