Updated: Oct 28, 2021
And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven, Colossians 1:20.
In a previous post I had made the point that the Apostle Paul will never say "blood", "offering" or "sacrifice" without having a specific one in mind. One of the reasons that I have my students so carefully analyze the Pauline Epistles and to learn the Levitical Sacrifices is to open their eyes to that principle. In Colossians 1:20, the Apostle Paul draws our attention to the "blood of his cross". The first thing that I would ask my students is; "When is there blood on wood in the Levitical offerings?"
The obvious answer to that is the sacrifice made for a leper when he is cleansed in Leviticus 14. This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest: And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper; Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop: And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water: As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water, Leviticus 14: 2-6.
When a cleansed leper presented himself to the priest, one of the things that had to be done was to dip cedar wood into the blood of a sacrifice. It is good to familiarize yourself with Leviticus 14 because Jesus ordered a leper that he had cleansed to show himself to the priest. The priest then had no choice but to follow the procedure of Leviticus 14. For the moment we will look at the blood on the wood.
When I began to look at that verse in other versions, I fully expected them to change the wording so that the verse no longer emphasized the blood actually being on the cross. In actuality, of the bibles that I most often see competing for the affections of unwitting people, only the NIV did so; and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
To my surprise, the New King James Bible, the ESV and the NASV kept the wording intact.
NASV: and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross[a] [through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven.
NKJV: and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
ESV: and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Instead of getting rid of the "blood of his cross" they changed the order of the wording and effectively destroyed the cross reference to Leviticus 14. In order to understand why the order of Colossians 1:20 is important, it is necessary to examine the role of the priest in Leviticus 14. Before the priest could reconcile the cleansed leper with the congregation and with the tabernacle, he had to take the living bird, the cedar wood and the hyssop and dip them in the blood of the bird that was slain. We now have blood on the wood. By doing so, the leper is now at peace and he can perform the rest of the cleansing rituals prescribed in verses 8-11.
What follows is one of the truly remarkable sacrifices of the Mosaic Law. The sin and the burnt offerings made for the cleansed leper are both sacrificed in the holy place. That is the place behind the veil that contains the incense altar, the table of shewbread and the candlestick. And he shall slay the lamb in the place where he shall kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the holy place: for as the sin offering is the priest's, so is the trespass offering: it is most holy, Leviticus 14:13.
There simply is no other time when a sacrifice is actually offered in the holy place. The first lesson that should be learned from this is that God's love for the leper is a special love. Imagine the priest after Jesus Christ sent the cleansed leper to him. He had to go into that holy place and actually kill animals. The priest could never reconcile that leper with the congregation and with the tabernacle if that leper had not first made peace with the live bloody bird, the bloody wood, and the bloody hyssop which were dipped in the blood of the sacrificial bird.
Now look at Colossians 1:20. There is an order to what happens. First, God makes peace through the blood of his cross. Then and only then, does he reconcile all things unto himself. He reconciles things in heaven after he makes peace through the blood of the cross. Just as the sacrifice for the cleansed leper is done in the holy place, and just as that cannot happen without a bloody piece of wood, heaven itself is reconciled in Colossians 1:20. If we change the order of the verse, we destroy all of that.
The other versions do the reconciliation first, then they make peace through the blood of the cross. That is unlawful. Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust, 1st Timothy 1:9-11.
Sound doctrine can and should be judged by the law itself. Paul goes to great lengths in his writings to show that what he writes is lawful. According to Paul, heaven itself needed to be reconciled. After all, Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight, Job 15:15. The devil has walked the corridors of heaven with impunity. Jesus Christ made peace through the blood of his cross and then reconciled all things unto himself.