WHO ARE “THE PRINCES OF THIS WORLD” OF 1 CORINTHIANS 2:6-8?
by Shawn Brasseaux
The Holy Scriptures tell us in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8: “ Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:  But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:  Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” When coming to this passage, the question is often asked, “Who are these ‘princes of this world?’” Are they human rulers, or some other group?
Dear friends, whenever we have a question about the meaning of Bible terms, it is important to try to stick as close to the Bible text as possible. Sure, it can be difficult, but we should not be discouraged. We will spend all of eternity learning more and more from God’s Word. Learning is a very slow process, the Bible can be a very heavy book at times, and we are facing more opposition than ever not to believe verses. Instead, religion encourages us to believe people’s commentary on the verses. Commentary is all well and good, provided, of course, there are pertinent verses to support it! Let me show you how we can take the Bible expression highlighted in this study, look for cross-references (other verses), and stitch together a sound definition for it. Whether this term, or any other, it is better to let the Bible define its own terms rather than seek theologians’ fallible speculations.
Our first line of evidence is as follows…. While “princes of this world” appears in the Bible only in 1 Corinthians 2:6 and 8, a similar term appears elsewhere in its canon. The Lord Jesus employed that phrase (singular form) on three occasions. Firstly, in John 12:31: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” Next, John 14:30: “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” Finally, John 16:11: “Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” This “the prince [singular] of this world” is the leader of “the princes [plural] of this world.”
Now we move to the second line of evidence…. Thrice did Israel’s religious leaders accuse the Lord Jesus of collusion with Satan. Those three verses will now speak for themselves. Matthew 9:34: “But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.” Matthew 12:24: “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” Mark 3:22: “And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.” Here we have the language of one prince—“the prince”—leading a group of devils (evil spirits). There is operating in Israel a chief evil spirit, commanding an army of many, although less powerful, evil spirit beings.
Finally, the last line of evidence…. Twice in the Book of Ephesians we find the term “prince” as having, once again, a negative connotation. In fact, they are again used to name evil spirits. Notice Ephesians 2:2, Satan the chief evil spirit appearing: “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience….” Ephesians 6:12 makes it the plainest: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Please pay attention to that word “principalities” here—they are realms over which princes rule. These are many evil “princes,” fallen angels, ruling in the heavenly places, even today.
While it is true that sinful Roman officials (men) and wicked Jewish officials (men) conspired to kill Jesus (Psalm 2:1-3 cf. Acts 4:24-28), another group assembled long before men did. Satan and his evil spirit servants first devised the death of God’s Son. For many, many centuries, the Scriptures had promised the Messiah-King would come to Israel. If Satan could fully destroy that King, there would be no godly kingdom on Earth, and his evil kingdom would remain unchallenged. After all, Satan was created as Lucifer, “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12). Lucifer was a genius, although after his fall it became evil ingenuity. Satan assumed he could outsmart God. The Devil’s angelic cohorts, much more intelligent than man but less intelligent than he, followed him. Of course, the omniscient Godhead foresaw that scheme, allowed the Son to die, and then used the shed blood to redeem two groups of people. Each group would be used of God to dispossess heaven and earth of Satan’s armies. We know these groups of saints as the Church the Body of Christ (heavenly) and the nation Israel (earthly).
By having Satan follow along with Calvary and the death of Jesus Christ, the Godhead allowed him and his minions to participate in their own defeat. Not only would God’s earthly kingdom be established, but also the heavenly kingdom (see Ephesians chapter 1 and Colossians chapter 1). Had Satan and his evil angelic allies known that Calvary would be their “death-blow” instead of God’s “death-blow,” they would have done everything to prevent Jesus Christ from going to that cross in the first place. Alas, God kept all of it secret, until long after it happened. By the time God revealed it to Paul, it was too late for Satan to undo! The “wise” Satan had been caught, outsmarted by the “God only wise” (Romans 16:27) who had “hidden wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:7). Colossians 2:14-15 says in victory: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly [public embarrassment], triumphing over them in it.”
“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”