RULERS AND AUTHORITIES (PRINCIPALITIES AND POTENTATES)
What does “principality” mean? It is a small independent state whose ruler has the title of “prince”. And “potentate”, what is it? It is the established authority, the individual, who has the power to exercise certain functions.
The Bible makes reference to two kinds of authorities: those of heaven, and those of earth. Let us look at those of the earth, in the letter of Paul to Titus: “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:1-2). In the letter to Romans Paul goes deeper into the subject: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil” (Rom. 13:1-4).
Now the rulers and authorities of heaven: “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:11-12).
The rulers and powers of the earth have dominium over men, Christians as well as non-Christians; and Paul recommends total submission, exactly as if these rulers were God himself (Rom. 13:1-4). As to the rulers and powers of heaven (angels with authority and power), Paul commands that we put on the spiritual army and engage in deadly battle against these principalities and potentates. It is interesting to observe that all of the men in this world are under the authority of the angels, that is, the principalities and potentates. The prophet Daniel makes reference to them. There was an angelic prince over the Persians (Dan. 10:13). There was also a prince over the Greek government (Dan. 10:20). The Jews were under the authority of the archangel Michael (Dan. 10:21; 12:1).
If we are submitted to the principalities and potentates of the earth, Christians are directly submitted to the angels (principalities and potentates), which are in the government of that nation, which rule the earthly authorities. Well, the angels are in the service of Jehovah. “Jehovah has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all. Bless Jehovah, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word” (Ps. 103:19-20). Nebuchadnezzar was a dear servant of Jehovah, and got to this conclusion, which healed him of his madness: “But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’” (Dan. 4:34-35; Jer. 27:5-6). The heavenly authorities, the principalities and potentates, are adversaries of the Church—rather, of the Christians (Eph. 6:11-12). The devil is the number 1 adversary of the Church, and in the book of Revelations we read that the devil and his angels made battle against the people of God (Rev. 12:7-10). It is not difficult to see that de devil, or Satan, is part of the rulers and authorities (principalities and potentates) that are in the service of Jehovah, according to Ps. 103:20-21. The devil is, in all certainty, a potentate or prince established by Jehovah to destroy the Church. Paul said: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth nor any other created things, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 38-39).And Jesus said: “I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and He has nothing in Me” (John 14:30). Christ disarmed the principalities and potentates: “Having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostiles to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col. 2:14-15).
Since the angels are in the service of Jehovah, they are against the Church: Jehovah is against the Church. Is anyone surprised at this declaration? Well, Jehovah went against his people Israel as an adversary. Here are a few texts: Is. 63:10; Lam. 2:1-5; 2:17.
Let us look at the rulers and authorities of the earth. They were all enemies of the Church. Nero, Roman emperor (64 AC), killed thousands of Christians, among them Paul and Peter. Domitian (96 AC) savaged many thousands more. This was when John was sent to the exile in Patmos. Trajan (98 to117 AC), continued the slaughter, and in his hands Simon, brother of Jesus, Bishop of Jerusalem, died of crucifixion in 107 AC. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was thrown to the beasts (110 AC.). The Romans demanded that the person cursed Christ. If they refused, they were torn to pieces and thrown to the beasts. There were many thousands of martyrs. Marcus Aurelius (161 to 180 AC.), cruel and brutal, used beheading as a quicker method. Justin, the martyr, was killed at his hands. Blandina, a little slave, was tortured for days, repeating only, “I am a Christian”. Septimius Severus (193 to 211 AC.) daily burned martyrs, crucified them, or beheaded them. Decius (249 to 251 AC.) decided to exterminate Christianity. Multitudes died in his government under cruel tortures. Valeriano, Darius’ successor, exceeded him in cruelty, and also tried to extinguish Christianity (253 to 260 AC.). Diocletian was the last persecutor, and the most aggressive; he was so fierce that they named him “apocalyptic beast.”
If God, the Father, established the principalities and the potentates, both in heaven and on the earth, and these rulers act according to his will, then God, the Father of Jesus, is the persecutor, killer and destroyer of the Christians. But Paul reveals that God, the Father of Jesus wants to save everyone (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 4:10). Peter confirms this word (2 Pet. 3:9). And the apostle John affirms that God, the Father, is made of love (1 John 4:7-8).
Since the same spring cannot issue sweet and bitter water, we are forced to believe that Jehovah is the cruel adversary of the Church, and Satan is in his service as prince to rule in place of Jehovah. We believe also that the Father can only be seen in Christ, and not through Christ, and so he said: “If you knew Me, you would know My Father also (John 8:19). “He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” (John 14:9). And John said, “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18). For this reason Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” And John further said, “This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira