Christ and the Divine Council: Part 2

The Death of the Incarnate Son

When Jesus took upon him the form of a servant, he shattered every conceivable norm in the DC. Yahweh was already function as an angel when he took a further step down and became “lower than the אלהים/αγγελοι” (Ps 8:5; Heb 2:7). He was made a man and became subject to all the physical laws of his creation. The incarnation made it possible for Jesus to die, which insured the destruction of the corrupt DC (Heb 2:9).

Jesus’ Death and the Overthrow of the Satan

Satan is the head of the corrupt DC. This is not obvious from the Old Testament, because he does not take such a prominent role. However, the New Testament reveals that he is the mastermind. Satan must be a god himself because he is member of the DC (Job 1-2, Zec 3) and Paul confirms this supposition by labeling him “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4). He has a cohort of angels that do his bidding (Mt 25:41, Rev 12:9). And he is the ruler of the dominion of darkness (Col 1:13, cf. Ac 26:18). This dominion is also called the dominion of death (Heb 2:14).[1] The reason that he has the dominion of death is in direct connection to the temptation in the garden. Satan convinced Adam to take the fruit to become “like gods” (Gn 3:5). He convinced them to disobey God and obey himself. And according to Paul, “you are slaves of the one whom you obey” (Rm 6:16). And since obedience to Satan necessarily involves sin (Jn 8:44), sin in turn produces death (Rm 6:16). Therefore, all people become enslaved in his dominion of death and are required to live “according to the prince of the power of the air” who energizes disobedience (Eph 2:2).[2]

Jesus became “flesh and blood” so that “through death he might render powerless him who had the dominion of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14). He renders powerless the dominion of death because he can impart resurrection life (Rm 5:19, 1 Cor 15:21-22). This life is not the same kind of life as before, but it an immortal life (1 Cor 15:53). And death has no power over the life of an immortal (1 Cor 15:54-55). In this way, Satan is broken from his leadership of the corrupt DC because his domain of death is rendered powerless.

Jesus’ Death and the Reconciliation of the Heavens

Another thing that the death off Jesus’ effects is the reconciliation of “all things to Himself . . . whether things on earth or things in the heavens” (Col 1:20). Those “things in the heaven” are the members of the DC. Earlier, Paul notes that “by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” (Col 1:16). Thus, in context, he is not talking about reconciling the physical skies in the new creation, but he is reconciling supernatural beings to himself. A similar phrase is found in Ephesians 1:10, “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.” Later in Ephesians 1:21-22, Paul identifies the “things in the heavens” as “all rule and authority and power and dominion.” Again, Christ’s death brings together all the spiritual forces.

The word reconcile is very important. It implies that some estranged supernatural beings can be reconciled back to God “through the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20). But how does this statement cohere with Hebrews 2:16: “For assuredly He [Jesus] does not [ἐπιλαμβάνεται] to angels, but He [ἐπιλαμβάνεται] to the descendant of Abraham”? The answer is in the translation of the word ἐπιλαμβάνομαι. Everywhere else in the NT, it is translated something like to take hold or to grasp. In Hebrews 2:16, the translators interpret it as he gives help. With this reading in play, it appears that Jesus does not care about the salvation of angels. However, the author of Hebrews is talking about Christ’s incarnation in the larger context of the chapter. When it says Christ “does not take hold of angels” but of man, it means he did not take the form of angels to cause redemption. Instead, he took a human form. Therefore, there is no conflict between Paul and Hebrews.

Christ began to reconcile and gather up all things because he was given “all authority” (Mt 28:18). The authority came by means of his resurrection from the dead (Rm 1:4). The greatest display of this authority will be when “the Son of man [will come] with the clouds of heaven” (Mt 24:30; 26:64; Mk 13:26; 14:62; Lk 21:27; 22:69). He wields this power “sitting at the right hand of the power of God” (Lk 22:69, cf. Mt 26:64, Mk 14:62, Ac 7:56).

These passages all point back to Daniel 7 which explains what Jesus meant when he claimed the title Son of Man. This is a DC scene where Yahweh (the Ancient of Days) sits on his throne while he is surrounded by his court (Dn 7:9-10). Judgement is about to rendered on the human empires which rebel against him (Dn 7:10-12). In the middle of all this, One like a Son of Man was presented to Yahweh (Dn 7:13). He is given “dominion, Glory and a kingdom” (Dn 7:14). Yahweh gives to the One like a Son of Man the supreme position in the DC (cf. Ps 110:1). Therefore, when Jesus is claiming to be this Son of Man, he is claiming to be head of DC.

As head of the council, Jesus becomes the Highest One (Arm: עֶלְיוֹן/עִלָּי, Heb: עֶלְיוֹן). Verse 27 states that the Highest One has a kingdom which “will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.” This description of the kingdom is identical to the kingdom which is given to the Son of Man (Dn 7:14). Also, Daniel distinguishes between the Ancient of Days (Yahweh the Father) and the Highest One (Dn 7:22).

The Highest One rules over the saints (Dn 7:22, 25, 27). The saints (Arm: קַדִּישׁ) throughout the book of Daniel always means a supernatural being (Dan 4:5-6, 10, 14-15, 20; 5:11). Outside of Daniel, the related Hebrew word קָדוֹשׁ when used as a plural substantive usually means supernatural beings (Deut 33:2-3; Zec 14:5; Ps 89:6-8; Jb 5:1; 15:15). These supernatural beings comprise the DC (Ps 89:6 “קהל”, 8 “סוד”). And they will inherit the Kingdom given to the Son of Man (Dn 7:27).

In the NT, the Son of Man is repeatedly identified as ruling over angels. These angels will help bring in the Kingdom by sorting the good from the bad (Mt 4:41, 18:10). They will accompany him on his visible succession to the throne (Mt 15:31; Mk 8:38). They will gather the elect from all over the globe (Mk 13:27). They continually render service to the Son of Man (Jn 1:51; 1 Pet 3:22). Jesus elected these angels to serve him (1 Tm 5:21). And he is greater than all of them because of his inherent identity (Heb 1:4ff).

Jesus’ Death and the Disarming of the Corrupt Divine Council

Not every spiritual being will be reconciled to God, because some continue to rebel against him. Some corruption Jesus removed right away, as Paul says: “He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through” the cross (Col 2:14-15). Other corruption he allows the church to combat: “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” (Eph 6:12). And some corruption he will put down at the very end of time: “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” (1 Cor 15:24).

Daniel 7 describes a war between the Beast and the Saints of the Highest One. The Beast is that succession of human empires which oppressed the nation of Israel (Dn 7:2-8). But this Beast is explicitly empowered by Satan himself (Rev 13:2). The Beast utilizes demonic forces to deceive the whole world against Jesus (Rev 16:13-14). But their efforts are futile, and the Beast is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 19:19-21). After the final rebellion, Satan himself will be thrown into the lake of fire as well (Rev 20:10). The last enemy that Jesus will destroy will be death itself (1 Cor 15:25-27, Rev 20:14).

The Church as the Jesus’ New Divine Council

When the end comes, it appears that church will either become or will take part in the DC. First, the word church (ἐκκλησία) is equivalent to the Hebrew word קָהָל. This one of the terms used to describe the DC (Ps 89:6). The author of Hebrews also links the “church of the firstborn” with the “myriads of angels in the general assembly” (Heb 12:23). Second, the “people of the saints of the Highest One” will possess the Kingdom (Dn 7:27). Humans can only possess the Kingdom after they shed their mortal bodies and put on an immortal body (1 Cor 15:50-53). Paul describes this new body in language like angelic beings: it will be glorified, powerful, spiritual, and heavenly (1 Cor 15:43-48). Humans can be on his council because they will have the angelic attributes necessary to sit on the council. Finally, the actions of the church in the final estate reflect those actions of the DC. Predominately, the church will function in the judicial role judging the world and angels (1 Cor 6:3, cf. Ps 58; 82).

Conclusion and Further Study

The data from this survey indicates that the relationship between Christ and the DC is a major theme in Scripture. From this vantage point several avenues can be further explored. First, since prophet are a member of the DC, it would be interesting to study Jesus as fulfills the role of a prophet in the DC. Second, the purpose and extend of Jesus’ new DC in the church need to be further explored. This can be done by contrasting the functions of the DC, the assembly of Israel, and the church of Christ. The conclusions from this study may have implications for the Dispensational/Covenant discussion. Third, the role of Satan should be further explored especially his connection with death. Many times throughout the Bible death is treated as an actual being. Since Satan has the domain of death which is what Christ came to destroy, the study of death may yield some data for Christ and the DC.

[1]. The word translated power is κράτος. It is better to follow the normal translation which is dominion.

[2]. This energizing recalls Psalm 58:2, “You [gods] make a way for violence from your hands in the earth.” The gods do not do the violence in the earth, but that they “make a way” for it. In other words, they enable the wicked to perform wickedness. This is conversely analogous to how Yahweh makes smooth the path of the righteous (Is 26:7). And how Yahweh made a way for his anger to be carried out on the Egyptians (Ps 78:50). So, instead of the gods judging the wicked, they instead make it easy for them to oppress the weak. Satan in Ephesians 2:2 does the same thing: enabling the wicked to sin. That he is singled out here in the NT points to his leadership in corrupting the DC.

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