The World’s Secret Ruler Exposed
“The ruler of this world will be cast out,” said Jesus to the people on one occasion. Later, he added that ‘the ruler of the world had no hold on him’ and that “the ruler of this world has been judged.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) Of whom was Jesus speaking?
Considering what Jesus was saying about “the ruler of this world,” it is obvious that he could not have been referring to his Father, Jehovah God. Who, then, is “the ruler of this world”? How will he be “cast out,” and how has he been “judged”?
“The Ruler of This World” Reveals Himself
Just as a master criminal often takes pride in boasting about his power, so did the Devil when tempting Jesus, the Son of God. After showing Jesus “all the kingdoms” of the world, Satan made him this offer: “I will give you all this authority and the glory of them, because it has been delivered to me, and to whomever I wish I give it. You, therefore, if you do an act of worship before me, it will all be yours.”—Luke 4:5-7.
If the Devil were merely a principle of evil, as some have suggested, how could that temptation be explained? Was Jesus being tempted by some evil thought or by some inner turmoil that possibly followed his baptism? If so, how could it be said that “there is no sin in him”? (1 John 3:5) Far from denying the Devil’s power over mankind, Jesus actually confirmed it by speaking of him as “the ruler of the world,” describing him as “a murderer” and “a liar.”—John 14:30; 8:44; The New Jerusalem Bible.
Some 60 years after Christ’s encounter with the Devil, the apostle John reminded Christians of the Devil’s powerful influence, saying that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” That one, John also said, “is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9) Clearly, the Bible speaks of an invisible spirit as “the ruler of the world.” But what is the extent of his influence over mankind?
The World Ruler Delegates Power to Associates
Writing about the Christians’ fight for the faith, the apostle Paul clearly identified their worst enemies. “We have a wrestling,” he candidly said, “not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Thus, this fight goes beyond the human sphere, since it is carried out, “not against blood and flesh,” but against “wicked spirit forces.”
According to most modern Bible translations, “the wicked spirit forces” here refer, not to an abstract principle of evil, but to powerful wicked spirit persons. Some versions offer such renderings as “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Revised Standard Version), “the spiritual army of evil in the heavens” (The Jerusalem Bible), and “the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens” (The New English Bible). Thus, the Devil has been exercising his power through other rebel angels who forsook “their own proper dwelling place” in heaven.—Jude 6.
The prophetic Bible book of Daniel discloses how these “world rulers” have been exerting control over the world since ancient times. Deeply concerned about fellow Jews who in 537 B.C.E. had returned to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile, the prophet Daniel prayed in their behalf for three weeks. An angel, sent by God to reassure the prophet, told him why his arrival had been delayed. He said: “The prince of the royal realm of Persia was standing in opposition to me for twenty-one days.”—Daniel 10:2, 13.
Who was this ‘prince of Persia’? The angel was obviously not referring to Persian King Cyrus, who at that time looked with favor upon Daniel and his people. Moreover, how could a mere human king resist a spirit creature for three weeks when it took one angel only one night to destroy 185,000 mighty warriors? (Isaiah 37:36) This hostile ‘prince of Persia’ could only be an agent of the Devil, that is, a demon who was given control over the realm of the Persian Empire. Later in the account, God’s angel stated that he would once again have to fight against “the prince of Persia” and another demon prince, “the prince of Greece.”—Daniel 10:20.
What can we conclude from this? Simply that there really are invisible “world rulers,” demon princes who share control of the world under the authority of their chief, Satan the Devil. But what has been their aim until now?
The World Ruler Shows His True Face
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the apostle John relates how Jesus, as Michael the archangel, defeats the Devil and his demons and tells of the disastrous consequences resulting from their expulsion from heaven. We read: “Woe for the earth . . . because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”—Revelation 12:9, 12.
How has the Devil shown great anger? Just as many desperate criminals follow the policy of ‘rule or ruin,’ the Devil and his demons are determined to bring the earth and its inhabitants to ruin with them. Knowing that his time is short, the Devil has been using one of the key elements of human society under his control—big business—to promote a frenzied spirit of consumerism, which leads to depletion of natural resources and destruction of the environment worldwide, thus threatening humanity’s survival.—Revelation 11:18; 18:11-17.
Since the beginning of human history, the Devil’s thirst for power has also been reflected in politics and religion. The book of Revelation depicts political powers as wild beasts to whom the Devil has given “great authority.” It also describes the shameless alliance between politics and religion as disgusting spiritual adultery. (Revelation 13:2; 17:1, 2) Think of the oppression, enslavement, wars, and ethnic conflicts over the centuries that have resulted in the loss of millions of lives. Can anyone honestly say that the shocking and horrifying events that have tainted the pages of human history were the normal activity of humans? Or were they the result of manipulation by unseen wicked spirit forces?
The Bible unmistakably identifies and unmasks the one who has been maneuvering human leaders and world powers. Whether consciously or not, human society reflects the personality of its ruler and his ‘rule or ruin’ policy. But for how long will humankind suffer under the Devil’s rulership?
The Devil’s Last Gasp
Christ’s activity on earth in the first century sounded the death knell for the Devil and his demons. When Jesus’ disciples related how they had cast out unseen demons, he told them: “I began to behold Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18) With those words, Jesus was rejoicing at his future victory over the ruler of the world, to take place once Jesus was back in heaven as Michael the archangel. (Revelation 12:7-9) A thorough study of Bible prophecies indicates that this victory took place in heaven in or shortly after 1914.*
Since that date, the Devil knows that the time remaining before his destruction is short. Although ‘the whole world is lying in his power,’ millions of people today have not been misled by his desperate attempts to control them. The Bible has opened their eyes to his true identity and his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:11) They draw hope from Paul’s words to fellow Christians: “The God who gives peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.”*—Romans 16:20.
Soon will come the Devil’s last gasp! Under Christ’s loving rulership, righteous humans will turn God’s symbolic footstool, the earth, into a paradise. Violence, hatred, and greed will be gone forever. “The former things will not be called to mind,” says the Bible. (Isaiah 65:17) What a relief it will be for all who break free from the secret ruler of this world and his authority!