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When the apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa, he gave an account of what happened to him on the road to Damascus. Jesus, he said, was sending him to the Gentiles "to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:18).

When Paul wrote to the Colossians he portrayed their salvation in almost identical terms: You have been given a "share in the inheritance of the saints" and have been delivered "from the domain of darkness and transferred" to "the kingdom" of Christ, in whom is found "the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:12-13). This, Paul says, is why our gratitude is to be fervent and joyful!

The Bible clearly indicates that there are two and only two spiritual realms, and all mankind belong in one or the other. There are not multiple religious options, each of equal saving value. Those who do not as yet know Jesus Christ are in the realm of darkness, subject to the authority and power of Satan. The apostle John said it in unmistakable terms when he declared that "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19). By the "whole world" John means everyone and everything that is not in Christ by faith.

The irony, of course, is that few, if any, who are under the authority of Satan and walking in spiritual darkness feel as if they are. If anything, they are entirely persuaded they live in light and freedom and power. In fact, they are utterly blind, in bondage to the enemy, and powerless to extricate themselves by their own efforts.

The word Paul uses in v. 13, translated "domain" (ESV), is the standard Greek word for "authority," which indicates an active power or energy that Satan exerts over those who are his. His dominion is characterized by darkness: intellectual, moral, and spiritual. No matter how high one's IQ, no matter how expansive one's financial portfolio, apart from Christ you are under the authority of Satan and subject to the power of darkness. No matter how musically gifted you may be, no matter how athletically endowed and honored, apart from Christ you lie in the power of the evil one.

If you ever felt you needed a good reason to share the gospel with an unsaved neighbor or a co-worker in the office, this is it. Don't be misled by what appears to be worldly success. Burgeoning careers, civil behavior, the respect of their peers, backyard barbeques, and children who score high on the ACT notwithstanding, they are in the power of the evil one, energized by the domain of darkness.

There is only one hope, for them or us. It is the forgiveness of sins that is found only in Jesus Christ. Give thanks joyfully to the Father, says Paul, for you were once as they are, thinking yourselves wise when in fact you were fools, reveling in a freedom that only deepened and intensified your bondage.

But God has "delivered" you from Satan's tyranny and has placed you under the loving and kind authority of his Son. To be "transferred" (ESV) suggests the notion of being uprooted from one kingdom and transplanted into another.

This is the kingdom or rule or reign of God's own "beloved Son" (v. 13b). This is a stunning description of Jesus, if only because he is the one who became the object of the Father's eternal wrath.

But how can this be? If the Father truly loved the Son, surely he would not have exposed him to such horrific suffering. How can the Son be the "beloved" of the Father and yet also the object of his wrath and judgment? Such is the glorious, soul-saving, redemptive mystery of penal substitutionary atonement.

It is possible because the Son and the Father are united in their love for the elect and together entered into a covenant to redeem them from their sins. This could only be accomplished by the Son willingly and freely offering himself as a substitute who would wholly absorb in himself the wrath of the Father which those for whom he died deserved.

Had Jesus not satisfied the wrath of the Father, we would still be under the dominion of darkness, held captive in our sins and subject to the authority of one who hates us. But thanks be to God, joyful and whole-hearted thanks (!), because he has, at great and unimaginable cost to himself and his beloved Son, extricated us from the grip of Satan and now embraces us with an eternal and irrevocable love.

Praising God for deliverance,