Friday, June 7, 2024

The Gospel and the Powers In Heavenly Places

(EPH. 3: 9-11) ... 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord...

Have you ever noticed these verses? I know you've read them and had them read to you, but have you ever stopped to contemplate them? There are some very deep, very strange ideas in there.

What do you see in that verse there? There are (at least) three very important points:
1) Something was hidden from the very beginning.
2) It is now being revealed by the church to the "principalities and powers in the heavenly places".
3) It has to do with what Jesus accomplished.

VERY deep stuff there.

How often have you heard messages about this? God has sent the church to deliver a message about what Jesus has done not necessarily to the world (only) but to some vague spiritual authorities. Not often, I'd wager.

What do you not see there?
The law.

You can imagine these verses to be speaking about a range of things, but among the least likely is the Old Covenant law.

Was the law hidden? No. The law was a lot of things but hidden is not one of them. So the thing hidden was not the law.
Was the law being revealed? No. It was never hidden, so it was not being revealed by the church. One thing Armstrongism has stressed over the years in order to maintain its own sense of election is that the law is only revealed to those who have the Holy Spirit in-dwelling. If the law is being revealed to those outside the church, that claim would have to be false.
Was the law what Jesus accomplished? Jesus did fulfill the law! Of these three points, the law only seems to fit here. That would be fine if this point stood alone, but it does not. Taken all together, the law only fits 1/3 of the equation. So, it is not a good fit after all.
Just look at the target audience - spiritual authorities. Are spirit beings going to be surprised by a weekly Sabbath? "Curses! Foiled again by doing nothing for one in seven days! Why didn't we see this coming? If only there had been like a Decalogue or something." No. The law is not a good fit.

If the law is the least likely, what is the most likely to fit all three?
The Gospel.


I need to briefly remind you of the Gospel.

If you are not from an Armstrongist background, you might be wondering why I am about to explain the Gospel. The answer is because what Mainstream Christianity understands the Gospel to be is not what Armstrongism understands the Gospel to be.

As a rapid summary, Armstrongism believes the Gospel to be about the coming Kingdom of God and how those who follow Herbert Armstrong's message of Old Covenant law-keeping will be promoted to rulers in the Millennial period. They teach the Gospel is not about Jesus Christ or His accomplishments or the salvation by faith. Now, many will say that's a grossly oversimplified summary. Granted. It is. But it is nonetheless accurate, and this post is not about what Armstrongism believes the Gospel to be. I am only mentioning this at all to show the contrast.

If one were to ask us at ABD how we would summarize the Gospel, we would say it is thus:

“Jesus was a literal man as well as literally God. The second person of the godhead became a man, lived to fulfill the law and the prophets, died as a propitiation for our sins, and was resurrected in fulfillment of scripture on the third day. This was planned before the foundation of the world. His death destroyed the Old Covenant and ratified the New Covenant. He now lives in Heaven as the executor of the promises of God towards us, the undeserving beneficiaries. Man was hopelessly condemned to death, and the Gentiles disinherited from any participation with God and given over to the rule of idolatrous gods. Israel was called as a means to bring the Messiah into the world. Jesus the Messiah paid the ransom in full to redeem mankind from death and idolatrous gods, to tear down all that separates Jew from Gentile, fulfill God's justice, to offer God's mercy and grace, and to finish the work of salvation. The Gentiles are at long last again invited to participate with God. By humble faith in Jesus Christ, a Christian receives absolute forgiveness of sin as well as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and with the Holy Spirit comes participation in the body of Christ, and with participation in Christ comes inheritance with Christ in such things as the promise God made to Abraham. The proof of the Spirit's involvement is fruitful Christian growth throughout our lifetime; we will never come near to perfection in this flesh. Therefore, salvation is absolutely guaranteed - for the faithful who remain in faith - by the life, death, and life of Jesus Christ our Savior, and nothing besides. It is by promise, not by law. This is God's good pleasure. Glory to God!”

Do you see how that fits better than law? That Gospel message was hidden but not impossible to find, it was revealed by Jesus, and it is an affront to the powers. And that's what Paul leads with in Ephesians 3.

We have a lot more detail on the Gospel at the very top of our FAQ page.


I needed to briefly review the Gospel so I could review the Great Commission.

The Great Commission, which most people recognize, is:

(MAT. 28: 18-20) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Armstrong taught "observe all things that I have commanded you" is a reference to the Old Covenant law. I disagree. But that's beside the point. I want to focus on something else. Once again, there is something hidden here. It is hidden in plain sight, and it goes hand-in-hand with Ephesians 3.

Note how it starts with a declaration of Jesus' authority. Why? Because, precisely as Paul says in Ephesians 3: 10, one of the purposes of all this is for the church to proclaim a message to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. It is not just God's wisdom, it's not just His accomplishments on the cross, it's not just the gift to mankind, but His intent and His authority to accomplish His intent.

To say this as plainly as I can --
God disinherited the Gentiles after Babylon, giving them over to idolatry and demons. Israel alone was kept by God as His people (DEU. 32: 9). With Jesus, the Gentiles are now reclaimed by God, taking them away from idolatry and demons. That message to be delivered is, to take a phrase from the television show The Apprentice, "You're fired!" The church by its very nature proclaims this message to those powers.

So, when I say the Gospel fits all three, I hope you can now see why I say that.

The commission Jesus gave to the Apostles was to get the ball rolling. The time of the powers is over. Go into the world and win people back to God away from the powers in heavenly places that oppress them. And the Apostles would call disciples to join themselves to the Body of Christ, and they would call others, and so on and so forth until this very day.

When Jesus was here, He took the Apostles to the temple of Pan at Caesarea Phillipi and that is where He purposefully initiated a conversation that led to Peter confessing He is the Son of God, and where He predicted His death and resurrection, and where He told them to follow Him (MAT. 16). This is yet another summary of the points Paul made.
This was all done for an important reason. He stood at a temple of the powers and proclaimed His identity, His authority, and His mission right in front of them. He declared war. The powers were about to be replaced and their people taken from them. And from this point on, His ministry was headed full-steam to the cross.

In the same way, Jews from areas controlled by these powers were preached to by Peter on that first Pentecost. In the same way, Paul was sent to areas controlled by these powers. These were all the same areas mentioned in Genesis 10, which we call "the table of nations."

Do you see how it all fits? All was for a reason. All had a purpose. All the biblical narrative flows. God is working in stages to restore Eden.


The law, which was introduced to guard Israel during that period between Abraham and Jesus, was never intended to reclaim the Gentiles. The Old Covenant and its law specifically excludes the Gentiles. It cannot be the message spoken of here. It was only intended to guard Israel until their destiny could be realized (GAL. 3: 19). The law is not the message to the powers in heavenly places that their reign over the Gentiles has ended. The church being joined to Jesus in faith is.

God called Abraham shortly after the Babylon event. He called a Gentile first to be the father of Israel and later to be the father of all the faithful. Israel, as rebellious as it often was, is owed a debt of gratitude by all Gentiles for the purpose they ultimately fulfilled despite themselves - the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah had come and the usefulness of the Old Covenant was depleted. The New Covenant was instituted. (Read all of Galatians 3.) The breach at Babylon is healed, the Gentiles are no longer disinherited, and God is taking back what is rightfully His.

This was always the plan. It was a hidden plan.

(I COR. 2: 6-8) 6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The law we knew. It excluded us and killed us. The Gospel, on the other hand, we did not know. It welcomes us and gives us life.


Did you know you are to give a message to powers in heavenly places? You do now!

This message is one the powers will not appreciate receiving - Jesus is Lord and He is taking back what is His.

This is a post about the Old Covenant law and the Gospel, and how the message of Christianity is not about Sabbath-days and meats. The Gospel really is about Jesus Christ after all, and our participation with Him in faith.

The base message of Armstrongism is primarily in two parts: the Old Covenant law, and the second coming of Christ. In this view, from the days of the Apostles until the second coming, the church is a tiny and insular group that practically hides form the world. Its main message is to sit around once a week avoiding pork and making sure "Church of God" is somewhere in your group's name. How is this of value given what we read in Ephesians 3?
It isn't. Only the Gospel explains what we read in Ephesians 3.

Once again, we find what Herbert Armstrong taught is off the mark.

Now, don't hate me for this, but I intentionally left this post a little vague. I am not going deep into explaining these things. I am not reviewing the details of how God's intent was hidden in plain sight from Abraham's day. I am not telling you who these powers are. I am not explaining why Jesus had all authority at his resurrection but to this very moment we still we see these powers are active in the world. I am not touching on the second coming and what ultimately is the end of these powers. I do this for a reason. I hope to whet your appetite to explore this line of thinking more deeply on your own.

This is a gigantic topic, dear reader. If you want to explore it you might want to be ready for a wild ride. Take my word for it!

God bless you and keep you.


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11



Miller Jones/Lonnie C Hendrix said...

Great post. The full context in the English Standard Version makes it clear what Paul was and wasn't talking about:

Ephesians 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is[a] that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[b] 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, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

xHWA said...

Glad you liked it!
That is a great translation here. Very clear. Thank you for sharing.