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Climax Of Divine Purpose

The Sovereignty of God

The knowledge that God is in complete control of events, and that He is working to a pre-determined plan should suffice to dispel any doubts and calm any fears that might dismay us. The overruling hand of God may be discerned in relation to events of world-wide significance and also in relation to the affairs of our everyday lives. Nothing happens by chance the ordering of events is in the hands of a loving, all-wise omnipotent God, and we are happy to leave it there.

Nebuchadnezzar was a proud and haughty despot, and the world-wide dominion given to him ushered in the "times of the Gentiles", but he had to learn by bitter experience that, although he exercised great authority, he was subject to a higher authority. He was compelled to acknowledge that God, "doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?" (Dan. 4:35).

The Outworking of the Divine Plan

Divine objectives were set out in the eternal counsels of deity and the purpose conceived in those counsels were not thwarted by the entrance of sin into the world. That eventuality had been foreseen and taken into account in the divine plan. The sombre backcloth of man's sin and rebellion, permitted by God, has thrown into brighter relief the wondrous grace, mercy and love of the One, "who worketh all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11).

For the fulfilment of His purposes God has intervened directly in the affairs of men at specific times; the most crucial intervention so far taking place after some four millenniums of human history had run their course. At that point in time God sent His Son into the world. That coming took place at "the consummation of the ages" (Heb. 9:26 RVM) or "the fulness of the time (Gal. 4:4). The appearing of the Son of God on earth in human form marked a definite climax in fulfilment of the divine plan. A further climactic point will be reached at the second coming of Christ to earth when there will be ushered in the "dispensation of the fulness of the times", in which all things will be summed up in Christ (Eph. 1:10).

Old Testament Predictions

The prophets wrote of "the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow them" (I Pet. 1:11). It was not, however, appreciated by those who

companied with the Lord when He was here that "the sufferings" must precede "the glories". The One who came to earth to suffer and die will one day come to earth to reign; this is explicitly predicted in the Scriptures. A preview of the succession of world empires throughout the succeeding centuries until the full divine plan is finally achieved on earth was given through Daniel: "in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2:44). The ruler of that kingdom will be the Lord's Anointed (Psa. 2; Dan. 7:13, 14) who was rejected by Israel and the Gentiles at His first coming (Acts 4:25-28), a rejection which had been predicted.

The Consummation of the Divine Purpose for Israel

A time-period for the completion of God's purposes in relation to Israel was specified in the revelations given to Daniel but there is a break in the continuity within the stipulated period. The seventy weeks of the prophecy are divided into three component parts of sixty-two weeks, seven weeks and one week (Dan. 9:25-27). Sixty-nine weeks have run their course, the final week has yet to be fulfilled. The sixty-nine weeks began with a definite event, the issuing of the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem, and ended with a definite event, the rejection and death of God's anointed One. The magnitude of the period of time between these two specific events clearly shows that the weeks referred to are weeks of years. The precision of that Old Testament prediction is confirmed by the record of history.

As the completion of the seventy weeks sees the realization of the God appointed consummation for Israel and the nations, and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness, its terminal point must clearly still lie in the future. There must, therefore, be a hiatus between the completion of the sixty-ninth week and the beginning of the seventieth week. A comparison of the prophecies of the books of Daniel and Revelation sheds further light on this final week, confirming that it is a week of years. The assertion that there is a time-gap of indefinite duration to be allowed for is not unreasonable as the prophecy relates specifically to Israel," Seventy weeks are decreed upon they people" (Dan. 9:24). Israel's rejection of the Messiah resulted in their being set aside nationally by God, and they will not be taken up again until God's present purpose for this dispensation has been accomplished.

The commission that the Lord gave to His apostles, when they met with Him by appointment in Galilee after His resurrection, was world-wide and multinational in its scope and age-long in its duration (Matt. 28:19, 20). Although rejected nationally, individuals from among the Jewish nation were, and still are, free to respond to the claims of Christ in the gospel, and so from among the nation a "remnant according to the election of grace" is preserved (Rom. 11:5). This present dispensation, therefore, runs its course in the time-gap indicated.

The Purpose of the Ages

The unique distinguishing feature of the present dispensation is the building of the Church which is Christ's Body. Although this marvellous concept was conceived in the divine counsels before times eternal it was kept hidden until the Son of God disclosed it on earth near to the time of His crosswork (Eph. 3:9; Matt. 16:18). To fulfil this cherished divine purpose the Saviour went to the cross, "Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for it" (Eph. 5:25).

In the last hours that the Lord spent with His own before going to the cross He told them plainly that He was about to leave them, but comforted them with the promise that He would return for them (John 14:3). So, when we consider the subject of the coming of Christ as presented to us in the Scriptures we realize that this involves two separate phases, which are distinct events separated in time by more than seven years, and having different objectives.

The Phases of the Parousia

The Lord is coming first of all to the air to claim His Church, His Bride (I Thes. 4:16, 17; Eph. 5:27-32). The Church will, therefore, be with the Lord in heaven while the events predicted for Daniel's seventieth week are taking place on earth. At the end of that week the Lord will return to earth accompanied by the armies of heaven "to smite the nations" and to set up His millennial kingdom, making Jerusalem the administrative centre of His world-wide rule (Rev. 19:11 21; 11:15; Psa. 2:1-9; Isa. 2:3, 4; 24:23). The Greek word parousia is the one most commonly used in the New Testament text in reference to the second coming to the air and His coming to earth. The distinguishing features of these two phases of the parousia will be examined in greater detail in the next contribution to this series of articles.

Putting Things into Perspective

An intelligent appreciation of divine purposes will help us to put things into proper perspective. Paul evidently considered it necessary to instruct the Thessalonian converts in prophetic truths during the short period of time that he was with them (2 Thes. 2:5). It is evident that the teaching given to them had a powerful influence on their lives for they were living in daily expectation of the return of the Son of God for them (I Thes. 1:10). The Scriptures show that this is the state of mind expected of disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13, 14).

It is said that Dr. Horatius Bonar, the writer of a number of well-loved hymns, could be heard saying as he closed the curtains each evening, "Perhaps tonight Lord", and when he rose in the morning and parted the curtains to look out on the dawn of a new day he would say, "perhaps today Lord." Such an attitude of mind would have a purifying effect on our lives (I John 3:3).

The Signs of His Coming

It is clear from Scripture that the Lord's coming to the air could take place at any moment, but the predicted events of Daniel's final week must be fulfilled before the return to the earth takes place. There are also certain specific signs predicted to indicate the imminence of the coming of the day of the Lord and of the second phase of the parousia (Joel 2:28-3:2; Zech. 14:1-9; Mal. 4:5). The day of the Lord, which begins with the Lord's return as Son of Man, continues throughout His glorious millennial reign of earth until, at the appointed time, heaven and earth pass away, for Peter tells us that the dissolution of these takes place in "the day of the Lord" which will then give place to the "day of God" (2 Pet. 3:10-12).

The Consummation of Divine Purposes

New heavens and a new earth will take the place of the old, and in these righteousness will dwell. Then the ultimate objective of divine purposes will be achieved. It is towards this end that God has been working since the entrance of sin marred his fair creation. Entrancing glimpses of the glory and eternal felicity of that future scene are given to us in Revelation chapter 21. These are the eternal glories that should be filling our spiritual vision now and sustaining us in the days of our pilgrimage here.

"And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory into it. And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day (for there shall be no night there): and they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it: and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they which are written in the Lamb's book of life". (Revelation 21:23-27)