Again, the devil taketh him unto an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and he said unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him; and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.Matthew 4:8-11 ASV
The mystery of how Satan could do such a thing remains unknown. McGarvey is doubtless correct in pointing out the imagination as a key factor in this temptation.
No literal mountain answers the specifications here. Christ, in some way unknown to us, was transported through Satanic power to a great eminence where the devil made all the kingdoms of the world to pass in review, as it were, before the mind of Jesus.
As McGarvey expressed it, “If they were presented only to his mental vision, it might have been accomplished by a vivid description, such as Satan is capable of, aided by the excited imagination of Jesus as he looked abroad from the top of the exceeding high mountain.”
All these things will I give thee
What did Satan mean by that? Did the devil propose a union of his forces with the powers of Jesus for the purpose of establishing a world dominion with Christ as the nominal head but with Satan as the real ruler? Or was Satan’s proposition an unqualified lie?
We recognize many distinguished students of the word of God are of a contrary opinion; nevertheless, it is the conviction of a lifetime that Satan lied to Jesus Christ in this third temptation. McGarvey saw no unwarranted assumption of power in the devil’s claim to control over all the kingdoms of the world.
Also, H. Leo Boles believed that Satan could have delivered on his promise to Jesus, if Christ had yielded.
However, Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). The Bible specifically refutes the idea that Satan has at his disposal all the world kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar was compelled to eat grass with the beasts of the field until seven times had passed over him; and WHY?
Only that he might learn a simple truth, namely, “That the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:25).
It is impossible to suppose that Christ was ignorant of the truth mentioned in Daniel or that he was in any sense ignorant of the falsity of Satan’s claims. How, then, could he have been tempted? Any tempted saint can answer that Satan’s lies have the power to seduce even when they are known to be lies.
No sinner ever did wrong but Satan promised him pleasure, but no sinner ever got what he expected. “The wages of sin is death,” not pleasure.
It must be admitted that in this case, Satan told such a big lie that God-fearing men still believe it, nearly two thousand years after the fact! Face the truth: If Christ had yielded to Satan, Christ would not have won the kingdoms of this world; Satan would have won them, and God’s redemptive work would have failed.
Christ rejected Satan’s proposal without regard to its truth or falsity. Satan’s promise, whether true or false, had no bearing on the conduct of the Lord which was regulated altogether by the word of God, not by Satan’s words.
Christ quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13. Significantly, Christ applied that Old Testament passage to include devil worship. The prohibition is, in fact, against all worship except the worship of Almighty God through Jesus Christ. It is sinful to worship the devil, or angels (Revelation 19:10), or a man (Acts 10:26), or any object or being other than the Infinite God through Christ. It will be recalled that the wise men worshipped, not Mary, but Jesus (Matthew 2:11).
Christ won the encounter.
There is a bold arrogance without precedent. As a serpent, as an angel, or as a lion, Satan brought all his cunning into play against the Christ, but to no avail. “Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Then the devil leaveth him
This, of course, was not the end of Christ’s temptations which were to continue without abatement until the cross itself appeared upon Golgotha. And yet, there is a devilish cunning in the Satanic method of leaving, for a season, and returning in full force another day. Luke indicated that this is what Satan did (Luke 4:13).
Satan always seeks the opportune time to exert his evil power. He blows softly with the south wind to entice the unwary ship out of its haven and then to smite with the fury of Eraquilo! (Acts 27:13,14).
Angels came and ministered unto him … Thus, God did not leave Christ to die in the wilderness, after all. He was fed of angels. Satan’s proposal to change stones into bread was as unnecessary as it was sinful. Christ, who is introduced in the New Testament’s very first verse as “the son of Abraham,” found in dire extremity the same truth uttered by Abraham on Mount Moriah, “Jehovah-Jireh!” “The Lord will provide!” (Genesis 22:14).