The Devil's Destruction
Satan, the Accuser
Who is the devil and what is he doing? This is an important question which is only answered for us in the Scriptures. When we listen to what the Lord has to say about the devil we hear of a mighty enemy who has already been overthrown and destroyed.
In the Scriptures the devil is often called “Satan.” This is as much a title as it is a name. “Satan” is the Hebrew word translated “accuser.” Consider, for example, the book of Job which opens with a vision of heaven and the throne of God. To this heavenly council all the “sons of God,” (angels) are summoned. The devil is with them.
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” [Job 1:6] What, we might ask, is the devil doing in heaven? He's there to accuse the Lord's saints. The Lord holds before Satan the blameless and upright Job, who then becomes the object of the devil's malice and accusation.
We see a similar picture in Zechariah 3:1: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.”
This is the devil's chief damnable work, to accuse sinners of their sin before the throne of God in heaven; this is where the devil is dangerous, and indeed this is fearful for us sinners: that we have an accuser, a prosecutor, standing before the throne of God speaking of our uncleanness. This is terrifying especially because the devil does not need to lie about our sinfulness, we are all guilty of sin and breaking God's law. And worse yet, there is nothing that we can do to stop the devil's accusations and shut his mouth. We stand guilt before God, and death and the devil have us in their grip.
Jesus' Death, the Devil's Destruction
But the devil does not have the last word. The Lord Jesus is not content with the devil's work and sets out to destroy it, and destroy it He does. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifest, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” [1 John 3:8] This verse is loaded with comfort. Jesus can not to hinder or slow down or put a monkey wrench in the devil's workings; He came to destroy them, and this is exactly what He did in His death on the cross.
Speaking of Jesus' incarnation and death, Hebrews teaches us that “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, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” [Hebrews 2:14,15] Our Jesus' death on the cross in our place is the devil's destruction. All his work of accusing us before God is stopped because on the cross Jesus wins the forgiveness of all of our sins. There is now no room for the devil's accusations.
There are a number of Scripture texts which deliver this same comfort to us:
28Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. [St John 12:28-33]
The “ruler of this world” is the devil, and this, Jesus says, is His last hour. Jesus is about to be lifted up upon the cross, and this is the judgment of the world and the casting out of the devil. St Paul echoes the words of Jesus in his letter to the Church in Colosse: “13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” [Colossians 2:13-15]
The “rulers” and “authorities” Paul mentions in verse 15 are the devil and his evil angels, and these were “disarmed” in Jesus death on the cross. How? The devil is the accuser and he is armed with our sin and our guilt. When Jesus, on the cross, forgives us all our sins and cancels the debt that is against us, the devil has no more weapons. All of his accusations are put to an end.
Christ is our Advocate
This is also the idea of Revelation 12:7-12, the vision of the war in heaven. “10 Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” [Revelation 12:10-11]
First, notice how the devil is described: “the accuser of the brethren, who accused them before our God day and night.” But this accuser can no longer stand before God, there is no room for him, his place in heaven has been taken away, washed out by the blood of the Lamb shed on the cross. The accusing mouth of the devil is stopped. Instead of an accuser in heaven we have Jesus, our advocate, standing before the Father and speaking to Him on our behalf. “Therefore He [Jesus] is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them.” [Hebrews 7:25]
The devil no longer accuses us before the Father, the charges against us have been put away. Christ Jesus, our Brother and our Advocate, has taken the place of the Accuser. What, then, is the devil to do? If he cannot speak to our Heavenly Father about our sins, who does he speak to? To us. The devil comes to us reminding us of our sin and trying to convince us that God couldn't forgive us. This is his last resort. He tries, day and night, to tempt us to sin and push us to despair over our sin.
The devil is still part of the unholy triad of the world, the flesh and the devil, who roams around like a “roaring lion, seek who he may devour” [1 Peter 5:8], but the victory is already won. The victory belongs to Jesus, so it belongs to us. We can “resist him” [1 Peter 5:9], giving him no place [Ephesians 4:24] and he will “flee from us.” [James 4:7] The devil sets snares for us, the Lord's saints [1 Timothy 3:7], but “we are not ignorant of his devices” [2 Corinthians 2:11] and have been give the “shield of faith which quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” [Ephesians 6:16] Indeed in our baptism we are clothed in all that we need to “stand firm” against the devil, truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation and the Word of God. [Ephesians 6:24]
So, asks St Paul:
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is He that condemns? It s Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, of persecution, or famine, or sword?... Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 8:31-35, 37-39]
We rejoice, then, that our Lord Jesus has, in His death, conquered sin, death and the devil, and has won for us the forgiveness of sin, eternal life and salvation. Amen.
St Michael and All Angels, 2006
For Further Study... Jesus is our Advocate
Hebrews 9:24; Isaiah 53:12; Romans 8:34;1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1