The Devil in his Redemptive-Historical Context

(Posted by Paige)

Here is a pair of theological questions related to the “fear of death” topic and deriving from the same pair of verses, Heb. 2:14-15. One of my curious laypeople asked about it in our Hebrews study:

In what sense did the devil ever hold “the power of death”?

How was this power altered by Christ’s defeat of the devil?

We are looking for a way to speak accurately about the “Before” and “After” of the devil in redemptive history. Any insights?

The Hebrews verses again are:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

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3 Comments

  1. Steve Drake said,

    January 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Paige,
    In what sense did the devil ever hold the power of death? In the sense that his trickery and deception since he is first introduced in Scripture in Gen. 3 in the Garden of Eden and manipulation of God’s Word stated in Gen. 2:17 led to both the spiritual and physical death of Adam and Eve, the progenitors of all of us to follow throughout history. Gen. 2:17 combined with Gen. 3:19 are meaningless if Adam and Eve as created were not to live in glorification of God, enjoying Him forever, without death. That the death spoken of in Gen. 2:17 is physical death, and not spiritual only, is confirmed by the words of God in Gen. 3:19 ‘for you are dust, and to dust you shall return’. As the ‘father of lies’, Satan’s actions in the Garden to deceive, led to an historic Fall, with its consequences of death, shame and guilt, thorns and thistles, pain and hardship, the groaning and suffering of all creation (Rom. 8).

    How was this power altered by Christ’s defeat of the devil? He is the promised Seed of Gen. 3:15 that would crush the serpent’s head. He is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, pierced through for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, chastened for our well-being, the iniquity of all to fall on Him. He accomplished this at Calgary. In that one historic act on the Cross, ‘death was swallowed up in victory’ (1 Cor. 15:54). The fear of death and its bondage (slavery) has been brought to an end.

  2. Dennis said,

    January 12, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Paige,

    In what sense did the devil ever hold “the power of death”?

    I think the Devil holds the power of death through pride and disobedience. When examining the original sin, the serpent tempts Eve with being “like God” and through Adam’s disobedience, death comes.

    The Devil holds the power of death as he brings disobedience to man today as with Adam. As we are disobedient, we bring sin which brings death.

    How was this power altered by Christ’s defeat of the devil?

    Christ defeats the devil through His obedience to death on the cross. Through Christ’s obedience, He destroys death. Through His obedience, Christ restores the Tree of Life and through our obedience to Christ, we can overcome death as well.

    At least, that’s the Catholic perspective.

  3. Roy said,

    January 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Supporting Steve’s first point, I observe that it subsumes Dennis’ first point. Via deception Satan brings death.

    Further support comes from Rev 20:3. Before an event or time not explicitly specified but having to do with Christ’s work (I would argue for the Ascension, but would be comfortable with the Resurrection or Pentecost), Satan has some power which gets limited after that event. Specifically, Jesus, that Stronger than the Strong Man Armed who plunders Satan (Mk 3:23-29), who testifies during his ministry of beholding “Satan fall(ing) like lightning from heaven (Lk 10:18) such that he grants authority to overcome the enemy (v19), who, in foretelling the events of his death and resurrection, tells his audience that “now the prince of the world will be driven out” (Jn 12:31) does in Rev 20 those things. He is that Angel who seizes and binds Satan “to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore”.

    I’m not certain of or willing to take a position on an extensive/exhaustive description of that “deceiving”, either before or after. “Bind” and “keep from…anymore” seem fairly extensive in contrast to the stupid evil/evil stupidity one may observe in history books not to mention today’s newspaper. The comparison and contrast between the seeming absolutes and the observed reality lead me to think that deception must have a great deal of potency. What would it accomplish were Satan not chained? But in some fashion a restraint has occurred which allows Jesus to send his Disciples because all power is given him, a restraint which makes him certain the Gospel will reach into the world, that, as leaven, the kingdom will inevitably grow, such that the gates of hell will not prevail.


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