God has been pleased to present us with four different aspects of deliverance in the New Testament, as the grand result of the finished work of Christ, in order that His children might be before Him in peace, and have the joy of His salvation in their souls as their present and abiding portion.
Deliverance is thus from sin, from the law, from the world, and from Satan. In this paper we propose to take up the last of these as set forth in the following scripture:
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14)
We are here called to face some solemn facts. The personality of Satan is as distinctly set forth as the power also which he possesses, which is called "the power of death." "Death," not in the sense of ceasing to breathe in a mortal body merely, but in the sense rather of a ceaseless existence, with the wrath of God abiding on those who continue in unbelief, according to John 3:36. The very thought of it strikes terror to the guilty sinner's soul when once the conscience is convicted by the Spirit of God. Take Felix, for example, who trembled while the apostle "reasoned with him of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come." How foolish of Felix to resist the Spirit, instead of yielding to Him, that He might use the same servant to calm his fears by preaching peace by Jesus Christ!
The power of death which Satan exercises was gained by him in the garden of Eden, when he succeeded in leading our first parents to sin against the positive command they had received from God: "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17). We also read, "The wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23.) The one that induced the guilty ones to do his work was afterwards allowed to have the power of paying the wages. And what Adam earned in the Garden of Eden by his disobedience, his descendants have been righteously receiving payment for ever since, as children of disobedience in a far-off and outside place. Satan, moreover, acquired a position on earth and among men which he never had before the Fall. From that time he exercised the power of death as the just judgment of God, and none could oppose him or dispute his right until Christ came and bound the strong man, and spoiled his goods:
"Who on His cross triumphant broke, The chains of death and hell."
We are not to suppose, however, that because Christ has gained the victory over sin and Satan, the whole of the human family are free from the penalty of sin and the fear of death, and no longer subject to the judgment of God. To entertain such a thought would be simply a delusion. "Christ died for all," it is true, and salvation is proclaimed to all; but something else is needed beside the work of Christ and the Word of God before a person can be saved. For until the truth is received by faith into the heart, the value of His sacrifice can never be known. "If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins." "He that believeth not shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."
In the first and last books of the Bible there are two sources revealed: the source of the ruin of man, and the source of the river of God. The former can be clearly traced to "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan," and the latter to our ascended and victorious Saviour, who entered the stronghold of the enemy and overcame him in death; and therefore the pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, was seen by John as "proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." (Gen. 3; Rev. 22:1.)
It is interesting to notice how readily the apostle James attributes everything that is pure and good to God, and all that is evil to Satan. He also connects everything that is good with heaven, and everything that is evil with hell, while speaking of the devil as a person in distinction from hell as a place. He thus speaks of the tongue in its unbridled state as "a fire," and then points, as it were, to the place where that fire originated. The tongue, we read:
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)
When sin entered the world the Lord God appealed to Adam, saying, “And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” To shirk his responsibility, Adam at once cast the blame on the woman. “And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" ” And she blamed the serpent. “So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more..” etc. Satan was found out, and the One that found him out was God, who afterwards "drove out the man; and placed at the east of the Garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
The following are some of the evils which Satan stands charged with in the Word of God, though the sinner's responsibility is by no means lessened:-
Satan beguiled the woman in the Garden of Eden; Satan put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray the Lord to death; Satan filled the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira to lie unto the Holy Ghost (which shows that each person of the Trinity has been assailed and sinned against by the adversary).
On each of these occasions he was aided by men and women like ourselves. Also when Joshua stood in his degraded condition before the angel, Satan was at his right hand to resist him. Satan also afflicted Job, and smote him last of all with sore boils from head to foot. It was Satan, too, that sifted the apostle Peter and buffeted the apostle Paul. All these cases show that Satan uses every possible manner in his power to hinder the work of God by opposing the servants of Christ. It is important therefore that we should keep the cross of Christ in view as that which declares the complete defeat of the enemy, and as that with which the deliverance of the believer is connected. Otherwise our experience will be more like that of the Israelites when they raised the cry of distress, saying to Moses, " Then they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?” They had left Egypt behind, but Pharaoh had said, "I will pursue, I will overtake," and their fears lasted as long as Pharaoh lived; for although they were out of his land they were still in bondage, "through fear of death." And in order to stay their fears, God answered them, “And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." (Exodus 14:13-14). This may teach us what the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished in His death by silencing Satan and securing salvation for the subjects of grace.
When the Red Sea was crossed, wherein the death and resurrection of Christ are typified, they occupied a new position from which they could view the oppressor with an experience they never had before; and instead of looking back in fear of Pharaoh, they looked at his death and burial in the same sea which had become the means of separating them for ever from his power and dominion. The promise made by the Lord God in the Garden of Eden was, that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. For the fulfilment of this the death of Christ was a necessity, and by means of it He both deprived Satan of the power of death, and acquired its possession Himself. The demonstration of it was afterwards given by His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God. Satan had no longer a right to the power of death over believers, after Christ had paid the penalty in His own blood, for He has fully satisfied all the claims of God and glorified Him concerning the whole question of sin, and thus for ever He has silenced the accusations of the enemy. And looking back by faith to the cross and forward to the glory, His saints can raise a louder note of praise than even that which burst from the lips of His people of old when they said, "I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!"
The doom of Satan was sealed by the same Person, and by means of the same act, as the salvation of God's elect was eternally secured. Saints, therefore, can date their deliverance from sin and Satan from the time when Jesus said, "It is finished"; and the enemy will have to attribute his overthrow to the same cause.
The Christian reader may think it difficult to reconcile what has been said with respect to the overthrow of Satan, as seen in connection with the cross of Christ, with his own experience as to the present reality of the power and presence of the enemy. As a matter of fact, indeed, Satan is as active as ever; but faith recognises that he is a defeated foe, and treats him accordingly. The apostle Peter speaks of the devil as a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour, and the apostle Paul compares him to an angel of light. What strange extremes and remarkable forms he takes, both to destroy sinners and deceive, if possible, even the elect.
There was another power with which even Israelites were called to contend in the wilderness, also representing Satan, which is calculated to throw fresh light on the danger in which the Christian stands. After realising their deliverance from Pharaoh, the children of Israel had to face another foe in Amalek - the enemy of God, who dogged His people's steps through the wilderness in the hope of their destruction. But those that had found a foe in Amalek also found a friend in Moses, who interceded for them on the hilltop while they were in conflict with the enemy below. They were also furnished with strength and refreshment for all that was before them by means of the water from the smitten rock, typical of the Spirit of God which the believer receives as the means of strength in the presence of Satan.
The Christian then, as a matter of fact, has to face a far greater foe than Amalek, and also a far greater Friend than Moses to intercede for him; One who occupies a place infinitely higher than "the hilltop" referred to. Moses was subject to weakness, and needed support himself while interceding for others. Our great High Priest and Intercessor is at the right hand of God, exercising His power, apart from all weakness, for the present blessing and for the final deliverance of His people.
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
May we each one know more and more of the infinite nature of the sacrifice of Christ, and learn to apprehend what has been virtually accomplished at the cross, by annulling the power of the devil, that our souls may triumph even now; and as knowing that the time is near when the enemy of God's people will be cast out of heaven, then shut out of earth by being bound for a thousand years, and afterwards cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, to be tormented day and night for ever. Let it also be remembered that whosoever is not found written in the book of life will also be cast into the lake of fire.