Today's passage: Romans 16:18-27
"And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
I recognized the first part of the verse from Genesis 3. God tells the serpent that he "will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Of course, God was referring to the Son He would send into the world someday. Paul is writing this after Jesus has already been crucified and risen, so Genesis 3 has actually been fulfilled, but the Roman church will have the opportunity to bruise Satan in a different way. I'm sure this is partly referring (and maybe wholly referring) to the verses I mentioned yesterday (See: Marked). A church who marks and avoids heretics will be successful, they will be victorious against Satan. But part of me wondered about something else.
I decided to do a little checking. It is widely agreed that the book of Romans was written about 55-56 AD probably from Corinth. He makes it clear in this epistle that he plans to visit the Roman church at some point in the future. He does eventually make this trip, and as far as anyone can tell, he was martyred there around 60-61 AD. A year or two after the book of Romans is written, one of the most antagonistic emperors of the Roman empire assumes the throne. It is Emperor Nero. Paul, and many of the apostles (including Peter) were believed to be killed under his rule. I would imagine the Roman Coliseum would serve as Nero's arena but I also learned this was about 15 years too early. Though that arena was not the location of Nero's persecution, his gardens were often lit with Christian believers as torches.
With this information, I wonder if God directed Paul to write these words with an even wider scope in mind. Would Satan's head be bruised by the suffering of the saints? Would the persecution of God's church further crush Satan? We know that because of the death of believers, the Gospel was spread even farther. And really, what could bruise Satan more than another soul lost to him? Paul often mentions the peace and grace of God in the beginnings and ending of his epistles, but it seems particularly important in this passage, because when they were being persecuted they would need both grace and peace. I'm not saying that is why God directed these words, but God could see the future and Paul could not. Perhaps He meant more in the statement than even Paul could know.
When Paul writes "shortly", it could mean anytime in the near future. I just wonder if that near future might be in the following years when many would be put to death in His Name. Given that possibility, we should not be filled with dread at the prospect of dying for our Lord. If this is indeed a way that God allows believers to bruise Satan's head underfoot, then I should be like the brave soldiers who defend us and volunteer for that position. I can't say I've gained that kind of courage yet, but if there ever is a day, I might think about the privilege I get to grind Satan's head into the pavement. That seems like a job any Christian would be happy to take.