7 In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our wrongdoings, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He superabundantly provided to us. Through wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He set forth in Him, 10 regarding an administration pertaining to the fullness of the times in which all things would be brought together into Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. 11 In Him we also have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things in accordance with the plan of His will, 12 to the end that we being the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. (Eph1:7-12)
The theological content of this passage might be summed up in one word: Wow! THIS is the “Good news of great joy that shall be to all people” that I quoted from Luke’s Gospel in the previous post. If only it were understood. Not that I claim to be aware of the detail of how all this is to come about. By “all this coming about” I am referring to Paul’s assertion that at the end of the current age all things in heaven and earth are to be brought under Christ’s administration (Greek: οἰκονομίαν). Verse 10 is not referring to those currently “in Christ” as some translations imply (e.g. KJV) but the fact that all things in heaven and earth shall be brought under Christ’s headship (e.g. AMPC bible). Such an interpretation both does justice to the Greek text but also to Paul’s broader teaching of Christ being “the firstborn of all creation by Whom all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him AND FOR HIM” (Col1:15-16)
Thus, the Word of God who became incarnate through the Virgin Mary might aptly be described as the Cosmic Christ. As just stated, the detail pertaining to how precisely this shall be enacted in the age to come has not been disclosed. What has been made clear to me in this context is the following outline.
In terms of humanity, whilst all shall be brought under Christ’s headship, not all shall have the same status or destiny. It is one thing to be under Christ’s rule, another to be His corporate Bride (Rev19:7) sharing His throne (Rev3:21). Such privileges are for those who have prepared for them whilst in mortal flesh. Paul refers to them in this passage: “those who have obtained an inheritance having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things in accordance with the plan of His will to the end that being the first to hope in Christ we would be to the praise of His glory (vv11-12). Note how Paul refers to the elect as “the first to hope in Christ” (Greek: τοὺς προηλπικότας). The implications should be obvious, many more shall eventually do so, but not all. For some, the first effect of “coming under the administration of Christ” shall be to be their ignominious removal from the earth [note 1]. These are the “wicked and godless” (Is11:4; cf. Enoch1:1), the “ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ” (1Jn3:12), the seed of Satan (Mt13:38). In terms of the last reference (wheat and tares parable), Jesus affirms the field is the world, not the Church as many try to make out – the tares therefore cannot be referring to “the unconverted” but those who like Cain were “of the Evil One” from birth. Tares cannot become wheat; rather, some of the soiled wheat is being salvaged (“saved”) for immediate utility come harvest time.
In the context of those who shall be living at the Parousia: “Christ shall be glorified in His saints and be marvelled at by those that believe on that day, just as our testimony among you was believed (2Thes1:10). But again, some shall not marvel or believe, nor be prepared to mourn and repent for their sins and disbelief (Rev 1:7). Rather, they shall raise their fists to God and refuse to bow the knee to His Son. For He is the summation of all that is good, whereas they, unlike the bulk of humanity, are unable to admire what is noble and praiseworthy but take delight in what is hateful, evil and perverse. (You should know perfectly well that is not the case for most non-Christians). To remain true to themselves these individuals could never play any positive role in “a new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells” (2Pet3:13). Refusing to repent they shall be appropriately and proportionally punished for their crimes against God and humanity.
The fate of such reprobates in the age to come is graphically depicted in the closing verses of Isaiah: “For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I shall make, will endure before Me,” declares the Lord, “so will My peoples’ descendants and your name endure. And from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh will come to bow down before Me,” says the Lord. Then they will go out and look at the corpses of the people who have rebelled against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be extinguished; and they will be an abhorrence to all flesh”. (Is66:23-24). It could hardly be the case that God’s elect would be summoned each Sabbath to bow down to God, they shall be forever with Him, serving Him gladly. This is referring to the rest of humanity (“all flesh”). But as ever there is a sub-category, who in the age to come shall be openly punished and exhibited – “an abhorrence to all flesh”.
Such is mirrored in Revelation (chapter 21). God’s elect shall form the new Jerusalem, “like a bride adorned for her Husband” (v2). But then note verse 24: “The nations shall walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring the glory and honouring of the nations into it”. But once again there is a third group who are to be entirely excluded: “Nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (v27). The “unclean” shall need to be “placed into the lake of fire”, partly for punishment but potentially for purification. For as third century Origen suggested: “The fury of God’s vengeance is profitable for the purgation of souls. That the punishment also which is said to be by fire is understood to be applied with the object of healing is taught by Isaiah: The Lord will wash away the filth of the sons or daughters of Zion and shall purge away the blood from the midst of them by the spirit of judgement and the spirit of burning…The Lord will sanctify in a burning fire. [Origen de Principiis Book II chap. 10]. The lake of fire is “the second death” and (to put it mildly) is best avoided.
We can be assured (from Scripture) that every being that can ultimately be redeemed shall be so, but for the more obnoxious it shall be a long and painful process. If the Book of Enoch is to be believed [note 2] those undergoing such punishment shall have opportunity to repent once they have paid the price for their sins, whilst those who still refuse to do so shall be annihilated. For everything that remains is to be subject to the administration of Christ referred to in our featured passage. Then what? “He must reign till all enemies have been placed under His feet” (1Cor15:25), the final enemy to be destroyed is death” (v26). What – first death? second death? No, DEATH! Ultimately even the Lord shall subject Himself and His Kingdom to the Father, who only once His enemies have either repented or been entirely obliterated could God truly be said to be “all in all” (v28).
Note#1 – Confusion as to who remains on earth after the Parousia can arise in view of the “rapture” (Mt24:40-41; 1Thes4:17). Prior to Christ’s coming the elect shall be temporarily removed from the earth to be spared from the climax of tribulations that the rest of the world must endure. Christ then comes with His saints (living and resurrected) to judge and rule the world (1Thes3:13). It is the wicked who are to be removed from the earth when God (in Christ) comes to reign. “The righteous shall never be removed: it is the wicked who shall not inhabit the earth (Prov10:30). That shall be the case once God comes to reign: “I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is to be with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev21:2-3).
Note#2 The Book of Enoch is ex-canonical scripture that was nevertheless regarded as inspired and a genuine work of the Patriarch by some early Church Fathers such as Clement, Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine and Tertullian. This is hardly surprising since it is directly quoted in the New Testament (Jude14,15). The opening verse suggests it was never intended for the Church throughout her history, but for the current time: “The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and the righteous who will be living in the day of tribulation when all the wicked and godless are to be removed” (Enoch1 ch1 v1)
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