“He set aside [the legal brief against us], nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Colossians 2:14-15
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8
In the Bible, “rulers and authorities” can refer to human governments. But when we read that on the cross Christ “disarmed the rulers and authorities” and “put them to open shame” and “triumphed over them,” we should think of the demonic powers that afflict the world. One of the clearest statements about these evil powers is Ephesians 6:12. It says that Christians “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Three times Satan is called “the ruler of this world.” Just as Jesus was coming to the last hour of his life he said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). The death of Jesus was the decisive defeat of “the ruler of this world”—the devil. And as Satan goes, so go all his fallen angels. All of them were dealt a decisive blow of defeat when Christ died.
Not that they were put out of existence. We wrestle with them even now. But they are a defeated foe. We know we have the final victory. It is as though a great dragon has had his head cut off and is thrashing about until he bleeds to death. The battle is won. But we must still be careful of the damage he can do.
In the death of Jesus, God was “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14; see chapter 7). This is how he “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame.” In other words, if God’s law no longer condemns us, because Christ canceled our debt, then Satan has no grounds to accuse us.
Accusation of God’s people was the devil’s great work before Christ. The very word Satan means “adversary or accuser.” But listen to what happened when Christ died. These are the words of John the apostle: “I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down’” (Revelation 12:10). This is the defeat and the disarming of the rulers and authorities.
Now in Christ no accusations can stand against God’s people. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33). Neither man nor Satan can make a charge stick. The legal case is closed. Christ is our righteousness. Our accuser is disarmed. If he tries to speak in the court of heaven, shame will cover his face. Oh, how bold and free we should be in this world as we seek to serve Christ and love people! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Let us then turn away from the temptations of the devil. His promises are lies, and his power is stripped.
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.” Please visit Desiring God’s Website for more gospel-centered resources from John Piper. You can also download a free PDF of “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” here.