I received the following question regarding a sermon I recently preached:
Please explain how the death of Jesus affected his authority in Heavenly places? In a recent sermon, you mentioned that he took his rightful place of authority after he rose from the dead, over those of demonic sphere or influence on the earth.
This is a great question.
Let’s begin in the Garden of Eden. When Satan sinned, he convinced man to sin. Man essentially gave in to Satan, and we turned our back on God and chose Satan and his words over God and His word. This is the same thing Satan tried to do with Christ at His temptation in the wilderness. God’s intention in creation was for Him, man, and angel to dwell together (which they did in Eden) and both man and angel were to rule as His vice-regents. Sin corrupted all of that. And since we (man) chose Satan we were expelled from God’s presence, and because of our choice we were now subject not just to God, but to the angels (Satan and the powers of darkness included). This is part of the reason that God turned us all over to the rule of angels at Babel.
Now if we follow the course of history from there, we have the calling of Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob. Through the checkered history of God’s chosen people, they wound up with a monarchy. A kingdom of God’s people. And continuing on in history, Israel turned their back on God in favor of the elohim of the nations. So they were expelled from God’s presence. The kingdom was no more. In other words, all of mankind was now back to being subject to the rule of angels, now fallen (see Psalm 82).
Six-hundred years later, Christ appears preaching the kingdom. Remember there had been no kingdom for God’s people for over 600 years. After winning His battle against Satan in the wilderness, Christ comes preaching: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Christ’s preaching is replete with kingdom language throughout His ministry. When He sends the Twelve out, He tells them: “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons’” (Matt 10:7-8). He then sends out the seventy – representing the seventy nations listed at the Babel event – as a figure of calling the nations back. And He tells them: “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near’” (Luke 10:8-11). And when they return after a successful mission, this is their conversation with Jesus: “‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you'” (Luke 10:17-20). As proof that the kingdom has come, Jesus points to His authority over the powers of darkness. In Matthew 12:25-28, Jesus speaks of the two kingdoms at war – the powers of darkness and the kingdom of God. He says that if the power of God has begun to overcome the powers of darkness, then the kingdom of God has indeed come.
For Christ, the kingdom is very much tied to the overcoming of the kingdom of darkness by God and His people.
When Christ came as one of us, He fought against the powers of darkness not just as God, but as a human. In His temptations, He reversed for man what we did in Adam. In His death, He paid the price for what we did in Adam (see Romans 5:12-19, 1 Cor 15:21-22). Through His work, Christ began to reverse what happened in Eden. And He subjected the powers of darkness to regenerate man, as a man. He bound the strong man so we could plunder him. And to do so, He had to come as one of us, die, be raised to life, and ascend to His throne. This is what’s pictured in Revelation 12:5-12 and Revelation 20:1-6.
This is what the writer of Hebrews says when he points to Psalm 8 as speaking of Jesus:
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.Hebrews 2:5-17 (ESV)
And this is why Paul tells those of us who have been born again have been given authority over the powers of darkness in Ephesians 2:1-6. They and Satan once had power over us, but now, through Christ’s work, we are pictured as in heaven, above the air where Satan rules. All because Jesus came as a man and succeeded where we failed. He undid our subjection to the powers of darkness by defeating them through His temptations and perfect life, then paid the price we earned through His death, then overcame death through His resurrection, then took His place as ruler over the creation at His ascension.
And at His return, this will all be brought to completion
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.1 Corinthians 15:24-28
He already reigns, but not every enemy is yet fully defeated. That’s why the church is here. We are to take back the nations in the authority of Jesus (Matt 28:19-20) and the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). And what we do through that is defeat the kingdom of darkness (Eph 6:10-18).