The Defeat of the Devil
By David Cassidy
The Devil

When God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15), He declared war against evil. He declared His intention to crush the serpent and restore all that was lost in the Fall of humankind. Carrying out this mission, Jesus came to defeat the devil and overthrow every horrid thing he’d inflicted on God’s good creation. John writes, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

We should be clear about the fact that God declared this war. God is the one on the offensive, establishing the enmity and pressing the conflict. He’s not merely seeking to retain some territory from a dangerous usurper. Rather, God mounts an offensive to redeem His sons and daughters. This reaches its promised fulfillment in the coming of Jesus into the world announcing the Gospel of the Kingdom. “Gospel” comes from an ancient word that was synonymous with “victory,” and that means that the message of Jesus encompasses His triumph over the devil, dark powers, and death. 

While we must never lose sight of the legal view of Christ’s redeeming work, of God declaring us just rather than guilty because Christ has shed His blood as the propitiation for our sin and imputing to us Christ’s own righteousness — even this incredible news doesn’t exhaust the meaning of Christ’s death. On the cross, Christ is revealed not only as our substitute but also the conqueror who defeats death and the devil. Like King David, Jesus runs to the battle to face the giant who wants to make us his slaves. With a great blow to His enemy’s head, Christ liberates the people of God.  

When Jesus came into the world as Savior, God launched the invasion to overthrow the power of death and evil. The Bible’s narrative is not that Satan was attacking Jesus, but rather that Jesus went on the attack against Satan, and He is determined to conquer him completely. Not only this, but the people of God share in the victory of Christ over evil. We’re summoned to “overcome” (Revelation 2-3), called “more than conquerors through [Christ] who loves us” (Romans 8:37), and rejoice that the Savior “always leads us in triumph” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Far from cowering in fear, those who follow Christ face the archenemy of their souls with faith in Christ, His Word, and His blood that was shed on their behalf. “They overcame …. because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when facing death” (Revelation 12:11).

Moreover, we confess Christ’s prevailing power in our lives when we’re confronted by dark forces: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).

But It Seems Like Evil and the Devil Are Prevailing

Paul’s words in Romans have strengthened believers for 2,000 years, reminding us that the love of God and the grace of Christ are infinitely more powerful than any attack Satan might mount against us. Yet we also have to note a troubling aspect to this truth in our experience. We read of Christ’s victory over and destruction of the devil, and yet we also read of the ongoing battle believers have with dark forces arrayed against humanity and the church. How can both be true?

The New Testament speaks of Satan being on the prowl to deceive, devastate, and rob people of life, peace, beauty, and God’s word. In our lives, we can see the terrible consequences of this work, not only in the power of the indwelling sin we all feel and seek to resist. In the high cost of sin in our families, societies, and churches, in the violence of our world, the horror of war, the stories of disaster, murder, sexual abuse, and the despoiling of creation that fill our news cycle, and the all-too-familiar scenes of starvation and slavery, we see a terrible but undeniable picture of apparently unrestrained evil and misery.

When Jesus came into the world as Savior, God launched the invasion to overthrow the power of death and evil.

How can we confess that Christ has defeated the devil when we can clearly see that Satan is at work in these dreadful ways? How does our view that Christ has conquered stand up in the face of the entire catalog of human woe? The answer to this question lies in grasping the various stages of the devil’s defeat and understanding the language the Bible employs to describe it. 

I’d suggest that there are seven stages to Christ’s victorious campaign against the darkness, a triumph that spans the pages of the entire Bible. They tell the story of Christ’s triumph over Satan and help us grasp the scale of the devil’s activity and the scope of Jesus’ mission. These identify how God has already worked in history, where things currently stand in the campaign, and what we can expect in the future. 

Phase One: Christ’s Victory Promised

In the first phase, God promises to redeem His people and defeat the serpent immediately after the Fall (Genesis 3:15). This promise continues to expand across the narrative that unfolds in the Old Testament, focusing after the flood on Abraham and the great family of Israel that emerged from his descendants Isaac and Jacob. Toward the end of Abraham’s life, after his faith received its greatest test, God repeated His promise to Abraham adding the vital phrase, “Your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies” (Genesis 22:17). A descendant of the father of Israel was destined to bless the Gentiles and conquer the enemies of God’s people.

Through the eras of the exodus and conquest, of the judges and kings, and down through the prophets who by their songs, visions, dreams, and predictions spoke of the coming one who would be Israel’s Messiah and the Savior of the Gentiles, the boundaries of the promise grew. God’s people were prisoners of hope, waiting for the King to enter the holy city and liberate them. 

Phase Two: Christ’s Victory Initiated

The incarnation of God the Son occurred with His conception in Mary’s womb and birth in Bethlehem. The violence that accompanied Jesus’ birth isn’t shocking when we consider the implications of His arrival for His opponents. On numerous occasions in the Old Testament era of promise, the serpent sought to snuff out the messianic line and prevent the birth of the one who would crush his head.

After Jesus was baptized by John at the Jordan River, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. This marked the beginning of Jesus’ fight on our behalf, a battle that would rage for three more years. During His earthly ministry, Jesus liberated people from demonic powers and announced, “If I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

In Acts, Peter summarizes Jesus’ entire life and ministry, recalling “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). He healed the sick, raised the dead, exorcised demons, and purified the Temple, all pointing to His mission to overthrow the darkness as the one who is the “light of the world” (John 8:12). He came as a strong deliverer to “plunder” the devil’s house, to “bind the strongman,” and rescue those under his enslaving ownership (Mark 3:26–27). 

Phase Three: Christ’s Victory Achieved

In the course of a single week as His public ministry reached its climactic moments, Jesus went from welcomed deliverer and king to condemned false prophet. When He breathed His last on the Cross that Friday afternoon, all hope appeared to die with Him. And yet, behind the scenes of a dying man crying out with a parched tongue protruding from swollen, bleeding lips, a battle was raging — and the crucified man was conquering His foes, and ours.

One of the clearest descriptions of the Crucifixion as God’s victory over Satan is Colossians 2:13-15: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

God defeated and debased the principalities and powers, “triumphing over them by the cross.” The moment when Satan and his forces thought they’d defeated the seed of the woman, bruising Him on the heel, was precisely the moment that the battle turned. F.F. Bruce writes, “As he was suspended there, bound hand and foot to the wood in apparent weakness, they (the powers) imagined they had him at their mercy, and flung themselves upon him with hostile intent…but he grappled with them and mastered them.”  

Phase Four: Christ’s Victory Announced

The Resurrection is sometimes referred to as Christ’s victory, and in a certain sense that’s true. But it’s true only because it’s tied to His death for us and His triumph over the evil one. As we’ve noted, the Cross was the ultimate battle for the souls of humanity and the creation itself. On Golgotha, “the place of the skull,” Jesus the seed of the woman crushed the serpent’s head. The Resurrection was God’s announcement to the disciples and the world that death and the devil were defeated, that Christ “through death …. [destroyed] the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). 

When Christ died and rose again, He became supreme over death and the grave. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to John. “I am the first and the last, and the living One; I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18). This is why Paul also describes death as a defeated foe: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the visible testimony of God to the powers, the apostles, to us, and to the world, that Christ is victorious over the devil and death. John Stott writes, “The cross was the victory won and the resurrection the victory endorsed, proclaimed and demonstrated.” 

Phase Five: Christ’s Victory Extended

After ascending to the throne of heaven, Jesus pours out the Spirit upon His church on the Day of Pentecost. This signals the new era of the Spirit’s work to glorify Jesus Christ as His people proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8; 2:1-11). Peter’s message that day saw some 3,000 respond to the astonishing news of what God had done in the Cross and Resurrection, and Acts unfolds the remarkable story of the faith spreading like flame as it takes root in Jerusalem and reaches the farthest corners of the known world. 

While we don’t know precisely where we are in this story of Christ’s triumph over our enemy, we can know for sure that we are His by faith, and that the Savior who loves us and died for us will keep us as His own, even in the face of terrible pain, sorrow, and grief.

Thousands received both new life and a commission to take the news of Jesus’ victory to the Gentile world. Later, Jesus tells Paul “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). Did you catch His reference to Satan and conversion? To become a Christian is to be rescued from Satan’s power and move from the darkness into the light.

To this day, every new gospel-preaching church planted, every new birth of the soul, and every penetration of the gospel into new regions reveals the unfolding of Christ’s victory at the cross. 

Phase Six: Christ’s Victory Consummated

Christians long for Christ’s return. It’s been a while! In conversion, we become those who have “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven …” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). We long for that day not only because we’ll see the beauty of our Savior’s face, but because we know at that moment He will make “all things new” (Revelation 21:5). 

Creation joins us in longing for this day, “groaning” to be finally liberated from its continued limitations and decay due to sin (Romans 8:20-25). In hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornadoes; in wars, rumors of wars, and societal upheavals; and in the persecutions the people of God endure, we await the day that Christ returns and His victory is complete.

On that day the devil will be “thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone … then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10-14). This moment that will mark the consummation of Christ’s victory, which began with His death and resurrection. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Phase Seven: Christ’s Victory Celebrated

The beauty of our inheritance in heaven is described as a banquet at which we rejoice in the greatness and grace of God our Savior. In that celebration, our mourning is turned into dancing, and every tear is wiped away. We will enter into a magnificent celebration of Christ’s victory over Satan, sin, and death.

This feast of the Kingdom is described as an eternal celebration of Jesus’ marriage to His glorified bride, the church: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. … Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God’” (Revelation 19:6-9).

Until Christ returns, the church keeps the Lord’s Supper to remember His sacrifice on our behalf, to proclaim His death — His victory over the devil and death — and to participate in that victory as we feast on all of the benefits of His life, death, and resurrection. We eat and drink at the Lord’s Table in commemoration of the cross of Christ and in anticipation of the final celebration of the victory of Christ: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). 

While we don’t know precisely where we are in this story of Christ’s triumph over our enemy, we can know for sure that we are His by faith, and that the Savior who loves us and died for us will keep us as His own, even in the face of terrible pain, sorrow, and grief. John wrote that we are right now the beloved children of God, but “it has not yet appeared what we shall be. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2-3). Since we have this hope, let’s seek to extend Christ’s victory in our world through the gospel, and in our own hearts as well, purifying ourselves as Christ is pure.  

David Cassidy is a pastor at Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, Florida. This article is an excerpt from the booklet, “Can the Devil Read My Mind?” written by David Cassidy and published by Core Christianity.

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