Fear not little flock for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Luke 12 v32)
The really good news that has been reserved until these last days (cf. Rev10) is that the Church is not the totality of people to be delivered from a “lost eternity” as I would once have expressed the matter, rather faithful Christians are in Jesus’ words the “little flock who are to be given the Kingdom”. Also defined as the Bride of Christ they will surely relate to that Kingdom in the same way as their Spouse – as joint-heirs and fellow-princes. Yet Christ did not die for them alone:
Having made peace through the blood of His cross, God wishes to reconcile ALL THINGS to Himself by Christ, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven (Col1:20)
And Paul makes it clear enough elsewhere that it was never God’s intention to bring all people to a personal knowledge of the Saviour during their earthly lifetime. For example:
“Whom He did foreknow, He did predestine to become conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren” (Rom8:29)
The highlighted phrase should affirm that it is indeed a little flock (proportionately speaking) who in any sense become conformed to the image of Christ – apart from which no one humanly speaking is capable of coming to a personal knowledge of Christ except the Father draw them (Jn6:44). Even if that were not the case, historical cultural and religious formation not to mention profound disagreement amongst Christians themselves concerning the nature of saving faith have ensured that the bulk of humanity die without hearing a sound rendering of the Gospel or anything like it. Be assured this would not be the case if religious faith and practice determined “who goes to heaven when they die” (cf. Mt25:31-46). However, religion does determine who can be “saved” whilst in mortal flesh (Rom7:24) and fitted to partner the Lord of Glory through eternity. As Paul affirms, the composition of the latter grouping is a matter of elective grace, or as Jesus put it: “It is the Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom”. Yet even in predestination God’s equitable justice is not compromised, for whilst others may live as they see fit those chosen to be sanctified walk the narrow way, suffering with Christ in the hope of being glorified with Him in the ages to come (2Tim2:12).
God’s munificent providence can only be perceived (and the course of history seen to make sense) once three rather than two soteriological categories are acknowledged. It can then be understood that those who are called to be Christ’s little flock are those whom He sanctifies, disciples and spiritually empowers to play a priestly role within a vastly broader (albeit not universal*) healing and reconciling process:
It is all God’s work; He reconciled (Christians) to Himself through Christ, and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation. I mean God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not holding anyone’s faults against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2Cor5:18-19)
God’s reconciliatory strategy for the world has been to work from within; firstly, reconciling a particular grouping to Himself (the seed of Isaac) to act as a bridgehead to the rest, who in turn would come to admire their wisdom and their laws (Deut4:5-6). Through Israel’s failure that preparatory stage has itself been sub-divided and therefore extended by a realignment of personnel. Consequently, we are still in the process of assembling the priestly enlighteners that are replacing the race of Israel, not in the process of fulfilling Old Testament prophesies in a “spiritualized form”. So shall the secret of God be brought to pass in accordance with the Good News He has brought to His servants the prophets.
Peter drops a further clue to the mystery when he refers to the Church both as a peculiar people and as a “nation” (Greek: ethnos). He is drawing on an Old Testament prophecy to summarize the nature and purpose of the Church; a purpose the prophets had expected to be fulfilled by others who were a nation in the more usual sense of the word:
But you (the Church) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His OWN SPECIAL PEOPLE that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light (1Pet2:9 cf. Ex19:6)
A providential arrangement such as this, to me at least, is like honey in the mouth. I hope and pray it will become so to others. Yet it will be tinged with bitterness as one contemplates the misrepresentation of God’s providential care towards those made in His image that has passed for “the Good News” for so long (cf. Rev10:9).
* Not all are reconcilable – see earlier post regarding children of the devil HERE
More about The Little Book of Providence HERE