The panorama of God's Plan
Dec 03, 2018
The purpose of God in creating the universe was to extend His Kingdom beyond the spiritual dimension into a realm of matter. Genesis 1:1, in fact, provides us with the known extent of His Kingdom: “the heavens and the earth.” Those who are unbalanced in their perspective see just one of these realms as being His Kingdom. The full balanced view is to see that the Kingdom of God includes both of them.
Spirit, Soul, and Body
There are some with a materialistic view who do not recognize the realm of spirit. Such is the view of modern science and law, which have developed into purely materialistic views. Many Christians too know little about spiritual matters, for they confuse spiritual things with religious matters. Spirit is a different dimension that is inherently different and invisible to the material world—invisible to our physical eyes, for instance.
Nonetheless, because man has been created as a tripartite being (spirit, soul, and body), we were all given a means by which we may interact with the realm of spirit. The soul (carnal mind) and physical body are limited and cannot interact with the spiritual dimension, apart from being influenced or directed by one’s spirit.
In other words, your spirit is the door to the spiritual world. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 that only the inner “spiritual man” can know spiritual things. The soul, or “soulish man,” is incapable of comprehending “the things of the spirit of God.” For this reason, the soul must submit to the leading of the spirit and trust that one’s spirit is more capable in such matters.
The fact that Paul calls both the spirit and the soul a “man” was more than a personification. It indicates that each has a conscious self, a mind, one carnal and the other spiritual. This teaching is important to know, so that in the course of becoming a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), we may understand that we are to change our identities from soul to spirit and from Adam to Christ. The Christ that is in us as begotten children of God is the product of two parents. You are the mother (like Mary was to Jesus), and God is the Father who has begotten us by His Spirit through the seed of the word (gospel).
Times of Refreshing and Restoration
In order to establish the Kingdom of God on earth in the fullest sense, all must at some point in time be begotten from above. Only then will time end as we know it. Hence, the Creation Jubilee marks the end of time, for only then will the divine plan be complete. The final ages of time are known to the prophets as “the times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19) and “the period of the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).
John shows us in Revelation 20 that these are times of divine judgment and correction, where the Spirit of God is poured out in a final baptism of fire. John drew upon the familiar metaphor that Moses used when he referred to the divine law as “the fiery law” (Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV) by which all sin is judged and “burned up.” The prophet Daniel had the same vision of fiery judgment when he saw the fiery throne of the Ancient of Days, by which judgment flowed as a “river of fire” upon those who were being raised from the dead (Daniel 7:10).
So John the Baptist too understood that the Holy Spirit was to baptize mankind with “fire” (Luke 3:16). He showed that this was a purifying fire, designed to burn “chaff,” a farming metaphor well understood by his audience. “Chaff” is that which is inedible, such as the traditions of men and any other carnal thought or activity.
John’s teaching prepared the way for the day of Pentecost, when tongues of fire was seen upon the heads of the disciples in the upper room (Acts 2:3).
It is only when we understand the “fire” metaphor in Scripture that we can truly see the purpose for the Holy Spirit. That purpose is to judge all sin, purify all men of their carnal ways, restore the lawful order by restitution and labor, and ultimately to correct all that is wrong. Divine judgment ultimately restores all things—the mission of Elijah (Matthew 17:11).
Because Elijah himself called down literal fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:10), Jesus’ disciples thought that they should follow the same example upon the unbelievers (Luke 9:54). But Jesus rebuked them, because they did not understand that what is death in the Old Testament is life in the New. The fiery judgment in the Old Testament (Sodom, for instance) did not truly reflect the heart of God or the mind of Christ. The baptism of the fiery law was to restore, not to destroy.
Those of us who have a New Covenant mindset and who have put on the mind of Christ are able to apply the judgments of God in a manner consistent with the true purpose of the divine plan. By knowing that God intends to be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), we have forsaken the Greek dualistic viewpoint, where in the end God is said to rule just a portion of the universe, while the devil gets the vast portion of humanity in a realm called “hell.”
In our view, God wins, and He wins by changing the hearts of all men, mostly through divine judgments.
The severity of these judgments are seen again in the metaphor of “chaff,” which is the primary problem of all humanity. In the three harvest festivals in Scripture, we see three first fruits offerings, each representing a different portion of mankind: barley, wheat, and grapes.
Israel was given three main harvest festivals, each having a first fruits offering to sanctify the harvest. These have personal application, of course, but in the long-term prophetic story, each represents a group of humanity that is presented to God at different times in history. This relates directly to the presentation of the sons of God, so they may be manifested in the earth.
Barley is winnowed, wheat is threshed, and grapes are trodden down under foot. The chaff of barley does not cling to the grain (germ) but blows away in the wind very easily. Such are the overcomers, who, like Christ, are most easily moved by the Spirit (ruach, “wind”). These repent most easily with a minimum of pressure (judgment).
The wheat company, which represents the church in general, require threshing to remove the chaff from the grain. Hence, Paul says that the church will be “saved yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15).
The grape company, which represents the rest of humanity (unbelievers), will be judged most severely, pictured in the treading of the grapes. Men tread grapes to extract the juice and to cast aside the “chaff,” which in this case is the pulp. God’s purpose is set forth in 1 Corinthians 15:27, where all things are put “under His feet.” Here and elsewhere Paul quotes Psalm 8:6. It is the well-known metaphor of grape harvest.
When the final harvest is complete, God sets forth the feast, the great Communion Table, where He may feast with us on unleavened bread (barley), leavened bread (wheat), and wine. Whenever men partake of the Communion Table, they prophesy and bear witness of that final Communion.
Three Presentations of the Sons of God
The historical process by which everyone comes into Sonship is seen in clearer fashion in the New Testament. John shows in Revelation 20:4, 5, 6 and in 20:12 that there are two resurrections, one for the overcomers and a second for all of humanity—including the rest of the church. The two are said to be a thousand years apart (Revelation 20:7).
The first resurrection is for the “barley” company, which will receive its reward of immortality in time to reign with Christ during the thousand years preceding the judgment at the Great White Throne. When the church as a whole is raised from the dead, along with the rest of humanity, they will be treated differently. Jesus spoke of this resurrection in John 5:28, 29, where He said that the believers will be given “a resurrection of life,” while the unbelievers will be given “a resurrection of judgment.”
Hence, for the church this will be a wheat harvest for God’s Table. For the rest of humanity, however, they will be raised to judgment. By appearing before the Great White Throne, they will finally learn the truth, and then “every knee will bow” and “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10, 11). The Greek word for “confess” is exomologeo, “to profess, to acknowledge openly and joyfully, to profess that one will do something, to promise, agree, engage.”
That is what “every tongue” will say. This describes universal conversion to Christ. Paul says further that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Hence, every tongue that professes that Jesus Christ is Lord is evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work.
Nonetheless, salvation is not just about being begotten by the Spirit (or “born again,” as many put it). Being begotten is only the beginning of a maturing process. We know this in our own lives today, for it takes time for the Holy Spirit to burn the chaff from our lives. We are not perfected immediately. We must “grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
So also those who are newly-begotten believers at the Great White Throne must be given time to grow into maturity through the baptism of fire. That is the nature of the “lake of fire” in Revelation 20:14. This “lake” is formed by the “river of fire” in Daniel 7:10. The river flowing out from the throne of the Ancient of Days is the sentence of fiery law being meted out to the people. The lake is the condition in which humanity lives during that final age of judgment, wherein they learn righteousness through judgment (Isaiah 26:9).
The Length of the Judgment Age
This age of judgment is largely misunderstood because it is hidden by most translations that render it “eternal” or “everlasting.” The Greek word aion means “an age, or eon,” and aionian means “pertaining to an age.” When it is presumed to mean eternity, it is assumed that this age is never-ending, and hence, the judgment is without hope, and God loses most of humanity.
But aionian is just the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word olam. Olam means “hidden, unknown, indefinite.” It comes from the root word alam, “to conceal, to hide.”
When applied to time, olam refers to an indefinite period of time, an age of unspecified duration. It requires further context to fix a particular amount of time to such an age. To Jonah it was 3 days (Jonah 2:6). Phinehas was given an olam covenant of priesthood, which lasted about 300 years, after which time his line was replaced by Zadok in the time of Solomon (1 Kings 2:27). Neither Jonah nor Phinehas knew precisely how long their time would last, for God hid that from them. But the time was not “everlasting.”
And so judgment in the New Testament was also aionian (the same as olam). The length of that final age is hidden from most people, but it is limited. How do we know? Certainly, not by the word aionian itself. We know it by the law of Jubilee, which limits all judgment and restores all that a man has lost. In the context of national laws, the Jubilee trumpet cancelled all debt and set all men free (by grace) every 49 years (Leviticus 25:8, 10, 11).
Scripture applies this law more broadly, such as in Daniel’s “seventy weeks,” which is seventy Sabbath years, or ten Jubilees. In the context of creation itself, where a day (or year) is as a thousand years, the Creation Jubilee comes at the end of 49,000 years. It appears that we are now at end of the first “week,” or 6,000 years. The seventh millennium will be the time between the two resurrections, as John says. It appears that the age of judgment will run for another 42,000 years after that. Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 associate the number 42 with tribulation/judgment.
Clearly, treading the grapes is a more severe form of judgment than winnowing barley or even threshing wheat. Those who are blessed by having faith in Christ in this life will receive a much greater reward and will be given responsibilities in the ages to come. But in the end, all things will be put under the feet of Christ, and God will then be all in all. He will not be all in some, nor some in all, but all in all.
That is the good news of the gospel. When God wins in the end, then both heaven and earth will be fully restored, leaving no portion of darkness to taint the light, no sin to corrupt the righteous universe, no unbeliever to disagree with the mind of Christ.
That is the overall divine plan. Scripture reveals many details along the way so that we might understand the plan, His purpose, and His way of thinking. We will try to show some of those details as we proceed.