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God's Eternal Purpose

The LORD God acts according to His own good pleasure. In deed, He "works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11). There are things God determined and ordained before He had done anything. God decided certain things in eternity before He did anything in history. God has had an unchangeable plan with reference to His creation from eternity. Theologians refer to this as the eternal decrees of God.

"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him" (Ephesians 1:4).  God is always perfectly consistent with Himself in His wise, compassionate and holy nature. He "who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Timothy 1:9; cf. Rom. 8:28-30). He is consistent with His eternal decrees about what He has determined and decided for His creation, men and women, salvation, etc. before He ever created the world.

CREATED FOR FELLOWSHIP

"In the beginning God . . . " are the most majestic and solemn words. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. . . . God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:1, 27).

Thus begins the self-revelation of God to man. God created everything in the universe out of nothing. In His infinite wisdom, and sovereign power He is the Creator of all that exists.

No one has ever come up with a clearer explanation for the existence of the universe and man than the Biblical answer. The LORD God is the master designer and creator of mankind. God saw that it was "very good" (Gen. 1:31; cf. Isa. 42:5; 45:18; John 1:1-3; Acts 14:15; 17:24; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10; Rev. 4:11).

There is only one God, and He is so powerful that He only had to speak and the world came into existence. He is the personal being behind it all, and He has an eternal purpose for its existence.

What is God's eternal purpose for mankind?

"The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever," declares the Westminster Catechism.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).  

He will not share His glory with another (Exo. 20:5; 34:14).

The LORD God created man to have fellowship with Himself. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. . . . that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:3, 21). Eternal life comes through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is a living fellowship with Him. We have fellowship with one another, "and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1  John 1:3).

CONSEQUENCES OF MAN'S REBELLION

Adam and Eve enjoyed the freedom to live in perfect fellowship with their Creator and worship Him.

However, they chose of their own free will to rebel and disobey God (Gen. 3:1-8). That fellowship with Him was broken, and it has effected our relationship with Him.

Adam's disobedience, because he was the representative of the whole human race, had disastrous consequences on everyone down through history.  The trespass of Adam brought condemnation for all humanity. "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men" (Romans 5:18). By his own disobedience all were made sinners. Through Adam's sin, we all died spiritually (Rom. 3:1-20; Eph. 2:1-3).

Because of the original sin we are all born morally fallen. We are born with this fallen nature that has caused us to turn from God toward sin in every area of life. We are sinners because of this evil nature. Every area of our personality is affected by the fall. We make wrong choices based on  wrong thinking. We are guilty before God. "The wages of sin is death . . . " (Rom. 6:23a). "The soul that sins will surely die" (Ezekiel 18:4).  

Moreover, we all sin personally by choice. If we say we do not, we only deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8).

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). This is why we need to be saved. Because we are sinners we cannot earn or merit pardon and forgiveness of sin.

REDEMPTION THROUGH THE LAMB OF GOD

As a just and holy God He did not have to save anyone. However, because He is a loving God of grace He chose to redeem sinful man. God in His sovereign grace chose Abraham and his descendents to be His chosen people (Gen. 12:1-3). Through the chosen nation "all the families of the earth will be blessed."

Lamb of God

All the Old Testament symbols, prophecies, and types point to the coming of the Lamb of God who would lift up and take away the sin of the world (cf. Gen. 3:21; 4:4; 22:8, 13-14; Exo. 12:13, 23; Lev. 17:11; Isa. 53; John 1:29; Acts 8:26ff; 1 Pet. 1:18-20; Rev. 5:9, 12; 6:15-17; 19:11-21, etc.).

Thus, the apostle Paul would write centuries later, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3). After His resurrection Jesus taught His disciples, "Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures" (Luke 24:27). Christ saw Himself in all the Old Testament.

Moses gave the chosen people of Israel the Law to guide their moral and social behavior (Exodus 20:1-17). The Law was not given as a means to merit salvation. However, it did demonstrate their inability to live up to God's righteous demands. It exposed man's depravity and need to be saved by grace through faith in the Suffering Servant of the Lord (Isa. 53).

Why the Law?

"Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:19-24). "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:19-20).

In contrast to the people of Israel, Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the Law (Matt. 5:17; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:21-23; 1 Cor. 5:21). He lived a perfect life. He never experienced personal sin. The heavenly Father gave His approval saying, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased" (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). In Him there was no sin.

Jesus our Ransom

God sent His Son to die as a ransom for sinners (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Gal. 1:4). The death of Jesus paid the penalty of all our sins (Rom. 5:6, 8; Gal. 3:13; 4:4-5). "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him" (Isaiah 53:5-6). Jesus said, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

The apostle Peter declared this great truth. "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power" (Acts 2:22-24).

"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8).

"He [God] made Him [Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Saved by Grace through Faith in Jesus

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

"But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness." (Romans 3:24-26).

It is all of grace that it may be through faith. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). "Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified" (Galatians 2:16).

THE CHURCH

The church is the great mystery of God, hidden down through the ages and revealed by God through divine revelation to the apostles (Ephesians 3:1-13). It is a living organism of all true believers in Christ including both Jewish and Gentile.

The birth of the church was on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. The Lord included the believing Jews and non-Jews in His church. What is this great mystery? The apostle Paul wrote: "to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). There is no distinction in the body of Christ between the Jew and the non-Jew. Every believer in Jesus Christ has been justified by faith in the saving grace of God and in a member of His body.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:28-29).

The age of the church will lend with the Rapture.

What about the people of Israel?

"For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:25-29).

God has not abandoned Israel. God is able to graft them in again. There is a "remnant" of true completed Jews who have accepted Jesus as the only true Messiah. This is the evidence that God has not cast off Israel permanently. "God has not rejected His people, has He?" asked the apostle Paul (Rom. 11:1, 2, 5).

When the church is complete there will be a great ingathering of Jewish people who will believe on Jesus and His perfect atoning sacrifice for sin (Rom. 11:25-26). There  is a "partial hardening" or a callus mental dullness. Paul says this dulled spiritual perception will continue "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in and thus all Israel will be saved." This need not  mean every Jewish person without a single exception will be saved, but Israel as a whole will respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. A fullness of Jews will one day respond because she is the eternal object of God's electing love. It is an act of God's grace. The rejection is not final; it is not complete. Large numbers will come to Christ one day. The "partial hardening" will come to an end.

It will not be just a remnant of Jews that will be saved. We are witnessing and enjoying the age of the Gentiles.  The "fullness of the Jews" is to be understood in the same sense as "the fullness of the Gentiles" (v. 25). The large-scale conversion of Gentiles is to be followed by large-scale conversion of Israel (v. 26). This stands in sharp contrast to their current unbelief. Paul has in mind the restoration of Israel as a people of faith. There is taking place a conversion of non-Jews and then a great ingathering of Jewish people. There will be a great conversion of Jews after the fullness of the Gentiles are saved.

There is no basis of spiritualizing "Israel" in v. 26. The reference is to the Jewish people, the whole nation. It cannot refer to the church. The current rejection of Israel is not permanent.

THE CONSUMMATION OF OUR REDEMPTION

The Rapture

The next great event in salvation history will be the rapture of the church. "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).

The Great Tribulation

There will come a time of terrible trouble and judgment upon the earth (Matt. 24:21). Nothing like this will ever have seen before on the earth. During this seven year period the major political figures will be a man described as "the beast" (Rev. 13:1-8), and his powerful political aid will be a false prophet (13:11-17). They will control the world's population through satanic powers, political deceptions and intrigue. They will be world dictators controlling mankind, politically, economically as well as religiously.

The Great Tribulation period will be a time of God's judgments that will climax in the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 6-18). People who trust in Christ during that time will endure terrible persecution for their faith.

The Second Coming

As the battle of the ages reaches its climax on the plain of Armageddon the Lord Jesus Christ will return (Rev. 19:1-11). Christ will seize the beast and the false prophet and cast them into the lake of fire. "And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh" (Revelation 19:19-21).  

Christ will bind Satan for a thousand years. "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time" (Revelation 20:1-3).

The Millennial Kingdom

Jesus Christ will reign a thousand years after the Battle of Armageddon. All believers will return with Christ and be joined with those who believed during the tribulation period.

"Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4-6).

Satan will be released for a short period of time at the end of the thousand year reign to deceive "the nations" (Rev. 20:7-9). All unbelievers will be cast with Satan "into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (vv. 9b-10).

God will also resurrect all non-believers and judge them and throw them "into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:11-15).

The New Heavens and New Earth

All of creation will come to a grand climax when God destroys the old heaven and earth and re-creates "new heavens and new earth" (Rev. 21-22). "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them'" (Revelation 21:1-3).

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:9-13).

Revelation 21-22 gives more details of that glorious fulfillment of our redemption through Jesus Christ.

Three times in Revelation 22 Jesus declared, "Behold, I am coming quickly" (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20).

Saved by grace; that will be our theme in heaven because God gets all the glory. That He is always consistent with Himself should cause us to sing praise to His name for all eternity. If you are a child of God, it is because of His saving grace. He was determined to save you. He always completes what He chooses to do (Rom. 8:28-30; Phil. 1:5-6). Nothing, not even Satan, can take you out of the palm of His hands or cause Him not to complete His eternal decrees (John 10:22-30; 6:37, 44; Acts 13:48; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9). He knew you and me before the foundation of the world and wrote our names down in the Lamb's Book of Life even before the world was made. The LORD God is sovereign and what He determines and decrees ill come to pass. Nothing can prevent it. No one can frustrate it.

No, the decrees of God do not deny the existence of free agents and free choice. You must make a personal decision to place your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. What is your relationship with Jesus Christ? "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. It is your decision. To say no to Him is reject Him and spend eternity in hell.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Key Scriptures

Ephesians 1:11, 4;  2 Timothy 1:9; Rom. 8:28-30; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Phil. 1:5-6; John 10:22-30; 6:37, 44; Acts 13:48; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Peter 3:9-13; Rom. 11:25-26

Abiding Principles and Practical Applications

1. The LORD God works all things according to the counsel of His will.

2. There are things God determined and ordained before He created anything. He has an unchangeable plan with reference to His creation from eternity.

3. God's plan is that creation bow in submission to Him. One day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

4. Today you have an opportunity to submit to Him. What is your attitude toward Jesus Christ? What is your relationship with Him. Your eternal destiny depends upon your decision to believe or reject Him.

5. The decrees of God do not deny the existence of free agents and free choice.

6. If you are a child of God, it is because of His saving grace. He was determined to save you. He always completes what He chooses to do. That should give every believer security.

For Further Study

Colossians 2:6-23 Adequacy of Christ
The Sinner God Accepts

Romans 8:28-30 Salvation in Five Steps
Ephesians 2:11-22 The Family of God
How can a Christian be Lost Again?
Salvation by Grace Alone
1 John 5:13 Assurance that You have Eternal Life
Colossians 3:1-4 Christ Our Life
Saved by Grace!

Message by Wil Pounds and all content on this page (c) 2005 by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible (c) 1973, and 1995 Update by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 

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