The Defeat of Satan

This is an excerpt from a chapter in Erwin W. Lutzer’s book, Cries From the Cross: A Journey Into The Heart of Jesus ([Chicago: Moody, 2002], 128–31).


“It is finished!”
That cry meant that the seed of the woman had triumphed over the loathsome serpent. Jesus affirmed, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31). The sentence has been passed, though it has not yet been executed. 
How I wish a video camera had been able to record the drama that took place in the spiitual world that day on Calvary. A cosmic battle was fought. The devil was there, Christ was there, and we were there. Just read Paul’s words, and I’ll explain them in a moment.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all of our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
— Colossians 2:13–15
Picture a courtroom scene. God is in there, and He knows better than we the extent of our sins and guilt. The devil, who is our accuser, shows up to make his case against us. He reminds God that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). He tells God, quite plausibly, that we would defile the courts of heaven if we were admitted into those holy realms. He tells the Almighty that He could be accused of associating with men who are unclean, which might call Jehovah’s holiness and truthfulness into question. The Evil One also argues that we should have the same penalty as he; if he has to suffer eternally for his sin, why should we who have also sinned be exempt? If the greatness of the sin is determined by the greatness of the One against whom it is committed, then we are guilty of great transgressions.
Enter Christ.
Paul says that the decrees that were against us were “nailed . . . to the cross” (Colossians 2:12 NKJV). In those days, when a criminal was hung on the cross, his crime had to be publicly proclaimed. The list of transgressions was written on a placard and nailed above the dying man. We’ve aleady learned that Pilate had the notice, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS,” fastened to the cross (John 19:19), indicating the crime of which Jesus was accused.
This was the imagery Paul used to help us understand the death of Christ on our behalf. He wanted us to imagine that high above Pilate’s words, there was a cosmic bulletin board on which our sins were listed. Though we were not yet born, the sins that we would commit two thousand years later were recorded there. The list included everything Satan said about us, as well as other secret sins and the severity of the penalty they incurred.
When Jesus said, “Paid in full,” the penalty credited to us was canceled. If God were still to expect a payment from us after Christ paid our debt, He would be unrighteous. Our debt was paid so completely that no further payment will ever become due.
God strips away Satan’s arguments by pronouncing us FORGIVEN. The accusations of our enemy have been shown to be fraudulent. God “disarmed the powers and authorities” making them a “public spectacle” (Colossians 2:15). Just as Saul was stripped of his title as king yet pursued David for ten years, so Satan pursues us though he has been toppled by One greater than he. Only from our standpoint does there seem to be a gap between the victory of Christ over Satan and the final disposal of the defeated foe. Lightening and thunder take place at the same time, but we see the light before we hear the rumble. From God’s standpoint both the victory and the judgment of the devil already took place at the cross. We have seen the lightening but are simply awaiting the crash of his fall.
Thanks to the defeat of Satan, we have switched kingdoms, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). If Satan cannot destroy us with guilt, he tries to destroy us with fear, particularly the fear of death, but that is futile. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14).
Yes, we fight Satan today, but the fight is fixed. The outcome is not in doubt.