In Matthew’s version, while the first temptation focused on appetite and the second on manipulating God, the third was a direct challenge to Christ Himself, to His kingship and to His ultimate mission on earth.
Judging by the way the Bible uses the theme of going up to the top of a very high mountain to view nations, we can see that Jesus’ trip was no sightseeing tour. There is prophetic vision attached to this scenario. From a mountaintop, Moses sees the Promised Land as it would later be, and John later sees the future New Jerusalem. Similarly, Jesus sees more than just the countries of the ancient Roman world. Notice that Satan shows off everything in its best light. He shows the riches and the glamour, not the crime, suffering, and injustice.
Satan then says: “‘all these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me'” (Matt. 4:9, NKJV). In the same way that Satan fooled Adam and Eve into wanting to become like God (when they already were in His image), Satan pretended that he was God, and that the ownership of the nations of the world was exclusively his and that, for a little homage, he could easily give it all to Jesus (see Luke 4:6; compare Ps. 2:7-8).
This test focused on loyalty. Who should the human race give ultimate loyalty to? In Eden, when Adam and Eve gave in to the serpent, they were really giving Satan their first loyalty, and that infection spread quickly through each successive generation. Without direct divine intervention, the great controversy would have been decided in favor of Satan. The human race, and maybe even life on earth, could not have continued. The stakes were that high.
Notice that Jesus, like Joseph with Potiphar’s wife, did not permit evil to stay near Him. Jesus commanded Satan to go away. Joseph could not do that, so he removed himself from the scene of potential evil (Gen. 39:11-12). What a simple lesson for us, as well.