As we saw in our last post, in order to thrive and flourish under God’s rule you must understand that your relationship with Him depends upon submission to His will and obedience to His commands. God made us—so we exist for Him. God loves us and offers restoration of fellowship with Him through Jesus the Messiah, and He will one day restore mankind’s dominion through the earthly rule of Jesus. To act against Jesus authority, or even to misunderstand this mandate, is to miss out on His plan for redemption, relationship, and flourishing.
God Delegates Temporal Justice to Man
God rules in heaven. However, some of God’s heavenly creatures (angels), as well as all earthly creatures made in His image (Adam and Eve – therefore all humanity) rebelled against God’s word and therefore His authority. Mankind was originally obedient to God and without sin. As such, they were qualified to be good rulers over His creation and capable of glorifying God by their actions. The fall changed this (Gen 3). Humanity became flawed and sinful; easily enticed to self-centeredness, sinfulness, and violence. However, God still chose to work out His dominion over creation through mankind. Government, as we know it, began when God delegated to Noah (thus humanity) the authority to police, judge, and execute anyone who would strike at God by killing a human. Murder is an attack upon God because mankind was made in God’s image (Gen 9:5-6). So human Government is how God has chosen to work out His justice on earth. However as a result of the Tower of Babel event (when mankind unified to rebel against God’s rule and attempted to usurp His place in the heavens) there are many diverse languages, peoples, nations, and governments spread across the world (Gen 11).
Is Satan the “Ruler” of this World?
If God rules all and delegated man to rule creation in Genesis 1-2, how is it that the Accuser (Satan) is able to offer Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” during His temptation in Matt 4:8ff? And why does Jesus call him the “ruler of this world” in John 12:31? Jesus also mentions two dominions in Acts 26:18: 1) the dominion of darkness/Satan (filled with people needing rescue; called the “domain of darkness” in Col 1:13), and 2) the dominion of God/light (filled only with people of faith in Christ who have been forgiven/rescued; called the kingdom of His [God’s] beloved Son in Col 1:13).
God Delegated the Rule of the Nations
When mankind rebelled against God’s rule at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11), God separated them into nations and established their boundaries (Gen 10:32; Deut 32:8; Acts 17:26). God allotted the rule of the nations to the “host of heaven,” that is to angelic beings— the “sons of God” (Deut 4:19; Jer 19:13) that the nations might serve them (just as God later did to Israel for a time when they rebelled, Acts 7:42). God set the boundaries of the peoples according to the “sons of God” (ie “angels”; Deut 32:8).So God chose to work out His rule over the nations through fallen angels (see Ps 82). Remember, “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes” (Dan 4:25). However God chose to rule directly only Israel as their king, calling them His inheritance (Deut 32:9; 1 Sam 12:12; Judges 8:23).
The Dominion of Darkness
So the kingdom of this world is an earthly kingdom that is ruled by the prince of the power of the air (ie. Satan see Eph 2:2, and 1 John 5:19) but which is subject to the rule of God (Daniel 2:21). This kingdom is divided into peoples/nations overseen by Angelic beings (the sons of God). In Daniel 10:12-13, 20, one of these regional/national angelic powers hinders, for a time, the answer to Daniel’s prayer . These fallen angelic beings are in God’s presence around His throne subject to and serving Him alongside the unfallen angels (Job 1-2; 1 Kings 22:19ff). These fallen angels are the rulers, powers, authorities, world forces of darkness and wickedness, in the heavenly places which Paul speaks of in Ephesians 3:10 and 6:12. They were supposed to bring justice and rescue the afflicted/destitute from the wicked, but they did not do so. Instead they perverted justice so God will judge them (Ps 82). They are led by Satan, the accuser, who was originally the highest ranking or ruling angel (see “anointed cherub” in Ezekiel 28:12-19, but specifically v 14). Satan leads these angelic powers to deceive the nations (Rev 20:3) and he stands before God accusing Christians day and night (Rev 12:10).
Under these angelic beings are nations with human governments influenced to varying degrees by these evil powers, by lost humanity, and by citizens of the Kingdom of God within their midst (as salt and light; Matt 5:13-16). Human governments and rulers are established by God, derive their authority from God, have police powers, and in service of His justice they bring God’s wrath upon those who do evil (Rom 13:1-7; Gen 9). As such all humans owe their obedience to proper authorities who are acting justly (Rom 13:2; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Jesus stated, “…Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21). However, this teaching inherently asserts—all belongs to God. So we submit to governments and authorities because in doing so we submit to God. However, we must resist when governments act against properly established standards of conduct (ie the Constitution); and we must disobey, if it demands that we violate or disobey the word of God (Acts 5:29).
See my upcoming post The Kingdom of God.
See the “sons of God” variant in the LXX et al. See also Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015).