The Plan of God
"And He shall send Jesus Christ, which [who] before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must receive (retain) until the times of restitution (restoration) of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."—Acts 3:20,21.
That our Lord intended His disciples to understand that for some purpose, in some manner, and at some time, He would come again, is, we presume, admitted, and believed by all familiar with the Scriptures. True, Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age" (Matt.28:20 NKJV), and by His Spirit and by His Word He has been with the Church continually, guiding, directing, comforting, and sustaining His saints, and cheering them in the midst of all their afflictions. But though the Church has been blessedly conscious of the Lord’s knowledge of all her ways and of His constant care and love, yet she longs for His promised personal return; for, when He said, "If I go…I will come again" (John 14:3), He certainly referred to a second personal coming.
The specific work of the first advent was to redeem men; and that of the second is to restore, and bless, and liberate the redeemed. Having given His life a ransom for all, our Saviour ascended to present that sacrifice to the Father, so making reconciliation for man’s iniquity. He tarries and permits "the prince of this world" to continue the rule of evil, until after the selection of "the Bride, the Lamb’s wife," who, to be accounted worthy of such honour, must overcome the influences of the present evil world. Then the work of giving to the world of mankind the great blessings secured to them by His sacrifice will be due to commence, and He will come forth to bless all families of the earth.
True, the restoring and blessing could have commenced at once, when the ransom price was paid by the Redeemer, and then the coming of Messiah would have been but one event, the reign and blessing beginning at once, as the apostles at first expected. (Acts 1:6) But God had provided "some better thing for us"—the Christian Church (Heb.11:40); hence it is in our interest that the reign of Christ is separated from the sufferings of the Head by many centuries.
This period between the first and second advents, between the ransom of all and the blessing of all, is for the trial and selection of the Church, which is the body of Christ, otherwise there would have been only the one advent, and the work which will be done during the period of His second presence, in the Millennium, would have followed the resurrection of Jesus. Or, instead of saying that the work of the second advent would have followed at once the work of the first, let us say rather that had Jehovah not purposed the selection of the "little flock," "the body of Christ;" the first advent would not have taken place when it did, but would have occurred at the time of the second advent, and there would have been but the one. For God has evidently designed the permission of evil for six thousand years, as well as that the cleansing and restoration of all shall be accomplished during the seventh thousand.
Thus seen, the coming of Jesus, as the sacrifice and ransom for sinners, was just long enough in advance of the blessing and restoring time to allow for the selection of His "little flock" of "joint‑heirs." This will account for some of the apparent delay on God’s part in giving the blessings promised, and provided for, in the ransom. The blessings will come in due time, as at first planned, though, for a glorious purpose, the price was paid longer beforehand than men would have expected.
The Apostle informs us that Jesus has been absent from earth—in the heaven—during all the intervening time from His ascension to the beginning of the times of restoration, or the Millennial age—"whom, indeed, heaven must retain till the times of restoration of all things," etc. (Acts 3:21 Diaglott) Since the Scriptures teach that the object of our Lord’s second advent is the restoration of all things, and that at the time of His appearing the nations are so far from being converted as to be angry (Rev 11:18) and in opposition, it must be admitted either that the Church will fail to accomplish her mission, and that the plan of God will be thus far frustrated, or else, as we claim and have shown, that the conversion of the world in the present age was not expected of the Church, but that her mission has been to preach the Gospel in all the world for a witness, and to prepare herself under divine direction for her great future work. God has not yet by any means exhausted His power for the world’s conversion. Rather: He has not yet even attempted the world’s conversion.
Some who can see something of the blessings due at the second advent, and who appreciate in some measure the fact that the Lord comes to bestow the grand blessing purchased by His death, fail to see this last proposition, viz.: that those in their graves have as much interest in that glorious reign of Messiah as those who at that time will be less completely under the bondage of corruption—death. But as surely as Jesus died for all, they all must have the blessings and opportunities which He purchased with His own precious blood. Hence we should expect blessings in the Millennial age upon all those in their graves as well as upon those not in them; and of this we will find abundant proof, as we look further into the Lord’s testimony on the subject. It is because of God’s plan for their release that those in the tomb are called "prisoners of hope."
"God is love," and "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish." (1 John 4:8; John 3:16 NKJV). Would it not seem that if God loved the world so much He might have made provision, not only that believers might be saved, but also that all might hear in order to believe?
Again, when we read, "That was the true light which gives light to every man coming into the world" (John 1:9 NKJV), our observation says, not so; every man has not been enlightened; we cannot see that our Lord has lighted more than a few of earth’s billions. Even in this comparatively enlightened day, millions of heathen give no evidence of such enlightenment; neither did the Sodomites, nor multitudes of others in past ages.
We read that Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death "for every man." (Heb.2:9) But if He tasted death for the one hundred and forty‑three billion, and from any cause that sacrifice becomes efficacious (effective) to only one billion, was not the redemption comparatively a failure? And in that case, is not the Apostle’s statement too broad? When again we read, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL PEOPLE" (Luke 2:10), and, looking about us, see that it is only to a "little flock" that it has been good tidings, and not to all people, we would be compelled to wonder whether the angels had not overstated the goodness and breadth of their message, and overrated the importance of the work to be accomplished by the Messiah whom they announced.
Another statement is, "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all." (1 Tim.2:5,6) A ransom for all? Then why should not all the ransomed have some benefit from Christ’s death? Why should not all come to a knowledge of the truth, that they may believe?
Without the key, how dark, how inconsistent, these statements appear; but when we find the key to God’s plan, these texts all declare with one voice, "God is love." This key is found in the latter part of the text last quoted—"Who gave Himself a ransom for all, TO BE TESTIFIED IN DUE TIME." God has a due time for everything. He could have testified it to these in their past lifetime; but since He did not, it proves that their due time must be future. For those who will be of the Church, the bride of Christ, and share the kingdom honours, the present is the "due time" to hear; and whosoever now has an ear to hear, let him hear and heed, and he will be blessed accordingly. Though Jesus paid our ransom before we were born, it was not our "due time" to hear of it for long years afterward, and only the appreciation of it brought responsibility; and this, only to the extent of our ability and appreciation. The same principle applies to all: in God’s due time it will be testified to all, and all will then have opportunity to believe and to be blessed by it.
The prevailing opinion is that death ends all probation; but there is no Scripture which so teaches; and all the above, and many more Scriptures, would be meaningless, or worse, if death ends all hope for the ignorant masses of the world.
Since God does not propose to save men on account of ignorance, but "will have all men to…come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim.2:4); and since the masses of mankind have died in ignorance; and since "there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave" (Eccl.9:10) therefore God has prepared for the awakening of the dead, in order for knowledge, faith and salvation. Hence His plan is, that "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But each one in his own order"—The Gospel Church, the Bride, the body of Christ, first; afterward during the Millennial age, all who shall become His during that thousand years of His presence (mistranslated coming), the Lord’s due time for all to know Him, from the least to the greatest.—1 Cor.15:22‑23 NKJV.
As death came by the first Adam, so life comes by Christ, the second Adam. Everything that mankind lost through being in the first Adam is to be restored to those who believe in the second Adam. When awakened, with the advantage of experience with evil, which Adam lacked, those who thankfully accept the redemption as God’s gift may continue to live everlastingly on the original condition of obedience. Perfect obedience will be required, and perfect ability to obey will be given, under the righteous reign of the Prince of Peace. Here is the salvation offered to the world.
Though many of the prophecies and promises of future blessing seem to apply to Israel only, it must be remembered that they were a typical people, and hence the promises made to them, while sometimes having a special application to themselves, generally have also a wider application to the whole world of mankind which that nation typified. While Israel as a nation was typical of the whole world, its priesthood was typical of the elect "little flock," the head and body of Christ, the "Royal Priesthood;" and the sacrifices, cleansings and atonements made for Israel typified the "better sacrifices," fuller cleansings and real atonement "for the sins of the whole world," of which they are a part.
And not only so, but God mentions by name other nations and promises their restoration. As a forcible illustration we mention the Sodomites. Surely, if we shall find the restoration of the Sodomites clearly taught, we may feel satisfied of the truth of this glorious doctrine of Restoration for all mankind, spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets. And why should not the Sodomites have an opportunity to reach perfection and everlasting life as well as Israel, or as any of us? True, they were not righteous, but neither was Israel, nor were we who now hear the gospel. "There is none righteous; no, not one," aside from the imputed righteousness of Christ, who died for all. Our Lord’s own words tell us that although God rained down fire from heaven and destroyed them all because of their wickedness, yet the Sodomites were not so great sinners in His sight as were the Jews, who had more knowledge. (Gen.19:24; Luke 17:29) Unto the Jews of Capernaum He said, "If the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day."—Matt.11:23 NKJV
So our Lord teaches that the Sodomites did not have a full opportunity; and He guarantees them such opportunity when He adds (Verse 24), "But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment than for you." The character of the Day of Judgment and its work will be shown in succeeding studies. Here we merely call attention to the fact that it will be a tolerable time for Capernaum, and yet more tolerable for Sodom; because, though neither had yet had full knowledge, nor all the blessings designed to come through the "Seed," yet Capernaum had sinned against more light.
We need not wonder that Jews, Sodomites, Samaritans, and all mankind, will be ashamed and confounded when in His own "due time" God shows forth the riches of His favour. Yea, many of those who are now God’s children will be confounded and amazed when they see how God so loved THE WORLD and how much His thoughts and plans were above their own.
Christian people generally believe that God’s blessings are all and only for the selected Church, but now we begin to see that God’s plan is wider than we had supposed, and that though He has given the Church "exceeding great and precious promises," He has also made bountiful provision for the world which He so loved as to redeem. The Jews made a very similar mistake in supposing that all the promises of God were to and for them alone; but when the "due time" came and the Gentiles were favoured, the remnant of Israel, whose hearts were large enough to rejoice in this wider evidence of God’s grace, shared that increased favour, while the rest were blinded by prejudice and human tradition. Let those of the Church who now see the dawning light of the Millennial age, with its gracious advantages for all the world, take heed lest they be found in opposition to the advancing light, and so for a time be blinded to its glory and blessings.
Seeing, then, that so many of the great and glorious features of God’s plan for human salvation from sin and death lie in the future, and that the second advent of our Lord Jesus is the designed first step in the accomplishment of those long promised and long expected blessings, shall we not even more earnestly long for the time of His second advent than the less informed Jew looked and longed for His first advent? Seeing that the time of evil, injustice, and death is to be brought to an end by the dominion of power which He will then exercise, and that righteousness, truth and peace are to be universal, who should not rejoice to see His day? And who that is now suffering with Christ, inspired by the precious promise that "if we suffer [with Him] we shall also reign with Him," (2 Tim.2:12) will not lift up his head and rejoice at any evidence of the approach of the Master, knowing thereby that our deliverance and our glorification with Him draw nigh? Surely all in sympathy with His mission of blessing and His spirit of love will hail every evidence of His coming as the approach of the "great joy, which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:10)
The ruins of Capernaum
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