When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He did so by facing off against that great serpent of old in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–13). As the last Adam, Jesus subjected Himself to an onslaught of temptations by the evil one. By virtue of His obedience, the Son of God struck a decisive blow to the powers of darkness. From the wilderness to the cross, Jesus was destroying the kingdom of darkness by obeying His Father, proclaiming the gospel and casting out demons. When He hung on the cross, Jesus fully and finally “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15). The death of Jesus on the cross was the exorcism of all exorcisms (John 12:31). The last Adam was cleansing the world of its arrogating occupant. By His death, Jesus defeated the evil one and took all of his weapons away from him. On His way to the cross, Jesus explained that He was going to “bind” the strong man (Matt. 12:29; Rev. 20:2, 4) and deliver captives. The hymn “Praise to the Holiest in the Height,” captures the essence of the victory of Jesus, the last Adam, over the evil one:
O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.
O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail.
There are now two main benefits that flow from Jesus’ defeat of Satan. First, the devil is bound so that the gospel may spread throughout the nations for the conversion of God’s elect. The devil is bound so that he can no longer deceive the nations to the degree that he did before the incarnation (Rev. 20:2). Before Christ came into the world, the nations were completely under the darkness and enslaving power of idolatry. This was Satan’s premier stronghold. He is a liar and the father of lies. He holds men in captivity by holding them under the lying deception of false teaching and beliefs. In the death of Jesus, God so bound the devil that the gospel might go to the nations. The spread of the gospel to the nations in the new covenant is a direct manifestation of the binding of the evil one. The preaching of the gospel sets a free course for the conversion of God’s people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” We now go boldly into the world to proclaim what our Savior has done in His death on the cross. Interestingly, the very message that we proclaim for the salvation of the nations includes the message of the binding of the One who deceives the nations. When we preach the devil-defeating, sin-atoning, wrath-propitiating, death-conquering death of Jesus, men and women are set free from the enslaving power of Satan.
Second, the devil is bound so that believers may have their consciences protected from Satan’s malicious accusations. Jesus died to take away the devil’s power over the consciences of believers. Christ has conquered Satan, sin, and death. In doing so, He has taken away the devil’s power to keep believers in bondage to the fear of death.
When believers sin, the devil and his cohorts stand ready to heap condemnation on them. Among the thoughts he speaks in the consciences of believers are these: “How could you do this? You’re not a Christian. A believer would never do something like this. You have surely out-sinned the grace of God.” These and other such accusations the devil hurls at believers. Sinclair B. Ferguson puts it succinctly when he says, “Satan trades in accusations.” However, just as Christ took away the devil’s power to hold men under the bondage of the fear of death, He took away the devil’s power to paralyze believers under his condemning accusations. Now, the believer has the strongest possible confidence because of the victory of the Redeemer over Satan and sin. As Charitie Bancroft put it,
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.