FOR many years the three passages in John's Gospel
regarding "the Prince of this world" (12:31; 14:30; 16:11),
were a source of concern to the writer and a perusal of numerous and
learned works on the subject, from the homilies of Augustine and
Chrysostom to the most evangelical and scholarly works of present day
writers on the subject brought him no light. After considerable research
and study he has been led to the conclusion that the opinion which
obtains as to the person referred to being Satan is not in accordance
with the mind of the spirit. He, therefore, seeks briefly and simply to
put before His readers the result of his effort's in the hope that it
will prove helpful to those who are seeking the whole truth.
The three passages are a fairly good illustration of
the manner in which expositors may keep, as they believe, closely by the
Word, and yet by bringing to it a vast amount of traditional teaching,
so corrupt the text as to make it very difficult to get believers to
consider, in an unprejudiced frame of mind, what we feel convinced to be
the only correct view.
We know that Satan is the god of this eon (2
Cor.4:11) and the chief or prince of the aerial jurisdiction (Eph.2:2),
but to apply to him the title of the prince or chief of this kosmos
is not only to give to him that to which we consider he has no claim,
but also to filch this title from its rightful Owner. This world's great
ones are exceedingly jealous of their honors and dignities and it surely
behooves us in the things of God even more to see that we render honor
and glory to whom such is due.
Satan has no right to this title, and in getting the
world-- and even believers--to accept him on his own terms he has
succeeded only too well in blinding their minds lest the light of one of
the glories of Christ should shine in upon them. Lying lips do not
become a prince (Prov.17:7) and surely such a title ill becomes the
father of lies. In Gen.32:28 the Lord gave to Jacob the name Israel, the
Prince of God, which in time became one of the titles of the Lord
Himself (See Isa.45:4; 49:3; 9:6). He is the Prince of Peace. He is the
Prince of Ezek.44:3. Here we have the expression emphasized--the
Prince...the Prince. In Dan.9:25 He is Messiah the Prince, while in
Hosea 3:4, speaking of the Lo- ammi period, the prophet says Israel
shall abide many days without a king and without a prince.
Perhaps one of the strongest passages in proof of our
contention is Rev.1:5, where right at the outset of the opening
salutation John speaks of our Lord as the archon (chief) of the
kings of the earth--and this, too, be it remembered, before He has taken
to Himself His great power (Rev.12:10). Surely in this passage--even if
it were the only one--we have sufficient indication as to the intention
of the apostle in his use of this phrase.
The first occasion on which He used this title was in
His last public address, and the other two during His last words to His
own. The time had arrived when Zech.9:9 was fulfilled: "Thy King
cometh unto thee." Hence the revelation of a new title to accord
with His royal dignity.
We shall now take up in detail and in their
scriptural order the three passages which give us a natural division of
John 12:31--Now is this worlds judging: now shall
the [Prince or] Chief of this world be cast out.
With one solitary exception all the writers whose
works on the subject we have perused interpret the first clause thus:
"Now is the judgment pronounced or passed upon this world."
The exception is to be found in the Companion Bible, Page 1551,
"Gr. krisis, i.e., the crisis reached when the world
pronounced judgment against Christ and His claims." Had the word
meant judgment krima would have been used and not krisis,
which means the act or process of judging.
The natural man is so far alienated from God that
when he comes across the word judgment he immediately concludes that it
must refer to divine vindictiveness. There is, however, nothing further
from the fact so far as this passage is concerned, in proof of which one
has merely to refer to verse 47, "for I came not to judge the
world, but to save the world." "As the heavens are higher than
the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your
The following instances of genitive of source or
ownership show us that it has reference to the one who is doing the
the judgment of gehenna (Matt.23:33)
the judgment of God (2 Thess.1:5)
His judgment (Rev.14:7; 19:2)
Thy judgment (Rev.16:7)
If the foregoing interpretation be accepted then we
are confronted with two alternatives with regard to the second clause
"Now shall the Prince or Chief of this world be cast out."
Either (1) the world is judging Satan, or (2) the One Whom they cast out
was other than Satan. The former of these alternatives has only to be
stated in order to answer itself. Rev.20:8 proves how, even after Satan
has been imprisoned for one thousand years, the nations are only too
willing to receive and be deceived by him. Therefore, we must seek for
some other explanation.
In all the three places where the expression is found
there is a duplication, for the sake of emphasis, of certain words which
denote the stress on the time. Now, applied to Satan, is little
short of nonsensical, as twenty centuries have almost gone and it will
be admitted that he is not yet cast out. Now occurs twenty-eight
times in John's gospel, and in no case does it refer to other than the
proximate present, for instance, "now is My kingdom not from
hence" (18:36). Had our Lord meant some period in the far future
why did He not say "hereafter," as to Nathanael (1:51)? In all
the three passages we have now (12:31; 14:29; 16:12) but with our
Lord's perfect precision immediately following the instance at 14:29, we
have at verse 30 "hereafter." "From now on" might be
accepted as a simple definition of nun.
"The Prince or Chief of this world."
If we consult Bagster's helps under the heading of "Prince of this
World" we simply find "See Devil," and if we refer to the
marginal references at John 12:31, we are referred to ch.16:11; Luke 10:
18; Acts 26:18; as also to Eph.6:12 which, however, refers to the eon,
but which should be omitted according to the three most ancient
manuscripts, Scrivener, J. N. Darby, and the Companion Bible. The
surprising thing is that the editor of the Companion Bible should have
given a correct rendering of the first clause, concerning which he
appears to have had true spiritual apprehension, and yet in the second
should have so readily accepted the traditional reading, for here he
definitely states that the word archon applies "to Satan as
prince of this world kosmos."
Cast out or thrust out. We are not
surprised that a wrong conclusion should be arrived at here, because,
although the expression occurs over forty times in the synoptic gospels,
fully three-fourths of that number apply to the casting out of demons.
In the fourth gospel however, though there are eleven references to
Satan, or diabolos, or demons, there is not one example of demons
being cast out.
The casting out can be traced back to 8:59. If the
young man of 9:22 is cast out he discovers that the Good Shepherd has
been cast out before him (8:59; see also 5:16).
The synoptic gospels practically repeat incidents in
similar phraseology. The fourth introduces the coming, casting out, and
rejection from the divine standpoint. We, therefore, submit:
- That the judging was being done by the world.
- That the Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince or Chief of this world.
- That the casting out referred to His rejection, crucifixion and
- That the "now" was fulfilled within two or, at most,
three days from the time when the word was spoken.
But why does He speak of Himself in the third person?
This is not unusual, for in all of the undernoted passages the Lord, in
speaking of Himself, used the third person: 1:51; 2:19; 3:14; 3: 16;
3:17; 5:19; 5:25; 5:27; 6:33.
And why does He change back again to the first
person? The following are examples: 1:50,51; 2:19; 3:12,13; 5:24,25,26;
5:37- 38; 6:33-35. It will be found that this form of speech pervades
all the gospels, but especially the fourth.
John 14:30--The Prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in
Me. [C.V.: The Chief of the world is coming and in Me it has nothing
This is the text which caused us the greatest
concern, and it was only after we felt reasonably assured that we had
succeeded in recovering it from its traditional haze that we ventured to
express ourselves. This scripture is continually brought forward to
prove that "in Him is no sin," therefore nothing on which
Satan could fasten. There are, blessed be God, numerous other passages
in this very gospel which clearly set before us His glory as the Son of
God, but while seeking to appreciate the value of all such passages we
consider that the one before us does not come within that number. Like
the previous one, the verse in question is a compound sentence. To
enable us to get an intelligent apprehension of the mind of the spirit
let us analyze it:
(a) The Prince or Chief of the world is coming.
(b) And in Me nothing it [not he] has--not one thing.
Difficulty has been expressed regarding erchetai,
"is coming," the feeling being that this carries with it the
future tense. We, however, give a few examples from John where the same
verb and tense are used, and in every case it refers to an incompleted
act, that is, one in process of accomplishment at the time. The idea of
futurity arises from the meaning of the word, not its tense.
||Then He is coming to a city
||There is coming a woman
||A great multitude is coming unto Him
||Jesus is coming unto the grave
||Philip is coming...Andrew is coming
||Simon Peter is coming
It is well known that one of the names of Messiah is
"The Coming One," hence in this gospel there are several
passages where the word is so used (1:15; 1:27; 1:30). From the tenth
hour of the evening when John first heard that "Come" (1:39),
until his responsive "Amen, come quickly" (Rev.22:20), he
recorded the word from his Master's lips over a hundred times. From the
first promise in Gen.3:15 till the sevenfold coming in Malachi, all
types, shadows, and offices pointed to this. Even creation itself was
only a stage on which the great scene should be set up. Here is the One
of Whom it was written "Lo! I come." Shiloh is come-- but,
alas, not yet has been the gathering to Him (Gen.49:10) And what a
reception! Not that it could be any surprise to Him-- witness the Psalms
and Prophets. How He felt it! Not for His own sake only, but for the
sake of Him Who sent Him. "He that rejecteth Me rejecteth Him that
sent Me." "The reproaches of them that reproached Thee have
fallen upon Me." "Reproach hath broken Mine heart."
"And in Me nothing it (not he) has--not one
thing." is really the crux of the whole difficulty. Translation or
punctuation may become comment. See "How to enjoy the Bible"
pp.37-43, also Winer, who states (p.72) that this verse is a sample
passage where there is room for liberty or difference of opinion. Let us
take each word. The verb echei has its subject understood, the
translators choosing to make the "Prince" do service as a
subject for the verbs in both clauses, and in assuming this they have
very materially contributed to the misconception. The verb to have echo
occurs almost eighty times in this gospel, not to speak of numerous
occurrences in John's first epistle and the Apocalypse. Only
occasionally, however, does John use it in connection with material
things such as, "they have no wine" (2:3); "Thou hast
nothing to draw with" (4:11); "Peter, having a sword"
(18:10); "Have ye any meat?" (21:5). John himself has been
called the apostle of abstractions because of the prominence which he
gives to life and death; light and darkness; love and hate; faith and
unbelief; truth and the lie. Even material things such as lamb, temple,
wind, water, bread, corn, and wine, having touched the altar are
sanctified and become vehicles of spiritual instruction.
John was one of a remnant who saw and had something
in Him. It was for this reason that he wrote the gospel that others
believing might "have" life (20:31) and have fellowship
(1 John 1:3). He had learned that he that had the Son had
life, and that this life is in His Son (1 John 5:11,12): "As the
Father had life in Himself, so had He given to the Son to have
life in Himself" (5:26); "He came that men should have
life and have it more abundantly" (10:10) "Those who
believe into Him have eonian life" (3:15,16; 5:24; 6:40;
How delightful in this gospel to enter into, even if
in a very small measure, the repeated I am, I have, I must. These
three verbs pervade the whole book. But, alas! the world saw no beauty
in Him that it should desire Him. All that they thought He had was a
demon (7:20; 8:48; 8:52; 10:20) and the only thing which they were
anxious to have in Him was that they might be able to accuse Him (8:6).
The expression "to have nothing" in a
person is a Hebrew idiom, and would be quite readily understood by the
apostles. The undernoted are some examples of its occurrence in the
Deut.10:9--Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance in his
Joshua 18:7--But the Levites have no part in you.
Joshua 22:25,27--Ye have no part in the Lord.
Neh.2:20--But ye have no portion nor right nor memorial in
2 Sam.19:43--And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah and
said we have ten parts in the king and we have also more right
in David than ye.
John 16:8-11--And that one coming will be
convicting the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness,
and concerning judgment: concerning sin indeed, seeing that they are
not believing in Me; concerning righteousness seeing that I am going
to My Father, and you are no longer beholding He: yet concerning
judgment seeing that the Chief of this world has been judged.
Verse nine deals with the great sin lying at the
world's door--unbelief in the Son. Verse ten emphasizes the mission of
the spirit to bring home to the world the personal worth and
righteousness of the Lord, and the Father's full appreciation of the
same--"because I go to My Father." John's own comment on this
is 1 John 3:7, "He that doeth righteousness is righteous even as He
is righteous." If, however, we assume (as we sought to establish in
12:31) that the judging referred to is that of the world upon our Lord
Jesus Christ, then the verse, instead of being fraught with difficulty
becomes intelligible and quite in accord with the two previous passages
so far as the work of the spirit on the world is concerned. The great
mission of the spirit which is here to glorify Christ is to let the
world see the enormity of the crime which it had committed in
pronouncing such a judgment.
We are well aware of the part which Israel took in
the death of the Lord, but let us again briefly see how both Jew and
gentile were involved in this judging. The representative of the only
nation on this earth who had a divine law, and who in his capacity as
high priest ought to have consulted and known the mind of God, through
the urim and thummim, declared (11:49,50) "Ye know nothing at all
nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the
people and that the whole nation perish not." So far the Jew. What
about the gentile? Pilate, representative of the most perfect civic law,
on which all civilized countries to this day base their civic codes,
gave judgment against Him even while protesting His innocence.
Never was it more true than in the first and third
passages so far as the world's judgment is concerned: "Therefore
thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest: for
wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself" (Rom.2:1).
From the day of Charlemagne--and even earlier--Europe
and also parts of other continents have been plagued alternately by
princes at the altar or priests on thrones--perhaps the latter has been
the greater infliction but never at any time in the history of
Christendom has the union of so-called church and state been an unmixed
blessing. There will be a time, however, when the counsel of peace shall
be between the altar and the throne (Zech.6:13) when the One Who has
"borne away" the sin shall "bear" the glory.
In the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth
centuries it was not permissible in Scotland to mention the House of
Stuart, but ofttimes when the Jacobites held their clandestine meetings
they would lift their glasses "To him that's ower [over] the
water" or sing "Waes [Scottish, woe is] me for Prince
Charlie," and it is only a few months since a duchess stated that
she had personally seen in her own castle a young Scot absolutely
unconscious of any spectator salute a portrait of the Prince. This is a
tale that might be told in almost any kingdom--especially in Europe, but
what our point is, that if men display such affection and honor for
creatures--some of whom were only moral wrecks, how should the hearts of
believers grieve that the Liar, the Usurper, the Murderer has for
centuries arrogated to himself what ought to have been, and, bless God,
will yet be one of the many names which will glorify our Lord. As,
however, with other names of God, it requires the occasion to bring out
the character. Even on this point, however, there may be different
motives in the desire that "the kingdoms of this world become the
kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ" (Rev.11:15). It is not
enough that we should have proved that all earthly cisterns are broken
and unsatisfying. We must be occupied with the Prince Himself--not even
truths connected with Him. Nothing less than the heart's devotion to His
Person will produce loyalty either in life or doctrine.
Kings shall fall down before Him
And gold and incense bring,
All nations shall adore Him
His praise all people sing,
For He shall have dominion
O'er river, sea and shore,
Far as the eagle's pinion
Or dove's light wing can soar.
"THE CHIEF OF THIS WORLD"
MANY have been convinced and helped by the article on
"The Prince of this world." But some question the correctness
of the grammar when rendering John 14:30, "it-IS-HAVING"
instead of "he-IS- HAVING," thus referring to the
subordinate word "world" in place of the full phrase
"Prince of this world," as the usual rules of grammar suggest.
The following is offered as the probable solution of what seems an
There are higher rules of concord than grammar. To
speak of one's self in the third person is, strictly speaking, bad form.
Yet the Lord often refers to Himself thus, especially as the Son of
Mankind. In this verse He refers to Himself as the Chief of the world.
This is settled. by the other references (John 12:31; 16: 11). Then He
uses the pronoun "Me" in contrast with the verb it, he or she
is having. The antecedent is the only guide in determining which pronoun
to use. We cannot apply the usual rule here, for the usual rule has
already been set aside. The third person has been used for the first.
Hence the logical antecedent is the only other noun, "world."
The real cause of the difficulty is the "ungrammatical" use of
the third person.
The next sentence practically confirms this, if we
will note the emphasis. It is usually read, "And that the world may
know . . . " It should be "But that the world may know . . .
" This suggests that He has not turned to a new subject, but a
different aspect of the same one--the world. The solution of all such
difficulties lies in a more minute examination of all the facts. In this
case the order of the words in the next sentence fully confirms the
truth which is clearly evident in the companion texts.