The difference between contractual and apocalyptic theology is literally a world apart, in that contractual theology presumes history, law, human experience, and human intellect are an adequate or semi-adequate groundwork for prompting and recognizing the work of Christ. The scale of salvation, in a contractual understanding, is limited to humanity and tends to be focused on individuals or individual souls. It harmonizes, or attempts to harmonize, the God of the law with the image of God revealed in Christ. Any tension within Scripture between the Hebrew and Christian understanding of God is glossed over as resolvable.
Apocalyptic theology unfolds, both in its depiction of the problem and solution, on a cosmic scale. The world has been enslaved to forces of cosmic proportion which are spiritual and heavenly and physical and terrestrial. Ruling from above they have taken earth captive and have divided its kingdoms, with various spirits, religions, gods, and heavenly/earthly rulers demarking the spoils over which they reign. In turn, the story of salvation involves the entire cosmos, and as Ephesians depicts it, Christ has challenged the archons or so-called gods of the nations. We may imagine Paul is not including the God of Israel and the giver of the law as among the powers challenged by Christ. I would argue, it is precisely the one who delivered the law that is the prototype of the powers undone by Christ.
Paul, in quoting Psalms 68, which is describing David’s defeat of his enemies, translates the significance of these enemies and their defeat into the spiritual realm: “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8). He explains, “In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:9-10). The cosmos, through the original deception but through continued manipulation, has been enslaved to death and hades. The descent and defeat of the place of the dead and the ascent into heaven is a depiction of the defeat of deathly power. Human acquiescence to deadly forces has unleashed these forces onto all that mankind was to have dominion over. How exactly these powers have come to rule may not be clear, but their manner of rule is clarified in conjunction with the death dealing nature of the law.
The exact manner of the rule of the powers is specified in Colossians, which also describes what happens now that they have been defeated: “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:16–17). The specific “basic principles” which formerly enslaved and which now threaten again, are precisely those commanded in the law (I Ch. 23:21). The Colossians, like the Ephesians and Galatians, are being lured back into a Judaized Christianity, in which the law is pictured as a necessary first order arrangement (much as in contractual theology). Paul argues that, the specific way in which the reign of death is exercised is through human subjection to laws, principles and powers, which have no substance. They are lacking in truth and reality and yet these shadowy powers once reigned where Christ now reigns.
Both passages (from Ephesians and Colossians) seem to be an example of what the Apostles Creed describes as the “harrowing of hell,” or the defeat of the reign of death and those powers (or that power) which held the power of death as an enslaving instrument. Paul describes the release from captivity as a setting free of delusion, and his fear is that the Christians will forsake the truth for the lie of false religion: “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind” (Col 2:18). The worship of angels may indicate, according to F. F. Bruce, a return to Judaism, as it was not God, but angels who delivered the law. The return to the law, characterized as worshipping angels, is probably Paul’s way of deriding legalism and asceticism.
Both Stephen, in Acts, and the writer of Hebrews make it clear, the law did not come directly from God but was delivered by angels, and to mistake their message and presence for the full substance of reality is the equivalent of idolatry (a worship of angels) in deifying what is not God (Acts 7:54; Heb. 1:4). Paul takes this a step further, indicating the Lord of Israel was an angelic mediator and should not be confused with the Father of Christ. The law delivered through this “God,” along with his reign, was a mediating phase displaced by the real thing: “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made” (Ga 3:19). Paul is quick to explain that the problem is not with the mediation or the mediator, but the problem is to imagine this temporary measure is permanent or real. He is arguing that the law is temporary, but he also suggests the one doing this mediating was not God per se, but a mediator for God. “Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one” (Gal. 3:20). This mediating personage is not God and is not life giving, as his message is only partial: “For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law” (Gal. 3:21).
In 4:8 he equates returning to the law as returning to enslavement “to those who by nature are not gods.” He could be quoting the injunction from Chronicles (I Ch. 23:31; 2 Ch. 31:3) to observe and keep “Sabbaths, new moons, and set feasts.” Yet these things, which might have once been mistaken for divine ordinances, are “weak and miserable forces. . . who by nature are not gods” (Gal. 4:8-10). Is the “mediator,” this “weak and miserable force,” presumed to be God or the law or both? It may not matter, as neither is to be equated with the God revealed in Christ. “But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal. 3:22). There was no access to God, to life, or to righteousness, as this mediating system “shut up everyone under sin.”
Other than as a pointer to the reality of Christ, as the writer of Hebrews indicates, the laws and institutions making up Israel are a shadow and not the reality: “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves” (Heb. 10:1, RSV). The writer then nods toward the prophetic tradition (quoting Psalms 40) in which the voice commanding sacrifices and institutions of sacrifice (the temple, altar and priests) was not conveying the will of God: “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired. . . in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure” (Heb. 10:5-6). Jeremiah says it even more bluntly, “For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Jer. 7:22). Jesus quotes Hosea to indicate what God really wants: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt. 9:13).
Yet there are many passages where God (or a mediator) does command sacrifice and seems to enjoy the pleasing aroma of sacrifice. “The Lord smelled the soothing aroma” of Noah’s sacrifice and his anger was calmed (Gen. 8:20-21). Exodus pictures God or his messenger demanding sacrifice and finding pleasure in the smell: “You shall offer up in smoke the whole ram on the altar; it is a burnt offering to the Lord: it is a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord” (Ex. 29:18). Every indication, from a series of passages, is that the Lord commanded and enjoyed sacrifice (Gen. 8: 21; Exod. 29: 18, 25; Lev. 1: 9, 13; 2: 9; 4: 31). Yet there are an equal number of scriptures that indicate these were not commands from God: “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:9-10). “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (Ho 6:6). “I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats” (Is. 1:11). God says, you have me confused with someone else, “For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Jer. 7:22).
Whether it is, as Novation put it, that God has allowed himself to be fit to a frame of understanding “not as God was but as the people were able to understand,” or as Gregory of Nazianzus pictures it, God allowed fallen understanding to be mixed with right understanding as an accommodation, in either case the reality of God is obscured (even according to the Old Testament) in many of the Hebrew scriptures’ portrayals of God. To fail to miss the possible accommodation and to presume to make all things equal in the Bible, will amount to committing the very error Paul is warning against. Law, sacrifices, blood offerings, new moons, sabbath keeping, taken as more than a shadow, amount to idolatry. These things are in danger of becoming an enslaving god, in competition with the Father of Christ. As Paul and Hebrews indicate, the law was given through angels (lesser spirits), and these in no way attain to the reality of God.
If this is the case, isn’t it also true that the principalities and powers, the archons of the age, the thrones and dominions, Paul speaks of, may be a mixed bag of malevolent spirits and corrupted and incomplete principles, inclusive of what he calls a “bewitching” (3:1) misapprehension of the law? He equates this delusion with the principle of the flesh (3:3), with reducing Christ to nothing (2:21), with the curse of the law (3:10), and with the equivalent of a return to idolatry (4:8-9). Paul compares living under the law to enslavement to the “elemental principles of the world” (Gal. 4:3), and to trade this enslavement for freedom in Christ is nothing short of the original malignancy introduced by the serpent.
If it seems odd to suggest that many of the theophanies of the Hebrew scriptures not only fall short of the reality of God but are at times indistinguishable from fallen angels or malevolent spirits, Origen is an early example of one who equates theophanies with malignant spirits. In a section of his book, On First Principles, entitled “The Opposing Powers,” he pictures the one commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son as a malign spirit. “For he is manifestly described as an angel who said that he knew then that Abraham feared God, and had not spared his beloved son, as the Scripture declares, although he did not say that it was on account of God that Abraham had done this, but on his, that is, the speaker’s account.” He equates this spirit with the one called “the destroying angel” slaying the first born in Egypt (Ex. 12:23), with the “evil spirit from God who “came mightily upon Saul” (I Sam. 18:10) and with the “deceiving spirit” sent upon the prophets (I Kings 22:19-23). Origen recognizes that the violence of the Hebrew Bible is mitigated and to be read through the peace of Christ, so that violence and a spirit of violence is unworthy of God, let alone being identified with God.
Christ has conquered the whole mixed bag of demonic spirits, malevolent principles, enslaving powers, the archons, thrones and dominions, inclusive of those connected to the law and the giving of the law. Paul is not concerned to sort out and save the one who mediated the law from other powers. In an apocalyptic reading, in which the old world order (perhaps most clearly represented by the law) is disrupted and defeated by the work of Christ, there is no middle position between slavery to the world principles and freedom. As Paul explains, the Jew is at no advantage in this regard (Gal. 2:16-20). He might as well have said, “Go ahead and observe the law and pretend the God who sends evil and deceiving spirits which enslave mankind and which enslaved the Jews pertain to the reality of God, but understand in observing special days and months and seasons and years and in turning back to the mediating angel of the law, I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you, for this has nothing to do with the God revealed in Christ” (see Gal. 4:10-11).
 F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991). 118.
 Novatian, De Trinitate, 6, cited in Gregory Boyd, Cross Vision (Kindle Location 1563). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.  Gregory of Nazianzus, “Fifth Oration: On the Holy Spirit,” in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, trans. P. Schaff and H. Wace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), 326. Cited in Boyd, (Kindle Locations 1564-1565).