The Spiritual War-The Rulers Of This Age

It is written:

1 Corinthians 2:8-which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

In our study of the spiritual war that we are involved in, we come now to investigate this phrase “rulers of this age.” While many believe this phrase only has reference to the worldly rulers who ordered Jesus crucified (such as Pilate and Herod), there is a great deal of evidence that the Apostle is actually discussing Satan and the evil spiritual angels governing the nations of our world. Clinton Arnold elaborates:

“There are a number of good reasons, however, for believing Paul intended his readers to think of demonic rulers when they read this passage. First, Paul used the term “ruler” (archon) elsewhere for Satan. In Ephesians 2:2, for example, Paul described Satan as “the ruler (archon] of the kingdom of the air.” On one other occasion, he did use the word for human rulers (Rom 13:3), but the important point to establish here is that the word was part of his vocabulary for referring to an evil spirit-being. Second, it is more natural to interpret the demonic rulers as being “wiped out” (katargeo) than the human rulers. Later in the same letter he said Christ must destroy (katargeo) the powers of darkness (“all dominion, authority, and power”) before he hands over the kingdom to God the Father (1 Cor 15:24). He also used the word katargeo to refer to Christ’s slaying of the satanically inspired “lawless one” during ing the time of great distress at the end (2 Thess 2:8). He never used the word for the ultimate doom of unbelieving humanity. It is significant that the writer of Hebrews also used the word katargeo with reference to the evil spiritual realm-by his death Christ “destroyed” the devil (Heb 2:14). Third, this interpretation best explains Paul’s argument in this passage. In the larger context Paul was acclaiming the inscrutable wisdom of God. This wisdom is the essence of Paul’s message and is imparted by revelation of the Spirit to believers. He belittled human wisdom as useless for understanding God’s ways. He now advances his argument by showing that not even the angelic powers could understand the secret wisdom of God. Fourth, Paul probably used the word ruler for evil angels because it was part of the wide array of terminology for evil spirits in Jewish tradition at the time. Furthermore, it likely carried the connotation of exceptional power and authority in the hierarchy of evil spirit-beings. This is especially true when we realize it was a title for Satan. The use of the word “ruler” (archon) in Judaism for evil angels can be illustrated by its appearance in the second century B.C. Testament of Simeon. In this document Simeon allegedly gave the reason for his jealousy and hatred of his brother Joseph: In the time of my youth I was jealous of Joseph, because my father loved him more than all the rest of us. I determined inwardly to destroy him, because the Prince [archon] of Error [or “deception”] blinded my mind so that I did not consider him as a brother nor did I spare Jacob, my father. (Testament of Simeon 2:6-7)’ This text also illustrates the tendency of later Judaism to rewrite patriarchal history by attributing demonic involvement to events. Finally, the word “ruler” (archon] was also part of the early Christian vocabulary for the satanic. The “prince [archon] of this world” is one of John’s most common expressions for the devil (see Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). An example of its use by the Apostolic Fathers can be seen in the late first-century Epistle of Barnabas: There are two ways of teaching and of power, the one of light and the other of darkness…. On the one are stationed the light-giving angels of God, on the other the angels of Satan. And the one is Lord from all eternity and unto all eternity, whereas the other is Lord (archon) of the season of iniquity that now is.5 Paul held the demonic rulers responsible for Christ’s death. He assumes that these powers of Satan were working behind the scenes to control the course of events during the passion week. It was not a part of Paul’s purpose to explain exactly how these demonic rulers operated . At the very least we can imagine they were intimately involved by exerting their devious influence in and through Judas, Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas, and by inciting the mob.’ (Clinton E. Arnold, Powers Of Darkness: Principalities & Powers In Paul’s Letters, 102-104 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)

The rulers of this age worked to crucify the Son of God, even as they work against us today. Yet just as Jesus arose from the dead and conquered these forces, so our victory in Him is assured!

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