Beginning and Firstborn

In Colossians, Paul stresses the exaltation of Jesus following his Resurrection. Some members of the congregation were confused about his authority over the spiritual powers that were hostile to God and His people; therefore, Paul reminded the Assembly of just how highly God exalted the One who became the “Firstborn of the Dead.”

His high status is the result of his obedience unto death, as well as his triumph over the hostile spiritual powers achieved on the Cross. Moreover, Paul highlights that Jesus achieved supremacy over these hostile powers on behalf of his Assembly.

Crocuses - Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash
[Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash]

  • (Colossians 1:18-22) – “And HE is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, FIRSTBORN FROM AMONG THE DEAD, in order that he might become in all things himself preeminent; because in him was all the fullness well pleased to dwell. And through him fully to reconcile all things to him, making peace through the blood of his cross, whether the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens. And you who at one time were estranged and enemies in your mind in your wicked works, yet now has he fully reconciled, in his body of flesh, through his death, to present you holy and blameless and unaccusable before him.”

In the Greek text, the pronoun rendered “HE” in the first clause is emphatic. It stresses what God accomplished in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. He is now “before all things”, present tense.

All things now “adhere” or “hold together” in him, including his subjugation of and rule over the hostile spiritual powers. Therefore, his people are no longer under the dominion of the “principalities and powers.” They were “created” to serve him, and since his Death and Resurrection, they now do so, willingly, or not.

The Greek term translated as “body” or sōma is applied metaphorically to the Assembly (Strong’s Concordance #G4983). In Paul’s theology, the physical human “body” was created by God and is inherently good regardless of its present mortal state. The problem is not its physicality but its enslavement to sin and death.

The term translated as “FIRSTBORN” points to the preeminence of Jesus as the “Firstborn of many brethren.” He is also the Firstborn of the Dead, meaning, he is the first man to be resurrected and receive a glorious immortal body.

This is why he is labeled the “BEGINNING.” In his Death and Resurrection, he began the general resurrection of the dead and inaugurated the “New Creation.” All the benefits that God has bestowed on the Assembly are the direct result of his self-sacrificial death and resurrection “from the dead.”

His past resurrection links him to believers and becomes the model and “First Fruits” of their future resurrection, and his glorified body is of the same nature as the one that the Colossian saints will receive when he returns and raises them from the dead.

Likewise, the Book of Revelation also calls him the “Firstborn from the Dead” considering his past resurrection and present position:

  • John, to the seven assemblies which are in Asia, Grace to you and peace, from Him who Is, and Who Was, and who is Coming, and from the Seven Spirits which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” - (Revelation 1:4-5).

Paul also uses the term “resurrection” metaphorically in Colossians. On some level, water baptism symbolizes the saints being “buried” with Jesus in his death so they should live now in the newness of his resurrected life - (Colossians 2:9-14).

HIS VICTORY


One result of his exaltation is the cancellation of the ordinances from the Law that govern food and calendars. Such things were not inherently evil, and they were required by the Torah. But their time and jurisdiction came to an end following his Death and Resurrection. Such rituals amount to “shadows” of the “substance” that cast them, namely, Jesus - (Romans 6:4-5).

Because of his victory, believers must not allow anyone to enslave them again to the very “rudiments” to which they have died in Christ (“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”). Since they have been raised together with him, they must pursue the things above - “Where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.”

Alpine Lake -Photo by Tom Gainor on Unsplash
[Photo by Tom Gainor on Unsplash]

When Jesus is again “
manifested,” his people will also “be manifested in glory.” This “manifestation” refers to his return or “arrival” (‘parousia’). His followers will receive “glory” when they are raised from the dead.

Paul links the future “glory” the saints will receive to the present glory of Jesus and the coming bodily resurrection of the righteous. The connection is especially prominent in the designation “Firstborn of the Dead” - (1 Peter 5:4, 1 John 2:28, 3:2).

As in many of his letters, the bodily resurrection of the saints is foundational to Paul’s understanding of salvation and the future life of the saints in the age to come, and that hope is based on the past bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.



RELATED POSTS:
  • Defeating Death - (Paul reminded Timothy of Christ’s resurrection since false teachers were denying the future resurrection of believers)
  • The End of Death - (The arrival of Jesus at the end of the age will mean the termination of the Last Enemy, namely, Death)
  • Resurrection Life - (Paul describes his gospel in Romans from humanity's plight due to sin to the resurrection of the dead through Jesus of Nazareth)

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