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I am aware of the other question on this site regarding this verse, but this one is slightly different, see: What does "reconciling all things" mean in Colossians 1:20?

Yet, I want to understand the phrase "things in heaven".

"and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross." (Colossians 1:20)

Q: What is there to reconcile in heaven?

{Assuming that in heaven it is holy, undefiled, and in no need of reconciling?}

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  • 1
    There are three major heavens, the Greek is plural but this requires only two of the three for the plural to still hold true. It would stand to reason that everything in and below the firmament, meaning the first two heavens are at play for certain. I can’t imagine what is in the third heaven that is not already God’s, therefore not requiring reconciling. Defectors don’t have access beyond the firmament. The first heaven would be all things of nature and from above the clouds to the firmament is the location of the heavenly beings, some of which are defectors. Good question. Feb 11 at 3:11
  • 1
    @Nihil Sine Deo Makes sense, I remember learning that somewhere, namely: 1st, 2nd & 3rd Heaven as scriptural truth.
    – Cork88
    Feb 11 at 3:58

4 Answers 4

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The simplest answer to this question is found in

Eph 6:12 - For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We have a similar reference in

Eph 2:2 - in which you used to walk when you conformed to the ways of this world and of the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the sons of disobedience.

Paul does not define what these "dark forces" in heavenly realms are. However, whatever they are will need to be resolved and reconciled as per Col 1:20 (quoted by the OP).

Thus, it appears that in Paul's cosmology, some Satanic forces exist in the heavenly places (whatever that means). Ellicott has a similar view as expressed in his comments on Eph 6:12:

The spiritual hosts of evil are described as fighting in the region above the earth. But the meaning underlying this figure surely points to the power of evil as directly spiritual, not acting through physical and human agency, but attacking the spirit in that higher aspect, in which it contemplates heavenly things and ascends to the communion with God. As the former idea corresponds to the gross work of temptation on the high mountain, so this to the subtler spiritual temptation on the pinnacle of the temple.

Benson has a slightly different view:

[Eph 6:12) heavenly places. Those who translate it in the former way, think the expression refers to those places where they rebelled against the God of heaven, and drew in multitudes who were before holy and happy spirits, to take part with them in their impious revolt. But it seems more probable the sense is, about heavenly places; namely, the places which were once the abodes of those spirits, and which they still aspire to, as far as they are permitted; labouring at the same time to prevent our obtaining them.

In any case, the result is the same, there are things and heaven and on earth contaiminated by sin that must be reconciled and Col 1:20 asserts that Christ's work will attend to ALL these things.

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  • Good answer, +1. I guess we will have to see at the consummation! Can’t wait. Mysteries abound.
    – Cork88
    Feb 11 at 4:44
  • It would seem that defining αποκαταλλαξαι plays an important part in this question. Reconcile is too broad in the English, even if you know what you mean by it, it’s not obvious to the rest of us. I don’t disagree with your posting Feb 11 at 5:02
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It is important not to interpret this passage in a way that would contradict the clear teaching of other scriptures. The phrase “reconcile all things to Himself needs interrogation - in the light of other scripture.

Therefore, unrepentant people and fallen angels must be excluded from the things that will be reconciled to God. Satan’s kingdom is spoken of as being under the earth (Philippians 2:10) and in the lower parts of the earth (Ephesians 4:9). So, all those damned to hell will not be ultimately reconciled to God. This verse is speaking of all things in heaven and on earth coming back into harmony with God.

The things on earth that will be reconciled to God include those individuals who have put saving faith in Christ. The animal creation (Romans 8:19-21), as well as this physical world, will be renovated and reconciled to God (Revelation 21:1). What are the things in heaven that will be reconciled to God, if demonic powers are excluded?

Apparently sin affected not only people and this world, but the whole universe and heaven itself. It is possible that the deterioration that we see evident in this world extends throughout the heavens. The Scriptures speak of war in heaven where Satan and his angels were cast out and down to the earth, and their place was found no more (Revelation 12:7-9).

This war may have caused scars on the universe that will be purged. Whatever place Satan occupied must be vile and therefore must be cleansed. Certainly, the demonic presence of Satan before the throne of God (Job 1:6 and 2:1) brought some defilement to the glory of heaven. Jesus will bring all of the creation in heaven and on earth back into the glorious harmony that was originally intended.

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  • Good answer, +1 - However I am confused with what you said here: “Satan’s kingdom is spoken of as being under the earth (Philippians 2:10) and in the lower parts of the earth (Ephesians 4:9).” I am a little confused by that statement since Satan will ultimately be subdued “under the earth” in eternal fire, see: Revelation 20:10. Yet, I am not necessarily trying to debate you here; I’m just seeking clarity. If there is disagreement I can “chew” on what you said there.
    – Cork88
    Feb 11 at 3:57
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    @Cork88 Mmmm, … the ‘concept’ of Satan’s kingdom being located ‘under’ [or specifically, the lower parts of] the earth is easily able to be [exegetically] argued - except doing so as a comment isn’t.
    – Dave
    Feb 11 at 4:18
  • There is a "therefore" and an "apparently" in your answer that lack your ambition to keep to "the clear teaching of other scriptures." I can't really see that your answer is anchored in the texts. Could you embellish, conservatively. letting the texts speak? Feb 11 at 4:53
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The first place I look when seeking understanding of a phrase, verse, or passage is in the previous verses. Col 1:15-16 states

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created, things 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.

Note that "things in heaven and on earth" are describing things that came into being at creation. The Greek translated "heaven" is the same word translated "heavens" in verse 20. Thus, we can reasonably conclude that the heavens in verse 20 are that part of creation that is "above" the earth. If the heavens referred to are part of creation, then they are part of what is addressed in Romans 8:19-22 - where we are told that "The creation waits in eager expectation", having been "subjected to futility". "... the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time."

Thus, we can see that the "things in heaven" are simply those parts of the sin-corrupted creation that are not on earth: i.e. the atmosphere, space, the planets, stars, and other "heavenly bodies" which our astronomers study. This is supported by the use of the pairing of "on earth" and "in heaven" as a single whole which is to be reconciled, just as Genesis 1:1 pairs them: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

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  • Makes sense actually, +1
    – Cork88
    Feb 11 at 22:01
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The same all created in him are the same all reconciled back to Him.

All means all.

Definition: all, every Usage: all, the whole, every kind of. HELPS Word-studies 3956 pás – each, every; each "part(s) of a totality" (L & N, 1, 59.24). 3956 /pás ("each, every") means "all" in the sense of "each (every) part that applies." The emphasis of the total picture then is on "one piece at a time." 365 (ananeóō) then focuses on the part(s) making up the whole – viewing the whole in terms of the individual parts.

It is the same all.

Here are some scriptures that mention that all things.

All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. John 1:3

knowing that the Father has given Him all things into the hands, John

Sovereign Lord, You made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, Acts 4:24

The God having made the world and all things that are in it, He being Lord of heaven Acts 17:24

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. Rom. 11:36

yet to us there is one God the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we through Him. 1 Cor. 8:6

it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never fails 1cor. 13:7

For "He has put in subjection all things under His feet." But when it may be said that all things have been put in subjection, it is evident that the One having put in subjection all things to Him is excepted. 1Cor. 15: 27

and when things have been subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all. 1Cor. 15:28

for the administration of the fullness of the times, to bring together all things in Christ--the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth--Eph. 1:10

all things He did put under his feet, and did give him — head over all things to the assembly, 23which is his body, the fulness of Him who is filling the all in all, Ephesians 1:22

to enlighten all what is the administration of the mystery having been hidden from the ages in God, the One having created all things, Ephesians 3:19

who, by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself. Phil.3:21

in Him all things were created, things in 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. Col.1:16

and He is before all, and all things have consisted in Him. Col. 1:17

and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace by the blood of His cross through Him, whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens. Col.1:20

I charge you before God, the One giving life to all things 1 Tim.6:13

And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.” Rev.21:5

Everything will be reconciled through the cross, Jesus took away not just mans sin, but the sin of the world.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:9

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 1: John 4:14

Jesus Christ and God the Father are a successful Savior of their entire creation. It will be played out in the next few ages for all to see. Love Never Fails and God is Love.

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  • Romans 8:19-21 seems to imply redemption for only the children of God, what do you mean by all? Are you espousing all of “a certain group”? Or “all mankind” somehow being redeemed? The scriptures you quoted were in various different contexts.
    – Cork88
    Feb 11 at 8:03
  • @Cork88 I listed many scriptures that says all things. You can look up each of those Scriptures in context and tell me if all things means all things. Do you believe all those things mentioned are the same all things mentioned in Col.1:20,? through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.
    – Sherrie
    Feb 11 at 15:31
  • Are you espousing Universalism??
    – Cork88
    Feb 11 at 17:10
  • I am only looking at these scriptures. Enemies are who need to be reconciled back to God, His enemies in the heavenly realm as well. You either believe that through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross. Or you don't believe all things will be reconciled back to Him. You believe only some things will only be reconciled back to Him. That's fine.
    – Sherrie
    Feb 11 at 19:14
  • You quoted a lot of Scripture; that makes me convinced you believe all of the Bible, right? If so, how do you square "all things" as even those whom God did not spare? "For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;" 2 Peter 2:4 - If the whole of Scripture is to be taken into account, judgment will come and judgment will remain, see: (Romans 2:1-16, Matthew 25:31-46, John 3:36, Revelation 22:11, Revelation 22:14-15) The Scriptures at the close of the canon show judgment remains.
    – Cork88
    Feb 11 at 20:00

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