Satan’s World System
As we discussed previously, Satan is permitted, for a time, to rule over the majority in this world. Three times Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Other passages of Scripture call Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), informing us “that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Satan rules as a tyrant who has “weakened the nations” (Isa 14:12), and currently “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He personally attacked Adam and Eve (Gen 3:1-7), Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-13), David, (1 Chr 21:1), Joshua the high priest (Zec 3:1-2), Jesus (Matt 4:1-11), Judas (John 13:27), and Peter (Luke 22:31-32). He continues to attack God’s people today (1 Pet 5:8), practices deception (2 Cor 11:13-15), and has well developed strategies of warfare (Eph 6:10-12). Furthermore, humanity is living in an “evil age” (Gal 1:4), under “the dominion of Satan” (Acts 26:18), whose sphere of influence is called “the domain of darkness” (Col 1:13). Though Satan has attacked some people directly, he mainly operates as commander of an unseen realm of demons, through a worldwide system of philosophies and values he’s created, through unbelievers whom he energizes to do his will, and through the sinful inclinations of our fallen nature. These all help advance his agenda in which he attacks God and His people. Paul, when writing to Christians in Ephesus, discusses the reality of these things. Paul said:
- "And you [Gentile Christians, before salvation; see Eph 2:4-9] were dead [νεκρός nekros – dead, corpse; i.e., separated from God] in your trespasses and sins [i.e., acts of disobedience against God], 2 in which you formerly walked [περιπατέω peripateo – to walk, conduct oneself, behave] according to the course of this world [κόσμος kosmos - world, system], according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan – the commander of an unseen realm], of the spirit that is now working [ἐνεργέω energeo – to work, energize, empower] in the sons of disobedience [i.e., sons characterized by their disobedience to God]. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh [σάρξ sarx – flesh, body, i.e., sin nature], indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind [even their reasoning processes were corrupt], and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." (Eph 2:1-3)
The Bible recognizes Satan’s world-system and warns us not to love it. John writes and tells the Christian, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). We live in a fallen world, and John’s command is intended to warn us of real danger. First, John opens with the negative particle Μὴ Me, which is followed by the Geek verb ἀγαπάω agapao, which is in the imperative mood—the mood of command. The word ἀγαπάω agapao denotes desire or commitment to something or someone. David L. Allen comments on love:
- "In its essence love is two things: a desire for something and a commitment to something … Whatever it is you desire and whatever you’re committed to, that’s where your time and resources will go. If you love football, that’s where your time and resources will go. If you love hunting or fishing, that’s where your time and resources will go. If you love your spouse, you desire to spend time with her and you are committed to her. Love is more than an emotional feeling. Love requires a commitment of time and resources."
John then gives the object we are not to desire or be committed to, namely, the world (τὸν κόσμον). The Greek word κόσμος kosmos is used in Scripture to refer to: 1) the physical planet (Matt 13:35; Acts 17:24), 2) people who live in the world (John 3:16), and 3) the hostile system created and controlled by Satan that he uses to lure people away from God (1 John 2:15-16). It is this third meaning that John has in mind. Hence, the word κόσμος kosmos refers to “that which is hostile to God…lost in sin, wholly at odds with anything divine, ruined and depraved.” Concerning, the word κόσμος kosmos, David L. Allen writes:
- "Sometimes the word “world” is used to refer to the organized evil system with its principles and its practices, all under the authority of Satan, which includes all teachings, ideas, culture, attitudes, activities, etc., that are opposed to God. A fixation on the material over the spiritual, promotion of self over others, pleasure over principle—these are just a few descriptors of the world system John is talking about. The word “world” here means everything that opposes Christ and his work on earth. Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 16:11), and Paul called him “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). In Luke 16:8 Jesus referred to all unsaved people as “the sons of this world.”
Satan’s world-system consists of those philosophies and values that perpetually influence humanity to think and behave contrary to God and His Word. This operating apart from God is first and foremost a way of thinking that is antithetical to God, a way of thinking motivated by a desire to be free from God and the authority of Scripture, a freedom most will accept, even though it is accompanied by all sorts of inconsistencies and absurdities. Lewis Chafer writes:
- "The kosmos is a vast order or system that Satan has promoted which conforms to his ideals, aims, and methods. It is civilization now functioning apart from God-a civilization in which none of its promoters really expect God to share; who assign to God no consideration in respect to their projects, nor do they ascribe any causality to Him. This system embraces its godless governments, conflicts, armaments, jealousies; its education, culture, religions of morality, and pride. It is that sphere in which man lives. It is what he sees, what he employs. To the uncounted multitude it is all they ever know so long as they live on this earth. It is properly styled “The Satanic System” which phrase is in many instances a justified interpretation of the so-meaningful word, kosmos."
Many people who live in Satan’s world-system exclude God and Scripture from their daily conversations. This is true in news, politics, academic communities, work and home life. God is nowhere in their thoughts, and therefore, nowhere in their discussions (Psa 10:4; 14:1). These are the agnostics and atheists. But there are others in Satan’s world-system who are very religious, and these are the worst kind of people, because they claim to represent God, when in fact they don’t. In the Bible, there were many religious people who spoke in the name of the Lord (Jer 14:14; 23:16-32; Matt 7:15; Acts 13:6; Rev 2:20), claiming to represent Him, even performing miracles (Deut 13:1-4; Matt 24:24; 2 Th 2:8-9; Rev 13:13). The Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes where this way, and they said of themselves, “we have one Father: God” (John 8:41b). But Jesus saw them for what they really were and said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father” (John 8:44a). The religious—like Satan—are blinded by their pride. Humility must come before they will accept God’s gospel of grace, and it does no good to argue with them (2 Tim 2:24-26). These false representatives loved to talk about God, read their Bibles, pray, fast, give of their resources, and spent much of their time in fellowship with other religious persons. Theirs is a works-system of salvation, which feeds their pride; giving them a sense of control over their circumstances and others. These false organizations and their teachers appear as godly and righteous, but Paul described them as “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13). Though very religious, these are in line with Satan, who operates on corrupt reasoning and is a deceiver. Paul goes on to say, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor 11:14-15).
The contrast between the growing Christian and the worldly person is stark, as their thoughts and words take them in completely different directions. The growing believer thinks about God and His Word all the time, as “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa 1:2). The word law translates the Hebrew word תּוֹרָה torah, which means law, direction, or instruction. Navigating the highways of this world can be tricky, and the believer needs the direction or instruction God’s Word provides. It is our divine roadmap for staying on God’s path and getting to the destination He intends.
At the core of Satan’s world-system is a directive for mankind to function apart from God, and when obeyed, people produce all forms of evil, both moral and immoral. We should understand that Satan’s system is a buffet that offers something for everyone who rejects God, whether that person is moral or immoral, religious or irreligious, educated or simple, rich or poor. Satan is careful to make sure there’s even something for the Christian in his world-system, which is why the Bible repeatedly warns the believer not to love the world or the things in the world. We are to be set apart (Col 2:8; Jam 1:27; 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16). Lightner states, “The world is the Christian’s enemy because it represents an anti-God system, a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to the will and plan of God. It is a system headed by the devil and therefore at odds with God (2 Cor 4:4).…It is in this wicked world we must rear our families and earn our livelihoods. We are in it, yet are not to be a part of it.” It is important to understand that we cannot change Satan or his evil program; however, we must be on guard, for it can and will change us if we’re not careful to learn and live God’s Word.
At the moment of salvation, God the Father “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13), and “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). This transference is permanent and cannot be undone. Once this happens, we are hated by those who remain in Satan’s kingdom of darkness. For this reason, Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19; cf. John 16:33; 1 John 3:13). Love and hate in this context should be understood as accept or reject, which can be mild or severe in expression. When praying to the Father, Jesus said, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14b), and went on to say, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). It is not God’s will that we be immediately removed from this world at the moment of salvation, but left here to serve as His representatives to the lost, that we “may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). We are not to participate in worldly affairs that exclude God, but are to “walk as children of Light” (Eph 5:8), manifesting the fruit of the Light “in all goodness and righteousness and truth, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph 5:9-10), and we are told, “do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph 5:11).
The growing Christian faces real struggles as Satan’s world system seeks to press him into its mold, demanding conformity, and persecuting him when he does not bend to its values. The world-system not only has human support, but is backed by demonic forces that operate in collaboration with Satan. Scripture tells us “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). The battlefront is more than what is seen with the human eye and is driven by unseen spiritual forces. As Christians living in the world, we are to be careful not to be taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col 2:8). Realizing the battleground is the mind, we are to think biblically in everything, which is our only safeguard against the enemy (2 Cor 10:3-5).
As Christians we face situations every day in which we are pressured to compromise God’s Word. We face difficulties at work, school, home, or other places, in which we are confronted by worldly-minded persons, both saved and unsaved, who demand and pressure us to abandon our biblical values. There is room for personal compromise where Scripture is silent on a matter; however, where Scripture speaks with absolute authority, there we must never compromise! Wiersbe states, “The world, or world-system, puts pressure on each person to try to get him to conform (Rom 12:2). Jesus Christ was not ‘of this world’ and neither are His people (John 8:23; 17:14). But the unsaved person, either consciously or unconsciously, is controlled by the values and attitudes of this world.”
By promoting the gospel and biblical teaching, the church disrupts Satan’s domain of darkness by calling out of it a people for God. By learning God’s Word, Christians can identify worldly conversations and activities and either avoid them or seek to redirect them by interjecting biblical truth, which should never be done in hostility. When sharing God’s Word with others it’s proper to know that not everyone wants to hear God’s truth, and even though we may not agree with them, their personal choices should be respected (Matt 10:14; Acts 13:50-51). We should never try to force the gospel or Bible teaching on anyone, but be willing to share when opportunity presents itself. At times this will bring peace, and other times cause disruption and may even offend. In this interaction, the growing Christian must be careful not to fall into the exclusion trap, in which the worldly person (whether saved or lost) controls the content of every conversation, demanding the Christian only talk about worldly issues, as Scripture threatens his pagan presuppositions. Having the biblical worldview, the Christian should insert himself into daily conversations with others, and in so doing, be a light in a dark place. He should always be respectful, conversational, and never have a fist-in-your-face attitude, as arrogance never helps advance biblical truth (2 Tim 2:24-26). The worldly-minded person may not want to hear what the Christian has to say, but he should never be under the false impression that he has the right to quiet the Christian and thereby exclude him from the conversation.
As we grow spiritually and walk with God, learning and living His Word (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17), we stand in opposition to Satan’s world-system and sow the seeds of spiritual insurrection in the lives of those who live and walk in his kingdom of darkness. We disrupt Satan’s kingdom when we share the gospel, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). When anyone places their faith in Christ, trusting solely in Him as Savior, they are forgiven all their sins (Eph 1:7), gifted with eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28), and the righteousness of God (Rom 4:1-5; 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9). They are rescued from Satan’s enslaving power, as God rescues them from the “domain of darkness” and transfers them into “the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13). The gospel is the only way a person can be delivered from spiritual slavery; “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Once saved, we seek to influence the thoughts and lives of other Christians through fellowship (Heb 10:23-25), prayer (Jam 5:16), edification (Eph 4:29), encouragement (1 Th 5:11), love (1 Th 4:9; cf. Eph 4:14-15), and words of grace (Col 4:6).
 David L. Allen, 1–3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family, ed. R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 96–97.
 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 562.
 David L. Allen, 1–3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family, 96.
 Lewis S. Chafer, “Angelology Part 4” Bibliotheca Sacra 99 (1942): 282-283.
 There are many church denominations today that call themselves “Christian”, but who come with a false gospel in which human works are added as a requirement for salvation (i.e., Catholics, Methodists, Church of Christ, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.).
 Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology, p. 206.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 18.