On August 15, 2005, roughly 14,000 Israeli soldiers and police offers entered the Gaza Strip to serve mandatory removal notices to several thousand Israeli citizens. These individuals stood in defiance of a new legal order initiated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and ratified by the Knesset. That order? To vacate 21 Jewish settlements that had been established there after Israel’s victory in the 1967 “Six Day War” placed Gaza under its control.
From the standpoint of Israeli law, roughly 8,000 Israelis had legally lived and worked in these settlements for nearly four decades. Some had been born and raised there. But the passing of the deadline created by the legislation had, overnight, changed the status of these settlers from that of legal property owners to outlaws and trespassers.
National Public Radio’s Neal Conan opened his news report about the August 15 enforcement action this way:
As of today, it’s illegal for Israelis to live in Gaza. Israeli soldiers and police knocked on doors this morning in 21 Gaza settlements and four others on the West Bank, to hand out notices that give settlers 48 hours to leave the territory or face eviction by force. At some houses in some settlements, they faced resistance. A great many settlers vowed defiance . . .
Indeed, many did defy the order. For three days the forced removals proceeded house to house and room to room throughout the 21 settlements. Global news wire services transmitted images of troops breaking down the doors of settlers who had barricaded themselves inside. Nightly newscasts around the world featured scenes of troops dragging screaming or sobbing families from houses.
Some settlers set their homes on fire as they evacuated, in a literal scorched earth retreat. Settlers blocked roads, lit fires, exhorted soldiers to disobey orders, and generally impeded the removal in every way possible.
All to no avail. The law was no longer on their side. And their power to resist the enforcement of the law was woefully inadequate.
Setting the politics of this event aside, this recent historical incident serves as an imperfect but remarkably useful metaphor for one of the most significant, yet poorly understood aspects of Christ’s victory. Namely, the removal of principalities’ and powers’ legal standing, turning them into squatters and trespassers to be evicted in what essentially constitutes a progressively unfolding “enforcement action” by Jesus’ body—the Church.
There are many spokes, but Colossians 2:15 is the hub upon which the wheel of this case turns. Young’s Literal Translation renders the verse as follows:
. . . having stripped the principalities and the authorities, he made a shew of them openly — having triumphed over them in it.
Virtually every theological stream within Christendom cites this passage exultantly as a declaration of Christ’s general victory over Satan via His death and resurrection. Yet many, if not all, of those streams seem, in practical terms, to view Satan’s power, capabilities, and parameters of operation (and likewise those of the fallen angelic hierarchies) as remaining virtually unchanged on this side of Calvary.
To hear many teachers in the Church talk about the devil and his demons, one might conclude that the cross did little more than set in place a future appointment (the Second Coming) at which Satan will be effectively dethroned and his minions finally corralled. Until that day, it’s pretty much business as usual for the devil.
Indeed, when framing the current scope of Satan’s power and authority, many point to Old Testament passages such Daniel 10, where the “Prince of Persia” hinders the archangel Michael for 28 days. They point to the opening chapter of Job where Satan stands before God accusing Job. Or to Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, in which Satan offers the Son of Man all the kingdoms of the world. Or, in the most evocative and shocking citation of all, they quote the Savior Himself seemingly calling Satan, “the prince (or ruler) of this world.”
These examples are cited as illustrating the present status of the devil, principalities and powers, even though they all lie on the preceding side of the cross.
This was certainly the case in the Baptist/Dispensational context of my youth. I recall eagerly devouring Hal Lindsey’s Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth in 1972 as an impressionable twelve-year-old who had recently been taken—chapter-by-chapter— through Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth by a well-intentioned Sunday School teacher.
The latter book convinced me that I would never see my twenties (I’ll be 60 in a few days). The former book taught me to expect ever-increasing demonic hegemony over the kingdoms of this world.
To be sure, to this day heads nod and mouths say “amen” at the mention of Christ’s having “disarmed principalities and powers” and “made a public spectacle of them.” (A clear reference to the Roman “Triumph” parade.) But ask most for specifics about what that victory actually meant, in practical terms, for those “powers,” and an awkward silence usually follows.
On one hand, we have widespread assent that the Pauline Revelation describes Jesus’ death and resurrection as a devastating defeat for Satan and his cohort. At the same time, Christians of all stripes clearly seem to view these same powers as fierce, strong, emergent, and ascendant. It’s impossible to reconcile these two data points.
If, as Paul states in various places and in various ways, Jesus brought about the defeat of principalities and powers . . . what did that defeat change? What did it cost the loser? What were the immediate implications of that victory, then, and for the ensuing two millennia?
Stripped . . . but of what?
Understanding this facet of Jesus’ multi-faceted jewel of redemption requires an exploration of the implications of Paul’s Colossians 2:15 declaration that Christ “disarmed” or “stripped” (άπεκδνσμαι/apekduomai) rulers and authorities. The Greek term literally refers to taking off a garment one’s self, or stripping clothing from another.
In their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Louw and Nida unpack apekduomai as follows:
“To take off or strip off clothing; to undress, to disrobe, stripping off . . . The use in Colossians appears to be a case of figurative usage, but it may refer to the stripping away of weapons and hence the removal of authority and power.”
Indeed, Paul uses precisely the same word in the next chapter as he employs garment-oriented language to exhort the Colossians to “put off” (apekduomai) the old man and “put on”(enduo; “to be clothed with”) the new.
Thus, the key question then becomes, “Of what were the rulers and authorities stripped?” Literal clothing? This seems unlikely. Please consider the possibility that the Last Adam’s victory effectively stripped the unseen demonic hierarchies which lie behind the old, fallen world system, of the measure of legal sanction they received as a consequence of the First Adam’s rebellion.
Robes in the ancient world certainly served as signs of authority or legal legitimacy—and in some professions, such as in Western courtrooms, still do today. This is also a prominent pattern in the biblical narrative. (See Genesis 37; Exodus 29; 1 Samuel 18; Esther 6; Isaiah 6; Jonah 3; Matthew 27:28; Luke 15 and Revelation 1:13.)
Each of these threads in the tapestry of the biblical narrative suggest a linkage between robes and royally sanctioned authority (or favor). So, if indeed Jesus stripped principalities and powers of their sanctioned authority, then it makes sense to ask how the implications of that change played out.
The Three Phases of Divine Redemptive Work
Presuppositional in this argument is the premise that God built the universe on a legal-judicial framework. The Bible is replete with signs and suggestions that this is the case. Preeminent among these is the fact that Jesus had to come, had to do so in the way he came, and had to die, in order to effect salvation and restoration. Every aspect of the Bible’s redemption narrative shouts of judicial protocols that had to be followed and covenantal demands that had to be met.
This suggests—contrary to the common, pop culture understanding of God’s sovereignty—that God is bound by his own holiness to respect the judicial-covenantal boundaries He established at the founding of Creation. In other words, God won’t/can’t cheat at the game He established.
A second, related premise, derived from viewing the biblical narrative holistically and from high altitude, is that God’s redemptive activity in the earth is invariably comprised of three phases.
|Definitive ➟||Progressive ➟||Consummative|
First God decrees a thing to be definitively so through covenant—establishing and ratifying the decree from a legal and judicial standpoint. Yet at the moment of ratification, nothing appears to have changed. God’s decree is, to use a common phrase, a “now, but not yet” reality. Instead, the implications of what God has decreed definitively must be progressively realized over time. What He has made law, is enforced or enacted, a little at a time. Ultimately, God’s decree is consummated and completed.
We see this three-stage pattern at every key junction of the redemption narrative.
In Genesis, God creates a good but wild, chaotic, untamed earth. He cultivates and brings order to a small part of it (a garden), and places Adam and Eve within its walls. He then definitively grants them legal dominion stewardship over the earth. He commissions them to “be fruitful and multiply,” progressively expanding the borders of the garden until the entire earth is a cultivated and kept garden. What God commanded them to do—incrementally over time—he first established legally and judicially through covenant. This pattern is repeated with Noah following the Flood.
This pattern appears again as the Israelites prepare to enter the land of promise. First God grants them the land legally and definitively through covenant. He opens Deuteronomy—his great Suzerain-Vassal covenant legal contract—with the judicial justification for giving them the land currently occupied by the Canaanites:
“See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them.”
It is noteworthy that God takes pains to further explain the covenantal legality of the displacement this land grant requires. He declares that the current occupants of this land, the Canaanites, have forfeited their legal standing. In Leviticus 18:24-25 God explains that, because the Canaanites have polluted and corrupted the land, the land is responding by figuratively “vomiting” them out.
In the eyes of the courts of heaven, the Canaanites had become trespassers and squatters on land that no longer legally belonged to them.
This legal grant of ownership is clear and unambiguous, yet it was delivered while the Israelites were still encamped east of the Jordan. Ownership and possession are not the same thing. Possession, God explained to them, would come incrementally. Only “little by little” would the nations be cleared away before them. (See: Exodus 23:30 ; Leviticus 7:22)
As we’re about to see, this pattern emerges again at the dawn of the New Covenant era.
“The Functional Lord of the Earth”
As already noted, much of the Christian world views Satan as operating with, at minimum, a significant measure of functional authority on the earth. As Gregory Boyd points out in his essay in Understanding Spiritual Warfare:
According to John, for example, Jesus believed that Satan was “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 NIV). The word translated “prince” (archon) customarily referred to “the highest official in a city or a region in the Greco-Roman world.” While Jesus and his followers of course believed that God was the ultimate Lord over all creation, they clearly viewed Satan as the functional lord of earth at the present time.
Of course, it’s not controversial to contend that the devil and a hierarchy of fallen angels have not only been alive and well on planet Earth for most of human history, but also creating and running “this world system.” What does raise some eyebrows is suggesting that the status and power of his operation suffered a crippling, mortal wound two thousand years ago.
If it is indeed the case that Jesus’ victory stripped the powers of their legal sanction, we should see testimony in the biblical narrative of both how and when that legal standing was obtained in the first place.
Indeed, the Bible strongly implies, if not stating so in explicit terms, that Adam’s covenantal treason resulted in some measure of his God-granted legal sanction being ceded to “the serpent” thereby making God’s enemy, the archon of this kosmos (world).
If Satan did not become the de facto administrator of this fallen, broken, twisted world at Adam’s fall, then it happened at some other time and in some other unrevealed way, if Jesus’ words are to mean anything at all.
Jesus certainly minced no words about His mission. He came to “destroy the works of the devil.” He directly linked the expulsion of demonic powers to the arrival of His kingdom when he said to the Pharisees: “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
After his crucifixion and resurrection, and just prior to His ascension to the throne, the Last Adam’s words reveal that this final work of restoration would follow the same three-stage pattern as did the First Adam’s assignment.
In the 28th chapter of Matthew, Jesus begins by declaring that his victory had definitively placed “all authority,” not only in heaven but also on earth, in His hands. He immediately follows this legal-judicial declaration with the mandate to progressively “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”
Again, the implementation of what had already been ratified judicially still remained to be carried out incrementally. And as with the Canaanites in Moses’ day, the occupants of the land to be taken—demonic hierarchies behind the idolatrous world system—had been (judicially) rendered outlaws, trespassers, and squatters.
This reality leads Paul to declare, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
As we shall shortly see, this progressive defeat of the spirit-based enemies of Christ figures into the climax of Paul’s remarkable treatise on the reality of the resurrection in First Corinthians 15. There Paul cites the New Testament’s most frequently quoted Old Testament verse—Psalm 110:1.
His Enemies a Footstool
The fact that Psalm 110:1 is quoted repeatedly in the New Testament should get our attention. So, let’s begin by reacquainting ourselves with that verse in its contextual setting:
The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”
Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew.
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”
The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.
He will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore He will lift up His head.
How can Christ rule “in the midst of His enemies” if those enemies are suddenly vanquished at his Second Coming? What if the “kings” and “chief men” prophetically referenced here as “enemies” of the coming Melchizedekian High Priest are not humans, but rather spiritual powers and authorities? In other words . . .
What if the “wrath” described above is not directed at people (who God so loved that He sent His only Son), but rather against the rebellious powers and principalities that have been corrupting and seducing people for millennia?
Jesus once quoted the opening lines of this psalm to confound the Jewish scribes and teachers of the Law. The writer of Hebrews references this same verse in the middle of making his case that Jesus was the perfect High Priest of a new and better covenant:
. . . but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.
Again, we must be mindful here of Paul’s assertion that those “enemies” are not flesh and blood, but rather rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
And in contradiction to what my beloved Dispensationalist and Futurist friends believe, this passage strongly suggests that Jesus is not rising from His throne to return to earth until nearly all of this has been accomplished.
Why the qualifier “nearly” in the previous sentence? Because, according to First Corinthians 15, one (and only one) enemy will remain to be defeated at Christ’s coming—Death itself. Here, too, Paul cites Psalm 110:1:
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.vss. 21-26 (NASB)
In other words, the resurrection of the righteous dead at Christ’s return will signify and constitute the defeat of this last, remaining, enemy remnant of the fall of Man and the resultant curse.
This is only possible because Jesus’ victory two thousand years ago disarmed principalities and powers of their legal right to stand behind the cultural, societal, economic, and natural systems of this world. Although those principalities and powers sat in place at the moment the Gospel began to spread across the world, they no longer had a legal right to be there.
In a day, they had been rendered squatters and trespassers—ready to be displaced by a superior power. Yet, like those Israeli settlers in Gaza, they have resisted their removal or reconciliation.
This makes the nature of spiritual warfare for the Church a matter of displacing the outlaw powers by enforcing what God has already ratified through the blood of His Son.
This assertion obviously presents a question. Namely, what does this progressive displacement through enforcement look like?
Before answering that question, this writer should hasten to clarify what this understanding of spiritual warfare does not involve. It is not about Christians simply taking over the top political and institutional offices in order to force change from the top down. It is not about seizing control of the cultural levers of power. This is not the way of the kingdom.
Jesus founded a kingdom based on leading through serving, living by dying, influence through love, and transformation through demonstrations of redemptive power. This is what dislodges and displaces trespassing powers and squatter principalities. Light dispels darkness. Salt preserves. Leaven permeates.
Certainly, God’s people should not avoid leadership responsibility when earned. God clearly does call some believers to the realms of politics, media, academia, entertainment, and the other, so-called, Seven Mountains. He gifts and equips those he calls. He grants favor. He opens doors.
But these rises to leadership and influence are by-products of displacing the powers, not the means of doing so.
Secondly, it should be noted that this approach is not solely, or even primarily, about deliverance ministry. This is not a prescription for seeing demons everywhere and casting them out of everyone and everything.
However, the power and authority of God’s people over demons is clearly and unapologetically an aspect of what the cross accomplished. It is not insignificant that Jesus—in a preview of the post-Pentecost world—endued His disciples with the authority to cast out demons. When they returned marveling and rejoicing at this authority, He remarked that He had seen (foreseen?) Satan being cast down from his lofty position like lightning.
Consider the possibility that what Jesus described was Satan and the powers being stripped of their legal standing through His victory as the Last Adam. Even so, authority over demonic powers is only a small part of a bigger picture.
Idolatry and the Demonic Hierarchies
Sketching that picture begins with a reminder that the Bible repeatedly links the worship of idols with demonic activity, literally equating idolatry with demon worship. For example, the “Song of Moses” in Deuteronomy 32:16–17 declares:
“They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known . . .”
Similarly, in Leviticus 17:7 God directly upbraids some Israelites for offering sacrifices to “goat demons.”
In the New Covenant era, Paul makes this linkage impossible to miss, telling the believers in Corinth, a city filled to overflowing with pagan temples representing the Greek and Roman pantheon, “No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.”
Old Covenant history is, in a sense, a story of a battle against idolatry. This is precisely because human idolatry empowers principalities and powers by providing them the very thing humans were created to offer God and God alone. Worship. Worship links the natural with the supernatural. The earth with the heavenlies. Spirit with matter.
In other words, what men worship both forms and informs their world. Idolatry can and does warp creation itself. This is why an idolatrous culture can so pollute and corrupt a land that it becomes uninhabitable. Demon worship opens a sort of portal for those powers to shape the governing institutions, the economic system, the social fabric, and even the natural environment of a people.
As G.B. Caird notes in Principalities and Powers: A Study in Pauline Theology, when one weaves together all of Paul’s statements concerning principalities and powers a picture emerges in which the world’s visible governments and societal structures are linked to, and reflective of, demonic hierarchies that lie behind them:
In the face of the evidence which I have presented here can be little doubt that his “principalities and powers” included the powers of the state . . . and indeed the whole natural order, under the demonic reign which the Jews had seen at work in the Gentile world.
Idolatry empowers demonic hierarchies. And empowered demonic hierarchies lie behind History’s pagan systems of government, economics, and social organization—systems of oppression, slavery, exploitation, dominance, poverty, rampant sickness, hunger, ignorance, infant mortality, lawlessness, and depravity.
Put another way, idolatry produces certain kinds of civilizations. And conversely, the growing presence of worshippers of the one true King, disempowers and displaces those demonic hierarchies and, ultimately, over long spans of time, produces superior civilizations. (God is patient!)
Historian Herbert Schlossberg, in his brilliant 1983 book, Idols for Destruction, points out that there are no new idolatries because there are no new enemies of Christ. The ancient demon gods that animated the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian civilizations are still with us today. Schlossberg helpfully categorizes these demonic systems as Idols of Mammon, Idols of Nature, Idols of Power, and Idols of History.
All of this puts the apostles’ repeated warnings about idolatry in an entirely new light. It is no wonder John closed his longest pastoral letter with the fatherly warning, “Little children, guard yourself from idols.”
The world into which the first Spirit-filled missionaries ventured, carrying the story of Jesus, was a deeply entrenched pagan world system backed by invisible powers that had been in place for thousands of years. Yet within two or three generations, seeds of the Gospel had spread, taken root, and were thriving throughout the Roman world.
The rapidity of Christianity’s spread is breathtaking. Baylor University professor Rodney Stark has written extensively on Christianity’s role in the rise of Europe and the West. Here is how Professor Stark describes it:
Within twenty years of the crucifixion, Christianity was transformed from a faith based in rural Galilee, to an urban movement reaching far beyond Palestine. In the beginning it was borne by nameless itinerate preachers and by rank-and-file Christians who shared their faith with relatives and friends. Soon they were joined by ‘professional” missionaries such as Paul and his associates. Thus, while Jesus’s ministry was limited primarily to the rural area and outskirts of towns, the Jesus movement quickly spread to the Greco-Roman cities, especially to those in the eastern Hellenic end of the empire.
Within three hundred-fifty years of Christ’s resurrection, Christianity went from a tiny, persecuted minority to the dominant, majority faith in southern Europe. That, in turn, laid the foundation for the rise of Western Civilization, or, as Churchill preferred to call it, “Christian Civilization.” Professor Stark declares: “The success of the West, including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians.”
In his groundbreaking book about the origin of our concepts of human rights, Samuel Moyn—a secular scholar who has held professorships of law and history at Harvard, Columbia, and Yale—asserted: “The truth is that Europe, and therefore the modern world, drew nearly everything from Christianity in the long term . . . Without Christianity, our commitment to the moral equality of human beings is unlikely to have come about.”
In the conclusion to his book, The Victory of Reason, Professor Stark flatly tells his readers:
Christianity created Western Civilization. Had the followers of Jesus remained an obscure Jewish sect, most of you would not have learned to read and the rest of you would be reading from hand-copied scrolls. Without a theology committed to reason, progress, and moral equality, today the entire world would be about where non-European societies were in, say, 1800: A world with many astrologers and alchemists but no scientists. A world of despots, lacking universities, banks, factories, eyeglasses, chimneys, and pianos. A world where most infants do not live to the age of five and many women die in childbirth—a world truly living in the “dark ages.”
The cross made all of this possible and the Gospel is still transforming cultures today. Prior to Christ’s enthronement, pagan systems and civilizations founded upon demonic idolatry worked only because the demonic powers behind them had a measure of legal sanction. Pagan empires thrived for centuries at a stretch. Since the cross, those same systems increasingly don’t work.
Why? Because Jesus reordered and restored the judicial landscape, pulling the legal rug out from under the principalities and powers. The presence of the Spirit-empowered Church in the world was and is a game changer.
The Philistine’s demonic fish god Dagon repeatedly toppled over onto his face and ultimately shattered, simply by being in proximity to the Ark of the Covenant—the carrier of God’s glory and presence in the earth. On this side of the cross, the Church is that carrier of God’s glory and presence. Wherever we go, proximity to the glory and power and authority we carry ultimately has the same effect.
Jesus is reconciling all things—on earth and in the heavenlies—to Himself and we are His ministers of reconciliation.
At this point some might object that there doesn’t appear to be much evidence of this in our current world. That in fact, the idols of this age seem to be ascendant. That Dagon is standing tall in the presence of the Ark.
This is an illusion. And a destructive one. Three factors work together to cause us to over-estimate the present power and success of what Paul called “world forces of darkness.”
One is the 24-hour instant news cycle—enabled by the Internet and fed by ubiquitous video cameras in more than 3.5 billion smart phones worldwide. If something horrific happens anywhere in world, we’re all watching video of it and shaking our heads in sadness within the hour (and sharing it with all our friends on social media).
The second is our woeful ignorance of history. We have little understanding of how dark things in the world really were prior to the dawning of the light of the Gospel. Nor do we have the information that allows us to put in perspective the transformation the world, and the kingdoms of this world, have undergone as the carriers of that light have spread across the planet.
The third is an America-centric myopia. Believers here in the U.S. often come perilously close to conflating the Kingdom of Jesus and our own nation-state—as if they were one and the same thing. We also observe what has happened in what has come to be called “post-Christian” Europe, see many of the same patterns being replicated here, and leap to the conclusion that the lights are going out all over the world.
The fact is, the Gospel is advancing in extraordinary ways all over the planet. For example, a remarkable, supernatural move of God is underway in the Islamic world and, even now, the cracks in the edifice of world Islam are beginning to show. Ultimately the entire stronghold will collapse. (In 1988, the Soviet Union appeared ascendant and on the march all over the world. By the end of 1989, it was gone.)
Over the next two or three generations, various forms of Pentecostal evangelicalism will accomplish in Central and South America what more than 500 years of Roman Catholicism could not. That is, break the stronghold of poverty by displacing the ancient, demonic Mayan, Aztec, and Inca principalities.
Appropriately, Schlossberg closed his largely gloomy book with a note of hope, writing: “To expect a transformation of society that results from changed people is not an idealistic hope that can never come to pass; it is a matter of historical record.”
Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascendance to the throne at the right hand of the Father effected a judicial delegitimizing of “the world-rulers of this darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”—transforming their standing from quasi-legal leaseholders to outlaws, trespassers, and squatters. In other words, the Last Adam restored the earth (from a judicial standpoint) to what legal scholars would call the status quo ante.
The result? We’re back in the Garden, clothed in glory, and able to stand before God unafraid and unashamed. Like our first parents, we’ve received a dominion mandate, to go into all the world, be fruitful and multiply, and proclaim God’s goodness until we fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
From Pentecost forward, the advance of the Gospel in the earth constitutes a progressive, ongoing enforcement action—wherein the rule of Christ is extended to every place and every sphere (not from the top down, but from the inside out). This illuminates Scriptures’ repeated refrain of Messiah being invited to sit at the Father’s right hand until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. Citing this theme, Paul declares in First Corinthians 15 that “the last enemy to be defeated” will be Death itself, implying that at Jesus’ return, Death will be the only unconquered enemy of Christ.
To that end, the Church, as the “body” of the Last Adam, is engaged in carrying out the renewed Edenic mandate. That is, to be fruitful and multiply; to cultivate and keep the expanding Garden of God, extending divine order into the outlaw chaos of the fallen world through service, love, and proclamation of the Good News.
Carrying out this mission involves a form of spiritual warfare that enforces what Christ has already judicially accomplished in the courts of heaven. It means the equivalent of going house to house and room to room, in our own lives, our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities, and in our spheres of influence.
This model of spiritual warfare was announced by Jesus Himself:
“If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”
Through His victory at Calvary, Jesus bound the strong man. His representatives on the earth have been plundering his house for nearly two millennia and will continue to do so.
In the realm of spiritual warfare, as in almost every other area of systematic and practical theology, we’ve simply made too little of what Jesus accomplished through the cross.
 NPR, “The Gaza Withdrawal Explained”, (August 15, 2005), https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=4800638
 Friberg, Analytical Lexicon; BDAG; Liddell & Scott
 (Emphasis added.)
 Colossians 3:10-11
 Deuteronomy 1:8 (NASB, emphasis added)
 Ed. Beilby. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views (p. 136-137). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 See Wagner & Greenberg; Ed. Beilby. Understanding Spiritual Warfare (pp. 191-192); Baker Publishing Group.
 Luke 11:10 (NASB)
 Matthew 28:18
 v. 19
 Psalm 110 (NASB)(Emphasis added)
 Hebrews 10:12 (NASB)(Empasis added)
 I Corinthians 10:20 (NASB)
 G.B. Caird, Principalities and Powers: A Study in Pauline Theology, p. 16
 Herbert Schlossbert, Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture; Crossway (1983)
 1 John 5:21
 Op.cit., Stark, Cities of God, p. 25
 Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, (New York, Random House, 2005) p. xi
 Samuel Moyn, Christian Human Rights, (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015) p. 6
 Op.cit., Stark, The Victory of Reason, p.233
 Schlossberg, p. 325