There is an often quoted scripture in 2 Corinthians 4:4 which most pastors and commentators believe is a reference to Satan. “The God of this age has blinded the eyes of the unbeliever.” In a very generic sense, it is true that we could say that unbelievers are blind to the gospel and that the devil deserves the blame, yet I do not believe that an honest exegesis of 2 Corinthians 3-4 can arrive at the conclusion that Paul was writing about Satan. We will begin earlier in the letter to arrive at a proper context. Open your Bible and follow along.
This section of the letter begins with contrasts between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The Old Covenant is not the Old Testament. The Old Covenant is the Mosaic covenant from Mount Sinai specifically. I will bring out the core contrasts as follows: Old Covenant Reality -> New Covenant Reality
2 Corinthians 3:3, 7
Written with ink -> Written by the Spirit
Tablets of Stone -> Tablets of human hearts
2 Corinthians 3:6
The Letter kills -> The Spirit gives life
2 Corinthians 3:7
The OC was Transitory -> (See 2 Cor. 3:11, NC not transitory)
2 Corinthians 3:8
Came with Glory -> Has even more Glory
2 Corinthians 3:9
Glorious yet condemning -> Even more Glorious and brings Righteousness
2 Corinthians 3:10
Was Glorious but in comparison it has no glory -> Has surpassing glory
2 Corinthians 3:11
The Transitory had glory -> Has much more glory and it lasts, not transitory
(In summary, our New Covenant is written on the heart, it brings life not death, it brings righteousness not condemnation, it has surpassing glory, and it lasts and is not transitory.)
2 Corinthians 3:13
Moses veiled his fading glory -> whereas we have hope and are bold
(OT reference, Exodus 34:29-35)
The Apostle Paul filled 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 with repetitive statements for emphasis.
- For to this day…
- Even to this day…
- When the OC is read…
- When Moses is read…
- The same veil remains…
- A veil covers their heart…
- Their minds were made hard… (Same word as petrified stone)
- A veil covers their hearts…
- Only in Christ is it taken away…
- When anyone turns to the Lord it is taken away…
A veil blocks glory, in Christ the glory blockage is removed
Even in the 1st century a veil covered their hearts
(Moses veiled his face/and the 1st century unbelievers had veiled hearts)
The same veil remains when the OC is read -> In Christ the veil is removed
Another way to say it:
Facing Moses caused a veil over the heart -> turning to face Christ the veil was removed
2 Corinthians 3:17
Where the Spirit is, there is freedom. (The NC brought us freedom)
2 Corinthians 3:18
Moses wore a veil over his face -> whereas we reflect with an unveiled face
Moses had a decreasing glory -> We have an ever-increasing glory
(In summary, Moses had a decreasing/fading glory, he wore a veil to cover the fading glory. In Christ we have an ever-increasing glory and no veil over our face, rather we actually reflect His Glory.)
(For bonus points: The word for veiled in 2 Corinthians 3:13-18, is Kalumma, which is the noun form of the verb Kalupto. In Revelation 1:1 it says, “The Revelation [AnaKalupto] of Jesus Christ” or the unveiling. The only place in the New Testament which mentions “Kalumma” is 2 Corinthians 3:13-18. So we know as a fact that the only NT Veil was the Old Covenant.)
2 Corinthians 4:1-2
(The NC brought us life, righteousness, increasing glory, freedom, an unveiled face to boldly reflect Him, it removed the veil from our hearts and minds.)
Therefore: We set aside our old ways
(The NC affects our practical life. The tablets of stone told us what to do, the NC changes us and we naturally do the right thing)
2 Corinthians 4:3
Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those that are perishing
(The gospel isn’t supposed to be veiled, because its glory is being reflected from our unveiled faces.)
2 Corinthians 4:4
The God of this age [AION] has blinded the mind [NOEMA] of the unbeliever. (2 Cor. 4:4)
Notice that Paul writes, “this age,” so he was speaking in the present tense. As you will recognize from my other writings, the end of the old covenant age was coming in 70AD with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. So Paul uses the same greek word for age, AION.
So what was the god [theos], which had blinded the mind [NOEMA] of the unbelievers? Well, Paul seems to refer to this back in 2 Cor. 3:14: “But their minds [NOEMA] were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains…” But before we make the small jump to understanding what Paul was saying, let’s see that he talked about this similarly in his first letter to the Corinthians.
“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age [AION] or of the rulers of this age [AION], who are doomed to pass away [70AD perhaps?]. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden [ANAKRUPTO] and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age [AION] understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him–these are the things God has revealed [ANAKALUPTO] to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Although Paul doesn’t say the word “veiled,” he uses a similar Greek word, ANAKRUPTO. Then he speaks of the temple leaders as the rulers of the AION, and reinforces how the gospel was veiled to all eyes, ears and human minds by quoting from Isaiah 64:4. Then he says that the spirit has unveiled [ANAKALUPTO] the deep things of God to us.
In summary, in 1 Corinthians 2, the temple rulers of the Old Covenant Age were blind and unable to understand the gospel, so they crucified the king of glory. Yet the believer has had the New Covenant unveiled to them, so we fathom all the riches in Christ.
Then Paul picks up the same theme in 2 Corinthians 3-4 and instead of talking about the temple rulers of the Old Covenant Age, this time he writes about their god, which was the Old Covenant itself and how it blinded the eyes of the first century unbelievers.
To say that Paul is suddenly speaking of Satan in 2 Corinthians 4:4 requires, in my opinion, a high level of eisegesis and is utter rubbish. It is much more plausible to say that the rulers of the OC Age were the temple rulers (1 Cor 2:6-10) and that their god was the Old Covenant itself (2 Cor 4:4)
PS. Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs. As you may have heard, Welton Academy enrollment has reopened for the Fall 2015 semester. THERE ARE ONLY 76 DAYS left to sign up and we are losing these spots very quickly. Please don’t procrastinate! You can go to WeltonAcademy.com to get in before our 2000 spots are sold out.