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


In Bible Study the other day, we are studying Luke  chapter four. Satan tempts Jesus (in the wilderness 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, 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???  One lady said, he has power over the earth (at this time temporarily) and he did have authority and could do what he says.

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



Hi Tammy,

Both good questions. Let’s start with

Satan’s rebellion…

How far you have 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 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 depths 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 14:1). I take this to refer to human authority. Now noticewhat 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.

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 Him 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

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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: Nov 21st, 2012

  • patrick

    you are correct

  • Dana Che Williams

    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.

  • 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.