A Question From Systematic Theology Class

The Professor was lecturing on the Person of Christ last Thursday when he turned to Colossians to read a Christological passage. The text was Col. 1:13-20. This is a very important passage concerning the Person of Christ. It also describes the Work of Christ. The last verse in this passage says, “…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” (Col. 1:20).

The student asked the question, “What things did Christ reconcile in heaven?” There was no answer given. So, I have decided to ask you the question. What is the answer? Enjoy musing over the text. I hope to here from you all soon.

Note: This is just an attempt for you to look in on our classroom discussion. This is just a trial run to see how you all respond. If it does not work out I will do something else.

About Jason and Kimberly

Jason is the former pastor at First Baptist Church in Greensboro, Florida. Kimberly homeschools our three awesome kids. We enjoy being together as a family in wherever so long as we are together! Grace and peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ! View all posts by Jason and Kimberly

6 responses to “A Question From Systematic Theology Class

  • Bret Rogers

    Hey brother! This is a great question from your classmate. From what I can tell, the text seems to be using the phrase “whether things on earth or things in heaven” to reiterate what is meant by the previous “all things”. It may be functioning as a merism, similar to the phrase “day and night” in the OT. This does not mean day and night individually, but “all the time”. “On earth and in heaven” may mean “the universe”. In any case, there also seems to be a theme running throughout Colossians (and Ephesians) that shows Christ’s preeminence over everything, including the “heavenlies” (i.e. the universe). In one sense, such preeminence for Christ is never separated from his cross and resurrection. His enthronement over all things is one that is redemptive by its very nature. If such a heavenly enthronement is redemptive, as Paul says, it is so only by the cross and resurrection. So in Colossians I see Paul pointing out two things: (1) the substitutionary atoning work of Christ’s cross for sinners accompanied by his subsequent resurrection; and (2) the disarming of the heavenly authorities, those which have helped to reak havoc on earth (e.g. Eph 6; Rev 12), even those which work against his now-redeemed-saints (Col 2:15). The reconciliation that takes place, then, is not necessarily one that atones for the sin of the rulers and authorities; this atonement applies to humans. At the same time, it is a reconciliation insofaras it overcomes their power by a far more superior place of honor in the heavenlies, indeed, one that is at the right hand of the throne of God. Everything on earth and in heaven (i.e. all things in the universe), therefore, will come under the subjection of Jesus Christ, for this is the Father’s plan to do so (1 Cor 15; Eph 1:9-10).

    What do you think?

    Bret

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  • Billy Marsh

    If the preeminence of Christ is the overarching theme in Colossians, especially in 1:15-19, then it seems to follow that through the peacemaking blood of the cross, “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” are reconciled back to him as they were meant to be at the beginning of creation. Attempting to utilize this verse as a proof-text for universalism or even unlimited atonement misses the point of what Paul is saying concerning the whole of God’s creation and the affect of the Christ event on all things. When Paul says that peace has been made, that does not necessitate the view that everyone must be saved in order for that statement to be true. Peace can be made by executing justice, which is, in fact, administered through the finished work of Christ’s atonement. Ultimately, God is reconciling all things, whether in heaven or on earth (I agree with Bret’s definition of “heavens” and that this phrase is probably a merism, meaning the universe or all created things) in the sense that now Christ’s atonement has made it possible for all of creation to have the curse lifted. Even though all sinned in Adam, still, all of creation was marred through his disobedience. As Paul says in Rom 8:20, God has subjected the world to futility . . . in hope! Creation and those who have the Spirit of God, share in the inward groaining awaiting the final resurrection and the thorough cleasnsing work of God through Christ’s atonement for sin. Thus, he reconciles all things to himself insofar as the curse will one day be totally lifted from all of creation and all of those in whom Christ lives resulting in a willingly submissive and holy universe where Jesus is Lord and Savior. That of course is a broader understanding of the efficacy of Christ’s atonement, which Paul follows up with a more specific view in 1:20-22 where he appears to have a more narrowed recepient in mind as well as a much more detailed description of Christ’s death (i.e. “reconciled in his body of flesh by his deaht”). Or, you could take Calvin’s position and argue for the reconciliation of angels and men to one another and to God? But, I’m not smart enough to do that.

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  • J.D. Cashion

    Hey Jason, here’s my answer (after some study)…
    Christ “made peace through the blood of His cross”. That sacrifice reconciles all things (that is, all things that would be considered “by Him”, i.e. believers) to Himself in earth now, and will reconcile all things (that is, men as well as angels) to Himself in heaven, later. Matthew Henry sure makes it simple, doesn’t he?

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  • J.D. Cashion

    cf. Eph. 1:10 Jesus will bring all things under His Lordship.

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  • Bret Rogers

    Well said, Billy!

    J.D., I look forward to meeting you one day. Jason shares many good things about you. I have a question. Are you saying that the prepositional phrase, “by Him” refers to “what Christ considered” in your parenthesis above? In the text, it seems that the phrase is modifying the verb, “reconciled”. It seems, too, that Paul is making reference to what the cross accomplished now (though such a fullness will only be recognized in the age to come). Matthew Henry seems to be pressing what is meant by heaven here, making imply a future sense.

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  • thewordisnotimprisoned

    The Theologians Above,
    Thanks for your comments. They are very helpful to us all. I find it a joy to ponder over the subject of this matter–namely, Jesus Christ. I remember the day this text landed on me that Jesus reconciled all things to himself. One part of the all things was me. I had a problem and he fixed my problem. Wow! I thought, at one time, I was supposed to do that. However, God revealed Himself to me through His word which clearly teaches that He Himself does this. He is the Just and the Justifier. The Righteous was given for the unrighteous. He not only cleared my debt of sin; he declared me to be righteous. If anything is to be reconciled to God it must be done through Christ.
    Jason

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