The Bible refers to Satan as the “Prince of this world.” What does that mean? Isn’t God in charge? How much power does Satan have over the world and human beings? The answers to these questions and more.

Why does the Bible call Satan the Prince of this world?

“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”

–John 12:31

In the Bible, in the New Testament, in three separate chapters in the book of John, Jesus refers to Satan as “the prince of this world” (John 12:3114:3016:11).

This title of “Prince” is found in the translations of the King James Bible, New International Version, and others. In contrast, translations such as the English standard version, New American Standard Bible and New Living Translation, and others use “ruler” instead of Prince.

Regardless, the implication is that Satan has some level of authority on the Earth.

The Latin word for ‘prince’ – princeps – means ‘he who occupies the first place; the most important, the principal one,’ according to Father José Antonio Fortea, a Catholic exorcist, writing for Spiritual Direction. Fortea says this title given to Satan by the Bible conveys the meaning that he is the most important of the fallen angels in this world.

How much power does Satan have? Is God in charge?

“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

– Luke 12:5

Jesus warns that we should not fear Satan, or anyone “who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28), but to fear God “who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Rest assured, Satan only has limited power, and the Bible itself shows us in the book of Job that God specifically limits and authorizes Satan’s influence on Earth, as seen in Job 1:12 and Job 2:6. God is in charge, and Satan cannot act without the Lord’s permission.

Another interesting look at Satan’s authority is when he tempts Jesus in the wilderness. Three times Satan tempts Jesus, and each time Jesus responds with Scripture from the Old Testament. Satan takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows him all the world’s kingdoms.

“All this I will give you,” he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

– Matthew 4:9-10

We can infer from the context here. First, note that Satan tells Jesus he can give him all the world’s kingdoms. Jesus does not argue with that point, suggesting Satan has the authority to do so. Instead, Jesus objects to the idea of worshiping Satan and quotes Scripture about worshiping God, after which Satan departs.

God’s ultimate authority over Satan

“He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”

– Revelation 20:2

In Revelation 20, an unnamed angel comes down from heaven, seizes Satan, and binds him for a thousand years in the abyss. It says that at the end of that time, Satan must be set free for a short time. Satan will be released to deceive the nations once more, and we can only infer that this is part of God’s plan. At the end, Satan is seized again where he will be held and tormented for his deceptions for all eternity. It’s game over for Satan forever.