“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.“-Colossians 1:13-14
Any great story involves a hero who finds him/herself amid a struggle, and finally, through adversity wins the day through the defeat of an enemy. Prior to the hero’s quest, this gallant needs to figure out a few things. Firstly, what side he’s on, secondly who’s the enemy and finally what does success look like. Today, there is, in fact, a story and we should recognize we’re part of that story as a Christian. If someone pressed us to describe what on earth we should be trying to do as Christians, what is our story, our response would be simple: We are plundering a kingdom. As a disclaimer, I’m not saying that we are killing people, nor are we looting like in certain cities but we are plundering by taking people from an enemies kingdom to another Kingdom in a sort of rescue mission. One of the problems today is that we don’t think in terms of kingdoms and we need to gain some insight regarding the kingdom to understand the story. We need to recognize what kingdom we represent, what is this kingdom that we’re supposed to ransack and what is the plunder?
THE GENESIS OF THE KINGDOM OF THE ENEMY
In Genesis 1:26-28, God gave Adam mandates that would lead to His blessing. He commanded him to be fruitful and multiply, he should fill the earth and that he should subdue and rule over all the earth. God blessed Adam like none other of his creatures and commissioned him to be sovereign over the earth. This comes as a result of God creating Adam in His own image. God is sovereign and He is king over all things and hence, man being made in His image would reflect sovereignty even though he wasn’t the alpha dog. Another aspect of being created in His likeness was a moral one in that Adam was expected to be holy, righteous, and to obey. This mandate has not changed under the New Covenant (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). Adam was placed in Eden and given a task to both cultivate the garden but also to keep or guard it (Gen. 2:15). He was to do this to demonstrate that he was God’s obedient servant. God also gave him a moral command to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil. Not only was a physical command given but also a spiritual/moral one as well. Yahweh laid out both a positive command and a negative command followed by a warning to go along with it just for goodness’s sake. We all know the story about the serpent but something that many Biblicists forget, was that Adam had authority to rule and subdue all animals including the serpent. The serpent came and Adam didn’t conquer it, nor did he protect the garden from it but fell to its deceit. The knowledge of good and evil is the same as discerning between good and evil (2 Sam. 14:17; 1 Kings 3:9). Adam had the ability to discern the evil of the serpent and judge it in God’s name because he had authority over it. Adam chose the way of the serpent, whom he was to rule over and it ended in defeat because evil was not judged resulting in him falling into sin. Adam lost the battle to the serpent and in return the kingdom of darkness would spread over all the earth. This domain of the enemy has been with us since the days of Adam and men who are born in this world are born in under this rule. They are born in sin.
AN OFFER HE COULD REFUSE
When the Devil foolishly attempted to entice the Lord Jesus in the wilderness, one of these temptations was to offer Him all the kingdoms of the earth (Matthew 4:8-10). Neither the Lord Jesus nor the devil contested that Satan possessed these kingdoms. The enemy wasn’t attempting to strike a deal with a bill of goods. He also wasn’t offering merely one of many kingdoms either, but he offered all the kingdoms of men, the nations to Him. In other words, Satan was offering the domain of darkness as ruler of this present evil age (Galatians 1:4), those places where men follow “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). This is where Satan is its God (2 Corinthians 4:4), a place of sin, selfishness, disease, despair and most significantly death. But Christ wasn’t going to accept a freebie, He would earn these nations through His perfect work, and they would be given to Him by His Father (Psalm 2:7-9). While the enemy’s takeover was predominant under the OT, one day, as Matthew tells us, the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.” (Matthew 4:16). When this light shined in the darkness, they didn’t comprehend it (John 1:5) and many loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19). A new Kingdom had come, with a new King!
BORDERS & SOLDIERS
A right understanding of this dawning kingdom is extremely important. The Kingdom that burst into history is a rule, it has a king, it has a people, it has a constitution, it has a message, and it has borders. This kingdom is ultimately the reign of God through Jesus Christ, and the borders are the scope of his reign. In one sense God reigns from the heavens and has always done so (Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:34-35) because His kingdom is eternal. On the other hand, the Lord Jesus taught the disciples to pray that the Kingdom would come (Matthew 6:10) to fulfill that OT expectation (Daniel 2:44). The scripture tells us that the Kingdom was present during the time Christ was on the earth (Matthew 3:1-2; 12:28; Luke 17:21). It broke into history and continues even to this day. Christians experience the inauguration of the kingdom and await its consummation at the second coming of Christ.
Attempts to figure out the nature of this kingdom caused a ruckus. You see in those days, Jerusalem had been invaded by the Romans and the Jews of those days were awaiting the Son of David to come and set up his kingdom. They believed that this Messiah would set up a geopolitical kingdom that would vanquish the Romans and drive them out of Jerusalem. This meant that the Son of David would sit on the throne in Jerusalem and the Jews would reign with Him throughout the world. The kingdom that came was not a kingdom that would be advanced by the sword but through the preaching of the gospel. The King’s followers are nonetheless “soldiers” (2 Timothy 2:3) who fight (1 Timothy 6:12), wear armor (Ephesians 6:13) and go to battle with a spiritual sword (Hebrews 4:12). The border of this kingdom are extending and it conquers the kingdom of Satan. It depends entirely on the reign of the Messiah who received the kingdom from the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:29-36; Ephesians 1:20-23). The Son of David is the ruler over this Kingdom because He is today King of kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14). Our king commanded us to conquer these nations through the preaching of the gospel, baptism and making disciples (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20). The Kingdom of the Son invades the kingdom of Satan so powerfully that even the gates of hell won’t be able to stand against it (Matthew 16:18).
In Colossians 1:13-14, our text speaks of “transferring” or to remove something from one Kingdom to another. Yes, it’s that simple! In the context, there is a change of location and citizenship. We were transferred from a dominion (slavery) that was marked by misery, condemnation, separation from God and death into a Kingdom of life, freedom, righteousness, peace and joy. God took us out of this domain and moved us into the Kingdom of His Son. The transfer to this kingdom wasn’t because of our righteousness, our ethnicity or family background but through a new birth (John 3:3-5). We have become new creatures who enter into a new kingdom which is a part of the new creation (1 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). We came to experience this the day we came to God if faith and repentance!
But like any tyrant king, Satan is not going to just give away his goods! For a king to take the possessions of another king and transfer them into his own kingdom, that king first needs to defeat the other king. When God rescued the Hebrews from Pharaoh, He defeated Pharaoh with the 10 plagues of Egypt and the parting of the seas, then took his slaves out of Egypt. The defeat of Satan is described in many ways. It is described as a binding of the strong man (Matthew 12:29) and that Satan fell when the proclamation of the kingdom was going forth from the seventy (Luke 10:17-19). In John 12:30-33, the defeat of Satan or the ruler of this world is associated with the lifting up from the earth or the Cross. John also speaks of the Son of God defeating the devil and destroying his works (1 John 3:8). In Hebrews 2:14-15, we read that Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. His defeat is not yet a total defeat (1 Peter 5:18) but an inability to continue to deceive the nations and to prevent the church from its invasion of the world.
THE RESCUE MISSION
Paul doesn’t simply speak of a transfer of Kingdoms in the same way as one applies for citizenship in another country. The language is of an invasion, the liberation from an evil nation. Redemption flows from the idea of rescuing a people from darkness and moving them to the Kingdom of the Son. The term redemption implies the term “deliverance”. The term is used in the OT for the deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 6:6; 15:12; Psalm 77:14-15). It was Yahweh’s “outstretched arm” as the means by which God redeems. In other word, God saved Israel from their oppressors, moved them from a kingdom of darkness (Egypt) to the Kingdom of Israel. They needed to be saved from their slavery to Pharaoh. The scriptures tell us that we are slaves to sin (John 8:31-34). Christ came into this world to be the ransom payment to free us from this slavery (Mark 10:45; Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7) and that sin would no longer be our master (Romans 6:14). This redemption is not temporary and as the writer of the Hebrews states so beautifully: and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12). It was not cheap (Hebrews 2:10; 13:12) and it was for a people whom He calls His Church (Acts 20:28).
A PLUNDERING PEOPLE
As Christians, we too have a responsibility to pillage this kingdom. We need to go out and plunder those who are in the kingdom of the enemy to bring them to the kingdom of the Son. We do so by preaching the gospel of the kingdom, baptizing and teaching obedience to the kingdom of God. We also do this by living lives in accordance with this kingdom. Scripture tells us that if we follow Jesus, we will walk in the light and not in darkness (John 8:12; 12:46; Acts 26:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). Believers are to be a light to the darkness (Romans 2:19). Ultimately, we should live as Colossians 1:10 tells us, that the sons of the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.