Does the devil exist? One look at the recent exorcism in northwest Indiana confirms that the devil does exist. Yet you don’t have to be an internet troll spewing filth about believing in God and Satan to deny that the devil exists. All you have to do is make fun of the Christian faith, mock the doctrines of the Trinity, of Christ’s birth, of Baptism, and of the Lord’s Supper. There are even those who believe in the Bible and in some sort of personal deity, yet deny the existence of a personal devil.
The devil himself is the cause of unbelief. He retains terrible and undisturbed power over people in such a way that he brings unbelief into their heart. An unknown enemy is the most dangerous enemy. Jesus Christ knows this enemy well. Two weeks ago, we heard Him fight back Satan’s temptations with the Word of God. This week Jesus casts out a demon and must deal with those of His own kinsmen who say He casts out demons by the prince of demons. What they don’t believe, and what we see today, is Jesus Christ has come to destroy the kingdom of the devil.
It’s good to remind ourselves about demons and the prince of demons, Satan himself. These are spirits created by God but voluntarily fallen from God and rejected by Him. Jesus says in John chapter eight about the Jews who despise Him: You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Saint Peter writes that God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.
Demons have retained their strength and speed from when they were angels of light. Jesus calls Satan the strong man. Their number is large, for Jesus asked a demon that possessed a man what its name was. The demon replied, My name is Legion, for we are many. There is a master of demons often called “Satan” or “the devil” or even “Beelzebub”, a name meaning “lord of the flies”.
Satan’s kingdom was founded by seduction of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The devil became a lord and prince of this world through sin. All mankind are subjects of his kingdom. If God had allowed His Kingdom set up after the fall by His Son, then there would only be a kingdom of the devil on earth. We see the devil’s kingdom among those who do not have the Gospel of Christ, such as Islam and Judaism. The devil’s kingdom is also present among unbelievers in Christ, whether subtle or blatant unbelievers. The tares among the wheat in the Christian Church also give evidence of the devil’s kingdom, as do blasphemers and skeptics.
It’s easy to find yourself in this kingdom. Every denial of the Christian faith you give in word or deed shows what kingdom is yours. Every time you bow the knee to sin, whether in secret or in public, gives testimony to God and to your neighbor that you would rather have the strong man in your house than the Stronger Man and His kingdom of power, grace, and glory. When you strive after earthly ambitions to hold your authority over others, when you live like a hypocrite, when you set up another god as your God, there is your kingdom. In short, where any sin reigns in you, there the devil has pitched his tent; there you stand side-by-side with Satan. Saint John puts it this way: Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
There is no barrier, no fortified dwelling, that the Stronger Man cannot destroy. Jesus Christ, the Stronger Man, has come to destroy the devil, his helpers, and his kingdom among mankind. The Incarnate Son of God is the only One able to overcome the strong men of the devil. Jesus alone paid for your sin, your guilt, and your punishment through which Satan had obtained power and rights over God’s people. Saint John also says, The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus Christ alone works redemption through His suffering, death, and resurrection. These unexpected ways of victory, for the world and the devil expect an earthly King with earthly powers, destroy death and open the gates of Paradise to all who believe in the Stronger Man sent from the everlasting Father.
The worn-out saying is “To the victor go the spoils”. This means the winner of a conflict wins additional benefits beyond the subject of the conflict. Jesus does not hog the spoils of His victory over sin, death, and hell. He delivers His spoils of victory to you, for His victory is your victory through faith in Jesus Christ. The spoils of victory are the Gifts Jesus gives to His Church: the preaching of His Word of forgiveness and resurrection, the water of Baptism that cleanses you from all sin and puts you in His Kingdom, the Absolution that declares your sins forgiven, and the Supper that puts His Body and Blood in your mouth for the forgiveness, righteousness, and salvation. Through these Gifts, the Holy Spirit works powerfully among you to strengthen and preserve you in the Holy Christian Church to everlasting life.
Jesus Christ has entered the strong man’s dwelling and captured you from his hands. Saint Paul says it this way to the Colossian Christians: [The Father] has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. You have an inheritance more precious than gold and silver. You have everlasting life. You have forgiveness of sins. You have a future because Jesus Christ gives you that future in His destruction of Satan through His innocent suffering and death on your behalf. Believe it for His sake.