“From the Domain of Darkness to the Kingdom of His Son” (Colossians 1:13-20)

Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 20, 2022

“From the Domain of Darkness to the Kingdom of His Son” (Colossians 1:13-20)

Our reading today from Colossians says that God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” And this gives us our outline for today’s message: first, the domain we’ve been delivered from; second, the kingdom we’ve been transferred to; and third, the Son whose kingdom it is.

First, the domain we’ve been delivered from. St. Paul describes it as “the domain of darkness.” This is what God has delivered us from. And thank God he has. For this is a domain from which we could never rescue ourselves. “The domain of darkness” describes the lost condition in which we were born and in which we would still be stuck, if not for God’s intervention and rescue. The domain of darkness is the devil’s domain of doom and death. In his realm and under his sway, the devil deceives us into thinking we are our own gods, independent of the will of our Creator. And we all too easily go along.

The domain of darkness. The world is lost in the darkness of sin and unbelief. The people of this world are groping around in the dark. They don’t know God. They can’t find their way to him. Oh, they may figure that there must be a god or gods up there somewhere. Nature, reason, and conscience can tell them that. From nature they can observe that there is an intelligent design to all of this. It could not have come about by accident. Likewise, reason tells them that must be a Creator behind all of this and a purpose to our existence. Their conscience tells them that there is a standard of right and wrong, which they can know since God has written his law in human hearts. People can sense that there is a god to whom we are accountable, but that somehow things are not right between us and God.

Nature, reason, and conscience can give us this sort of natural knowledge of God. But it is not a saving knowledge. It does not tell us who this God is or how he is disposed toward us. It does not tell us how we get right with him. And it does not solve the death problem. These are questions the people of this world have no answers for–not right answers, anyway. So they’re just groping around in the dark, guessing, grasping at straws, making things up as they go along.

The domain of darkness is a bad place to be. And you and I would still be there, trapped, stuck, if God had not intervened. He undertook the big rescue mission. God sent his own Son into this hall of death, this domain of doom and gloom and darkness. Jesus took on the devil on his own turf. Or at least the devil thought it was his own turf. It isn’t, but it was under his temporary sway. Like Pharaoh enslaving the Israelites, so Satan held us in slavery and bondage. But also, like Pharaoh, Satan was about to get cut down to size.

And so Christ came, doing the big rescue job. Born as our brother, sharing our humanity, the Son of God came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation. The devil went after him from the get-go, trying to kill him, along with the other baby boys of Bethlehem. That didn’t work. So the devil went after him again, at the start of Jesus’ ministry, right after his baptism in the Jordan. The devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, just like he tempted Adam and Eve in the garden and the Israelites in the wilderness. But again, it didn’t work. Jesus withstood the temptation.

Jesus then went on the offense, driving out demons, healing diseases, fulfilling the law, forgiving sins, exposing hypocrisy, teaching his disciples. This did work, and it worked beautifully. But Satan didn’t give up. He’d give it one more try. Yeah, get someone to betray Jesus, hand him over to the authorities, get him sentenced to a shameful, humiliating crucifixion. “Ah, Satan, this time you’ve done it! You’ve won!”

Uh, maybe not. Satan, you are pretty stupid, when compared to God. Because, actually, this crucifixion was part of God’s plan. It didn’t look that way the time. It looked like the domain of darkness was winning. Deep darkness came over the land, the mockers mocked, and Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But this actually was God’s rescue plan–his daring, dramatic plan, put into action. This was the only way for humanity to be saved, to be delivered from the domain of darkness. The penalty for sin had to be paid, and we couldn’t pay it. Our sacrifice wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans. But Christ’s death does measure up, and then some. For he is the very Son of God, fully able to pay the price for all sinners who have ever lived. Jesus is the holy, righteous one. He kept God’s law in perfect righteousness. As the Son of God in the flesh, his death, his shed blood, has infinite worth.

And so this rescue mission, this deliverance, did work. “It is finished!” Christ cries out. The goal has been reached. All the sins of man have been atoned for. The devil’s domain has been shattered. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The resurrection of Christ shows forth his victory. Death is defeated. God and man are brought back together. Peace, reconciliation, forgiveness–all accomplished in the cross of Christ. Life–new, eternal life–springs forth from the empty tomb.

And this is for you. You, dear friend, have been delivered from the domain of darkness. No more are you groping around in the dark. You are baptized. You have been enlightened with the gift of the Holy Spirit. You know who God is. The true God is the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You know how God is disposed toward you. He is merciful toward you. He loves you with an everlasting love. You know how you are put right with God. Not through you own works, which could never suffice. But through the saving work of Christ, for you, on your behalf. Thus you know the answer to the death problem. It is, quite simply, Jesus Christ himself. Through faith in him, you are moved from death to life.

God has delivered us from the domain of darkness, our text says, “and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Our citizenship has been changed. No longer are we in the devil’s domain. Now we have been transferred, relocated, to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. This is Christ’s kingdom, the one he came to establish. In this kingdom, we have redemption. “Redemption” is a word of liberation, freedom. Redemption means release from a state of bondage, by means of a payment being paid to set the person free. The payment that secured our release was the blood of Jesus Christ, which is all-sufficient. And so, in the kingdom of Christ, we have the forgiveness of sins. “Forgiveness” means that our sins have been removed from us. God has sent them away, lifted them off us. God doesn’t hold our sins against us any longer. For Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

God has “transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Luther sums it up like this, in his explanation to the Second Article of the Creed: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

And this is most certainly good news! Living under Christ in his everlasting kingdom of glory–this is the great transfer we will get to enjoy for eternity. This is the transfer we rejoice in even now, because right now you and I are living in his kingdom of grace.

God has delivered us from the domain of darkness. He has transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. Now Paul, in the rest of this passage, tells us more about who this Son of God is. This part of Colossians, in its form and style, looks like it may have been an early hymn of praise to Christ, used in the church. It goes like this: “He,” that is, Christ, “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

This is who your Savior is! Look at who it is who has rescued us! Look at who it is, this king of the kingdom to which we belong! He is the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the one by whom all things were made. He holds all authority in heaven and on earth. He is the head of his body, the church. Yes, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ right now is ruling all things for the sake of his church. And that’s us. He has our welfare in mind in all that happens in this life. Christ is the beginning of the resurrection of the dead, meaning that you too are going to rise, on the day when he returns. He is the God-man Savior, both true God and true man, all powerful and, at the same time, our sympathetic and merciful brother. Jesus Christ–through him God has reconciled all things to himself, “making peace by the blood of his cross.”

This is the great gospel of Christ: who he is, the very Son of God, and what God has done for us through him: God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. This gospel, this good news, this sure anchor of our salvation will sustain you to the end, through all adversities and trials. This gospel of God’s grace, which even now fills you with hope and joy, will carry you through into the age to come, in the everlasting kingdom of glory.

Published in: on November 19, 2022 at 7:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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