You know how it is in our cynical world: someone tells you they’ve got good news for you… and bad news. They give you the good news but you’re already steeled for the letdown. “What’s the bad news?” The bad news that follows always eclipses the good news.
It is not so with God. With Him, the bad news is first. Then the good news.
Here is the bad news as set forth by the apostle Paul.
And you… who were dead in trespasses and sins
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the age of this world, according to the prince of the authority of the air, the spirit that now worketh in [energizes] the children of the disobedience;
Among whom we all had our conduct in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:3).
This is the grave diagnosis of the human condition. Let’s look at it a little closer. “And you,” Paul says. He is writing to people who were once in Adam, but are now in Christ (Eph. 1:1). What then was their former state? What is the state of all those in Adam? He says they are “dead in trespasses and sins.” They are “the children of disobedience.” Actually in the Greek it’s “the disobedience”—Adam’s disobedience, which opened the door for an alien spirit to begin working in him, and consequently, because he was the head of the race, in all his progeny. Every person born into the human race is in a state of spiritual death because the Serpent succeeded in exporting his own sin into the world through the disobedience of Adam. This is what Paul says in Romans 5. “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed through unto all men, because all sinned…” (Rom. 5:12). A few verses later Paul talks of death reigning (Rom. 5:14,17). And so death is not just an event that terminates mortal life. Death reigns over all those in Adam from the moment they are born to the end of their life. Even while they go about their lives in this world, they are in a state of death. They are, as we read here in Ephesians, “dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in times past ye walked…” All those in Adam are, then, as all those in Christ once were, the walking dead.
That is their state. And they are under a domain. “…Wherein in times past ye walked, according to the age of this world…” Being dead in trespasses and sins, their walk (their way of life) accords with this present age, which is an evil age—“this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). This age has a prince over it whose domain is “the air.” Paul is not really talking about the physical atmosphere of our planet, but the “atmosphere” of this present world system in which people attempt to thrive even while dead in trespasses and sins, building their world even while denying they are in a state of rebellion against God. It’s all largely the attempt to be independent of Him, free of Him. It’s the greatest of bondage, they are far from free; they are under the rule and authority of another, they walk “according to the prince of the authority of the air…” Who is this prince, who has authority over the air? He is a spirit. “…The spirit that now worketh in [or, energizes] the children of the disobedience.” It’s Adam’s disobedience, as we said. But going deeper, it’s the disobedience of this angelic prince who rebelled against God some time prior to the events of Genesis Chapter One. We are told very little in our Bible about this rebellion, but we are shown its essence in Isaiah 14 where the prophet is given revelation as to what happened in the heart of a heavenly being once named Lucifer.
For thou hast said in thine heart,
I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the Most High.
Note the refrain. “I will.” The insistence, “my throne.” It was rebellion against the will of God, and the throne of God. And back in the Garden of Eden this prince succeeded in bringing Adam into his rebellion. The day that Adam bit into the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was disobedience to God, and he died for it. Actually it was Adam who was bitten that day by the poisoned-tongued Serpent. In that moment the venom of the Serpent began to course through his being, and he died. Now all in Adam have in their systems this Serpent’s poison, this prince’s fundamental principle: not God, but I. Not God’s throne. My throne. Not God’s will. My will. I will, I will, I will… They are the disobedient children of Adam’s disobedience, dead in trespasses and sins.
“…Among whom we all had our conduct in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:3).
That is the bad news. It is very bad news. That is why our world is in the state it is in. All those in Adam have been poisoned with the venom of the Serpent. They are dead, and dying, because of it. They are “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). And no man has in himself or in all his worldly resources any serum capable of remedying this condition.
“And you…” It was with those two words that Paul began to relay the bad news.
“But God…” With these two words he begins to proclaim the good news that follows the bad news. That is God’s order. First the bad news. Then the good news. His good news is the Gospel—the Glad Tidings, the Good News—of Jesus Christ. It is very good news, unspeakably good news, utterly eclipsing the bad news.