« ÎnapoiContinuați »
up in Christ of all things in heaven and earth mean but what St. Paul elsewhere expresses by the reconciling of all things unto God, or what St. Peter calls the restitution of all things.' Sin has dis- Acts iii, 21, organized the world, has impaired the original harmony in which things were arranged, has marred their previous and primal unity, has brought in blight and death upon God's fair creation, has put a distance and division between the things in heaven and the things on earth. But we are told here and elsewhere that it is the good pleasure of God, and that He hath purposed in Himself, to undo and to repair the ruin and ravages of sin, to destroy death, and to create all things new, to restore harmony between earth and heaven, to remedy the consequences of the First Adam's sin by the grace and righteousness of another Adam, in whom shall be summed up together all things in heaven and in earth. But, then, this it is not his purpose to accomplish all at once but by degrees; by an economy ranging over successive eras, and to be consummated in the fulness of the times; and hence the purpose of God is called 'the purpose of the Eph. ü. 11. ages, κατά πρόθεσιν των αιώνων.
And here it will be proper to remark that the word which in our version is so often translated eternal and everlasting, aióvuos, does not by any means express the idea of never ending, but only of a lengthened period. It is, in fact, the adjectival form of the substantive aicv, which means an age or era, and which in the English Bible is variously rendered. Thus, in some passages it is rendered ages,' e.g., that in the ages to come He might show the Eph. ii. 7.
OH AP. V.
Eph. ii. 2
Eph. i. 21.
Eph. iii. 21.
exceeding riches of his grace '; in another, 'course, ' according to the course of this world'; in others, world, e.g., ‘not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. It is not necessary to quote any of the passages in which aiày, with a preposition, is rendered for ever,' or 'before the world began,' or while the world standeth,' or from the beginning of the world, where the simple and literal translation would be for the age or ages,' or 'before the age or ages,' or 'from the age or ages.' But it may be well just to notice that when the expression for ever and ever' occurs, it is the translation of words which, literally rendered, would be the ages of the ages,' or, as in one place, “unto the generations of the age of the ages.'
In a subsequent chapter, I shall advert to the true and literal rendering of the term in its bearing upon the dogma of endless suffering ; but for the present I wish simply to press this point upon the reader's attention, that to the kingdom of Christ there belong various ages or epochs, in the successive evolutions of which it will reach its grand consummation. It is in the fulness of the times that the divine purpose of the ages is to be accomplished, to gather up together all things in Christ.
And this, be it observed, corresponds with the order and method of the divine dispensations hitherto. As it was in the work of creation, so has it been in the work of redemption, so far as that work has yet been developed. Not all at once did God evolve creation out of chaos, but in six successive periods. Not all at once, but in successive ages, did God evolve his
purpose of grace. That purpose
1 Pet. i 20.
was formed, as we are told repeatedly, before the foundation of the world, before the age times, before Eph. ii. 9. the ages, before, that is, the period when ages and 2 Tim. i. 9. times as to this world began. Though ordained before the ages, 'God's wisdom,' as St. Paul calls 1 Cor. ii. 7.
. . it, was only very slowly revealed; it was a wisdom 'in a mystery,''a hidden wisdom,' gradually made known in successive eras. And as the counsel of God in Christ was only gradually revealed, so was it only gradually carried into effect. At first the economy of grace is associated with single families in succession, and then in Jacob's sons it expands into a nation; one nation, out of all the nations of the earth, comprising the Church of the Old Testament. Subsequently, when the Gentiles had become recognised as fellow heirs, the Jews are temporarily laid aside, and the gospel is enjoined on the apostles to be preached as a witness to all nations. Still, though this command was given eighteen hundred years ago, by no means yet have all nations had it preached to them even as a witness; and out of those to whom it has been so preached, many indeed have been called, but few chosen. Again, the redemptive purpose of God in Christ was, as already noticed, formed before the foundation of the world, and on this account Christ is called the Lamb Rev. xiii. 8. slain from the foundation of the world,' and yet four thousand years of preliminary and preparatory ages intervened, before the Son of God became incarnate and died to redeem mankind. Just before his ascension Jesus said to his disciples, ‘All power is Matt. xxviii. given to me in heaven and earth. Go
Go ye, make disciples of all nations.' Eighteen hundred years
have passed since then, and the trophies of Christ's power have as yet been few, compared with the number of those who are ignorant of or disown Him. Because He was obedient unto death God highly exalted Him, saith St. Paul, and gave Him the name which is above every name, that in his name every knee should bend, and every tongue confess Him. Eighteen hundred years have passed away, yet how few comparatively are the knees that bend or the tongues that confess. In the prospect of that death, which was to destroy him who had the power of death, Jesus said, 'Now is the crisis of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out.' Eighteen hundred years have passed away since Christ so spake, and lo! the Prince of Darkness still hath votaries infinitely more numerous than those of the Prince of Light. In application to Jesus as Messiah, an inspired writer quotes the prophecy, “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet,' at the same time appending the remark, ‘But now we see not yet all things put in subjection to Him.' Eighteen hundred years have passed away, and that remark holds good still. What means this ? Has the promise failed ? Is the kingdom of Christ a delusion? Does the strong man armed keep his goods in peace, because a stronger than he has not been able to despoil him ? Is the counsel of God frustrated, his purpose thwarted? If not, what means this delay of realization, this suspension of fulfilment? What! but that the counsel of redemption is the counsel of Him with whom a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years. What! but
Phil. ii. 9, 10.
John xii. 31.
Heb. ii. 8.
2 Pet. iii. 8.
that the purpose of grace is the purpose of the ages,' a counsel and a purpose to be extended over successive eras, and to be consummated at last in the fulness of the seasons, in the gathering up in Christ all things in heaven and in earth.
The more we study the Inspired Word, the more deeply we search it, the more I am persuaded will this truth open out before us, that the remedial process of redemption is to pass through successive epochs, winding up in the reconciliation and subjection of all things to God. This also seems to be intended, that the several epochs of the mediatorial reign of Christ will be marked by varied manifestations of grace and power; those of judgment, no less than the other modes of divine operation, contributing to the one great end, in that through them, ay, by them, the subjects of these judgments shall pass through a rectifying though a punitive process. Thus, in the end, shall mercy rejoice over judgment, and the ages of Christ's redemptive rule shall culminate in that grand and glorious issue, when, all things being subjected unto Him, the Son shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all.