Christ the Victor
R. V. Court, Bristol, England
In spite of modern denials of the reality of Satan, those who still believe that the Lord Jesus is "the truth'* will have no doubts at all as to the grim reality of this being. It has been said that the incarnation was not only a revelation of God, but was also a revelation of Satan, inasmuch as the Lord Jesus in His teaching and miracles unmasked him, showing his nature and purpose, and spelling out his defeat. In His teaching the Lord used three names for him - Satan (the adversary), the Devil (the false accuser), and Beelzebub (the lord of flies or corruption). He also used terms which, read in their context, indicate his character and method of working, for example, "the enemy'*, "the evil one", "the liar", "the murderer". In addition to these terms, which illustrate Satan's attitude to the ways and works of God, there is another which is used by the Lord to show his relationship to the Lord Himself. This is "the prince of this world", and the use of this term may be intended to convey the truth that the matter at issue between them is one of rule. As the prince of this world, Satan claims the right to rule here, dominating the lives of men and using them in his constant opposition to God. When the Lord Jesus came to earth, it was to establish the rule of God here and to destroy the works of the Devil, i John 3.8; quite clearly there must be conflict.
It is possible that in using this particular term, the Lord was recognizing a special link between Satan and this earth. It has been suggested that, prior to his fall, part of his sphere of administration was this earth, and that when he fell the original earth was affected by his fall. Whether this be so or not, he made a claim when tempting the Lord in the wilderness that "the kingdoms of the world" had been delivered to him and that he could give them to whom he would; the Lord did not challenge this. Surely in such circumstances His silence is tantamount to assent. But even as Satan makes his claim, he is aware that he is facing a challenge to his authority.
It is significant that each time the Lord used the term "prince of this world" it was in the shadow of the cross, and on each occasion the Lord indicated Satan's defeat, the cross itself being the outstanding demonstration of this. The references are John 12. 31; 14. 30; 16.11, and a brief consideration of these passages will prove to be profitable. They refer respectively to the work of Christ, the Person of Christ,, and the preaching concerning Christ, and in relation to each of these the prince of this world is seen as one who is judged and cast out.
John 12. 31, "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out". "Now" links the passage with verse 23 where our Lord declares "the hour is come", and verse 33 where He speaks of the "death he should die". This was a crucial moment in the history of the universe. Frequently our Lord had spoken of an hour that was future, an hour that was in His mind when He left the glory of heaven for the darkness of earth, and now, in spite of all Satanic opposition and attempts to prevent His arriving at this hour, it had come. As the Lord contemplated what was involved in this hour of crisis, He spoke of the outcome - a "world judged", "the prince of this world ... cast out". In this lifting up from the earth spoken of in verse 32, the world was going to be revealed in its true colours - the evil heart of man was going to be shown in all its hideousness. Men were going to take the only perfect Man the world had ever seen, who, during His stay among them, had dispensed incalculable blessing, who had revealed God as no other could; this One they were going to crucify. But in spite of this revelation, verse 32 indicates that from the cross would stream mercy and grace to sinful men. The prince of the world, however, was to be "cast out", and there is no hint of mercy for him. With men, God was dealing with those who had been tempted by another, but with Satan God was dealing with the originator of evil.
The question may well arise in the mind, "How was Satan cast out? He is still very active, blinding the minds of men; he is still striving to frustrate the purposes of God. How then can it be said that he has been cast out?". It may well be that in these words the Lord indicated the ultimate overthrow of the world's prince, but it is clear from verse 32 that this overthrow was to be demonstrated immediately. There is a casting out from human lives now as the Lord Jesus comes in to control. Paul speaks of believers as those who have been delivered "from the power (authority) of darkness, and translated ... into the kingdom of his dear Son", Col. i. 13. Every conversion involves a casting out of Satan; every time a sinner acknowledges Christ as Lord there is a plain demonstration of Satan's defeat. Was it because the prince of this world realized that this would be so that he sought to prevent the Lord going to the cross? He failed in his attempt. When the Lord cried "finished" the battle was won.
John 14. 30, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me". The decisive battle was about to be joined. The Lord and Satan had met before in the wilderness and at the termination of that lengthy conflict Satan, tasting defeat, left the Lord, but only "for a season", Luke 4. 13. In all probability, during the succeeding period of public ministry there had been further attempts to turn Him aside from His chosen pathway to the cross. Indeed on one occasion he had used the lips of Simon Peter for this purpose, Matt. 16. 23. Now the final clash was approaching, and was to come to its awful climax in Gethsemane and at Calvary. At the cross, not only was there the wrath of God against sin but also the bitter attack of the powers of darkness. Surely it was Satan's voice speaking through the lips of those who said, "let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him", Matt, 27. 42. The Lord looks ahead and says, "the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me". Wonderful words! No other could say, "hath nothing in me", but here was One who was spotless and pure - there was nothing in Him that could possibly respond to these suggestions from without. As Satan and the "rulers of this world's darkness" gazed at that Man upon the cross, they were looking at the only One who had resisted evil in any form right until the end. They were looking at One who could say, "I have set the Lord always before me", Psa. 16. 8; Acts 2. 25, and who in consequence never deviates one iota from the pathway planned in eternity. As the Lord declared that the prince of this world had nothing in Him, he was pronouncing the defeat of the being who had encompassed the downfall of every other member of the human race. Here he met his overthrow.
John 16, 11. The words of this passage look beyond the cross, and they assume the triumph of Calvary. The Lord is speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit, who could only come when "Jesus was glorified", John 7. 39. He speaks of the Spirit's work in the world which would all have reference to Himself as the glorified One, and once again He speaks of the prince of this world, and projects the truth of his overthrow into the period during which the Gospel of the grace of God would be preached. The Holy Spirit will convince the world of "judgment, because the prince of this world is (has been) judged". This seems to mean that, as the Holy Spirit deals with men, He will direct their attention to the fact that the one who has enslaved them has already been judged and overthrown. This is a judgment that is past. What folly, then, to continue to serve him! What folly to persist in following a defeated leader and to share in his ultimate final judgment! So today the Gospel of God's grace is a message which tells of One who has triumphed gloriously.
Is there still a lingering doubt in the mind of some that possibly evil may yet triumph, and that Satan will again assert his right to be the prince of this world? Revelation 20. 10 should settle any doubts that may remain, "The devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire".