Who is the “God of this age”?

In , who is the “god of this age”?

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. ()

I’m trying to figure out why everyone insists that Paul is talking about satan. I was trying to be sincere when I raised the question, but you should have seen the reaction I got this morning at a Bible study leader’s meeting.

Them: “WHAAAAAT?? Of course it’s satan!!”

Me: “But what, in this passage, makes us think Paul’s talking about satan? Since when does ‘god’ mean ‘satan’?”

Them: “It’s lowercase!”

Me: “Maybe that’s just the translator’s opinion. If so, I want to know why they’re deciding that.”

Them: “He’s blinding people! That’s what satan does!”

Me: “You mean that’s what God does. Listen to Jesus in At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.’ Here, Jesus is crediting God for the action. Thanks, but I’d rather go with Jesus’ ‘opinion’ than a translator’s opinion.”

I think everyone was so flustered at me that they didn’t hear that verse. One guy did. “But didn’t He only say that to the Pharisees?”

Me: “No, actually, He said that to all the people of several towns in the Galilee region. And God does this all over the Bible, by the way.”

Them: “Look – ‘prince of the power of the air’!! When Adam sinned he gave the world to satan! It was his domain until he sinned!”

Me: “Ummm.. Does Genesis actually say that?”

Them: “! ‘We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.’ Paul is talking about satan!!”

One guy: “Well .. I think if Paul were talking about God, he wouldn’t have just limited God’s reign to ‘this age’. I think he’d have been more comprehensive than that.”

Me: “I can probably go with that. Thanks.”

Them: “Daaaaang already!”

Me: “What?? I just want to know why everyone thinks this is satan.”

Limiting God to “this age” does seem peculiar. So I thought I’d look into it a bit.

Homework

* None of my translations capitalize the ‘g’, but maybe that’s just the translators. I don’t know Greek, but my Strong’s says that the word is “theos,” and it’s used in plenty of places to talk about God. No luck there.

* The commentaries that I have are almost unanimous in insisting that it’s satan, but none offer any hard evidence for their opinion. All the verses they cite for support (; ; ; ; ) talk about “prince”, “rulers” and “authority” – a notch or two below “god”, I should think. (One commentary [Barnes] even says “there can be no doubt” that this is satan. Ummmm, ok, if you say so. ..but we’ll note for the record that this same commentator coincidentally has nothing to say about Jesus praising God for hiding truth from people in . I have a couple of commentaries that flirt with the idea of this being God, but none of them capitalize the word, and they don’t list all the references they could). And I don’t know if it matters, but these verses in support of satan all talk about “air” and “world”, not “age.” So no luck there either.

* A phrase search/comparison is fruitless. As it turns out, this is the only place where the phrase “god of this age” is used in the Bible, so no love there either.

* But if we look at the idea in this passage, we actually have lots to go on. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just list a few.

— We’ve already seen Jesus saying something like this and attributing it to His Father. And guess what – so does Paul:

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.’ ()

In this case, just like in , God is doing the blinding. And did you notice that Paul isn’t claiming to originate the idea? He’s quoting , so apparently Isaiah thought the same thing too.

— And if we wanted to hang out in Isaiah, we’ll see God commanding Isaiah to do precisely that (blind people so they will not see the truth and repent) in Is 6:8-10.

And He said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” ()

— I suppose now might be a good time to mention that this interesting charge to Isaiah isn’t just an OT idea. This  passage just so happens to be the 3rd most frequently quoted passage in the NT. In fact, all 4 of the Gospels refer to this Isaiah passage at least once, it’s in Acts, Romans, 1 Cor and more. And Paul was quite aware of it because he quoted it directly to his detractors in .

— Even Moses got in on the act in .

So now I’m back to wondering why everyone insists that ‘god’ here is satan, and, perhaps more importantly, why we freak out to hear to hear this is something God does, despite the Bible’s repeated, consistent attestation of the fact.

I’m open to ideas.


[EDIT -2017/1/1]

I am now fully convinced that the ‘god’ here is indeed satan. And I am also convinced that God in heaven has appointed satan the task of blinding the world. And I am also convinced that He will send a strong delusion so that those who reject Him will continue in blindness ()


4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (ESV)


And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (ESV)


25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (ESV)


19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (ESV)


31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. (ESV)


30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, (ESV)


in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— (ESV)


12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (ESV)


19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (ESV)


25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; (ESV)


What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.” (ESV)


11:1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)


Astonish yourselves and be astonished;
blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not with wine;
stagger, but not with strong drink!
10 For the Lord has poured out upon you
a spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes (the prophets),
and covered your heads (the seers). (ESV)


And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.” (ESV)


26 “‘Go to this people, and say,
You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” (ESV)


But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. (ESV)


11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (ESV)

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3 comments to Who is the “God of this age”?

  • greg

    Maybe it’s both. God chose to do the blinding, but allows satan to do it. Just as in

    6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

    “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
    the whole earth is full of his glory!”

    And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

    Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

    And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

    “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
    keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
    10 Make the heart of this people dull,
    and their ears heavy,
    and blind their eyes;
    lest they see with their eyes,
    and hear with their ears,
    and understand with their hearts,
    and turn and be healed.”
    11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
    And he said:
    “Until cities lie waste
    without inhabitant,
    and houses without people,
    and the land is a desolate waste,
    12 and the Lord removes people far away,
    and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
    13 And though a tenth remain in it,
    it will be burned again,
    like a terebinth or an oak,
    whose stump remains
    when it is felled.”
    The holy seed is its stump. (ESV)

    , God does it, but has the message delivered. Therefore, maybe “god of this age” refers to the messenger, but God sent the blindness. Just a thought. It is refreshing to me to see a fellow believer thinking deeply. Have enjoyed perusing your website so far.

    • admin

      Thanks for the kind words.

      The more I think about this passage, the more I’m convinced that Paul does actually mean satan, and that he’s using a unique phrase (“god of this age”) to describe him. I think that flows better with Paul’s overall theology.

      Granted, satan can only do what God allows him to do, but still.

      Thanks.

  • Brandon

    >>All the verses they cite for support (

    31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. (ESV)

    ;

    30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, (ESV)

    ;

    in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— (ESV)

    ;

    12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (ESV)

    ;

    19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (ESV)

    ) talk about “prince”, “rulers” and “authority” – a notch or two below “god”, I should think.

    First, I concur with greg in that it’s certainly a both/and. Just like the situation where David was moved to number the people. Who did it? God or Satan? Well…yes! Satan, after all, is still only a tool in the hand of the Creator God.

    And, more specifically regarding the above portion I quoted, consider

    34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? (ESV)

    “esus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—” and its OT source,

    I said, “You are gods,
    sons of the Most High, all of you; (ESV)

    “I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;”. If mere men can biblically be referred to as “gods” then it certainly can also be applied to Satan, no?

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