In some of my recent, tentative theological wanderings, I have been considering the Christus Victor view of atonement and what implications that has for my view of things. In many ways, it feels like a “coming home” to the first major systematic Bible study that I did, almost ten years ago, in which the major theme was the Bible as God’s narrative of grace and the victorious redemption of his creation. Perhaps it was Christus Victor without those words…
Regardless, the emphasis I see on atonement as the redemptive – not placating – victory of Christ over the powers and principalities of this world resonates deeply within me. I was recently reading Greg Boyd’s essay on Christus Victor and the emphasis on spiritual warfare and Christ’s victory over the sphere of Satan’s influence were very persuasive.
[Jesus] said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash. Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you.” Luke 10:18-19 (all references taken from HCSB unless otherwise noted)
In the course of God’s redemptive narrative, Satan has gone from a supposed honored angel in heaven to the tempter and legal accuser of mankind with access to the heavenly throne room, to a dragon thrown down from heaven to earth whereupon he established a reign of deceit and consumptive power, to a crushed serpent with no authority over the sons of God to finally a prisoner, bound and gagged, behind the sealed door of the abyss.
In thinking about Jesus’ description of the establishment of his redemptive beachhead with the 72 disciples, I jumped not to Revelation 12, which is most commonly associated with “the fall” in Luke 10, but to the binding of the dragon in Revelation 20:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for 1,000 years. He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations…. Revelation 20:1-3
So the thought occurred to me this morning that “what if the abyss is not some fantastical chasm to the core of the planet”, but is simply Earth itself — a singularity that could be isolated in space and time from the eternal heavens, a type of black hole if you will.
Christ defeated the beast and false prophet – snake and scorpion, the law and false shepherds – and left the serpent Satan is bound and gagged on Earth after his resurrection, a former despot on the lam from the growing redemptive work of Christ. His power has been constrained, though as his sphere of influence contracts, the appearance of his power grows, just as a saturated solution appears more concentrated as it slowly evaporates, or like a fish finds himself appearing larger and larger as the pond where he lives slowly drains and becomes smaller.
Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians that “you know what currently restrains [the man of lawlessness], so that he will be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; but the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way, and then the lawless one will be revealed.” (2 Thess 2:6-8) The one restraining is the abyss, or perhaps more properly the angel of the abyss. I wonder if it is the increasingly redeemed creation or perhaps the church that moves the restraining angel “out of the way” to stand in opposition to the man of lawlessness, e.g. Satan. For eventually Satan “must be released for a short time” (Rev 20:3) until “the Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and will bring him to nothing with the brightness of His coming.” (2 Thess 2:8).
Finally, if we are the abyss, then perhaps there is comfort not only in our perseverance in Christ, but in knowing that in the deepest pits on Earth, even on the brightest days, one can still see stars:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. […] Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions