By him ( ἐν αὐτῶ )
Rev., in Him. In is not instrumental but local; not denying the instrumentality, but putting the fact of creation with reference to its sphere and center. In Him, within the sphere of His personality, resides the creative will and the creative energy, and in that sphere the creative act takes place. Thus creation was dependent on Him. In Christ is a very common phrase with Paul to express the Church's relation to Him. Thus “one body in Christ,” Romans 12:5; “fellow-workers in Jesus Christ,” Romans 16:3. Compare Romans 16:7, Romans 16:9, Romans 16:11; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 4:15, etc.
All things ( τὰ πάντα )
The article gives a collective sense - the all, the whole universe of things. Without the article it would be all things severally.
Were created ( ἐκτίσθη )
See on John 1:3. The aorist tense, denoting a definite historical event.
Visible - invisible
Not corresponding to earthly and heavenly. There are visible things in heaven, such as the heavenly bodies, and invisible things on earth, such as the souls of men.
Thrones, dominions, principalities, powers ( θρόνοι, κυριότητες, ἀρχαὶ, ἐξουσίαι )
Compare Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Romans 8:38; Colossians 2:10, Colossians 2:15; Titus 3:1. In Titus 3:1, they refer to earthly dignities, and these are probably included in 1 Corinthians 15:24. It is doubtful whether any definite succession of rank is intended. At any rate it is impossible to accurately define the distinctions. It has been observed that wherever principalities ( ἀρχαὶ ) and powers ( ἐξουσίαι ) occur together, principalities always precedes, and that δύναμις power(see Ephesians 1:21) when occurring with either of the two, follows it; or, when occurring with both, follows both. The primary reference is, no doubt, to the celestial orders; but the expressions things on earth, and not only in this world in the parallel passage, Ephesians 1:21, indicate that it may possibly include earthly dignities. Principalities and powers are used of both good and evil powers. See Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15. The passage is aimed at the angel-worship of the Colossians (see Introduction); showing that while they have been discussing the various grades of angels which fill the space between God and men, and depending on them as media of communion with God, they have degraded Christ who is above them all, and is the sole mediator. Compare Hebrews 1:5-14, where the ideas of the Son as Creator and as Lord of the angels are also combined. Thrones occurs only here in enumerations of this kind. It seems to indicate the highest grade. Compare Revelation 4:4, θρόνοι thronesA.V. seats, and see note. Thrones here probably means the enthroned angels. Dominions or dominations, also Ephesians 1:21. Principalities or princedoms. In Romans 8:38, this occurs without powers which usually accompanies it.
All things ( τὰ πάντα )
Recapitulating. Collectively as before.
Were created ( ἔκτισται )
Rev., correctly, have been created. The perfect tense instead of the aorist, as at the beginning of the verse. “The latter describes the definite, historical act of creation; the former the continuous and present relations of creation to the Creator” (Lightfoot). So John 1:3. “Without Him did not any thing come into being ( ἐγένετο , aorist) which hath come into being” (and exists, γέγονεν , see note).
By Him and for Him ( δι ' αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν )
Rev., better, through Him and unto Him. See on Romans 11:36. Compare in Him at the beginning of the verse. There Christ was represented as the conditional cause of all things. All things came to pass within the sphere of His personality and as dependent upon it. Here He appears as the mediating cause; through Him, as 1 Corinthians 8:6. Unto Him. All things, as they had their beginning in Him, tend to Him as their consummation, to depend on and serve Him. Compare Revelation 22:13; and Hebrews 2:10; “for whose sake ( δι ' ὃν ) and through whose agency ( δι ' οὗ ) are all things” Rev., “for whom and through whom.” See also Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 4:10; Philemon 2:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:28. The false teachers maintained that the universe proceeded from God indirectly, through a succession of emanations. Christ, at best, was only one of these. As such, the universe could not find its consummation in Him.