THE BIG PICTURE
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The purpose of this essay is to briefly set forth the big picture of what God has done, is doing, and yet will do with His creatures. A glimpse of the overall plan may help us avoid side trips into doctrines and practices that are not central to the Divine purpose. Although God’s scheme is infinitely complex in its carrying out, it actually consists of a few simple ideas.
THE BIG PICTURE
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, To be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:9,10—NIV)
If you will think carefully about the above passage of Scripture you will see that God’s plan is to bring all things of His creation together under one Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. All things are to become part of Christ.
Our Christian tradition tends to view God’s purpose as that of bringing people to Heaven to live forever. This would accomplish nothing. After all, rebellion and sin began in Heaven around the Throne of God.
The Divine purpose is to bring all things together as part of Christ, Christ being the King over all.
This is a simply expressed idea but it encompasses all that has taken place, is now taking place, and yet shall take place. It is the Kingdom of God.
We do not know how long before God created the material realm that the angels chose to rebel against His will. We do understand, however, that all that has taken place since then has been in response to the original rebellion.
Whether Almighty God knew before He created, through the Word, the angels, cherubim, and other creatures of the spirit realm that some of them would rebel, and had already made His plans for summing up the creation in the Word, it is difficult to tell. My guess is that He did know rebellion would arise.
Whatever dignitaries there were at that time among the heavenly creatures, there was One who loves righteousness and hates wickedness. For this reason the Father has set Him above His companions by anointing Him with the oil of joy.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Psalms 45:6,7—NIV)
God is very slow to anger and very wise in His response. He does not rush around in a rage, doing stupid things until He cools down. We ought to learn from this. He could have satisfied His anger concerning the rebellion by immediately consigning all of the rebels to the Lake of Fire, to the place of torment reserved for the devil and his angels.
But God was pleased with the Word, who had come out from Himself. Rather than just destroying the wicked immediately God envisioned a new creation that would reflect in itself the love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness that resides in Himself and in His Son, the Word—He who was to become “Christ” by virtue of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
To begin the new creation God created the material sky and earth. We need to realize the material creation is superior to the bodiless spiritual creation. We Christians long to go to the spirit realm, to Heaven. What we do not realize is that the material creation is a superior environment. What it is lacking is the life, the love, the peace, the joy, the wonder that are found in the spirit realm. When Heaven clothes itself with earth, which it shall in the Kingdom of God, we will have an environment vastly superior to either Heaven or earth by itself.
But it is not enough to have Heaven clothed with earth as our environment. As long as there is any chance of rebellion, the new environment is totally unsatisfactory. There must be a total destruction of sin before we have an environment suitable for the habitation of God and His children.
We see, therefore, that God envisions a new world consisting of a union of Heaven and earth, all an integral part of Jesus the Anointed One and governed by Him who loves righteousness and hates wickedness.
As part of the new world, the Kingdom of God, there is a need for creatures to fulfill the following roles and tasks. These are what God is creating.
- A counterpart for God’s Son, the Word; someone for His Son to love.
- A temple for Himself.
- A body for His Son, an increase of the Son’s Being.
- Creatures who can be trusted to restore and maintain Paradise on the earth.
- A royal priesthood who can bring the Presence and blessing of God to His creatures.
- Creatures who can bear witness of God, of His Person, ways, and will.
- Creatures born of God whom He can regard as His sons.
- Creatures born of God who will be brothers of the greater Son.
- Creatures who are able to resist and overcome all who would rebel against the Father’s will.
- Creatures who can serve as rulers of the works of God’s hands.
- Creatures who can serve as judges of God’s other creatures.
- Creatures who can serve as a wall of defense around the Glory of God such that sin is never again permitted to enter His Presence.
- Creatures who are a revelation of Himself, as is true of Jesus Christ.
It is because of God’s desire to have a material kingdom, and the personnel mentioned above, that God created man. When you think about the various roles and services you can see that angels are not suitable for many of these.
Man was created as a son of God, as the image of God. Man is to be male and female, that is, capable of union with God and other people. Man is to be fruitful, being able to reproduce the image of God in himself and other people. Man is to govern all the works of God’s hands.
Man was created to be the throne of God, the representative of God to all of His creatures. But in order for man to fulfill his foreordained destiny he must be in the image of Jesus Christ.
And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28,29—NIV)
We see from the above that God has a purpose. We notice also that as part of this purpose God has predestined some people to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. The result will be brothers for the Lord, sons of God born from the same Father.
But this is not enough. In addition to being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, man must be dwelling in untroubled rest in Christ in God, becoming an integral part of the one Divine Nature. The Lord Jesus is sharing His Glory and His inheritance with us. Therefore we must become of the same Nature as He and an integral part of Himself. Otherwise God would be giving His Glory to a person separate from Himself, and this cannot be.
That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so the world may believe you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:21-23—NIV)
Jesus prayed this prayer for those whom God has given Him from among the members of mankind.
Read carefully these three verses (above) and you will be amazed to find that God indeed is incorporating into Himself, through Jesus Christ, those who have chosen to become a part of Christ. God loves us as He loves His firstborn Son. Isn’t that a marvel? Now we are not only in the image of Christ but also abiding in the Person of Christ, always doing the will of God from the heart. There is no higher destiny than this.
As we ponder what we have said thus far we see that the Christian salvation includes much more than saving people from Hell and bringing them to Heaven. There is a grand Divine plan for restructuring the entire creation of God.
Sin entered Heaven, as God probably knew in advance it would, and infected some of the angels.
Then God set in motion the great scheme that would result in the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ.
Man was created. Sin immediately descended from the heavens and infected man. Now we have an entire race of creatures cut off from God’s Presence, containing within themselves the deadly virus of sin and rebellion.
As we said previously, God could have appeased His anger concerning the sin of the angels by throwing all of those rebels into the Lake of Fire. Indeed, all of them eventually shall find their eternal destiny in the Lake of Fire. None shall be saved, as far as we know. It is given to man to be their judges.
But it is not God’s will that all the members of the race of mankind perish in the Lake of Fire. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ suffered the fate of those who sin against God. He did this on our behalf, appeasing God’s anger on behalf of every human being who would accept the salvation God is offering.
Now we have people who have been reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus Christ but who are little more than raw material in terms of the destiny to which they have been called: to be in the image of Christ; to be at rest in the Person of God through Christ, and to be trained so as to be able to fulfill one or more of the several roles and tasks set forth above.
This is a program of development so vast as to stagger our sensibilities. Yet it all shall be accomplished to perfection. Whether you and I are willing to cooperate with the Spirit of God all the way to its full accomplishment depends on us, on the choices we make each day.
Adam and Eve were on the earth, and then came their descendants. The patriarchs played out their role. Sin increased until the flood of Noah’s day.
Abraham was called from Ur of the Chaldees along with his family. From Abraham came the nation of Israel. Then the revelation of God’s moral Nature through the Ten Commandments. The purpose of the Law was to keep sin under control until the promised Seed should come.
Then the Word of God made His appearance, the One upon whom all is to be established.
The atonement was made followed by the resurrection, which death and Hell were unable to prevent.
The Holy Spirit was sent down from Heaven so the good news of the atonement and resurrection could be proclaimed, and also so the work of fashioning the rulers of the Kingdom could be accomplished.
Notice how everything that takes place depends on what has gone before. World history is the long process of establishing all things in Christ until He is Lord of all.
The full revelation of the Kingdom came through the Apostles, but then was lost, as God knew it would be. We cannot just be handed the Gospel of the Kingdom. Rather it has to be wrought out in human experience, as is true of every dimension of God’s eternal purpose in Jesus Christ.
A great deal of Gospel work took place, particularly in Europe, throughout the hundreds of years from the first century until the Protestant Reformation. At the time of the Reformation the Bible was translated and made accessible to believers who were not part of the clergy.
From that period to the present we have seen many of the original apostolic doctrines restored, such as salvation by faith rather than by meritorious deeds, the priesthood of the believer, water baptism by immersion, the reality of the born-again experience, the need for personal holiness, and the prospect of the bodily return of Jesus Christ.
At the turn of the present century the Presence and work of the Holy Spirit were emphasized as never before, resulting in speaking in tongues and miraculous healing. We might refer to the twentieth century as the Pentecostal century.
In the middle of that century there came an increased emphasis on prophecy, words of wisdom and knowledge, discernment of spirits, and so forth. Also the concept of the Body of Christ received increasing attention.
I think there has been considerable confusion over the last two decades as to what God is emphasizing now. Some of the Pentecostal-Charismatic churches have become formal and cold spiritually. In other instances there is considerable activity, some of which seems to be fleshly. Yet there are reports of genuine blessings occurring even when much of what is taking place may be questionable.
From my point of view the so-called “prosperity” and “faith” teachings are not solidly based in the Scriptures, although I feel certain there are genuine disciples who promote these ideas. As of late these unscriptural emphases seem to be fading away. Let us hope so because to teach that Christians ought to be prosperous in material wealth is to go against the writings of the Apostle Paul. It is well if we have food and raiment. When we have more than we need we should be ready to share with others. The pursuit of material wealth leads only to deception and misery.
But where are we? There are numerous voices proclaiming this plan and that experience. But which one is God? Which one is telling us of the next step in achieving the master plan?
We have been saved and filled with the Spirit. Now what? It seems obvious a “rapture” into Heaven is not going to meets God’s need for people in the image of Christ and living in untroubled rest in the center of God’s will.
Where can we look to find out what God actually is saying?
There are four great types in the Bible, each of which is divided into seven parts, each of which portrays the steps God has taken, is taking, and yet shall take as He brings all under subjection to Jesus Christ. Each of these four types presents the same picture, although each approaches the subject in a unique manner.
The four types are as follows; the seven days of the creation; the journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan; the seven furnishings of the Tabernacle of the Congregation; and the seven feasts of Israel.
Since I have written in other places concerning the four types I will not go into detail at this point.
The type that I use most often is that of the seven feasts of Israel. These are found in the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Leviticus as well as in other parts of the Law.
There are seven feasts in all. The fourth is Pentecost. As we mentioned, the twentieth century could be referred to as the Pentecostal century because of the spread of the Pentecostal doctrines throughout the world.
We have been through the experiences portrayed by the first three feasts. We now are at Pentecost, so to speak. It is evident that if God has followed the pattern closely up to this point (the Holy Spirit falling from Heaven on the very day of the Jewish feast of Pentecost). We have reason to believe the final three feasts may reveal to us what is next on the program leading to the headship of Christ over the creation.
- The fifth feast is the Blowing of Trumpets.
- The sixth feast is the Day of Atonement.
- The seventh and final feast is that of Tabernacles.
These three feasts reveal that following Pentecost will come the spiritual fulfillment of the Blowing of Trumpets—the announcement of war in the spirit realm. At this time God will declare His intention to utterly remove sin from His creation.
The waging of the war, the casting out of sin and rebellion from His Church and finally from those of the nations who are saved (the “sheep”), will result in an atonement, a reconciliation to God of those thus purified.
To the present hour the members of the Church have been reconciled to God through the blood of Christ. God has accepted us. But we have not as yet been reconciled to God in personality. We still have much sin and rebellion in us, all of which is contrary to God’s Person and will. Isn’t it a fact? All of this spiritual death must be removed from us before we can serve God in His Kingdom.
The removing of all sin and rebellion from us will make it possible for God and Christ to settle down to rest in us, thus fulfilling the idea of everything becoming part of Christ and being governed by Christ. The Church is the firstfruits of that which one day shall be true of the entire saved creation.
God is dealing with sin today; not so much sin in the world but sin in the Lord’s people. We have always been taught that as long as we are in the world we will sin and there is nothing Jesus can do about it. He cannot save us from sin. This is not what the Bible teaches. It is the opposite of what the Bible teaches.
But you know he appeared so he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (I John 3:5—NIV)
Think carefully about the above verse. The context prevents our interpreting the verse to mean Christ appeared to take away only the guilt of our sins. The meaning is that Jesus Christ appeared to remove the power of sin from us.
Jesus Christ did not appear just to forgive our sins. The Lord appeared for the purpose of removing sin from us; for the purpose of destroying the work of the devil in us. The context of the verse teaches this clearly.
We Christians have not understood or believed this could be true.
Perhaps the seals are being removed from the Scriptures in our day. I don’t know. But one thing I do know: it is time now for God to remove sin from His churches.
We cannot possible serve God in His Kingdom while there is sin and rebellion in us. This is ridiculous!
We have always thought that when we die sin will be removed from us; or when the Lord returns He will remove sin from us. Neither of these ideas has any basis whatever in the Scriptures.
When we die sin will not be removed from us. Sin is a spiritual force and began and exists in the spirit realm. Why should dying remove sin from us?
When the Lord accosted His lazy servant who buried His talent, the Lord did not say, “I forgive you for wasting My money and I know you will not do this any longer after you die.” The Lord removed the talent from the lazy servant and had him thrown into the outer darkness.
On what basis, then, do we claim dying will solve the problem of sin in our life?
And as far as the Lord removing sin from us when He returns, we know that the careless virgins who neglected to bring enough oil were shut off from the Lord’s Presence.
On what basis, then, do we claim the coming of the Lord will solve the problem of sin?
We are greatly mistaken in this.
The only manner in which sin can be removed from the creation is by the power of Jesus Christ. The Scripture reveals that in the last days the Lord will come and bring salvation to us, “salvation” meaning the removal of sin and, at His appearing, the redemption of our body. I think the removal of sin is beginning now.
Today the Lord Jesus is standing at the door of each Christian heart. He is asking for admittance. When He enters He dines on our praise and worship and we dine on His body and blood.
It is the Lord of Hosts who has entered, the Lord strong and mighty in battle. He enters through the everlasting doors of our personality and drives out the enemy.
Go to the Lord right now and see if this is what He is saying to you. When He shows you some sin in your life, confess it as sin, denounce it, renounce it, turn away from it. The Holy Spirit will help you.
If you will take a firm, hostile attitude toward the sin in your personality you shall be delivered. But if you hesitate and dawdle, musing about how much the Lord loves you, you will get nowhere. Sin is a vicious enemy in your life. The Lord is ready to go to war against it. Are you?
After Pentecost comes the spiritual fulfillment of the Blowing of Trumpets—war against sin. This is in preparation for the Lord’s coming to us with the Father to make His eternal home in us.
Sin is to be utterly removed from the creation. There is to be no sin of any kind remaining. Total destruction! Total destruction of sin! This is beginning today.
Perhaps not all of God’s people will demonstrate the same vigilance, the same diligence, when it comes to driving sin from themselves through the Holy Spirit. But there will be a Gideon’s army who will be the first wave of assault. You can be part of this wave if you desire. Just ask the Lord.
God has determined to put an end to sin and to bring in everlasting righteousness.
“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.” (Daniel 9:24—NIV)
The process of putting an end to sin has begun now.
Remember, the Divine plan is to sum up all things in Jesus Christ and to make Him Head over all. All of the creation is to be made a part of Christ.
While we are being cleansed from sin, Christ is being formed in us. Christ is formed in us as we choose at every point of decision during the day to turn away from our own will and do that which is pleasing to God. When we do this we are fed in the spirit realm with the body and blood of Christ. As we are fed the body and blood of Christ, Christ is formed in us. Our adamic nature must die each day. Christ must grow stronger each day.
Before the end of the Church Age the Father and the Son will come through the Holy Spirit and make that which has been formed in us Their eternal residence.
As we understand the program, there will be some believers who will participate in the total cleansing from sin, the full formation of Christ in them, and the receiving of the Father and the Son into the throne room of their personality. These will compose a firstfruits to God and the Lamb.
When the Lord returns, the firstfruits will be raised from the dead (or transformed if they are alive at the time) and then caught up to meet the Lord in the air, to the place where the thrones that govern the earth are located.
Then the Lord, followed by His army of saints in the white linen of their Christ-produced righteous behavior, will descend and attack Antichrist. They will drive him from the land of Israel.
Immediately Christ will be crowned King on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. From this place He will send His saints to govern the nations left alive after the fury of the Battle of Armageddon.
The saints will govern the nations in righteousness, teaching them to obey the moral laws of God.
Also, I believe, during the thousand years of this Kingdom Age, the members of God’s elect (living at that time in the spirit world) who did not attain to the first resurrection will be being reconciled to God in their personality in preparation for their descent to the new earth as the holy city, the new Jerusalem. Perhaps the members of the firstfruits will teach and otherwise assist those who are being prepared as they too become the dwelling place of the Father and Christ.
When God is satisfied that His plan has progressed to the point that all things have been summed up in Christ, or are ready to be summed up in Christ, He will banish the present earth and heavens from His Presence. He will bring up before Himself the dead from all periods of history. Those whom He has chosen to be in the Book of Life will be brought forward to the new earth. Those whose names are not found in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. The judges at that time will be Christ and His firstfruits.
Now we see a new sky and a new earth. God has taken all that is and has made it new in Christ. All the old creation died on the cross of Calvary. Everything that has been brought over to the new world has partaken of the resurrection Life of Jesus to a greater or lesser extent.
The Lord Jesus, all things of the creation having been made subject to Himself, will turn back the creation to God the Father, to the One who brought all things under subjection to Christ. God then will have become All in all in His creation. God is in Christ who is in His saints who have become the Presence of God extended to every saved creature of the universe.
This, I believe, is the big picture. All doctrine and practice that has as its goal bringing us into the image of Christ and into oneness with Christ, that cooperates with the Holy Spirit as He removes sin from us and forms Christ in us, is of God. All doctrine and practice that does not have as its goal bringing us into the image of Christ and into oneness with Christ, that does not cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He removes sin from us and forms Christ in us, is not of God. It is of the flesh, or of Satan, or of both the flesh and Satan.
We are heading toward an age of moral horrors. The past has brought us to the present hour. Let all of us who are Christians now turn to the Lord Jesus and get our marching orders.
We are not to panic like the world when we see the judgment of God fall on America. We are to pray continually so we will be as a lighthouse that people can see in the storm. The American people are soft, loving their comforts. They have been taught that life is a situation comedy. Their wise people and educators have assured them that the Christians are outmoded cranks whose main purpose in life is to make everyone miserable.
This soft, comfort-loving generation is soon to discover that life is not a situation comedy. It is going to be hit hard with the problems and pains of basic survival. Out from this turmoil will come many strong Christians, as well as children of the destroyer.
It is up to each of us to stand in his or her place around the camp, for the Lord will deliver the enemy into our hand and make each of us a source of blessing in the days ahead for untold numbers of people.
God is on the throne. He knows exactly what He is doing. Rejoice!
(“The Big Picture”, 3539-1)