In Genesis 3:15, God made a promise to the ancient serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
The serpent had done his deceiving work, but his day was not to last forever. Someone was coming from Eve’s line who would crush the serpent’s head. In that act he would be injured—his heel would be bruised—but the serpent’s head injury would be fatal.
Through many lines of evidence, the Bible presents Jesus as this serpent-crusher who became a man so “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). As we reviewed on Sunday, Jesus delivered this death blow at the cross when He died for His people, and Satan’s final finishing-off is depicted in Revelation 20:10, where “the devil …was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur… and… will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
What that means is that at our place in the story, living in between the first and second coming of Christ, Satan is a defeated enemy. He’s still around, and is still an enemy, but his ultimate power over us has been broken. And, in fact, God actually uses His people to trample on the serpent’s head as we await his final defeat.
We see one of the first clues of this in Luke 10:
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”Luke 10:17-20
It’s hard to miss that Jesus is quoting Genesis 3:15 when he talks, in verse 19, about treading on serpents. In the context, he’s referring to the power that He had given the 72 to cast out demons. As they authoritatively commanded Satan’s legions to release their grip on people, they were participating with Jesus in His serpent-crushing work.
What about you and I today? Do we have similar power? Should we expect to engage in “spiritual warfare” in a similar way? It’s a difficult question, and one which bible-believing Christians disagree on. I can’t help but notice that the statements on casting out demons are always directed to specific groups: the apostles, the 72. Nowhere are all Christians instructed to directly engage with demons in this way.
Most of the time, the New Testament describes our part in spiritual warfare in more “normal” terms. Consider this passage from Romans 16:
17I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.Romans 16:17-20
Many of us memorized verses 19 & 20 by singing the song at Bible camp. In context, we can see that Paul has false teachers on his mind. After warning the Roman Christians about these false teachers and division-causers, he shows them the way to resist them: obedience, wisdom, and innocence (v. 19).
Paul is not changing the subject when he gets to verse 20: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Rather, there’s a tight connection here to the rest of the passage. False teachers are elsewhere referred to as Satan’s servants (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Through their obedience, wisdom and innocence, God’s people resist these servants of Satan and thus participate in Jesus’ serpent-crushing work. They carry out Christ’s victory over Satan as they stand against Satan’s attempts to harm the church.
What this means is that spiritual warfare can sometimes look a lot more “normal” than we sometimes think. It can look like doing what’s right, even when we don’t feel like it. It can look like reading God’s word to grow in our wisdom of what’s good. It can look like turning off the TV when inappropriate content starts playing in order to remain “innocent as to what is evil.”
In these seemingly normal ways, you and I actually get to partner with Jesus in his serpent-crushing mission.
In other words, there’s no such thing as a “normal day” when you’re a follower of Jesus. Everything we do is dripping with ancient, cosmic significance. May God give us the faith to see this and the obedience to follow it through!