My, oh my. Part seven of ten. Part of me thought I’d be here sooner, and another part of me thought I’d never get here. If I had to describe this experience in one word, it would be humbling. And before I go off on a tangent, here’s chapter nine.
9. The Conquest of Evil
The New Testament contains a lot of language that conveys victory, conquest, triumph, overcoming. It is clear that this victory was owed to the Lord Jesus Christ. By his death Christ saved us not only from sin and guilt, but also from death, the devil and all evil powers.
The victory of Christ:
This can be said to have taken place in successive steps:
- conquest predicted: Beginning in Eden. Any Old testament scripture declaring God’s present rule or his future rule may be seen as a further prophecy of the ultimate crushing of Satan.
- conquest begun in the ministry of Jesus. Satan attempted to thwart Christ’s mission: Herod’s murder of the children, the temptations in the wilderness, the crowd’s resolve to make him king, Peter’s contradiction of the necessity of the cross.
- conquest achieved at the cross. It was by Christ’s death that he would “destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil“, and so doing set his captives free.
- conquest confirmed and announced through the resurrection. At the cross, Christ won the victory. At the resurrection, this victory was endorsed and demonstrated. Acts 2:24, Ephesians 1:20-23.
- conquest extended through the church as she preaches Christ crucified as Lord, calling people to repentance and belief in him.
- conquest consummated at the second coming of Christ. Psalm 110:1, Philippians 2:9-11, Revelation 20:10, Revelation 20:14, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.
The question arises: Was Christ’s victory connected to his death or was it achieved by his resurrection? In the Bible, Christ’s death and resurrection are almost always mentioned together (John 10:17-18, Revelation 1:18, Acts 2:23-24, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). By his death, our sins were dealt with: “Christ died for our sins”. Nowhere is it written, “Christ rose for our sins”. The resurrection vindicated Jesus as the Son of God. Had he not been raised, our faith and preaching would be futile, since his person and work wouldn’t have the divine endorsement.
Entering Into Christ’s Victory
The Christian’s victory consists of entering into Christ’s victory and enjoying its benefits. However, we should be careful, as there exists a tension between the already and the not yet. Although the devil has been defeated, he hasn’t conceded defeat. He has been overthrown, but not eliminated, and continues to exercise his influence and power. On one hand, we have the assurance that Christ keeps us safe and the evil one cannot harm us; on the other hand we are cautioned to be watchful because the same evil one prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. In Stott’s own words:
Already the kingdom of God has been inaugurated and is advancing; not yet has it been consummated… Already we are God’s sons and daughters, and no longer slaves; not yet have we entered the glorious freedom of the children of God.
An overemphasis on the ‘already’ leads to triumphalism, the claim to perfection… which belongs only to the consummated kingdom, the ‘not yet’. An overemphasis on the ‘not yet’ leads to defeatism, an acquiescence in continuing evil which is incompatible with the ‘already’ of Christ’s victory.
The Son of God came to destroy the devil’s work. Stott surmises the devil’s work to be represented by the law, the flesh, the world and death.
- We are no longer under the tyranny of the law. How could God’s holy righteous and good law become a tyrant? The law condemns our disobedience, bringing us under its curse or judgment. Christ redeemed us from the law’s curse by becoming a curse for us. The law no longer enslaves us by its condemnation.
- We are no longer under the tyranny of the flesh, i.e. our fallen nature. Paul gives us a partial list of the acts of the sinful nature; we are freed through the cross.
- We are no longer under the tyranny of the world, i.e. godless human society. John describes for us worldliness. Christ overcame the world, and we in him overcome. We are crucified to the world, and the world to us.
- We are no longer under the tyranny of death. Christ’s death has destroyed him who holds the power of death. Therefore, Paul can say “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”. Neither should we fear death.