Saturday, October 9, 2010

Who is the Prince of this Word?

The following article was written by Pastor Ivan L Burgener and mailed out to me. I believe Ivan's article is erroneous and have therefore also put up my response. In the interests of the saints, I've also putting up Ivan's full article so that you may judge for yourself if he has written truly.

                        WHO IS THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD?

It might surprise the reader that one would even question the identity of “the prince of this world” when it has long been assumed that this title refers to Satan. Why bother to question that which has been taken for granted by so many for so long?

To state that the bible teaches that “the prince of this world” is the Lord Jesus Christ, and not the devil, might, at first, seem almost irreverent. An explanation is therefore in order.

Great caution must be observed so as to not confuse our terms. It must not be assumed that terms or titles which seem to be similar refer to the same person. Care must be exercised to identify all the words which make up any title under consideration. For example, the rather lengthy title, “the prince of this world,” has five English words (four in the Greek), but this term is often confused with the longer title, “the prince of the power of the air,” which has eight English words (six in the Greek). Ephesians 2 clearly identifies this prince as the devil, “the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.”

Paul wrote of “the god of this world...” who blinds the minds of those who do not believe
(2 Cor. 4:4). Clearly this title also refers to Satan, but it should properly read, “the god of this age [not world]”! Thus any similarity imagined between this phrase and our subject title diminishes greatly when it is translated correctly.

Just as “world” is better translated “age” above in “the god of this age,” the same must be said of the title “the princes of this age [not world]” from 1 Corinthians 2:6 & 8. Those princes or rulers of this age, whether governmental or angelic, are the leaders who crucified Christ as the text plainly shows. The term here is plural, not singular, as in the title we are considering.

But what about “the prince of the kings of the earth” found in Revelation 1:5? There is no confusion with Satan in that verse when we read the preceding words, “...from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness...the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.” Thus whether the title “prince” (which means ruler) refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, the devil, or some other person, the context must determine to whom the title belongs. In all these titles the Greek word “archon” is translated prince.


This exact title in question is found only in the Gospel of John and in only three verses: 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11. We shall examine each occurrence in its context, taking them in the order most helpful to understand the title’s true owner.

In our first passage, John 16, the Lord was in the upper room preparing His disciples to face tough opposition. He warned that people will think they were doing God service if they killed the disciples. Of course, this would be the aftermath of Israel’s imminent rejection of Jesus as Messiah. In His “upper room discourse,” the Lord said,

5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asks Me, Whither goest thou?
6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

Clearly the Lord is referring to His being rejected by Israel and His sending the Holy Spirit back to minister in His place. The Lord said the ministry of the Spirit would involve a three-fold rebuke, reproof, or conviction.

John 16:8-11
  8        And when he is come, he will reprove (convict) the world of sin,
            and of righteousness, and of judgment:
  9        (He will convict the world) of sin, because they believe not on Me;
10        (He will convict the world) of righteousness, because I go to My Father,
            and ye see Me no more;
11        (He will convict the world ) of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

This will be the ministry of the Spirit. He will convict (or convince or reprove) the world, that is, Israel, of the three things stated in verse 8: “...sin...righteousness, and...judgment.”

THE FIRST ISSUE, convicting the world of “sin,” is relatively easy to explain and understand. Their sin would be pointed out such that the offenders could unmistakably realize their involvement and be faced with their need of repentance. Verse 9 gives the Lord’s explanation why the Spirit would be convicting the word of sin, “Because they believed not on Me.” The world here is clearly Israel. Their rejection of Christ and demand for His crucifixion prove they “believed not” on Christ as their Messiah. This was the sin the Spirit of God would be pressing on the Jewish nation (here called the world) during His ministry recorded in the early chapter of Acts.

THE SECOND ISSUE: convicting the world of “righteousness,” is not as easy to understand. One might easily convict another of sin, but how might we “convict someone of righteousness”?
Is not righteousness what they are supposed to have? How then could one convict the world of it?

The Lord’s explanation in verse 10 does not seem at first to be much help, but that is all we have t work with. He said, “...because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.”

How does this help “convict the world of righteousness”? It sounds almost backward, does it not? Can you imagine someone coming to you to convict you of righteousness? Would you not respond, “Say on, dear friend, this sounds great”? Obviously this cannot be what the Lord had in mind.

We must inquire why the Lord was going away to His Father. Was it not because the nation Israel, in unrighteousness, was refusing His claim as their Messiah? Thus He would send the Spirit of God back to convict that nation of their unrighteousness in rejecting him and sending Him in exile to His Father!

It may sound backwards, but this passage truly means that the Spirit of God would convict Israel of their “lack of righteousness” that is, of righteousness they did not have, because they rejected Christ and they sent Him back to His Father! By no means are we to think of the Holy Spirit convicting the whole wide world of the righteousness of Christ. That does not fit the context at all.

THE THIRD ISSUE is the most difficult of the three. Here the Spirit of God would “convict the world of judgment.” Why? Because “the prince of this world is judged”! Once again, how do you convict someone of judgment? We admit this wording is strange to our modern vernacular. There is a way someone could convict you or judgment, especially if you exercised or displayed poor judgment”! This is the key, for the idea of judgment is a two way street!

Judgment might be received by someone such as the judgment we receive in performance reviews, appraisals of our behavior or work ethic, or in a court room, etc.

Judgment might also be rendered by people as they make choices every day. Do we always use good judgment in the issues we decide? You decide – or judge.

In the setting of this verse, Israel was rendering their judgment of Christ. Had they not called Him a deceiver? (See Matthew 27:63.) Did they not take the position He was a fraud, and not their true Messiah at all? Had not Israel rendered their judgment of Christ, the Prince of this world, such that the Holy Spirit would indeed press this bad judgment upon them and call for their repentance? And would not this understanding or interpretation be in harmony with the first two issues above?

There can be no doubt about it. The Lord’s three-fold statement about the Spirit’s convicting ministry of this world concerns the things the world (Israel) was doing wrong! This is a three-fold statement:

of their sin, not believing on Christ;
of righteousness they did not have, because they rejected Christ and sent Him back to the Father, and of their wicked judgment refusing to own Him and His rightful title,
the true “Prince of this world.”

To suggest that this is some sort of judgment upon the devil is totally foreign to the passage. Surely we cannot interpret these words of our Lord in the Upper Room by the teaching of the Apostle Paul years later, that Christ triumphed over Satan in the cross, etc. Nor would any allusion of Satan’s judgment, perhaps prefigured in God’s judgment of the “prince of Tyrus” in Ezekiel 28:17-18, make any sense in this passage. Furthermore, the devil is nowhere mentioned by John in the near of distant context of our passage.

What sense could it possibly make to “convict the world of judgment” if the devil is the one receiving the judgment? Would we not say “THREE CHEERS!” How glad should the disciples have been to learn that the devil would be finally getting his due!? At last that old serpent would be receiving the judgment which he rightly deserves! Even so, what part would the world have played in this judgment of the devil? Would it make any sense for the Spirit of God to convict Israel of this? Are not such thoughts totally out of place in this passage in John 16?

The above explanation will be helpful as we turn to our SECOND PASSAGE, the Lord’s words in John 12, beginning in verse 27:

27        “...Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?
            Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
28        Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying,
            I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
29        The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it,
            said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.
30        Jesus answered and said,
            This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.
31        Now is the judgment of this world: [the world will express their judgment of Christ]
            now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
            [their judgment: Cast Him out! See how beautifully the next verse fits,
            for when Christ is cast out, where does He go? To be with His Father!]
32        And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (to heaven), will draw all men unto me.
33        This he said, signifying what death he should die.

The comments in brackets in the above verses make additional explanation unnecessary.

Our THIRD AND FINAL PASSAGE: John 14:30 is worded a bit more awkwardly than the others. Before we examine this passage, is it possible that our title, “the prince of this world,” cold refer to the Lord Jesus Christ in John 12:31 and also in John 16:11 and then refer to the devil in John 14:30? – a verse in between? Unthinkable indeed! What then, do these verses say?

Beginning at John 14:27:

27        “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
28        Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you.
            If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father:
            for my Father is greater than I.
29        And now I have told you before it come to pass,
            that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
30        Hereafter I will not talk much with you: (Why will He not talk much with them?)
            for (because) the prince of this world comes, (Christ, this prince comes...) and
            has nothing in me
            (because Israel refused to give Him His true title, Prince of this world!).
31        But that the world (Israel) may know that I love the Father;
            and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.

The Lord was talking about His going to the Father, a theme that greatly occupied His mind in the upper room. The disciples were sad, very sad. We must remember that the reason He was going to the Father was His rejection by Israel, here called the world.

John had written earlier,

“He came unto His own (meaning He came to claim His own things including His royal titles)
but His own received Him not” (meaning that His own people refused His claims) (John 1:11).

In our passage the Lord’s words might be freely translated thus:

30        “After this time, I will not talk much with you for Israel refuses to give Me My rightful place as the Prince of this world, the Prince of their nation, they see nothing in Me.”

This free translation shows the intended sense. It certainly fits the context and the consistent recognition of the Lord Jesus Christ as the true Prince of this world, a title He so richly deserves! Can there be any doubt?

It also bears notice that the Apostle John’s only other use of this term, “prince,” is in Revelation 1:5 (cited above) where it cannot be questioned that it pertains to the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we rightly divide the word of truth we do not need to be ashamed. But what should be our response if we now understand that, however well intentioned, we have miss-assigned one of the titles the Lord ascribed to Himself to the devil? Something to consider, “What will we say to Him?”

Ivan L. Burgener

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