In the first two pieces, we looked at sin as a relational act of rebellion against our Father that exists at the community level as well as a personal level. We’ll build on this as we look at sin at a more cosmic level. This is challenging because what we’re told in Scripture leaves us with as many questions as it does answers (which could be said about quite a few things).
There are lots of texts that provide us with a peek into this invisible world of spiritual forces. Paul reminds us in Colossians 1 that Jesus is the firstborn “over all creation” and goes on to speak of “things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him” (v. 15-16). Since everything that was created was good, all of these powers were made to promote goodness and harmony in the universe created through Christ.
But for some reason (and the Scripture does not go into detail), things didn’t remain this way. Just as there was rebellion in the visible world of humans, there was rebellion in the spiritual world (presumably prior to creation). We’re told of angels who sinned (2 Peter 2:4) and these appear to be the same beings Jude has in mind when he speaks of how they “abandoned their proper dwelling” (v. 6). So Paul will speak of “powers of this dark world” and “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).
Whatever else is true of Jesus’ coming into the world, it’s obvious that a confrontation is taking place between the spiritual forces of evil and the incarnate Son of God. Mark’s gospel tracks this as immediately after Jesus’ baptism “at once the Spirit sent Him into the wilderness” where He is tempted by Satan (1:12-13). From there Mark tells us of a man possessed by an impure spirit. He is in a synagogue no less but when Jesus commands the spirit to leave and it has to obey Him (v. 23-26). The people of Capernaum bring to Him more people possessed by demons and He not only drives them out but refuses to let them speak (v. 31-32). Jesus speaks of these actions as plundering the strong man’s house (3:27).
John uses his own vocabulary to communicate the same truth. Satan is spoken of as “the prince of this world.” Jesus wages war against him through a life of joyful obedience to the Father so that Satan has “no hold over Him” (14:30) and “stands condemned” (16:11). It is at the cross Paul will tell us that Jesus “disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).
Sin most obviously exists at the individual level where it is personal and prolific. It is also manifested at a corporate level in the reformatting of structures and cultures. Finally, it exists at the cosmic level in the invisible spiritual forces of evil. The cross is where Jesus secured forgiveness for my sins? Yes, that’s true but there’s so much more. It where sin was defeated at every level! It’s why Paul will say, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Now that’s glorious news!