The Immensity of God’s Resources, Part 2 of 3, (series: Lessons on Ephesians)
by John Lowe
21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
This verse denotes both the extensiveness of Christ's kingdom, and the eternalness of it; for it reaches to both worlds, and is over everything in them, and it lasts to the end of this age, and goes on to that time which is yet to come.
“far above all rule and authority,” refers to both good angels and bad angels, and may be applied to civil magistrates. The general sense of this verse is that the Lord Jesus was exalted to the highest conceivable dignity and honor (compare Philippians 2:9; Colossians 2:10). In this beautiful and most important passage, the apostle labors for words to convey the greatness of his perception of the Lord Jesus, and uses those which denote the highest conceivable dignity and glory. The "main" idea is that God had manifested great "power" in thus exalting the Lord Jesus, and that similar power was exhibited in raising up the sinner from the death of sin to the life and honor of believing.
The difficulty with this verse does not arise from the words themselves, the meaning of each being easily understood, but from the sense in which the apostle uses them. Some think he has made reference here to the different orders among good and evil angels; the Lord is superior to all the former, and rules all the latter. Others think he refers to earthly governments; “rule” (power), the first word, denotes the most sovereign and extensive kind of dominion and lordship, the last word, signifies the lowest degree of authority; hence we are to understand that to our Lord, in his human nature, are subjected the highest, the intermediate, and the lowest orders of beings in the universe.
Christians ought to know the extent and glory of the power brought to bear in their salvation. The word rendered “far above” is a compound word, meaning "high above," or greatly exalted. He was not merely "above" the ranks of the heavenly beings, as their head; he was not one of their own rank, placed by His office a little above them, but He was infinitely exalted over them, seeing that He is of different rank and dignity. How could this be if he were a mere man; or if he were an angel? The word rendered "rule" means "the beginning;" and then the first, the first place, power, dominion, pre-eminence, rulers, magistrates, etc. It may refer here to any rank and power, whether among people or angels, and the sense is, that Christ is exalted above all.
Good angels may be called “power and dominion,” because of their service under God in the execution of Divine intervention, and the government of this world; and Christ is not only above them, because He is God and their Creator, who has made them, and on whom they depend. He is the Lord whom they serve and the object of their worship and adoration, and he is Mediator, to whom they minister, and so He is above them in nature, name, and office; but also, he is man, in union with the Son of God; and here He is said to be above them on account of
His position at the right hand of God—“To which of the angels did God ever say,‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’” (Hebrews 1:13). The answer, of course, is “none of them,” since that is the sole prerogative of Christ.
Bad angels may be called, “power and dominion,” because of the government which exists among them, and the power and influence they have over mankind. Christ was above them when He was here on earth, as evidenced by his resisting the temptations of Satan, and defeating him, by dispossessing devils from the bodies of men, by destroying them and their works at His death; and by him leading them captive, and triumphing over them at his ascension, and by delivering souls out of his hands at conversion, through His power accompanying the preaching of His Gospel; and His being above them will be even more apparent, when He binds Satan for a thousand years, and in the final condemnation of him, and of all his angels under him.
Civil magistrates are sometimes called by these names, and Christ is above them; they receive their leadership abilities from Him, they rule by Him, and are accountable to Him, and are set up and put down at His pleasure. All these entities possess “power and dominion”(Greek; “Lordship”); but the first seems to be who Paul has in mind. The general idea is that Christ is elevated above all ranks of creatures, however exalted, and by whatever name they may be known.
“and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” That is, God has empowered Him with uncontrollable authority over all demons in hell, and angels in heaven, and all the princes and potentates on earth; “and every name that is invoked”(Every creature of every rank.). “Name” is used here for the person who possesses the authority signified by that name. We know the king is above all, though we cannot name all the officers of his court, likewise we know that Christ is above all, though we are not able to name all his subjects; “not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” The invisible world, in which the angels in the former part of the verse rule, is called “the one to come,” not because it does not yet exist, but because it is to come to us. It is certain that the apostle means that all created power, glory, and influence, are under Christ, not only in this world, and not only above all kings, and princes, and rulers of every grade and rank on earth; but also in that which is to come. This refers undoubtedly to heaven. The meaning is that he is Supreme over all.
We may observe here, that of the four different names given to good angels in this verse(“rule and authority, power and dominion,”), only two are given to evil angels, (Ephesians 6:12) and to men (Luke 12:11). From this, we learn, that there are different orders and degrees of government and subordination among good and bad angels in the invisible world, as among men in the visible world. We don't completely understand the ranks of the angelic realm, but we do know that Jesus is raised above them.