Thou art worthy 0 Lord to receive glory and honour and power, for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created. Rev. 4:11
There is a certain grandeur about these words that cannot be matched by any further comment from us. It is sufficient that the 24 elders in heaven said them after hearing the ascription of praise uttered by the 4 Cherubim. But it is well for us to ponder the significance of these words, and ask ourselves what God’s plan of creation is all about. I shall not write as an authority, or as a learned man, but as one who desires to express my thoughts, and confess my own smallness and inadequacy, and above all to reflect the praise brought by the elders in heaven.
Man’s theories of the Universe pale into insignificance by the side of these words. “Thou hast created all things” A simple child-like faith in God is all that is needed to accept and feel the security of these strong words. We are not at the ‘mercy’ of strange impersonal forces in the realms of Nature at large. We are here at the PLEASURE of the Creator! Yes, the whole Universe was created for God’s pleasure, and that includes mankind. It is as though God has looked across the valley of sin, and kept His pure eyes upon the glory of His own purposes on the far side. We are here in the world of weakness, imperfection, and rebellion, living in a ‘teacup’ of fury. But God is outside, and sees the end from the beginning, and speaks about His PLEASURE in creation. Can we catch a breath of His fresh air in these words? Can it be that our own spirits might rise, might see over the rim of the teacup for a brief while and bask in the glorious sunshine of His PLEASURE?
A few nights ago, after the strong winds and rain, the skies had cleared, and the stars shone brightly. We live in a dwelling surrounded by open fields. There are few lights to destroy the beauty of the heavens, and so we wrapped up well and sat in the garden for a while just drinking in the beauty of the stars and the Milky Way across the zenith of the heavens. At such times one feels bound to be silent. The sheer grandeur reduces one to a state of unimportance and insignificance. After about ten minutes, when our eyes had adjusted to the dark, we were almost overwhelmed by the sight. And as though to be ‘rewarded’ for our brief attendance, we witnessed a number of bright fireballs racing silently across the sky.
For many years in my professional work as a teacher, I gave talks and lectures on aspects of the Universe from the Physicist’s and Astronomer’s viewpoint. As I recall those days I remember telling my audiences that astronomers had estimated there to be some 100,000,000,000 stars in our own Galaxy (the Milky Way). Also that they had investigated the far reaches of the Universe through powerful telescopes like the 200 inch reflector at Mount Palomar in California, and estimated that there are at least 1,000,000,000 other Galaxies each with its own multitude of stars. It is easy to throw out statistics like this. But what do they mean? As we sat looking at the stars that night, I wondered inwardly about the greatness of our God who could create in such magnitude and glory. Truly “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth His handiwork.” But was I able to accommodate in my small brain God’s true creative splendour?
And then again, as a physicist, I had taught aspects of atomic physics to my students. And in doing so I had asked them to visualize a world as infinitesimally small as the heavens above are infinitely large. And here we were to find the clear evidence of law and order. Matter was not found to be a pudding-like conglomeration of stuff, but rather to be composed of discrete particles of definite size and electric charge. It was as though God had made the matter of His Universe from three basic building blocks, which Scientists had named PROTON, NEUTRON, and ELECTRON. In more recent days there is growing evidence that WITHIN the proton there are further orders of particles, but evidence for their existence is not as yet forthcoming, though their theoretical existence has been postulated for nearly three decades.
Now, I find that my mind is totally unable to assess the grandeur of the Universe at large. It just boggles at the immensity. I am flattened by the sheer greatness of my God. I am totally silenced into submission. But equally am I at a loss to accommodate the ability of God to create the tiniest of things with such precision. When I think of God walking in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, and talking with Adam, or appearing to Abraham under the oak trees of Mamre, I tend to think of Him as ‘man-size’ But this great God in whom we have been privileged to believe, was able to accomplish things of vast size, and also of extremely small size. And that I find impossible to grasp. I can only conclude that I was never intended to grasp it. But believe it, I will! I am glad to believe it with all my heart, because the heart is able to accomplish things that are impossible for the mind.
Going back to the words in Rev.4:11, we find this mention of God’s pleasure. Now I am aware that the Greek word for pleasure in this context is THELEMA, and that it occurs nearly 70 times in the N.T. and in EVERY OTHER reference it is translated WILL. Some modern versions striving at consistency use the word ‘will’ in Rev.4:11. Why then did the A.V. translators decide to depart from uniformity, and employ the word ‘pleasure’ here? A moment’s reflection will show that the divine WILL (as indeed also the human WILL) is focused towards that which gives PLEASURE. Hence there is no real argument against its usage in this verse.
When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he expressed the same thought. God’s dear Son – – the image of the invisible God – – – by Him were all things created – – by Him and for Him.” (Col.1:13-16) In these words we find that God’s purpose in creating is not just to display His greatness, (i.e. created BY Him) but for His own pleasure and purposes (created FOR Him.)
Coming back inside the ‘teacup’ of our present world situation, what can we say about the ultimate purposes of God? Can we find some grand theme presented to us in the Scriptures , a theme which will be as difficult to receive and understand as the theme of creation already discussed? I believe we can. And I find that Paul went on to outline this purpose in the words following those already quoted in Colossians. It is in verse 20.
AND HAVING MADE PEACE BY THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS, BY HIM TO RECONCILE ALL THINGS UNTO HIMSELF- – BY HIM, WHETHER THINGS ON EARTH OR THINGS IN HEAVEN.
So great is the theme, that it is all but incomprehensible. Is it possible to accept and believe what Paul has said? What does he assert? He speaks about making peace through the shed blood of God’s dear Son at Calvary. What do we find in this world? Whether it be in the relative seclusion of one’s own family, or in the greater context of the town, the region, or the country, there is no peace. Man is found to be continually exercising his will to counter those around him. Instead of ayieldedness, and a humility, and a willingness to accept that we may be wrong, and that we do not yet have the whole truth, we like to assert ourselves, maintain dogmatic stands, and accuse all those who will not submit to our own ‘sweet reasonableness’. No, we do not find peace anywhere. Jesus said that there would be ‘wars and rumours of wars’, and that ‘nations would rise up against nation, and people against people’. All this obtains because of man’s inherent sinfulness. It is a disease of human nature passed down from generation to generation from our first parents. There is no peace in this world. There never has been peace. Even those occasions in history when conditions SEEMED peaceable, there was still the family trouble that never hit the headlines, or the tribal warfare that went undetected.
But our God has declared that He HAS MADE PEACE. And He has done so by the blood of His cross. We may not SEE it, we may not even think that it could ever come about, but God has declared it. It is part of His good pleasure for the whole world. He did not say that this peace would only find a home in the hearts of a few, those who yielded to Him. He firmly declared that He had MADE PEACE through the blood of His cross. At Calvary, ultimate peace was attained. It was achieved! It became a fact of history, never to be erased. We may not yet ‘see all things under His feet’ but we are asked to believe, to simply accept, that it WAS ACCOMPLISHED in the death and the resurrection of God’s Son. The fact of peace was secured on the cross, and the guarantee of peace was stamped upon the face of the Universe by the resurrection. The resurrection was the seal of divine approval on the work of God’s Son at Calvary. Jesus expressed the truth of this when He said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw ALL MEN unto myself.’ John then tells us that He was referring to the cross when He spoke of being ‘lifted up.’ Eventually this truth will emerge to the glory of God, a truth that has until now only been the blessed inheritance of those who yield to God and believe in Jesus unto personal salvation.
Furthermore, Paul asserted that by this act of Calvary, Jesus would ‘reconcile all things to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven. In this statement we are asked to consider the whole population of sentient beings created by God. In heaven there are countless myriads of angels. Upon earth there have been, and still are teeming millions of human beings. But whether itbe Satan and his fallen angelic host, or fallen mankind upon earth, all have been included in Paul’s grand words upon God’s theme. To ‘reconcile all things unto Himself’. Without wishing to be pedantic, it must be said that the Greek word ‘reconcile’ is a triple word APO-KAT-ALLASSO of which the prefixes APO and KATA are intensives, and serve to emphasize, even to labour the point, that nothing had been excluded from God’s grand design, His pleasurable theme.
Now, I am aware that it will be difficult for many to accept what I have just said, because they will say, “This man believes that in the end ALL will be saved, and the Bible does not say that. It says that there will be everlasting hell-fire for those who do not believe.” I am painfully aware that this is the case, and have had it ‘thrown at me’ now and again. But God has impressed the truth of His grand theme on my heart, and I will no longer be moved. This is not a matter of a dogmatic will that will not bend to another point of view, rather is it a simple belief, and child-like acceptance of the word of God. Paul said that Jesus was “the Saviour of ALL MEN, particularly those who believe.” (1 Tim.4:10) Words of this type cannot be misconstrued. If Paul had only used the first part of the sentence, and ended his remark at ALL MEN, then theologians would have a field-day arguing what he meant by ALL MEN. But he went on to say “particularly those who believe”. And this established the fact once and for all. In all sincerity I ask my readers this question. If you believe in everlasting hell-fire because ‘the Bible says so’, then why do you not also believe Paul’s words to Timothy, just quoted, because they also are ‘in the Bible’?
I have found amongst believers there is a tendency to fix the mind on the unpleasantness of everlasting hell, rather than the glories of God’s ultimate plan. Whereas it might be thought that ultimate reconciliation, taught so clearly by Paul, was the breath of fresh air to blow away the sulphurous smells of the lake of fire, I find instead that the smell of brimstone seems sadly to be preferred by some! Paul’s doctrinal statement was stated in plain words, simple to understand, and of ready acceptance. But the Scriptures relating to hell-fire are all bound up in figurative language, and accompanied by the mischievous mistranslation of an ancient figure of speech, and made to become ‘for ever and ever.’ This paper is not the place to expound on this figure of speech. But I will say this. I am a firm believer in hell fire. Also I am a firm believer in the fact that it will be a painful experience for those who have to endure it. But whatever the ‘fire and sulphur’ signify, they cannot last for ever, and therefore demand an understanding of what transpires when they have done their work.
My own reading of the Scriptures now shows me that fire is an Old Testament symbol for refinement, and not for destruction. And if God has to use His ‘fires’ to refine that which has resisted Him vehemently, it is bound to be painful. But in the end God wins! How can man for ever resist His overtures of reconciliation and peace?
In this my final plea on the reconciliation issue, I would like to draw together the threads of the argument in this paper. I have shown how difficult it has been for me (even after having a University training in physics) to comprehend the vastness of God’s creative ability in the Universe, whether it be the magnitude of space and the Galaxies, or the progressively sub-microscopic world of the atom and nucleus. But even so, my heart swells at the very appearance of the vault of heaven on a clear night. Even so does it respond to the beauty of living things upon the earth, and the impossibly-complicated magnificence of the human body and mind. That which the mind is unable to grasp, the heart finds pleasure in believing. And I know that many others who have yielded their lives to the Son of God would agree with me here.
But the difficulty of believing in ultimate reconciliation is not of the same order at all. The difficulty arises due to TRADITION. It is the difficulty of walking a road that is unfrequented by the majority in Christendom. It is the difficulty of standing alone, when all our friends depart and look narrowly upon us as ‘heretics.’ It is the difficulty of ‘statistics’, when it is pointed out that for the last 2000 years VERY FEW seem to have believed that God could ultimately redeem ALL His creation. But Paul told the Colossians that God had already MADE PEACE. All mankind HAS ALREADY BEEN REDEEMED. The whole stain of sin has been expunged from the Universe. It is an accomplished fact. God is rejoicing! His work is done! Christ has died, yea, has risen again! Even if yet we do not SEE the end, why cannot we believe it?
In all the years of this world, up to the present day, God has been selecting a small company of people, those who yield to Him, and accept a punishing lifestyle of obedience amongst the hostile surrounding forces of darkness, both human and demonic. But this day is shortly to end, and the ‘little flock’ of God’s choosing will become His ambassadors, His teachers, His princes and governors, in His Kingdom on earth. And in this new day, God will visit the ‘residue of men’, and call them unto Himself by the same token of divine love that was so precious to His remnant church, namely the uplifted Son of God, and the shed blood of His cross. The teaching that sees ONLY the church ‘in heaven’ , and the rest of mankind in ‘hell’ is a dark stain on the character of God, and does not accord with the Bible at all. But in the Kingdom, we shall say with many others, “You have made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev.5:1O) Not sitting on clouds in heaven, but reigning on earth. Not spending our days idling away our time in personal bliss (I do not call it such, to me it would be sheer boredom!) but doing a most important job for our Master and Lord, in teaching the nations the way to know God. It will be just one more step towards the final reconciliation of ALL.
Is it really possible for anyone to say that God cannot achieve this objective? Are we really implying that when God gave man freewill, He expected Satan to win some 90% of mankind by opposing God? Is this the type of victory you are looking for? Would it not be more true to say that the God who was so wonderfully able to create the Universe with all its wonders and mysteries, is also capable gradually, inexorably, and finally to bring the resistive will of man back to Himself. I believe that He can, and that He will, because the ‘freewill of God’ is far superior to the warped ‘freewill of man.’ Patiently He will wait until the hardest of hearts begins to shed tears at the everlasting mercy and grace of God. It WILL happen. It MUST happen,otherwise we shall have believed in a defeated God.
“He shall see of the travail of His (Son’s) soul, and shall be satisfied.” (Isaiah 53:11) Yes, satisfied, not disappointed. In the margin of my Companion Bible I have this note by the author, Dr E.W.Bullinger, “We have not an impotent Father, or a disappointed Christ, or a defeated Holy Ghost, as is so commonly preached; but an omnipotent Father, an all-victorious Christ, and an almighty Holy Spirit, able to break the hardest heart and subdue the stoutest will.” Amen to that robust statement!