I am a proponent of the governmental theory of the atonement as covering the most important aspects of God’s problems in the redemption of man. However, I do not see that the governmental theory deals with the problem of Satan. Mankind is under his power as a result of the fall of Adam and all men following his bad example of rebellion. The classical view has not been adequately expounded upon by theologians. It is worthy of our meditation.
Gustuf Aulen’s Christus Victor is a good introductory text in its insights in God’s dealings with the Devil. Aulen prefers the term the classical theory instead of the ransom theory. The fathers, who held this view, did not teach that a ransom was literally paid to Satan. Jesus’ sacrifice was that of a warrior who dies in battle. The fallen warrior pays the price to liberate his countrymen from wicked powers. Our arch enemy gets his piece of flesh but Satan has no legitimate claims to Jesus’ body or soul. Jesus spoils Satan’s domain of Sin, Death and Hell and delivers multitudes of OT saints and crushes Satan when he rises from the dead.
In the classical view Jesus establishes a New World Order by defeating the Old Order dominated by Satan. The world has never been the same since the death and resurrection of Jesus, especially for his Church, which should be governing the NWO. The classical view encourages the Church Militant to work to subdue the nations for our Captain who suffered so much to win the battle for his people. Satan has been put under our feet.
The ransom or classical view of the atonement might better be described as a motif that is a recurring theme in the Bible which reveals the behind the scenes cosmic conflict between God and Satan in their warfare for the possession of the souls of angels and men.
Jesus said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”—Luke 10:18
The great extraterrestrial drama begins with the rebellion of Lucifer in Heaven (Isa 14 & Ez 28). The stage eventually shifts to Paradise, the Garden of Eden, where Adam sells out to the Devil, who takes dominion over Earth. The next great scene takes place in the wilderness, where the second Adam, Jesus, is tempted by the Devil. However, the Son of God overcomes every satanic temptation. The third act occurs in another Garden, which is Gethsemane. Here it seems that the Devil, who has the power over death, is attempting to kill Jesus before his time. And Satan was surely behind the scenes in the trial and crucifixion of our Lord. Finally, the stage moves to Hell itself, which could not hold a sinless being. Satan had no just claims over the Holy Son of God.
The climax of the drama is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, when he bruises the Serpent’s head (Gen 3:15) and our Savior deals a mortal wound to Death. The Captain of our salvation disarms Satan’s principalities and powers and Jesus leads captivity captive and gives gifts unto men (Ephesians 4:8) and ascends back into Heaven to sit down at the right hand of his Father. Mission accomplished!
Now it is up to the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit to establish our Lord’s victory over Sin and Death throughout all the earth until the last enemy Death is completely destroyed and Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire.
The ransom or classical motif deals with the final remission of the penalty of sin which is death both physical and eternal through Christus Victor.