News traveled slowly in the old days. Most of the time this was just inconvenient, but sometimes it was tragic.
This was the case at the conclusion of the War of 1812. Two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent was signed, officially bringing the war to an end, British forces under Edward Pakenham assaulted New Orleans on January 8, 1815. They were soundly defeated by U.S. troops under General Andrew Jackson, but not before more than 300 British and American soldiers were killed, not to mention over a thousand men who were wounded.
Unnecessary battles like that are fought all the time, skirmishes in dark corners where the news of the war’s end has not yet penetrated.
Karl Barth likens this phenomenon to the hopelessness that persists in the world, even though Christ has already won the war against sin. He says, “The war is at an end—even though here and there troops are still shooting, because they have not heard anything yet about the capitulation.”
Hebrews 2:9 asserts that Jesus tasted death for everyone. Then in verses 14-15 the writer explains the significance of that sacrificial act:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Until the cross, the devil was the Master of Death. But on Calvary we encounter a great paradox: by death Jesus defeated death. He put the devil out of commission.
A number of times the book of Revelation symbolizes Christ’s victory over sin as a great war. He describes the forces of evil assembling kings and great armies for the purpose of going to battle with God. The dragon, who is the devil, organizes his demons against Michael and his angels. But in every case, the war ends the same way. It is no contest. Christ easily triumphs over his enemies. Revelation 17:14 says, “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
The problem is, many people don’t realize the war is over. They either do not know this or do not believe it is true. Sadly, therefore, sin and death will continue until Jesus returns with his mighty angels to put the world to rights in Final Judgment.
The war has been won. Now it is only a question of which side you are on—the side that has already won, or the side that has already lost.