But let’s say they are successful. Let’s say the child becomes absolutely convinced of his place in the family. He has no more doubt, but he never wants to leave his room. The sum total of his exposure to the family and to his parents is in that room.
Now that seems like a fanciful story and yet it approximates how many of us view the cross. We see the cross as the place where our standing in the family of God is established. Through the work of the cross we are redeemed and adopted into the family of God. More than that, we are assured of eternal life together with Christ and His body. But as we’ve been seeing throughout our series on spiritual warfare, the scope of God’s victory in Christ is greater than our adoption, or even what happens to us.
This week I received word from a dear sister in Christ who has been fully engaged in our last two messages, “Satan’s Waterloo.” And while she freely admits to having her understanding of the cross greatly expanded by considering its implications in the invisible war that Satan has declared upon God before the beginning of time, she has had trouble with the notion that the atonement was an “after thought” or a “side effect” of the cross. Here’s what I wrote to her:
If I said that our salvation through the cross was an afterthought I was wrong; it was an egregious misstatement. The Bible makes it clear that before the foundation of the world the godhead determined that the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, would come to save His people from their sins. And the testimony of the Gospel is that everything the Father appoints, the Son accomplishes.
But, the point I've been stressing these past few weeks is that in the invisible war, the war Satan declared against God well before Adam and Eve arrived on the scene, the cross plays an even more critical role than the salvation of sinners. The primary purpose of the cross is to defeat Satan and strip him of his power.
The problem with Christians is that we, so often see things through the filter of our own self-importance. Psalm 8 speaks to this when it asks, "What is man that thou art mindful of him?" Think of it. Well before God created man and woman there was Lucifer. Well before mankind existed there was a cosmic rebellion against God's character and will by Lucifer, the Son of the Morning. And well before there ever was a man or a woman, or even time itself, God determined to glorify Himself by defeating Satan and his minions by the work of His hands. And part of that determination was to create creatures of dust, in His own image, whom He would save, sanctify, and glorify to the praise of His glory.
It is amazing, therefore, to contemplate that what happens on the cross is even greater than the salvation of men and women. This is indeed what Paul is doing in that Roman imprisonment (Colossians 2:13-15). He sees that the cross is first and foremost a vivid display of God's glory (which is totally consistent with Jesus' prayer in John 17). Through the descent of God Himself, the schemes of Satan are exposed, the power of Satan is destroyed, and victory over Satan is assured. And part of the proof of that victory is the saving of us, the marrying of us, and the giving to us of His righteousness, His offices, and His mission. And He does all of that to the glory of His name. And He does it all out of dust!
If there is anywhere that we should resist the temptation to make it all about us it's at the cross. The work of the cross is great; and it's seen as so much greater when you contemplate it's implication beyond the parenthesis of time.
I would encourage all of you to review the messages of the last two weeks and see how the work of the cross has cosmic implications beyond human salvation. Indeed, that is what makes redemption so spectacular – we are the instruments through which God puts His greatest foe to shame.
We are going to dig a little more deeply into Paul’s words in Colossians 2:15 this week – Easter. For when you take this text together with Luke 16:19-31; Ephesians 4:1-10; Psalm 68:18; Psalm 16; and I Peter 3:18-22, you find that Christ’s work on the cross goes even further in putting Satan to shame and triumphing over him.
Remember last week we spoke of three descents of the Son of God – to the womb, to the colt, and to the cross. We juxtaposition these descents (Philippians 2:6-8 highlights seven ways in which Jesus lays Himself down) to Lucifer’s five boasts in Isaiah 14. But, at the end of the message we mentioned one final descent Jesus makes that can best be described as His boldest display of Satan’s shame and His triumph. It’s a descent we find referenced in each of the texts just mentioned.
What’s clear to me is that in Jesus’ post-resurrection Bible studies with His disciples, and His individualized tutorial of Paul in Arabia, Jesus must have not only pieced together the events of His death with Old Testament prophecy, but also with other extant writings and Hebrew cosmology. For what He does on the cross, and immediately thereafter, is a cosmic triumph that has no parallel.
In preparation for the Easter message you may wish to consider the following:
1. What does Jesus mean when He says to the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise?” Luke:23:43
2. Where did the orthodox Jews believe “paradise” to be?
3. How does Jesus’ story (not a parable) in Luke 16:19-31 inform us of this place?
4. Are Sheol, Hades, and Hell synonyms?
5. How is God’s grace greater than “unmerited favor?”
6. What does Peter mean in I Peter 3:18(b) when he says that Christ was put to death in body, but made alive by the Spirit?
7. Where does Peter say he goes to preach?
8. What is the nature of this preaching?
9. How is it accurate to say that Christ ascended to heaven in Spirit before He ascends in body, soul and Spirit on the Day of Ascension?
10. What difference does all of this make in the invisible war and our own future?
See ya on Easter morn!