Three times in the gospel of John, Jesus speaks of “the prince of this world” (12:31, 14:30, 16:11). Although we’re drawn to “prince,” it’s the word “world” that’s most important to understand. It is regularly used by John to refer to the system that is in opposition to God. When John speaks of the world as involving the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16)—he’s certainly not speaking of the planet we live on or the people who inhabit it. He’s speaking of the collective evil of which Satan is the “prince.” This is why anyone who loves the world does not love the Father (2:15). In this sense, the world and the kingdom are mutually exclusive.
Satan rules over the world (“the dominion of darkness” – Colossians 1:13), in an accomodative sense—like a bully in a schoolyard. He doesn’t have absolute power, God does. However our Father doesn’t coerce anyone into His kingdom— they are free to choose who they will serve. Those who choose not to be a part of His kingdom place themselves in the bully’s domain whether they like it or not. After all, there are only two choices.
No one escapes the dominion of darkness on their own—it takes a savior! But a savior is only possible if he first overcomes the bully. Paradoxically, the bully isn’t defeated by greater power or more force. He’s overcome by unwavering goodness, truth, and love (Romans 12:21). This is exactly what Jesus did. This why in reference to the prince of this world, He says:
- He has no hold over Me (14:30),
- The prince of this world stands condemned (16:11),
- The prince of the world will be driven out (12:31).
The cross represented the crowning act of a lifetime of obedience to God. Because Jesus always said “Yes” to His Father and “No” to sin, Satan had no traction, no hold on His life (Acts 2:24). His dominion was dissolved by the glorious life of Jesus. One man showed that good does win over evil.
At the cross, Satan’s work was destroyed (1 John 3:8). John tells disciples that, in Christ, they have overcome the world (1 John 5:4-5). It won’t do to act as if sin or Satan are omnipotent—they’re not! The world, its prince, and all they stand for were repudiated by Christ at the cross (Colossians 2:15)! Jesus is our Savior because He has entered the strong man’s house, tied him up, and plundered his possessions (Matthew 10:29). Satan isn’t Lord—Jesus is!
Let’s live like it!