A Mighty Triumph

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Jesus Christ triumphs over death, sin, and hell for us through His death and resurrection.



Risen and Reigning King,
Like You did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus,
Open to us the Scriptures,
Teach us the things concerning Yourself,
and Cause our hearts to burn within us.
Change us by the power of Your Spirit
through our time in Your Word.


Have you ever visited a country church? I love country churches! One of the things I love most about them is that they typically have their own cemetery on the grounds. I know, I know, that’s a rather odd thing to love, but it’s the truth!
I remember one of the first times I visited the church my father currently pastors. Now this church is a true country church! It’s located smack dab in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by corn fields and open skies. Besides that, the very first thing my eyes fell upon once we entered the parking lot was that this church had its own cemetery. And more than that, the cemetery is perfectly positioned right outside my father’s office window! Whether that was intentional on the church’s part, I don’t know!
What I do know is that every time my dad works in his office he has a front row seat to the church cemetery through the huge bay window. Each day he has a view of the gravestones of past congregants dating back over 100 years! That view would serve as a vivid reminder to any pastor. It’s a daily reminder of where all people are ultimately going to end up, unless Christ return; everyone is destined to die. Also, it’s a reminder of who the pastor preaches to week in and week out: physically dying saints and spiritually dead sinners. And it’s also a daily reminder that those graves will one day be emptied when Christ returns to judge the righteous and the wicked.
On a Resurrection Sunday such as this, I can only wonder what my dad thought as he walked across the parking lot from the parsonage to enter the church and he saw the sun touching the gravestones of that cemetery. I wonder if he was reminded of the empty tomb those women and close disciples saw that first Easter morning! That’s why I love church cemeteries! They bring to my mind what Christ has done for all His saints.
The empty tomb of Jesus addresses all of our biggest needs. Without the resurrection of Jesus, sinners are still dead in their sins, they currently stand condemned by God and those who have died are condemned forever if their sins have not been dealt with, and without the resurrection, sinners are enslaved to sin and Satan. In short, without Christ’s resurrection, my preaching today would be pointless, our faith in Christ is futile, and we are people void of true life and any real hope.
The apostle Paul, in Colossians 2:13-15, would have us know that Jesus’ death and resurrection meet our biggest needs. Through Christ’s death and resurrection dead sinners are made alive, guilty sinners are forgiven, and enslaved sinners are free because of the Risen Lord Jesus.
Listen to what Paul wrote to the Colossian believers:
Colossians 2:13–15 ESV
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
From these words we see Christ the Victor. We see that:
Theme: Jesus Christ triumphs over death, sin, and hell for us through His death and resurrection.
This Resurrection Sunday, we are going to reflect on Christ’s mighty triumph over our biggest foes: death, sin, and hell. From Colossians we are going to pinpoint three ways that Jesus conquers these dark enemies on our behalf.
As we reflect on Christ’s victory through His atoning death and glorious resurrection, may our hearts be humbled, grateful, and worshipful, lifting high the name of Jesus, our Risen Lord and Savior.

1. Resurrected from Corruption

Paul takes us first to the graveyard. Here he wants to show the nonbeliever their miserable, dead condition and to show the Christian that Christ has triumphed over death and that by grace through faith they have been marvelously resurrected from corruption.
Read the first half of verse 13 again.
Colossians 2:13 ESV
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
Paul is pretty straight forward here. At one point, all of us were dead. Maybe you’re still dead… Our miserable condition before Christ, according to God, was that we were biologically alive, but spiritually dead. As physical death cuts us off from the land of the living and makes us rotting corpses, so spiritual death cuts the sinner off from life in God and leaves the sinner’s soul corrupted and decaying. The apostle points us each to a specific grave in the graveyard and we are shocked to discover that our names are on a tombstone!
The universal truth of mankind is that apart from God all people are spiritually dead. And Paul clarifies we are dead due to two causes.
First, sinners are dead because of their trespasses. This has also been called “actual sin”, which is when we do something that breaks God’s law, either by commission or omission. We do what ought not to be done. That’s a sin of commission. Other times we leave undone what we ought to have done. That is a sin of omission. We actually break God’s righteous law through our choice to do what is wrong or not to do what is right. The wages of our trespasses is death according to God’s decree.
Second, sinners are dead because of what Paul calls “the uncircumcision of [our] flesh”. In this context, the apostle is not talking about the physical circumcision which is a visible sign of God’s covenant with Abraham’s offspring. No, Paul is talking about our sinful nature that we inherited from Adam; the uncircumcision of our heart. This is what we call “original sin”. As our federal head, mankind’s representative in the Garden, when Adam sinned, his sin was imputed to the entire human race. Paul belabors that point in Romans 5.
Romans 5:12 ESV
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
In other words, when we are born into this world, before we are even able to transgress the law of God through actual sin, we are already spiritually dead because of original sin. On the day of our birth, we were DOA: dead on arrival.
One of Paul’s favorite metaphors to describe our spiritual condition outside of Christ is that we were dead. Dead in sin. Dead in sin communicates our inability to live for God because we were spiritually lifeless. Spiritually speaking, we were once unresponsive to God. We were like a decaying corpse in the grave.
Also, dead in sin speaks of our insensitivity to our dead, desperate condition. We were blind to who God truly is and hardened in our hearts to who we really were. Just as a dead person has no senses or feelings about themselves or others any longer, we too were numb and ignorant of the things of God and of ourselves. We were rendered hopeless and helpless in our spiritually dead state.
You see then that we have a colossal problem! Without Christ, we didn’t merely need a helping hand from God to pick us up off the ground or just have a life preserver tossed our way for us to swim toward and be saved from the ocean of our sin. Our condition was much worse than that. We were actually at the bottom of the ocean floor. We were actually six feet in the ground. We were dead in our sins. We were hopeless in that we were cut off from spiritual life in God and we were helpless in that we were unaware of our condition and could do nothing about it even if were were aware.
We needed more than resuscitation from unconsciousness. We needed resurrection from corruption; from death!
Really, the sinner, dead in sin, needs a heart transplant. As Jesus taught Nicodemus in John chapter 3, we need to be reborn from above with a new heart that replaces our sin-corrupted heart. Sinners require a new heart for a fresh start with God.
Long ago, God promised this heart transplant in Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 36:25–27 ESV
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
The LORD’s promise does away with any thought that we could do this alone or even in cooperation with God. Just count how many times God says, “I will”. Six times, the LORD explicitly declares, “I will do this”. And that’s not counting the other acts the LORD promised to do like: “give a new spirit”, “give you a new heart”, “cause you to walk in My statutes”, and “[cause] you to be careful to obey My rules”.
Being born again means that God replaces our sin-polluted heart with a new heart that beats for Him. This heart must come from God. We need this new heart to love God, to know God, to trust God, to glorify God, and to obey God. That is the essence of what the LORD GOD told Ezekiel and what the Lord Jesus told Nicodemus. God must do this. He must give you new life by giving you a new heart. You must be born again; born from above.
Returning to Colossians, Paul explains it this way: we need to be resurrected.
Colossians 2:13 ESV
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
“Made alive together” is all one word in the Greek. It a rare word as it is used only one other time in the New Testament, again by Paul. It’s in Ephesians 2. We’re familiar with this passage! There, Paul again speaks of sinners being dead in trespasses and sins. Then comes the sweetest phrase in the Bible in verse 4:
Ephesians 2:4–5 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
So, this unique Greek word that Paul employed in both Ephesians and Colossians to speak of the believer’s resurrection stresses two essential facts.
First, this resurrection is always used in reference to what God alone has mercifully and lovingly done to us and for us. Resurrection is the act of God performed on behalf of the dead. Only God can raise the dead.
Second, this word is always used in connection with Christ. That is to say, when God raises sinners from the dead, they are always raised together with Christ and because of Christ. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, neither does anyone else. If there is no resurrection from the dead, then there is no rebirth, no new heart, and no one shall see or live in the kingdom of God. The resurrection of Jesus is so crucial that if it be cheapened or removed we are left in our graves.
Praise God for those blessed words in 1 Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15:20–22 ESV
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
So, either you are here today spiritually dead in Adam or you are spiritually alive and well because God made you alive together with Christ. Christ’s resurrection is the basis for our resurrection. We are resurrected from corruption if we are in Christ Jesus.
Christian, if you’ve been born again from above, resurrected with Christ, you will surely see signs of change in your life. Be humbled as you remember how dead you used to be. At one time, you were cut off from life in God; unresponsive to His voice, hardened toward His will. When you truly remember how dead you were, then you’ll really love the life you now have. Be grateful for God’s merciful and loving resurrection of your soul with His Son, the one and only Savior Jesus Christ.
If you’re not a believer and are here today, then you need to recognize how bad your condition is presently. It is a dire and desperate condition. You are spiritually dead. Cut off from life and from the Life-Giver, unable to breathe life into yourself. You must confess your need of new life to God, pleading for His mercy and love to visit you in order to make you alive together with Christ. No matter how deep your grave or how dead your soul is, Christ’s resurrection power can reach you and can resurrect you from corruption.
Christ triumphs over death.

2. Remitted of Crimes

At this point, Paul transports us from the spiritual graveyard to the divine courtroom. It is in this courtroom where he explains that because sin kills us and leaves us dead, then we must have our sins dealt with entirely if ever we are going to experience and enjoy new life with Christ. Paul wants the nonbeliever to know that they need forgiveness of sins and he wants the believer to be assured that they have been totally remitted of crimes done against a holy God.
Paul explains:
Colossians 2:13–14 ESV
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Consider the gravity of sin as Paul described it in verse 14.
The Bible says that all people have sinned. A simple definition of sin is that it is a lack of conformity to God’s law, His legal demands. Or, a more vivid way of understanding sin is to remember it this way: Sin is anything that comes from a heart that does not treasure God above all else; a heart that prefers anything or anyone equal to or over God Himself. John Piper has an extensive list that expands on what sin is. He says sin is:
The glory of God not honored
The holiness of God not reverenced
The greatness of God not admired
The power of God not praised
The truth of God not sought
The wisdom of God not esteemed
The beauty of God not treasured
The goodness of God not savored
The faithfulness of God not trusted
The promises of God not believed
The commandments of God not obeyed
The justice of God not respected
The wrath of God not feared
The grace of God not cherished
The presence of God not prized
The person of God not loved
“That is the ultimate outrage of the universe,” Piper concludes.
No wonder the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)! Sin disregards God, disbelieves God, disobeys God, dishonors God, dismisses God, and displeases God.
Now, just imagine yourself in the divine courtroom before the Just Judge of the universe, who holds in His hands the record of every sin you’ve ever committed and will commit in the future. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that there’s a ledger in this world big enough or long enough to contain all of my sins! We stand before the bench of God’s judgment as criminals in His court with millions upon millions of counts against us. Each sin requiring recompense. And everyday our record of sin grows.
Thankfully, we are offered much comfort and peace when Paul asserts that God “[has] forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands”.
In the New Testament there are two words that are translated as “forgive” or “forgiven”. The more common word for “forgive” stems from a root word meaning to release or send away. With regard to sin, that is what God does for us through the death of Christ. The guilt for our crimes against the Creator are removed and sent away from us, no longer held over us to count against us.
But here in Colossians, Paul used another word for “forgive”, which stems from a different root word. Looking at the end of verse 13 through verse 14, I want you to note three wonderful truths about this forgiveness.
Number one, forgiveness is free. The root of this word is the same word for grace in the New Testament. Therefore, this word means something like “to show oneself gracious by forgiving wrongdoing”. That is what God does in forgiving us of our sins! He shows Himself to be gracious, meaning we can’t earn forgiveness nor do we deserve forgiveness, yet nevertheless forgiveness is what God gives us! So, forgiveness is the free gift from God given to the undeserving.
Number two, forgiveness is full. Notice the extent of this free, gracious forgiveness. Paul affirms that God has forgiven us of all our trespasses! Not one sin. Not some sins. He doesn’t cancel only part of the record of debt we owed. God cancels the entire record of debt. He forgives all our sins: past, present, future. This is a graciously full forgiveness from God!
And number three, forgiveness is fulfilled. This forgiveness is graciously free, full, and fulfilled in Christ’s atoning death on the cross. How does God freely and fully forgive our record of sins? “This He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). When He forgives sin, God does not sweep sin under the rug and pretend it never happened. God doesn’t just declare our sin to be cancelled. Rather, He took care of our sins entirely by placing them on Jesus Christ at the cross. In so doing, He is both the Just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). God is just in that He punishes our sin, which Christ bore in His body on the cross. God’s wrath is satisfied because the death of Christ pays the debt we owed for sin. He who knew no sin became sin for us.
But also, God is the Justifier of those who have faith in Jesus in that Christ’s pure righteousness is accredited to our accounts. The reason He who knew no sin became sin for us is so that we would become the righteousness of God. Our debt of sin is paid in full. Our sins are removed. The record of our crimes is expunged, washed clean and white as snow by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Part of what Jesus meant when He declared on the cross, “It is finished” was that His suffering and death fulfilled what was required for sinners to receive complete forgiveness by grace through faith in Him. It was finished upon that cross. And Jesus’ resurrection is proof positive that God has indeed freely, fully, and forever forgiven you of your sins.
This may paint forgiveness in a different light for you. When we think about this sort of forgiveness we should view it as a gracious act that God alone applies to the heart of the sinner in full measure because of the completed work of His Son on the cross verified by His resurrection.
If you are a Christian, the record of debt that stood against you with its legal demands has been cancelled. It’s obliterated by Christ. It’s nailed to His cross. It’s been paid for in full and you are truly forgiven by grace through faith.
But, if you are not a Christian, you’ve not been forgiven. That record of debt, that seemingly infinite list of your sins still exists. You may try to hide it, deny it, or forget about it, but that won’t make it go away. You must put your faith in Christ and in the work He alone has accomplished on the cross as the only way to secure forgiveness for all of your sins. Will you do that right now? Today is the day of salvation! Today you can stand forgiven because of cross.
Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection, triumphs mightily over sin.

3. Rescued from Captors

Finally, Paul brings us to a third and final location, to the Celestial City, where we see a grand procession marching through the streets of heaven. Paul desires the Christian to recognize that Christ has conquered hell on their behalf. He wants us to be relieved that through Christ’s death and resurrection, we have been rescued from our captors. No longer are we enslaved, but we have been set free and reign victorious with the Risen Lord.
Listen to verse 15.
Colossians 2:15 ESV
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Here we see, as that old Easter hymn goes,
Christ’s mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain
and He lives forever, with His saints to reign!
Through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave, Jesus Christ is victorious over not just death, not just sin, but also over hell itself. Paul refers to the rulers and authorities here as the representatives of the supernatural evil forces of hell; Satan and all his demons.
The picture that Paul paints here would have been familiar to the Colossians. The picture is the triumphal entry of a military hero into the city of Rome. The victorious Roman general marched into the city preceded by a long procession. The procession marched through the streets of Rome all the way to the capitol. Leading that long procession were the city magistrates and trumpeters heralding the general’s victory. Then would come the spoils taken in war: gold, art, and animals for sacrifice. Then followed the captives, the enemy king, leaders, and generals all in chains, shortly to be thrown into prison and, in all probability, to be executed. Eventually would come the victorious general. He would be in a chariot drawn by four horses. He would be clad in a purple tunic embroidered with gold and palm leaves, and over it a purple toga. In his hand he had an ivory scepter and over his head a slave held a crown. And finally, at the very end of the procession, came the rest of his army wearing all their ceremonial decorum shouting, "Triumph! Triumph! Triumph!" And depending on the magnitude of the victory, this triumphal procession could last for days!
Paul pictures Jesus as the Victor enjoying a kind of cosmic triumph, and in his triumphal procession are the powers of evil, beaten forever, for every one to see.
There are three things that have happened to our hellish captors through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Paul mentions first that these rulers and authorities have been completely disarmed. The idea is that through Christ, God has stripped the enemy of their weapons, rendering the enemy army harmless and defenseless. No longer does hell have any power to fatally harm those who are in Christ Jesus. Their schemes and plans for God’s redeemed are foiled by the cross and resurrection.
Second, these rulers and authorities have been openly disgraced. That is what a triumphal procession was meant to do. It publically displays the enemy as defeated and impotent. “Put to open shame” conveys that God has irreparably damaged and ruined the enemy’s reputation and has exposed them to public scrutiny. The darkness is now exposed by the Light of the World and can finally be seen for what it really is: ugly, repulsive, worthless, and now powerless.
And third, these rulers and authorities have been utterly defeated. Christ has triumphed over them. The basic idea of showcasing the enemy king and army of the defeated kingdom or nation in that Roman triumphal procession was to parade the conquered enemies on a public thoroughfare as a sign of subjugation and humiliation. No longer are the redeemed of God held captive to the power of death, sin, and hell. Although the evil powers still exist, they are a defeated foe. Believers need no longer fear the outcome of their battle with evil. Christ has conquered! We have conquered through Him! Paul presents the adequacy of the finished work of Christ. Death is put to death, sin is forgiven, and hell is conquered; what more is necessary? If you are a believer, you now belong to the Lord Jesus, who holds you with an everlasting love that will not let you go.
Romans 8:38–39 ESV
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God has rescued you from your captors by triumphing over them through His Son’s atoning death and resurrection life. Satan will still accuse you, tempt you to despair, and tell you of your guilt within for your crimes against the Creator. But, for every look at yourself and your sin, take ten looks at Christ the Victor, who made an end of all your sin. Take the advice of Martin Luther, who once wrote:
“When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.”
Jesus Christ has triumphed over hell.


And so, we see how our mighty foes have fallen. Death is put to death and life is ours to live with Christ. Sin has been graciously, totally, eternally forgiven in Christ. And hell has been disarmed, disgraced, and defeated through Christ. All of this by the power of His cross and resurrection.
For this reason, I want to exhort all of us with four applications.
Number one, depend upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Be humbled and grateful that Jesus died for you and rose again so that you can be made alive together with Him. If you have not believed upon the Lord for salvation this day, then I urge you to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
Number two, defend the doctrine of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Never give up these truths. Stand firm upon them. Hold fast to them. They are the basis of your eternal hope and everlasting life with Jesus Christ.
Number three, declare to all the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Don’t just argue with the lost about the truth and trustworthiness of the gospel; announce it with conviction and courage! God has called each of His children to proclaim the gospel of His Son that others would receive His grace by faith. Be faithful to the Great Commission.
And number four, I’ll close with this, delight in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Rejoice in what God has done for you through Christ! Praise Him and worship Him for the new life you now enjoy with Christ, for the forgiveness you now have in Christ, and for the freedom and victory you have over the power of sin and Satan through Christ! Bask in the Light of the Risen Son, Jesus Christ!
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