I cherish this verse for the same two reasons I’m in favor of capital punishment. (I know that talk of capital punishment could open a can of worms, but let’s leave that for another time). With capital punishment justice is served. Scripture teaches that there were, in Israel’s case, certain sins/crimes that deserved a punishment of death, and I think some of those same crimes still warrant such a penalty. Capital punishment also drastically cuts down on recidivism. I haven’t looked it up, but I’m pretty sure there has never been a rape or murder committed by a corpse.
Similarly, one day, the devil is going to get a cosmic helping of justice, and we are going to be rid of him and his attacks. The book of Revelation tells us that the devil will be bound in the Abyss for a thousand years, and then will be released to deceive the nations one final time. He will gather them for battle, an army like the sand on the seashore. John records what will happen next:
They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
We tend to have a misconception of hell. Culture has warped our thinking such that we view hell sort of like Mordor, the bastion of evil, from whence the devil and his minions launch their attacks. But Jesus gave us the truth about hell when he said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory . . . [the King] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” On that day, justice will be served, and the devil’s scorched earth destruction will be no more. We tend to focus on what comes next, primarily the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21—and rightly so. But I don’t think we are wrong—in fact, Paul’s words would suggest we ought—to also celebrate the demise of our archenemy, the “roaring lion,” that “murderer” and “father of lies,” the “accuser of our brothers and sisters.” In Romans 16, Paul uses a violent metaphorical image to describe the devil’s fate, and it is one we can relish in. I picture the saints—those who have “been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” and who had “called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’” along with those who have suffered innumerous afflictions, temptations, and trials over the centuries—I picture those saints standing as one and unleashing a bloodthirsty cry of victory when the devil is defeated.
I tend to think in terms of sports metaphors, and the closest comparison I can come up with—and it falls woefully short yet resonates with me—is when thousands upon thousands of fans packed into a stadium suddenly erupt to celebrate a game-winning touchdown or walk-off homerun. The stadium vibrates and the TV cameras shake in what can only be described as bedlam. And when that win comes against an archrival or an opponent that has long had the upper hand, or when it was particularly hard-fought or long-awaited, that eruption is even more voluminous, even more palpable. If you’re a sports enthusiast like me, you’ve experienced it to some degree. Now imagine the moment when the greatest enemy any of us has ever known, the enemy who first rebelled against God, the enemy behind so much of our suffering here on earth, is violently put down once and for all. Good riddance!
Coming back to Romans 16:20, let me briefly highlight four specific phrases in this text. The first is “God of peace.” This would seem an odd descriptor for Paul to use considering the statement he is making. Would not “The God of Wrath” or “The God of Justice” or “Our Avenger” have been more apropos? Not if we understand true peace. The Bible often talks about being peacemakers, but there is a telling phrase even in Paul’s earlier instructions to individual Romans to “live at peace with everyone.” He prefaces that by writing, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you . . .” In other words, sometimes you can’t live peacefully because the other guy refuses to do so. Imagine a boxer who, in the midst of a heavyweight bout, decides to be peaceful. He’s going to get his bell rung by the other boxer. Imagine a country or countries that try to make peace with an evil dictator. You don’t need to imagine the outcome—there are ample accounts and documentaries about World War II to inform you how that played out. Or look at the world around us, where the devil and his demons are not bound and fully restrained. Evil is on the rampage everywhere—murders, rapes, shootings, bombings, wars, rumors of war . . . The lesson is this: true peace cannot exist while evil endures. Only when evil is ultimately vanquished will there be peace. President Reagan famously used the phrase, “peace through strength,” and I think it applies to this passage. God is the God of peace because He is one day going to implement true peace by annihilating that which stands in the way of peace: evil.
Paul writes that God will act “soon.” Those words were penned almost two thousand years ago, which doesn’t meet any possible definition of soon I can think of. This is not the only time we see biblical writers talking about the end times with such language. So were they all deluded into thinking Christ was returning within a few years or decades? Some would suggest so, and I won’t claim to know the apostles’ minds, but I do believe they were inspired by God, and so I think a more accurate understanding of “soon” is achieved by the idea of immanence. In other words, it could happen at any moment. Or perhaps “soon” is meant to be interpreted in light of eternity, where “a day is like a thousand years” and thus a couple millennia (or more) is indeed soon. At any rate, we know the time is coming and is drawing closer each day. It is soon.
I’ve already addressed the violent nature of the word “crush.” To use another sports example, “crushed” never means a 17-14 squeaker. It means a 56-7 beatdown. If you crush a soda can when you’re finished, it doesn’t come back into form. It’s obliterated for its purpose. So too will it be with the crushing of the devil. Interestingly enough, this is not the first time we see this particular word employed to describe his demise. Way back in Genesis 3, shortly after the fall, when God was pronouncing His curse as a result of sin, he spoke to the serpent—that is, the devil. God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This is commonly understood to be the first prophecy about Christ, and note the word the NIV uses to describe what Christ will do to the devil. He will crush (or strike) his head. Remember the cross, the agony and horror, the separation from God, the wrath of all man’s sins that Christ bore. That is described, in this prophecy, as a strike or a bruise on the heel. I.E., a nuisance comparatively. What must that crushing/striking of the serpent’s head be like if Christ’s sufferings are reduced to a bruised heel in comparison? I can’t wait for the devil to find out!
The last phrase we see is “under your feet.” This is not uncommon language in the Bible, as both Luke and the author of Hebrews quote the Psalmist: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” In biblical times, even more so than now, the foot was something of a “less honorable” part of the body. It was dirty, smelly, uncouth. So to be reduced to a footstool was a humiliating and thoroughly unpleasant experience. Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament quotations are referring to Christ’s dominion over his enemies. But Paul uses a similar phrase to describe the destiny of the devil. Our monstrous enemy will be reduced to something so low and pathetic that we walk over it. This again speaks to utter destruction.
I believe this verse exists to bring us encouragement. Scripture often reminds us that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” And part of that eternal glory is the absence of our enemy, the extermination of sin and suffering (punishment and protection). Now, I get it, Bible verses aren’t bumper stickers you can slap up when you’re discouraged, and suddenly that loved one comes back to life, that marriage is restored, that diagnosis is reversed, that wayward child trades drugs for Bible studies. But as I wrote previously, biblical joy is the celebration of future circumstances (eternal glory) in the midst of present circumstances. Believe me, I know that isn’t easy. I write this in the midst of the crap of life. I know that’s strong language, but I can’t think of any other way to put it. Sometimes life just blows. But I hope that these words of Paul can be some small encouragement to you as they are to me. They should not be our sole focus in looking forward to eternity, nor even our main focus. That would be a disservice to seeing Jesus face to face and celebrating forever with Him. But I do think they should be part of our focus, as they are part of why we will be celebrating.
The battle is real. Our enemy is real. And if you’re like me, there are days when he kicks your butt. But there will also be a day when “The God of peace will soon CRUSH Satan under your feet” (emphasis added with great enthusiasm).
 Romans 16:20
 See Exodus 19:12, 21:12-17; Leviticus 20:10-16, 20:27; Deuteronomy 13:1-5
 See Matthew 25:31-46, emphasis added
 I Peter 5:8
 John 8:44
 Revelation 12:10
 Revelation 6:9-10
 Romans 12:18
 II Peter 3:8
 Genesis 3:15
 Psalm 110:1; see also Luke 20:42-43; Acts 2:34-35; Hebrews 1:13
 I Corinthians 12:23
 II Corinthians 4:17