During the temptation in the wilderness, the devil showed Jesus all the “kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:5) and offered the Lord a deal no man could refuse:
“I will give you all this domain and its glory, for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” (Luke 4:6 NASV)
As we study this passage, we noticed that Jesus never challenged Satan’s claim the world had been handed over to him and several times the Lord acknowledged Satan was the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30).
The apostle Paul pushed the theological barrier to the edge when he described Satan as the god of the world (2 Corinthians 4:4). In no way, did the apostle believe Satan was divine, as Paul clearly states there is only one God, but as far as humanity was concerned, the evil one functioned as a god.
The title-deed for planet earth was firmly in Satan’s grip.
So when did Satan take over the world?
Most instinctively think it took place when Adam and Eve fell into sin. But actually it did not happen until later.
In Genesis 6, the flood chapter, the Bible describes the world as being “filled with violence”:
11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. (Genesis 6:11 NASV)
It was a time of anarchy. This meant there was no government structure in place to moderate man’s behavior. Men’s minds were overwhelmed with evil thoughts, lust, murder, anger, rage, and with nothing restraining them, their thoughts became their actions.
Several years ago, the police in the city where I lived went on a limited strike. The police union announced that officers would only handle serious offenses, while traffic violations and other minor indiscretions were ignored.
For a few days chaos reigned. Young men blockaded the city’s major thoroughfares for blocks so they could hold drag races. Though the streetlights worked, you slowed down and drove through green lights at your own risk. The city’s bars and night clubs turned into boxing arenas. Vandalism sky-rocketed.
All this happened because people had no fear of getting caught. When government is not in place to curb people’s actions, a certain segment of society will run wild. Over a prolonged period, this would degenerate into a state of anarchy as we see happening in verse 11.
But how did the Genesis world get to such a state? The answer is found in the first three verses of this chapter:
2 The sons of God saw the daughters of men were beautiful and they took wives for themselves whomever they choose. (Genesis 6:2 NASV)
This incident provoked God to utter an immediate and stunning declaration in the very next verse:
3 My spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years. (Genesis 6:3 NASV)
God’s response to the marriages between the ‘sons of God’ and ‘daughters of men’ was to withdraw from the earth. The word strive (Hebrew “diyn”) used by the NASV does not fully portray the meaning of this word.
“Diyn” is used 23 times in the Old Testament and means to rule or govern. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, in each instance, except here, it is used in the context of governing either in the sense of legislative (passing laws or legislation), judicial (enforcing laws) or executive (administering laws) — see: Genesis 49:16, Proverbs 31:9, Genesis 15:14.
Consequently, we must conclude the word has the same meaning in Genesis 6:3.
This meant that after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, God was still governing the world. In fact, that is exactly what happened when Cain murdered Abel. God dispensed justice and marked Cain (Genesis 4:15).
But God was so disgusted with what took place with the marriage of the ‘sons of God ‘and the ‘daughters of men’ that He withdrew His spirit from governing man. It was this abdication of God’s government that led to the state of anarchy that followed in verse 11.
With God pulling out was this the point when the world was ‘handed over to Satan?’
I think its reasonable to assume it was. As God departed, Satan moved in to fill the leadership void. Unhindered, he took his place as ruler of the world.