In Matthew 4 (The Message)

For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.

Where comes the authority over the world that the Devil was given, allowing him to offer the world to Jesus? Shouldn't all these belong to the God as this is his world? It's like when your kid says to you "If you play with me I will let you watch TV", obviously you don't need your kid's permission to watch your favourite shows. So how is the 3rd test even a test for Jesus as it is God who has authority over the world not the Devil?

If we look at the 1st test in Matthew 4

“Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

It was not the Devil's power, instead, the Devil was tempting Jesus to use Jesus's own power, which makes sense to me. And then in the 2nd test

“Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”

Again, it wasn't the Devil's power to catch Jesus but the angels. So how come suddenly in the 3rd test the Devil has the power to offer Jesus the world? Wouldn't it make much more sense for the Devil to tempt Jesus "Pray to the God to give you the world now"?

  • 1
    Hello and pleased to meet you. Your question is well written, but please indicate which translation you are citing as that is a site requirement. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    May 26, 2020 at 8:51

5 Answers 5


The sphere of political power is different from the sphere of the supra-political divine power. Now, it is impossible to get the supra-political divine power, but by observing divine commandments and being born anew in Holy Spirit: such a person indeed will become a citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom and co-heir of Christ.

However, it is quite possible to get political power by just doing opposite: cheating to the electorate, promising the things to them that are from the outset impossible to be fulfilled etc. Or, graver things: one can get a political power by plotting and conspiring against the acting ruler, denigrating and slandering him, for sake of making him a political corpse, or even contriving a real murder. All those things: cheating, slander, murder are outright conscious violations of divine commandments and as such a service of devil.

Thus, devil in this passage does not claim that he has authority over the earthly kingdoms, to the effect that earthly kingdoms are evil as such, not at all! This suggestion would be kind of a gnostic and not in tune with the Gospels' logic that it is right to give to Caesar what is of Caesar. Had it been so, the last principle would have accounted to saying: "give to Satan, what belongs to Satan", which is stupid. Of course, God wishes the politics and earthly kingdoms to be also just, but there is a possibility that in earthly realm a violation of commandments of God can amount for base and wrong persons to acquire political power at detriment of health of their soul/conscience.

But Jesus gives an answer debunking all contrivances of devil by a single blow of His rhetorical question: "what is there if one gains the entire world and harms one's soul? what is there more precious than one's soul?" That is to say, all political power lasts only until this short temporal life of any most powerful king or emperor, but then comes the eternity where the earthly political power has no relevance at all, but what matters there is the health of one's soul/conscience.

Thus, Jesus gives a paradigm to all humans: you can practice everything safely - politics, business etc. - for they are not per se bad at all! On the contrary, they are even necessary for human society to fare well. However, in politics, business, sports etc. there is always a temptation to acquire success at detriment of conscience (for instance, politician can cheat, or sportsman can take doping etc.), and beware of this, for nothing is more valuable than healthy soul or upright conscience, the two being the same.


What the third temptation is saying is using military/governmental might to force beliefs on people is equal to worshiping Satan. Military might is justified to enforce freedom to believe, not the opposite. Church history hasn't done well grasping this concept, which has taken millennia to learn. It was the temptation to be exactly what the Jews expected the Messiah to be. It is what Peter expected of the Christ, which resulted in Jesus' response, "Get behind me, Satan." (Matt. 16:23, Mark 8:33)


NIV Matthew 4:9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

If Jesus had bowed down and worshiped the tricky Satan, Satan would have had the authority. It's not exactly like when your kid says to you "If you play with me I will let you watch TV". It is more like when your kid says to you "If you give me your bank card and pin, I will give you $10." You reply, "Get out of here. I would only give my bank card and pin to Mommy."


How could the Devil test Jesus in the third test?

The Bible tells us that Satan offered Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" in exchange for one act of worship.

Matthew 4:8-10 (NASB)

8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and [a]worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and [b]serve Him only.’”

In essence, Jesus was offered rulership of the world on Satan's terms, Jesus did not fall prey to this temptation. But how could Satan make such a grandiose offer? Yes, it is possible for Jesus said that Satan was "the ruler of the world."

John 14:30 (NASB)

30 I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me;

Paul described Satan as the god of this world.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NASB)

4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Ephesians 6:12 (NASB)

12 For 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.


So how is the 3rd test even a test for Jesus as it is God who has authority over the world not the Devil?

Very interesting indeed! But look at the parallel account and what it says:

"Then the Devil said to him: 'I will give you all this authority and their glory, because it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.'"–Luke 4:6 (NWT)

How can this be? If the Devil didn't have the authority, then Jesus would have "called his bluff" so to speak. As your question states, this would not have been a test.

Jesus himself acknowledges the fact that the Devil is the ruler of this world:

"Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out."–John 12:31 (NWT)

"I will not speak with you much more, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has no hold on me."–John 14:30 (NWT)

Is Jesus talking about the Father? No, of course not. Why would the Father be "cast out"?

So how could the Devil have this authority? Take a look at what happened in the account of Job. The Devil is taunting Jehovah God a second time by saying that Jehovah is protecting Job. Then what does God say?

"Then Jehovah said to Satan: 'Look! He is in your hand! Only do not take his life!'"–Job 2:6 (NWT)

At that moment, Jehovah God gave Satan the authority to do whatever he wanted to Job except for killing him. So could God have given Satan a measure of authority over the world to see if he could bend it to his will?

So the Devil does have authority as is acknowledged by the apostle Paul:

"3 If, in fact, the good news we declare is veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing, 4 among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through."–2 Cor. 4:3, 4 (NWT)

and the apostle John:

"We know that we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one."–1 John 5:19 (NWT)

For more information, please see the article "The World's Secret Ruler Exposed" in the Watchtower of September 2011.

(all italics in this response are mine)

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