Why did Jesus have to die? For whom did He die? What did His death accomplish? Of all the ways that God could have saved the world, why the cross?
Theologians have given different answers to those questions. Their answers are commonly called theories of the atonement.1 Discussions of the atonement among conservative Evangelicals have too often been confined to debating a narrow range of questions raised by Calvinists and Arminians over one theory, penal substitution, and whether it is limited or unlimited. Although those are important questions, it does not exhaust the breadth of the Biblical evidence about the meaning of the cross.
This journal has already addressed different aspects of the atonement.2 In this article, I want to explore a neglected theme that sheds light on the meaning of the cross. I will argue the cross is part of the war between God and Satan for dominion over creation. I believe this theme fruitfully ties together different strands of Biblical evidence regarding the meaning and purpose of the cross within redemptive history.
II. THE WAR BETWEEN GOD AND SATAN FROM CREATION TO THE FALL
The Bible can be read as a war drama. It begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. I am not the first to recognize the theme of war between God and Satan. For example, R. B. Thieme described it in dramatic terms:
From the moment of birth, every person, regardless of age or gender, regardless of status in life, is in the midst of the great war. A ceaseless war! No man knows exactly when it began, and no man can end it. The resolution will never be attained during human history. The antagonists are irreconcilable; the conflagration, inescapable.3
Likewise, while commenting on Genesis 3, Sidney Greidanus wrote: “Human history will consist of a long struggle between evil and good.”4
And Erich Sauer understood that “the opposition between [Satan] and the kingdom of God is henceforth the theme and the essential subject of the universal super-history outlined in Holy Scripture.”5
What is the purpose of the war between God and Satan? Wars are often waged to control a territory, and that is the reason here. God created the world—but who will rule over it?
A. The Dominion Mandate
The importance of dominion as a theme is evident in the creation of Adam and Eve. Genesis 1:26-28 may be taken as God’s purpose statement for man:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:26-28, emphasis added).
Clearly, God’s original plan for men and women was to serve Him by ruling over creation. In that way, they were created as “servant-kings.”6 They and their children (e.g., “fill the earth”) were meant to subdue the wilderness and extend the pattern of the Garden of Eden over the whole land7 (“subdue it”; cf. Gen 2:15).8 By being fruitful, they would fill the earth with image-bearers “who would worship and reflect God’s glory to the ends of the earth.”9 If the fall had not happened, this mission would have continued into eternity.
This obligation to rule is called the dominion mandate or the cultural mandate.10
B. Satan’s Pride
Although man was created to rule under God, so was Satan. He was created as a guardian cherub: “You were an anointed guardian cherub, for I had appointed you. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the fiery stones” (Ezek 28:14 HCSB, emphasis added).
The exact nature of Satan’s guardianship and where he served are not explained. Speculation abounds. Some say he was a guardian in Eden.11 Others say he guarded God’s presence.12 And still others say he had governmental authority over the earth.13 Whatever the case, Satan was not content with that subordinate position. Instead, he wanted to rule over all, including God Himself. Notice these “I will” statements:
C. The Angels Fall
In order for Satan to gain control over creation, he had to attack and undermine God’s government in heaven.16 That attack began by persuading many of the other angels—up to a third—to rebel (cf. 2 Pet 2:4; Jude 1:6; Rev 12:4a).
We are not told how God reacted to this insurrection. However, given that Jesus warned of an “eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41; cf. 8:29), the implication is that God made preparations for their future judgment and damnation.
D. First Shots Fired
Next, Satan had to attack God’s government on earth by persuading man to rebel. We read about this in Genesis 3. A serpent appeared in the Garden, whom we know to be Satan himself (Rev 12:9; 20:2). The conversation between the serpent and the woman shows us what is at stake in the war, the object being fought over, and the rules of engagement.
First, God’s moral government was at stake. In order to undermine God’s rule, Satan questioned God’s good reputation: “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” This made God seem unreasonable, as if He were not fully providing for Eve’s needs. When he went on to say, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” he was questioning God’s good intentions, implying that God was jealously keeping something good back from her. The serpent was implying that God’s dominion was not ideal and would lead to her harm.
Second, God and Satan are fighting for the minds and hearts of men and women. Satan sought to win Eve (and her descendants) to his side, to rule under him, instead of under God.
Third, the main weapon in this conflict is persuasion, not raw power. If raw power were the issue, there could be no conflict. God is omnipotent. Satan is not. Hence, the fact that there is a conflict tells us the rules of engagement occur at a different level.
Since God created man with free will, Satan could influence Eve to sin, but could not cause her to. And the same held true for God. He could influence Eve to obey, but could not cause her to obey. Why not? Because in order for an action to count as genuine obedience— as genuinely blameworthy or praiseworthy moral action, as genuine love—it must be freely chosen.17 Hence, given the reality of free will, both God and Satan are limited in what they can do. In Satan’s case, he is inherently limited because he is a finite being.18 In God’s case, He is self-limited because His goal was to create creatures capable of genuine good and love.19
Both God and Satan presented their respective cases to Eve’s mind. God presented Eve with the truth. He demonstrated His loving character by creating her, giving her life, and providing her with an abundant garden. He also truthfully warned her about the deadly consequences of eating the forbidden fruit. By contrast, Satan presented her with distortions and lies. He denied God’s Word, questioned His good character, and made Eve promises that were either lies or distortions of the truth. Each side presented its best case, and Eve and Adam were left to choose—God or Satan.20
Of course, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. They ate the fruit, and as a result, humanity fell. Satan won the initial battle. But this victory set the stage for God’s announcement of the cross.
III. THE WAR CONTINUES IN THE PROTOEVANGELIUM
The temptation in the Garden did not end the war between God and Satan. And as the following events show, God planned through the cross to win the war and to re-establish His dominion over creation.
A. The Coming Enmity
God confronted the serpent and issued this proclamation:
B. The Coming Messiah
In Gen 3:15, God also revealed His intention to win the war through a Messiah (“her Seed”). A descendant of Adam and Eve would defeat the serpent,23 take up the royal mantle, and fulfill the dominion mandate. As T. Desmond Alexander explains,
This life of “seed”…is the beginning of a royal dynasty through whom God will bring his judgment upon the “seed of the serpent.” That the one who will bring this judgment and reverse the consequences of the first couple’s disobedience will be of kingly standing is not surprising when we bear in mind the vice-regent status earlier conferred on Adam and Eve.24
C. The Covering
God also provided Adam and Eve with animal skins, a symbolic action that typified Christ’s propitiation (Gen 3:21). Initially, Adam and Eve tried to cover up the nakedness of their sin (the effects of their rebellion) by making a covering of fig leaves (Gen 3:7).25 After all, in order to make a garment of skin, animal blood must be shed.26 Commentators see this as the first animal sacrifice. The garments of skin are a figure for Christ’s death and being clothed in His righteousness and covered by His blood.27 While the animal sacrifices had no inherent saving power,28 they pointed to One that would. In other words, it points to the sacrifice of the cross that God would provide through the Messiah.29
IV. THE CONTINUATION OF THE WAR IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
With the war begun and the plans for victory stated, the rest of the Bible’s story can be read as the development of the themes of Gen 3:15.
A. War Narratives
The Bible is full of stories of war. In light of Gen 3:15, clearly, they are not there by accident. They illustrate the enmity between God and Satan and their respective proxies.
One sees this enmity depicted through literal geo-political conflicts between God’s people Israel and the pagan nations around them (e.g., Cain vs. Abel; Abraham vs. Nine Kings; Moses vs. Pharaoh; Joshua vs. the Canaanites; Samson vs. the Philistines; David vs. Goliath; Elijah vs. the Prophets of Baal; and Esther vs. Haman).
We also see it in the internal, psychological, spiritual conflicts that occur in the minds and hearts of men as Satan attempted to persuade them to be unfaithful, even while God called them to faithfulness. That internal struggle is often presented during an external struggle (e.g., David is externally at war with his enemies, internally at war with his lust for Bathsheba; Esther is externally at war with Haman, and internally at war with accepting her vocation from God).
B. Rulership Narratives
Since God and Satan are fighting for dominion, the Bible naturally has many stories of how God’s people overcome their enemies to rise to positions of great power and authority. The dominion mandate remains in force. As Treat explains, “the essence of [Adam’s] commission is then passed on to Noah (9:1,7), Abraham (12:2-3; 17:2, 6, 8, 16; 22:18), Isaac (26:3-4, 24), Jacob (28:3-4, 14; 35:11-12; 48:3-4, 15-16), and corporate Israel (47:27; Deut 7:13).”30 For example, note that in Gen 17:6, God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be kings: “I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you” (emphasis added). And it is no accident that Genesis opens with Adam and Eve’s loss of dominion and appropriately ends with Joseph’s reigning over Egypt. Ultimately, the theme of dominion, as well as the promise that a royal line would come through Eve and then Abraham is continued through the OT.31
C. Messianic Narratives
The Bible also tells many stories of when God sent a messiah—a deliverer—to turn the tides of war. Oftentimes, these same individuals are placed in positions of rulership, fulfilling the dominion mandate. Both qualities—of being a deliverer and ruler—make them types of the future Messiah (e.g., Joseph, Moses,32 Esther, Daniel).
D. Types of the Cross in the OT
God foreshadowed the cross by presenting Adam and Eve with a covering of animal skins. This typology continued through the Bible. Lewis Sperry Chafer defines a type as “a divinely purposed anticipation which illustrates its antitype. These two parts of one theme are related to each other by the fact that the same truth or principle is embodied in each.”33 Types of the future blood atonement include: Abel’s offering (Gen 4:4); Noah’s altar and sacrifice (Gen 8:20-22); Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22:1-14); the Bronze Serpent (Num 21:4-9); the Paschal Lamb; the Five Levitical Offerings (Lev 1:1—7:38)34; the Day of Atonement; the Tabernacle; and the Feasts of the Lord (Leviticus 23).
E. Prophecies of the Suffering Servant
Types are implicitly prophetic, but there are also explicit prophecies in Scripture about the sufferings of the Messiah (e.g., Ps 22:1-21; 40:6-7; Isa 52:13–53:12). Again, these prophecies contribute to our understanding of the atonement, the reconciliation that Messiah would bring through His death. They also tie the atonement with God’s dominion through a Messianic king.35
V. THE OUTWORKING OF THE WAR DURING JESUS’ MINISTRY
As Biblical history continued, it looked as though Satan would win the war. But then Jesus came and turned the tides of history.
A. Satan’s Influence
Although the Bible presents God’s people as winning significant victories in redemption history (e.g., the Exodus), it is clear that Satan gained the advantage. The people of God were few in number. Wickedness, immorality, and idolatry spread through the world. The Bible records that, generally speaking, the world believes Satan’s lies and acts on his principles. As Paul said, Satan is the god of this world: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4 NASB). And if that is true today, it was certainly true before the time of Jesus, a fact assumed during the wilderness temptation.
B. Tempting Jesus
Satan tempted Jesus just as he did Adam and Eve. He knew that Jesus came to rule, so he offered Him dominion over the kingdoms of this world (which he evidently controlled) in exchange for worship:
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me” (Matt 4:8-9 NASB).
Notice that Satan offered Jesus a subordinate position. Jesus could rule under Satan if He worshipped him. However, unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus resisted that temptation, rebuked Satan, and won the victory.36 After winning the wilderness trial, it was Jesus’ turn to go on the offensive.
C. The Gospel of the Kingdom
After exiting the wilderness, Jesus began preaching the gospel of the kingdom, which, you will notice, involves a direct conflict with Satan.
Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people (Matt 4:23 NASB, emphasis added; cf. Luke 11:14-21).
The gospel of the kingdom is the good news that the theocratic kingdom promised by God would soon be offered to Israel. The implication was that Jesus Himself would be king. And the miracles that attended the preaching of that gospel are described in Scripture as attacks against Satan’s rule:
Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house (Matt 12:22-29 NASB).
D. Satan Cast Out
Jesus declared His ministry had the effect of overthrowing Satan’s rule. Each exorcism demonstrated His authority to take back dominion from Satan one person at a time. And He announced that an even greater de facto victory was at hand: “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31 NASB); “I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30 NASB); and “The ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:11 NASB).
VI. THE WAR AND THE CROSS
The victories won during Jesus’ three-year ministry all pointed to the greater victory of the cross. How was the cross a victory over Satan? One answer is that it “disarmed” him. That is, it took away some of Satan’s most potent weapons for persuading humanity to rebel against God.
A. The Cross and Death
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Heb 2:14-15 NASB, emphasis added).
According to this passage, the cross has (at least) two effects.
First, the cross rendered Satan powerless. The author of Hebrews says that Satan had, and still has, the power of death. In earthly terms, death is the most potent weapon you can possess. But Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead. And the Lord promised Martha that all who believe in Him would be resurrected, too. Death lost its sting (1 Cor 15:55). Indeed, one day death itself will be “destroyed” (1 Cor 15:26; cf. Rev 20:14; 21:4). In other words, death is no longer a potent weapon. It has no permanent hold on the believer. Hence, Satan has become powerless.
Second, the cross frees believers from the fear of death. Satan uses the fear of death to persuade people to serve him. Consider how false religions use that fear to motivate people to try and save themselves through works. The cross unmasks that fear. As Lang said, “Thus by means of death Christ annulled the power of Satan over those who rely on Him and delivers them from fear of death; for these ‘fall asleep through Jesus’ (1 Thess 4:14) and are in His charge and company as was the repentant thief (Luke 23:43), for they ‘die in the Lord’ (Rev 14:13).”37
B. A Public Display
On the cross, Jesus also made a public display of the satanic powers: “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Col 2:15).”
This is a difficult passage. The context is the Colossians’ battle with a Gnostic form of legalism. Paul’s point is that Jesus, not legalism, is sufficient for all your spiritual needs.38 The image is borrowed from the way disgraced public officials would have their robes torn off and put to public shame,39 or the way Roman generals would lead a train of captives.40 The Colossians risked being ensnared by Satanic authorities that ruled through legalism (vv 16, 20-23; cf. 1 Tim 4:1-5), who appear wise (Col 2:23). The cross triumphed over these forces by showing that Jesus is greater, that He is the real power, the real life, and that eternal life is through Him, not through following a Gnostic, legalistic, religious system.
C. Redeemed from the Law
Paul lists the Law as one of the hostile powers aligned against us. That may come as a surprise. The reason why the Law is on Satan’s side of the conflict is because it is related to sin and death, meant to kill and to curse, not to give life: “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them’” (Gal 3:10; cf. Deut 27:26); “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor 15:56; cf. 2 Cor 3:7; Rom 7:5). The Law is especially deadly when it is made into a way of eternal salvation. Hence, Paul portrays the cross as a triumph over the Law,41 releasing the believer from the Law’s curse: “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Rom 7:4); “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed” (Gal 3:13); “Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:14).
D. A Penal Substitute
Most Evangelical literature on the atonement discusses penal substitution. For that reason, I will only briefly mention how that view relates to the theme of the war between God and Satan for dominion.
As we saw, Satan’s attack against God involved attacking His good character. When Satan tempted Eve, he put doubts in her mind about God’s good intentions and provisions. The major objections to God’s existence (and consequently, His right to rule) have often centered on His justice (e.g., the problem of evil). The cross answers some of those objections.
In Rom 3:25-26, Paul explained that Jesus was “displayed publicly.” The cross taught a public lesson. What lesson is that? Paul goes on to explain that Christ’s “propitiation” publicly demonstrated God’s “righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.” Since God had not executed a penalty for sin in the past, it might have appeared that God was unjust, unconcerned about right and wrong, and not willing to uphold His law. The cross corrects those misperceptions in two ways.
First, the cross demonstrates God’s justice. It shows that God hates sin, that it has horrible consequences, and that the law’s penalty for sin has been exacted at the cross. But Jesus has died in our place, as our substitute.
Second, the cross also publicly demonstrated God’s love for the world. It showed that God was reluctant for any sinner to die. So Jesus died in our place, the way a friend would.
Because of the cross God could be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:25-26). The legal obstacle to salvation was “taken away” for the entire world (John 1:29). Now God was free to show mercy to believers by giving them eternal life.
VII. THE WAR ENDS
At the cross, Jesus disarmed, defeated, and triumphed over His enemies. But the cross itself did not spell the end of the war. It raged on. You and I are in it now. As Paul warned the Ephesians: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). We are also caught up in the war between God and Satan. Eventually, though, it will come to an end. In Revelation 20, we read about Satan’s final defeat: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev 20:10).
Where does the cross fit in this final victory for dominion? In Revelation 5 we are told that through His death on the cross, Christ became worthy to rule:
“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth…”
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev 5:9-10, 12, 13b NASB, emphasis added).
In the battle between God and Satan, the cross settles the question—who will reign, God or Satan? As Walvoord comments, “He is declared to have the right to rule, not simply in virtue of His deity, but in His victory over sin and death.”42
But Christ will not rule alone. Believers will, too. As Grant R. Osborne says, “As royalty, they reign with God in his kingdom…There is a progression to this theme elsewhere in the book. In 11:15, 17 and 19:6 it is God and Christ who reign, and in 20:4, 6, and 22:5 it is the victorious saints who ‘reign with him.’”43
In this paper, I have demonstrated that a major theme for understanding the cross is the war between God and Satan for dominion over creation. The cross was and is the means for defeating Satan and for qualifying Jesus to rule. Jesus sets the stage so that He might soon fulfill the purpose for which man was originally created—to have dominion. Believers can fulfill that purpose, too, and rule with Christ, if we endure in our walk of faith (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 2:26).
1 I will use the word atonement because, in theological literature, it is the commonly accepted term for referring to Christ’s death. However, I recognize there are strong objections to using it that way. The basic objection is this: while an atonement merely covers sin, the cross did more than that. E. W. Kenyon put it this way: “The ‘Atonement’ means ‘to cover.’ It is not a New Testament word, it does not appear in the New Testament Greek. Why? Because the blood of Jesus cleanses, instead of merely covering.” See The Blood Covenant (Lynwood, WA: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 2012), 32; cf. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), 3:127.
2 See Anthony Badger, “TULIP: A Free Grace Perspective, Part 3: Limited Atonement,” JOTGES (Spring 2004): 33-56; Bob Wilkin, “Benefits of Christ’s Blood: Restricted or Unrestricted?” JOTGES (Autumn 09): 3-10. Zane Hodges’s articles on the atonement were compiled in The Atonement and Other Writings (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2014).
3 R. B. Thieme, Jr., The Angelic Conflict (Houston, TX: R. B. Thieme, Jr., Bible Ministries, 2012), ix.
4 Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from Genesis: Foundations for Expository Sermons (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 84.
5 Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption (London: Paternoster, 1951), 33.
6 Jeremy R. Treat, The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 55.
7 John H. Walton, Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 186.
8 The fact that the land needed to be subdued indicates it was in a wild state. David Chilton, Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion (Tyler, TX: Dominion Press, 1999), 23.
9 G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim, God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 29. Some commentators suggest that Adam was called to a priestly role, with Eden as the primordial Temple. The language of Adam’s mandate to “serve” and “guard” also describes the priests’ roles in the Temple. The dominion mandate would therefore be a priestly mandate (see Treat, The Crucified King, 55). If so, this would tie in with the goal of Rev 5:10: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
10 Nancy Pearcey explains the full implications of the cultural mandate in this way: “In Genesis, God gives what we might call the first job description: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’ The first phrase, ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, ‘subdue the earth,’ means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, and compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations—nothing less.” See Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 47. This is distinct from what you may call the evangelistic mandate.
11 John B. Taylor, Ezekiel: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1969), 196-97.
12 Charles Dyer, “Ezekiel,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985), 1:1283. R. B. Thieme describes him as “the personal honor guard of the second person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ” (The Angelic Conflict, 7).
13 Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption, 32-33.
14 On this view, the will must be self-caused in order to be free. Of course, the will can be influenced by many different factors, but nothing can cause it to choose this or that. This is known as the doctrine of the incipiency of the will. For a defense see Harry Conn, Four Trojan Horses (Van Nuys, CA: Bible Voice, 1978), 125-36.
15 Thieme, The Angelic Conflict, 23.
16 Generally speaking, God has two forms of government: moral and natural. God’s natural government involves a cause and effect providential care over inanimate creation (e.g., trees and seas and the planets). God’s moral government involves the moral and spiritual laws given to self-conscious moral agents like humans and angels. See Gordon Olson, The Moral Government of God (St Paul, MN: Revival Theology Promotions, 1974, 1999).
17 As Major Ian Thomas noted, “It is quite obvious that if this process had been purely mechanical, and Adam had possessed no capacity to exercise his own choice, he would have been no more than a robot; an impersonal ‘device,’ completely incapable of responding to or of satisfying the love of God, for only love can satisfy love, and love cannot be compelled…All genuine affection springs from free volition, and you cannot truly love without the power to choose” (The Mystery of Godliness [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1964], 77).
18 Satan and the demons can cause physical suffering (e.g., ailment, disease), and even possess a body by supplanting someone’s will, but cannot force the will to choose this way or that.
19 Those who hold to divine determinism deny there is any conflict between God and Satan at all, because Satan’s actions are God’s own decrees. For example, Homer C. Hoeksema writes, “There is no fight between God and the devil. The God of our salvation is the God who from moment to moment performs all his good pleasure, even in and through the very opposition of the devil and the powers of darkness. All creatures, good and evil, are subject unto him and execute his will, even in spite of themselves. According to God’s sovereign good pleasure, the devil, though purposing opposition and rebellion against the living God, nevertheless must serve God’s purpose. He must serve to create the opposition and rebellion against God only to show ultimately how all who oppose God will be defeated” (Unfolding Covenant History: An Exposition of the Old Testament [Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2000], 1:139). In other words, the devil is a straw man that God sets up in order to prove He can knock him down. In my view, that turns the history of redemption into a grand charade.
20 However, further Scripture shows that Satan is also able to influence people to bring harm to others (e.g., Judas with Jesus), can, with God’s permission, harm people directly (e.g., Job), and when a person voluntarily sins, he comes under Satan’s authority (John 8:34; Rom 6:16; 2 Pet 2:19).
21 Carl J. Lawrenz and John C. Jeske, A Commentary on Genesis 1-11 (Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 2004), 147.
22 O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Co, 1980), 99.
23 Lawrenz and Jeske, Genesis 1-11, 151-52; Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 19.
24 T. Desmond Alexander, The Servant King: The Bible’s Portrait of the Messiah (Vancouver, BC: Regent College, 2003), 18.
25 Hoeksema, Unfolding Covenant History, 1:151; Thieme, Angelic Conflict, 30-31.
26 Chafer, Systematic Theology, 3:124.
27 Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption, 60.
28 G. H. Lang, Atoning Blood: What It Does and What It Does Not Do (Miami Springs, FL: Schoettle Publishing Co, 1988), 14.
29 Thieme, Angelic Conflict, 43.
30 Treat, The Crucified King, 57.
31 Likewise, think of Moses who is born a slave, becomes an Egyptian prince, then refugee, then leader of Israel. Think of David, a lowly shepherd boy, hounded and hunted by King Saul, who becomes ruler of Israel. Think of Daniel, thrown into the lion’s den, but becomes third in Babylon. Think of Esther, an orphan raised by her uncle, under threat by Haman, who becomes Queen over Persia. The pattern here is very similar. In each case, God’s people overcome Satanic opposition to rule.
32 To give only one example, think of Moses as a type of Christ. He confronts Pharaoh and delivers his people from slavery. The killing of the Passover lamb was a key event in that victory. And Moses then leads the people to (but not into) the Promised Land.
33 Chafer, Systematic Theology, 3:116.
34 R. B. Thieme, Jr,. Levitical Offerings (Houston, TX: R. B. Thieme, Jr., Bible Ministries, 2004).
35 This is the conclusion of recent work on the unity of Isaiah that links the suffering servant of Isaiah 1–39 with the Messianic king of Isaiah 40–55. See the bibliographic list in Treat, The Crucified King, 69-86, and the bibliography on 69, n. 5.
36 Note the parallels: Whereas the original temptation occurred in an uncorrupted Garden, Jesus’ temptation occurred in cursed wilderness. Whereas Adam and Eve were tempted in the midst of plenty, Jesus was tempted in the middle of extreme hunger. Whereas Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden into the wilderness, Jesus was led into the wilderness and then triumphantly departed to begin His ministry.
37 One caveat: the thief was in Christ’s charge because of his faith, not his repentance. See Lang, Atoning Blood, 13.
38 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Complete (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1984), 80.
39 Richard R. Melick, Jr., Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1991), 266.
40 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon (Minneapolis, MN: Augusburg, 1964), 120.
41 Interestingly, while the Christus Victor view of the atonement strongly emphasized the cross as a victory over Satanic powers, it tended to overlook the Law as one of the powers to be overcome. As Gustaf Aulen explains, “this feature of the Pauline teaching is distinctly weakened in the Fathers, and even in the later New Testament writings; it does not, in fact, return in full strength till Martin Luther.” I believe this is due to the predominance of salvation by works teaching by the Church Fathers. They did not understand how commandments requiring good works could be one of the forces used by the devil and overcome at the cross. But those of us who believe in salvation by faith apart from works can easily understand how legalism is on the side of the devil. See Gustaf Aulen, Christus Victor (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1969), 68-69.
42 John F. Walvoord, Revelation (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2011), 114.
43 Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), 261.