Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
To what extent were all the kingdoms Satan’s to give? In Luke’s account of Christ’s temptation, Satan says, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.”
Here we see whatever Satan has to give out, it’s because something was delivered to him. He was delivered something by Adam. Adam had dominion over the world, and he handed it to Satan. Now Satan manages the nations, the rulers of our age.
Let’s probe deeper. Adam executed his dominion by naming the animals. Human language is how man masters his world. Whether it’s a political community handling finance, trade, and land management, or a scientific community sharing knowledge about the latest way to increase production of corn, the human capacity of speech is what gives us our dominion. From the Word, by the word, through the word, man lives out what it means to be in the image of God.
At Babel, speech became corrupted as a judgment for our humanistic attempts to name ourselves. To “make a name for” yourselves, as they did at Babel, corrupts speech. God makes the things that get named, not us. On one hand, Babel was man’s attempt to be like God and make things to be named. God had given His name to Seth to invoke; at Babel man was setting up a name for mankind to invoke. It was self worship.
On other hand, because to name is to have dominion over, man was setting up self-dominion, or self-rule, or government.
Kingdoms are fascinating phenomenon in the Bible. On one hand, nations are little principalities of demons. The nations, the prophet Daniel suggests, had prince-demons overseeing them. Or again, Satan claims ownership of the kingdoms in his temptation to Jesus. On the other hand, the Lord sets up government; the Lord sees to the rising and falling of nations; and the Lord sets up the boundaries and borders of the nations. So are nations, government, and self rule good or bad?
Like everything in this fallen world, governments and nations accommodate our fallen existence. They are a blessing and a curse. They keep order, but so often do so in a perverse way. Without the governments which have arisen from Babel, the world would have fallen into a vicious anarchy-tyranny cycle: each man doing what he wants followed by a world orderer imposing order.
At least with the advent of diverse languages, we’ll always have feuding nations keeping each other in check. Such is the benefit of Babel’s curse. Also, within the confines of a given nation – where all speak the same language generally – you have echoes of language’s original glory, the ability to work together to execute dominion over one’s little world.
Man is always trying to reverse Babel’s curse. The desire to “make a name for ourselves” and build a humanistic idol is always in us. It’s the desire of nations to be empires. It’s the quest for one world government. It’s the presumption of science to conquer all that ails humanity. It all begins with the same offer given in the beginning and given to Jesus: worship Satan; yield to him.
Now, let’s look at things from another perspective in order to hone in on the issue. St. Paul calls Satan the “prince of the power of the air.” (Ephesians 2: 2) This is appropriate, because it is a Gnostic error to say Satan’s power in our world is over anything God created. Everything God created is good and to be received with thanksgiving. What, then, does Satan have authority over?
The things that aren’t. The vacant spaces between stuff. The “stuff” that when activated negates what is. And that is the human will. Think about it. If a man shoots another man and kills him, was his finger evil? the arm? the nerves leading from the brain to the trigger finger? the neurons in the brain? No. Was the gun evil? the bullet? No, in fact they were quite good, good at what they were created to do.
Where then was the evil? Was it not in “the air,” the vacant spaces where Satan reigns, and what does he reign over? Human will. God is the author of all that is good. Satan tempts us to gain knowledge of evil, which is really nothing more than will-against-God, the ability to choose against Him.
Jesus said, of the “ruler of this world,” “he has nothing in Me.” No, Jesus was a body, and bodies are not vacant places; and Jesus was in complete submission to His Father’s will, so Satan had no perverse will working in Jesus.
Satan tempted Jesus to choose against His Father and finish the Babel project. But because it would only be a reign over the vacant spaces, it would only be a negating project, something like what fascist German or communist Russia inflicted on the world, but on a worldwide scale. It would fulfill Satan’s quest to reverse the created order. That was his lie and deceit to Jesus.
Jesus submitted to His Father’s will and had no room for Satan’s will working in Him. He didn’t want to inherit Babel’s curse. He wanted to restore Eden, and this wouldn’t happen through one world government, but through the Kingdom of Heaven, where He is king.
At the end of Matthew, we learn how Jesus would truly gain authority over heaven and earth. It happens after He dies and rises again. He meets His disciples and says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus’ authority is executed through baptism in the Triune name and by teaching the Gospel. And it’s executed through the Twelve whom He sent, and after their deaths – because Jesus would be with “them” to the end of the age – to men set up (ordained) in the apostles’ names.
Another word for all this is the Church. The Church is Christ’s kingdom. The Church is the reversal of Babel. The Church is where men and women of all races and nations come together in one speech, even as Christians all over on Sunday morning partake of one creed, one liturgy, one song. And the Church will be fully manifest at Christ’s return, being revealed as the glorious restoration of Eden it is.