John Gerstner summed up this great struggle like this:
…Satan was majestically triumphant in this third battle. He had nailed Jesus to the cross. The prime object of all his striving through all the ages was achieved. But he failed… Thus, while Satan was celebrating his triumph in battle over the Son of God, the full weight of the atonement accomplished by the crucifixion (which the devil had effected) came down on him, and he realized that all this time, so far from successfully battling against the Almighty, he had actually been carrying out the purposes of the all-wise God.1
The only power Satan has is power that has been granted to him by God. You can never frustrate the counsels of God. You can only accomplish what you accomplish by working within God’s purposes. You may be trying to oppose God, but, nevertheless, you’re going to be carrying out his purposes. Satan got our first parents to sin, and there was a judgment. But what Satan did not see is that God is also gracious and chose to be gracious with our first parents, as he had not chosen to be gracious with Satan. So in carrying out his hatred against the Son of God, Satan actually accomplished God’s purpose in the atonement.
There is one more thing we need to see, and that is that as early as the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve actually believed God. In verse 20 of Genesis 3, we read that Adam named his wife “Eve.” Why is that? You see, Eve means “living,” “life,” “life-giver.” Adam called her Eve as a testimony to the fact that he believed God. After Adam and Eve sinned, God had come into the garden. They must have expected his judgment of death in that very hour, but instead, God promised to send a Deliverer, one born of the woman.
Adam must have reflected on that. He had a great deal of understanding, certainly, because he had walked with God in the garden and God had been his instructor. And he must have said something like this: “God is promising a Deliverer, but that Deliverer is not born yet. Eve, you’re not going to die because you have to give birth to the child, and I’m not going to die either because the child has to be conceived. At least I’m not going to die yet. God is telling us that the time will come when you’ll give birth to that One who will save us from sin, and restore us to paradise, and destroy the works of Satan.” So Adam named her “Eve” as a testimony to the fact that he believed that.
Eve surely believed that also, because a little later on in the story she has a son. She calls him “Cain,” a name that means “here he is.” Well, that first child turned out not to be Jesus, but to be a murderer, but she had the right idea. She was trusting God. She didn’t know that generations were going to go by before Jesus Christ would come. God doesn’t look at time the way we do. However, she had the right idea, and she was placing her faith in the One who should come.
That is what Christmas is. Don’t ever forget that. Christmas is the promise of the Deliverer who has come. And that Deliverer is Jesus, and he came to save us from our sin—to save us from the judgment of God upon us for our sin. We deserve to go to hell, and Jesus Christ came on that first Christmas in fulfillment of the prophecy to deliver us from that judgment and take us to heaven. There is no greater message than that. It is there throughout the Bible, and it is there in our carols.
There are carols that I look at as being great carols because they’re filled with theology, such as “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” One carol, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” talks about the message of redemption in a striking way:
God rest you merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior is born on Christmas Day,
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.
O tidings of comfort and joy.
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray—that is why Jesus came. Make sure that you also trust in Jesus, as Adam and Eve did. You will find that this great purpose of all the ages, focused in Jesus Christ, is also accomplished in you. If you trust him, if you believe in him, if you place your faith in him, it is for you that he came on that first Christmas Day.
1John H. Gerstner, “The Language of the Battlefield,” in Our Savior God: Man, Christ, and the Atonement, ed. James M. Boice (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), pp. 159-160.