This scripture is being used to teach error. The god of this age had a direct application in the first century A.D. when the letter to the Corinthians was written.
“Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.” (KJV)
"`And thou hast known to-day, and hast turned [it] back unto thy heart, that Jehovah He [is] God, in the heavens above, and on the earth beneath -- there is none else;" (YLT)
" For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else." (KJV)
"And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:" (KJV)
Whenever a scripture is used to teach an idea or concept that contradicts other scriptures, then the idea derived from the previous scripture is wrong. The entire Bible agrees together, and our understanding must comport with all of the scriptures.
There is only one Creator that created the heavens and the earth and all that is therein (Col. 1:16; Eph. 3:9; Rev. 10:6). Our heavenly Father has never abdicated His rule and dominion over all the earth (Ex. 19:5; Job 41:11; Col 1:16).
Therefore, the Holy Spirit’s use of the word “god” in 2 Cor. 4:4, with a lower case “g”, indicates something or someone who is not our Creator, but some other soul or being or object.
Nowhere in the scripture, nowhere in God’s holy word does the Holy Spirit ever refer to satan, the adversary, as a “god”. The word “god” in 2 Cor. 4:4 is “theos” (Strong’s 2316), and has four possible meanings:
a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities
the Godhead, trinity; a)God the Father, the first person in the trinity
b) Christ, the second person of the trinity, c) Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity
spoken of the only and true God, a)refers to the things of God, b) his counsels, interests, things due to him
whatever can in any respect be likened unto God, or resemble him in any way: God’s representative or viceregent; of magistrates and judges
Then, reasoning from the subject or context of the verse, the word used in 2 Cor 4:4 is not referring to the Godhead (2), nor to the things of God (3), nor to something likened unto God (4) So, that leaves the first meaning…. a general name of deities or divinities.
Next, let’s examine the word “age” or “world” in verse 4. KJV often translates the Greek word “aion” or “age” as “world.” This is misleading, as it leaves out the time element indicated by “age”. An age, or an era is a time period. It incorporates the people living at the time, their living conditions, their economy, their mindsets, beliefs, earthly rulers, principalities, kingdoms, etc. that exist during a period of time. The word “world” does not necessarily mean only the physical earth on which we live.
So, the “god of this age” of 2 Cor. 4:4 above refers to a soul or being who was claiming to be a deity, and was blinding the lost, preventing them from seeing the truth of the gospel of Christ during the time period in which 2 Corinthians was written. As time is a factor in the “age”, then we need to know which age, or time period Paul referred to. We must ask, “When did Paul write the book?”
Most biblical scholars agree that 2 Corinthians was written approximately 55 – 56 A.D. So the age, or time period Paul referred to as “this age” was that age which existed during the first century A.D. We must remember the perspective of the time period of “this age”.
What being or soul was calling himself “god” in the first century A.D at the time of the writing of 2 Corinthians? We remember that the Caesars of Rome named themselves gods. The Caesar who ruled at the time of the writing of 2 Corinthians was Nero. Nero reigned from 54 A.D. to 68 A.D., and was instrumental in carrying out the wishes of the Sanhedrin counsel in Jerusalem of persecuting the Christians.
Both Nero and the Jews worked hand-in-glove for a time, before the Jews defied and angered Rome. Their concerted efforts of persecution were preventing many from accepting the gospel of Christ. Their acts of terror against the people blinded the people from the truth of the word of God, preventing their full freedom to turn to Christ, and scaring them away.
While their actions can be thought of as works of the adversary (satan), because all lies are of the devil (John 8:44), it is incorrect to conclude that satan, or the adversary, is the “god of this age” in 2 Cor 4:4.
It is mankind who gives in to the temptations offered by satan. (Gen 3:6; Josh 24:15; Rom 5:12) Satan rules only in the sense that evil men are working under their own desires and lusts. He does not force us to do evil, but Satan offers us the opportunity, and then smirks at God when we fall into the pit he dug for us. (1 Pet. 5:8) It is our free will to choose to obey our Creator, to do what is right, or to ignore Him, and do that which is evil, thereby becoming “children of disobedience”.
Look at Eph 2:1-3 carefully.
“1And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (KJV)
The time frame is again “the course of this world” or as Young’s translates it, “the age of this world”. He references their time period again, the first century A.D. Who was the prince of the power of the air in the first century A.D?
All ages, or time periods, or eras will have evil working in the hearts of the children of disobedience. Not everyone will choose to have God reign over them (Luke 19:14). It is the children of disobedience that walked in the lusts of the flesh. Only when we are quickened, made alive in Christ do we become dead to sin (Rom 6:2, 11; Eph 2:5; Col. 2:13). It is still, and always has been our choice to walk with God, or to be children of wrath.
But, “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” had an immediate application to their day and time. The prince of the power of the air, or “the ruler of the authority of the air” (YLT) was that spirit of man that was operating, working evil during the first century A.D.
Confirmed by Eph. 6:12,
“because we have not the wrestling with blood and flesh, but with the principalities, with the authorities, with the world-rulers of the darkness of this age, with the spiritual things of the evil in the heavenly places;” (YLT)
From OT prophetic figurative language, “heavenly places” were the ruling nations and palaces of the rulers. The same heavenly places defined in Eph 3:9-10 as places of the principalities and rulers which were to know the “manifold wisdom of God” by the church which Christ established. (See the post at my blog, “Heaven And Earth Have Passed Away" here for more discussion.)
Eph 6:12 is not speaking of evil working in Heaven above. The ruler, or prince of the power of the air in Eph 2:2 is the same as the “world-rulers of the darkness of this age” of Eph 6:12. Principalities and authorities are men. World-rulers are men; specifically the men that ruled during the dark times of that age in the first century A.D.
We all have a spirit, and are spiritual in nature (Job 32:8; James 2:26), whether of good or evil. So, the spirit of man that then worked in the children of disobedience was not a disembodied, unseen being. It was a man who ruled, and was working evil and influencing the evil ones, the children of disobedience, in the first century A.D.
When Satan told Jesus (Matt. 4:8-9) that he would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, that did not mean that the Adversary ruled all the kingdoms of the world. God did not say those words; Satan said them. Satan lies!
The Holy Spirit recorded the Adversary’s words, but remember that the Adversary lies. The truth is not in him. (John 8:44). The Holy Spirit accurately recorded the words that men and Satan spoke, but that does not mean that God spoke them, or gave authority for them, or that their words were true.
John 14:30, just before His capture and crucifixion Jesus said,
“I will no more talk much with you, for the ruler of this world doth come, and in me he hath nothing;” (KJV)
Jesus did not say “the Adversary”, which Adversary the KJV renders most often as “Satan”. He said “the ruler of this world…” The world, the economy, the system in which Christ appeared and was manifested during the first century A.D. was that in which Jerusalem and Judah were governed and ruled by the old Roman empire. The Sanhedrin counsel had authority only as far as the Roman governors allowed them.
During the same conversation, as Jesus continues to instruct His disciples, he says in John 15:11,
“ and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world hath been judged.”
Again, “the ruler of this world”, not the Adversary, but the power that ruled over the people during the first century A.D. The one who ruled was seated in Rome, and gave limited ruling authority to the governors of the ten provinces of Rome, in which Jerusalem and Judah were captives. The Sanhedrin counsel, the Sadduccees, scribes and Pharisees ruled over Jerusalem and the Jews according to their practices as far as they were allowed by Rome, but all within the governance of Rome.
It was Judas who led the officers of the chief priests and Pharisees to capture Jesus in the garden, and the officers delivered Him up to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the chief priest of the Sanhedrin. (Matt. 26:57; Mark 14:53; Luke 22:54; John 18) Annas then had Jesus delivered into the hall of Caiaphas, who subsequently turned Him over to the Roman governor, Pilate, in his praetorium, his official residence. It was the verdict of the Sanhedrin counsel which condemned Jesus, even though Pilate said it was not a death penalty under Roman law.
So, was “the ruler of this world” referred to in the gospel of John, at the time of the crucifixion of Christ, the high priest Caiaphas, whom Jesus pronounced judgment upon (Matt. 26:64). Or, was it Pilate who tried to wash his hands of the matter, or was it Caesar who ruled over Rome, or all of them? Most probably, all of them, as they all participated in the crucifixion of Christ.
We know that anyone who does not do the will of the Father is not of the Father but of the devil. (John 8:34-47) But, they still had free will. They acted of their own accord, their own desires. God allowed them to be in power and ruling during that time for a reason, and it was all a part of God’s plan of salvation.
The ruler referred to in Paul’s writing in 2 Cor. 4:4 was that ruler in power at the time of the writing of the book… that ruler was NERO.
2 Cor. 4:4 does not refer to Satan, and does not mean that God gave Satan the rule of this earth. The idea that satan, the adversary is the god of this world creates a two-god religion and is therefore false.
Bold emphasis is mine. Scripture verses are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.