Did Satan Win at Golgotha?

 

Pilate investigated the charges the Jews brought against Christ and found nothing in him that demanded he be punished.  Pilate even sought to release Christ, but the Jews warned: “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend: whosoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.  When therefore Pilate heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down on the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.  And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he says unto the Jews, Behold your King!” (John 19:12-14).  The Jews denied that Jesus was their king.  They demanded that Pilate and the Roman authorities crucify Christ.  Pilate delivered Jesus to the Jews.  They led him away to be crucified.  “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of the skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him, and two other men with him, one on either side, and Jesus in the midst” (John 19:15-18).

 

Satan had been eagerly looking forward to the Lord’s death.  Although Satan is not all wise, he almost certainly knew the Jews and the Romans would put Christ to death.  Satan had been the power that motivated both Jews and Romans to bring an end to our Lord’s work as well as to his very life.  Satan inspired the Jewish high priests and all others who wanted Christ dead.  Peter explained all of this to the Jews who were present on Pentecost.  “You men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as you yourselves also know: him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:22-23).

 

As Satan viewed the crucifixion of Christ on Golgotha, did he believe he had won the victory over God’s anointed?  Satan no doubt remembered what God had said to him in the Garden of Eden. “Because you have done this (that is, led our first parents to sin against God), you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:14-15).  When Satan reflected on the threat God had made in the garden, did he imagine that he through his deceptive practices had overcome the curse?  Did he believe he had won at Golgotha?  Did Satan win at Golgotha?

 

Paul commented on the Genesis account: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed (or counted) when there is no law.  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them who had not sinned after the similitude (or likeness) of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come” (Rom. 5:12-14).  Satan was almost certainly pleased with his accomplishments in the Garden of Eden, but he did not, and could not, win the ultimate victory in his battle against God and against God’s faithful children.  In fact, after Peter had explained to the Jews on Pentecost that they had by wicked hands crucified and slain Jesus of Nazareth--their own Messiah--he said further: “Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it is not possible that death should hold him” (Acts 2:24).

 

If Satan imagined that the death of Christ on the cross had been a victory over Christ and Christianity, he could not have been more wrong.  Jesus Christ had known from eternity past that he would have to die for the sins of the world.  The apostle Peter made that truth very plain in his sermon on Solomon’s porch.  “But those things, which God before showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he has so fulfilled” (Acts 3:18).  But Jesus Christ also knew his death on the cross would not put an end to the mission he came to accomplish.  In his Parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus told his disciples: “No man takes (my life) from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again.  This commandment I have received of the Father” (John 10:18).  What did our Lord mean when he said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).  Satan’s apparent victory on Golgotha was actually the beginning of the greatest blessing fallen men have ever known.  It is through the blood Christ shed on the cross that we can have the forgiveness of sins.  “And without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).  Christ and his devoted followers are the victors--not Satan.

 

In ancient times, Satan apparently believed he could win the victory over Job, God’s faithful servant.  “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.  And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence do you come?  Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.  And the Lord said unto Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil?  Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?  Hast not thou put a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side?  Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance has increased.  But put forth your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:6-11).

 

The battle between God and Satan has to be one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible.  Satan said, in effect, to God: “The reason Job serves you is because you have provided him with many advantages.  You have blessed him and protected him.  He fears you because you have made him wealthy and powerful.  But remove all the blessings you have given him and he will curse you to your face.”  God gave Satan permission to take the lives of Job’s sons and daughters, to destroy his donkeys, his sheep, his cattle, his camels, and his servants.  Surely Satan could defeat God by attacking one of God’s faithful servants.  But that did not happen.  After all the tragedies Job suffered, he “rose, and tore his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped.  And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:20-22).  In addition to all the calamities Job suffered, Satan smote Job with boils from the sole of his feet unto his crown.  He was in such misery that he took a broken piece of pottery and scraped himself with it.  He sat down on an ash heap.  Tragically, Job’s wife joined Satan’s attack against Job.  She may not have meant to, but that was the result of her words and actions.  She asked her godly husband, “Do you still retain your integrity?  Curse God and die.  But he said to her, You speak as one of the foolish women.  What?  Shall we receive good at the hand of God and not adversity?  In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:7-11).

 

In millions and millions of cases, Satan wins because the people he tempts succumb to the temptations and are separated from their relationship to God.  In very vivid terms, James explains how temptation leads to sin.  “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does he tempt any man.  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away with his own lusts, and enticed.  Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished (or full grown) brings forth death” (Jas. 1:13-15).  It must be emphasized in passing, that Satan never forces anyone to sin because he cannot do so.  But he sets the temptations before us and makes it very convenient for us to sin.  God will hold you and me accountable for the sins we commit.

 

While Satan has won many battles and continues to do so, he did not win the battle against Job.  I have many questions about Job and the book that bears his name--as I suspect many of you do--but I know this: Satan did not lead Job to sin against God.  God and Job won the victory over Satan.  The book of Job ends with these words: “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more then the beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand female donkeys.  He also had seven sons and three daughters…  And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers.  After this Job lived a hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations.  So Job died, being old and full of days” (Job 42:12-13, 15-17).

 

There is hardly any doubt that the apostle Peter was a man of great ability and of tremendous devotion to the Lord.  He made many foolish blunders, but never did completely forsake his Lord.  On one occasion, Jesus informed his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem where he would “suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests and would be killed, and be raised the third day.”  Peter did not like what he heard.  He began to scold the Lord, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.”  Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan: you are an offense to me: for you are not thinking like God, but like men” (Mt. 16:21-23).  When the apostle Peter saw Jesus appear with Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration, he said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Mt. 17:4).  It is evident from the context that Peter should have been looking and listening and not talking.  He did not know what he was saying.

 

Do you suppose Satan every said to the demons in hell, “I have the apostle Peter right where I want him?  He has scolded the Lord; he has made proposals without any authority for doing so and he has even denied Jesus Christ.  I have him on the ropes.  It will not be long until he belongs to us.”  I know Satan was dedicated to seducing and misleading the apostle Peter.  Our Lord said: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for you, that your faith would not fail you: and when you are converted, strengthen the brethren” (Lk. 22:31-32).  Satan may have thought he had won a victory over the apostle Peter, but he had miscalculated Peter’s faith and the influence of Jesus Christ in Peter’s life.  At times, Peter was weak, but he grew in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, just as he urged his readers to do (2 Pet. 3:18).

 

Satan failed to turn the apostle Peter away from Christ and his kingdom.  But he succeeded in causing Judas Iscariot to apostatize.  John explains what occurred.  “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come and that he should depart from this world unto the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end.  And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him: Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God: he rises from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself” (John 13:1-4).  Even though Judas yielded to Satan’s temptation, Judas was still responsible before God for his ungodly behavior.  Satan did not have the power to make Judas betray the Lord.  He does not have power to force anyone to sin.

 

Did Satan win a victory in the life of Judas Iscariot?  How can anyone deny that?  Satan won the victory because Judas listened to Satan and cooperated with him in betraying innocent blood.  There is little doubt about Satan’s influence on the life and destiny of Judas Iscariot.  But we know that Satan cannot win the ultimate victory.  He cannot win the victory in your life and mine unless we are willing to listen to his deceptive voice.  We know Satan cannot snatch us out of God’s hands, if we put our faith in Jesus Christ.

 

The apostle Paul knew Satan’s power and warned his fellow Christians to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”  He urged them to “put on the whole armor of God” that they “might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:10-11).  But if Christians cannot fall from grace, why do Paul and other Bible writers constantly warn against falling away?  Please listen to the apostle Paul.  “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.  But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his craftiness, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2-3).  The apostle Peter warned his readers: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that that same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).

 

Satan is not all-powerful, but he is shrewd and cunning.  He knows and exploits our weaknesses.  For example, Satan promises Christian’s greater freedom if they follow him and turn their backs on the Lord, although he is almost never that blunt in criticizing the Lord.  He uses various agents to deceive and mislead.  The apostle Peter warns of false teachers whom Satan inspires to accomplish his demonic purposes.  “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.  For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.  For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Pet. 2:17-20).

 

Through his many agents, including some prominent religious leaders, Satan encourages both old and young to believe that God has placed too many restrictions on their lives.  “God knows,” Satan prompts us to believe, “that in the day we eat, then our eyes will be opened, and we shall be as gods.”  Satan asks, “Why does God forbid you to engage in premarital sex or homosexual conduct?  After all, sex is just a normal part of life like eating and drinking.  God wants to take the fun out of living.”  Tragically, millions of people yield to Satan’s deceptive and destructive lies.  Those who listen to Satan and to his emissaries are giving Satan a great victory over the God of heaven.  But the victory is temporary.  In the final judgment, Satan and those who have followed him will be cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Rev. 21:8).

 

There are ways we can fortify ourselves against the onslaught of Satan.  We must fill our hearts with the word of the living God.  “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm…And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:11-13, 17).  Unless we have the word of God deeply implanted in our minds, we lay ourselves wide open to the wiles or methods of the evil one.

 

We must remember that meeting with God’s people in worship strengthens and fortifies us in our fight against the evil one.  The author of Hebrews encouraged his readers: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; “for he is faithful who promised; And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as we see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:23-25).

 

Prayer also helps to overcome the wiles of the devil.  After Paul had listed the pieces of armor the Christian must wear, he advised: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph. 6:18).  We must remember James’ admonition: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).

 

Winford Claiborne

The International Gospel Hour

P.O. Box 118

Fayetteville, TN 37334