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Colossians 1:13-20
3For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption,[a] the forgiveness of sins.15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

The whole Jewish race has ever been yearning for a restoration of the "glory days" enjoyed under King David, who was mostly known as a mighty ancient Biblical warrior, and yet who ushered in a period of great peace and stability following all the many years of his conquests. The Gospel of Matthew, written for a mostly Jewish audience, presents the consistently recurring theme of God's "Kingdom," and all the teachings about the Kingdom there ultimately center in David's "Son," Jesus Christ.

St. Paul wrote to the predominantly "Gentile" Christians of Colossae on the same theme that so concerned the Jews— the "Kingdom"! In the chapter and verses shown above, some of the characteristics of the Kingdom and its opposing enemy are given. Then St. Paul presents an awesome "doxology" about just exactly who the King is (and I'm sure he wrote it with even greater feeling and elation than may sometimes capture us in singing or hearing a moving rendition of something like Handel's Messiah)· And then Paul caps off the lines of praise with a statement of the driving desire of God and the heart-gripping way in which God brought about the fruition of His desire! - The text in Colossians gives us Paul's emotionally charged report of THE KINGDOM, THE KING AND HIS MIGHTY WORK·.

First let's consider the Kingdom itself and begin with its enemy. ö Probably most mid-Westerners have at one time or another taken a tour of the Meramec Caverns, Mark Twain's Cave or someplace similar. Often, about midway through a tourguide's explanations of stalactites and stalagmites, the lights are turned off --- and deep underground, where not a hairthin ray of sun can reach, a person just might begin to realize the feeling of being totally blind in utterly unfamiliar surroundings. If the guides would tease a bit about not being able to find the switch, some tourists could very well panic.

The RULING LORDSHIP of such pitch darkness, with no frame of reference, characterizes that from which God has delivered His people! The illustration by Paul pinpoints the helpless state of humans in their sin, subject to the voracious appetites of Satan and hopelessly faced with only eternal death.

But St. Paul then spotlights God's own Kingdom for what IT is!— "..(God) has DELIVERED us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us TO the Kingdom of His beloved SON, in whom we have REDEMPTION, the FORGIVENESS OF SINS!" - Rescued from the domination and subjugation of the darkness and confines of the cave, and transferred to a different Kingdom specifically characterized by "Redemption" and "Forgiveness." What a fascinating drama that has involved us all!

Those terms chosen by Paul convey special and important images for us. - At its root "Redemption" is about Someone buying back what was formerly His own possession, and the object here is lost souls such as we all once were. We are not our own, but were bought with a Price, Scripture says. - Get a picture of a brutal hostage-taking kidnapper collecting the ransom and therefore setting his victims free. Or even better, the Head of a family goes to a slavetrader and silently pays to get back His own loved ones who somehow ended up there on the trading block, buying them not with money, but with a substitute Person— HIMSELF it ends up being!

The word "Forgiveness" in its original setting essentially presented a casting away, as far as one could throw it, some rotting object of loathsome disgust. And so it is with our sins, as God says through both Psalmist and Prophets:

— "As far as the east is from the west, SO far does He REMOVE our transgressions from us."

— "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool."

— "..I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more!"

From RULERSHIP by the utter darkness to an absolutely different Kingdom where the undergirdings for all its activities are "Redemption" and "Forgiveness!" (God help us to realize and retain the impact of such a picture!)

Certainly we want to know what the KING of such an unusual Kingdom is like, too! - The text verses stand as an all-encompassing passage, defying any man-made or cult teaching that would present Jesus Christ as anything less than or different from who He truly IS! He is described there in His every relationship:— with God, compared to all creation, and concerning His people ö the Church·.

In relation to GOD Jesus is the "Image" of God Himself! §That is, He accurately and fully represents the invisible God and, in other words, IS HIMSELF in fact God. Then the passage continues with saying that, "In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell," (and the next chapter of Colossians repeats it, adding the word, "Bodily.") - Against every other teaching of any cult or different religion these verses shed the critical light that Jesus Christ is One and the Same with God the Almighty.

The same goes for who Jesus is in relation to all creation, where it says, "He is·the first-born of all creation; for in HIM all things WERE created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities ö all things were created through Him and FOR HIM. He is BEFORE all things, and in Him all things HOLD TOGETHER." § What humble reverence and awe that should instill in the hearts of all creatures! What still great and unknown mysteries about Christ does that imply? ö Maybe we too seldom think of Him in terms of such majesty, royalty, power and importance. But if you will, let these truths stretch your mind and vision of Jesus right now!

He was not the first-created being, as some claim, and then used in the creation of all else, as Adam was used in producing Eve. (Although the Jehovah's Witness brand of Bible inserts that He WAS first created Himself and then used to create all other things, no legitimate ancient manuscript from which most present-day Bibles come is known or recognized to teach that.) Rather, Christ is "begotten" from God, Offspring BORN from Him, and ONE with the Creator of all things; and furthermore, He is the One who sustains or PRESERVES all the universe and activities of nature still today. And yet it is He who lovingly condescended by His incarnation to join this world and serve as its Savior!

In relation to His people the text goes on to say that, "He is the HEAD of the body, the Church; He is the BEGINNING, the first-born from the DEAD, that in EVERYTHING HE might be pre-eminent." - Christ is ruling-Lord of His Church. MORE than first-born before creation, He is first-born from the dead— the FIRST to be raised from death with a Spiritual and Glorified Body and to live forevermore! (Evidence for Christ's resurrection can be found all throughout Scripture as well as here!)

Some may presume to sit in judgment over Jesus as merely a self-proclaimed Prophet from Nazareth. They may cast doubt on His Deity, try to detract from His role in creation and providence, empty Him of His Saviorhood, rob the Gospel of ITS power and glory ö essentially trying to wash their own hands of His murder. They may deny His glorious resurrection and, in short, try to measure Him by human standards;- but in the process it is they who are being measured and, in the end, they who are judged. Anything that human imaginations might propose to minimize Christ's exalted pre-eminence in ANY way cannot and DOES NOT alter Jesus BEING the King that He is or His having the top authority that He HOLDS!

Probably no other verse in all the Bible has had a greater personal impact on ME than verse 20, the closing verse of the text. In younger years I was myself heavily influenced by some Eastern religions and cults. I had the vague notion that peace could be found by following certain techniques of meditation prescribed by these groups. This particular verse illustrates what came to later be so important to my understanding and, therefore, in melting and re-converting my heart, and it continues to work at melting my own inner-hardness to this day when I think of it, that— it pleased God dwelling in Christ "THROUGH Him to RECONCILE to Himself all things, whether on earth or in Heaven, making PEACE by the Blood of His Cross."

Rather than my own hard-nosed ideas that God was capricious, distant and uncaring if He even existed at all, HIS driving desire through all my years of rebellion and misunderstanding was to GAIN reconciliation between us, and that I might KNOW His love and warmth and genuine care. That's what HE ALWAYS wanted and intended for me and every other human being here or anywhere else!

While I cooked up all kinds of resentment against Him, imagining how hatefully whimsical He was and separating myself FROM Him, --- in the burning desire of HIS Heart FOR reconciliation, God initiated and took all the necessary action on HIMSELF to bring it ABOUT! By suffering so much more than I can comprehend, experiencing hell itself and dying, MY King Jesus made (and by His resurrection proclaimed) God's ONE-SIDED, UNCONDITIONAL PEACE-TREATY! What a MIGHTY DEED! (This is how my wife's and my daughter came to be named many years before she was ever conceived and born. I learned that the name "Irene" came from the Bible's Greek word for "peace" in this passage and elsewhere, and I therefore determined in my very first college Greek class over a decade before her birth that, should God ever bless me with a daughter, her name would be a reminder and witness to the proclamation of Colossians 1:20.)

Putting it all together is a real "mind-blower"!!! ö While you and I were stuck and hurt, stumbling around in sin's utter dark blindness, this Jesus who IS Almighty God, Creator and Preserver, First and Head and Pre-eminent in every way, became a Baby, a MAN, and willingly permitted us in our sinful ways to abuse Him to the point of an unjust and heinous execution to give US PEACE ö to bring us close to God and His love and care, and to restore our understanding of God's real heart and desire!!! And by God's doing this at Calvary's Cross He HAS delivered us from the lordship of darkness, transferring us to a Kingdom which, of all things, is characterized by "Redemption" and "Forgiveness" rather than some forced kind of submission that ought to be our lot in hell.

Through simple FAITH in Christ that Kingdom is YOURS! Jesus the KING is yours! His PEACE is yours! The astounding news of the text is what quite literally changed and led me into becoming a Pastor and intentional evangelizer. I want with all my heart to HAVE the Kingdom, to SERVE such a gracious King, and to share that uplifting and right revelation of Him with people. I likewise crave for the people IN His Kingdom and Church to capture and hold on to such an exalted vision of Him. The Jesus you met right here through these words is the Jesus our whole WORLD needs to know! With hearts on fire with wonder and awe, let's BE the servants of God's driving desire. He wants you and me and every other living person to receive the revelation of Christ as King, and to know and have the comfort of His Kingdom of Peace. §THAT'S what will be left standing at the Last Day!

May God grant that, whenever my own final day comes and like Samson's final effort, this message be both my dying and ever-living witness ö and that my "commencement" hymn be: Jesus, THY Blood and Righteousness, MY Beauty Are, My Royal Dress· - Please do yourself the favor of reading the text verses once more with more of the feeling and understanding they deserve ö and begin to read your Bible all throughout with such a stronger intensity. Earthly trials have certainly diverted my own heart from such exhilarating truths at times, but God stands ever ready to return our hearts to Him and these words of such wondrous Gospel! Hang on with faith's fingernails if you have to



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