PRINCIPALITY AND POWER
While angelic ministry and rule meets the reader at every turn when Israel and Israel's world are the subject of the Scriptures, a noticeable change takes place when we enter the higher realm of the epistles of the Mystery, linked as they are with "heavenly places", for in these epistles angels are either ignored or set aside, and principalities and powers take their place.
The word translated "principality" is the Greek arche which occurs in the N.T. some 56 times, and is translated thus:
beginning 40, corner 2, first 1, first estate (margin principality) 1, magistrate 1, power 1, principality 8, rule 1 and first (adj.) 1.
Let us examine the way in which these words are used in Scripture.
The earthly shadow of spirit rule.
Beginning at the bottom of the scale, we read in Titus 3:1:
"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work". v Here it should be noted the word "power" translates the:, Greek exousia, and should be rendered by the word "authority" to avoid confusion, the word "power" rightly translates
in Greek dunamis (dynamic, dynamo, etc.). In Romans 13:1 we have a parallel passage which reads: t
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained God".
It has been suggested that these passages refer solely to spiritual rulers in the Church, but the contextual reference to "vengeance", and bearing a "sword", to being revengers "to execute wrath" (Rom. 12:19; 13:4 are not applicable to the bishops, elders or deacons in the early church. The Apostle spoke of using a "rod" as a disciplinary measure, but never a "sword" (1 Cor. 4:21). A parallel passage is found in 1 Peter 2:13,14 where the "king" is said to be "supreme", where governors are sent from the king for the "punishment" (same word "revenge" Rom. 13:4) of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well (even as Rom. 13:3 says, "thou shah have praise of the same"). However faulty and failing earthly government may be, it stands written:
"By Me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By Me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth" (Prov. 8 :15,16).
These passages are valuable, in that they reveal that earthly delegated authority is a reflexion of the higher rule of "angel, principality and power", and they are not independent of each other. The book of Daniel draws the veil in chapter ten, to reveal that there were angelic "princes" in Greece and Persia, one of which was mighty enough to hold back for twenty-one days a messenger from heaven, whose sight was so terrible that Daniel fell on his face, and a great quaking fell upon the men who were with him.
"The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days, but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me: and I remained there with the kings of Persia".
"And now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come . . . there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince" (Dan. 10:13,20,21).
Now Michael is "the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people" (i.e. Israel), and when he stands up there shall be an unprecedented time of trouble, and a resurrection from the dead (Dan. 12:1,2). Michael is none other than "The Archangel" (Jude 9 and 1 Thess. 4:16).
"The idea of sinister world powers and their subjugation by Christ, is built into the very fabric of Paul's thought, and some mention of them is found in every epistle except Philemon. There is the Satan who is constantly frustrating Paul's missionary
work.' There is the mystery of lawlessness which Paul at one time believed to be on the point of open rebellion against God There are the elemental spirits of the world by which both Jew and Gentile were held in bondage, and which appear to have close links with the law on the one hand and with astrology on the other 3 There is the god of this age who `has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not behold the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ'.4 There is the ruler of the authority of the air who is also described as the spirit now at work among the sons of disobedience.5 There are the rulers of this age who crucified the Lord of Glory and thereby compassed their own downfallen 6 There are the principalities and authorities over which Christ celebrated His triumph on the Cross.' In spite of this defeat, the world-rulers of this darkness are still-operative, and the Christian must wrestle with them 8 they still hold the whole creation in bondage to futility, though they cannot separate the Christian from the love of God.9 But the day must come when every principality and every authority and power will yield to Christ, since `He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet'. 10 This, however, is not Paul's last word concerning the destiny of the powers, for he came to believe that they were created beings, created in and for Christ, whether thrones or lordships or principalities or authorities,"' and that it was God's purpose that they should be reconciled to Him by the blood of the Cross ,l2 that angelic as well as human tongues should confess Jesus as Lord, that to the principalities and authorities in the heavenly places there might now be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God" 13 (Principalities and Powers by G. B. Baird).
In the Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32, we read:
"When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel" (Deut. 32:8).
1 1 Thess. 2:18; 2 Cor. 12:7. ' 2 Thess. 2:7. ' Gal. 4:3; Col. 2:8,20. ' 2 Cor. 4:4. a Eph. 2'2. " 1 Cor. 2:6. r Col. gas. ' Eph. 6'12. ' Rom. 8:20 38. i° 1 cor. l 5:25 "Col. 1:16; 2:10. _' Col. 1:20. 1' Eph. 3:10.
The LXX reads here, "according to the number of the angels of God". This reading has been somewhat confirmed by one of
the Qumran texts-see P. W. Skehan, A Fragment of the Song of Moses (Deut. 32) from Qumran, Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research No. 1% (December 1954). Another strange yet suggestive reading is found in the LXX version of Deuteronomy 32:43, which reads:
"Rejoice ye heavens, with Him, and let all the angels of God (Codex Alex. reads "sons of God") worship Him: rejoice ye
Gentiles with His people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in Him" (Deut. 32:43).
The marginal note in the Oxford edition of the A. V. puts against the words of Hebrews 1:6: "And let all the angels of God worship Him", Deut. 32:43, cp. Psa. 97:7.
We learn from the book of Job, that
"There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them" (Job. 1:6),
which suggests some sort of court and some powers of administration. Again we learn from the same book, that when the foundations of the earth were fastened, and the chief corner stone was laid,
"The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:4-7).
This could not have taken place at the creation of Genesis 1: for the angels themselves are created beings unless, of course, there was an earlier creation of spirit beings. It could have taken place at the six days' creation, and this is in measure suggested by the first word translated "foundation" in verse
six, which is really the word "socket" and used many times by Moses to describe the silver sockets made of redemption money, upon which the Tabernacle rested. Did these angels at that time realize the redemptive purpose of this present creation? It seems so. Did the "corner stone" then symbolize the Christ
Who was to be? It is blessedly probable. At some time after this, we know that some of the angels fell (2 Pet. 2:3,4), and there are suggestions that when Satan fell, some angels fell with him, and if so, this would be before the creation of Adam and
be the cause of the chaos of Genesis 1:2. Satan or the Devil and his angels are spoken of in Matthew 25:41, and Revelation
12:7. We read of angels receiving and administering the law (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2), and the words of Hebrews 2:5 seem to suggest that while angels will have no suzerainty over the "world to come", they may have had over a former world, even as they seem to have had in connexion with Israel and the law. Hebrews two, which speaks of angels and the world to come, also quotes from Psalm eight, telling us that both Adam and the Saviour were made a little lower than the angels, while in Hebrews one, the risen Saviour as "The Man Christ Jesus" is said to be "made so much better than the angels as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they" (Heb. 1:4).
Psalm eight, while speaking of the creation of Adam, his temporary subordination to angels, his dominion, and its typical foreshadowing of "all things" ultimately beneath the feet of Christ, has an enemy in view "that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger" (Psa. 8:2). The great bulk of references to the "Avenger", Hebrew naqum, speak of God taking vengeance, but here in Psalm eight, the enemy appears to have usurped this prerogative. This seems to be similar to Satan's title of the "Accuser" (Rev. 12:10), the word diabolos "devil" being translated "accuser" in 2 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 2:3.
The Rulers of this world
"Salvation in the New Testament is always a past fact, a present experience, and a future hope; and no exposition of New Testament theology is complete which fails to do justice ` to any of these three aspects. In particular, this threefold
character is observable in the passage where Paul speaks of ,. Christ's victory over the powers . . . Christ has won His victory: He has `disarmed the principalities and authorities . . .triumphing over them in it (i.e. the Cross)'. He has been exalted `far above every principality and authority and power and lordship', yet the battle still continues, and Christians must still contend `against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this present darkness" (Principalities mid'. Powers by G. B. Baird).
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, tells us that had the rulers or princes of this age known the hidden wisdom of God, they„: would not have crucified the Lord of glory, and 1 Corinthians. one makes it clear that this hidden wisdom was the Lord Jesus; Christ and the Cross. We learn from 1 Peter 1:10-12 that the
scheme of salvation testified beforehand by the prophets was not only directed to the believer through the preaching of the gospel, but that angels were most intimately interested, "which things the angels desire to look into". This leads to another passage, and one closely related tour own high calling. Why was the Mystery made known by Paul? We readily answer:
"To make all men see what is the fellowship (dispensation R.V.) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things (by Jesus Christ, omitted by R. V.)" (Eph. 3:9).
We have, however, not read far enough; we have limited the context to men. Another purpose was in view:
"To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10).
This revelation was not made known to all principalities and powers, but to those who were still "in heavenly places", for some principalities were "spoiled" and "triumphed over" at the
cross. This revelation had been awaited by these heavenly rulers since the overthrow of the world, and the great secret was
hidden from the ages and generations until Israel became lo-ammi "not My people" and God ceased, for the time, to be
their God at Acts twenty-eight. The word translated "prince" in 1 Corinthians 2:6,8 and "ruler" in Matthew 9:18 and many
other passages, is the Greek word archon allied to the word "principality" which is arche. Beelzebub is called "the prince of the devils" in Matthew 12:24, and the same word is translated "chief" in Luke 11:1 S. We meet the word in the title "The prince of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30 and 16:11), and "The prince of the power of the air" in Ephesians 2:2. What was the wisdom of God in a mystery, which the princes of this world
did not know? Elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians one, the alternating words "foolishness" and "wisdom" refer to the cross. The princes of this world bent all their powers to accomplish the crucifixion of the Son of God, but had they really known, they would never have done such a thing, for by crucifying the Lord of glory, they sealed their own doom. Christ did not destroy
him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, by an exhibition of mighty power, for the foolishness of God is wiser than man, and the weakness of God is stronger than man.
Christ destroyed him that had the power of death, "through death",the wisdom of God indeed in a mystery, which none of the princes of this world knew. Angels have desired to look into this mystery (1 Pet. 1:12), and principalities and powers, have only learned the manifold wisdom of God since "the Mystery" entrusted to Paul has been made known. The death of Christ not only delivered His people, it destroyed their foes.
Two Companies of Principalities and Powers
In Romans 8:37 Paul speaks of the suffering believer as being "more than conqueror" through Him that loved us, and then goes on to assure us that nothing can rob us of this victory or separate us from this love, and among the possible antagonists he places "principalities and powers" in close association with "death and life", an association that would be without sense or purpose if these exalted beings were not antagonistic to the purposes of grace.
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38,39).
Under the translation "rule" in 1 Corinthians 15:24 is hidden the word "principality", and by restoring it we are assured of the promise of Romans eight. Once again these principalities are aligned with death, for among the enemies that are to be destroyed at the end is death. "The end" will be attained only "when He shall have put down all principality and authority and power".
The first appearance in Ephesians of these principalities and .; powers is in chapter one. There Christ is depicted as being
seated "far above" them, in "heavenly places", whereas they,
the principalities, powers, might and dominion, are "under His
feet", and this subjection is in direct contrast with the Church
which is His Body, being shown in chapter two to be not .
only raised up together with Christ, but potentially to be "seated -
together" together" in heavenly places, far above those subordinated
principalities and powers. Ephesians 6:12 at first sight seems to that these warring world rulers of darkness are actually .
war "in heavenly places". Now the earlier references to "heavenly places" leave no doubt about the fact that they are where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Are these "spiritual wickednesses in heavenly places", there, at the right hand of God? It is imperative that we seek a Scriptural answer to this question, for we must remember that Satan's authority is limited to the "air", and that Christ and His church are "far above all principality" and therefore far above the realm of Satan himself. In a footnote to an article written years ago by the author in Things to Come, Dr. Bullinger drew attention to the true disposition of the verse.
"For we wrestle not BUT WITH PRINCIPALITIES in heavenly with flesh and blood . . .
OF THIS WORLD places".
We do not wrestle with flesh and blood; neither do we wrestle in heavenly places. We do wrestle with spiritual wickednesses who are the rulers of this darkness ("of this world" omitted, see R.V.). The reader may appreciate a confirmatory passage where a similar division of subject is necessary. As 2 Peter 1:19 stands in the A.V. it lends colour to the erroneous teaching that the Second Coming of Christ is not to be understood as a literal future event, but as the "day star" arising in our hearts. We get the truth by dividing the verse as we divided Ephesians 6:12:
"Whereunto ye do well as unto a light . . . and in your that ye take heed the day star arises hearts".
What is "the evil day" of Ephesians 6:13? We know that there is yet to be war in heaven between Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his angels (Rev. 12:7). We know that when Israel crossed the Jordan and entered their inheritance, Jericho was encircled and its walls fell. So, too, there may be a day for which we are now preparing. For the present, however, it is certain that no campaign or conquest is in view in Ephesians Six. Our orders are to "stand", to "stand against" and to "withstand". To exceed our orders is as much disobedience as to refuse to obey.
These spiritual enemies, these spoiled principalities, are no longer "in heavenly places"; like their leader they are the world rulers of this darkness, "the authority of darkness" of Colossians 1:13, under "the prince of the power of the air". The Greek word
epouranios, which entered into the composition of the phrase
en tois epouraniois "in the heavenly places"
is never used in the Apocalypse. Ouranos is used consistently, and in Revelation twelve, the war between the Devil and his angels, and Michael and his angels, is said to be "in heaven", from which he could be cast out into the earth. The spiritual enemies, "spiritual wickednesses" against whom the believer wrestles, are called "the rulers of the darkness of this world". The title
kosmokrator "world holder" was known to the ancients, and Liddell and Scott refer to Orpheus 3:3 where the title is translated "lord of the world". The Rabbis adopted this word and applied it to the angel of death (see Alford). As the lord of the world, the prince of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the god of this age, the authority of darkness, him who has the power of death, and parallel titles, Satan is set forth as a being that even Michael the archangel treated with respect, saying, "the Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 9). If such a mighty spiritual foe has under his control the angels that fell, and the principalities and powers that were "spoiled" at the cross, one can begin to sense the relation which the Church of the Mystery ; is destined to hold in those heavenly places, forfeited by these fallen powers.
One translation of the words "spiritual wickednesses" is "that wickedness", i.e. "that rebellion which took place in heavenly places long since". The epistle to the Colossians reveals that Christ was the Creator of all things that are in heaven and " that are in earth, visible and invisible, and then goes on to ,,' particularize, saying nothing further about the visible creation, j but focusing attention on "thrones, dominions, principalities and .' powers", and that such were created by Him and for Him. The record goes on to say, "And He is before all things and by Him 7 all things consist". Then the Apostle advances to the new:!` creation in which Christ is the Head, and when we read, "Who is the beginning", we should remember that this translates the"' same word that has already come before us in verse sixteen,. which is translated "principality"! In the Church and in the',' New Creation, Christ Who is the Head and the "Firstborn: from the dead" is the one and only "Principality" that will be recognized by God or by His redeemed people. "In all things",r He must have the pre-eminence. In chapter two, where the,:' "completeness" of the believer appears to be the subject a'? attack by philosophy, tradition and elements, by worshiping '_ angels, by being "subject to ordinances", Christ is declared '
be Head of all principality and power (Col. 2:10), to have "spoiled" principalities and powers by His cross (Col. 2:15), and reveals that these spiritual foes y subjecting the believer to the dominion of obsolete "rudiments" or "elements", were out to rob them of their reward (Col. 2:18).
"Paul has a remarkable range of imagery with which to describe the exposure of the tyrants who had so long held humanity in bondage. In an almost untranslatable sentence in 2 Corinthians he declares that the old covenant, the transient dispensation of death and condemnation, which embodies a measure of divine glory, has been `deglorified' by reason of the superlative glory of the new covenant in Christ (2 Cor. 3:10). In the light of this glory the powers now appear as `weak and beggarly elemental spirits' (Ga1.4:9). Like a Roman emperor, entering the capital in triumphal procession with a train of discredited enemies behind the chariot, Christ has made an exhibition of the powers, celebrating a public triumph over them (Col. 2:15). These extravagant terms do not mean that Paul had any illusions about the strength of the spiritual forces with which he and his fellow Christians must yet do battle. But they do mean that Paul had seen the principalities and powers for the first time in their true guise, and that for him all such influence had sunk into insignificance before the vision of an invincible love, from which henceforth nothing in all creation would be able to separate him" (G. B. Baird).
It may at first appear strange, after being assured that the whole creation, including things in heaven and things in earth, visible and invisible were created by Christ, that the Apostle, should specially record by name "thrones, dominions, principalities and powers", and Bishop Lightfoot's paraphrase may be helpful here:
"You dispute much about successive grades of angels; you distinguish each grade by its special title; you can tell how each order was generated from the preceding: you assign to each its proper degree of worship. Meanwhile you have ignored or have degraded Christ. I tell you it is not so. He is first and foremost, Lord of heaven and earth, far above all thrones and dominations, all princedoms and powers, far above every dignity and every potentate-whether earthly or heavenly-whether angel or demon or man, that evokes your reverence or excites your fear".
The worshipping of angels, which is condemned in Colossians 2:18, arose out of the incipient Gnosticism that was invading the church.
"There was a show of humility, for there was a confession of weakness, in subservience to inferior mediatorial agencies. It was held feasible to grasp at the lower links of the chain which bound earth to heaven, when heaven itself seemed far beyond the reach of man. The successive grades of intermediate beings were as successive steps, by which man might mount the ladder leading up to the throne of God. This carefully woven web of sophistry the Apostle tears to shreds".
The speculations both of Jewish and Christian superstition respecting the several grades of the heavenly hierarchy were somewhat as follows:
(1) Thrones, Authorities, these were highest in the seventh
(2) Angels that carry the decisions to the angels of the Divine
Presence to the sixth heaven;
(3) Angels of the Divine Presence in the fifth heaven; (4) Saints or Holy ones in the fourth heaven;
(5) Powers of the camp, or army in the third heaven;
(6) Spirits of visitations or retributions in the second heaven.
There are other classifications; Origen gives five classes in ascending scale: angels, princedoms, powers, thrones, dominions. It will be seen that in Colossians 1:16 Paul departs from his usual order, and commences, as do the Gnostics, with "thrones". The Essenes made the safeguarding of the names of angels an important item in their scrupulous ritual. The totality of Divine powers, was called by the Gnostics, The PLEROMA "The Fulness" (see the article PLEROMA), and where Gnosticism put the ever descending scale of principalities and powers, Paul places at the Head, Christ, as the Firstborn of all creation, the Image of the invisible God, and at the close the Plenitude or Pleroma. As the Image He exhausts the wonder of the Godhead manifested, and in Him all fulness dwells. He alone is the Mediator between God and men; all else is incipient idolatry, for "image worship" usurps the prerogative of Christ. The Apostle does not dwell upon, or explain what constituted the Gnosticism of his day; he has a simpler and more satisfactory method of dealing with it and all like it. He says:
"Be on your guard; do not suffer yourselves to fall a prey to certain persons who would lead you captive by a hollow and dreadful system, which they call philosophy. They substitute the traditions of men for the truth of God. They enforce an elementary discipline (`a specious make-believe, on the lines of human tradition, corresponding to the elemental spirits of the
world', Moffatt) . . . and so in Him-not in any inferior mediators-ye have your life, your being, for ye are filled from His fulness. He, I say, is the Head over all spiritual beings-call them principalities or powers what you will" (Bishop Light
foot). It will be seen from the Gnostic teaching exposed by the
Apostle that these principalities and powers were usurpers, and
were holding believers and mankind in thrall. These angelic
rulers are the captivity which the ascended Lord led captive
(Eph. 4:8), and this phrase, "He led captivity captive and gave
gifts unto men" is quoted from Psalm 68:17,18. The reference
here is to the giving of the law at mount Sinai:
"The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men".
The transition from Sinai with its overwhelming host of angels (the literal translation of verse seventeen is, "The chariots of God are myriads twice-told, thousands of repetition"), to leading captivity captive seems to suggest some conflict among the heavenly hosts, arising out of the application of the law, somewhat similar to the spoiling of principalities and powers at the cross, in relation to the imposition of the handwriting of ordinances, as revealed in Colossians 2:14-17. Whether under the law of Sinai or in the related imposition of observances, the magnifying of the "shadow" to the neglect of the "substance", seems to be laid to the charge of certain sections of the angelic host, "world rulers of this darkness". Again, in Galatians 4:8-10, the submission to "weak and beggarly elements", the observance of "days, months, and times and years" is all one and the same, in essence, as doing service "unto them which by nature are no gods". We have no definite information, but the feeling left by these passages is that angels, who were associated with the giving and administration of the law of Sinai (Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:1-3), and principalities and powers, were abusing their authority and using ceremonial religion and speculative philosophy to bring the Gentile world into a parallel bondage, and were among the enemies that were dealt with and defeated by the Cross. We must never lose sight of the fact that Satan is first and foremost, one who seeks worship, and his usurpation, rebellion and fall, together with the alienation of the world from
God and from Christ, is directed to this end. While, therefore, we must lovingly retain our belief that at the cross we find Redemption, Atonement, Access and Peace, there was also a victory over unseen forces, the importance of which will not be fully known until we arrive at "the end" or goal, when God will be all in all.
While we make no pretence to inside knowledge of these high matters, we believe that what has been written above will at least enable the reader to appreciate the cosmic relationship of his high calling, the reasons why it is referred back to before the "overthrow", why it is far above all principality and power, and marvelling at the grace that reserved this calling for the alien and the stranger, may so set his mind on things above where Christ sits, and await the day of manifestation when we shall at last be appraised as to the real extent of the hope of our calling.
Incidentally, this rule of angels, principalities and powers, constitutes a kosmos, a world order, and to this the words, "Before the foundation of the world" refer. (See article OVERTHROW Or FOUNDATION.)