Our adversary the Devil may operate within the limits God has set, but that does not mean his threat to us is not real, nor does it mean there is no true battle going on between the forces of light and darkness. Nevertheless, because the Almighty is sovereign even over Satan, we can be assured that our enemy will not win in the end and that we have nothing to fear if we are on the Lord’s side.
The New Testament presents this truth in a number of ways, primarily when it tells us that Jesus delivered the fatal blow to the Devil on the cross (Col. 1:13–15). We also see the idea that though Satan has been mortally wounded, he is still prowling about trying to tear down the church (1 Peter 5:8). Christ has inaugurated His kingdom, but He has not yet consummated it, and the Devil will assault us until that final day.
As such, the church is tasked with a “mop-up operation” of sorts as we preach the gospel and look to see God’s kingdom bear visibly on all aspects of life. This is a truth found in today’s passage and the report of the seventy-two followers of Jesus appointed to go into the towns of Israel before Him during His earthly ministry. Just as the finger of God has been displayed in Christ’s ministry of healing and exorcisms (Luke 11:20), so too have the disciples seen the Spirit at work in making even the demons subject to the people of God (Luke 10:17). Jesus replies, telling them that He has seen Satan fall from heaven (v. 18). The kingdom of God has been on the march, and when it moves, the forces of hell are shaken to the core. Demonic thrones are overturned, the Light of the World dispels the darkness of sin and evil, and Satan and his minions lose the authority they have to hold the church of Jesus Christ in bondage.
The very gates of hell continue to crumble as the gospel goes forth today, proving Matthew Henry’s comment that “Christ foresaw that the preaching of the gospel would wherever it went pull down Satan’s kingdom.” As the church we have been given the authority to “tread on serpents” (v. 19) — to participate in Jesus’ crushing of the Devil (Gen. 3:15) — and no matter what the Enemy throws at us, we the Lord’s people will triumph in the end.
Are you afraid of the Devil? He is a mighty foe, but we have been given the mighty sword of the Word of God that has “divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). We wage war against Satan by praying for our enemies and recalling the promises and warnings of Scripture that keep us from evil. Let us always remember the authority we have in Christ by His Spirit and be comforted that Satan’s worst is no match for our Father’s love.