Atonement

Atonement has come to mean paying a penalty to meet legal demands. When the Bible was first translated to English Atonement referred to the state of being in unity – being AT-ONE.

Making amendsCommonly, in the last century or two or three, atonement has come to mean making amends or paying a penalty to meet legal demands, to propitiate wrath or to adjust one’s to legal standing.  To some atonement is the thing Christ did to reconcile the Father unto us and assuage His offended wrath.

But that is not the original meaning of the term, and it is definitely not the meaning of the word in the Bible.  The only place you’ll find the word, in the King James Version, is in Romans 5:10. But the word in the Greek is the very common word ‘katallasso’.  There’s no hint of making amends in this word.  It means ‘reconciliation’. Holman’s Bible dictionary defines this word as follows:

Reconciliation … specifically the reconciliation between God and humanity effected by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  … The New Testament rarely uses a word for atonement. The basic Greek word is usually translated “to reconcile”.  The basic meaning is to establish friendship.

Therefore Romans 5:10, in the NASB, reads:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:10).

The dictionaries agree that this word ‘atonement’ is a made-up word, namely ‘at-one‐ment’. That’s the way the word started.  It was based on a verb, ‘to one’. Two people are fighting, and you are sent out to ‘one’ them. Not ‘win’ them; to ‘one’ them.  And then when you have succeeded in ‘one-ing’ people, then, hopefully, they would remain in a state of oneness.  It is the state of being ‘at one’ that is atonement, not the process ‘one-ing’ people. Atonement therefore means to be in harmony or unity.  That is what “atonement” meant when the Bible was first translated into English.  In the Bible it is God, because He loves us, that sent His Son (“the Lamb of God”-John 1:29) to bring His people back to Him (John 3:16).

There’s only one dictionary that really give the history of the word, and that’s a multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary. It shows how, for a long time, it was used in its original sense of being at one, reconciling people to harmony; friendship is often mentioned, unity, and so on. Now, later on somehow, it was changed to mean ‘making amends, paying penalty’, and that’s the way it’s commonly used now.

So how did the meaning of the word atonement change so much?  It was the forensic doctrine of salvation that changed the meaning of “atonement” over the centuries.  The forensic doctrine of salvation teaches that somebody must pay for sins committed.  TIt presents God as angry and the death of Christ as a sacrifice to pacify God.  It was because the reformers had this understanding of the purpose of Christ’s death that the meaning of “atonement” has slowly changed over the centuries to “reparation for an offence or injury” (Merriam-Webster).

But that is not how we should understand the purpose of Christ’s death.  It is not God that must change.  The blood of the Cross did not change how the Father feels about sinners.  The opposite is rather true, namely that the blood of Christ was the means by which the Father changed the hearts and minds of His creatures; to be reconciled to Himself (Colossians 1:20).  It is us that must change.  It is not God that is angry; it is His creatures that are “hostile in mind” (Colossians 1:21).  In the Bible God is never reconciled to us.  Colossians 1:20-22 indicates that God, through Christ, reconciled all things “to Himself” (1:20).

Please also see the article Christ’s death reconciled us to God for further information.

TO: General Table of Contents

Disarmed the rulers and authorities.

Rulers and authorities—the supernatural beings condemned by God—use the sins of humans to accuse God of unfair judgment, but Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities.

The reader should read the article Christ’s death reconciled us to God prior to reading this article.  That article defines the problem that was solved by the Cross.  This article explains how the Cross solved that problem.

The explanation which the reader will find in these two articles is very different from the standard explanations one finds in churches today.  Paul emphasized and all believe that the Cross solved the problem, but the Bible does not clearly explain what the problem was, that was solved by the Cross.  The Bible is mostly a description of events on earth.  Very little is said of the events in the background in heaven. For that reason different people understand the problem differently.  Some believe that God was angry and had to be pacified, but since the Bible clearly teaches that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16), many others believe something like that God’s justice demands that somebody must suffer, and that the innocent Son of God suffered in our place.  This article argues that the Cross had to disarm the rulers and authorities.  These ideas are critical to one’s Christian experience because ideas have consequences.  We are saved through faith by grace, but some ideas destroys faith and trust in God. We must make sure that our understanding of the problem, and of the solution provided by the Cross, is Biblical.

SUMMARY

In Colossians 2:13-15 we read about three events:

  • We have been made alive when our transgressions have been forgiven.
  • The certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us has been canceled by being nailed to the cross.
  • God disarmed the rulers and authorities through Christ.

As discussed on a separate page, this “Certificate of debt consisting of decrees” is the penalty for our sins.  The second event is therefore the same as the first.

As also discussed on a separate page, the Rulers and Authorities are supernatural beings—different ranks of angelic beings (Rom. 8:38, Eph. 1:21, 3:10 and 6:12).  Since God had to triumph over them, we understand that they oppose God; they are His enemies, under Satan’s leadership.   The purpose of this page is to explain how the Cross disarmed them.

It is concluded below that the “rulers and authorities” used our sins as weapons against God, who “passed over the sins previously committed” by the believers (Rom. 3:25).  Satan refused to accept His judgment, and continued to accuse God of unfair judgment, pointing to the sins of the believers.

Through the Cross God “disarmed” the “rulers and authorities”.  The Cross demonstrated God as faithful to the principle of love, but revealed Satan and his “rulers and authorities” as evil murderers.  In this way the Cross confirmed the justice and fairness of God’s judgment; showing that God acted fairly in forgiving the sins of the believers.  Thus Satan was disarmed.  He is no longer able to accuse the believers and he is no longer able to accuse God of unfair judgment.

DISCUSSION

In Colossians 2:13-15 we read:

having forgiven us all our transgressions,

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

God “disarmed” them (Col. 2:15), which means that God took their weapons away.  The purpose of this page is to identify the weapons of the “rulers and authorities” and to explain how they were “disarmed”.

Our sins are their weapons.

Revelation 12:7 describes this heavenly conflict as war:

there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels” (Rev. 12:7)

The “dragon” is “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan” (Rev. 12:9).  He is also “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:10) because he accused the believers “before our God day and night” (Rev.12:10).  The “war in heaven” therefore was a war of words and Satan’s weapons were the sins of the believers.  Satan accused “our brethren”, but because God forgave them their sins, he effectively accused God of injustice; of unfair judgment for forgiving (justifying) the believers.

We see this same principle in Romans 3:25-26, which states:

That the cross demonstrated God’s righteousness, and

That it was necessary to demonstrate God’s righteousness because “in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed” (Rom. 3:25).

In other words, Satan attacked God’s “righteousness” for passing over “the sins previously committed”.  He used those sins of God’s people to accuse God of unfair judgment.

This is also the implication of Col. 2:15, where disarming the “rulers and authorities” is mentioned in the context of forgiveness (v13) and cancelling the penalty for sins (v14).

Satan was disarmed by the cross.

God “triumphed over them through Him (Christ)” (Col. 2:15).  This means that God disarmed Satan through the cross.

Col. 2:14-15 also says that God “disarmed the rulers and authoritieswhen He “canceled out the certificate of debt … having nailed it to the cross”.  In other words, the rulers and authorities were disarmed by cancelling the certificate of debt, which was done through the Cross.

We see this also in Revelation 12, where Michael’s victory over the dragon and his angels is symbolized by the throwing down of the dragon and his angels (v9) from heaven (v8) to earth (v12).  When did this happen?  As shown in the discussion of Revelation 12, the “time and times and half a time” in verse 14, which the woman spends in the “wilderness”, is the same as the 1260 days in verse 6 during which she was nourished in the wilderness.  It is therefore proposed that the description of the conclusion of the war in heaven—the triumph of Michael over Satan, described in the verses between these two “wilderness” verses—jumps back in time, and parallels 12:5, which says that “her child was caught up to God and to His throne”, which refers to the Cross.  Further evidence for this is the statement in 12:11 that Satan was overcome by the blood of the Lamb.  The conclusion is therefore again that Satan was disarmed through the Cross.

Disarmed Rulers and AuthoritiesTo conclude, Satan’s weapons were the sins of the believers, which Paul refers to as the Certificate of debt consisting of decrees.  By nailing it to the Cross, God canceled it and “has taken it out of the way” (Col. 2:14), thus disarming Satan’s rulers and authorities.

The Cross cancelled out the “Certificate of Debt” through demonstration.

According to Romans 3:25 Christ Jesus was “displayed publicly … to demonstrate His (the Father’s) righteousnessso that He (the Father) would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”.  In other words, the Cross demonstrated that it is just for God to forgive (justify) the guilty “who has faith in Jesus”.

Also in Col. 2:15 Paul used the words “public display”, but here it says that the cross “made a public display of” the “rulers and authorities”.

The words “demonstration” and “public display” means that the Cross demonstrated or showed something, and that this revelation cancelled the penalty due for our sins, with the consequence that Satan and his followers are no longer able to accuse “our brethren” or to use those sins to accuse God of unfair judgment.  The public demonstration of the Cross verified the justice and fairness of God’s judgment, and disarmed Satan by proving his arguments as false.

In Revelation 12, where Satan is described as accusing “our brethren … before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10), Satan is “thrown down” (v9) from heaven (v8).  This is interpreted as that the Cross of Christ convinced the heavenly beings that God is right and Satan is wrong, destroying any credibility which Satan still had with the heavenly beings that still were loyal to God.

To summarize, the Cross did not change God, as many seem to think; it changed the heavenly beings.  The Cross gave them conclusive evidence. As discussed in the article Christ’s death reconciled us to God, Satan accused God of unfair judgment, pointing to the sins of God’s people and the angels were not able to determine conclusively who is telling the truth; God or Satan.  But the Cross gave them the evidence they needed.  We see this symbolized in Revelation 5, where there is a sealed book (5:1), and nobody is able to open it (5:3), but then the Lamb overcomes (5:5) and is worthy to open the book because He was slain (5:9).

The Cross did not make an end to human sin, and our sins remain clearly visible to the heavenly beings, but God took away Satan’s ability to use those sins to accuse God of poor judgment.

Verses 13 to 15 of Colossians 2 therefore all deal with the same subject; the sins of the believers:

  • Verse 13: These sins have been forgiven.
  • Verse 14: The penalty for those sins have been cancelled.
  • Verse 15: The rulers and authorities are no longer able to use those sins to accuse the believers.

The cross revealed character.

Christ’s death did not publicly display anything to human eyes, for human eyes see in the Cross only defeat and weakness.  The Cross was a “public display” essentially to heavenly eyes only.

The Cross revealed God’s character (Rom. 3:25).  The Cross shows that Christ “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:8).  The Father “triumphed over them through” Christ (Col. 2:15), not by the mere fact that Christ died on the Cross, but by Christ remaining faithful to God’s principles of service to others, while suffering to death through the most intense form of physical and mental torture.  On the cross He could not see the future and He lost His continual contact with the Father, for He cried out: “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?” (Mat. 27:46; Mark 15:34)  But still He did not use supernatural power to relieve His pain.  “Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God … emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant … Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).  Jesus once said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Christ behavior therefore revealed God’s character to the universe as contrary to the way in which Satan depicted God.

The Cross also displayed Satan’s character and that of his “rulers and authorities” as evil murderers of their Innocent Creator, for it was the madness of the evil angels that activated the Jews to kill Him.

The cross therefore demonstrated both sides of the war in heaven for what they really are.  For that reason Satan and his angels were thrown out of heaven (Rev. 12:9); they lost all credibility which they previously might have had with the heavenly beings.

To bring an end to the war God provided evidence through Christ’s death. The Cross was a decisive battle in the ongoing war in heaven.  The war in heaven was concluded on earth.  The Cross was not for human beings specifically; it was for the entire universe.  The Cross has all-important consequences for us as human; but because it made an end to the war in heaven, it was equally important for all beings in God’s universe.

Rome was the greatest military power on earth at that time.  Judaism (church) conspired with Rome (State) to kill the Son of God. Angry at His challenge to their sovereignty, they stripped him naked, held him up to public contempt, and in human eyes triumphed over Him.  But the paradox of the cross is that Jesus, in reality, took the spiritual powers animating these earthly powers and stripped them, held them up to contempt, and publicly triumphed over them.

The war shifted from heaven to earth.

The Cross made an end to the war of words in heaven, but as Revelation 12 indicates, Satan continues the war on earth:

… rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time” (Rev. 12:12 ).

The battleground has changed.  The war has shifted from heaven to earth.  Why does the war continue after the Cross?  Why is God still tolerating sin?  See The Seven Seals of Revelation for a discussion of God’s glorious purpose.

TO: General Table of Contents

Rulers and Authorities

The Rulers and Authorities, to whom Paul and also Peter refer, are supernatural beings that oppose Christ.

Below are the references to Rulers and Authorities in the New Testament.

Earthly Rulers and AuthoritiesIn the following it refers to earthly rulers:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…” (Titus 3:1-2)

In the following verses it may refer to earthly or heavenly rulers:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord“.

by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:15).

But in most instances it seems clear that it refers to heavenly rulers; ranks of angelic beings, either faithful or fallen angelic beings::

He (Christ) is the head over all rule and authority” (Col. 2:10) “… the cross.  When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:15) (Col. 2:10-15 forms a unit, describing how Christians have been made complete “in Him” (2:10) by disarming the supernatural “rulers and authorities” through the Cross.  For further information, please see the article Disarmed the rulers and authorities.

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1Cor. 15:24).

… he raised him (Christ) from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion“ (Eph. 1:19-21).

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 3:10, 11)

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

… Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand –with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1Pet. 3:21, 22).

As the above indicates, the supernatural rulers and authorities are forces that oppose Christ.  Our struggle is against them (Eph. 6:12), but they have been disarmed by the Cross (Col. 2:14-15).  In the end they will be made to submit to Christ (1Pet. 3:21, 22) and be destroyed (1Cor. 15:24).

TO: General Table of Contents

Reconciled to God

God is not our Enemy; we were His enemies. God was not angry; He initiated salvation through Christ. Christ’s death did not reconcile God to us, but we were reconciled to God; the Source of all Life. The death of His Son did not change God; it changed the on-looking universe.

SUMMARY

What it means, that God reconciled us to Himself, is discussed below.  In summary:

Before one comes to believe in God, he is God’s enemy, committing evil deeds as acts of aggression against God.   But God reconciled believers to Himself through Christ’s death (Col. 1:22).  How Christ’s death reconciled people to God is explained differently by different people:

Some say that Christ, by His death, paid the required price, but to whom was the price paid?  It was not payable to God, because we were held prisoner by Satan.  Neither was it payable to Satan, for what does God owe to Satan?

Others say that God was angry and that Christ died to pacify God, but it is people who are hostile to God; God is not hostile to man.  And it was God that took the initiative to reconcile man to Him (Col. 1:22); man did not reconcile himself to God.

God is not angryIt is often said that God was reconciled to His creatures, as if God was changed by Christ’s death on the cross, but the word translated reconcile is used a number of times in Paul’s writings, and always it says that people are reconciled to God.  In other words, man changed; not God.

In is also said that God’s righteousness demands that someone had to suffer, and that Jesus suffered what we deserve, but this seems inconsistent with God’s wise and loving character.

How Christ’s death reconciled people to God is explained here as follows:

  1. For creatures to live eternally, they must live in His presence.  If we become separated from God, who is the Source of Life, we will become corrupted and eventually die.
  2. Worship is the blood vessel that conveys life from the Source of life to His creatures, but worship must be an act of free will.  Forced worship is no worship at all.  Love cannot be forced; it always must be voluntary.
  3. A large number of the intelligent beings in the heavens (many of the angels), under the leadership of Satan, in free will rebelled against God and withdrew their worship from Him.
  4. When Satan deceived our first parents, this rebellion was expanded to earth. Since that event we lived outside God’s presence.  This caused sin, degeneration and death.
  5. God did not reject mankind.  God continually sent prophets to earth to turn people to Him.
  6. While God accepted repentant people back in His kingdom, He rejected Satan. Satan’s character was permanently changed and he cannot return to God.
  7. Satan responded by accusing God of unfair judgment, pointing to the sins of God’s people.
  8. Satan is extremely talented, and the angels could not understand who is telling the truth; God or Satan. A lingering doubt remained even in the hearts of God’s loyal angels.
  9. God would not force the sinless beings of the universe to accept His judgment, but Christ’s sacrifice convinced God’s loyal heavenly beings of the rightness of God’s judgment when He accepts people into His kingdom simply on the basis of their faith, while Satan was rejected.
  10. Even heavenly beings were reconciled to God “through the blood of His cross”. By providing proof of His justness—through the Cross—also when He rejects the most loved angel of all time, namely Satan, allowed the heavenly beings to fully return to a trust (faith) relationship with God.

In the end God will subject all hostile beings to His will, but to subject His enemies to His will, when the loyal beings are unsure of the rightness of His judgment, will eventually erupt in another rebellion.  God is resolving the conflict in such a way that rebellion will never again arise.  God will subject all hostile beings to His will, but only when all the issues in the universe-wide conflict have been made clear, and He is able to subject His enemies to His will with the full support of all of His loyal subjects.

For an explanation of how the Cross provided this proof, please see the related article titled God Disarmed the rulers and authorities in heavenly places (Col. 2:15).

For more information on the “War in Heaven”, please see that separate page.

To understand why are we still at war if the cross made peace, please refer to the discussion of the discussion of the Seven Seals, where John saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth until the bond-servants of our God have been sealed on their foreheads (Rev. 7:1-3).

MORE DETAILED DISCUSSION

Colossians 1:22 reads;

yet He (God the Father) has now reconciled you in His (Christ’s) fleshly body through death”.

Before one comes to believe in God, he is God’s enemy: “you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (Col. 1:21).  We previously “were enemies” (Romans 5:10).  “Evil deeds” are acts of aggression against God.  It is not God that was hostile to man; God’s intelligent creatures were hostile towards God.  Belonging to the race of Adam, we are born alienated from God.

But God made “peace” (Col. 1:20) and reconciled believers to Himself through Christ’s death (Col. 1:22).

HOW CHRIST’S DEATH RECONCILED PEOPLE TO GOD IS EXPLAINED DIFFERENTLY BY DIFFERENT PEOPLE:

Some say that Christ, by His death, paid the required price, but to whom was the price paid?  It was not payable to God, because we were held prisoner by Satan.  Neither was it payable to Satan, for what does God owe to Satan?

Others say that God was angry and that Christ died to pacify God, but it is people who are hostile to God (Col. 1:21-22); God is not hostile to man.  The Father is not angry with His enemies; His enemies are angry with Him.  They try to exclude Him from their lives in all possible ways.  A common method is to insult God by using His name in vain, and even to use His name as a swearword.

Furthermore, it was God that took the initiative to reconcile man to Him (Col. 1:22); man did not reconcile himself to God.  His enemies are angry, and God seeks reconciliation.  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16).  Colossians 1:20-22 uses the word “through” four times, focusing on what God did through Christ.  Christ was the Means of reconciliation, but it was the Father that made reconciliation.  It is the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints (Col. 1:12) and that delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son (Col. 1:13).

One often hear people say that God was reconciled to His creatures, as if God was changed by Christ’s death on the cross, but the word translated reconcile is used a number of times in Paul’s writings, and always it says that people are reconciled to God; never the other way round.

To reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20)

Reconcile them both (Gentiles and Israel) in one body to God through the cross” (Eph. 2:16)

While we were enemies we were reconciled to God” (Rom. 5:10)

God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18)

We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20)

In other words; God was not changed by the cross; it is man that was changed.  Christ’s death did not change the Father’s attitude towards people,

In reformed circles it is usually said that God’s righteousness demanded that someone had to suffer, and that Jesus suffered what we deserve, therefore we receive what He deserves.  But the Bible reveals God as supremely wise and loving.  The concepts in the Bible are infinitely high above the thoughts of unregenerate man, and continually elevates the mind of man.  To say that the wrath of God would be satisfied by the suffering of an innocent person seems inconsistent with His character.

HOW CHRIST’S DEATH RECONCILED PEOPLE TO GOD IS EXPLAINED HERE AS FOLLOWS:

First, some general principles:

  1. For creatures to live eternally, they must remain sinless, because sin, by definition, is something that destroys.  To remain sinless, intelligent creatures must live in His presence, and the natural response to being in the presence of the infinite One is to love and worship Him.  Worship is the blood vessel that conveys life from the Source of life to His creatures.  If we break that link, we will become corrupted and will eventually die.
  2. Worship and love, to be worship and love, must be an act of free will. God forces no one to worship Him.  Forced worship is no worship.  Love cannot be forced; it always must be voluntary.

Next, how the crisis in the universe developed:

  1. A large number of the intelligent beings in the heavens (many of the angels), under the leadership of Satan, rebelled against God and withdrew from His presence.  Why this happened cannot be explained.  To find a reason for it, is to excuse it.  There was no fault in God’s governance that could justify it.  God created mankind and angels free to make their own decisions, and in their freedom these angels withdrew from God.  Isaiah 14 describes fall of the king of Babylon (v3), but seems to use words from the fall of Satan:

12 “How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn! …

13 “… you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.

  1. This rebellion was expanded to earth when Satan deceived our first parents. Since then we lived outside God’s presence, which caused sin, degeneration and death.
  2. God did not reject mankind.  God did not leave mankind to suffer the natural consequences, but continually sent prophets to turn them to Him: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
  3. While God remained willing to accept man back in His kingdom, God rejected Satan. Satan has gone too far to return to God.  Satan’s character was permanently changed and he cannot return.  Therefore God rejected him.  We must remember that Satan was not just any angel; he was the one that stood in God’s immediate presence.  He was Lucifer, which means Morningstar (Is. 14:12); the one who taught the other angels about God.  The only way that God can draw sinful creatures to Himself, is to reveal more of Himself, but already Satan knew everything about God that an angel can know.  He rebelled with full knowledge of God.  Therefore it is impossible for his to return.  Therefore God rejected him: “And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire”. (Ezekiel 28:16)

Ezekiel 28 describe the king of Tyre (v12), but seems to go beyond this king to a description Satan:

12 “… You had the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 “You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering: …
And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets,
Was in you. …
14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers, …
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.
15 “You were blameless in your ways
From the day you were created
Until unrighteousness was found in you.
16 … You were internally filled with violence,
And you sinned;
Therefore I have cast you as profane
From the mountain of God.
And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub,
From the midst of the stones of fire.
17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;

This seems to be more than a description of an earthly king; it describes, a “covering cherub” that was “blameless” and had “the seal of perfection”; “perfect in beauty”.

  1. Satan responded by accusing God of unfair judgment. God “passed over the sins previously committed” by His people on earth (Rom. 3:25).  Satan, pointing to the sins of God’s people, accused God of unfair judgment (Rev. 12:10).
  2. Satan is extremely talented and previously held a very high position. This made it impossible for the other angels to understand who is telling the truth; God or Satan.  And according to God’s principle of freedom, God allowed him full access to the heavenly beings to argue his point.  The angels were not able to conclude who is right; a lingering doubt remained even in the hearts of God’s loyal angels.  This mystery is symbolized by the sealed book of Revelation.  “No one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it” (Rev. 5:3).
  3. But the Cross demonstrated the justness or fairness of God’s judgment (Rom. 3:25) “so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). God would not force the sinless beings of the universe to accept His judgment.  God reign over a universe where everybody is completely free to form their own opinions and do whatever they want.  Christ’s sacrifice convinced God’s loyal heavenly beings of the rightness of God’s judgment when He accepts people into His kingdom simply on the basis of their faith, while Satan was rejected.
  4. The Cross is therefore important for mankind, but even the heavenly beings also needed the Cross. Colossians 1:20 indicates that they also were reconciled to God “through the blood of His cross”.  By providing proof—through the Cross—of His justness, and that in everything He does He is motivated by love; also when He rejects the most loved angel of all time, namely Satan, God reconciled them to Himself.  The Cross has shown that God loves and protects His creatures.  We may not able to see this, but the heavenly beings are able to perceive this.  “Reconcile” in Col. 1:20 may therefore be understood as returning to a trust-relationship; to know for certain that God loves you and will protect you.

The influence of the Cross is felt throughout the entire universe.  The war that was started in heaven, is concluded on earth.  The spiritual war that we are involved in has cosmic consequences.

Some theologians (e.g. Bruce, Moo) argue that we must understand “reconcile” and making “peace” in Col. 1:20 as “pacify”; in other words, that God will eventually subject all hostile beings to His will.  But if it was God’s intention all along to “pacify” His enemies, why did He not do it right from the start?  The reason is that, to subject His enemies to His will, when the loyal beings are unsure of the rightness of His judgment, will eventually result in another rebellion.  God wishes to resolve the current conflict in such a way that rebellion will never again arise.  God will subject all hostile beings to His will, but only when all the issue in the universe-wide conflict has been made clear, and He is able to subject them to His will with the full support of all of His loyal subjects.

NEXT: Disarmed the rulers and authorities

TO: General Table of Contents