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Jesus destroyed the devil when he died. ‘Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, 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’ (Hebrews 2:14–15). Who is the devil?

Ed: THE ANSWER IS AT THE beginning, in the Garden of Eden. The serpent led Adam and Eve to sin, and God condemned the 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’ (Genesis 3:15).

The serpent was not a supernatural wicked being, it was a beast of the field that God made (v. 1). God used it to provide a test of obedience for Adam and Eve. They failed the test, and brought the curse of decay and mortality upon themselves and the world.

The serpent became a symbol of human disobedience. This symbol is developed throughout the Bible. For example in Numbers 21 the Israelites were plagued by serpents because of their disobedience.

In the New Testament we’re introduced to the devil. It first appears in the account of Jesus’ temptation at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 4:1). Jesus’ temptation contains strong echoes of Adam and Eve’s temptation. Theirs was in the garden, and as a result of their failure the world was cursed; his was in the wilderness, and as a result of his obedience then and throughout his life, paradise will be restored in the Kingdom of God. If you compare the three characteristics of the fruit which Eve took (Genesis 3:6), they correspond with the three temptations of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).

‘Devil’ is a word that means ‘false accuser’. The devil is a pictorial way of describing our human nature, which prompts us to sin, as did the serpent in Eden. There was no serpent in the wilderness with Jesus— he was tempted in the same way we are, by the prompting of his human nature. He resisted it, then and throughout his life. He triumphed over it when he died, sinless.

That prophecy in Genesis 3:15 is a dramatic picture of Jesus’ struggle with the devil. In the terms of the prophecy, Jesus was the offspring of Eve, and the devilishness of human nature was the offspring of the serpent. (See for example John 8:44.) It tried to kill him, but instead he crushed it.

So what is Hebrews 2:14–15 saying? Jesus had the same human nature as us, he was beset by the devil just as we are, but unlike us he never gave in. When he died he destroyed its power. When we are baptised, we symbolically share in Jesus’ death (Romans 6:3). If we do this, we can share in his victory over the devil (v. 8).

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