I can see Satan, scurrying back to hell as fast as he can go, trying to figure out what went wrong. His argument was ironclad, his victory sure, he thought. What happened?
No sooner does he slink into his dark, oppressive chamber, but there is a knock on the door of hell. He ignores it. But the visitor is insistent. The knocking grows louder. “Nobody’s home!” he tries, cowering in the corner. And a voice answers back: “I’m coming in anyway!”
At the next knock, the gates of hell are blasted inward as the victor comes for his spoils. Jesus, arrayed in glory, stands at the threshold, undaunted, unafraid, the undefeated champion. Someone else is with him. A wide-eyed young man stands behind him, mouth open, watching. Satan points a bony finger. “Who is that with you?” he asks from behind a chair. “Wait! I know him! That is the thief on the cross! Have you come to deliver him?”
Jesus smiles at the man standing behind him, then turns and says, “You must be mistaken. This man is not a thief. He WAS a thief. Now he is righteous. Now he’s with me. And, no, he has already been delivered. From you.”
“Then why are you here?”
Jesus steps toward him and holds out his hand. Satan backs up, trying to hind behind the horde of demons that has come to see what all the commotion is. They are the same demons who last saw this man being beaten, the same ones who laughed and prodded as the nails were driven. But now, here he is, standing in front of them, holding out one of those mighty, nail-scarred hands.
“I am here,” Jesus says, in a voice that echoes through all the ages, “for the keys.”
“What keys?” asks Satan.
“The keys to death and hell. They don’t belong to you anymore. In case you don’t remember, hell was prepared for you and your angels, not for the people for whom I just died. It is true, people will always have a choice. They can choose to reject the love of my Father, reject my love, the price that I paid, and then they will share your eternity. But that is their choice. Not yours. No longer do you have power or authority over them. You have accused them unopposed for far too long. They now have an advocate with the Father. I am now on their side.”
And Satan thought of what worked so well for him before. “Objection!” he screamed.
And the response rolled down from heaven with astonishing power: “OVERRULED!”
And Jesus took the keys and walked back up, up from the bowels of hell, leading captivity captive, up into the tomb where they laid Him, and He BURST through the other side in radiant light, RISEN AND ALIVE FOREVERMORE!
And still, today, the father of lies tries to lie his way into the hearts of men and women. He tells them that he still rules, that there is no way out, that they are under his control. But still, God proclaims to them, in myriad ways, His great love and deliverance.
And still, today, the accuser appears before God day and night, bringing cases against the children of God, those who have entered into the forgiveness and cleansing of the sacrificial blood of Jesus.
“Look!” he cries, pointing. “See that one there? Did you see how he just treated that waiter? And you say he’s one of yours. I object!”
And the Father looks down from his throne, and all he sees is someone that is robed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and stands forgiven by His blood. And he turns confidently and triumphantly to Satan. “Overruled.”
“Look!” the devil says again, “did you see that pastor? A pastor! Look what he is involved in! And the people, YOUR people, have no idea! Surely you must give him to me! You can’t keep him! I object!”
And the Father, with grief in his heart for a suffering child, still shakes his head and says, “Objection overruled. It is true that he is hurting himself with his sin, and I miss spending time with him, but he will always belong to me. Always.”
“Look there!” the devil continues. “And there! Are you blind? Can’t you see their sin?”
And the Father, with the righteous anger of a Daddy protecting his children from attack, stands and leans toward their accuser. “No,” he says, “I don’t see their sin. I see a redeemed man, I see a woman who once was dead but now is alive again. I see a teenager that was lost, but he has been found by me. I see a young girl confused by the world, hurt by friends, but holding on to my love for her. I see people who are struggling to live free from the chains you had them in, but they are winning. They are learning. They are growing. And I love them with all of my heart.
“Do you want to know what I see? Every time I look at them, every time they come to me in tears and in repentance, every time they struggle, every time they fail, every time they succeed beyond their wildest dreams, do you know what I see? I see Jesus. They no longer wear the old, tattered rags that you had them in. They have gotten a heavenly make-over. They now wear the robe of righteousness of my Son, and His blood cleanses them from ALL sin!
“So go ahead, accuse them all you want, throw whatever indictments you can find, scream out your arguments until time is no more, until the earth and the sky disappear, until all the kingdoms of this world have been handed to Jesus and he gives them to me. It doesn’t matter. One day, when the earth has run its course, my people will finally be able to say, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ!” So, until that day, know this, and know it well: every accusation, every indictment, every argument against them, every objection you can ever scream out will be met with one word: OVERRULED!”
“The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
and His kingdom rules over all.”