In the aftermath of the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, God made a profound promise. Theologians use a fancy word for it—the protoevangelium. It simply means “first Gospel.” This is the first Messianic prophecy and the first promise of salvation. God spoke to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15, NKJV). The NIV reads, “He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”
In the wake of sin’s devastation, God prophesied restoration. Jesus, the seed of the woman, came to crush the head of the serpent. By the way, the fall did not take God by surprise. Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” This means that God foresaw man’s failure and arranged the remedy in advance. He planned to send His son to reverse the curse before the curse was even imposed.
Just as David killed Goliath with his own sword, Jesus defeated the devil with his biggest weapon—death. “. . . 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” (Heb. 2:14-15). Prior to the cross, Satan wielded the fear of death over mankind like a sinister scepter. Now, since Jesus conquered death, those who trust in His atoning work no longer have to dread it. Death to a believer is not a bitter end but a glorious new beginning. It is merely a portal through which we pass from time into eternity. Death is a transition, a promotion, a graduation—a release from being trapped in a sinful, sickness-prone, fallen body. Someone said, “Death to a Christian is just a transfer to the home office.” The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us and will one day “give life to our mortal bodies” (Rom. 8:11). Death to a believer is as harmless as a bee without a stinger.
A father and son were riding down the road when a bee flew in their car and began buzzing around the son’s head. The boy was deathly allergic to bee stings. Terrified, he panicked, waving his arms wildly. His dad rolled down the windows and tried to shoo the bee out of the car without success. Finally, he pulled off the road, zeroed in on the bee, and caught it in his bare hand. He deliberately let the bee sting him. Then, he opened his hand and said, “Look, son, you don’t have to be afraid anymore. It doesn’t have a stinger. You’re safe now!” Jesus took the sting of death for us, so we don’t have to fear it any longer. No wonder Paul wrote, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55, KJV).
A skeptic might think, “If Jesus really defeated the devil on the cross, then how do you explain all the evil in the world?” If you watch the news, it looks like evil is winning: violence, crime, ISIS, disease, war, terrorism, natural disasters, etc. Yes, I’m fully aware of the demonic activity that is rampant in the world. But what happens when you chop off a snake’s head? It writhes and whips its tail in violent death throes. All the evil we see is the last desperate attempt of Satan to destroy as many people as possible because he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:17). As Billy Graham said, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.” Revelation 20 informs us that ONE angel will bind Satan in the abyss for 1,000 years. Then, after he is loosed for a season, he will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity while the saints enjoy their heavenly home.
Jesus’ last words on the cross were “IT IS FINISHED!” What did He mean? He wasn’t merely talking about His lifespan or His earthly ministry. I believe He meant:
1. The Scripture was fulfilled. Numerous prophecies about His birth, ministry, suffering, and death were carried out to the letter.
2. The sacrificial system was rendered obsolete. Millions of animals were slaughtered and burned as atonements for sin. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is our one and only sacrifice. No other sacrifice will ever be necessary.
3. The debt of sin was paid. The phrase “it is finished” stems from the Greek term tetelestai which means “paid in full.” Archaeologists have found tax receipts on papyrus paper with tetelestai stamped on them indicating a zero balance.
4. The plan of salvation was finalized.
5. The defeat of Satan was completed. Jesus stomped His heel squarely on the serpent’s head and reclaimed the keys of death and hell (Eph. 4:8-10, Col. 2:15, 1 Jn. 3:8, Rev. 1:18).
R. Kent Hughes shares this illustration in 1001 Great Stories: “A famous painting hung in a European art gallery for many years. It depicted a chessboard with the devil sitting in a chair on one side, a look of gloating triumph all over his face. Across from him was a dejected, forlorn youth with defeat stamped on his countenance. The title told the story: ‘Checkmated!’ American chess champion Paul Murphy toured Europe and visited that gallery. He gazed at the painting in silent reflection for a long time. Then excitedly he exclaimed, ‘Bring me a chessboard; there’s one—only one, mind you—but there’s one move whereby I can save him!’ . . . The world was checkmated by the devil, but the Redeemer made the one move that could free us from gloom in life and doom in eternity.”
Now it’s our move! What Jesus accomplished on the cross is of no benefit to us unless we repent and believe. When we surrender to Christ, we place our heel on the head of the serpent and share in His victory. “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20).