The Supremacy of Christ at the Cross
..And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power… And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
So far our thoughts on the Cross have been directed towards what the effects have been on the believer. But the Cross achieved much more than that. One further aspect of the work of Christ at Calvary is in relation to Satan and his dominion.
Having previously said something of the principalities and powers in relation to creation, we now turn our attention to their defeat at Calvary. We must understand from the beginning of our thoughts, that Christ’s victory over Satan and his kingdom was absolute and complete. There is no way back for him or his cohorts, their eternal doom is now sealed.
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
It is a remarkable discovery that the first promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, was made to Satan! In the Garden of Eden when our first parents sinned, Adam blamed the woman and Eve the serpent.
God begins by dealing with the devil. Let us remember, that sin began in heaven. As Lucifer the devil lifted up his heart with pride and wanted to be as God. Satan was cast down and fell as lightning to the earth Lk.10:18. God promised Satan that there would be enmity between him and the seed of the woman.
However, in the end although Satan would bruise the promised seed’s heel, Christ would bruise Satan’s head. This being a figure of speech speaking of the devil’s final defeat.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
In the second chapter of Hebrews we have a portrait of Jesus being greater than the angels as the Son of man. The writer argues that Jesus took upon Himself flesh and blood so that He could identify with the human condition completely, and thus become our Great High Priest.
As part of that identification Christ, in becoming human, had to taste of death. This was so He would destroy the devil, and deliver us from the fear of death. Thus we see the direct fulfilment of God’s promise in Gen.3:14-15. Some other scriptures, which declare this truth are given below.
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
This is the wonderful news of the Gospel, Satan has lost his mortal power, it is swallowed up in victory! And that victory is what Jesus accomplished at Calvary.
Jesus made a shew of them openly triumphing over them. This, a military term that Paul’s readers would have been familiar with. It is an allusion to the Roman tradition of marches of triumph. After a major victory a triumphant march through the streets of Rome would be proclaimed by the Senate. The successful army would ride in procession through the streets of Rome.
The captives would be stripped of their armour, disarmed etc. Their hands would be tied and were led before the crowds, exposed to disgrace and humiliation. They were made a public spectacle. Afterwards the captives would be executed. Thus the picture Paul is giving us is of what Christ did to these powers and principalities.
So how do we see these powers and principalities put to an open shame?
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also He went and preached (=herald) unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
Wherefore He saith, When he ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)
After Christ died on the cross he descended into the the lower parts of the Earth. Not much more is said about this but we can assume we understand this refers to either the place(s) where the dead reside, and /or where the evil spirits reside.
In the passage from I Peter we are told that Jesus heralded the message to the spirits in prisoned from the days of Noah. Although we are not told, we can assume with some degree of certainty, that the message was that of His victory at the Cross. The price and penalty of sin had been paid and the devil had been defeated, his head was well and truly bruised.
Why only these spirits? The scripture doesn’t rule out that Jesus didn’t herald to other spirits, but that is speculation and it is best to leave it there. The point is that the spirits were under no delusion as to the defeated nature of their leader and his kingdom.
Paul in his treatment talks of descending to the lower parts of the Earth. This is in contrast to Paul’s description of ‘far above all heavens’, leading captivity captive. A reference to the place of the departed. The mysterious reference to the graves being opened after His resurrection points to this Mtt.27:52.
When He ascended he led captivity captive. Jesus truly had destroyed the devil, who had the power of death, releasing us from its bondage, Heb.2:14-15. All these powers are now under His feet! He has made them a spectacle and made a show of them openly indeed.
C13.3 Far above all
Which He wrought in Christ, when he raised Him from the dead, and set him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church,
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power (=authority) is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.
The resurrection was God’s vindication of the victory of Jesus over sin, the devil and all his cohorts Rom.1:3-4. The Lord Jesus has been set at the right hand of the Majesty on high, with all things put under His feet. All authority is given to Jesus. So how does this work out in practice in our lives? When under attack from the enemy how is this translated into a victorious life? This we consider next.