4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they will not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants on account of Jesus. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen containers, so that the extraordinary greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves… 17 For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2Cor4:4-7;17)
Firstly, a point about translation. Many bible versions have “god of this world” (v4) whereas the Greek is as translated above. The god of planet Earth is God – He created it, sustains it and shall one day renew it (cf. 2Pet3:13; Rev21:1-3). It is true to say that Satan is the prince of this world order (Greek: archon tou kosmou) for that is how Jesus refers to him in Jn12:31. But both Paul and Jesus were referring to the situation in the current age (Greek: aionos) and that is the word Paul uses in verse 4.
For, extraordinary as it appears, God has permitted his archenemy to have an ongoing controlling influence in the world. The current epoch is not really the “age of Christ” as some describe it, that has yet to come, in spite of the fact that the resurrected Jesus declared “all authority has now been given to Me”. It has been, but it is not being exercised in the usual executive sense on planet Earth. Rather, Christ’s Kingdom here is being inaugurated through the Church, Currently they alone acknowledge Him as Lord or observe His royal charter. It is why the leaders of this world are not all men and women “after God’s own heart”, some far from it. It is why Satan is able to blind people’s minds concerning “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (v4). The Apostle John also affirmed that the whole world is currently under the sway of the Wicked One (1Jn5:19) and that only the Christian can be entirely delivered from its controlling influence through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It follows from the above and is more explicitly affirmed elsewhere by the doctrine of election that those who do respond to the Gospel do not do so through any wisdom or virtue on their part. Quoting Paul again, gospel salvation is a result of the “One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (v6). The apostle, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, arch-persecutor of Christians will have known that very well. Now as a leader in the work of God’s Kingdom, he was experiencing persecution: “We are constantly being delivered to death for Jesus’ sake so that His life might be manifest in our mortal flesh” (v11). And more generally the apostle has stated that Christians must expect to suffer with Christ in the present so that they may reign with Him in the future (cf. 2Tim2:12), to which Paul now adds, “For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (v17).
Such is God’s thoroughly intelligible goodness and justice towards all people: towards His elect who bear affliction for Christ’s sake to attain the aforementioned “eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison”. But also towards people of good will who have not received “the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” but respond positively to the divine light they have received engrained within the spiritual faculty we know of as conscience (cf. Jn1:9 King James Version; Rom2:15). As explained in a recent post, such are justified by an underlying faith that works through love and shall also be accepted into God’s Kingdom (Mt25:40).
As for the rest, it should be evident that a God who is Love would never act cruelly or mercilessly towards anyone. But it is surely right and just that those depicted in Matthew’s gospel as “goats” devoid of any compassionate concern for the needy with whom the Son of Man personally identifies should go on to receive post-mortem punishment (Mt25:45). As to why the devil and his agents have a continuing role within God’s extraordinary plan to raise the sons of earth, a clue may be Heb2:10 – a detailed biblical synopsis being provided in The Little Book of Providence:
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