In the still moments before dawn on the first Easter Sunday, the heart of the once-crucified Christ began to beat. No heartbeat ever resounded so loudly or meant so much. No heartbeat ever brought such joy to heaven — or such dread to hell. For in the beating of his heart, we hear the words,
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18)
The moment is coming, as surely as the day follows the dawn, when every knee will bow before the Firstborn from the dead (Philippians 2:9–11). In all things, he must get the glory. He must have the first place. He must be preeminent.
Preeminent over the Darkness
On Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Jesus walked, unarmed, into the heart of “the domain of darkness” (Colossians 1:13). Body entombed, he allowed the shadows of Sheol to enfold his human soul, the valley of death to swallow him. And then, on Easter Sunday, he ransacked the darkness from within. “He is . . . the firstborn from the dead” — because, in the glorious words of the apostle Peter, “it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). The gates of darkness lie shattered beneath the feet of the Firstborn.
“On Easter Sunday, Jesus ransacked the darkness from within.”
Let death itself tell you: everything that attacks Jesus ends up serving him instead. Crucify him, and he will make the cross his throne (John 12:23). Exhaust your ammo on him, and he will disarm you in the process (Colossians 2:15). Bury him in a tomb and set your guards against it, and he will rise and send you running (Matthew 28:4). You would sooner snuff out the sun than rob the Lord Jesus of his preeminence.
And if death and the devil must serve him in the end, then so too every shred of darkness beneath them. The living Christ reigns preeminent over closed countries, crazed dictators, demonic spirits, post-Christian wastelands, and all the enemies so familiar to our own souls. Whether willingly or not, every tongue will soon confess the truth, “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11).
The nations may still rage, and the rulers of earth and hell may still set themselves against God’s anointed (Psalm 2:1–3), but the empty tomb already tells the end of the story: he must be preeminent.
Preeminent over the New Creation
From Eden onward, the children of Adam have gone from dust to dust (Genesis 3:19). Only Jesus, the second Adam, has gone from dust to dust to glory. Jesus is the first human to have a heart that will never stop beating, lungs that will never stop breathing, legs that will never stop walking, eyes that will never stop seeing. “He is the beginning” of a new creation (Colossians 1:18), over which he will forever reign preeminent.
Out of the tomb on Easter morning, God’s new creation sprung forth from the thorns of the old. The new world began — not yet in a piece of land, but in the person of the Firstborn (1 Corinthians 15:20). But he has no plan to confine the new creation to his own body: he is the best of older brothers, who can’t help but share his strength with a multitude of second-born siblings. Jesus looks to the day when he will give the word, and his brothers’ bodies will rise imperishable on a new world, fit for the family of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51–53).
From his beating heart will flow the renewal of all things. In that day, bone will find bone again, and muscle and sinew will climb back into place (Ezekiel 37:5–6). The desert will blossom like the crocus, and the wilderness will become a new and better Eden (Isaiah 35:1). The world’s groans will turn to gladness as creation opens its arms to the children of God (Romans 8:20–21). The sun, moon, and stars; trees, fields, and seas; birds, fish, and beasts will join to roar of his preeminence (Psalm 98:7–9).
Preeminent over Your Life
One day soon, every atom of the new creation will tell of Christ’s preeminence. The body of every resurrected saint will radiate his preeminence. Every tongue will confess his preeminence. As we celebrate another Easter, then, the question for us is simple: Do our lives now proclaim his preeminence?
We walk in the victory of Christ’s rising as the heartbeat of Easter becomes our own heartbeat — as we say with increasing sincerity, “Over my family, my work, my parenting, my school, my time, my money, my sexuality, my ambitions, my life — Christ must be preeminent!”
We have nothing to fear. Unlike the kings of this world, Jesus never wields his supremacy to shame, oppress, or abuse those who come to him. No: he wields it to deliver us from the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13), offer us a share in his new creation (Colossians 1:18), and glorify us with his own glory (Philippians 3:20–21). When we gladly give him the first place, we find our sin forgiven and our humanity restored.
Jesus will be utterly preeminent in just a little while, without rebel or rival pretending otherwise. And it is not only our best wisdom, but also our highest happiness, to say today and every day, “In my life, he must be preeminent.”