Let’s connect something that Paul says in the amazing first chapter of Colossians with our reading today from Isaiah. We can do that because the Scriptures are an integrated compilation overseen by the Holy Spirit with no contradictions. They maintain consistency from the first to the last. God breathed into them and we can trust that He has made them uniform. There are mysteries concealed in the Old Testament that are revealed in the New. The overall narrative of the Bible gives us a full picture of what God intends in this world. We cannot, as a well-known but foolish pastor has said, “unhitch” the NT from the OT. In fact, as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Paul’s theological treatise in Colossians provides a picture of Jesus Christ that is unparalleled. We learn in Colossians 1:15 that:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
People have often misunderstood this verse. It doesn’t mean that Jesus was one of several whom God created, e.g. the brother of Satan as the Mormons teach. No; firstborn here means unique, preeminent, not one of many. He was not created; He has always been. As a member of the Trinity, Jesus is I AM, the everlasting God.
The next verse is the object of my discussion in this essay. Colossians 1:16 states:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
As the God of creation, among that which Jesus brought forth was His divine family in the heavenlies. God has two distinct families right now: that which lives in the spiritual realm, i.e. the host of heaven; and that which dwells on the earth, i.e. humanity. A day is coming in which God unites our families in common purpose, but we’ll retain that subject for a future commentary. What we should see now is the description Paul gives us of the entities that don’t reside on earth. What are they? Thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities.
We’re aware of a similar description in Ephesians 6:12:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
What this passage informs us is that there are those within the spiritual realm with whom we contend. They are against us. From this we know that heaven contains forces of good and forces of evil. They are hierarchical in nature with some being more powerful than others. How the wicked ones got that way is, again, a topic for another day, as I’ve previously written extensively about that. However, the key point from Colossians is that Jesus created all these beings. None are co-equal with Him.
In the book of Isaiah the prophet brings a Word to Israel that concerns the false gods she has foolishly sought and worshiped. In fact, God mocks them in Isaiah 41:21-24:
Set forth your case, says the Lord;
bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
Let them bring them, and tell us
what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
that we may consider them,
that we may know their outcome;
or declare to us the things to come.
Tell us what is to come hereafter,
that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
that we may be dismayed and terrified.
Behold, you are nothing,
and your work is less than nothing;
an abomination is he who chooses you.
In this passage Yahweh challenges these useless gods to prophesy of things to come. They have set themselves over nations but have no knowledge of the future. If they did, the Israelites might be justified in lifting them up because their understanding of what will be could dismay or terrify them. But, they know nothing. As a result they are an abomination, and one who looks to them for guidance is doomed.
Continuing on, God in Isaiah 42:8-9 sets the record straight:
I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
It is only He who prophesies truth; only Yahweh who knows the end from the beginning. The gods which the Israelites inevitably wanted to pursue had to have graven images made of themselves to remind people they must be revered. These idols were of no account and had no power. God alone is the One who declares new things and sees that they will come to pass.
Here’s the connection of Scripture: The thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities that Paul writes of are these very gods, represented by idols, that Isaiah describes. Those who glorify these worthless beings are in God’s crosshairs. Isaiah 42:17 assures us:
They are turned back and utterly put to shame,
who trust in carved idols,
who say to metal images,
“You are our gods.”
In other words, it’s a big mistake to trust in these faux gods. Leading up to this verse, Isaiah outlines what God in His majesty will do through a series of “I will” statements that the Lord has declared. In summary, He will first bring the Tribulation, but then great blessing in the form of the Millennial Kingdom. Many other Scriptures round out this promised future in greater detail.
Look at how Paul puts it in Colossians 1:20 as to what Jesus will accomplish in the end:
… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
A time will come when He will make all things right. This encompasses everything in heaven and on earth. There is nothing and no one that won’t be reconciled to Him. Remember the evil beings that reside in the spiritual realm? They will be no more. Why? Because reconciliation means that something is changed or harmonized. All differences are redeemed and made of no account. That being the case, as Paul rhetorically says elsewhere in 2 Corinthians 6:15 (NLT):
What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil?
The same is true for wicked rulers upon the earth. How can the Lord bring about a time of universal peace in the Millennium if any of them remain?
God truly has a wonderful plan for us. However, it is not intended for this current period on earth. Peace, security, all joy, the presence of the Lord: all these will only come after God deals with all that is evil, whether in the heavens above, on this earth, or in the depths beneath.
While we patiently wait for the fulfillment of this marvelous promise, Paul – by the Word of the Lord – commands us in Colossians 1:10:
… walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God …
As we obey in this manner, we can be assured that God will be pleased with us. And if God is for us, who can be against? (Romans 8:31)