There are aspects concerning broader providence that have eluded Christian theologians ever since a comprehensive biblical framework was first established, especially through the influence of Augustine (Hippo) in the fourth/fifth century. He more than any other individual has impacted upon the subsequent course of theological thought in the West. Consequently, many Christians have understood that the Church and faithful Israelites before her are the exclusive groupings that God intended to reconcile to Himself or could benefit from His saving purposes. l show in my book that whilst Israel and the Church were indeed to be set apart from the world, that was in order that God, as it were working from within, would enlighten and bring healing to His world through His chosen people, not exclusively for them. Like Israel before her, the Church was to be His royal priesthood, but the latter would consist of individuals drawn from every nation elected on the basis of free grace into an exclusive covenant sealed with Christ’s blood. By participating in the sacred mystery (Christ in me, the hope of glory) such could be purged from sin even whilst their souls inhabited “the body of this death”, as Paul aptly described the temporary “vessel” the soul inhabits whilst on Earth.
The Church would serve as Christ’s mystical Body on earth in the present and its faithful adherents were destined to share in their Master’s eternal reign as His corporate Spouse. What Paul refers to as the fellowship pertaining to the mystery hidden in God through the ages (Eph3:9) was that Israel that had been foretold in earlier prophecy to fulfil such a priestly and kingly destiny was to be supplanted (or in effect augmented) by an international assembly we know of as the Church (cf. Rom11:25). Such was Paul’s gospel (cf. Rom16:25) which even fellow apostle Peter had scarcely grasped for it cannot have been clearly explained to him or any other disciples who had accompanied Jesus during His earthly ministry that the Gentile nations were not only to be enlightened by the Good News of the risen and glorified Jesus but receive an “identical spiritual gift” to that of believing Jews (Acts11:17,18) so as to share in the “inheritance reserved for the sanctified” (Acts26:18), a fact which itself has radical implications to overall providence.
That is the overall picture. I intend in subsequent posts, complementing the methodology employed in my book* in which I started with Paul’s revelation regarding the role of the Gentiles and considered its past and future implications, here to go more concisely and sequentially through the Old and New Testament, identifying the various interpretative “glosses” that have led to the mystery of God’s munificent providence being sustained for so long. This will appear subversive to conservative Christians, at least until it is recognised that such has been God’s intended journey for the Church, i.e. that the mystery I am alluding to and its final resolution is itself cryptically inferred in certain scriptural prophecy, including, I believe, “The Little Book” of Revelation chapter ten.
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