THE CROSS DESTROYING THE SERPENT
(The following is an article by Jessie Penn-Lewis. It originally appeared in The Overcomer, No. 41, published by The “Overcomer” Office, Leicester, England, May 1918.)
“That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death; that is, the devil” (Heb. ii. 14).
The Cross means not only the destruction of the fallen creation poisoned by the serpent, and the birthplace of a new race, but it eventually brings about the actual destruction of the serpent who was the original cause of the Fall. On the Cross the Victor of Calvary destroyed the destroyer. This is wonderfully depicted in the foreshadowing of Calvary given in the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness, and referred to by the Lord as the picture of His Cross, and His death at Calvary.
As one has said “The serpent is not the type of Christ. The serpent had poisoned the people; Christ had not. The type consists in this, that the death of the serpent was the triumph of the Saviour.” The fallen race put to death in the Person of the Representative Man; the curse of God on the fallen Adam carried out; and the serpent himself destroyed through the very death he had brought into the world, is a brief and concentrated description of the Cross. Hence Paul writes that on the Cross the Lord Jesus Christ stripped Himself of principalities and powers, and put them to open shame, triumphing over them by the Cross.
An old writer has a very suggestive note on this passage, which opens out its meaning. He says: “The fallen flesh has been taken possession of by the powers and principalities of evil—it is the `armour’ in which they have made themselves strong;” and therefore when Jesus overcame them, He put off “the likeness of sinful flesh,” and having unclothed Himself, He made an open show of the powers and principalities.
How wonderfully divine the plan! “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor. v. 19). The Creator in the Person of His Son, taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world—came in the likeness of sinful flesh, or “flesh of sin” (Rom. viii. 8), yet without SIN—and partaking of flesh and blood, formed a bond of union with the fallen race, that He in His divine personality should carry that fallen Adam-life to the Cross, and there suffer the penalty of death, which was its inevitable due and end; so that for the fallen creature He might break a way back to God, and become the Head of a new race, built up and formed out of His very nature and substance.
This is the meaning of the Cross in its divine purpose, and the way of victory for fallen man to triumph over the world, the flesh and the devil. This is the meaning of the Fall—the fallen flesh taken possession of by the spirit of Satan. This is the answer of Calvary to Satan, and to sin: the fallen creation crucified on the Cross, that every man may have the option of leaving the old race, and breaking away from its federal head, the first Adam, begin again “in Christ” a new creation.
The Cross is God’s destroying weapon, to destroy the old creation (Rom. vi. 6), to destroy the fallen wisdom which set up itself against the wisdom of God (1 Cor. ii. 8), to destroy Satan (Heb. ii. 14), and eventually to destroy death itself (1 Cor. xv. 54, Rev. xx. 14). Through that Cross where (potentially) sin, Satan and fallen man were destroyed, then when the full results of the redemptive scheme will reach their full fruition, there shall come about a “new heavens,” cleansed from every trace of the revolt of the fallen angels; and a “new earth” freed from every mark of the curse of the fall; inhabited by a new race, with every trace of the old fallen creation eliminated.
The Son of God will then see accomplished in its entirety, that which He was manifested on earth to do. The fruit of His lonely death on the Cross will have its full outworking, when “He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor. xv. 24), having taken back both in the seen and unseen worlds, from the revolting Archangel Satan, who is at last finally be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. xx. 10), “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. xxv. 41). The Cross destroys the serpent. Hallelujah.
“THE LAST ENEMY THAT SHALL BE DESTROYED IS DEATH” (1 Cor. xv. 26). The Christ will reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. By the Cross the one who has the power of death is destroyed, and finally death itself abolished, “death shall be no more” (Rev. xxi. 4), and “there shall be no curse anymore” (Rev. xxii. 3).
Oh! wondrous Cross, and wondrous Saviour! The fallen race of Adam DESTROYED for the creation of a new race! The wisdom of fallen man DESTROYED in its exaltation against the Creator! The “Serpent” who fell from heaven, and drew down part of the host of heaven, and the whole race of man in his Fall, DESTROYED, and finally death, the result of the Fall, DESTROYED. The cross destroys the Serpent, and all that came into the world through the Serpent. Hallelujah.