Satan seems like a formidable foe, and he is. Ephesians 6 refers to the believer’s struggle against “the cosmic powers over this present darkness.” That’s certainly not something to mess around with. I’ve seen spiritual warfare up close and personal, and I know Satan is a destructive and cunning adversary. Not without reason is he said to “prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
However, I’d like to suggest that Satan is not quite as imposing as he seems. Colossians 2 makes a surprising statement about Jesus’ triumph over Satan at the cross:
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:15)
The picture here is one of a triumphal procession, in which a defeated and captured king is led hook in nose, paraded through the city to be derided and mocked by the masses. What Jesus did at the cross and empty tomb wasn’t just taking our sin or defeating death– he decisively and publicly disarmed and humiliated the price of darkness by turning his very weapons back on him. All of hell’s principalities and powers were rounded up and led, hook in nose, as humiliated captives in Christ’s triumphal procession out of the grave. Satan is now a disarmed and defeated foe. He is still a roaring lion, but he is now a shaved lion, defanged, dethroned, and on the leash of his nail-scarred Captor.
Such a humiliation would be emotionally scarring for anyone, even the Prince of Darkness. As I’ve thought about that verse from Colossians, I think this is what explains Satan’s raging hatred against the church. His roaring comes not from a place of strength, but of hollowed, traumatized weakness.
Haunted by their catastrophic loss, the shattered forces of hell are re-traumatized by every echo of the gospel they see in the church’s shared life together. The church triggers Satan’s PTSD, because in our rhythms of worship and word and communion and community he sees the endless replaying of his defeat at the cross. Every song, every sacrament, every sermon, every sacrifice is a micro-aggression against his reign.
Sinners forsaking their rebellion.
Prodigals coming home.
Broken people finding healing.
Diverse people laying down their prejudices.
Former captives praising their Savior.
Each incremental victory in the Christian life is salt in Satan’s wounds. And so Satan lashes out, knowing that his time is short. Yet even his desperate retaliatory thrashing proves futile. Every arrow from his quiver of insecure malice is perpetually turned backwards into blessing by the nail-scarred hand of the One whose foot is on his neck. With every attack, Satan only digs his own grave deeper, and adds more jewels to the crown of his ransomed captive– Jesus’ glorious bride. Though the battle rages fiercely now, in the end the children of Zion will get the last laugh, and will laugh at him with scornful, sacred gladness forever.
The point is this: you may be fearful of the Accuser’s deceptions, the Enemy’s power, the devil’s temptation. And not without reason. But never forget: hell’s defeated minions are even more afraid of you and your Savior. Demons check for Christians under their beds.
So go ahead, child of God: read your Bible. Love your enemies. Serve the saints. Go to church. In doing so, you heap abuse on the Abuser and Accuser of the brethren. Follow Jesus, and traumatize hell.