WHAT DOES ROMANS 16:20 MEAN?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” What is Romans 16:20 talking about? Some suggest this verse is the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, the promise of the seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s (or, Satan’s) head. Others say that Romans 16:20 is talking about us Christians bruising Satan. Still others suggest this is a reference to Christ’s Second Coming when He defeats Satan. None of these explanations seem likely. Let me show you some verses that adjusted my thinking concerning this “cryptic” verse. Perhaps they will shed light on this verse for you as well.
Genesis 3:15 was fulfilled at Calvary’s cross. The seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, triumphed over Satan’s policy of evil through His finished crosswork. We know this because Colossians 2:15 says: “ Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” When Paul wrote Romans, Calvary had already happened. Romans 16:20, however, is speaking of a future event. “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” Thus, Calvary is not the meaning of Romans 16:20.
Verse 19—but also verses 17 and 18—are the keys to interpreting and understanding Romans 16:20. We would do well to look briefly at all three preceding verses.
“ Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
Friends, these verses are straightforward. We have nothing to do with people who cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine that we have learned from the Apostle Paul. If they do not preach Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, the Bible commands us to avoid them. Doctrine most definitely divides, and as one brother recently put it, doctrine divides truth from error—the Bible-believing Christians from the apostates and heretics. That is a harsh truth but it is the truth nonetheless.
Paul instructed Timothy in 1 Timothy chapter 6: “ If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;  He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,  Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (For more information on us separating unto truth, and not uniting in error with the religious system, please see our studies linked at the end of this article—“Did Paul quote 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 out of context?” and our very lengthy study “Does doctrine really matter?”)
People who disagree with the Apostle Paul, his books of Romans through Philemon, these individuals are neither prophetic nor spiritual. That is, they are neither speaking on God’s behalf nor being led by God’s Spirit. Again, it is a harsh reality, but reality nonetheless. “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). People who do not acknowledge and preach Jesus Christ’s special ministry through Paul, the Bible says they are serving themselves and doing whatever they want to do. We need to be honest. They are not God’s servants. They are serving self, and that describes the vast majority of so-called “preachers” and “teachers” in “Christian” churches today. If we want to serve God, we had better not listen to their “good words” and “fair speeches,” sermons that dazzle and impress but are void of anything eternal.
“For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”
Paul knew the testimony of these Roman believers had spread throughout the whole then-known world. Like the Thessalonians (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3-10), they were maturing in the doctrines of grace. They knew the Gospel of Grace, but they could still use some spiritual insight concerning practical daily Christian living. Every Christian has more room to grow, more progress to make in the Christian experience. Even Paul learned that about himself in Philippians chapter 3. There are times when we will fail. No Christian is perfect, sinless. Paul was concerned that the Romans stayed doing right, that they not slip off into error and sin. That is the purpose of the book of Romans.
Remember, Paul wrote an epistle to the Romans because he was physically hindered from visiting Rome. In some way or another, Satan was probably responsible (see 1 Thessalonians 2:18-19 for a possible explanation). So, Paul wrote to these believers in Rome instead. Romans 1:10-13 is Paul’s prayer and labor for these Roman Christians: “ Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.  For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;  That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.  Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.”
The doctrine contained in the book of Romans would enable these Roman believers—and, by extension, all believers in the Body of Christ, including us nearly two millennia later—to guard their hearts and minds from Satan’s policy of evil. Paul’s epistle of Romans allows us to have the same knowledge, faith, and understanding that Paul had. We will thus be “established” spiritually, firmly fixed, that the Adversary not cause us to be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). The Devil has information he uses to deceive us—especially religious tradition (see Galatians) and human philosophy (see 1 and 2 Corinthians)—but if we have the book of Romans, we have a good foundation for our Christian lives. The Galatians wound up in their spiritual mess because they had ignored the doctrine in Romans. The Corinthians wound up in their spiritual mess because they had also ignored the doctrine in Romans. Satan was defeating both the Galatians and the Corinthians. Brethren, we must be careful not to fall into the trap into which these Christians fell.
If we are grounded in the book of Romans, the most basic doctrinal book for this dispensation, Satan does not have a chance in distracting us. As long as Paul could not visit Rome in person, Satan was winning, and the Romans were not established. They were vulnerable to Satan’s wiles/tricks/schemes. But, now that that epistle to the Romans was being finished, and shortly going to Rome, Satan could no longer keep these Roman believers ignorant of God’s will for them. They would be “wise [knowledgeable] unto that which is good.” Moreover, they would be “simple [inexperienced] concerning evil.” The doctrine contained in Romans allows us to understand that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and He can give us this peaceful mentality when we study and believe His Word to us, especially the book of Romans. We can see how our Christian life started and how it functions on a daily basis.
Romans 16:20 is certainly not a reference to Calvary. Calvary had already occurred and Romans 16:20 speaks of something future. Us bruising Satan is also a wrong idea because the verse says, “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” God is doing the “bruising” here. Christ’s Second Coming can also be ruled out here because that event has yet to occur, and Paul wrote that God would “bruise Satan under [the Roman believers’] feet shortly.” God bruised Satan just after Romans was written by Paul and received in Rome by the Christians there.
Upon considering the book of Romans as a whole, we conclude that Romans 16:20 means that the bruising of Satan is something God will do in the Christian’s life if he or she will simply study, believe, and apply the book of Romans to life. All the more reason, brethren, to spend some time reading through Romans, over and over, over and over, over and over, et cetera. Do not get bogged down with trying to apply the Old Testament, the Four Gospels, and so on. Start in Romans! If you do grasp any other Bible book, please get Romans! Get Romans! Get Romans! Your Christian life will never be the same! 🙂