We have seen that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ was voluntary, violent, and vicarious. This month, we will consider the fact that it was
A Victorious Death
How we love that glorious hymn with the words, “Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er his foes!” We do indeed exult in the triumph of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet we must not forget that, not just in His resurrection, but in His death too, the Lord Jesus wrought a mighty conquest. His was a victorious death.
Ever since the day when the serpent entered Eden, earth has been the focal point of the ongoing war between God and His arch-enemy, Satan. Of course, it is a contest whose conclusion has never been in doubt, but that has not prevented the enemy from waging, down through the years of history, his futile onslaught against God, and all that is of God.
At that time, God not only indicated that there would be this long-running conflict, but the imagery He used, when denouncing the serpent, showed Who would be victorious: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his Heel” (Gen 3:15). The “seed of the woman,”undoubtedly Christ, would strike a mortal blow to Satan, but, in doing so, He would suffer at the hands of Satan. Here, right at the start of human history, there is an allusion to the victory of Calvary and its results.
During His ministry here on earth, the Lord Jesus healed people, and delivered many who were possessed by evil spirits, thus demonstrating His compassion toward those so oppressed. But there was undoubtedly a deeper reason: to demonstrate that He is stronger than Satan, and in anticipation of the victory that He would gain over Satan at the cross. When critics saw Him cast out demons, and blasphemously responded that He was doing so through the power of Satan, He, as part of His reply, said, “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils” (Luke 11:21, 22). Satan had power in which people were held; but now One stronger had come, and was releasing people from it. This, glorious as it was, was but the picture of a much greater release from the power of Satan, which He would bring about through the work of the cross.
Just hours before going to Calvary, He said, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” We are not left to guess as to the meaning, for the next verse says, “This He said, signifying what death He should die” (John 12:31-33). By being lifted up upon the cross He would inflict a huge and irreversible defeat on Satan.
There is no doubt that the events leading up to and at the cross constituted an onslaught on the part of Satan and his forces. The Lord told those who came to arrest Him, “When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). And, praise God, there is no uncertainty as to the outcome. The words of Hebrews 2:14 and 15 make that clear: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Satan was not annihilated, but the Lord, in overcoming Satan, provided the means through which people could be delivered from Satan’s bondage. By Christ’s death, Satan’s power over countless numbers of people has been disannulled.
Not only has Satan himself been defeated, but all his forces have also been routed: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 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, triumphing over them in it” (Col 2:13-15). It is evident that Paul is borrowing a figure from the battles, when a victorious general would take the weapons from his enemies, and parade his foes in a triumphal public procession, thus emphatically showing the fullness of his victory over them. Such was the completeness of the triumph wrought at Calvary. And while the language of verse 15 can be taken as referring to the resurrection and ascension, it is clear that the victory thus celebrated was won at “His cross.”
Well could the Savior, at the end of it all, say, “It is finished,” bow His head, and dismiss His spirit (John 19:30). Not for Him the gradual ebbing away of life; the inability even to whisper a word; the last gasp; and the drooping head. No! Here was the forceful declaration of triumph; the deliberate, active bowing of the head; and the voluntary and victorious dismissing of His spirit into the hands of His Father (Luke 23:46).
Satan is still very much in existence, and active (2Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2). Yet his ultimate defeat and sentence are sure (Rev 20:10). And the decisive battle, which guarantees that conclusion, took place at Golgotha’s center cross.