Scripture Reference: Deuteronomy 21:21, Zechariah 3, Colossians 2:13-15
The Serpent Is CrushedDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | October 29, 1995
Selected highlights from this sermon
In this important message, Pastor Lutzer shares with us how the cross of Christ decisively defeated Satan—assuring us that any accusation he may bring before God about us is covered by the blood of Christ.
We’re also reminded that Satan isn’t as powerful as we often give him credit for. His future was sealed at the cross; Jesus won the victory, and we can share in the victory and the life that Christ offers to those who believe in Him.
And so it came about that the serpent’s head was crushed. Centuries earlier God had said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed, and it (that is, the seed of the woman) will crush your head, and all that you will be able to do is to nip the its heel. That’s all.” And it happened. It is finished.
When Jesus Christ came to earth, Satan first of all tried to destroy Him, to kill Him, to kill all of the boys in the surrounding area of Bethlehem so that He might be put to death.
Kill Him! He couldn’t destroy Him. It didn’t work. Corrupt Him! Take Him to a high mountain, and say to Him, “All the kingdoms of the earth that are under our disposal I will give to You if You bow down and worship Me.” But that didn’t work either.
He spoke through Peter and said, “No, You will not go to the cross.” Strategy: get Christ to avoid the cross. But when Satan saw that it was inevitable, he decided to join forces and said, “Since it’s going to happen I want to be a prime player so that I get the satisfaction of thinking that it is because of me that He hangs there for those few dark hours. In fact, we read in the Bible that Satan entered into Judas. No other place, really, do we have people indwelt by Satan. People indwelt by demons? Yes! But Satan? It probably will not happen until possibly the Antichrist rules.
Not only that, Jesus said to the high priest and to those who were with him that day, “This moment of darkness and evil is yours. These hours belong to you.” And then, lest we should ever doubt that the cross was the pivotal battle between God and the devil, let it be remembered that Jesus said in John 12: “Now is the judgment of this world, and now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” And that could be another title for the same message——Satan Cast Out.
What I want you to do today is to turn to two passages of Scripture. One we shall only read, and the other look at in more detail. The first one is in the book of Zechariah, and the other is in the book of Colossians. Zechariah generally is difficult to find, but remember it is the second to last book of the Old Testament. It’s the prophet who wrote about the destruction of Jerusalem as well as the coming Messiah. And Colossians 2, of course, is in the New Testament, and those are the verses that we shall look at in more detail.
In Zechariah 3 we have a picture of Joshua, and this is not to be confused with Joshua, the warrior of the Old Testament. This is Joshua, the priest. It says in chapter 3, verse 1: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’” And so there was Joshua. They put a clean turban on his head (verse 5) and clothed him with garments while the angel of the Lord was standing by.
Now Colossians 2! And what we’d like to do is to look at this passage of Scripture remembering that the Apostle Paul is speaking about the victory of Jesus Christ over Satan in the victory of the cross. We pick up the text in verse 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, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Now in order to understand this passage I’d like to isolate some of the key ideas. First of all, I want you to recognize the accusation that was against us. Here he says in verse 14: “Cancel out the certificate of debt consisting of degrees against us.” That really is the law. It is the accusation of the law that you and I are sinners, and Satan, who has access to God today, still has access to heaven. There will come a time when he will be thrown out of heaven, as we shall see later on in one of the messages in this series, but for now, he still stands and has access before God as we see even in the book of Job, and he comes to accuse. And he comes to tell God that the soul that sins shall die. And God is redeeming sinners, and Satan says to God, in effect, “These people deserve the same hell that you have committed me to be in for eternity,” because the soul that sins will die. The wages of sin is death. And I have to say that at this point God and the devil are agreed. There may not be much that they are agreed about, but one thing they are agreed on is the fact that we are sinners, and God knows more about us than even the devil does.
You see, in a human court of law, you cannot be brought to the court system legitimately unless you actually committed a deed. The police can find you standing beside the open window, but if you didn’t actually steal anything, if you didn’t go through the window, you cannot be brought to court. God knows not only what it is that we do. He also knows what is within us. He sees the covetousness. He sees the desires of our heart. He sees all of the sins that we would like to commit if we had the opportunity. He sees what we would do if we had a chance to do it. And God sees all that within us, and God knows that we are indeed sinners.
Now here’s what Satan says, in effect, to God. He says, “First of all, if you were to accept these people into heaven, heaven would be defiled. Secondly, your Word and your character and your reputation of holiness would be smudged.” And Satan says to you and to me, “Don’t you realize that you are such a great sinner, and God is so mad at you, and you have committed so many sins, you are so far from Him because of all of your failures that there is really no hope trying to get to know Him or be in fellowship with Him?” That’s the accusation that is made. It is a decree that is contrary to us because every mouth is stopped and we all admit that yes, we are sinners—¬big sinners.
Well, now let’s look at the text and see the penalty. What is this record of debt in verse 14 that consists in decrees? How much do we owe? Well, we owe God righteousness. Do we have righteousness? No, we do not have righteousness. And yet, justice demands it. And may I say very clearly that God’s love does not cancel His need for every bit of justice to be taken care of? And so what Satan says, in effect, to God is that if You’re going to be just, all of these people must suffer even as I suffer because they are sinners. But God has another way. That’s the purpose of the cross, as we shall see.
God has another way. God says that when it comes to human beings, yes, they deserve death and that that would be just, and they deserve hell, and that is just, too, but in the case of human beings, one man can die for another. Or to speak more accurately, one infinite man can die for a group of finite people. And so the Bible says that Jesus Christ took upon Himself the iniquity of us all.
You know, for years, liberal theologians have criticized the doctrine of the atonement, because they have said that it isn’t fair that God would take an innocent man and make him guilty and consider him to be punished for other people’s sins. That is not justice. But the answer, of course, is that Christ was not innocent. Christ was guilty. He was made sin for us. He was not a sinner in the sense that He personally committed any sins, but He became sin. He was everything that we are.
You know, there’s a verse in the Old Testament that clarifies when this happened. When Jesus was in Gethsemane He was not making atonement for us. When Jesus had the crown of thorns that were placed upon His brow, and the blood was running down his neck and onto His body, He was not making atonement for us. You see, the Scripture says in Deuteronomy 21, verse 21, that if a man commits a capital crime he should be crucified; he should be hung on a tree. And then it says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree.” And the Apostle Paul says in the book of Galatians that Jesus Christ was made a curse for us because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs upon a tree.”
My dear friend, it was when Jesus was hanging on the cross, it was that that unleased God’s curse. And the anger of God against sin, and the wrath of God against sin, spilled over unto Jesus Christ, and He bore it, and He became such a man who was constituted a sinner. He became so awful that even God Himself said that He had to turn His back. And Jesus said, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut its glories in,
When Christ, the great redeemer, died
For man, the creature’s sin.
Now let’s look at how Paul describes it here. It says that this decree that was against us, the law that we could not keep, and which was hostile to us because there was nothing that we could do to meet the requirement, He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
You know, in ancient times when a man committed a crime, his crime was nailed above the cross. That’s why Pilate said that he wanted to have that placard put above the cross that said, “He claimed to be the king of the Jews.” They just put up the words “King of the Jews,” and it was written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin so that everyone who walked by knew what the crime was. They said, “Oh, He claimed to be the King of the Jews,” and they walked by and they sneered.
I want you to know today that Paul says that God had a different placard up there. And the placard that God had up there was that Jesus was not guilty of being King of the Jews. That was small matters. It was that Jesus was guilty of our sin. And invisible to the human eye above the cross as Jesus Christ hung there in the cosmic universe, there was the placard that listed our sins. And you can imagine how long that list really was, because that includes mine, and that includes Daryl’s sin, and Joe’s sins, and all of our sins, and the sins of all who would someday believe on Jesus. What a list of sins! And it was there, and it was nailed to the cross. And that’s what Christ was guilty of.
Now, I want you to know that we have talked about the penalty, or rather I should say yes, we’ve spoken about the accusation, which is just. We’ve spoken about the penalty, and that was that Jesus Christ died in our place. What is the verdict now that Christ nailed all those sins to the cross? Well, the answer is in the last part of verse 13: “Having forgiven us all our transgressions.” That’s God’s verdict.
And then if that isn’t enough, verse 15 (This all happened now when Jesus was on the cross): “He had disarmed the rulers and the authorities.” That’s Satan. He disarmed him. He stripped him of his weapons, and he made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through him.
You know, in ancient times the Romans used to have those parades after they were in a war and they won a victory. And the Romans would then bring all of the captives home, and they would make them march in the presence of all of their peers, in the presence of all of the Romans who had gathered in the great stadiums. And here were the officers, and here were the soldiers, all of them coming head bowed, oftentimes shackled in incredible humiliation, a public display of having brought them into the dust. And that’s what the cross did to Satan. All of the accusations against us were wiped out, and as a result of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, Satan has been stripped clean, humiliated and forever now has to confess that he is defeated.
What I’d like to do in the next few moments is to give you five ways in which the cross defeated Satan, five ways in which the cross now becomes the pivotal point, and the serpent’s head was irrevocably crushed.
First of all, which I have already alluded to, is number one: sinners were permanently reconciled to God. Sinners were permanently reconciled to God! The text says he forgave all of our transgressions. It was as if Jesus Christ went into Satan’s territory (the prince of this world) and purchased out from under his nose, and did it legally and justly, those who would belong to God, and they would now no longer belong to Satan. They would be translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, and it would be done forever.
Notice what the text says. “He has forgiven us all our trespasses.” Meditate on that for just a moment with me. How many sins that you have committed were still future when Jesus Christ died on the cross? Well, you know that all of them were future. All of them were future. When Jesus was dying on the cross you weren’t there, I weren’t there. Yes, I wasn't here. (laughter) Yeah, I wasn’t around to make grammatical errors, plus a whole lot of things that I have done. Were those sins that Erwin Lutzer was going to commit nailed to the cross? Well, bless God, the answer is yes. Those sins I had not yet done, I had not yet had a chance to think about, God already anticipated all of that and said, “I take those sins as well and I nail them to the cross.” Well, what about the sins that I am still going to commit, because I still plan on living? What about the sins that I still commit? Well, were they also nailed to the cross? Well, yes, bless God, they also were nailed to the cross, and they were taken away. The debt was cancelled because He forgave all (Underline that little word). Our transgressions, all of them. That’s why I know that I am going to go to heaven when I die. That’s why I have that assurance.
If (when I received Jesus as my Savior) it were to take care of only the past sins that I have committed, if it were not also to take care of future sins that I will commit, then I could have no assurance of eternal life because I could commit a sin and then suddenly die, and I’d be lost forever. No, He forgave me of transgressions that I will yet commit.
“Oh,” some of you are saying, “now don’t preach that because you’re going to get everybody out there and they are just going to sin after they learn that.” (chuckles) I want you to know that grace does have its risks, but I also want you to know that it is important for us to confess our sins to God to maintain fellowship. But the legal requirement has been done forever. And if you need one other passage of Scripture to prove it, it says in Hebrews 10: “By one sacrifice he has perfected forever them that are sanctified.” By one sacrifice! That’s why we sin with so much enthusiasm.
Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin has left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.
That’s why we sin. That’s why the choir sang,
At the cross, at the cross
where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away.
It is because there, God purchased us forever.
Secondly, He silenced Satan. He said, “All this whimpering, all this muttering, all this standing next to Joshua in the
Old Testament, standing next to us, all of the accusations of saying, ‘You know, God isn’t holy if He saves you, and furthermore, you’re such a great sinner that God can never possibly save you. If you really knew how bad you were you’d never understand and you’d go the other way.’”
No! No! “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.” “Who is there who can tell me that I am unholy and unworthy to enter into heaven when God has said that I am worthy to enter into heaven?” That’s why, with so much enthusiasm we can say:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty art, my heavenly dress.
That’s why we give Jesus Christ all of our rags that are oily and that are dirty, and He clothes us, as He did with Joshua, with festive robes, and we become as white and clean as He himself is. And what does the devil have to say about that? Nothing! You say, “Well, he’s got a lot to say to me about it.” That’s right! He still hassles us. He still tells us that.
I received a letter recently from a woman who said, “I can’t please my husband. I can’t please my father. I’m going to give up pleasing God.” Now, I wouldn’t say this to just anybody, but I told her this. I wrote her and said to her, “Why don’t you just recognize that you don’t have to please God? God is so much more pleased with Jesus Christ than He is with us, even if we happen to have two good days in a row. So why don’t you just rest in the fact that God is pleased with Christ, and if you are in Him, He is pleased with you?”
I know that could be misinterpreted. Somebody could say, “Well, then it doesn’t matter the way in which she lives.” And there’s that other balancing truth in the Scriptures, but that’s what she needed to hear. But the accuser continues to accuse. He will not stop accusations. And if you don’t know how to handle them, he will drag you into the pit so that you go back to your past addictions, and your past sins, because he will tell you how bad you really are. Don’t listen to it.
Look at the letters that I receive. I receive many letters, but ones like this come across my desk almost every week. Here it is: “Last night I was tempted to commit the unpardonable sin. Ever since I found out about this sin I was worried about committing it. Well, last night it happened. I started to curse God. I called the Holy Spirit blasphemous and insulting names. I asked for forgiveness but nothing seemed right. I even got angrier and then I really cursed God. Do you think I got God so angry that He left me?”
Let me just say this about the unpardonable sin. There is an unpardonable sin, and that is the sin of unbelief, that is, unbelievers. If you do not receive Jesus Christ as your Savior today, you are unpardonable in your present state. As long as you don’t receive Christ, your heart may become so hard that someday you might not even want to. But no Christian ever commits the unpardonable sin. Notice what the text says: “He has forgiven us all our transgressions.” All of them!
Number three, He proved the power of life. Christ proved that He has life. Satan can destroy, even within the parameters of God’s providence. He has the power of death, it says in the book of Hebrews. But notice this. It says that God raised Christ from the dead (the last part of verse 12). Verse 13: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, the resurrection.”
You see, Satan can kill but he can’t make alive. Jesus said on the cross, “For these hours you win. You can kill.” And so he inspired Judas, and he inspired those evil men to do something which earlier he tried to prevent having happen, and now he puts Christ on the cross, and then he delights in those few hours. And after Christ is dead, Satan cannot raise Christ, nor can he raise anyone else, but Jesus is raised from the dead to prove that He has the power of life, and Satan only has the power of destruction.
Number four, and this comes from a different passage of Scripture, the redeemed of the Old Testament are taken to heaven. I know that there is some question as to how to interpret the fourth chapter of the book of Ephesians where it says that Christ led captivity captive and he gave gifts unto men and He ascended on high. I interpret that to mean that He took all of those who were in Sheol (the Old Testament saints) and now the gates of heaven became open for them, as well as us, and we do not have any intermediary stops when we die. We go directly from this life into heaven because God says, “I have welcomed Christ into heaven, and you are just as welcome as He is because you are in Him. You are clothed in His clothes.”
Number five, man is now exalted above the angels, redeemed man. He is exalted above the angels. This is what surely angers Satan the most. Here are creatures like you and me who basically have sided with him. Adam and Eve sided with him, and we were born into a state of sin, and now suddenly we are going to be raised, and we are going to be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We will judge angels, the Bible says. We have an inheritance. We will look like Christ, because we will be human with our transformed body, just as He is human. And we have privileges that the angels do not have. And now Satan sees God’s generosity and grace, and hates it.
Now, if you add all of this together, what it really comes down to is that Satan’s doom was sealed here. The Bible says, “Now is the judgment of this world.” He was judged. He was found to be morally incompetent. His accusations were found to be false, and all that is taking place now is there is some time elapsing until eventually the sentence is directly carried out, and he will be confined to the lake of fire.
You say, “Well, was that victory on the cross really decisive? Why then is Satan still given so much power?” Well, for one thing, he doesn’t have quite as much power as we think he does. We’re going to be commenting on that in the next message that sometimes we give him more credit for his power than he really deserves. But number two, it’s just a matter of time. The Bible says Saul was rejected by God from being king of Israel. God said, “Saul, you are finished. I have chosen another king.” The title was stripped from Saul. For ten long years he still reigns and hassles David, but eventually it came to pass. Did you know that thunder and lightning happen at the very same second? It’s just that we hear the thunder later because sound does not travel as fast as light.
When Jesus died on the cross it was all done. Satan was defeated. The redeemed were purchased. Our transgressions already then were wiped away. In God’s providential decree we already belonged to God, and it’s all finished. Now he’s out on bail, but eventually his sentence will be given to him, and he has been disarmed. He has been humiliated, and all that he can do is rant and rave, especially in the lives of those who do not know that he is defeated.
My wife and I have been to the Wartburg Castle on a number of different occasions, and we like to go into that room. Now the Wartburg is a big castle, and it reminds you of what Martin Luther meant when he wrote A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. I would say, without exaggeration, I think it may take an hour and a half or so to walk through the Wartburg, just barely stopping in every room and trying to find out what happened there. It’s a huge, mammoth place right at the top of the hill.
And in that Wartburg there is a little room, perhaps only 12 feet by 12 feet max, and that’s where Luther lived for ten months and translated the Bible (the New Testament) into German. And it’s there that he went through all of the self-doubt. And he used to look out of the window, and the first time I was there in the Wartburg you could actually open the window sash and look out and see what Luther saw—all of the trees and the forest that he wrote about.
But you know there is a tradition that says Luther threw his inkwell at the devil when he was there. And the tour guides, I am told, used to sometimes put a little soot on the wall so that visitors like you and me could see the place where the inkwell landed, because it’s disappointing to go that far and not see where the ink well hit the wall.
Well, you know, I’m not sure that he actually did throw his inkwell at the devil. He said in his table talks that he fought the devil with ink. And what he meant was he fought the devil by the translation of the Word of God into the German language. And thinking about this mighty fortress, he wrote and said,
Though this world be with devils filled
Shall threaten to undo us,
We have no fear for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not from him,
For lo his doom is sure.
And then he went on to say,
His rage we can endure,
For lo his doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.
One little word shall fell him! What is that little word that we are referring to? The little word was a six-letter word: Christ! Christ! Jesus Christ, King of kings, Lord of lords, having taken our sin, nailed it to the cross, forgiven us our transgressions, disarmed all principalities and powers, humiliated them, and triumphed over them in the cross. And today we are invited to participate in that victory.
Let us pray.
And our Father, today we do thank You that the serpent’s head is ground into the dust. We thank You, Father, for that. Thank You that all that he could do was to nip Christ’s heel. That was the best that he could do. And we praise You, and we ask, oh Lord, that in grace, You will give us the opportunity of understanding more of what Jesus did for us. And may all those who are here today who have never savingly believed on Him, may they come to know Him, that they, too, may find their transgressions forgiven. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.