Who Controls the Kingdoms of This World?

By Wayne Jackson

How is Luke 4:5-6 to be reconciled with Daniel 4:17? Daniel says God gives the kingdoms of men to whomever He chooses.

Satan, however, told Jesus, during one temptation, “All this authority I will give you, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whomever I wish.”

There are a several things about the temptation account that intrigue us, and about which we would like to know more. The alleged conflict between Daniel 4:17 and Luke 4:5-6, however, is not insurmountable. There are several fundamental propositions that assist the Bible student in putting this matter into sharper focus.

The Sovereignty of God

God is sovereign over all created beings (cf. Rev. 4:11). The term “sovereign” has to do with Jehovah’s right to exercise authority over all his creation according to the pleasure of his will (Psa. 115:3). The earth is his, and the fullness thereof (Psa. 24:1).

No one has a right to dispute with God about how he exercises his will (Isa. 45:9; Dan. 4:35). This is one of the profound lessons from the book of Job (see 38:2; 40:8). Moreover, the Lord’s ways are beyond human analysis (Rom. 11:33).

Satan is Subject to God’s Permissive Will

Though Satan is the adversary of God and man (1 Pet. 5:8), and a constant enemy (Mt. 13:28), the Lord, consistent with his own plan, has allowed the devil a certain latitude of operation. This reality is well illustrated in the book of Job. Satan could not have brought affliction upon the patriarch of Uz, except for the permission of God. “And Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold all that he has is in your power: only upon himself put not forth your hand” (Job 1:12). There is both permission, and the restriction of operation, within this passage.

Satan: The Tempter of Man

Satan has been allowed the power of temptation over men. Matthew referred to him as “the tempter” (Mt. 4:3). The present tense participle form in the Greek text suggests a characteristic activity on the part of this foe (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8).

But he cannot overpower us against our will. It is possible to resist him (Jas. 4:7). We are not forced to yield to temptation; providential ways of escape are available to us (1 Cor. 10:13). It is a tragic reality, however, that we frequently do not pursue the escape route.

Satan: An Evil Influence on Nations

A consideration of several passages of scripture forces one to the conclusion that God has allowed Satan to exert his influence upon nations as well as individuals. The devil is characterized as the “ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31), and the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4).

The malignant politico-religious force described by Paul in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2, is said to be “according to the working of Satan” (v. 9). Yet, significantly, such was by the concession of God. The expression “God sendeth” (v. 11) is an idiom which signifies permission — not the actual dispatch of a lie (cf. Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18).

Moreover, in the book of Revelation it is the “dragon” (Satan — 20:2) who empowers the “beast” (certain political forces) in his opposition to God’s people (Rev. 13:4).

God is sovereign

So, what are we to make of these facts? The following conclusions seem certain.

  1. God is ultimately in control of all earthly powers. He rules as sovereign. Civil governments are under the Lord’s supreme power (Rom. 13:1).
  2. Satan has been allowed a certain domain of temptation in a world where man possesses the gift of “freedom of choice.”
  3. The human family has surrendered much to Satan — both as individuals, and collectively as nations. Humanity, through its sinfulness, has “delivered” much to the “enemy.”

The final point then is this. There is no conflict between Daniel 4:17 and Luke 4:5-6. These passages approach governmental control from different perspectives. The former affirms Jehovah’s supreme sovereignty over all international affairs, while the latter takes note of the permissive will of God, and, in terms of moral responsibility, the surrender of humanity to the wiles of Satan.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.