A Commentary by John Stott

Ephesians. 1:15-23. b). Jesus Christ’s enthronement over evil.

Having raised Jesus from among the dead and out of the domain of death, God *made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places* (verse 20). That is, he promoted him to the place of supreme honour and executive authority. In doing so, he fulfilled the messianic promise of Psalm 110:1: ‘The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Reminiscences of this verse are to be found not only in the references to God’s ‘right hand’ and to Christ’s being made to ‘sit’ there, but also in the later statement that God has put all things ‘under his feet’, thus making them his ‘footstool’. In Psalm 110 his footstool consists of his ‘enemies’. It seems safe to assume, therefore, that the ‘principalities and powers’ above which he has been exalted (*all rule and authority and power and dominion*) are here not angels but demons, those ‘world rulers of this present darkness’ or ‘spiritual hosts of wickedness’ against which Paul later summons us to fight (6:12; see discussion there of the identity of these ‘powers’), although, to be sure, they have not yet finally conceded Christ’s victory (1 Cor.15:25; Heb.10:13). The more general expression which follows, *every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come* (verse 21b), may be added in order to include angels as well, indeed every conceivable intelligent being, over whom Christ reigns in absolute supremacy.

That all things are now under the feet of Jesus is probably also an allusion to another strand of biblical teaching. Adam made in God’s likeness was given dominion over the earth and its creatures, and did not altogether forfeit it when he fell into disobedience. On the contrary, the Psalmist in his meditation on the record of man’s creation in Genesis 1 addresses God in these words: ‘Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea…’ (Gn.1:27-28; Ps.8:6-8). Yet man’s dominion has been limited by the fall, and is distorted whenever he exploits or pollutes the environment, whose responsible steward he was originally appointed to be. So the full dominion which God intended man to enjoy is now exercised only by the man Christ Jesus: ‘We do not yet see everything in subjection to him (sc. man). But we see Jesus…crowned with glory and honour…’ (Heb.2:5-9). Already Jesus has dethroned death, and one day this ‘last enemy’ will be finally destroyed (Heb.2:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:25-27).
Tomorrow: c). Jesus Christ’s headship of the church.

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.