There was a time when everything in creation revolved around the perfect will of God. Both the course of nature and human beings lived by God’s established laws. At that time everything was right and healthy. It was man, the only creature endowed with free will and given the privilege to rule over everything else on the planet, who in trying to venture out of the perfect will of the creator threw everything out of balance!
Through time the population of the world grew. As the moral compass of man became more ossified, wickedness increased. “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen.6:5). Almost all human beings had become vessels of evil and hence placed themselves on the path to death. God decided to bring everything to a halt. A flood was sent to destroy everything except righteous Noah and his family.
From the three children of Noah the world started being repopulated. Although evil still persisted in children of disobedience, the Lord God started a work among a people that came to be known as Israelites. Their eyes were opened to see the way that leads to life – “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc.12:13).
God made a covenant with the Israelites: they were not to pollute themselves with the vain practices of other races. They were thus forbidden to get mixed up with the customs and traditions of other nations. God was doing an important work in them which would ultimately become a light to other nations. Various ordinances were given to Israelites to teach them obedience. In the fullness of time, Christ came to fulfil all what those practices of the law had pointed to.
When the Lord Jesus paid the price of redemption all authority was given to him by the Father. When he resurrected he gathered all saints who had been held captive by death in Sheol unto himself. From being captives of death they were now held by the power of life: “When he ascended up on high he led captivity captive” and ascended to heaven with those Old Testament saints (Eph.4:8, Mat.27:52-53). The whole family of heaven was thus gathered in Christ and became named after him.
The Lord commanded his disciples saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Mat.28:18). All those on Earth who die to themselves and rise in the newness of life to live by his will, signified by water baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Act.2:38), also become part of the family and are hence also gathered into Christ.
When Jesus Christ died on the cross he paid the price for redeeming the world. By that price the “power” which Satan had boasted of by saying “[it was] delivered unto me” (Luk.4:6) was now to be given back to the Redeemer, the “second man” or the “last Adam” which is the Lord Jesus Christ. By paying that price, all things – both the world of Gentiles and Jews – shall be restored. Like the Lord Jesus had proclaimed before his death, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (Joh.12:32).
Good news to the Gentiles
Now, it was unthinkable that one day Gentiles, the ‘unclean animals’, would be cleansed from their vanities. Apostle Peter was shocked when he saw that vision of unclean animals being offered to him to eat. “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” he answered. But the vision spoke about a people that had never been part of the faith of the Jews. A people who were dirty with pagan beliefs and practices but now God would cleanse and graft them into the family tree.
When Peter was led to speak to a Gentile gathering he interpreted his vision to the people saying, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: he is Lord of all” (Act.10:34-36). Yes, even among the Gentiles there are those who would surrender and live by his will and hence call him Lord!
What Peter experienced had been signified in the time of Noah when both clean and unclean animals were gathered as one into the ark of safety. It was strange and unthinkable but through time Hebrew prophets had actually hinted to it (Gen.12:3, Isa.60:1,65:1-2, Psa.86:9-10, Rev.10:7).
As the Gospel of the resurrection of Christ spread in Israel the unexpected happened. Jews rejected the message of Salvation upon which Paul declared, “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves” (Act.28:28-29). Sad as this was, it was the working of God. He had determined a period of time during which he would only deal with the Gentiles – “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom.11:25).
The ultimate objective of this mystery of God is to bring everything under the headship of Christ: “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 fulfilment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Eph.1:9-10, NIV). All that would come under this headship are those who willingly do so after perceiving the vanity of the world and the joy of living by his will. Yes, “that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye [the Gentiles] also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye [the Gentiles] believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph.1:10-13).
Notice that “trust” or “faith” in God’s counsel stands at the centre of this mystery plan of God! It is important to know that the fall in Eden was caused by a desire to veer away from the perfect counsel of God. Veering away from the creator’s wisdom, which is the way of the Tree of Life (read Pro.3:18), has been responsible for all the troubles of the world, and the only way healing will come to the nations of the world is by getting restored to (and eating of) that tree. That healing will occur during the millennial reign of Christ. The counsel of his Word, through his chosen kings around the world, will heal the world of all the turmoil it has gone through. “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb”, apostle John narrated his vision, “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev.22:1-2).
Dearly beloved, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc.12:13-14). Amen.