There is a great spiritual battle raging in and all around us. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The meek and lowly Jesus of Nazareth said these words to His followers shortly before He gave His life on Calvary to conquer this world. Did Jesus succeed in defeating Satan and the rest of our foes, or did He fail? Just how do we know that Jesus really is the winner in this war of all wars?
The evidence of Christ’s power over the god of this world is convincing. Keep in mind that the conflict is spiritual at its core, though it does manifest itself physically in battles between nations and individuals. If this were just a physical fight, Satan could be instantly crushed by Jesus. But the spiritual fight about whether or not sinful man has a right to be accepted by the righteous God could only be settled by the Lamb of God being offered for our sins. In this way, Jesus proved that “Right makes Might,” not “Might makes Right,” as earthly wars are intended to prove. Praise God that Christ obtained for us the victory rightfully and that we now have the “right” to be God’s children with an eternal inheritance in Heaven!
The great miracles of Jesus proved that He really is the Winner. Healing the sick, for example, was not something He did to eradicate illness and make the world a better place. “But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, (then he said to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:6,7). Since Jesus is more powerful than physical sickness, we can trust Him to heal us of the sins which cause our spiritual sickness! The King of kings cast out demons: The reason? “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20). When temptation seems so hard to resist, just remember that Jesus is stronger than the god of this world! Think of the display of our Savior’s superiority over nature itself when He calmed fierce winds and turbulent waves instantly: Don’t you believe He can bring peace to your life, no matter how great the storm may be? We should never forget how Jesus gave “life from the dead” to at least three people, and was Himself raised from the dead! Not even death itself, our “last enemy” (I Corinthians 15:26), could overcome the Captain of our Salvation, so rest assured (Revelation 20:14) that it will once and for all be cast into the lake of fire on the Day of Judgment!
In Ephesians 4:8, Paul quotes from Psalms 68:18,19 and gives us a unique description of what Jesus has done to prove that His cause is right and that He is victorious over all enemies: “Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’” “He led captivity captive” is a reference to the practice of conquering kings leading a victory procession before their loyal subjects which would include the enemy king (or kings) who had been defeated – the enemies who had previously held others captive until the conquering king came and made them captives!
It was very prudent for kings to make good use of their successes in battle, capitalizing on them to gain more honor in the eyes of their subjects and insure for themselves a legacy. Kings of Israel did this by erecting memorials, from King Saul (I Samuel 15:12) to King Absalom (2 Samuel 18:18). Jesus, however, has obtained something far greater from His victory in this great spiritual war: an eternal memorial with The Name that is above every name; the Name which every tongue shall confess, and to which every knee shall bow! (Philippians 2:9-11).
Here is an example from history to illustrate what it meant for a king to “lead captivity captive.” At the end of the third century, a magnificent triumphal parade was led by the Roman Emperor Diocletian down the streets of the capitol of Rome. Adorning the procession were the captives Queen Zenobia of the East and King Tetricus of the North. Both of them had been rebellious in their own regions, making themselves enemies of the Empire. Though Emperor Aurelian actually defeated them in 274 A.D., they became Roman captives and were not put on parade until 20 years later under Diocletian in 294. On top of all the pomp and ceremony of the triumphant procession, the “benevolent” Emperor Diocletian also passed out gifts of clothing and food to the citizens of Rome, “giving gifts to men,” thus solidifying a dearer place in their hearts.
This one example illustrates plainly what the inspired writers were referring to when they spoke of “leading captivity captive” and “giving gifts to men.” Even as Roman citizens were physically comforted and reassured by the procession of conquered enemies and the outpouring of gifts from their Emperor, we receive even greater security and comfort by the public spectacle of the enemies Jesus has captured (Colossians 2:15) and the gifts He gives to the church!
The enemies of Jesus and the things that would keep us from our Creator include pain, suffering, disease and death. The gifts that Christ gives to the church are described in Ephesians 4:11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are the precious gifts Jesus left for us to edify, strengthen and comfort the church of Christ until the Bridegroom returns to take us home to the place He is preparing in Heaven. Much could be said about these edifying endowments, but for now, ask yourself if you truly appreciate these gifts and do you take advantage of the teaching they provide for us? Are you preparing yourself to be one of these gifts yourself, if it is God’s will?
An honest evaluation of the evidence shows us that Jesus is the clear winner in the war that matters the most. You didn’t start it, but you had better be on the right side when the final verdict is announced. Choose today the winning side! Stand on the promises of God, knowing how Jesus has proven His superiority over Satan, and rejoice in all the blessings we are given in Christ, especially the dear men who teach us the Word. Sweet victory can be yours, but only in Jesus, the bona fide winner of the epic battle of the ages!
Thomas W. Woody
~ P.O. Box 148, Brighton, IL 62012