Despite the efforts of well-meaning humans, the world has suffered terribly throughout history. This causes thinking persons to wonder, as did the late editorial writer David Lawrence: “‘Peace on earth’—nearly everybody wants it. ‘Good will toward men’—almost all the peoples of the world feel it toward one another. Then what’s wrong? Why is war threatened despite the innate desires of peoples?”
It seems a paradox, doesn’t it? When the natural desire of people is to live at peace, they commonly hate and kill one another—and with such viciousness. Consider the cold-blooded excesses in monstrous cruelty. Humans have used gas chambers, concentration camps, flamethrowers, napalm bombs, and other heinous methods to torture and slaughter one another mercilessly.
Do you believe that humans, who long for peace and happiness, are capable, in themselves, of such gross wickedness against others? What forces drive men to such loathsome deeds or maneuver them into situations where they feel compelled to commit atrocities? Have you ever wondered whether some wicked, invisible power is influencing people to commit such acts of violence?
There is no need to guess at the matter, for the Bible clearly shows that an intelligent, unseen person has been controlling both men and nations. It says: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” And the Bible identifies him, saying: “The one called Devil and Satan . . . is misleading the entire inhabited earth.”—1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9.
On an occasion when Jesus was “tempted by the Devil,” Jesus did not question Satan’s role as the ruler of this world. The Bible explains what happened: “The Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him: ‘All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.’ Then Jesus said to him: ‘Go away, Satan!’”—Matthew 4:1, 8-10.
Think about this. Satan tempted Jesus by offering him “all the kingdoms of the world.” Yet, would Satan’s offer have been a real temptation if Satan was not actually the ruler of these kingdoms? No, it would not. And note, Jesus did not deny that all these worldly governments were Satan’s, which he would have done if Satan did not have power over them. So, then, Satan the Devil really is the unseen ruler of the world! The Bible, in fact, calls him “the god of this system of things.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) Yet, how did such a wicked person ever come into this powerful position?
The one who became Satan had been an angel created by God, but he became envious of God’s position. He challenged God’s rightful rulership. To this end he used a serpent as a mouthpiece to deceive the first woman, Eve, and was thus able to get her and her husband, Adam, to do his bidding rather than obey God. (Genesis 3:1-6; 2 Corinthians 11:3) He also claimed he could turn all of Adam and Eve’s yet unborn offspring away from God. So God allowed time for Satan to try to prove his claim, but Satan has not succeeded.—Job 1:6-12; 2:1-10.
Significantly, Satan is not alone in his rulership of the world. He was successful in persuading some of the other angels to join him in rebellion against God. These became demons, his spirit accomplices. The Bible speaks of them when it urges Christians: “Stand firm against the machinations of the Devil; because we have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but . . . against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.”—Ephesians 6:11, 12.