Firstborn of the Dead

In Colossians, Paul stresses the exaltation of Jesus following his Resurrection. Certain members of the congregation were confused about his authority over the spiritual powers that remained hostile to God and His people; therefore, Paul reminded the Assembly of just how highly God exalted the Crucified Christ who is now the “Firstborn of the Dead.”

The high status of Jesus is the result of his obedience unto death and his triumph over the hostile spiritual powers achieved on the Cross. The Apostle emphasizes that Christ achieved supremacy over all the hostile powers on behalf of the people of God.

Matterhorn Alone - Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
[Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash]

  • (Colossians 1:18-22) – “And HE is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, firstborn from among the dead, in order that he might become in all things himself preeminent; because in him was all the fullness well pleased to dwell. And through him fully to reconcile all things to him, making peace through the blood of his cross, through him, whether the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens. And you who at one time were estranged and enemies in your mind in your wicked works, yet now has he fully reconciled, in his body of flesh, through his death, to present you holy and blameless and unaccusable before him.”

In the Greek text, the pronoun translated as “HE” in the first clause is emphatic and stresses what God accomplished in Jesus, especially in his Death and Resurrection. He is now “before all things,” present tense.

Moreover, in him, all things now “adhere” or “hold together.” This includes his subjugation of the hostile spiritual powers. Therefore, his people are no longer under the dominion of the “principalities and powers.” All such powers were “created” originally to serve him, and since his Death and Resurrection, they do so once again, willingly, or not.

The Greek term translated as “body” or sōma is applied metaphorically to the Assembly (Strong’s - #G4983). In Paul’s view, a physical human “body” is something that God created and is, therefore, inherently good regardless of its present mortal state. The problem of the human body was never its physicality but its enslavement by sin and subjection to decay and death.


The term rendered “FIRSTBORN” points to his preeminence as the “Firstborn of many brethren.” He is the Firstborn of the Dead. That is, Jesus is the first man who was resurrected and received a glorious immortal body.

That is why he also is labeled the “Beginning.” In his Death and Resurrection, he began the general resurrection of the righteous dead and inaugurated the “New Creation.” All the benefits that God bestowed on the Assembly were the direct result of his self-sacrificial death and of his being raised “from the dead.”

His past resurrection links him to believers and becomes the model and “First Fruits” of their future resurrection. His glorified body is of the same nature as the one the saints will receive when he returns and raises them from the dead.

Likewise, the Book of Revelation calls him the “Firstborn from the Dead,” also about his past resurrection and present position:

  • John, to the seven assemblies which are in Asia, Grace to you and peace, from Him who Is, and Who Was, and who is Coming, and from the Seven Spirits which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” - (Revelation 1:4-5).

Paul also uses the term “resurrection” metaphorically in Colossians. Water baptism symbolizes the saints being “buried” with Jesus in his death so they should now live in the newness of his resurrection life - (Colossians 2:9-14).

His exaltation meant the cancellation of the ordinances from the Law that governed food and calendars. Such things are not inherently evil, and they were required by the Torah. But their time came to an end with his Death and Resurrection. The rituals of the Levitical code were “shadows” of the “substance” that cast them, namely, Jesus Christ - (Romans 6:4-5).

Therefore, believers must not allow anyone to enslave them again to the “rudiments” to which they have died in Christ (“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”). Since they have been raised together with him, they must pursue the things above - “Where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.”

Glorious Day - Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash
[Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash]

When Jesus is again “
manifested,” his people will also “be manifested in glory.” This “manifestation” refers to his return at the end of the age. His followers will receive “glory” at their resurrection from the dead.

Paul links this future “glory” to the present glory of Jesus and the coming bodily resurrection of believers. The connection is especially prominent in the designation “Firstborn of the Dead.” He is the first one to be raised from the dead, the forerunner of all those who will be resurrected when he returns - (1 Peter 5:4, 1 John 2:28, 3:2).

As in many of his letters, the bodily resurrection of the saints is foundational to Paul’s understanding of salvation and the life of the disciples of Jesus in the age to come, and that hope is based on the past bodily resurrection of Jesus.

  • The Last Enemy - (The arrival of Jesus at the end of the age will mean the end of the Last Enemy, namely, Death - 1 Corinthians 15:24-28)
  • He Nullified Death - (Paul reminded Timothy of Christ’s own resurrection since false teachers were denying the future resurrection of believers)
  • Redemption of the Body - (Paul links the bodily resurrection of believers to the New Creation, and both events are part of the promised redemption – Romans 8:1-23)



Ekklésia - Assembly of God

Going on to Perfection