“When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2‬:‭15‬ ‭

What instance is Paul referring to here?

  • As in, the act of salvation generally, or more specifically his death or his resurrection?
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 27, 2022 at 2:09
  • Yes, I’m generally confused about what Paul is referring to here, since he talks about disarming rulers and also making a “public display of them” (which seems like a specific instance but I’m not sure)? Dec 27, 2022 at 2:37
  • 2
    Just an FYI, the subject of ἀπεκδυσάμενος in v. 15 is God the Father, not Jesus. The change of subject from Jesus to God the Father occurs at the end of v. 12: “...God, who raised him from the dead”. Dec 27, 2022 at 4:32
  • 2
    If you question centered around when was this done openly specifically παῤῥησία then this should be a word study because the time chronologically is evident from the text, during the crucifixion. Dec 27, 2022 at 15:00

5 Answers 5


Rulers maintain their authority by the power they wield over their subjects. They usually have a legal authority, so that they have the power to punish subjects who deserve punishment. Yet usurpers grab power and mercilessly wield it by force. But in the first chapter Paul reminded Christians that Christ is before all authorities, and over all authorities, having rescued his people from visible and invisible thrones, lordships, principalities and authorities (vss. 16-17).

He then shows that Christ delivered believers from the punishment they deserve, which the perfect law of God demands be no less than death, by bearing that punishment in their stead; by being delivered up to death himself. Yet the triumph of his resurrection proved that he achieved the victory over all other powers and authorities. At his crucifixion, we are told, God blotted out the handwriting in the ordinances that were against us, taking them out of the way by nailing them to the cross (2:15). Then believers could 'die to sin' and rise again to newness of life, in Christ's death and resurrection.

This was what stripped the principalities and authorities of their powers, because the strength of the law had been defeated. The liberated had already 'died' and were already 'risen', no longer slaves to sin, because of what Jesus achieved on the cross. The cross was a public display, which all the world came to know about. That was when the righteous judgment of God was satisfied, once and for all time. Here is how the matter is explained in this book:

"As to principalities and powers and the like, angels withal, that were of the darkness of this world, they were spoiled. The fall of man had been their rise; the sin of man their establishment; the death of man their glory; and the law given to men their strength: 'The strength of sin is the law', 1 Cor. 15:56

This side of death the law of commandments contained in ordinances was both immutable and inexorable. As alive in this world, the law bound, yoked, condemned, and cursed men. So long as they remained living upon the face of the earth, the law was against them, and contrary to them. There was no deliverance from it, yet they could never keep it. It cursed men to death, and after death was the judgment. Hence, through fear of death, because of the law, all their lifetime they were subject top bondage.

But the Father sent the Son, the Son took the law of commandments contained in ordinances, and he nailed it to his cross. Moreover he brought us by that cross into death, through the grave, by resurrection, into the glorious liberty and inheritance of the hope of the gospel.

Alive beyond death, where was the law? Nailed to the cross in this present world where man was alive in the flesh. But the saints were dead. They were not reckoned to be in the flesh. The law could not then - nor can it for eternity - be brought over the great gulf fixed by the finality of death.

Death was the final sentence, the ultimate demand, and the last word of the law. Death satisfied each lawful demand and every legal sanction. It also took all the authority out of the hands of principalities and powers, leaving them stupified and helpless. Thus Christ delivered us, made an open show of them, the meanwhile magnifying the law and making it honourable." Colossians, pp. 53-54, John Metcalfe, 1994

Further, Christ was raised to glory, to reign on high. No wonder Jesus said he saw Satan fall like lightning just with the power of Christ's name causing demons to flee! No wonder the last book of the Bible depicts the casting down of Satan and his demons to earth after the heavenly woman's man-child was born and taken up to heaven (Luke 10:18, Rev. 12:1-12).

Conclusion: So, it is the risen, crowned King who leads the triumphal procession (spiritually speaking). All those powers and authorities have been made captive to Christ who has won the victory over them, and there is no doubt about the prophecies relating to their destruction coming to pass at the ordained time, because Christ is risen! He disarmed them at his resurrection, even though they try to carry on. But those believers who know they have been liberated by Christ are not fooled by the desperate deceptions that originate with the cast-down Satan, working through earthly powers. Their end is assured because the victory has already been won; it's just a matter of time before their judgment is displayed universally.

  • Very edifying. Very expressive. Resoundingly up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 28, 2022 at 16:44

Isn't the answer in the context? The previous verse says that Jesus "cancelled the bond which stood against us by nailing it to the cross". So v15 would have to refer to the next events, the resurrection and ascension. These events "disarmed" the principalities and powers by reversing and nullifying what they thought they had achieved.

As for "public display", this is part of the image of the returning victorious general, with captives being dragged behind him in his procession. Because God is victorious, he gets the imagery which goes with this idea. But at the moment the display is "visible" only to the eye of faith.


Col 2:14, 15 (BLB) having blotted out the handwriting in the decrees against us, which was adverse to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed the rulers and the authorities, He made a show of them in public, having triumphed over them in it.

There are a series of important clues in Col 2:13-15 that make the timing of this event certain, namely, at the crucifixion. These are:

  1. Col 2:15 is an allusion to the Roman habit of making public spectacles of various events such as triumphal parades of victors, public parades of prisoners including the very public spectacle of crucifixion. It was at the cross that Jesus experienced BOTH of these in the same event - he was publicly humiliated, but it was this same crucifixion by which Christ became the victor!
  2. Col 2:15 cannot be referring to the resurrection because nobody witnessed the resurrection. However, by conspicuous contrast, many people witnessed the crucifixion - see appendix below.
  3. The text of Col 2:14, 15 actually tells us when Jesus triumphed, it says it was at the cross. Note the "it" at the end of Col 2:15 whose antecedent is "the cross" at the end of V14. (Some versions make this explicit.)
  4. As if to confirm this, when Jesus died on the cross, His last words were, "It is Finished", John 19:30. With the death of Jesus, the great atonement of sacrifice (1 John 2:1, 2) was complete (John 19:28) - nothing could be added or removed. Mankind's salvation was complete.

About John 19:30, the Pulpit commentary observes:

Verse 30. - (d) "It is finished!" - the great victory of completed sacrifice. When he had received the vinegar, he said (τετέλεσται), It is finished! ... John simply adds the climax, and leaves the Divine, inscrutable, mysterious fact in its awful grandeur. The world's debt was paid. The types and symbolism of the old covenant had been adequately fulfilled. The mighty work, undertaken by him who would realize the expectations of the oldest prophets and the unconscious prophecies of heathendom, was done. Every iota and tittle of the Law had been magnified.

APPENDIX - Witnesses of the death of Jesus

The death of Jesus was a "public display" (Col 2:15). The eye-witness accounts of Jesus' death:

  • Matt 27:50 - "... Jesus … yielded up the/his spirit", or, he "breathed his last". That is, he stopped breathing and died. The guarding centurion also observed the death, v51.
  • Mark 15:37 - " … Jesus … expired". That is, He stopped breathing and died. The guarding centurion also observed the death, v38.
  • Mark 15:44 - When Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, Pilate was surprised he was already dead, so he asked a centurion to check that Jesus was dead. The centurion confirmed it so Pilate released the body to Joseph. A Roman centurion is a trained killer and an expert in telling if someone is dead.
  • Luke 23:46 - " … expired". That is, He stopped breathing and died. The guarding centurion also observed the death, v47.
  • John 19:30 - "He [Jesus] said, 'It is finished!' And he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." That is, He stopped breathing and died.
  • John 19:33 - the soldiers did not break Jesus' legs because he was already dead. (Roman soldiers were trained killers and knew how to tell if someone was alive or dead!)
  • John 19:34 - just to be absolutely sure, one Roman soldier took a spear and pierced his side - this would have been a trust of the spear up under the rub cage into the heart. If Jesus were not dead before he would certainly have been dead afterward. As a result, a mixture of blood and water emerged suggesting that he really was dead indeed!
  • John 19:35 - the apostle John says he witnessed these things personally and testifies that these facts are correct.

Some have suggested that there were no disciples and very few people who actually saw the death of Jesus but that is not true. All Roman crucifixions were done to achieve two objectives - to completely humiliate the victim and to provide some cheap ghoulish entertainment for the masses - thus all crucifixions were attended by crowds (Luke 23:48).

It is also said that all the disciples deserted him in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:56) but Peter (and some others) followed at a distance to observe the trials ((Matt 26:58). Specifically, we know that the following named people observed the death of Jesus:

  • Simon of Cyrene, another disciple, who carried the cross Matt 27:32, Luke 23:26.
  • Joseph of Arimathea who asked Pilate for the body Luke 23:50-53.
  • Nicodemus who visited Jesus by night John 19:39
  • Cleopas and his friend Luke 24:13-21 who were travelling to Emmaus on Sunday.
  • Many women and others associated with Jesus (Luke 23:49) such as Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary's sister Martha, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Matt 27:55, 56, Mark 15:40, John 19:25. This also included (at least) John as recorded in John 19:26, 27.
  • It is also recorded that many of these same people accompanied the dead body to the tomb to see where it was laid so that could embalm the body on Sunday morning. Matt 27:61, 28:1, Mark 15:47, 16:1, Luke 23:55, 24:10, John 20:1.
  • One of the soldiers, specifically a centurion observed Jesus' death and was so moved that he gave praise to the (Jewish) God of heaven Matt 27:54, Luke 23:47. Another pierced him with a spear to ensure His death and a soldier also reported the fact to Pilate Mark 15:44, 45.
  • Many of the Jewish leaders, including the chief priests, observed the crucifixion and death to ensure that Jesus died and that their troublesome citizen was finally disposed of. Matt 27:41-43, Mark 15:31
  • In the NASB the OP quotes, the "it" at the end of verse 15 is translated as "him" (many versions prefer "him" over "it") How do you know it's an "it" and not a "him."
    – Austin
    Dec 28, 2022 at 9:03
  • @Austin - It is true that αὐτῷ can be either dative masculine or dative neuter; that is either "it" or "him". If the choice is "him" then we need to find the antecedent which would either be "Christ" or God". That would be a productive question on its own. I prefer "it" as it make more grammatical and theological sense. In either case, the thrust is the same - Christ triumphed over his foes because of His death on the cross.
    – Dottard
    Dec 28, 2022 at 9:20

The rulers were disarmed at the cross.

How is this act proofed and manifested?

  • This was proven when the Holy Spirit was given (see Eph 4:8)
  • Also this does not in any sense mean the war between heaven and hell is over. This takes the war to a different level as described in the same book in Col 3:5-10. This disarming of the rulers gives us victory in our fight against sin in our lives

OP asks "when did Jesus disarm rulers and authorities!

The word translated disarmed is used one other time which gives more meaning to the verse in question. It also means stripping off.

◄ 554. apekduomai ► Strong's Concordance apekduomai: to strip off from oneself Original Word: ἀπεκδύομαι Part of Speech: Verb Transliteration: apekduomai Phonetic Spelling: (ap-ek-doo'-om-ahee) Definition: to strip off from oneself Usage: I strip, divest, renounce. HELPS Word-studies 554 apekdýomai(from 575 /apó, "away from," which intensifies 1562 /ekdýō "go down and completely away from") – "completely strip off," thoroughly renounce. The double prefixes (apo, ek) strongly emphasize the depth of the renouncing. This "renunciation (stripping right off) is very emphati

What was nailed to the Cross was Christ's body which contained the sin of Adam and all his descendants.

In whom you were circumcised also with a circumcision not made with hands, and the stripping off of the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ. Colossians 2:11

This body of flesh is where the authorities reigned. Now that this body has died and buried it's no longer a vehicle for the authorities and rulers to reigns in. Their rights are gone. Just as Adam represented the head of all men, now Christ the second Adam represents the new creation where sin no longer indwells men.

This display was shown by God raising the second Adam, Chist out of the dead, where God's life now dwells.

The celestial creation had to of seen all this displayed where as it is now being made known through the body of Christ.

This new life is being shown in believers. They are the ones displaying the triumph of Christ's victory over the sovereignties and rulers.

Christ's Body was united with Adam's body of sin on the cross. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law completely and Adams body in union with Christ body has now nullified sin. Sin has been taken away by being buried in Christ body. The headship of All sovereignty Is now under Christ.

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