Question & Answer Forum: Destroying the Devil

In what sense did the Lord Jesus destroy the devil (Heb 2:14)?

The verse in question is: “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.”

An understanding of the expression, “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” will depend on the meaning of the word “destroy.” We know that the devil is active in the present age, as Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 5:8, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” We also know from Revelation 20:10 that “the devil … [will be] cast into the lake of fire and brimstone … and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” So, “destroy” cannot mean to cause to cease to exist. We can look at other uses of this word for “destroy” (Strong #2673, G2673) for help in determining its meaning in the Scriptures. In Romans 3:3 it is translated “without effect;” in Romans 3:31 “make void;” in 1 Corinthians 1:28 “to bring to nought;” and in 1 Corinthians 15:24 “put down.”

These uses, along with the other times it is used in the New Testament (a total of 27 times) give us the sense that it means to render ineffective or powerless. W. E. Vine gives a definition of “to reduce to inactivity.” Strong’s definition is “to be (render) entirely idle (useless), literally or figuratively.”

Even with a clearer understanding of the meaning of the word “destroy,” we are left wondering in what sense the devil has been rendered inactive, ineffective, or powerless. Peter’s words, quoted above, indicate that he is very active, so we must understand Hebrews 2:14 as referring to a different sphere or a different time than our present experience. The words of Hebrews 2:8, “Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet. For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we see not yet all things put under Him,” may give us a clue as to the fact that though God speaks in the present tense, or even the past tense, regarding things, the actual time when we will see their complete manifestation may be future. The concept of past, present, and future has little meaning when speaking of the purposes of God. The words of Romans 4:17 seem to sum up this truth: “God, Who … calleth those things which be not as though they were.” God can speak of events that have not yet happened as if they were already done, because nothing can thwart His purposes.

So, looking at Hebrews 2:14, we can understand that the death of Christ on the cross was the means of “destroying” the devil. Our Lord’s words recorded in John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out,” support this truth. Thus, the basis on which the devil will eventually be rendered entirely powerless is the death of Christ. Though we do not presently see this to be true, the work by which the result will eventually be seen has already been accomplished. Satan is a defeated foe. He has not yet been “bound” (Rev 20:2), or cast into the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev 20:10), but his doom is sealed because of the triumph of the cross of Christ. Colossians 2:15 brings this before us: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it [His cross, v14].”

Soon, our Lord Himself will descend from heaven to receive us to Himself, meeting us in the air, the devil’s own domain (1Thes 4:16-17; Eph 2:2). The fact that Christ Himself rose from among the dead, and that the dead in Christ will be raised at His coming, gives proof that He has “destroyed him that had the power of death.”

K. Hendrickson