AGAIN, THE DEVIL TOOK JESUS UP ON AN EXCEEDINGLY 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 WILL FALL DOWN AND WORSHIP ME.” THEN JESUS SAID TO HIM, “AWAY WITH YOU, SATAN! FOR IT IS WRITTEN, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE (Mt4:8-10)
Actually, Jesus doesn’t positively affirm Satan’s role here, He just doesn’t deny it. Satan’s devolved authority as Head of the World order is affirmed elsewhere (Jn12:31), interestingly in the context of Christ’s impending crucifixion. It is the Saviour’s most direct reference to the purpose of His death: to put an end to Satan’s rule (same verse). But what possible right could Satan have to rule the Earth? Be assured, none whatsoever: God and Satan are not opposing deities, they are Creator and corrupted creature. The parallel account in Luke makes it clearer; when Satan suggests Jesus should worship him in order to receive such authority, he reminds Jesus that such authority “emoi paradedotai” “has been given up to me” by the only One who had the power to do so: God Himself (cf. Rom8:20). Such an arrangement has an explicit biblical precedent (Job1:6-12). It is all quite extraordinary when you think about it but God’s ways are beyond our natural understanding. Clearly it relates to the event at Eden but it could only be a providential arrangement with (not an obligation to) Satan who could have no inherent rights over God’s property [. It is an ingenious contrivance on the Creator’s part (for He is sovereign), but one will not discern any positivity to it until one has understood the mystery of evil, considered in the final two chapters of my book. It will be seen to be an act of outstanding love by the Creator with a view to His purposes for humanity. For God had been perfectly entitled to enjoy unbroken felicity but for mankind’s sake He was prepared to endure the agony of observing His only begotten Son’s humiliation and death. Of course mankind also suffers at Satan’s hand but it is for a glorious purpose which the Eastern Church in particular refers to as “theosis”. God does not merely wish for man to return to his original state of righteousness but for him to be raised to divinity, united to His Son and participate with Him in His glorious reign throughout eternity. God alone knew how best that might be achieved (it is hinted at in an extraordinary verse in Hebrews – ch2v10). Satan for the present is no doubt relishing his power and malign influence within the world but he is also fulfilling a purpose which will make his demise all the more bitter for himself and his party, and all the sweeter for God, His Christ, His elect and all who shall be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom8:21).