A Serpent Bound: The Defeat of Satan in Judea and Beyond

A Serpent Bound: The Defeat of Satan in Judea and Beyond

A major premise of postmillennial thought is that Satan has been defeated and is currently bound. This teaching has been the focus of major criticism by dispensationalist over the past couple centuries and for good reason. If it can be demonstrated that Satan is bound and indeed not the lord of the nations, an eschatology of victory must replace the current popular American understanding.

Satan is bound in terms of his authority. We first see the plan of God to engage Satan in Genesis 3:15. In the aftermath of humanity’s rebellion, God tells the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on his heel.”. As we watch the development of the people of God and the people of Satan in Scripture we see a struggle between these two “seeds”, these two peoples. The seed of the serpent moving further away from Eden and their original created purpose, and the seed of the Woman becoming a great nation, being given God’s own Presence and Law. The people of God would be called to be a city on a hill with the responsibility of bringing the nations, currently under the authority of Satan as his seed, to God. This struggle, between the people of God and those in exile from him, comes to a climax in the person and work of Jesus.

Satan is replaced by the Messiah as ruler of the nations. After his baptism, Jesus is led into the wilderness where he is confronted and tempted by Satan, Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus is offered the kingdoms of the earth if he would bow down and serve him. Satan does not want the battle, he knows he is up against the one chosen by God to be his Messiah, “installed in Zion” Psalm 2:6. Jesus is offered a place as lord under the serpent which he refuses as only a rival King can. He not only denies Satan, but he cast him out, “Go, Satan!”, vs. 10. This denial and casting out is the first initial victory of Jesus. Jesus explains and demonstrates that his practice of casting out demons is the result of Satan himself being bound and unable to protect his house from being plundered, Matthew 12:28-30. This text is a clear case of what the Kingdom of God looks like upon the earth. It is not an unrealistic Utopian State, but rather a people being led by a King through a life and death struggle to see the enemies of God vanquished. Demons are being cast out in Judea because though they are there, they have no more authority to stay and terrorize the Image bearers of the Creator. Sickness and misery are present, but their days are numbered as well. Jesus has cast out and defeated Satan, therefore he has no power to stop what the Chosen One of God has come to do. Notice that as soon as he defeats Satan in the wilderness, Jesus begins to preach publicly, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”, Matthew 4:17, and that from here we always see the movement of Jesus accompanied by great works of healing, exorcism and even resurrection. The Kingdom of God has indeed come in Jesus and he is reversing sin and the curses it has brought.

The binding and defeat of Satan during the wilderness temptation is only the first and initial battle between him and the Messiah. Jesus was not content to just bind Satan from Judea, he would continue his work until there was no more place on all the earth over which Satan could claim rule. Jesus would go to a Roman cross for the salvation of the whole world. Paul begins his letter to the Romans by declaring that Jesus was declared to be the true Son of God, in opposition to the claims of the Roman Caesars to be such, “with power by the resurrection from the dead”, Romans 1:4. The death of Jesus was a final battle between the seed of the Satan and the Seed of God, at his resurrection from the grave, Jesus claimed victory over death and the Satan. Satan ruled this world “through death”, Romans 5:21. Now that death was defeated, there was no longer any power that could stand in the way of Christ as the highest authority in the world. He cast out and bound Satan in Judea, making him powerless to stop his Kingdom movement there. At the cross and resurrection, Jesus bound and defeated him completely so that not only in Judea would Satan be without authority, now the entire planet was off limits to him, being forced to roam the earth without any rule or throne. The focus now being the gospel and the continual, gradual, expansion of the Kingdom of God, as a mustard seed into a great tree and a stone into a great mountain, until all the nations are liberated in obedience and fealty to the one who has conquered sin and death, Romans 1:5, “the obedience of the nations”.

This is where we are today. Satan is bound, meaning he has no power or authority in this world to hinder the movement and power of the Gospel. This does not mean that there is no more sin present in the world, like humanity in the Garden listening to the serpent, so we can still choose wickedness and to listen to the deceiver. Peter tells us that Satan is present in the world,  he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”, I Peter 5:8. Peter then gives a simple solution to dealing with this lion, “Resist him”. Indeed elsewhere we are told to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you”, James 4:7. Doesn’t sound like this lion is anything more than a menace, a rebel without a throne. In fact, John also sees the victory of Jesus directly resulting in the binding of Satan. It is interesting that John refers to him as the “serpent of old”:

“And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him from a thousand years; and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed…” Revelation 20:2&3

 

Wicked men rule with oppression and tyranny over the defenseless but they are being judged and convicted of sin. The wicked kings and leaders of this world will not be long in this world, for there is a King who has plundered the house of the Strongman. There is no such a thing as a bloodless war or a campaign without great sacrifice and loss. The headlines of our newspapers and news channels are not infinite and indeed are wicked and corrupt themselves. We have hope in the victory of King Jesus and the Kingdom of God he is devoted to expanding over the whole earth.

We will look at the 1000 years and what it means that Satan will be “released for a short while”, Revelation 20:3 next time. For now, may we be challenged and motivated to live and work for the Kingdom of God being ruled over by Jesus whose “dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and his Kingdom is one which will not be destroyed’, Daniel 7:14.

John Howell
John Howell lives in Clearwater Florida with his beautiful wife Jillian and their three year son Elijah William. He's a member of Grace Church of Dunedin, where he serves as a Deacon, Director of Connections, and Pastoral Assistant.
  • Good article. The only thing I’d add is calling those who are apart from Christ “exiles” may not be the best terminology. I believe referring to them as those who are “cut off” is perhaps better. The reason why I bring this up is that God’s holy nation, which is the church, was called “exiles” in 1 Peter 1:1. Ascribing a title that belongs to the church and applying it to those apart from Christ may not be accurate. But other than that, great article my friend.

    • Josh, thank you for pointing that out. I do agree that we his people were exiles from God, but now we are restored to Him, reconciled, in Christ. All of humanity are exiles according to the Biblical narrative, for we were cast out of the Garden with our former Federal Head, Adam. Indeed, Israel is a microcosm of humanity and their plight of exile. Exile also in Scripture is the primary meaning of death, “in that day you will surely die” is the immediate consequence for the first sin in the Garden and yet we see that Adam and Eve lived past “that day” of the initial rebellion. In the Scriptures, death and exile are synonymous. Paul in Ephesians says we were dead in sins, separate and without any connection to him…exile. Also, Israel’s covenantal vocation was to be a city on a hill in order that the nations would see the justice and life of his presence and law and come return to him through Israel. Jesus would succeed in this vocation where they failed, for they themselves were in need of restoration. Grace and peace.

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