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Who is the chief of this world?

08-11-2018 - Posted by Andre Piet

The expression ‘the chief of this world’ is used three times in the Bible. Three times in the evangel of John (12: 31; 14: 30 and 16: 11) and three times said by Jesus in the last week before his death. According to all bible commentators this term should be related to satan. Isn’t he called, in Ephesians 2: 2, ‘chief of the jurisdiction of the air’? And isn’t he called, in 2 Corinthians 4: 4, ‘the god of this eon’?

the Ben Adam

However, I think there are convincing arguments that Jesus didn’t refer to satan, but just to himself. Indeed, in the third person. But he did that much more frequently, just when he speaks about himself in relation to the world. So, he calls himself often (literally) ‘the Son of the Man’. Please note the double definite article. It’s about one specific son of one specific man. That specific man is ‘haAdam’, the expression we frequently find in Genesis and refers to the first man: Adam. This Adam should serve and keep the garden and yet submit the earth. Instead of that he was removed from the garden. The fired gardener… What brings us to the question: who will still take up this duty and fulfil truly? That is the ‘Ben Adam’, ‘the Son of the man’. Psalm 8 speaks prophetically of him (Psalm 8: 5). After he was made lack a little of the angels (because angels never die), God crowned him with honour and glory (Psalm 8: 6; compare Hebrews 2: 7- 9). And all has been set under his feet (Psalm 8: 7), although we don’t see that right now (Hebrews 2: 8). In other words, ‘the Ben Adam’, is the chief of this world.

After the famous (so called) ‘entry into Jerusalem’ Jesus states in John 12:

23 Yet Jesus is answering them, saying, come has the hour that the Son of Mankind should be glorified. 24 Verily, verily, I am saying to you, if a kernel of grain, falling into the earth, should not be dying, it is remaining alone, yet if it should be dying, it is bringing forth much fruit.

After John many times had stated that that Jesus’ hour not yet had come (7: 30; 8: 20), here for the first time is mentioned that his hour hád come. On the 10th Nisan Jerusalem had taken the lamb into the house and welcomed celebratory. They thought as their king, but, in reality as the lamb of Pascha. To be slaughtered a few days later. But also to be glorified that same week as ‘Ben Adam’: crowned with honour and glory! That time, that hour, had come right on that moment.

first time mentioned: John 12: 31

A while later we read that Jesus says in John 12: 31:

Now is the judging of this world. Now shall the chief of this world be cast o out.

This is the first time we read about ‘the chief of this world’. In this week the judgment of the world would take place. Not over this world, as some translations display unjust. But of this world. The world would judge. That is similar with the ‘judging of Gehenna’ (Matthew 23: 33), which is also not a judgment over Gehenna, but a judgment that is made from Gehenna. What the judgment of the world is, is explained subsequently: now the chief of this world will be cast outward. Who was judged and cast outward in that week? Isn’t it the ‘Son of the man’? Didn’t the (religious and political) world judge and condemn him to be crucified, outside the walls of Jerusalem? Outside Jerusalem, yes, ‘the city of the great King’ (Matthew 5: 35)! Only one person is eligible as a concrete fulfilment of that prophecy. The Ben Adam!

second time mentioned: John 14: 30

The second time that we read of ‘the chief of this world’ is in John 14: 30:

No longer shall I be speaking much with you, for the Chief of the world is coming, and in Me it has not anything. But that the world may know that I am loving the Father, and according as the Father directs Me, thus I am doing, rouse! We may be going hence!

The conventional explanation concludes that because Jesus speaks in the first person (I, me), he cannot be ‘the chief of this world’. But that conclusion is too quick. There are more texts in the evangel of John in which Jesus speaks varying in the first and the third person (6: 40; 6: 53). By speaking distant about ‘the son of the man’ and ‘the chief of the world’, he suggests distance between his quote and the real recognition by the world.

In the explanation of this verse all depends on the question about who Jesus speaks as he says: ‘and in me it has not anything’. Who is ‘it’? In Greek the word ‘echei’ is used, what means that it’s about a third person singular, that it can be about a ‘he’, a ‘she’ or an ‘it’. Does Jesus speak about the chief? In that case he indeed can be impossible the chief. But if ‘echei’ concerns the ‘the world’, then it cannot be missed that he himself is the chief. Grammatically both options are open.

By the way, there is a subtle difference in expression between this mentioning and the other two. The Greek original doesn’t speak about ‘chief of the world’, but about ‘the world’s chief’. The focus is on the world. So ‘… the chief of the world comes and in me it has not anything’. Assuming the Ben Adam as chief, then we understand here that he would come to the world, but that the world had not anything in him. I.e. one would not recognize a chief in him. ‘But’, Jesus continues, ‘that the world may know that I am loving the Father, and according as the Father directs’. Even when the world doesn’t recognize him as chief, this testimony would be undeniable. And immediately Jesus states: ‘rouse! We may be going hence!’ In saying so, Jesus walks the talk: the chief comes to the world.

third time mentioned: John 16: 11

The third and last time that we read about ‘the chief of this world’ is in John 16:

8 And, coming (= ‘the Paraclete’, the spirit of truth), that will be exposing the world concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judging:
9 concerning sin, indeed, seeing that they are not believing in Me;
10 yet concerning righteousness, seeing that I am going away to My Father, and no longer are you beholding Me;
11 yet concerning judging, seeing that the chief of this world has been judged.

The coming of the ‘spirit of truth’, here forecasted by Jesus, would unveil the world about three items. In the first place of her sin, for the world doesn’t believe Jesus. The sin of the world (compare John 1: 29!) is her unbelief. Secondly the ‘spirit of truth’ would unveil the world concerning righteousness. That Jesus is highly exalted and unseen, is a deed of righteousness. By fulfilling them, GOD complies with the words of the prophets. Thirdly the world would be confronted with the fact that the chief of this world has been judged. They judged and casted out the legal heir of this world.

The conclusion must be that not satan, but the Ben Adam is ‘the chief of this world’. Although judged and casted out by the world, he is the only one who can claim this title. He will carry this title definitively and he will also fulfil!