“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Ephesians 3:8-11 ESV)
God’s ultimate purpose in our salvation, and in the gospel of Christ, is to glorify himself. In the gospel we see a God who is not afraid to stoop low, even to die, that he might bring many to himself–and it is in that that we see glory. It is glory for the God who created all things, and who deserves all praise and honor from his creation, to respond to our sin and rebellion by giving up his right to honor and praise and dying in our place (Phil 2:5-11). This is a God who gives up all things to gain sinners to himself. He is a God who brings himself low that he might bring us up.
And it is through this action of great humiliation and death that God not only glorifies himself, but also shows his great wisdom and strategic victory over the demonic powers. Paul says in Ephesians 3:11-12 that through this great death of Jesus, God made known his wisdom to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. When Paul speaks of rulers and authorities here, he is speaking of demonic powers (Eph 6:12). In other words, through our salvation, God has made known his ultimate and wise strategy in overthrowing the powers of evil.
But how did his act in the cross overthrow the powers of evil? Think of it: While Satan has spent all of history trying to exalt himself over every power and ruler, God spent 33 years humbling himself. And while Satan schemed to destroy God’s people and exalt himself, God’s plan all along was to destroy himself that he might exalt his people. And so when Satan saw the Son of God broken on a tree, he made no attempt to stop it, because he thought in his own delusion that Jesus’ death was a sign of defeat and loss. But God the Son hung on that tree, knowing that death was the very way to saving a group of undeserving sinners. God, in his great and wise mind, made an intricate plan to trick Satan into thinking that he had won. Yet, 3 days later, Christ rose to new life, saving a multitude to himself. And it is in this that we find God making known to the demonic powers his wisdom–that by dying, not through self-exaltation, he has won. And this is how God overthrew the demonic powers.