18 May 2007

Heaven (10): Christ the Creator, Conqueror, and Reconciler of His Cosmos

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Colossians, Contemporary Ethics, eschatology, Exegesis, Gnosticism, Heaven, Hermeneutics, Jesus, Kingdom, Paul
Opening Colossians
This current post builds upon previous ones but especially Heaven #5: God’s Love for His Creation and Heaven #9 on Matthew 19 and Acts 3. In reality though Colossians 1 is part of the grand biblical narrative of the Creator God, through Christ, reconciling everything to himself through the blood of Jesus.
The followers of the Way in the LycusValley are being troubled by some form of false teaching. This teaching has been called a “philosophy,” a “heresy,” “proto-gnosticism” and many other names. I lean toward the proto-gnostic hypothesis, or semi-paganism floating in the background, but at the very least the Colossian Philosophy is a view full of powers and angelic beings that demand some kind of homage on the part of the human beings. These beings are not friendly either thus the imperative of placating them. These beings each seem to have a “share” or a “cut” of what it means to be truly divine. Like a Troll that controls the passage of communication, supplies and movement these beings were believed to control the space between the believer and God. Each is paid his due or nothing gets through.
Paul addresses the theological issues underlying the Colossian problems through quoting one of the earliest extant Christian hymns. This hymn dips into the rich mines of Jewish tradition about Wisdom being the image of God and applies it to Jesus Christ himself. Verses 15-16 form the first strophe, with a link or “interlude” in v.17 and the verses 18-20 forming the second strophe.
Christ the Creator of His Cosmos
Paul does not seem to be one to beat around the bush as he wastes no space in Colossians. He cuts to the core of the “heresy” unwittingly adhered to by some believers by arguing that Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation.” The genitive can easily be rendered “firstborn before all creation.” Paul is not simply talking chronology, though that is certainly there, but rather primacy. Paul emphasizes this point in a number of ways in the hymn: Christ is firstborn, he is the head, he is the beginning.

The first verse of the “Christ Hymn” is sweeping in its claims about Christ. Indeed the claims are breathtaking. The Colossian Christians do not need to worry about the powers, thrones or angelic beings precisely because, Paul sings, Christ is the Supreme Creator of the Cosmos. Paul does not waste his time on arguing whether or not these being “exist” rather he says if they “exist” then they were created by Christ the Creator. Hear the melody of the apostle:
“For in him were created all things
in the heavens and on the earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions {not the Roman senate!!}
or principalities or authorities;
all things were created through him and for him.”
Paul had memorized Genesis 1 since he was a child. He had chanted Psalm 104 on many occasions … and Paul believed every syllable. But he makes the astonishing claim (or who ever was the original composer of the hymn and Paul agrees with it) that Christ was far more than a Man from Galilee … he was Yahweh’s instrument of Creation itself. Knowing that Christ created those angelic thugs makes them a little less intimidating, they after all are mere creations too. Christ’s initial work is cosmic in scope.
The goodness we see, and we do see it, in creation is there because Christ Jesus made it so. It is beautiful, powerful, and wonderful because he made it like that. When the lavish and generous beauty of the world catches your breath, remember (Paul claims) that it is like that because of Jesus.
Christ the Conqueror of His Cosmos
As beautiful as creation is it does not take long to learn that there is ugliness there too. Fear and death are the ultimate symbols of that ugliness. Something went awry in the created work of Christ. That is testified to by the Colossians themselves who lived, as did most Romans, in a perpetual state of fear of the world around them.
Basically what has happened is creation has rebelled. When God, through Christ, created the entire cosmos (seen and unseen) those angelic beings were not in rebellion. Paul does not stop to explain how or when (i.e. he does not give us the origin of evil) they became such but it is clear they are the enemy of God’s People. Thus just prior to quoting the Christ Hymn Paul uses Exodus language to talk about God’s great “rescue operation” of the Israelite people but he re-appropriates that imagery to the work of God in Jesus: “ For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness …” (1.13). When God rescued Israel he destroyed the armies of his enemy. Christ will likewise destroy the power of the enemy of his people.
Leaving the Christ Hymn just for a moment we see what amounts to combat imagery ascribed to Christ and his work. Note that this work of Christ takes place in the cosmic realm. The enemies of God’s people used the cheirograph against them but Christ nailed it to the Cross (2.14). Then he “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (2.15). The Colossians likely had pointed to the cross as evidence of what happens to the man who dares to oppose the “forces.” Paul, however, pulls back the curtain of time and says that far from being a defeat the Crucifixion was a stunning victory over the “powers.” As Yahweh had utterly defeated the “gods of Egypt” and the army of Pharaoh in the Battle by the Sea (Ex. 15); so Christ is seen as the one who conquerors the rebellious forces in his creation. This is the Christus Victor motif mentioned in our previous blog.
This imagery that surrounds the Christ Hymn is present within it. The last line of the second strophe says “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (1.20). Thus the song moves from Christ the cosmic Creator to Christ who puts down cosmic rebellion. F.F. Bruce notes “the universe has been involved in conflict with its Creator, and needs to be reconciled to Him; the conflict must be replaced with peace. This peace has been affected by Christ, through the shedding of His blood on the cross” (“The Christ Hymn of Colossians” Bib Sac 141 {Apri-June 1984}, 109).
Christ the Reconciler of His Cosmos
Jesus holds both the “old” creation and the “new” creation together in himself. The second strophe begins with poetic symmetry that mirrors the opening line of v.15. Jesus is not only the first born of/over creation; he is also the first born from the dead. Elsewhere Paul says that Christ is the “Firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8.29) and the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15.20). Jesus’ resurrection is the harbinger of the great forthcoming resurrection harvest.
The resurrection mentioned in v.18 presupposes the death of Christ. Thus Paul continues to sing
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things to himself,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.”
The claims of this second strophe are no less awesome than in the first. Just as Christ was the cosmic Creator now Paul testifies that he is the cosmic Reconciler of that same cosmos.
There are some who deny that Christ’s blood goes as far as the curse is found. But it seems evident to me that Paul makes that bold claim right here. Just as Adam’s sin had cosmic significance so Christ’s death and resurrection also has cosmic significance. If the first half of the song means that Christ actually created everything then how can the second half be claimed to be less cosmic in reconciliation?
Paul and the Colossians believers, however, lift their voices and sing that God was pleased to reconcile all things (ta panta) to himself. What things? Things that are on earth. Things that are in heaven. All things. All things that were created by Christ but went astray through rebellion. Creation is set free by the one who created it. In order to reconcile it to himself he had to conquer through his blood. As F. F. Bruce writes “in reconciliation as in creation the work of Christ has a cosmic significance.” Bruce further notes that the liberation of God’s people (in this case the Colossians) is linked to his liberation of the cosmos itself. “The liberty of the children of God is procured by the redemptive work of Christ, the release of creation from its bondage to decay is assured by that same redemptive work.”
In Colossians, Paul makes some astounding claims about Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus is the Agent through whom the invisible God actually created the cosmos. Because rebellion has vandalized God’s handiwork Christ Jesus took on the task of reclaiming that cosmos by Conquering the Evil forces let loose in the Cosmos (this took place through the cross). The result of the conquering work of Christ is the reconciliation of the cosmos to God. Paul does not say this is only people. “All things” things in heaven, things on earth, all things were reconciled by the blood of Jesus. What an incredible claim.
A Word from a Church Father: Irenaeus
The early church fully understood the ramifications of Christ being “creator” and what it would mean if Christ was not also “reconciler.” If the cosmic forces were allowed to go free (as it were) that would simply mean that it was God, rather than Satan, that was ultimately defeated. Paul clearly did not believe this, neither should we. Irenaeus was brilliant second century Christian who passionately defended the faith in resurrection against Gnostics of all shades. I close with a quotation from Against Heresies book 3.23.1. Irenaeus sees clearly the connection Paul establishes between creation and reconciliation/redemption:
Man, who had been created by God that he might live, after losing life, through being injured by the serpent that had corrupted him, should not any more return to life, but should be utterly and forever abandoned to death, God would, in that case, have been conquered, and the wickedness of the serpent would have prevailed over the will of God. But inasmuch as God is invincible and longsuffering, He … by means of the Second Man did He bind the strong man, spoiled his goods and abolished death …”
Christ created the cosmos. He did battle with the “strong man” and defeated him at Golgotha. He did not abandon the work of his hands but reconciled all of it to himself. Thus we long to see the resurrected Lord, along with his resurrected people, on his resurrected and reconciled earth.
Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

25 Responses to “Heaven (10): Christ the Creator, Conqueror, and Reconciler of His Cosmos”

  1. laymond Says:

    Brother Bobby two questions please.
    first;
    Who was on this earth first? Man or Satan?
    second;
    If the whole of the earth was a paradise, what was the purpose of the Garden.

  2. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Laymond,

    I am not sure what the first question is about. But I believe that Adam was here on this earth before Satan.

    As for the second the Bible does not teach that the entire Earth was the Garden of Eden. God created the Earth and placed the Garden with in it. Humanity lived within the Garden but the Garden of God was not the entire planet. I have dealt with the purpose of the Garden already in this series of posts. The Garden functioned like a temple … see #4. It will again.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  3. laymond Says:

    OK Bobby why are you saying the entire earth will be renewed to its original perfection, for God and his perfect people to live on.
    I agree the garden was a special place on this imperfect earth, otherwise why would it be a punishment to be kicked out of a perfect garden into a perfect world. God said it is good, and it was for the purpose he intended it for, but do you really know that purpose?

  4. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Laymond why don’t you deal with my posts?

    God created the earth. It was not cursed. Even that which was not part of the Garden was not cursed. Humanity as I understand it was tasked with cultivating and expanding the Garden.

    God through Christ created that world. God through Christ had conquered that world that was in rebellion. God through Christ has reconciled it to himself. Is this or is this not what Colossians teaches? If it does not then I would be grateful to you to show how and where my my understanding of Colossians is awry.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  5. laymond Says:

    Ok Bobby we will stick to your post…You referred me back to post #4 on this subject… when I ask a question about the garden.
    Here is what struck me most about #4.
    I opened this blog with a comment on the narrative structure of the biblical text. I pointed out how the ending of the story is very much like the beginning. If what I have said is even remotely accurate (and I believe it is) then when we read that God has made his dwelling with humanity (Rev 21.3) and the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven to the earth … we see happening in Revelation what has already happened “in the beginning” in Genesis 1 and 2. God built a house, a palace, a temple for humans and deity to dwell together. That place was in Eden. Revelation tells us that God has made his dwelling again with humanity, the curse has been removed. Humans and deity can live in the same place again. Heaven will once again be on earth.
    God dwelling with us … that was the goal from the beginning. Eden was heaven on earth … and God is looking to bring us back to it. The renewed and glorified earth.

    Rev 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither [whatsoever] worketh abomination, or [maketh] a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
    Rev 22:14 Blessed [are] they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

    Rev 22:15 For without [are] dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

    My observance; you seemed to become agitated when I suggested there might be bad things outside the garden. Yet you seem to accept that bad things can dwell on the new earth outside the New Jerusalem.

  6. Royce Ogle Says:

    Good job as usual Bobby.

    Grace to you,
    Royce Ogle

  7. Falantedios Says:

    Bobby and Laymond,

    If I might interject:

    Obviously, evil existed outside the garden. Evil came INTO the Garden. But the CURSE under which all of creation groans (Rom 8) did not come from that evil, but from the sin committed by the one charged to subdue and rule over all of creation, INCLUDING the deceiver.

    Creation never stopped being GOOD.
    The annihilation of that which has never been called anything but good would hardly be just.

    in HIS love,
    Nick

    PS – Strong exegesis of Colossians 1. Check out mattwilson.wordpress.com for an ongoing series on Colossians.

  8. Falantedios Says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot.

    Because evil existed before man’s sin, I do not believe that atonement theology should be our primary understanding of the mission of Christ. God plans to set to rights ALL that has gone wrong in creation, and mankind’s sin does not encompass all that is wrong in creation.

    Nick

  9. laymond Says:

    Nick, I agree that was the very purpose of the two questions I asked. #1 who was here first man or Satan/evil. #2 what was the purpose of the garden if there was no evil.
    again you are right when you say atonment for man’s sin was and is not Jesus mission. he came to battle evil for men’s souls. if satan is not here why would Jesus come here to join in battle against him. Jesus gave us armor against evil but not world control over it. I see the final battle in Revelation where Satan and his followers will face annilation along with this earth.I can’t find a place where the bible said Satan’s residence will be renewed for man’s eternal dwelling.

  10. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Nick and Laymond,

    Greetings this early morning from the land of Saguaros and Scorpions.

    I think you have asked a couple of questions that we don’t have any real information about from the biblical narrative.

    I do not believe the entire earth was Eden. But I also do not think that evil existed either. It was God’s good creation.

    Whether Satan was on the earth before man or not cannot be known. But the rest of the biblical narrative does not measure the tragic fall of the cosmos from his fall but from that of humanity. This is clear from Romans 5. God has not tied the fate of his creation up with angels (fallen or otherwise) but with “us.” If I had to venture an opinion I would even say that evil did not really enter into creation until satan persuaded humanity to join his rebellion. That is when God cursed the ground according to Genesis and Paul.

    But here is the point that Paul makes: whereever and whenever that curse (rebellion) took place Christ conquered it and reconciled it. Now brother is that not what Colossians teaches?

    About the New Jerusalem, it is true that no evil person will be allowed in it. But I also believe in Revelation those folks who have been characterized as such will be cast into the abyss.

    Laymond who in our discussion has said one syllable about satan being renewed and having a place in the new earth. I have not said a word about it. Colossians says that the cosmic forces of evil are conquered brother. they are pacified by the one who made a public spectacle out of them (2.14-15). I have no worries about Satan in the new earth.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  11. laymond Says:

    Bobby I forget sometimes I am talking to a man with many degrees, and friends and associates who are professors. I will try to explain what I say more precisely from now own.
    When I said the following I was referring to the (present, adjective meaning now existing)

    I can’t find a place where the bible said Satan’s (present) residence will be renewed for man’s eternal dwelling.

  12. laymond Says:

    Bobby don’t get me wromg, I love discussing the bible with you or anyone who is intrested enough to stay in a discussion I appreciate your (sticktoitness) I can never have a really good discussion with the most conservative among our brothers because they get angry and quit when the discussion does not go their way. I have been studying and discussing the bible since I was four years old, I am now 66 years old. thats a long time. My grandpa was a church of Christ preacher and elder in the 30s 40s and 50s he died in 1955 when I was 15. I have been pondering two post on my grandpa first to tell about him then to tell about his view on creation, why and when it all came about and when it will all come to an end. I believe his version make the most common sence view I have ever heard.

  13. Falantedios Says:

    Bobby,

    We have some linguistic issues that might be confusing here. Evil must have entered CREATION before Adam’s sin, because Satan is a created being as well. Indeed, mustn’t it have been on earth before Adam’s sin, because the deceiver lied to Eve about God and his word? Somehow that is unrevealed to us, evil began between Gen 1:1 and Gen 3:1 with the rebellion of the satan that lead to the deception of the humans. That’s as far as I’ve gotten in my thinking.

    Laymond,

    You wrote, “I can’t find a place where the bible said Satan’s (present) residence will be renewed for man’s eternal dwelling.”

    Brother, your struggle is not with Bobby. It is with Jesus and Matthew, with Peter and Luke. Bobby already laid open before us the two passages that clearly speak of this renewal (Matt 19:28, Acts 3:21). I’ve kept up with your comments on that earlier bit of exposition, but it seems that your struggle lies with those clear passages.

    Nick

  14. laymond Says:

    Nick no problem I here.
    Restitution is in KJV 6 times as far as I can tell it means make whole repay,
    Not make new.

    Exd 22:5 If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man’s field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.

    Exd 22:6 If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed [therewith]; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

    Act 3:21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

    Restore is in the KJV 40 times as far as I can tell it means to make whole, give back not make new.

    Lev 24:21 And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.

    Psa 51:12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit.

    Regeneration appears twice in KJV it means cleansing or washing as far as I can tell not making new.

    Mat 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

    Tts 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
    NLV (He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit.)

    The word restoration does not appear in the KJV.

  15. Falantedios Says:

    Laymond,

    I expect Bobby will have a clearer and more exhaustive response than mine, but I’d have to say that it would probably be a better choice to deal with the problem in the original languages, rather than depending on a translation committee from 400 years ago, dealing with a lot of theological baggage and nowhere near the textual resources for translating koine Greek and biblical Hebrew. For purposes of this discussion, I really have very little interest in how often the King’s translators selected a certain word, seeing as they were translating into the vernacular of a society and a language far distant from the English I speak and understand today. That’s another talk for another topic. I’m interested in what Matthew and Luke say that Jesus and Peter said.

    in HIS love,
    Nick

  16. laymond Says:

    Nick trying not to put words in your mouth. do you think the KJV was worthless and not in any way applies to “modern believers” in other words we were lost until the new age schollars men of wisdom, came along and saved us from our ignorance. Nick I wish you would read
    Read 1 Cor:1: 17 thru 29 and tell me what Paul said about this. Sorry to be harsh, but you quote these scholars as if it is gospel.

  17. laymond Says:

    Oh BTW Nick read this(what Paul said about such wise men) from any version you believe in, I believe they all agree with KJV.

  18. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Laymond I must say that your comment is disheartening.

    God does not celebrate ignorance any more than he does arrogant intellectualism. In fact both are simply a form of arrogance.

    But I thank the Lord for scholars. The King’s men were scholars beloved. They were such great scholars that they wrote in The Translators to the Reader:

    “But how fhall [sic] men meditate in that, which they cannot vnderftand [sic]? How fhall they vnderstand that which is kept clofe in an vnknown tongue …”

    Those scholars, those men of 1611, knew that it was the vulgar that folks needed the word in. Thus they made an apology for new translations. Translations that took advantage of new discoveries, new manuscripts and advances in knowledge … those scholars celebrated such things.

    Further those scholars declared that the accuracy of theirs or any translation was to be measured against the Hebrew and Greek. They wrote:

    “That as the credit of the old books (he meaneth the Old Testament) is to be tried BY THE HEBREW VOLUMES; SO OF THE NEW BY THE GREEK (he meaneth by the original Greek). If truth be to be tried by these tongues, then whence should a translation be made, but out of them … the tongues wherein God was pleased to speak to his Church …” (their emphasis).

    Those scholars of 1611 claimed that they sought ALL the help they could muster.

    “Neither did we think much to consult the translators or commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek, or Latin; nor the Frenk, Spanish, Italian, or Dutch; neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to brein back to the anvil that which we had hammered …”

    Sounds like a LOT of work that those men were willing to exert. I wonder how we honor their name by not honoring their spirit.

    The King James men never dreamed that their work would be used as the measuring rod for all learning.
    When they published their work Galileo was just beginning to point the telescope to the skies, the Pilgrims were still in Holland, there were still only five planets, the world still believed the sun orbited the earth … 1611 was LONG time ago. Scholarship has not slept during the centuries that has passed.

    I will honor the King’s men by doing what they did … go to the sources … ad fontes.

    Blessings beloved brother,
    Bobby Valentine

  19. laymond Says:

    Bobby you seem to have the same problem nick accused me of having, you seem to have a problem with New Testament scripture. I didn’t write I Cor. Paul did. But I do have a problem with arrogance one who says everyone else is wrong, and have been wrong all along I have discovered and corrected all other’s mistakes. Why because I am intellectualy superior. I really doubt ignorance will keep one from eternal life, because we are all ignorant to the ways of God.

  20. Matt Wilson Says:

    Bobby,

    Great thoughts. I have a “series” on Colossians called “revolt of the way” over on my blog right now and someone said I should take a look at your thoughts….glad I was recommended to do that!

    http://www.mattwilson.wordpress.com

    matt wilson

  21. laymond Says:

    “Those scholars of 1611 claimed that they sought ALL the help they could muster.”
    Bobby that is what the word scholar means student one being schooled, a scholar is not one who knows everything, a scholar is one in search of knowledge, and be as it may scholars make mistakes.

  22. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Laymond,

    I was not aware that I had a problem with Paul’s epistle. Sometimes he nails me to the wall and I don’t really appreciate that … but I didn’t know I had a problem with him or any other NT (or Hebrew Bible) author.

    I certainly do not think I have discovered something that no one ever knew beloved. Quite to the contrary. My understanding of the new heavens and new earth has been the basic understanding of the church for 2000 years. It was the Gnostics of the second/third century and the new pagans of the Enlightenment that came up with a new view.

    Now brother I don’t have a problem with Paul. Truth be told I don’t even have one with the KJV. I did quote those men of valor though and it appears that they would not approve of many of the uses people make of their work.

    Matt,

    Welcome to Stoned-Cambpell. I will check out your work on Colossians. I invite you to look at the other posts that go along with my Colossians blog on Heaven as the New Earth.

    Shalom to all,
    Bobby Valentine

  23. laymond Says:

    Bobby I love you as a brother in Christ, and I really did enjoy our discussion on out final dwelling place. I don’t believe we will have a restrictive abode evidently you do. I never expected to change any minds, but it never hurts to get other opinions. I have spent hours discussing this very thing with Jehovah’s wittnesses, I have a very good friend in their ranks. He and his mother-in -law have spent a lot of time trying to convence me, needless to say they never did. I told them one time as I must tell you. When I leave I will wave goodby. at least they did say I could be one of the 144 thousand. You don’t give me a chance to see the mansion Jesus prepared for me.
    God bless

  24. Falantedios Says:

    Laymond,

    I don’t recall having quoted anyone.

    I clearly stated that “for purposes of this discussion,” I had no interest in the words selected by the King’s committee to translate Greek into Elizabethan English. I don’t speak Elizabethan English. I speak 2007 Midwestern American English. Thus, I want to exegete and exposit the text for myself.

    I do not believe that the KJV is worthless. Nor do I believe that the gospel vanished from the earth for the 1600 years before it was published. Or for the hundreds of years when there were no ‘vulgar’ translations. The text is not the gospel. The text is not God. Authority and salvation lie in Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

    Nick

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