Paul returns to one of his favourite titles of God – the God of peace. We have already thought about this title when thinking about Romans 15:33. Here Paul gives an assurance to his readers that total victory is coming for God’s people. The striking feature of this promise is that originally it was a description of the Deliverer promised by God in the Garden of Eden after Adam fell (Gen. 3:15). Jesus is the Deliverer that was promised, but here Paul informs us that believers will share the victory of Jesus. This does not mean that they contributed to the victory.
Paul must have mentioned this promise because he was aware that the enemy would be trying in one way or another to disrupt the church. Writing to the Thessalonians, he expresses his fear that the devil may have tempted some of them to give up the faith (1 Thess. 3:5). So Paul, aware of the fact that the devil was persistent in his attempts to disrupt the progress of the gospel, gave this statement of encouragement to the believers in Rome, which they would have to hold on to in the days ahead when they would face problems.
When we think about the victory of the Messiah over the devil, we should see three different but connected stages in the triumph, which are similar to how we see God’s victory over our sins. Regarding our sins, we know that Jesus paid the penalty for sin when he suffered divine wrath on the cross as he made atonement for us, that he deals with the power of sin throughout our lives as we are sanctified and changed into his image, and that he will remove us from the presence of sin when he returns and brings the new heavens and new earth into existence as our eternal dwelling place. We can apply those three distinctions of penalty, power and presence to our conflict with the devil.
First, Paul describes in Colossians 3 the way that Jesus on the cross defeated the powers of darkness by dealing with their power to accuse his people when they sinned. When a person was crucified, his crimes were stated on a notice above his head. Paul uses that as an illustration and says that our sins were stated on the notice above the head of Jesus. These were the sins for which he died and they are the sins for which the devil tries to have us condemned. But since Jesus has paid the penalty, the accusations fail to proceed. Paul says that so comprehensive was the victory of Jesus that he disarmed the hostile powers and made an open show of the enemy (Col. 2:13-14). So we share in the benefits of the victory of Jesus as far as the accusations of the devil requiring punishment for our sins is concerned.
Second, Jesus is defeating the devil day by day by exercising his power as through the gospel people are brought to a knowledge of their sins and turn to God for mercy. Each conversion is a defeat of the devil, which means that heaven has many victories. When s sinner trusts in Jesus, Satan has been defeated and a captive has been rescued from his grip. The defeat of the power of the devil continues throughout a believer’s life as he resists temptations to sin and instead is enabled to live a holy life. Great power is exercised by Jesus not only in enabling his people to resist the devil, but in helping them to obey the commandments of God. Each act of obedience is evidence of victory over the power of the devil.
Third, Jesus will defeat the devil at the second coming in the sense that he will be banished into the lake of fire forever. At the same time, his glorified people will inherit the new heavens and new earth for ever without a single wrong thought or even a temptation to think one. Never again will they have any contact with the tempter of their souls, nor will his temptations disturb their service of the King. All trace of his activities will be gone.
Paul is describing what will happen at the third stage of the victory of Jesus. The word that is translated ‘soon’ can also mean ‘quickly’. Sometimes we can think or speak in a way that suggests that God and the devil are similar to one another in power. But they are not. When this moment comes, God will deal very quickly with the devil – it will take him less than a second to show the difference between omnipotence and the strongest creaturely power.
The words of the apostle detail for us the determination of God to have this final victory after a long campaign. He promised victory in the Garden of Eden, and I doubt if the devil and Adam and Eve had any idea of the scale of the victory. After all, billions of lost sinners who found the Saviour will participate in it. It will be a marvellous sight to see.