"And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen" (Romans 16:20)
A Problem for Preterists
In this verse believers have been given the wonderful promise that our war with Satan will shortly come to a complete and final end, with Satan totally vanquished and with Gods saints sharing in the glorious victory. Hes the "God of peace" in the sense that He alone is able to bring an end to the war with Satan which will result in peace for the saints ("peace" in the sense of the end of war, freedom from conflict). Obviously Gods people enjoy Gods peace now (John 14:27), but in light of the promise in this verse, Paul was probably thinking of the ultimate peace that believers will gain through the defeat of Satan.
This promise is a direct reference to Genesis 3:15 where we are told that the seed of the woman (Christ) would bruise or crush the Serpents head (a fatal blow), and that Satan would bruise or crush Christs heel (Calvarys cross). God will inflict a crushing blow upon the archenemy of our souls, and we will share in Gods victory over Satan. The ones who are "co-heirs" (Rom. 8:17) are also co-conquerors. He will be crushed "under your feet." When the Israelites conquered enemy kings they would symbolize their great victory by putting their feet upon their necks (Joshua 10:24). God invites His saints to celebrate His victory over Satan.
When will this great defeat of Satan take place? It will happen "shortly, quickly, suddenly, soon." Believers are encouraged by the fact that the battle, though difficult, will not be long. We can expect it to be soon. Satans time is short and his defeat is certain.
Prophetically we know that at the mid-point of the tribulation Satan will be cast out of the third heaven and execute his fury upon the earth, knowing that his time is short (Rev. 12:12). He knows his doom is impending. Three and a half years later he will be cast into the abyss at which time he will literally be "under the feet" of millennial saints. His final and ultimate doom is described in Revelation 20:10 (and compare Matthew 25:41).
When Paul wrote to the Romans, Satan, though defeated at Calvary, was still an active and formidable foe, as he still is today (1 Pet. 5:8-9; 1 John 4:4). Believers of the first century, as well as believers today, are joyfully expecting the imminent return of Christ (Tit. 2:13; Rom. 13:11; 1 Cor. 1:7; etc.). We know that once this event takes place (which may be at any time), Satans defeat will soon follow. It is from the perspective of imminency that we may speak of Satans defeat as "soon." Believers of any period of church history should be encouraged by the fact of Christs soon coming and Satans soon defeat!
This Greek phrase "soon" or "shortly" is also found in Revelation 1:1 and 22:6"the things which must shortly come to pass." There are those today who believe that the tribulation period is not future but has already been fulfilled in history at or around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They believe that most prophecy, including most of what was predicted in the book of Revelation, was fulfilled at this time. Since it says "these things must shortly come to pass" they reason that all these things must have taken place in the first century. But Romans 16:20 serves as an argument against such thinking. Obviously Satan is an active and dangerous foe today and he has not yet received his crushing and defeating blow, even though it has been nearly 2000 years since Paul promised that this would soon take place! And yet, from the perspective of believers both then and now, this event may be anticipated to take place "shortly."
I wrote to, Gary DeMar, a very prominent author, anti-dispensationalist and defender of the view that says that most prophecies have been fulfilled in the past, in or around 70 A.D. I simply asked him when he believed Satan would be crushed in light of Romans 16:20. I also asked him if he thought this has already taken place in 70 A.D. Here is his response:
The primary reference is the Roman Christians to whom Paul is writing ("your feet" not "their feet," that is, not the feet of people who were not alive when Paul wrote his letter). The crushing is to take place "soon." "Soon" means "soon." Since nearly 2000 years have passed, whatever Paul was describing, it is history. Satan could refer to the apostate Jews who Revelation describes as a "synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9; 3:9), the same ones that Jesus describes as being related to the Devil in John 8:44 ("ye are of your father the devil"). The Jews were the ones "who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out," Paul writes. "They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved, with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost" (1 Thess. 2:14-16). This "wrath" might be Pauls crushing mataphor. (5/21/01)
Notice that DeMar, in seeking to understand "soon" literally, is forced to understand the verse in a very non-literal way. He says that "soon" means "soon" but then goes on to explain that Satan does not really mean Satan but it is merely a metaphor for the unbelieving Jews who will be crushed in 70 A.D. This is typical of the preterist position. By insisting that most prophecies find their fulfillment in the first century they are forced to understand most prophecies in a very non-literal way.
See also Christ's Soon Coming and the Words that Describe It (an answer to Preterism)