OUR WITNESS TO PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS IN HEAVENLY PLACES
We read in Eph. 3:8-10, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God”.
This passage raises at least two questions.
1) Who are these principalities and powers in heavenly places? And 2) how is God’s wisdom made known unto them?
WHO ARE THESE PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS IN HEAVENLY PLACES?
We will consider each passage that speaks of the principalities and powers in heavenly places.
Rom. 8:38, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come …….shall be able to separate us from the the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Note the phrase, “nor angels” which is followed by “nor principalities, nor powers”. That tells us that principalities and powers are not angels. The Hebrew word translated “angels” is “malak”. The Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary has the following about “malak”, “from an unused root meaning to dispatch as a deputy; a messenger, specifically of God”. So angels are messengers, but principalities and powers are a different order of spirit beings.
Eph. 1:20-21, “Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come”. The Greek word translated “world” in this passage is “aion” and means “age”. That tells us that these principalities and powers etc. are evidently going to exist in the next age as well as in this age.
Eph. 3:10, “to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God”. The Greek word translated “by” in the phrase “be known by the church” is “dia”. The Companion Bible Appendix 104 defines “dia” as “has the sense of through as though dividing a surface by an intersecting line. It includes the idea of passing from and passing out”. In other words, the manifold wisdom of God is made known to principalities and powers through the church.
Eph. 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”. The Greek word translated “high” in the phrase “high places” is the same word translated “heaven” in the other occurrences of the word in Ephesians. Obviously these spirit beings are not in the heaven wherein Christ is seated, as God cannot dwell with evil. They must however, be in the heavens below. Because they are spoken of in connection with “spiritual wickedness” which must be spiritual beings, we may conclude that the principalities and powers are also spirit beings. The fact that we “wrestle against” them proves that they have sided against God’s people and by extension, of course, against God. If that be true, and I believe it is, I think we may conclude that they have sided with God’s enemy, Satan.
Col. 1:16, “for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him”. The fact that these spirit beings were created by Christ tells us that they were not created wicked and against God’s people as some are now. It is likely, in my opinion, that they rebelled when Lucifer rebelled against God by declaring that he wanted to be as God.
Col. 2:10, “And ye are complete in Him, Which is the head of all principality and power”.
Let us also consider what we may learn from the Greek words translated “principalities” and “powers”.
The Greek word translated “principalities” in Eph. 3:10 is “arkee”. It is almost always translated “beginning”. But it can not be translated “beginning” in Eph. 3:10. How are we to understand this word? I believe that we may conclude that in regards to spirit beings the principalities are the chief (the top of the order) spirit beings in heavenly places.
Although it is only in the prison epistles that we read that the church is to witness to these principalities, the mention of these spirit beings are not limited to the prison epistles (see Rom. 8:38 quoted above).
The Greek word translated “powers” in Eph. 3:10 is “exousia”. It is almost always translated “power” or “authority”. As is true of “principalities” it is used of spirit beings outside of the prison epistles only in Rom. 8 quoted above.
HOW IS GOD’S WISDOM MADE KNOWN UNTO THESE PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS?
The question posed in this section will be addressed in three subheadings. We will discuss how God’s wisdom was made known to principalities and powers in the past, how it is being made known in the present, and how it will be made known in the future.
HOW WAS GOD’S WISDOM MADE KNOWN UNTO THESE PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS ?
Let us consider Eph. 3:8-10 again, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God”.
The key phrases in terms of answering our question posed in this section are, “to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery”, and “to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God”. In other words, Paul was given the ministry to preach the dispensation of the mystery “to the intent”, i.e. in order that, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.
We may conclude therefore, that when the mystery was revealed to Paul, God’s wisdom in regard to His knowing and planning for all things that would happen was revealed to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church.
So in one sense, I believe it is the church as an entity that is the witness of God’s wisdom. That is to say, it was the church as a whole that, when revealed, showed God’s manifold wisdom to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.
But as we look once again at Eph. 6:12 we will find that it is not only the church as an entity that is the witness to principalities and powers, it is also individual members of the church that witness to principalities and powers in heavenly places. That verse reads, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”.
This verse suggests a warfare between believers and spirit beings in heavenly places. And then Paul goes on to tell us of the armour that God has given to believers of the present dispensation to protect us from the wicked spirit beings in heavenly places. But the reader will note that the armour from God is not directly connected to the wisdom of God. That raises the following question: Was this armour given to protect believers from spiritual wickedness or was it given to manifest God’s manifold wisdom?
In my opinion, the armour was given to both protect believers and to show God’s wisdom. Let me explain.
We read in Eph. 3:10 that the manifold wisdom of God was made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “manifold” reads, “implies infinitely diversified“. But if we take that “manifold wisdom” to refer only to that which was made known by the revelation of the mystery, as wonderful as that mystery is, it does not in itself, as far as I can tell, show God’s “infinitely diversified” wisdom”. It shows that God had known that Israel would reject Her risen Messiah and that She would be put aside. I certainly do not mean to minimize that great plan, but I don’t see that it shows God’s “infinitely diversified” wisdom”.
On the other hand, if we include the victories that are attained by each individual member of the church with the help of God-given armour, it does indeed show a great deal more of that diversification. That is to say, there have been myriad of believers in the dispensation of the mystery, all who have had their own individual battles, each answered in an “infinitely diversified” manner by using the armour given them by God. Consider that with the fact that each of those believers have had in their life times many, many battles with the spiritual wickedness in heavenly places and the diversity of God’s wisdom in respect to the the armour given to believers does indeed seem to be infinite.
So we have this armour both protecting believers from wickedness in heavenly places and at the same time showing God’s infinitely diversified wisdom to heavenly beings.
Another reason for my belief that the armour is given to believers to both protect them and to show forth God’s manifold wisdom to principalities and powers in heavenly places is there is a precedence for that thought. As we look at just a few verses in the Old Testament the reader will see that God has always used His people, whether they be the nation of Israel or the church which is His body, as a witness as to Who He is, while at the same time protecting them.
We read in Ezek. 20:8-9, “…..then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury upon them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’ But I wrought for My name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made Myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt”. It is, of course, quite true that in bringing Israel out of Egypt, God saved His people from their captivity. But as we see in this verse, it is equally true that in doing so, God had made Himself known unto heathen as to Who He is.
Let us also consider Numbers 14:13-19. This passage tells us of one of the many times that Israel had angered God. We read in verse 12 of God telling Moses, “I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them……”. Verses 13-19 is a record of the prayer of Moses to God in regard to this matter, “And Moses said unto the Lord, ‘Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for Thou broughtest up this People in Thy might from amongst them:) and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land” (the land promised to Israel)……”Now if Thou shalt kill all those People as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of Thee will speak saying, ‘Because the Lord was not able to bring this people unto the land He sware unto them, therefore He hath slain them in the wilderness’. And now I beseech Thee, let the power of my Lord be great according as Thou hast spoken”. Then in verse 20 we read, “And the Lord said, ‘I have pardoned according to thy word…..”. This passage also makes clear that the Lord did pardon Israel for their great sin, but it was because of His witness to the nations through not destroying Israel that the nations would know that He is Who He is, God.
In summarizing this section I would say that as each believer in the dispensation of the mystery uses the God-given armour to wrestle against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places God’s manifold wisdom is being manifested.
We read in Col. 3:4, “When Christ, Who is our life shall appear (Gr. “phaneroo”) then we shall appear (Gr. “phaneroo”) with Him in glory”. The Companion Bible defines “phaneroo” as, “to bring to light, make manifest“. As we consider a few more uses of this Greek word, I hope the reader will agree that “appear” is not the way we should understand this word, that the word means “to be made manifest” and is usually translated “manifest”.
We read, for example in John 1:31 the words of John the Baptist concerning Christ, “and I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest (Gr. “phaneroo”) to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water”. John the Baptist is saying that he is baptizing with water to make Christ manifest to Israel. Does John the Baptist mean that he wants Israel only to see Christ? Of course not. He was saying that he wanted Israel to know Christ, their long promised King and Messiah. That is to say, John the Baptist wanted Christ to be made manifest to Israel as their King and Messiah. The point is that “phaneroo” cannot be understood as “to be seen” in this passage, it must be understood as “made manifest”. John wanted Christ to be made manifest, i.e. to be made known to Israel as King and Messiah.
Let us consider I Peter 5:4, “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear (Gr. “phaneroo”)…..”. I have tried to show that “appear” misses the profundity of the meaning of the Greek “phaneroo”. It does not mean “appear”, it means “to be made manifest”. Furthermore, this verse is an excellent example of the context telling us what Christ shall be made manifested as. That is to say, Peter tells us in this verse that Christ will be made manifest as “the chief Shepherd“.
We read in I Jn. 1:2, “For the life was manifested (Gr. “phaneroo”), and we have seen it…and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested (Gr. “phaneroo”) unto us”. Let us consider the phrase “that eternal life which was with the Father”. It is clear that the “eternal life” is in reference to Christ Himself, it was Jesus Christ Who was with the Father and had in Himself eternal life. (“I am the resurrection and the life”.) In this verse then we see that Christ was made manifest as the “eternal life”.
And that brings us back to Col. 3:4. I have tried to prove from the way in which the Holy Spirit used the word “phaneroo” that “appear” or “to be seen” is not a correct translation/understanding. As difficult as it may be to divest one’s self of the sense of “to be seen” in the word “phaneroo”, “to be seen” is not the correct meaning of “phaneroo”. Certainly, when something is made manifest it is “seen” figuratively, but not necessarily literally. What Col. 3:4 tells us is that Christ will be made manifest. Manifested as what, and to whom we might ask? Again, the immediate context gives us the answer to the question as to what Christ will be manifested as. As the church is resurrected to heavenly places , i.e. He will be manifested as “resurrection life“.
But to whom will He be manifested as resurrection life? Given that the church has been a witness to principalities and powers in heavenly places, I believe that it is obvious that Christ will be made manifest as the Resurrection to principalities and powers in heavenly places.
I am suggesting therefore, that Col. 3:4 tells us that as believers are resurrected, Christ will be made manifest as “the Resurrection”. Just as we read in I Jn. 1:2 that Christ is manifested as “the eternal life” so too in Col. 3:4 Christ will be made manifest as “resurrection life”.
When the church which is His body is resurrected to their eternal home in heaven, the wisdom as shown in God’s plan of salvation will be made manifest to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. That is to say, the resurrection of the church which is His body as they appear in heavenly places will be the final piece of God’s plan of salvation, which will at that time make manifest the manifold wisdom of God.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond you may e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org