Feature Stories

The ultimate victory: How the death of Jesus Christ was a triumph, according to one BYU professor


Imagine watching a sporting event in which you care deeply about the outcome. What if you knew from the outset that no matter how far behind your team was, no matter how many mistakes your favorite player made, no matter how bleak things looked, your team would win? You would probably feel less anxiety during the game. Although you still might experience an array of emotions, you could watch the event with happy anticipation, feeling safe in the known outcome.

We can relate this analogy to the plan of redemption. Some of us live in a constant state of worry, troubled that we are too far behind, making too many mistakes, and we can’t see how things are going to work out. We lose sight of the ultimate victory when we are stuck in one of life’s frequent battles. But we don’t need to be worried—if we are on Christ’s side, our team will win. Jesus Christ has already overcome Satan, in part through what Eliza R. Snow termed “the triumphs of the cross.”1 The Savior prophesied shortly before his death, “Now shall the prince of this world [Satan] be cast out” (John 12:31). We can have confidence in “the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain” (D&C 76:39).2

In Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, he wrote that on “the cross [Christ] disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:14–15, New International Version). This claim must have seemed audacious at the time—did Christ really “disarm” authorities and “triumph” over them? After all, when Paul wrote to the Colossians, a Roman emperor “was still on the throne.”3 As one New Testament scholar explains, “[The emperor’s] local officials around the world were still running the show with brutal efficiency. The chief priests were still in charge of the Temple in Jerusalem. Paul himself was in prison!”4 How then was Christ’s death a triumph?

His death didn’t overthrow a worldly kingdom, but rather he accomplished a cosmic victory by overcoming “the rulers of the darkness of this world” and “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). Paul explained that the satanic forces at work in the world were not aware Christ’s Crucifixion would lead to exaltation, “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8).5

Knowing of the Savior’s victory on Calvary can sustain us when life becomes crushingly burdensome. One friend shared this story with me:

I experienced a time when many things went wrong. There was growing contention at my workplace, to the point where I sometimes didn’t even want to show up. This increased the nervousness I felt about how upcoming management changes would affect me. At the same time, a side job I had been counting on fell through, costing me a great deal of money that I had already allocated to the family budget. Moreover, I made some poor investment decisions that led to anxiety about my family’s financial future. All of this led me to feel increasingly discouraged.

Amid these challenges, I spent some time thinking about Jesus Christ. I realized that because of his Atonement, I can return to live with him and Heavenly Father. Everything I was worried about was temporal and probably would resolve itself within a few months or years. And even if these things did not work out, from the viewpoint of eternity, everything was going to be just fine. Having this perspective completely changed the way I felt about my circumstances.

Knowing that Christ has been and will always be victorious gives us a priceless perspective. It worked for my friend, and it worked for Paul, who while imprisoned, wrote of Christ’s triumph. It can also work for each of us. We will face serious difficulties in the coming days. Mistakes and missed opportunities, sorrows and sickness, disappointments and death will come to each of us. But we can face our challenges with an optimistic perspective when we know that Jesus has already triumphed over sin and death.

The day will come when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Rev. 21:4). This day is coming because of “Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who . . . maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34). When we are connected with Christ, we can not only look ahead to future peace but also feel peace in our lives today. Right now. We can trust in a triumphant Savior who is working on our behalf in this very moment and forever.

Lead image: Shutterstock

Through scriptures, quotes, and stories, Considering the Cross shows that prophets, both ancient and modern, have taught that the Savior's Crucifixion is a central part of our redemption from sin. What the cross means for Christians in general and Latter-day Saints in particular has sometimes varied, but one meaning is constant—Christ was crucified for the sins of the world because of His love for us. Jesus is both the living Christ and, as manifested through His death, the loving Christ. Available now at DeseretBook.com

  1. Eliza R. Snow, cited in “Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845,” 334, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed August 25, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/lucy-mack-smith-history-1845/343.
  2. For an expanded perspective on Christ’s victory over Satan, see Gregory A. Boyd, “Christus Victor View,” in The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, ed. James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2006): 23–49.
  3. N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began (New York: HarperCollins, 2016), 259.
  4. Wright, Day the Revolution Began, 259–60.
  5. Perhaps this is why an early hymn sung by the Latter-day Saints states, “Satan rages at his loss, and hates the doctrine of the cross.” A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Kirtland, OH: E. Robinson, 1841), no. 65.
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