Citizens of the Kingdom of Light

Citizens of the Kingdom of Light

(Colossians 1:12-14)
by Bob Burridge ©2021

For little children, when the lights go out at night,the room can fill up with imaginations. It’s specially frightening as they try to make sense out of this new world they’re living in. There in the dark they hear sounds or see shadows that can suggest all sorts of things. Not seeing what causes them, they sometimes imagine strange creatures or intruders. It’s hard for them to accept the counsel of sleepy but loving parents who try their best to assure them that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

As they get older, they’ll come to understand that it’s much more likely that there’s a branch scraping on the window in the wind, than that a crazed monster is trying to find a way in. One day they’ll learn that the monsters were just imagined dangers.

Since we have a whole eternity to grow in our awareness of spiritual realities, we are all just children getting started at understanding the whole universe around us. Like our children’s struggle to find comfort in the dark we fall for the deceptions of Satan and our fallen souls. Evil tries to keep us in the dark about the real hope and comfort that belong to us in Christ.

Things that aren’t true can enslave us as long as the lights aren’t turned on. While Satan and evil are very real, the power they project around us is a sick illusion. They offer us false satisfaction in the deceiving enticements which are really moral poisons.

The Bible often uses this analogy of light and darkness to help us understand that the looming shadows hide mere lies, and that there’s great comfort even when the light is dim and we can’t see all we’d like to see. God, as our Redeemer, turns on the lights to let us see what is really, or not really, there.

In Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae, his opening prayer was in thankfulness to God.

We are transformed from the domain of darkness,
into a kingdom of light.

Colossians 1:12-14
12. giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
13. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
14. in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

First, he makes it clear that there is a domain of darkness. Movie makers know that dark scenes can create a sense of fear, foreboding, and danger. Bright scenes can make the viewer have more positive feelings. Even children know that turning down the lights makes scary stories seem all the more frightening. When we can’t see all that’s there, our imaginations are stirred to fill in the missing parts. When the lights go on, the illusions of the mind are exposed as being nothing at all.

When it comes to crimes darkness is a perfect covering. He imagines that no one can see what he’s doing, so that he won’t get caught. In human culture and language, darkness has come to represent the lurking place of evil.

Here the Bible speaks of a domain of darkness. The word translated “domain” here is “ex-ousia” (ἐξουσία) which means “power, authority”. This means there is a spiritual realm where evil moves with God permitted power. God has permitted such a realm for good reasons. It displays God’s justice and power in judging evil. When he delivers the undeserving from its grip it shows his great power, love, mercy, and grace.

We dare never forget that though there be evil kings and lords, there is only one who is King of all kings, and Lord of all lords.

Romans 13:1 reminds us that ” … there is no authority except from God … ” There’s no power, in earth or in heaven, that is independent of God’s sovereign rule. Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will.”

What then is this domain of darkness? It’s a false kingdom with pretended power holding deceived hearts by lies costumed as promises. This is the domain of blind submission to the pretender to glory, Satan himself. Ephesians 6:12 warns, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” This darkness enslaves and blinds all who remain in its grip.

Where there is no light to see the truth, the mind imagines fantasies. This is why children turn the scraping of branches on a window into the sounds of beastly claws, or shadows on the wall into looming monsters. Satan, and the depravity of our own fallen nature, use spiritual darkness to do the same thing. They keep us in subjection with enticements that have no power to satisfy. They make us live in a dark world, instead of the glorious world outside of the dark shadows. They show us shadows that make us cower in fear not seeing what we ought to love and cherish.

It’s a world of illusions and deceptions, of lies and superstition. It’s a place where the truth is covered over and the light itself is condemned.

Paul then makes it clear that there is also a kingdom of Christ. In contrast to the domain of darkness, this is a kingdom of light. It’s a place of truth, of reality and open honesty — the opposite of the false kingdom. It’s not an illusion of authority and power. Its the real inheritance of the Children of God.

Paul said it about the same way when he explained his calling in Acts 26:18, There he quoted Jesus. Jesus said he came “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

The truth is displayed in the work of Jesus Christ who rescues his people from among the lost and blind. Since he brings men out of moral and spiritual darkness, in John 8:12 Jesus called himself “the light of the world”. He reigns over the all things, even over the darkness of Satan’s deceptions.

In Ephesians 1:21-22 Paul says that Jesus Christ is, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,”

This is the true kingdom, the reign of the Sovereign Triune God. Just a few verses later Paul reminds the Ephesians how they were once in a kingdom of darkness. 2:2, “in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– ” In 1 John 1:5 the Apostle John tells of the work of Jesus saying, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

But there’s more. Far beyond just knowing that such a kingdom of light exists …
Paul tells us that we’re transferred by Christ into that new kingdom. By grace he moves us out from under the deceptive lies of Satan, and into the true dominion. The ESV translates 1:13 this way, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” Literally it says we are “delivered out of the authority of the darkness, and transformed into the kingdom of the Son of his love.”

When the power of God transforms us by grace, our eyes are opened to see what is real. The light is turned on and we are enabled to see what casts the shadows. We see the dangers in the dark room and can avoid them. We see the sources of true comfort and blessing that we might take hold of them in humble gratitude.

This transformation is an inward change, not just a change in citizenship. Our own citizenship in the United States is a wonderful privilege. Many foreign born people clamor to come under our constitution and protections. But citizenship papers don’t change the person.

However, by becoming members of the Kingdom of Christ, we are made heirs of light. It transforms our hearts as well as our membership. We are called to be in the world, not to be conformed to its ways, but to be serving as lights to the world. Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In 1 John 1:6-7 we see the expected effects of that transformation into the kingdom of light: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

We were all part of a fallen race of people, spiritually blinded in darkness, enemies of the God who made us, deserving nothing less than his eternal wrath. But God, as our conquering king, made a loving covenant which we didn’t deserve. In Christ, he calls us to be changed: 1 Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

The promises to God’s covenant people are not just for the future. Every believer is immediately translated into that Kingdom when he is born again.

We who are redeemed are right now citizens of that kingdom which is above all others. In his Kingdom we have a share with all other believers. As joint heirs with Christ we reign with Him! His Kingdom will be perfected when Christ returns. Sin and evil will be removed forever. The blessings will become eternal.

But even now, Christ our king is King of kings. While earthly leaders come and go, rise and fall, our Lord reigns over the affairs of men. There’s no enemy that can do what our king won’t permit. There’s no need that our king cannot meet for his people.

When the light in our soul begins to shine, we begin to see the hand that moves the storms, that calms the wind and controls the floods.

Who are we that we have been given that light? That we have been rescued from our darkness? The answer is humbling: We are nobody of our selves. Our King has earned our citizenship for us. Colossians, 1:14, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

That’s how we’re changed into citizens of the Kingdom of Light!

There was an Old Testament law that governed paying a ransom to free a bond-slave. Until his debt was paid, he remained in bondage. God instituted that law to illustrate our bondage in darkness, our chains of sin and death. Christians are set free from that bondage by the payment for sin in Christ’s death.

We are redeemed from the ownership of the powers of darkness, delivered from the dominion of evil. Ephesians 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Earlier in Ephesians that’s how Paul explained this purchase: Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,”

Notice that here in the ESV Colossians 1:14 it just says, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The King James Version follows a few ancient Greek texts of this verse: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” Whether the blood of Christ was mentioned originally here in Colossians or not changes nothing. Ephesians 1:7 supports what it says. Our redemption came with the price tag of Calvary.

The ransom has been paid by God’s sovereign grace. We’re purchased from the grip of sin, from the leadership of Satan with whom they will spend eternity. It’s one thing to have to be in an annoying place for a long time. But its made far worse by the company they will have to endure while there. And what makes it all the more horrible is for the sinner to realize is that he fits in with such company and belongs there. But that’s what we deserve too. Except the price was paid by Christ to ransom us by grace.

The cost of that purchase is beyond our comprehension. We often hear on the news of the national budget, of the debts of the nations. We hear of not just billions, but trillions of dollars. Though we may know the mathematics of it, we have no real appreciation of its enormity.

The Beatle Paul McCartney become the first music billionaire! That’s incomprehensible. A gift of a hundred thousand dollars would certainly solve any debts any of us have. Being given a million is probably beyond our most extravagant financial dreams. But a billion? That’s a thousand million. A trillion is a thousand billion! How can we comprehend such an amount?

The infinite price paid on Calvary is even more beyond our grasp. We may learn about it in Sunday School. Or hear of it in sermons. But to appreciate what that means, is beyond our human grasp.

Since our moral debt is paid, we also have full forgiveness of our sins. This is real forgiveness. Not just a debt ignored.
It’s a debt paid! guilt removed! hearts transformed!

There’s no longer a moral barrier between us and God when we believe in Christ as our Savior. He has transferred us into his own kingdom! into his spiritual family! There we can learn a new way of life, and turn away from the old.

But as Calvin warned: wherever his grace is not, there is darkness. If we’re transformed by Christ we’re no longer in the darkness.

The evidence of this transformation of citizenship is a transformed character. We can publish your name as a member of a Church. We can place the covenant sign and seal of baptism on you and your children. But we can’t change your kingdom citizenship. Only God’s work of Grace can do that.

To make our calling and election sure, we need to make sure our sincere hope is in the finished work of Christ. The evidence is a changed life living as citizens of the light.

The prophet Isaiah, long before Jesus fulfilled the promise on Calvary, wrote in Isaiah 60:1-4, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.”

Jesus applied that prophetic promise to the church he founded by his blood. He said in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Though we struggle, we endure with joy because we are not stranded under the domain of darkness. It’s time for us to stand firm, believing what God has promised, acting as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom.

Paul’s warning in Ephesians 5:6-10 says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

[Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.]

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