The Cross of Calvary # 19
The Cross and the Powers of Darkness
Another aspect of the work of Christ upon the Cross of Calvary comes before us here. By His death He "spoiled principalities and powers", and "made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in Himself", writes Paul to the Colossians.
These principalities and powers are described in Ephesians 6:12, as the "world-rulers of this darkness", wicked spirits or spiritual hosts of wickedness" in high, or heavenly places.
The victory of the Cross was especially mentioned by Isaiah, when he foretold that the Man of sorrows would "divide the spoil with the strong"; and now Paul the Apostle proclaims that on the Cross the Lord Christ spoiled the principalities and powers, and triumphed over them.
Christ again we notice the clear vision of all that was accomplished at Calvary, given to souls on the resurrection side of the Cross. It is not until the believer apprehends his death with Christ, as well as Christ's death for him, that he actually passes in to the sphere which Paul describes as the "heavenlies", where he lives "in the Spirit", and walks "after the Spirit."
In this sphere he realizes the actual existence of the forces of darkness described by the Apostle, for they are "spiritual" hosts, unknown by those who walk "after the flesh", who are "yet carnal", and live "according to men."
It is therefore to the interest of the "world-rulers of this darkness", that the children of God should not apprehend the two-fold message of Calvary, through which they enter the sphere where their eyes are opened to the wiles of the devil, and where they see that their "wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the ... spiritual hosts of wickedness.
It is true that the adversary of souls resists the message of the Cross in every aspect, but all the powers of hell are aroused to prevent the believer's knowledge of the victory of Calvary over the prince of darkness and his evil hosts,for on the earthward side of the Cross, the subtle foe often persuades even true children of God that he does not exist at all; or else he magnifies his power, and holds them in thraldom (in bondage and slavery) to habits of sin, deluding them into belief that there is no deliverance on this side of the grave.
In service for God, also, many Christians are wielding carnal weapons, of no avail against the real foe. Others are filled with earnest plans, and labor with heart and soul to win the masses to their Lord; but behind and around is the evil one, and the real but unseen hosts of wickedness, who laugh at every weapon of the flesh, and fear not but the power of the finished work of Christ, when manifested by the Holy Spirit, through men and women who have become in very truth crucified messengers of a crucified Lord.
Since this is so, we do not marvel that the prince of darkness hates the Cross; spares no effort to nullify its message; hides its full meaning from the children of God, and hesitates at nothing to keep them from knowing its power.
Fully aware of the prophecy of Isaiah that the Man of Calvary would take "the prey from the terrible", and "divide the spoil with the strong", by pouring out His soul unto death, the "terrible one" himself came to the Christ of God when He walked on earth, and tried his utmost to keep Him from the Cross. In the wilderness he offered Him all the kingdoms of this world, without the necessity of going to the Cross, if He would but bow down to him. But with His face set as a flint to accomplish His Father's will, Christ answers "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God", and turns from the tempter toward the Cross of shame.
The temptation was renewed later through the lips of His disciple Peter when he prays the Master to "pity Himself", as he hears from Him of His prospective sufferings and death. "Get thee behind Me, satan," said the Lord. "Thou art a stumbling-block unto Me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men."
satan is baffled once more, and leaves the Son of God "but for a season", before renewing his attack again and again. He raged against Him through the demons who possessed the bodies of men, for all "wicked spirits" knew that this Holy One of God would end their authority and power over men.
At last the final conflict is at hand. The adversary has failed to turn the Christ from the Cross, and now becomes the bitter instigator of it.
The words of the Son of God as He drew close to the time of His sufferings show that He clearly knew the purpose of His death. It was to be not only "a ransom for all", but a final and complete triumph over the powers of hell. "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up out of the earth, will draw all men unto Myself," said the Lord to His disciples, foretelling the power that would be centered in Calvary to draw souls unto Himself, out of the death of sin, and the captivity of the devil.
As the supper table again the Lord said, "The prince of this world cometh, but he hath nothing in Me", for He loved the Father, and as He gave Him commandment to go to the Cross, even so He would do. He would lay down His life, of His own free choice, to save the sheep from the wolf who had snatched them from their God.
Failing utterly in his attempt to keep the Son of God from the Cross, the prince of darkness enters into one of the Master's own disciples, to lead Him to the Cross.
At the supper table the devil "put into the heart of Judas" the awful thought of betraying Him; and after he had taken bread from the very hand of Christ, "then entered satan into him",and he hastens away to fulfill the wishes of the archenemy of his Lord.
Oh solemn fact that the spirit of evil must find human beings to carry out his plans, even as the Holy Spirit of God seeks yielded hearts and lives to fulfill the counsels of God.
"This is your hour, and the power of darkness", said the Christ later, when, in the garden of Gethsemane, after His agony even unto blood, they seized Him, and led Him to the judgment hall. From this moment He was given over to the world-rulers of this darkness, who were permitted to exercise their power upon Him to the full, and by the hands of wicked men, through whom they worked their will they "killed the Prince of life."
(continued with# 20)