A STUDY OF THESE TERMS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Throughout the whole of the Bible, there is mention, and evidence, of ‘principalities and powers’ but it is a subject seldom dealt with in Christian literature. These articles seek to awaken our prayerful consideration of its many aspects.
Christ and the principalities and powers
Colossians chapter 1 verse 15, clearly states that He who is the ‘firstborn of every creature’, that is Christ, created the principalities and powers along with all things. Ephesians chapter 1 verses 20-21 show that in raising Christ from the dead, God raised Him far above all principalities and powers, thus all are answerable to Him alone for their decisions and actions. Although there may be no specific statement in scripture as to when the heavenly principalities and powers were created, Ezekiel chapter 28 verse 15 suggests that it was subsequent to this that Satan became corrupted and iniquity was found in him.
It is evident from Isaiah chapter 14 verses 12-15, which refers to an angelic being called Lucifer, that he is seen to be the chief of principalities and powers who sought to act contrary to God and usurp God’s authority. Similarly, Ezekiel chapter 28 verses 11 to 19, referring to the King of Tyre, allude to the same being. The Lord Jesus spoke in Luke chapter 10 verse 18 of the fall of Satan from heaven and Peter refers to angels of lesser status than Satan, who also disobeyed and were cast down, 2 Pet. 2. 4. These scriptures would lead us to conclude that there is a division within these created principalities and powers of those that are rebellious against God’s ways and intentions and those who remain unswervingly obedient and fully active in all God’s purposes. The first grouping constantly opposes; the second serves with devotion.
Therefore, it would seem that these heavenly beings had discretionary power given them by God to obey or not. Some of the principalities and powers in opposition to God were put in chains and are currently imprisoned, unable to be at liberty. Others, although restricted in this present dispensation in their actions and the effect of their powers divinely controlled, seem to have freedom to oppose God and His purposes with men. This includes opposing and contrary human principalities and powers such as governments, kings and rulers on earth. However, the Lord will always either act contrary to them to make their actions of no effect, or use them to further His own purposes.
The principalities and powers loyal to the Son of God are under His control for all their actions in relation to mankind, especially for His own people, i.e., those who believe God, and are obedient to Him. They are ministering spirits sent forth for them who are heirs of salvation, Heb. 1. 14. They demonstrate the holiness and worthiness of God’s intentions and care towards men. One of the titles of God in the scriptures is ‘Lord of Sabaoth (hosts, or armies)’ and refers to the Lord’s command of loyal angels, i.e., principalities and powers, whom He uses to fulfill His purposes in judgement against those whose actions are unjust or unfaithful, see Rom. 9. 29; Jas 5. 4.
Christ, the Son of God, spoiling principalities and powers
From the outcome of the creation of mankind, the evil principalities and powers have sought to corrupt man and to cause him to disobey God. The actions of the serpent in the Garden of Eden caused Eve, and later her husband, to disobey God’s word. Being of immense spiritual intelligence they know and understand God’s plan for the fulfillment of His purposes for men – to be redeemed and restored to a right relationship with Himself. Hence, there have been, and continue to be, ongoing attempts throughout man’s history by Satan and his minions to thwart God’s plans to bless men.
When, finally, in the purposes of God the promised Seed was born, Satan and his powers sought to destroy Him but were unable. A great host of angels announced and praised His birth, thus demonstrating to all evil principalities and powers that there was no possibility of harming the Child. Subsequent interventions, be it through dreams or visions given to men, demonstrated that although these evil powers did their utmost to deter and prevent His pathway to the cross, God took it in hand to stop this and preserve the safety of the Child.
Later attempts to deflect the Son of God from the path of His purpose to save men were overruled by His own authority as Head of all principality and powers. The teaching of the Lord Jesus from His baptism onwards, challenged the people, especially religious authorities, and other groups, as to the truth and their unjust practices. This gave these opposing principalities and powers fertile ground for inducing the corrupt spiritual guides and leaders to seek to silence Him and ultimately to have Him killed. They also found in Judas Iscariot a willing heart that could be freely used for their purposes.
How then can it be said that the Lord Jesus ‘spoiled the principalities and powers’? Satan, as the prince of darkness, was able to stimulate opposition to the Lord Jesus to the point where men would find ways whereby He could be condemned to death. The raising of Lazarus seems to be the act that sparked off this decision of theirs to seek His death, John 11. 47-53. Here then, seemingly, was Satan’s opportunity to have the Son of God put to death and the purposes of God destroyed. Satan may well have reasoned that by this one act the very Trinity could be broken apart and rendered void. The chief priests and rulers realized that the Lord was undermining their own position and authority and so they raised the charge of blasphemy against Him and pursued their evil plotting.
By the very death His enemies plotted, the Lord Jesus overthrew them
Satan had entered into the heart of Judas Iscariot and so with his betrayal of Jesus they felt they had the answer to the situation. Before Caiaphas, Satan encouraged the people to make the charge ‘making himself the Son of God’, and thus be guilty of ‘blasphemy’, John 19. 7. The Jews, not being allowed by Roman law to put Him to death, had the Romans, who were outside the law of Moses, to be the ones to take His life, Acts 2. 23. Thus in their eyes, they would not be guilty of His death. All these actions and pressures of the forces of evil were, in the overruling of God, used by Him to bring about His purpose that the Lord Jesus might willingly take the place of a guilty world and die as the sinner’s substitute providing a perfect salvation and redemption for all who would receive it, 2 Cor. 5. 21; Gal. 3. 13-15.
The Lord Jesus then, having power to lay down His life, and to take it again in resurrection, on the very cross on which they crucified Him, spoiled principalities and powers. He displayed His superior powers, met the onslaught, slew His enemies, destroying their powers and making an open show of them He triumphed over them by laying down His own life. Having borne the judgement of the sin of the world, His death becomes the foundation upon which God offers all men a perfect salvation and the answer to man’s sin, John 1. 29.
All that Satan had sought to make impossible, was made fully possible, and open for all to see. When the Lord Jesus cried, ‘It is finished’, and yielded up His Spirit to His Father, all that had transpired was in God’s hands. And His bodily resurrection as the triumphant and risen Lord puts the final touch to His victory against all the forces of evil, both physical and spiritual, which had been marshalled against Him.
Christ raised far above all principalities and powers, Eph. 1. 20-21
There were three things that Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers and for all believers, that having the eyes of their understanding enlightened they might know: (1) the hope of His calling; (2) the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints; and (3) the exceeding greatness of His power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him far above all principality and power.
This ‘power’ is available to all who have believed in Him. Christ is superior to any other authority in the universe, now and forever; all are subservient to Him. This power and authority are so supremely manifested that principalities and powers that are adverse to Christ, and thus hostile to His body, the church, cannot prevail against it because it is so essentially part of Him, Matt. 16. 18. We share in His victory; His triumph is ours in the onward march of the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
The ‘Father of glory’ in setting Him at His own right hand in the majesty of the heavens has given all the absolute assurance of His victory, and we see Him there now and find His triumph to be our very own. Praise be to Him!
To be continued.
Your Basket Is Empty