God’s Control Over Earthly, Human Governments

Let’s establish even more specifically the limits of Satan’s authority by first examining scriptures that affirm God’s authority over earthly, human governments. Satan has some authority in human governments only because he has some authority over unsaved people, and governments are often controlled by unsaved people. But ultimately, God is sovereign over human governments, and Satan can only manipulate them to the degree that God allows.

We’ve already examined Daniel’s statement to King Nebuchadnezzar, but because it is so illuminating, let us briefly consider it once more.

Great King Nebuchadnezzar was lifted up in pride because of his power and accomplishments, and so God decreed that he would be brought down to a low estate in order that he might learn that “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes, and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17). Obviously God deserved the credit for Nebuchadnezzar’s rise to political greatness. This is true of every earthly leader. The apostle Paul, speaking of earthly rulers, declared that “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom. 13:1).

God is the original and supreme authority of the entire universe. If anyone has any authority, it can only be because God delegated some of His or permitted someone to have some.

But what about evil rulers? Did Paul mean that even they are established by God? Yes he did. Earlier in the same letter, Paul wrote, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth'” (Rom. 9:17). God exalted hard-hearted Pharaoh for the purpose of glorifying Himself. God would show forth His great power though His delivering miracles—an opportunity afforded by a stubborn man whom He exalted.

Is this fact not also apparent in Jesus’ conversation with Pilate? Amazed that Jesus would not answer his questions, Pilate said to Jesus, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” (John 19:10).

Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11, emphasis added). Knowing Pilate’s cowardly character, God had exalted him in order that His preordained plan for Jesus to die on the cross would be consummated.

Just a cursory reading of the Old Testament books of history reveals that God sometimes uses evil human rulers as agents of His wrath upon deserving people. Nebuchadnezzar was used by God to bring His judgment upon many Old Testament nations.

There are numerous examples of rulers whom God exalted or brought down in the Bible. In the New Testament, for example, we read of Herod, who failed to give glory to God when some of his subjects cried out before him, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” (Acts 12:22).

The result? “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him…and he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:23).

Keep in mind that Herod was definitely a citizen of Satan’s kingdom, but he was not out of God’s jurisdiction. Obviously, God could bring down any present earthly leader if He desired.[1]


[1] Does this mean that we should not pray for governmental leaders, or vote in elections, knowing that God exalts whomever He wants over us? No, in a democracy, God’s wrath is practically built in. We get whom we vote for, and wicked people usually elect other wicked people. For this reason, the righteous should cast their vote. Additionally, in both Old and New Testaments, we are instructed to pray for our governmental leaders (Jer. 29:7; 1 Tim. 2:1-4), which indicates that we can influence God as He determines who will be put into office. Because God’s judgment sometimes comes in the form of wicked governmental leaders, and because most nations are so deserving of judgment, we can ask for and obtain some mercy from Him, so that our particular country does not get everything it deserves.