An Enforced Peace
Have you recently heard a speech in praise of someone worthy of honour?
The technical term for this is a eulogy – and the most common time we hear these is at funerals. We tend to wait until people have died, and then forget the bad stuff, and heap lots of praise on them. After all, we wouldn’t want them to think that we actually thought they were worthy and honourable during their lives, would we? Rather than waiting until people have left planet earth, Mike and the Mechanics encourage us to tell the people around us what they mean to us while they’re still here. But I digress.
The New Testament includes several hymns of praise to Jesus: Colossians 1:15-20, Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 1:1-4, and John 1:1-5, 14. The common denominator in these hymns is that they honour Jesus in two realms: they honour as Lord in the cosmos - the Eternal One, the Creator, the Word; and they honour him as Lord in the Church – the one who redeemed a people to himself through his death and resurrection.
The hymn in Colossians ends with fascinating statement: and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:19).
The particular accomplishment of Christ that Paul is describing is RECONCILIATION. The word reconcile means to restore to friendly relations two parties that have had some kind damage or break down in their relationship.
The presupposition of this verse is that the harmony and the unity of the cosmos suffered a severe dislocation that requires the work of God to heal it.
The reconciliation that Paul is talking about here is comprehensive – because He talks about all things. So there are three spheres in which Christ is effecting reconciliation – the spiritual world, the human world, and the material world. Those are three spheres in which there are problems.
The spirit world was thrown into turmoil when many of the angels rebelled against God. The human population was separated from God through the treasonous sin of Adam. And the material world was impacted by a kind of corruption unleashed through Adam’s rebellion. So there is disharmony, confusion, disorder and treachery in the spiritual realm, in the human realm, and in the physical realm.
Sin affected every area of creation, and the work of God in redemption extends likewise to every area of creation. Jesus is going to fix it all.
But because he is going to reconcile ‘all things’, the use of reconciliation here means something a broader than just patching up a broken relationship. Here it means that all things have been reconciled in the sense that heaven and earth have been brought back to their created and determined order.
The Prince of Peace is establishing a compulsory peace agreement. He’s not putting it up to vote. Usually, people get reconciled when they both want to get reconciled. But two of these spheres are being brought into an enforced peace whether or not they are want to.
The material universe – the creation that was subjected to bondage through Adam’s treason – its impersonal and doesn’t have a will – God isn’t going to line up all the electrons in the universe and let them vote on his peace plan. God is restoring them to their proper order, whether or not they want it. (See Romans 8:19-22)
And the same thing is true for all forces of spiritual darkness. They will not be offered negotians; terms will be imposed on them. Further in Colossians Paul writes that He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colissians 2:15). Jesus brought the forces of darkness into an enforced peace by absolutely defeating them. All treason in the spirit realm has been dealt with.
The offer to people of personal reconciliation to God through Christ is so important that Paul spends several verses after this hymn describing what Jesus has done to accomplish this (Colossians 1:21-23). But the basis for all of these aspects of reconciliation is described in verse 20: he made peace by the blood of his cross.
When Jesus died and rose from the dead, He did more than open a way for sinful humans to be saved. This was very much part of what He did and central to understanding the story of the Bible. But in addition, he legally laid the ground-work for forcibly bringing the other realms of reality into his enforced peace agreement: every vestige of spiritual darkness will be banished from his realm; every molecule and quark and neutrino impacted through Adam’s treason will be restored to its intended order.
Jesus has accomplished a massive reconciliation; God has settled all scores. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were the pivotal turning point – not only for our salvation – but in the history of the universe. Not only is Jesus King over the Cosmos – He’s the Pre-eminent one in the Cosmos who is subjecting everything in heaven and on earth to the Shalom of His Kingdom.
For this, He is worthy of the highest praise.