Romans 8:38-39 – Unseen Realm – Part 2

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Last week we did some foundation work.

  • We introduced the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.

 

This was necessary to give us the background behind Paul’s list in verses 38 and 39.

  • Specifically the personal forces that seek to separate us from God’s love in Christ.
  • nor angels nor rulers…nor powers”.

 

Today we continue our exploration of these personal forces.

  • Romans 8:38–39 (ESV) — 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Cosmic Geography and Angels, Rulers and Powers :

How do Paul’s angels, rulers and powers…

  • Connect to last week’s exploration of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview?

 

So the Deuteronomy 32 worldview…

  • Is a worldview pertaining to something called Cosmic Geography.

 

As we saw last week…

  • This is the idea that some members of God’s divine council…
  • Which the OT refers to interchangeably as elohim, sons of god, host of heaven, sun, moon, or stars
  • Were made ruler over certain parts of the known world.

 

But God kept for Himself, as “his own inheritance”, the descendants of Abraham.

  • Thus, the reason why He marked out the Promised Land from the other nations.
  • It was to be the geography of his inheritance.

 

The Bible captures these events in 3 texts:

  • Genesis 11:7–9 (ESV) — 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
  • Deuteronomy 32:8–9 (ESV) — 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind [dispersed them], he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
  • Deuteronomy 4:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.

 

And then at some point in history there was an elohim rebellion:

  • Psalm 82:1–8 (ESV) — 1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

 

As a result of this rebellion…

  • God prophesied through the Psalmist that he would bring judgment upon them.
  • And, importantly, that He would take for Himself as an inheritance “all the nations!

 

Importantly, this meant that until such judgment comes…

  • There exist a number of elohim battling against God…
  • There is a coming judgment…
  • And there is a plan for God to inherit all the nations.

 

Michael Heiser puts it this way:

“From the fateful decision at Babel onward, the story of the Old Testament is about Israel versus the disinherited nations, and Yahweh versus the corrupt, rebel elohim of those nations” – Michael Heiser.

 

The point:

  • This is the worldview that Paul inhabited.

 

So the connection between Paul and the Cosmic Geography of a Deut. 32 worldview…

  • Is quite simple.

 

When he spoke of angel, rulers, and powers (obviously not in all contexts)…

  • Paul was using NT language for the elohim, sons of god, host of heaven, sun, moon, or stars.

 

In other words, Paul was talking about the rebel elohim under judgment.

  • And he was doing so in the context of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview and its Cosmic Geography.

 

A quick look at a variety of scholars will make this point about our text:

  • Paul often, “uses [this language] to denote powers or authorities of the spirit world…those of an evil nature” – Moo.
  • “The pairing of ἀρχαί [rulers] with ἄγγελοι [angels] seals the issue since Paul never uses the latter term of governmental authorities but always of spiritual beings” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Paul is teaching that, “not even the most malevolent of metaphysical powers, can unfasten them from the divine love that is known and experienced in the Lord Jesus Christ” – Michael Bird.
  • Paul is “referring to the spiritual forces ruling the nations and bringing opposition against God’s people” – Craig Keener
  • “That preternatural [beyond what is normal] beings are in view need not be questioned” – John Murray.
  • We are dealing with “…powers which exercise their influence throughout the entire cosmos” – EDNT.
  • “These terms have something in common— they were used in both the New Testament and other Greek literature for geographical domain rulership [Cosmic Geography]. This is the divine dominion concept of Deuteronomy 32: 8-9 [Deuteronomy 32 worldview]” – Michael Heiser.

 

So I think we now see the connection.

  • But we need to tease out the implications of Paul’s teaching for us.
  • They are especially important to our understanding the Gospel itself!

 

To help us with this…

  • We need to fill out Paul’s thinking on these personal forces.

 

All of these compliment today’s text.

  • They all deal with the personal forces that seek to separate us from God’s love.
  • And the Cosmic Geography/Deuteronomy 32 worldview stuff helps us make sense of all of them.

 

 

Personal Forces Survey:

(1) Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) — 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 

This is a well known text – at least semantically.

  • By now, however, I hope we can appreciate this text for the depth of its content.

 

Paul says that we – saints/those in Christ – wrestle against:

  • rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

 

This idea of “wrestle against” is that we are involved in a struggle likened to…

  • Hand-to-hand combat.
  • This is WW1 trench warfare.

 

The context of this warfare is “this present darkness”.

  • What is this?

 

This includes the Cosmic Geography and the Deuteronomy 32 worldview ideas.

  • This is the rebel elohim.
  • And a nod to the fact that God has not yet fully inherited their nations and judged them.

 

And this warfare is clearly what Paul is referring to in our text today.

  • The rebel elohim are trying to sever us from the love of God in Christ.

 

This is why it is so important for us to realize that God’s love for us…

  • The accomplishing power we spoke of last week…
  • Is an all-powerful and unrelenting power that accomplishes God’s decrees without fail.

 

 

(2) 1 Corinthians 2:6–8 (ESV) — 6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

 

Paul reveals a tantalizing truth about the rebel elohim.

  • He talks of their pending judgment – something he knows about from the OT.
  • He says the “rulers of this age” are doomed to pass away.

 

And then he gives us insight into the Gospel itself.

 

So we know that God would judge the rebel elohim…

  • And make all the nations His inheritance.

 

But, what Paul tells us here gives us a clue about how that these things would begin.

  • He says that “rulers of this age” had no foreknowledge of the work of Christ on the cross.
  • A work “decreed” by God “before the ages”.

 

He says if the did…

  • they would not have crucified the Lord”

 

Why not?

  • Apparently, Christ’s work on the cross…
  • Was directly related to judgment and inheritance.
  • The cross was a mechanism for securing this outcome.

 

 

(3) 1 Corinthians 15:24–25 (ESV) — 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

 

This passage picks up on our “why not?” from above.

  • Paul confirms again that the “rule and every authority and power” will be destroyed at “the end”.

 

He also tells us some intriguing things.

  • He describes the rebel elohim as Christ’s “enemies”.

 

So Paul pits Christ against the rebel elohim.

  • We are not alone in our hand-to-hand combat.

 

Paul then tells us that between the now and not yet…

  • Christ is “destroying every rule and every authority and power”.
  • He is at war with the rebel elohim.
  • He is putting them “under his feet”.

 

Finally, Paul gives us this tidbit:

  • the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father”.

 

So apparently another mechanism by which God secures the nations for Himself…

  • Is what Paul calls “the end”.

 

When this “the end” comes…

  • God the Father will have his full inheritance – “the kingdom” (all the nations).

 

Michael Heiser puts it like this:

  • “The coming of the incarnate Yahweh was the beginning of reclaiming those nations as well” – Michael Heiser.
  • Although Heiser adds, they “were not going to surrender their domains without a fight”.

 

BTW – Is it any wonder why the following scene played out in the Unseen Realm.

  • Satan and the other rebel elohim may not have known about the Gospel.
  • But they knew something was up with Jesus and tried to take Him out early.
  • Revelation 12:4 (ESV) — 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

 

 

(4) 1 Corinthians 6:3 (ESV) — 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

First let me add to this text some related texts from Paul and Jesus.

  • 2 Timothy 2:12 (ESV) — 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;
  • Luke 19:17 (ESV) — 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’

 

So here we get an answer to a tantalizing question.

  • Why are the rebel elohim after us?

 

The first answer is obvious.

  • They are at war with Christ and we are in Christ.

 

A second answer is more intriguing.

  • Paul says, “we are to judge angels”.
  • Paul says, “we will also reign with” Christ.

 

And Jesus, in speaking of the “economics” of the Kingdom of God says:

  • The faithful, in various proportions, “shall have authority over…cities”.

 

So apparently, the rebel elohim now know that it is the image bearer in Christ…

  • That will participate with Christ in divine rule.
  • In a sense, we replace the rebel elohim and they don’t like it!

 

 

Huge Gospel Implications:

All this from Paul should reshape how we think of the Gospel.

  • It should reshape how we think about the significance of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, exaltation and intercession.

 

The Gospel is not only about us.

  • We certainly are its beneficiaries.
  • We certainly partake in its blessings.

 

But we are, in some ways, just the tip of the iceberg.

  • The Gospel is how God initiates his assault on the rebel elohim.
  • The Gospel is how God initiates His reclamation of the nations for Himself.

 

And he uses Christ and his work on the cross to do this.

 

To appreciate this, we need only look at a few more texts.

  • Colossians 2:14–15 (ESV) — 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
  • Ephesians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
  • Ephesians 3:9–11 (ESV) — 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
  • Hebrews 2:14 (ESV) — 14 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,
  • Hebrews 2:8 (ESV) — 8 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.

 

Having been buried, resurrected and exalted…

  • Jesus is now set up “over the hostile powers” – Craig Keener.

 

Now everything is subjected to Christ.

  • And through Christ everything is being and will be put right – including Cosmic Geography.

 

The cosmic rulers are “disarmed and put to shame by the cross” – Heiser.

  • This is the Gospel!

 

Isaiah sums up the final defeat of the rebel elohim well:

  • Isaiah 24:21–23 (ESV) — 21 On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth. 22 They will be gathered together as prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished. 23 Then the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed, for the Lord of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders.

 

And concerning God’s inheritance of the nations:

  • Isaiah 66:20–22 (ESV) — 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. 22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain.