“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
“triumphing over them in it [the cross].”
The words “triumphing over” mean to lead prisoners of war in a victory procession. The picture is of a military parade leading captives of war. It signifies demonstrating one’s successful conquest of the opposition. After a great military victory, a general could lead his captives through the streets of Rome. Behind him, the wretched kings, princes, and people of the defeated nation would follow. They were openly branded as his victims and spoil. This demonstration was one of the highest honors a Roman general could achieve. This public march was a common cultural phenomenon in the Roman period of history.
The Roman government required particular prerequisites for the honor of a triumphal procession:
The general must have been the chief general in the field of battle.
The campaign must have been entirely successful.
A large number of enemy soldiers must have fallen in battle.
He must acquire an expansion of territory for the Roman Empire.
Jesus met all these conditions.
He was the commander-in-chief in the field of battle — he died on the cross.
Jesus completely paid for our sins on the cross.
Satan and his emissaries fell in defeat at the cross.
Jesus secured salvation and an eternal future for those who believe in him.
Jesus led the fallen angels in his victory procession. He showed the way with his victorious cross, “but thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph in union with Christ,” 2 Corinthians 2:14. Jesus vanquished fallen angels and led them in triumph in Colossians 2:15 (display of the defeated); in 2 Corinthians 2:14, those shown are not primarily captives exposed to humiliation but displayed as the glory of him who leads.
On occasion, the general’s sons rode behind his chariot with various officers. In this case, the primary thought would be to display.
Jesus disarmed the demonic principalities and powers by fulfilling or meeting all the demands of the law. He delivered the believer from the demonic forces of self-effort.
Colossians Gnostics believed in cosmic powers with their classes and grades of angels and demons. Matter itself was evil. Paul argues that the celestial Christ defeated the enemy. Jesus stripped them of their weapons and made a display of his vanquished enemy. Jesus made it evident to the angelic forces that he thwarted the spiritual powers against him.
Jesus gained an immortal victory through his death. The last word, “it,” refers to the cross. The fight was fierce; the Combatant died, but in dying, he triumphed (1 Corinthians 15:57). His enemy did not count on the resurrection. Jesus routed the enemy by the resurrection (Romans 8:37; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8). The devil overshot his mark again. The fallen angels thought for sure that Jesus was dead and gone, never to live again.
Jesus won for us an inestimable and final spiritual victory on the cross over Satan’s forces.
As the curse of the law was against us, so the power of the devil is against us. Jesus disarmed the devil and all his authorities by the cross. This spiritual disarming was the first gospel preached in the Bible, Genesis 3:15,
“And I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman [Eve], and between your [Satan] seed and her [Eve] Seed; He [Jesus] shall bruise your [Satan] head, and you [Satan] shall bruise His [Jesus] heel.”
We do not have to defeat an already vanquished enemy. The cross of Christ dealt a death blow to the Satan and his minions. Jesus dealt the devil a mortal blow, whereas Satan only dealt Jesus a non-mortal blow (“heel”).