The Warfare We Have Inherited
Image by Chris Sardegna
Jesus’ miracles over nature, as well as his healings, exorcisms and especially his resurrection, were definite acts of war that accomplished and demonstrated his victory over Satan. These acts routed demonic forces and thereby established the kingdom of God in people’s lives and in nature. But their primary significance was eschatological. People are still obviously being demonized; all people still get sick and die; storms still rage and destroy lives; famines are yet prevalent and starve thousands daily. But Jesus’ ministry, and especially his death and resurrection, in principle tied up “the strong man” and established the kingdom of God and the restoration of a new humanity in the midst of this war zone. In doing this, Jesus set in motion forces that will eventually overthrow the whole of this already fatally damaged Satanic assault upon God’s earth and upon humanity.
Gustaf Wingren expresses this “already/not yet” dynamic well when he argues that with Christ’s resurrection
The war of the Lord is finished and the great blow is struck. Never again can Satan tempt Christ, as in the desert. Jesus is now Lord, Conqueror. But a war is not finished, a conflict does not cease with the striking of the decisive blow. The enemy remains with the scattered remnants of his army, and in pockets here and there a strong resistance may continue. That is the position of the church. (The Living Word: A Theological Study of Preaching and the Church)
Jesus’ miraculous ministry, therefore, was not simply symbolic of the eschaton–in principle it achieved the eschaton. He in principle won the war, struck the decisive deathblow, vanquished Satan, restored humanity, established the kingdom; yet some battles must still be fought before this ultimate victory is fully manifested. Hence Jesus did not just carry out his warfare ministry; he commissioned, equipped and empowered his disciples, and the whole of the later church, to do the same. He set in motion the creation of a new humanity, one that again exercises dominion over the earth, by giving us his power and authority to proclaim and demonstrate the kingdom just as he did (e.g., 2 Cor 5:17-21; Mt 16:15-19; Lk 19:17-20; cf. Jn 14:12; 20:21).
Jesus thus gives to all who will in faith receive it his authority to break down the gates of hell and take back for the Father what the enemy has stolen, just as he himself has done (Mt 16:18). Now that the strong man has been bound, it is a task we can and must successfully carry out. In doing all this, we the church are further expanding the kingdom of God against the kingdom of Satan and laying the basis for the Lord’s return, when the full manifestation of Christ’s victory, and of Satan’s defeat, will occur.
God at War, pp. 213-214