Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Colossians 1:20 reconciliation

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

20 and through him to reconcile all things to himself, whether things on earth or in heaven, making peace through the blood of his cross.

Through Jesus Christ, God reconciled mankind to himself. Paul says “things…whether things on earth or in heaven.” By this, does he or could he mean that the good and the evil angels are also reconciled to God? No. The good angels did not sin; they may have been tempted when the evil angels fell, but they did not fall. Therefore they do not need reconciliation. The evil angels are already damned, and cannot be reconciled: “For God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell” (2 Peter 2:4). Job’s friend Eliphaz is talking about the evil angels when he says, “He charges his angels with error” (Job 4:18). Also, “If God places no trust in his holy ones [i.e., angels], if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes…” (Job 15:15). But these passages do change anything we learn from Peter: the evil angels are damned, and the good angels do not need reconciliation through the blood of Christ.

By “things…,” does Paul or could Paul mean the rest of creation apart from man? This would agree with what Paul says in Romans 8:21, that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” In this sense, the reconciliation through the blood of Christ on the cross ended the curse on all creation, including this part of the curse: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of his all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17). About this Paul says: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). And John says: “No longer will there be any curse” (Revelation 22:3). Therefore, could Paul mean that those parts of creation that were also subject to the curse after the fall? This would include the animals, the birds, the fish, and also the earth itself, and the sun, moon and stars. Some of the things in this group will no longer be necessary in eternity. The sun, moon and stars, for example, will fall from the sky and cease to exist (Mark 13:24-25). The birds, on the other hand, might be part of God’s plan for eternity (Revelation 19:17). Birds, beasts and fish are at least part of the vision God gives of the final judgment (Revelation 5:13, 6:2,4-5,8, 8:9, 18:2).

I think it’s more likely that “things on earth or in heaven” refers to the salvation of all mankind. True, there are some who reject God’s offer of salvation and do not benefit from it. But Paul is writing to Christians who, like the Thessalonians, may have been wondering about their loved ones who had already died with faith in Christ. Will they be part of God’s saved people in heaven? Of course they will—they will rise from the dead and we will all enter into eternal life together (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Maybe we can’t say for certain what all of the subtleties and depths of Paul’s words imply. That’s a problem with us and our sinful natures, which blind us from God’s glory even when it is present in his holy word. Perhaps we should not worry so much about what “all things” means in its entirety and just be thrilled that it includes us. That’s the comfort this passage gives to me. We’re certain of this: We have peace and reconciliation through the blood of the cross. If we cannot quite make out what else this reconciliation means for God’s creation and for things “on earth or in heaven,” we know that it applies to us today.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.