Signifying What Death He Should Die

The Lord’s Death in Relation to the Devil

Continuing our consideration of the Lord’s explanation of His death in John 12:23-33, in verse 31 we read, “now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” The death of Christ ensured the final defeat of the devil.

The Strong Man Overcome

Concerning Satan, the Lord said, “how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house” (Matt 12:29). Our Lord was stronger than the strong man (see Luke 11:21-22), able to overcome the devil, and divide his spoils. The strength the Lord used against the devil was not physical, but moral strength. At the commencement of His public service, He demonstrated this moral strength when He resisted “all the temptation” (Luke 4:13) of the devil in the wilderness. The strong man, the devil, had been bound, and had to retreat: “Get thee hence, Satan … Then the devil leaveth Him” (Matt 4:10-11).

The apostle John tells us, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy (undo, Newberry) the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Throughout the course of the Lord’s public ministry, He went about undoing the works of the devil, spoiling his goods. This was displayed often: when He cast out demons, or when He healed a woman who had been kept bound by Satan for 18 years (Luke 13:16). Finally, at Calvary, our Lord won the victory and delivered the final blow: “That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14).

The Devil’s Attempts to Destroy Christ

Many times the devil tried to destroy God’s Son before Calvary: the slaughter of the infants by Herod, tempting Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, endeavoring to have Him cast over the brow of the hill in Nazareth, seeking to drown Him in the storm on the lake. There was a final Satanic onslaught in Gethsemane (see Luke 22:53). Why these constant Satanic attacks? The devil knew that Calvary would be his irreversible defeat. The sentence was there passed upon the prince of this world, and that judgment will be executed upon him in a coming day.

The Devil’s Final Defeat

The devil is still “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), he is not yet finally destroyed, but his power was irreversibly annulled at Calvary. At the appearing in glory of our Lord, the dragon, that old serpent, will be bound, banished into the bottomless pit, and sealed there for one thousand years, to deceive the nations no longer (Rev 20:2-3). After the millennial reign of Christ, he will be loosed for a little season; the arch deceiver of humanity will work for one last time, but then will be eternally cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:7-10). The certainty of this conclusion has been stated by our Lord; “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”

The Believer’s Conflict with the Devil

For believers today, the devil is still a powerful enemy; He is diabolus, the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10), and Satan, the adversary who “as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We have to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:11), and we need the shield of faith to quench his fiery darts (Eph 6:16). In seeking to mar faithful testimony for God in this world, the devil attacks believers, and we must not be “ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor 2:11), remembering that he can be most subtle, appearing as “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). How good to remember that the devil is a defeated foe! We have a Savior Who has annulled his power, Who has prayed to His Father that we might be kept from this evil one (John 17:15), and Who will come again to execute the sentence and effect his final destruction.

The Lord’s Death in Relation to Humanity

In John’s gospel, three times our Lord speaks of His death as being “lifted up from the earth.” The Lord knew He would die upon a cross, lifted up from the earth, His hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16). In being so lifted up, He was very publicly put to death, before the watchful gaze of all humanity (Matt 27:36), publicly seen to be hanging upon the tree, “made a curse for us” (Gal 3:13), and taking the place of sinners.

In John 3:14, “as Moses lifted up the serpent … even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” It is linked with what God purposed out of His heart of love (see John 3:15-16). In John 8:28, “When ye have lifted up the Son of Man,” we have that which men purposed out of hatred towards Him, seeking to put Him to open shame. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto Me” (John 12:32). His being lifted up is what the Savior Himself purposed, in all His sovereignty. All of humanity will be drawn to the risen Man Who accomplished His death in such a place of prominence before the view of all. Some are drawn to Him now for salvation, and some of the saved are specifically drawn to Him as a center of gathering in the assembly. For those who reject Him, they will be drawn to Him in a coming day, not for blessing, but for judgment (Rev 20:12-13). It will be, that Christ having been lifted up from the earth, publicly before the gaze of all, all of humanity, without exception, will be drawn to Him, but with different responses of heart, and with different eternal destinies in view. “This He said, signifying what death He should die.”