Last spring, a spider wove a cobweb across the entryway to our house. In the evening, it took the cobweb down and it spun a new one in the same spot the very next morning. This event recurred over a period of several weeks. At first, I simply sought to avoid the cobweb by sneaking under it whenever I came or went. (I’m sure that our neighbors thought I was practicing the Limbo whenever they saw me doing this.) After about a week or so, I realized that something had to be done. I took a broom and knocked the web down. Much to my frustration, this didn’t solve the problem. A new web hung across the front of our entryway the very next morning. Finally, I did what I should have done at the outset—I killed the spider. Problem solved.
Many people approach sin the same way that I initially dealt with the cobweb. Most simply seek to avoid dealing with sin as long as they possibly can. Others attempt to get rid of their sin by cleaning themselves up (Luke 11:24–25). A real and lasting solution, however, required Christ to come and conquer the one who conquered man. It is only in this way that believers can live in the full enjoyment of deliverance from the guilt and power of sin. It was not sufficient for Christ merely to lay down His life in order to atone for the sins of His people—He also had to conquer the evil one. The Apostle John intimated as much when he wrote, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The conquest of the evil one in the death of Jesus is an essential part of the work of redemption in that it results in liberty and victory for those for whom Christ died (1 John 2:14).
After the creation of the world, Satan wove a web of deception and lies in order to lead our first parents in rebellion against God. Ever since the fall of mankind, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). So powerful is the devil’s influence on humanity as a whole that Scripture describes him as “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). All the sin of men and women against God occurs in tandem with the stratagems of Satan. Having led mankind in rebellion against God, Satan now manifests his influence over men in a variety of ways. False teaching (1 Tim. 4:1) and false living (John 8:44; Eph. 4:26–27; 1 Tim. 3:6–7) are foremost among his principal strategies.
In addition to the manifold temptations of Satan, he also has a number of psychological weapons in his armory. The evil one “has the power of death” and “through fear of death [subjects men] to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14–15). Satan loves to keep men and women in bondage to sin and in the fear of death. Even believers are subject to Satan’s oppressive attacks, but the devil assaults us uniquely. All of the devil’s malice is aimed at the people of God so that Scripture refers to him as “the accuser of the brethren.” The evil one loves seeking to condemn those whom Christ has redeemed.
In order to deal with these aspects of Satan’s work, the Son of God came into the world. Jesus came to conquer the one who conquered man. In that first great promise of the gospel (Gen. 3:15), God swore to send a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent. In order to redeem those who were fallen in Adam, the Redeemer had to be a man—born of a woman. In order to conquer the one who conquered man, the Redeemer also had to be more than a man. He had to possess such divine origin and power that He could overthrow the rebellious kingdom of the evil one and reestablish the righteous rule of God in the hearts of His people. The seed of the woman is none other than the God-man, Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul drew a straight line from Genesis 3:15 to Christ when he wrote, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4). Jesus died to take away the devil’s power over the consciences of believers.SHARE
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He did so by facing off against that great serpent of old in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–13). As the last Adam, Jesus subjected Himself to an onslaught of temptations by the evil one. By virtue of His obedience, the Son of God struck a decisive blow to the powers of darkness. From the wilderness to the cross, Jesus was destroying the kingdom of darkness by obeying His Father, proclaiming the gospel and casting out demons. When He hung on the cross, Jesus fully and finally “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15). The death of Jesus on the cross was the exorcism of all exorcisms (John 12:31). The last Adam was cleansing the world of its arrogating occupant. By His death, Jesus defeated the evil one and took all of his weapons away from him. On His way to the cross, Jesus explained that He was going to “bind” the strong man (Matt. 12:29; Rev. 20:2, 4) and deliver captives. The hymn “Praise to the Holiest in the Height,” captures the essence of the victory of Jesus, the last Adam, over the evil one:
O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.
O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail.
There are now two main benefits that flow from Jesus’ defeat of Satan. First, the devil is bound so that the gospel may spread throughout the nations for the conversion of God’s elect. The devil is bound so that he can no longer deceive the nations to the degree that he did before the incarnation (Rev. 20:2). Before Christ came into the world, the nations were completely under the darkness and enslaving power of idolatry. This was Satan’s premier stronghold. He is a liar and the father of lies. He holds men in captivity by holding them under the lying deception of false teaching and beliefs. In the death of Jesus, God so bound the devil that the gospel might go to the nations. The spread of the gospel to the nations in the new covenant is a direct manifestation of the binding of the evil one. The preaching of the gospel sets a free course for the conversion of God’s people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” We now go boldly into the world to proclaim what our Savior has done in His death on the cross. Interestingly, the very message that we proclaim for the salvation of the nations includes the message of the binding of the One who deceives the nations. When we preach the devil-defeating, sin-atoning, wrath-propitiating, death-conquering death of Jesus, men and women are set free from the enslaving power of Satan.
Second, the devil is bound so that believers may have their consciences protected from Satan’s malicious accusations. Jesus died to take away the devil’s power over the consciences of believers. Christ has conquered Satan, sin, and death. In doing so, He has taken away the devil’s power to keep believers in bondage to the fear of death.
When believers sin, the devil and his cohorts stand ready to heap condemnation on them. Among the thoughts he speaks in the consciences of believers are these: “How could you do this? You’re not a Christian. A believer would never do something like this. You have surely out-sinned the grace of God.” These and other such accusations the devil hurls at believers. Sinclair B. Ferguson puts it succinctly when he says, “Satan trades in accusations.” However, just as Christ took away the devil’s power to hold men under the bondage of the fear of death, He took away the devil’s power to paralyze believers under his condemning accusations. Now, the believer has the strongest possible confidence because of the victory of the Redeemer over Satan and sin. As Charitie Bancroft put it,
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
*This post was originally published at Tabletalk Magazine in July of 2018.