Sermons

Christ Came On a Destroy and Deliver Mission

December 26, 2021 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: Advent

Topic: Advent Season Passage: Hebrews 2:14–2:15

This morning, I want to look at a passage that has the language of warfare in it. Warfare. One of the themes we hear in many Christmas carols is Christ’s assault on death. That Jesus Christ came to deal with death. He came to deal a death blow to death. We need to understand this. One of my favorite Christmas carols we sing is O Come O Come Emmanuel. And there are two verses that very explicitly express this:

O Come, O Key of David, come. And open wide our heavenly home. Make safe for us the heavenward road. And the way to death’s abode.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer. Our spirits by Thine Advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night. And death’s dark shadows put to flight…

And this is so important because our text assumes that everyone - even if unconscious - has (or used to have) a fear of dying. And I think our empirical experience testifies that people are afraid of dying. In fact, people spend an inordinate amount of time and energy ensuring that they will not die or shielding themselves from the reality that they will die. And of course this is futile, because one of the surest things we can count on is that we will die, unless of course, Christ returns first. And as Christians, of all the people in the world, we should and must think clearly about this. And if we do, the words “Merry Christmas” will carry an even deeper meaning - whether you are in tip top shape or at death’s door. Whether you live another 40 years or 40 minutes. 

Our text says Christ came to do two things: destroy and to deliver. Those two words are clear. That’s the language of warfare. He came to destroy the devil, and deliver his people from the fear of death. He came to destroy the devil, who has the power of death. And he came to deliver his people from the enslaving power of the fear of death. He came to do a prison break from the tyranny of the devil who keeps people in bondage to the fear of death.  

So let’s walk through our text and see how this works. And my prayer is by the end, the greeting “Merry Christmas” will carry with it the good tidings that death’s dark shadow has been put to flight!

 

Incarnation

Our text begins by affirming the reality and necessity of the incarnation of the Son of God - the Lord Jesus Christ.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things.

This text says the children share in flesh and blood. Children here is referring to those who Christ died for, those who believe on the name of Jesus Christ and are given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). And for this reason, Jesus Christ also partook of flesh and blood. This of course points to the miracle of the incarnation. The infinite humility of God, to take on flesh and become like us is an astounding miracle. One that we probably don’t consider as deeply as we should. The true and eternal God came as a helpless, weak infant. And he did this because you and I were born weak and helpless infants. Stunning miracle. Stunning humility. I read this quote from JI Packer last week. He said,

The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the incarnation. 

He did not cease to be God. He did not become half God, half man. He remained fully and truly God, yet took on our nature (flesh and blood), for our salvation. And our text indicates that this was necessary. And it was necessary for a particular purpose.  

 

Incarnation for the purpose of death… 

The incarnation was not an end in itself. It was a means to an end. When one asks “Why did God have to become a human?” I suppose there are a number of answers that could be given. Good, biblical answers. To fulfill prophecy (I am thinking of Isaiah 7:14). Or to show us what God is like: Colossians 1 says that Christ is the image of the invisible God. 

But one way to answer that question, and perhaps the most important way to answer, at least in terms of our salvation, is Jesus was born a human so that he could die. Let’s look at our our text connects this:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise partook of the same things (flesh and blood), that [purpose] through death… 

The eternal Son of God took on human flesh in order to die. God in his essential nature cannot die - possesses immortality. So Christ, the second Person of the Trinity came in the flesh - truly man and [still] truly God - so that he might die for his people. This is affirmed just a few verses later in Hebrews 2:17-18:

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 

Only God could pay the price for sins. And yet only a Man can die for sinners. That’s why Jesus is the perfect mediator. 1 Timothy 2:5:

There is only one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all…

So we have God the Son coming in the flesh so that he might die; and through his death he might do two things: 1) destroy the devil and 2) deliver us. Destroy the devil and the power of death he possesses; and deliver us from bondage to the fear of death.

 

The death of Christ destroyed the devil

First, so that he might destroy the devil. 1 John 3:8 says that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Here’s the way our text says it:

That through death, he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil.

One of the accomplishments of the cross is the destruction of the devil. Now we need to understand what this means and what it does not mean. It obviously does not mean that the devil no longer exists. It does not mean that the devil is no longer able to harm us in any way. So how is the devil destroyed? Notice how the devil is referred to here: “the one who has the power of death”. So there is a certain power that Satan was able to wield that has been destroyed. He was able to take swings at us and hack us to pieces. And that weapon of death has been destroyed. The way this verse is translated in the NASB is very helpful: “through death He might render powerless him who has the power of death, that is the devil.” This power of death that the devil had has been rendered powerless, nullified, made void through the death of Christ. 

I think the clearest passage that helps us understand how Christ accomplished this is Colossians 2:13-15:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (the cross). 

What is the power the devil has? It’s not like the devil somehow usurps God’s authority or overpowers God. No way. Here’s the power has and the only thing that can damn us now and forever: unforgiven sin. The devil is called the accuser. The word “devil” is derived from the Greek word “diabolos” from which we get our word diabolical. He is a diabolical, a devilish accuser. And he accuses saints day and night before the throne of God. But Colossians 2:13-15 says that the “record of debt”. What’s that? Our sin. Our mountainous debt of sin. And this sin carries with it a “legal demand”. Our sin requires justice. The curse of the law for lawbreakers. And all of this stood against or was hostile to us. And what did God do? He set it aside, not by letting bygones be bygones, or sweeping it under the rug. He set it aside, nailing to the cross!

And what did this result in? He disarmed the rulers and authorities (the devil and his evil powers) and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them. The picture here is of a victorious general parading his defeated foe for all to see. The cross is God’s victory parade over the devil! He has rendered him powerless who had the power of death. He still accuses us and reminds us that we deserve death, but when aimed at God’s children, his accusations are impotent. He is like a lion without teeth. 

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:33-34)

His power over death has been destroyed, rendered powerless. And because of that we are delivered, free, released from the fear of death.

Come Thou long expected Jesus, 

born to set Thy people free; 

from our sins and fears release us; 

let us find our rest in Thee.

He’s come. He has come and accomplished this. He has come and freed us from our sins and fears, and beloved we may find our rest in Him. 

 

The death of Christ delivered “the children” 

That through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 

The devil is a tyrant. Death is the prison in which he enslaves us. But his power has been broken through the death of the God man, Jesus Christ. 

It’s not that we don’t die. We do. We will, unless Christ comes first. And we ought to pray that he does. But death is transformed and thus no longer something to live in dread and fear of. Death is still an enemy, the bible is clear about that. But it is an enemy that serves God’s purposes of ushering us into paradise. Of course our final hope is the resurrection, when these bodies are raised imperishable, incorruptible, and immortal. But even so, when a Christian dies, he enters paradise. That’s how Christ described it to the thief on the cross. That’s how Paul described heaven in his vision of heaven in 2 Corinthians 12. It’s paradise. And Paul said he preferred to die and be present with the Lord. 

Death is transformed. And when we truly understand this - not just a mindless mantra we repeat - “I’ll go to heaven when I die”, but truly understand this, we are free. In fact, we are the freest people in the world! It’s how Paul could say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to is GAIN!” (Philippians 1:21). 

It is how Justin Martyr (2nd century) could say to his persecutors: “You can kill us, but you cannot hurt us.” And of course this truth is what enables us to live now boldly, with courage, and without fear in this time in which God has placed us. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7).

And of course the Spirit we have been given is the Holy Spirit. Listen to Paul in Romans 8:15:

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you ahve received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

So Christ has come in the flesh so that he might die in order to destroy the devil by taking away the only thing he can use to damn us (unforgiven sin) and deliver us from the fear of death, to live fearlessly in the power of the Spirit for his sake.  

So… Merry Christmas!

More in Advent

December 19, 2021

Stunning Sovereignty in the Birth of Jesus

December 12, 2021

God's Great Gift

December 5, 2021

The Word Became Flesh

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