Who Really Rules
Many people would answer the above question with a single word—God. But significantly, nowhere does the Bible say that either Jesus Christ or his Father are the real rulers of this world. On the contrary, Jesus said: "The ruler of this world will be cast out." And he added: "The ruler of the world is coming. And he has no hold on me."—John 12:31;14:30; 16:11.
So the ruler of this world is in opposition to Jesus. Who could this be?
A Clue From World Conditions
Despite the efforts of well-meaning humans, the world has suffered terribly throughout history. This causes thinking persons to wonder, as did the late editorial writer David Lawrence: "'Peace on earth'—nearly everybody wants it. 'Good will toward men'—almost all the peoples of the world feel it toward one another. Then what's wrong? Why is war threatened despite the innate desires of peoples?"
It seems a paradox, doesn't it? When the natural desire of people is to live at peace, they commonly hate and kill one another—and with such viciousness. Consider the cold-blooded excesses in monstrous cruelty. Humans have used gas chambers, concentration camps, flamethrowers, napalm bombs, and other heinous methods to torture and slaughter one another mercilessly.
Do you believe that humans, who long for peace and happiness, are capable, in themselves, of such gross wickedness against others? What forces drive men to such loathsome deeds or maneuver them into situations where they feel compelled to commit atrocities? Have you ever wondered whether some wicked, invisible power is influencing people to commit such acts of violence?
The Rulers of the World Identified
There is no need to guess at the matter, for the Bible clearly shows that an intelligent, unseen person has been controlling both men and nations. It says: "The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one." And the Bible identifies him, saying: "The one called Devil and Satan . . . is misleading the entire inhabited earth."—1 John 5:19;Revelation 12:9.
On an occasion when Jesus was "tempted by the Devil," Jesus did not question Satan's role as the ruler of this world. The Bible explains what happened: "The Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him: 'All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.' Then Jesus said to him: 'Go away, Satan!'"—Matthew 4:1, 8-10.
Think about this. Satan tempted Jesus by offering him "all the kingdoms of the world." Yet, would Satan's offer have been a real temptation if Satan was not actually the ruler of these kingdoms? No, it would not. And note, Jesus did not deny that all these worldly governments were Satan's, which he would have done if Satan did not have power over them. So, then, Satan the Devil really is the unseen ruler of the world! The Bible, in fact, calls him "the god of this system of things." (2 Corinthians 4:4) Yet, how did such a wicked person ever come into this powerful position?
The one who became Satan had been an angel created by God, but he became envious of God's position. He challenged God's rightful rulership. To this end he used a serpent as a mouthpiece to deceive the first woman, Eve, and was thus able to get her and her husband, Adam, to do his bidding rather than obey God. (Genesis 3:1-6;2 Corinthians 11:3) He also claimed he could turn all of Adam and Eve's yet unborn offspring away from God. So God allowed time for Satan to try to prove his claim, but Satan has not succeeded.—Job 1:6-12; 2:1-10.
Significantly, Satan is not alone in his rulership of the world. He was successful in persuading some of the other angels to join him in rebellion against God. These became demons, his spirit accomplices. The Bible speaks of them when it urges Christians: "Stand firm against the machinations of the Devil; because we have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but . . . against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places."—Ephesians 6:11, 12.
Resist Wicked Spirits
These unseen, wicked world rulers are determined to mislead all mankind, turning them away from the worship of God. One way wicked spirits do this is by promoting the idea of survival after death, even though God's Word clearly shows that the dead are not conscious. (Genesis 2:17;3:19; Ezekiel 18:4; Psalm 146:3, 4; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10) Thus, a wicked spirit, imitating the voice of one who has died, may talk with that one's living relatives or friends, either through a spirit medium or by a "voice" from the invisible realm. The "voice" pretends to be the departed one, yet it is actually a demon!
So if you ever hear such a "voice," do not be deceived. Reject whatever it says, and echo Jesus' words: "Go away, Satan!" (Matthew 4:10; James 4:7) Do not allow curiosity about the spirit realm to cause you to become involved with wicked spirits. Such involvement is called spiritism, and God warns his worshipers against it in all its forms. The Bible condemns "anyone who employs divination . . . or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead."—Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Galatians 5:19-21;Revelation 21:8.
Since spiritism brings a person under the influence of the demons, resist all its practices regardless of how much fun, or how exciting, they may seem to be. These practices include crystal-ball gazing, use of Ouija boards, ESP, examining the lines of one's hand (palmistry), and astrology. Demons have also caused noises and other physical phenomena in houses that they make their territory.
In addition, wicked spirits capitalize on the sinful bent of humans by promoting literature, movies, and television programs that feature immoral and unnatural sexual behavior. The demons know that wrong thoughts if not expelled from the mind will cause indelible impressions and lead humans to behave immorally—like the demons themselves.—Genesis 6:1, 2; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8;Jude 6.
True, many may scoff at the idea that this world is ruled by wicked spirits. But their disbelief is not surprising, since the Bible says: "Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14) His most clever deception has been in blinding many to the fact that he and his demons really exist. But do not be deceived! The Devil and his demons are real, and you need to resist them continually.—1 Peter 5:8, 9.
Happily, the time is now near when Satan and his cohorts will be no more! "The world [including its demon rulers] is passing away," the Bible assures, "but he that does the will of God remains forever." (1 John 2:17) What a relief it will be to have that evil influence removed! May we, therefore, be among those who do God's will and enjoy life forever in God's righteous new world.—Psalm 37:9-11, 29; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:3, 4.
Published in 1992