Why Satan thought he could win against God

What power does Satan have to oppose God?
What are his strategy and his goal?
Why did God allow Satan to torment Job without cause?
– A study of the book of Job

Summary:

JobThis article analyses the text of the book of Job, and comes to the following eleven conclusions:

1. Satan is only able to do what the Lord allows him to do. Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job by destroying all his possessions.

2. God claims certain people as His (His elect).  The dispute in Job is over the Lord’s elected people only; not about the followers of Satan.

3. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He accuses God’s elect.

4. By rejecting God’s assessment or judgment of His elect, Satan is actually saying that God judges wrongly. When Satan tests Job, he is actually testing God’s ability to judge.

5. Satan has no real interest in the humans; his goal is to save himself. He and his angels are condemned by God, and Satan wants to show to the universe that God makes mistakes when He judges.

6. Job had no idea of the events in heaven, but his sufferings on earth was the direct consequence of a discussion and an agreement made in heaven. This was not an isolated incident, but still happens every day.

7. If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even only in a single instance, the implications for heaven will be massive; Satan would be able to claim that he also has been judged unfairly.

8. Satan not only wants to be cleared from guilt; he is also fighting to retain the right to rule the earth.

9. The Lord and Satan are in a battle for the minds of the people. God does not take the rule by force. Nor does He allow Satan to force angels and people to submit to his authority.  This war for the right to rule will NOT be won on the basis of power, but on the basis of loyalty.

10. God’s intelligent beings are free to choose. God wants them to trust His judgments, so that they would serve Him because they want to serve Him. Satan is the one who does not grant freedom.  He controls people and angels against their will.

11. Satan thought he could succeed against God because he knew that God allows His intelligent beings to choose for themselves, and he thought that he would be able, through brilliant deceptions, to convince them to side with him.

Series

War in HeavenThis is the second of the following series of articles:

  1. Origin of Evil
  2. Why Satan thought he could win against God
  3. Why did God not destroy evil immediately?
  4. War in Heaven
  5. Why was evil not destroyed after the Cross?
  6. Why does God not create a separate galaxy for Satan and his followers?

The Question:

God is all powerful.  He created everything.  Satan and His evil angels, in contrast, are mere created beings.  The devils believe that God is one, but they “tremble” (James 2:19).  Satan is perhaps the most brilliant mind ever created.  Why did he think he could succeed against God?

The Facts:

Job tormentedThe facts from the book of Job, in brief, are as follows:

One day “the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD” (1:6).

Satan also was among them (Job 1:6).  The LORD asked Satan: “From where do you come?” (1:7).

Satan answered, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (1:7).

But the Lord said, “have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (1:8).

But Satan rejected God’s assessment of Job.  He declared that Job fears God only because God protects him on every side, and blesses the works of his hands, making him very wealthy.  Satan continued, “but put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face” (1:9-11).

The LORD then gave Satan permission to test Job by destroying everything that Job owned (1:12), including his children.

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (1:22).

A second meeting of the sons of God with the Lord is described in Job 2:1-6.  The same issues are brought up, but with slightly different specifics. Satan failed the first time around to destroy Job’s faith in God.  The Lord now adds, referring to Job, “he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause” (2:3).

Now Satan requests even more power to show that Job does not really have faith in God:

Stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (2:4-5)

And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life” (2:6).

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:1-7).

Job with Painful BoilsJob was the wealthiest man of the east, and Satan said that Job fears God only because the Lord blessed the works of his hands.  God then allowed Satan to take away everything that Job owned, and to cover Job’s body with painful boils so that “Job took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes” (2:8).  The wealthiest man was reduced to one of the poorest and most miserable people.  But still Job did not curse God.  He said:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

Discussion

JOB

The book Job helps us with the question above.

It is possibly the oldest book in the Bible.  Job himself made “morning and offering burnt offerings” (Job 1:5), and there is no mention in the book of the Jewish priesthood.  Job probably lived before the time of Abraham.

Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (1:1).  He was also very wealthy (1:2-3); “the greatest of all the men of the east” (1:3).

He was a real person.  Other Bible writers refer to him (James 5:11).  Ezekiel mentions him with Noah and Daniel as exceptionally righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).

THE LORD

The book of Job makes a distinction between God and the Lord (1:8-9; 2:3).  In the article Son of God it is proposed that “the Lord” in Job refers to Jesus Christ before He became a human being.

SONS OF GOD

Who are these “sons of God” that came to present themselves before the Lord? Jesus is “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  Believers are also called “sons of God” (Romans 8:14).  However, in Luke’s gospel, in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, where the sequence of generations is listed using the phrase “son of”, for instance “the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat”, Adam is called “the son of God” (Luke 3:23).  So perhaps God also created other worlds and perhaps these “sons of God” in Job are the leaders of these worlds, as opposed to angels.  As ruler of this world (John 12:31), Satan was among them.

SATAN

Satan means adversary.  In the previous article (Origin of Evil) it was shown that Satan is one of a special class of angels (covering cherubs) that serve in God’s immediate presence.  Ezekiel saw four of them (Ezekiel 10:9).  “The sound of the wings of the cherubim was … like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5).  “Each one had four faces and each one four wings” (10:14, 21).  “Their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings and the wheels were full of eyes all around” (v12).

Ezekiel describes them as “living beings” (v15, 20).  John also saw “four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind” (Revelation 4:5).

These are extremely mighty creatures.  When Satan looks at angels of lower classes, they just run (Daniel 10:21).

1. SATAN IS ONLY ABLE TO DO
WHAT THE LORD ALLOWS HIM TO DO.

Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job.  Satan was not allowed to kill Job, but God allowed Satan to kill Jesus.  We do not have to fear Satan.

2. THE DISPUTE IS ABOUT GOD’S ELECT.  –

We see in Job that God claims certain people as His.  He elects them on the basis of qualities that are invisible to Satan and other created beings.  The dispute in Job is over the Lord’s elected people only.  The dispute is not about the followers of Satan.

3. SATAN IS THE ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN. –

Satan accuses Job.  In general, Satan accuses God’s people.  In the book of Revelation he is called the “accuser of our brethren” (12:10).  In Zachariah 3 Satan stands next to the high priest Joshua “to accuse him”.

4. SATAN ACCUSES GOD OF MISTAKEN JUDGMENT.

Satan rejects God’s assessment or judgment of the Lord’s elect.  Satan argued that Job will curse God if Job’s possessions are taken away.  But the issue is not Job as a person.  The issue is much bigger.  By saying that Job fears God only because God protects him and blesses the works of his hands, and by saying that Job will curse God if Job’s possessions are taken away, Satan was actually saying something about God, namely that God judges wrongly.  And when Satan tests Job, he is actually testing God’s ability to judge.  Satan wants to show that God makes mistakes when He judges.

This confirms the conclusion in the article on the Origin of Evil that Satan inspired distrust in God.  In Eden he called God a selfish liar.

Satan did not respond to the Lord by saying that Job is but one in millions.  It was important for Satan to show that God was wrong with respect to Job.  Apparently, the question is not the view of the majority. God does not need all people on His side to win this war.  It is proposed that the issue is not who will be saved, but whether God makes mistakes when He judges.

5. SATAN IS TRYING TO DEFEND HIMSELF.

Why does Satan want to show that God makes mistakes when he judges?  Is he concerned that God might save the wrong people?  It is proposed here that Satan has no real interest in humans; his goal is to save himself.  God has cast Satan “as profane from the mountain of God” (Ezekiel 28:16).  He and his angels are condemned by God (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4).  It is to defend himself against God’s judgment of himself that Satan wants to show to the universe that God makes mistakes when He judges.  If God’s judgments can be shown to be wrong in even a single instance, then Satan has won; then God’s judgment of Satan and his angels are brought into question.

6. THE DISCUSSIONS AND AGREEMENTS IN HEAVEN BETWEEN THE LORD AND SATAN HAVE CONSEQUENCES ON EARTH.

Job had no idea of the events in heaven, but the test he went through on earth was the direct consequence of a discussion and agreement made in heaven.   It is proposed that what happened to Job was not an isolated incident, but a general principle.  The book of Job is a revelation of what always have been happening in the invisible realm.  Satan accuses God’s people, and requests God’s permission to allow him to test them, to prove that God judges wrongly.  There is, therefore, a very direct relationship between the dispute in heaven and the trials on earth.

Jesus similarly said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).

Prince of PersiaWe see something similar in Daniel 10.  Daniel’s prayer caused a skirmish in heaven.  For three weeks the heavenly messenger struggled against the supernatural “Prince of Persia”.  Only when Archangel Michael came to his assistance was he able to deliver the message to Daniel.  Daniel had no idea of what was happening in the spiritual realm as he prayed, but only learned of it afterwards.  The principle is that this is a single war, fought on two fronts; heaven and earth.

On the basis of Job we can safely assume that there was a debate between the Lord and Satan before Adam and Eve were tested in the Garden of Eden, and that the Lord gave Satan permission to test Adam and Eve, just like he was later allowed to test Job.  Just as in the case of Job, Satan was limited as to what he was allowed to do.  God allowed Satan to test Adam and Eve only with respect to the prominent tree in the middle of the garden (Gen. 3:2-3).  It is called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil not because the tree contained some magical properties, but because that was the only place where they would encounter evil.

In fact, we can assume that events on earth today still are governed by debates and agreements between God and Satan.

7. THE TESTS ON EARTH HAVE CONSEQUENCES
FOR THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.

The consequences also go in the other direction.  The debate in heaven results in tests for God’s people on earth, but the tests of God’s people on earth prove or disprove the reliability of God’s judgments, and therefore have consequences for all beings in the universe.  The earth serves as testing ground for God’s judgments, that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).  In other words, the opinions of the “rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” are influenced by the church.  The church refers not only to the New Testament Church, but to the people that trust in God (have faith in God) throughout in all ages.

If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even only in a single instance, the implications for the heavenly beings will be massive.  Satan would be able to claim that he also has been judged unfairly.

8. SATAN IS FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT TO RULE.

It is was proposed above that Satan wants to show that God makes mistakes when He judges to defend himself against God’s judgment of himself and his followers.  It is now further proposed that Satan not only wants to be cleared from guilt; his ultimate goal is to rule.

There are indications in the debate between the Lord and Satan that the issue is the right to rule:

When Satan said that he has been “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it”, he was implying he rules the earth and all of its people.

When the Lord referred to Job as a “blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil”, He was disputing Satan’s claim for full control over the peoples of the earth.

Initially, Adam and Eve had ownership of the world.  God gave them “dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, 28).  When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, Satan became “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 12:31).  He wants to retain the right to rule the earth.

9. THE RIGHT TO RULE IS WON BY LOYALTY.

God does not take the rule by force.  Nor does He allow Satan to force angels and people to submit to his authority.  This war for the right to rule will not be won on the basis of power, but on the basis of loyalty.  It is a battle for the minds of the people.  From the earliest times God has always been sending message after message to the people of this world, ensuring them of His love and asking them to trust 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).

Satan’s purpose is firstly to show that God’s elect do not really have faith in God.  But Satan does more than objectively testing the loyalty of God’s people; because the right to rule is won by winning loyalty, he actually incites people and angels against God.  As the Lord said to Satan,

you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause” (2:3)

10. GOD’S INTELLIGENT BEINGS HAVE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE.

Satan is the Lord’s enemy, but note that the LORD does not use force against Satan.  The Lord allows Satan into the heavenly meetings, listens to him, debates with him, allows Satan to question His judgment and allows Satan to test His judgment.  When Satan comes back after having failed the first time, God even allows Satan to put Job through an even more stringent test.

EdenSimilarly God allowed Satan to visit the Garden of Eden and to tempt Adam and Eve, and allowed him to tempt Christ in the Wilderness.

The Lord’s very claim, namely that Job serves God, as well as Satan’s test of that claim, would make no sense at all if God sovereignly decides who will serve Him, and then programs them to serve Him with irrefutable force, as claimed by the theory of election.

Everything in Job happened with God’s intelligent beings looking on.  They hear the challenges and see the tests.  God works out this rebellion/sin problem in full sight of the whole universe.  This also implies that God wants His intelligent beings to understand the issues, and to decide for themselves who is right; the Lord or Satan.  God wants them to trust His judgments, so that they would be able to serve Him in complete freedom because they want to serve Him.

This entire story of Job is a major difficulty to Christians who believe in the sovereignty of God, by which they mean that God determines everything, and that nothing happens outside of His will.  If that was true, why do good people suffer?  What is the point?  People that believe that God decides who will be saved often describe that as God’s mercy, but they seem to ignore the fact that that also means that other people will be eternally destroyed in hell, simply because God arbitrarily decided that they will.  Personally I believe this is blasphemy.  God is love (1 John 4:8).  God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  To then say that God will decide who will be eternally destroyed in hell, irrespective of what these people want or do or think, sounds to me like blasphemy.  And I do not accept the view that God works with a different system of ethics.  I believe that what we understand as good is what God also understands as good.

Job confirms a principle from the previous article (Origin of Evil), namely that God created His intelligent beings with the ability to disobey Him so that their service and love will be their free choice.

Freedom is the foundation of God’s government.  God is all powerful, but by granting unlimited free will to His intelligent beings, God limited Himself.  God could have created robots, that only do what they are told to do, but it was God’s choice to create intelligent beings that are completely free.  He is able to do away with evil by forcing His intelligent beings to serve Him against their will, but He created this universe for His intelligent beings.  To force them to obey Him would undo His entire goal for this universe. He wants all His intelligent beings to love and worship Him by choice and not because He forces them to worship Him.

Free choice is a fundamental difference between God’s systems of government and Satan’s.   Satan is the one who does not grant freedom to others.  Satan attempts to force people and angels to do what he want them to do.  When people are possessed, they no longer have the ability to leave Satan behind.  The mark of the beast is specifically used to force people to worship in a certain way.

11. WHY SATAN THOUGHT HE COULD SUCCEED AGAINST GOD 

We are now able to answer the question above.  For the following reasons Satan thought that he could succeed against God:

He knew God very well, and knew that God would not use force.  He knew that God allows his intelligent beings the freedom to choose for themselves.  He knew that the contest will not be on the basis of power, but on the basis loyalty.

He thought that he would be able to convince them to side with him, because, as a mighty covering cherub, who previously explained God’s decisions to the universe, he was loved by all angels and they had much respect for him.

Satan had an advantage over God because he could tell lies.  Because he knew God so well he knew that he would have to tell lies and misrepresent God before man and before the angels.  But he also knew God cannot use deception or lies, and that God’s only weapons are love and truth.

He has perhaps the most brilliant mind ever created and was able to use extremely cunning deception and lies.

Jesus said of Satan: 

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

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

Col. 1:20-22 – Reconcile all things in heaven to Himself through His cross

In the time before Christ there was war in heaven; heavenly creatures waged war against God by evil deeds.  God was not angry.  He did reconcile all things to Himself by providing evidence through Christ’s death, which even heaven needed.

Colossians 1:20-22 can be analysed into the following statements:

  1. Before Christ’s death there was “war” between God and His intelligent creatures; both on earth and in heaven.
  2. That war was caused by the aggression of God’s intelligent creatures against Him.
  3. God was not angry with His enemies.
  4. To bring an end to the war, God changed the minds of His enemies by providing evidence through Christ’s death.
  5. The intelligent beings in heaven also needed the evidence provided by the cross
  6. God forgives completely.

1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—

Before Christ’s death there was “war” between God and His intelligent creatures; both on earth and in heaven.

Through Himthe Father reconciled “all things to Himself” and also “made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him” (1:20).  To reconcile therefore means to make peace between God and His alienated intelligent creatures.  This is also seen in verses 21 and 22, where it is stated that the Colossians previously were “hostile in mind”—which indicates a lack of peace—but now are “reconciled”.  Since God had to make “peace”, there previously was war.

The blood of Christ not only reconciles humans to the Father; even the “things in heaven” are reconciled to the Father through His blood (1:20).  This means that there also was war in heaven.  The Bible is generally silent on the war in heaven.  With the exception of a few places (Job 1:6-; Eph. 1:10; 3:10; Col. 1:20-22; etc.) the Bible only describes events on earth.  But right at the beginning of the Bible we read that Satan came to deceive our first parents.  Sin therefore did not originate on earth; the rebellion against God started elsewhere: in what we may call heaven.  Revelation 12:7 describes that war as between two groups of angels:

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war

This “dragon” is a symbol for Satan (Rev. 12:9).  Satan and his angels are alienated from and hostile towards Him, to quote from Colossians 1:21.

It is this war that spilled over to earth when Satan deceived our first parents, and which is continued today:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places“ (Eph. 6:12).

That war was caused by the aggression of God’s intelligent creatures against Him.

Notice the ‘before’ and ‘after’ conditions of the Colossians:

Before they were reconciled, they were “alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (1:21).

After they were reconciled and at “peace” with God, they were “holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (1:22), i.e. the absence of evil deeds.

It is not God that is described as “hostile”, but His intelligent creatures.  God is perfectly good.  “Evil deeds” are acts of aggression against God.

God was not angry with His enemies.

Since “Him” and “His” in the current verses refer to Christ, these are things which the Father did “through Him”.  It is important to note that it is God that made peace with His enemies; His enemies did not make peace with Him.  The Father took the initiative and through Christ unilaterally acted to reconcile His enemies to Himself.  This means that it is not the Father that is angry with His enemies; it is His enemies that are angry with God.  They are trying 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.

Some people conclude from the Bible that God is angry and that Christ died to pacify Him.  The current verses present His enemies as angry, and God as the One that seeks reconciliation.  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16).

To bring an end to the war, God changed the minds of His enemies by providing evidence through Christ’s death.

The previous verses explained who Christ is.  By using the word “through” four times, the current verses (1:20-22) shift the focus to what God did through Christ, indicating that Christ was the Means of reconciliation:

The Father “through Him … reconcile all things to Himself … through the blood of His cross; through Him” (1:20).  That includes the Colossian Christians, who were “reconciled … in His fleshly body through death” (1:22).

We should not think that His literal blood has any magical power.  “Through the blood of His cross” (1:20) means “in His fleshly body through death” (1:22).  “Blood” is therefore a symbol of His death.

The question now is how Christ’s death succeeded “to reconcile all things to Himself” (1:20):

According to Colossians 2:15 the cross made a “public display” of the “rulers and authorities”.  These are supernatural beings. (See discussion of 2:10)

According to Romans 3:25-26 the cross made a “public display” of Christ to demonstrate His (the Father’s) righteousness; to show the Father as just in spite of the fact that He justifies (forgives) people.

In Revelation the victory of “Michael and his angels” over “the dragon and his angels” is expressed as that the “dragon” and “his angels” were “thrown down” (v9) from heaven (v8) to earth (v12).  Since Satan is represented as accusing “our brethren … before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10), his being “thrown down” (v9) from heaven (v8) implies that the cross of Christ made it impossible for him to further accuse “our brethren”.  The analysis of Revelation 12 concludes that this victory was won through “her child“ (Christ), when He “was caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev. 12:5).

For the following reasons it is therefore proposed that God reconciled His enemies with Himself by changing the minds of His enemies by providing evidence:

  • Christ’s death is said to be a “public display” (Col. 2:15; Rom. 3:25-26).
  • Christ’s death is said to be a demonstration of God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:25-26).
  • Christ’s death is said to have made an end to Satan’s ability to accuse “our brethren” (Rev. 12:8-10). As stated by Colossians 2:15, the cross “disarmed the rulers and authorities”.

To combine these thoughts: by accusing “our brethren”, Satan was actually accusing God of injustice for forgiving (justifying) “our brethren”.  Somehow the public display and demonstration of both Christ and the “rulers and authorities” through the cross made it impossible for Satan to further accuse “our brethren” because it has been shown the justice of God.  In other words, Satan’s arguments were proven false by the public demonstration of the cross.

To take this idea further, we need to ask what Christ’s death revealed of Christ, of God and of Satan.  This will not be discussed now.

If the cross made peace, why are we still involved in the war?  In the words of Revelation, peace came to heaven when Satan was cast out of heaven, but he was given more time on earth (12:9-12).  Why?  This issue is addressed in the discussion of the seals in Revelation.

The intelligent beings in the heaven also needed the evidence provided by the cross.

This brings us to the perhaps surprising conclusion that the intelligent beings in the heaven also needed the evidence provided by the cross.  The war that is started in heaven is ended on earth.  The struggle that you and I are involved in, has cosmic implications.

God forgives completely.

Lastly, the Colossian Christians were reconciled “to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (1:22).  As verse 23 indicates, this must still happen.  But the point here is that God will not hold the sins of His people against them.  God is the great Physician.  He wants to heal us of a deadly cancer.  Yes, our evil deeds are aggression against Him, but once we are healed from this cancer He will not hold it against us.

Atonement

Another way in which the Bible expresses the “reconcile”-concept is “make atonement”, as indicated by the following definition of “atonement”:

Atonement: 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 katallasso, usually translated “to reconcile”.  The basic meaning is to establish friendship. (Holman Bible dictionary)

The original meaning of “atonement” is “at-one-ment”, which means to be “at-one”, which means to be reconciled.  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).  But the forensic doctrine of salvation caused the meaning of “atonement” to change over the centuries.  The forensic doctrine of salvation teaches that somebody must pay for sins committed.  This doctrine presents God as angry and the death of Christ as a sacrifice to pacify God.  Therefore “atonement” has today come to mean “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 (1:20).  It is us that must change.  It is not God that is angry; it is His creatures that are “hostile in mind” (1:21).  In the Bible God is never reconciled to us.  The current verses (Col. 1:20-22) indicate that God, through Christ, reconciled all things “to Himself” (1:20).  And in Romans 5:10 we read:

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).

Colossians Table of Contents

Next: Colossians 1:23-28 The mystery hidden from the past ages