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DOES SATAN HAVE A KINGDOM?
That satan (note: I choose not to personify this transliterated noun by capitalizing it) has a kingdom has been an assumption long held by much of Christianity, over the centuries. But does the Bible affirm this as being true, or have folks read this into the Scriptures?
In Matt. 12:25-26, Jesus gives a response to the Pharisees’ accusation that He was expelling demons “by means of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (vs. 24).
Now His response is an illustration, in two parts: (1) "Every reign of a king (kingdom; = government) being parted (divided and separated into parts) down against itself is being progressively turned into a desert (made desolate, waste and depopulated), and (2) every city or household being parted down against itself will not stand (= survive).”
He speaks first of the reign of a king, and then changes the illustration to speaking of either a city or a household. But the point of these illustrations is internal conflict and division within some sort of “rule.” He picks up the topic and the concept (“ruler of the demons”) from the Pharisees, and refutes them on their own terms and within their own concepts. But He is not necessarily validating their concepts, or their world view. Beelzebub, is the NT spelling for Baal-zebub, a Philistine deity (2 King 1:2). So here we have the Pharisees validating the existence of a pagan god! And yet, we are told in Ps. 95:5 that “all the gods of the peoples (= people groups) are mere idols (nobodies; things of naught).” The LXX (Greek OT) renders this: “all the gods of the ethnic multitudes (nations; non-Israelites) [are] demons.” But Isaiah says in 65:3 (LXX), “This is a people that … offer[s] sacrifices in gardens, and burn[s] incense on bricks to the demons – which things DO NOT EXIST!”
But Jesus knew that they equated this Beelzebub with satan, so He speaks to what they are thinking in their hearts (vs. 25 begins, “Knowing their thoughts, He said to them…”). So in vs. 26 He makes the connection for them:
"So if 'Satan' continues casting (or: driving) out 'Satan,' he is parted (divided and separated into parts) upon himself. How, then, will his reign (kingdom; government) stand (= survive)?
27. "And if I, Myself, 'in union with Beelzebub' continue casting (or: driving) out the demons, in union which whom are your sons habitually casting and driving [them] out? Through this (or: Therefore; For this reason), they, themselves, will be your judges (or: decision makers pertaining to you folks).”
Jesus therefore turns their comments back on them and points out the lack of logic in their reasonings.
This same incident is recorded similarly in Luke, but in Mark’s version in ch. 3, using the same examples of a kingdom and a house, it does not mention satan as having a kingdom:
26. "So if satan rose upon (or: stands up against) himself and was divided (or: is parted), he continues unable (constantly has no power) to stand, but to the contrary, he progressively has an end (continues to hold termination).
It may come as a surprise, but this incident is the only place in the Bible that refers to satan as having a kingdom, and as I have pointed out, Jesus is drawing upon the cosmology held by the Pharisees in order to answer them on their own terms. And again, Mark’s version of this same incident does not refer to satan as having a kingdom, so I suggest that it is not a significant part of Jesus’ response. Furthermore, in Mark 3:23, we read that Jesus was replying in a parable, in saying these things:
23. So, calling them to (or: toward) Himself, He began in PARABLES (illustrations from things cast or placed alongside for comparison) saying to them, "How is satan continuing able to be constantly throwing out satan (or: How is an adversary repeatedly having power to continue casting out [that same] adversary [= itself])?
Now Rev. 12:7 speaks of “(a) war in heaven,” where it says “the One, Michael [the One in God's likeness], and His agents [went] to war (or: to battle) with the dragon. And the dragon did battle (or: at once battles; = fought back), as well as his agents,
8. and yet they were not strong (or: had no strength), neither was their place any longer found within the heaven [note: = the realm of spirit].
9. And so thrown (or: hurled; cast; tossed) is (or: was) the great dragon, the serpent from the very beginning (or: the original, or ancient, serpent) – the one being continuously called devil (one who thrusts something through [folks]; slanderer; false accuser; separator; one who casts something throughout the midst) and satan (the adversary; the opponent; the one who stands in opposition; the counter‑worker), the one continuously causing the whole inhabited area of the earth to wander (to stray; the one continually deceiving). It was (or: is) hurled (thrown; cast; tossed) into the earth (or: Land), and its agents were (or: are) thrown (cast; tossed) with it.”
This is a picture of an event in which the adversary (satan) loses its position and its power. It and its agents are overcome and are displaced from their positions of authority (figured by heaven) to now be on the same playing field as humanity (figured by no longer having a “place,” or “position” within the heaven and by being hurled into the earth). Verse 8 tells us that this whole group has no strength. Then vs. 10 gives us the reason for the victory of this figurative war (note: the book of Revelation is a book of symbols and figures which draw heavily on the apocalyptic literature of the OT): "At the present moment (or: Just now) the deliverance (the return to the original state and condition; the rescue; the health and wholeness; salvation), and the authority, and the kingdom (or: reign) of our God was (or: is) birthed (comes into existence; came to be), also the authority of His Anointed (or: His Christ; His anointed one), because our brothers' accuser (the accuser of our fellow believers) was cast down (and: is hurled down) – the one that was or is by habit repeatedly accusing them before (or: in the sight and presence of) our God, day and night.”
This verse is an explanation of the “war in heaven” of vs. 7, above. Vs. 7 gave the picture in terms of Jewish apocalyptic, drawing on “Michael, [Israel’s] Prince” as the Messianic figure in the book of Daniel. The reality of this picture is explained in vs. 10 as being accomplished by the birthing of God’s reign (Jesus’ message was “the reign and kingdom of God is at hand – close enough to touch; is accessible,” and it was the work of His cross and the power of His anointed position that effected the salvation and deliverance and the ushering in of the influence of God’s sovereignty. The next verse makes this clear:
11. And they at once overcame (or: at some point overcome; conquer) him because of the blood of the little Lamb… The “they” is figured in vs. 7 as “Michael and His agents;” the “him” is the dragon, satan, the adversary. The war takes place in the hearts and minds of humanity (the realm of “spirit”).
Now note what the adversary’s (satan’s) position in heaven was: accusing “our brothers (= fellow believers, or, members of God’s family)” before God (or: “in the sight and presence of our God”) – vs. 10. The adversary, satan, had a position: that of accusing God’s people. This position was in God’s presence (recall the first two chapters of Job). Due to the work of Christ it no longer has this place or position.
Do you remember what Jesus said to the Jewish leadership about who/what accused Israel? It is in John ch. 5:
45. “Stop thinking (supposing; presuming; having opinions) that I, Myself, will publicly speak down against (or: accuse) you folks to the Father; the one constantly accusing (publicly speaking down against) you people is (or: exists being) Moses, into whom you folks have put your expectation, and on whom you now rely.”
The Law (Moses) was the accuser of the brothers (= the people of God). Paul put it this way in 1 Cor. 15,
56. Now the stinger (sharp point; or: the sting, thus, the injection) of the Death [is] the Sin (the mistake; the error; the failure), and the power (or: ability) of the Sin [is] the Law.
And we always thought that it was the devil!
In every other place in the Bible where satan is mentioned, the picture is of a single adversarial influence. Now this influence is at times pictured as affecting the ethnic multitudes, as in “deceiving the nations” in gathering them together for war (e.g., Rev. 20:8), but there is no suggestion that satan has a kingdom. As a negative influence it works through people (such as Peter, Judas, etc.). But the idea that satan has a kingdom is a myth from the dualism of pagan cosmology.
The concept of demonic principalities is pure paganism. Eph. 3:10 does not state that the “principalities and powers” of this verse are demonic. They are spiritual, yes, but they are spirits and attitudes that are within people who have power in the domination systems (Walter Wink’s term which he uses to translate the negative uses of the Greek word kosmos: system; ordered arrangement; world of culture, religion, government and economics. These systems are in place to control and dominate others) in which we are involved.
Furthermore, Col. 1:13 does not say (as many have misquoted it to say) that we have been transferred from satan’s kingdom into the kingdom of His dear Son. Instead, it says:
13. Who drags us out of danger (or: rescued us) forth from out of the midst of the authority of the Darkness (Darkness's jurisdiction and right; = the privilege of ignorance), and changes [our] position (or: transported [us], thus, giving [us] a change of standing, and transferred [us]) into the midst of the kingdom and reign of the Son of His love (of the Son Who has the characteristics and qualities of His love; the Son Whose origin is His love; or: the Son of the love which is Him; the Son which is His love).
Recall the first chapter of John. He came unto His own [people], but they loved darkness rather than the Light. Their darkness was the shadows within their Law; it was the blindness of their eyes from their legalistic mindsets; it was their works-based righteousness that made God’s truth ineffectual; it was their sacrifice system with its purity rules; it was their view of themselves in distinction from the sinners, the outcasts, the pagans and the non-Jewish ethnic groups.
The believing Jews were dragged out of the authority of the darkness of their own religious system. The ethnic multitudes were rescued from the authority of their pagan religions, and all the dark attitudes about God.
An adversary’s kingdom is any system that opposes the knowledge of God and the truth of the message of goodness which is Jesus Christ. But this kingdom – this reign of influence – is that which is within the alienated concepts of estranged humanity. It is not a group of “fallen spirit beings.” Satan only has a kingdom if we, like the Pharisees and other pagan-influenced Jews of their day, create it within our own minds, attitudes and spirits.
To God be the Glory,
Upon sharing this article with Kevin Badger, he responded that it would be good to point out satan’s subservient role in the first two chapters of the book of Job. Not only did it/he appear in the picture of God’s council, but God asked for a report from it/him. God asked it/him if it/he had given Job any consideration, in regard to what a fine specimen of humanity he was. After making suggestions of how to test Job, satan is given permission to carry out its/his ideas, with the limitations set by God. There is no suggestion of satan having a kingdom in this picture, in fact the picture suggest that satan is God’s “minister for testing folks.”
Jan Antonsson brought up 1 John 3:8, in regard to our topic,
“Yet the person habitually practicing (repeatedly doing; progressively producing) the sin (the failure to hit the target or accomplish his purpose; or: the error; the mistake; the deviation) is existing from out of the adversary who thrusts-through [with a weapon, or with ill-intent] (or: = is [operating] from [the influence of] the “devil”), because this adversary is habitually sinning (or: repeatedly missing the target; continuously falling short of the goal; constantly deviating from his purpose) from [the] beginning (or: from [its] origin). Into this [situation] was (or: is) God's Son manifested and made visible, to the end that He would unbind (loose; untie; destroy; disintegrate) the works and actions of the adversary who casts things through the midst of folks.”
Jan poses the rhetorical question: “Do you think that Jesus succeeded in this mission?” Her obvious answer is, “Yes!!” And I say, “Amen. The work is done.”
This created our existence of being rescued, delivered, healed and made whole, or, of being saved. We live in this sphere and have no need to “fight the devil.”
It has no kingdom.
ALL 5 OF JONATHAN'S
(Updated 2015 Edition)
JONATHAN'S 4TH COMMENTARY
Peter's Encore & Later Paul
Comments on 2 Peter & Ephesians
JONATHAN'S 3RD COMMENTARY
Comments on Romans
JONATHAN'S 2ND COMMENTARY
John, Judah, Paul & ?
Comments on 6 Epistles
JONATHAN'S 1ST COMMENTARY
Peter, Paul & Jacob
Comments on 9 Epistles
Jonathan's first four volumes in a series of New Testament commentaries
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HIS POWER, HIS
FAIRNESS, HIS PEACE
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