Death has been swallowed up in victory … Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 15:54, 57 (NIV).
Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, and then, according to Romans 10:7 and Ephesians 4:10, He descended into Hell.
This is my conjecture of the scene in Hell: Demons in an ecstasy of glee – strutting and parading, gloating and cackling as they celebrate the death and demise of the Son of God. Then Satan arrives amidst thunderous applause. There’s backslapping and high-fives. Congratulations for finally winning what they believed to be the ultimate victory. And there, in their midst, the Son of God is their prisoner. He’s defeated at last. He’s stripped of dignity, friends, life. He’s been abandoned by the Father (cf. Matthew 27:46) and cursed for being hung on a tree (cf. Galatians 3:13). As the demons celebrate – creation groans. The earth shakes and the rocks split open (cf. Matthew 27:51). Men and women are terrified and filled with dread (cf. Matthew 27:54). It seems as if the greatest of tragedies has occurred. It appears as if Satan has defeated God.
But Christ is Christ! What appears to be irreversible is reversible. Christ is stripped of life, but He isn’t stripped of His power over death. He is abandoned by the Father, but He’s still the Son of God. And more … Hell could not hold Him because the love of Christ is the antithesis of evil!
This is the good news! What at first appeared as a tragedy for Christ was actually the greatest of triumphs. Christ was not defeated – He had come to defeat! “The cross was the fish hook that trapped the devil” Gregory of Nyssa (AD 335-395). “The hook of Divinity was clothed in the bait of humanity” Origen (2nd Century theologian). And “The death of our Lord was the bait of the mousetrap that caught Satan” Augustine (4th Century church father). Colossians 2:15 says, “. . . having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
What a reversal! Good Friday is the day death died. Hallelujah! Death was “swallowed up in victory” 1 Corinthians 15:54. Death was denied its sting (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55). The victim had become the victor. Christ had conquered sin and Hell! Death couldn’t stop Him or hold Him. Christ turned a disaster into a coronation and a martyrdom into a triumph. Light is greater than darkness. Satan was defeated once for all. Christ has dealt with sin, descended into Hell, and been victorious in Satan’s backyard. “Surely he was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54.
So what does this mean for you and me? It means that because Christ is the victor, we can be victorious. That’s because “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” 1 John 4:4 (NIV).