Everyone loves a winner. Not many of us remember who came in second in last year’s Super Bowl, or World Series, or Final Four. Who ran for president against Bill Clinton in 1980, or George W. Bush in 1992? In most contexts, we know the winner – but other than those with personal ties, second place finishers are quickly forgotten. Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event that sets him apart as the ultimate victor.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Co 15:57 NIV)
In his profound book, The Cross of Christ, John Stott suggests that the victory of Jesus was in the context of the conquest of evil. He reminds us of the earthly battle between Jesus and Satan during Jesus’ sojourn on earth and then outlines six steps in the victory of Jesus over Satan and subsequently over evil itself.
First, the conquest predicted. Speaking of a male descendent of Eve, God declared to Satan,
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15 NIV)
It does not take much imagination to understand that on the cross, Satan stuck, as it were, the heel of Jesus. But in the resurrection, Jesus crushed the head of Satan.
Second, the conquest begun. When Jesus was born, there was an attempt to kill him through the evil massacre of the male children in Bethlehem. Then there was the wilderness testing, the constant harassment of unbelief and even foiled attempts on his life during his ministry. One might describe Jesus’ earthly ministry as one of constant conflict with Satan, but Jesus remained true to his mission and was never overcome by him.
Third, the conquest achieved. Notice the declaration of the Apostle Paul:
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, 14 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. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col 2:13-15 NIV)
It is important to understand that the cross was the ultimate arena of the battle between Satan and Jesus and it was through the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and the shedding of his blood that provided forgiveness of our sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus.
Fourth, the conquest confirmed and announced. In the resurrection, the finished accomplishment of the cross and the decisive defeat of Satan was announced to the world.
[God] raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph 1:20-23 NIV)
Fifth, the conquest extended. This truth refers to the mission for the church, which has the privilege of being ambassadors of Christ to the world. Paul summarizes his mission as a church planter this way.
I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Act 26:17-18 NIV
I am reminded of the promise of Jesus that the gates of hell shall not deter the church from accomplishing its mission.
Finally, the conquest consummated. To quote Stott, who describes the ultimate victory:
The devil will be thrown into the lake of fire where death and Hades will join him. For the last enemy to be destroyed is death. Then when all evil dominion authority and power have been destroyed, the Son will hand over the kingdom to the Father and he will be all in all.