The Bible makes plain that we Christians are laborers together with God in his great program for this earth. In 1 Corinthians 3:9 we read: “For we are God’s fellow workers.” Now my question is this: If we are God’s fellow workers isn’t it important for us to know what God is doing? Our Father has taken great pains to reveal his plan to us so that we can labor along with him. Let us try to unravel some of the mystery of his great plan.
GOD’S MYSTERIOUS WORK
In the New Testament the Lord reveals several mysteries concerning God’s work and plan for Israel and for the church. In Romans 11:17-18, a great secret is revealed to us Christians, but unfortunately after two thousand years we have not made much progress in understanding this secret. Paul says: “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” The Apostle is saying here that the church does not have an independent existence. It is grafted into the ancient root of Israel. This is news for a lot of Christians today. God did not make the New Covenant with the church as many suppose, but with the House of Israel and with Judah (Jer. 31:31). By the grace of God through Jesus Christ we Gentile Christians are grafted into that ancient covenant.
When we look at Ephesians 3:6 we see another mystery. This one was also revealed almost two thousand years ago but again we Christians still do not understand it. Paul says: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” We cannot help notice how many times “together” is used in this passage.
Now what is the New Testament saying about all this? Simply, it says that God calls Gentiles to salvation as a part of Israel. If we read Ephesians 2:12, we learn that we Gentiles were once “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Obviously ours was a pretty dismal and desperate situation. However, through Christ, Israel’s Messiah, and through his blood, we are now brought near to God (Eph. 2:2:13). Paul goes on to add: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19).
What a glorious mystery! God has not only grafted us Gentiles into his olive tree but he is allowing us to inherit his great kingdom together with Israel. Let us explore some more implications of this mystery.
GOD IS MAKING A NEW MAN
We see in the book of Genesis that God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden. He created man that he might exercise dominion over the earth and be a sort of vice-regent for God (Gen. 1:26, 28). We also see that the devil soon spoiled that plan and brought man down from his exalted position. As a result of his sin man was driven from the Garden and away from God’s presence. Also as a result of man’s sin the ground was cursed, destined to bring forth thorns and thistles. Many other problems and difficulties were introduced into God’s creation because of man’s sin. In theology this is known as the “fall of man.”
To address the problem of man’s fall God eventually established the covenant people of Israel. Israel was to become the vehicle of God’s redemption for the whole world – a light to the nations. God would bring Israel close to himself and reveal his saving plan and his Messiah to his own people. Through Israel God later introduced the sacrificial system where the blood of animals was offered for sin. All this was but a picture of a perfect sacrifice that was coming (Heb. 10:10-14). The people of Israel labored on through the centuries and waited in hope for the arrival of their promised Messiah.
It was to this fallen situation that Jesus Christ the Messiah and Second Adam came (1 Cor. 15:45). Instead of losing his position to Satan as the first Adam had done, Christ became victorious over Satan by his life, by his death on the cross and by his resurrection. Through his victory he made it possible for many fallen sons of Adam to enter into glory once again (Heb. 2:10). However, Israel, God’s own covenant people, did not understand the glorious work of her own Messiah (Lk. 19:42). Because of Israel’s refusal to accept him, God opened wide the door of salvation to Gentile peoples everywhere (Rom. 11:25)
We see in the Bible that God’s clear purpose is now to make peace between Jew and Gentile as we see in Ephesians 2:14: “For he himself [Christ] is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” We further see that: “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two” (Eph. 2:15). This is a very important step in God’s overall restoration of man and of the world.
In the church we have been hindered and sidetracked for centuries because we didn’t fully understand God’s program. For hundreds of years the church has been blinded by anti-Semitism and gross ignorance. We have even found ourselves persecuting and hating the Jews while ignoring and even despising the nation of Israel. We did not realize that in so doing we were missing God’s main purpose for ourselves. Today we are crippled by these many centuries of anti-Semitic theology in the church. This type theology has particularly blinded us to God’s purpose for the church and Israel in the last days. It is surely time for us to wake up and to “blow the trumpet in Zion.”
GOD IS NOT JUST RENEWING MAN, BUT RENEWING THE WHOLE CREATION
As we have seen, not only is man infected with sin but the whole creation has been defiled because of man’s sin. The Bible makes it very plain that this present world or present evil age cannot last. In 1 John 2:17 we read; “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” As all this comes to completion in the last days there will be great struggle and distress. God will do two things. He will raise up and restore Israel and will raise up and restore his church; that is, he will bring forth a righteous remnant in both (Isa. 37:32; Matt. 22:14). Then according to his good word he will bring the two together into a glorious unity.
What God has in mind is quite beyond our natural ability to perceive. Paul in speaking about it, says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Still Paul tells us in this passage that we can have a glimpse of what God has prepared by the Spirit who now lives in us.
It is clear that God will raise up an overcoming and believing remnant from the Gentile church and from Israel (Rev. 14:1-5). In Christ and through him this remnant will stand against the devil and the Antichrist in the last day. In Revelation 12:11 we see this overcoming remnant in action. It is said of them: “They overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” We see this overcoming remnant standing triumphantly with the Lamb on Mt. Zion (Rev. 14:1). Then we see that they will be seated with the Lamb on his throne (Rev. 3:21) and will exercise his authority over the earth (Rev. 2:26-27). But we see that many of these overcomers will pay the ultimate price and give up their lives in martyrdom for the Lord Jesus (Rev. 6:9).
Long ago the prophet Daniel faintly glimpsed this great end-day contest of Christ and his redeemed community against the devil and the Antichrist. Daniel says: “There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people– everyone whose name is found written in the book– will be delivered” (Dan. 12:1). Daniel also says: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
Earth has waited a long time for man to get it together in Christ. In Romans 8:19, Paul tells us that “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” It is almost as if the whole creation were standing on tiptoe waiting for this event. When this happens all creation will be restored to pristine beauty and glory. In Revelation 21:1 John says: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” It is clear in Revelation and other places that while this evil age and while evil men pass away, both the creation and believing humanity will be restored through Christ.
Daniel further sees that: “ the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever– yes, for ever and ever” (Dan. 7:18). It should not surprise us to see the Book of Revelation ending with a similar vision (Rev. 22:5). John says of the Lord’s overcoming saints: “And they will reign for ever and ever.”