THE ONLY HOPE OF A GROANING CREATION
E. H. THOMAS.
THAT this world, at present lying wholly in the power of the evil one is destined ultimately to be restored to its allegiance to God, all scripture, which is our only guide, abundantly testifies, and it would savour of impertinence to adduce scriptural proof to that effect.
But how is this change to be effected, and through what agency?
Enquiry upon this point is of supreme importance to us all; bearing as it does upon Christian life and Christian service.
Indeed an answer to this question may, to some, be different to what they have been accustomed to imagine.
The prevailing notion to this day seems to be that to the Church has been entrusted the task of bringing to an end revolt in the world as a whole.
Were this true, we might well write Christianity off our books as the merchant crosses out a bad debt as a dismal failure. Certainly all Christian service, professedly at least, is rightly directed to the reclamation of individual rebels, and is in this respect partially successful; but what about the world as a whole?
Another and less widespread view consists in the visionary idea of gigantic missionary effort in the future, stimulated by the removal of the Church, facility of communication (it may be), and other agencies.
Surely this subject appeals to us as worthy of our deepest interest and most earnest consideration.
Scripture gives us the cause or rather the causes, both of revolt in the distant past and of its perpetuation up to the present time.
Next, it reveals to us the truth of a future restoration; and thirdly, it reveals the means by which such restoration shall most certainly be brought about.
As to the causes, we are surely not in ignorance. It pleased Divine wisdom and goodness to prepare this earth for human abode; then to create man, to whose stewardship it was committed by Him. This was an absolute gift with one proviso, viz.: - total and continual observance of one prohibition, infringement of which was to entail forfeiture and death.
The lower heaven near the earth, but distinct from it, was the abode of fallen angels. So far as we are enabled to gather from certain side lights of Scripture, it was and still is under their dominion. Of these, Satan is prince and leader.
By a permission, which in our present state of knowledge and finite comprehension we are unqualified to discuss, Satan came upon the scene, and the result we all know: Adam and Eve with their posterity corrupted and ruined, and the loss by them of dominion and possession. These reverted to him who probably was the ruler of “the world that then was” (2 Pet. 3: 5), previous to its being consigned to that state described in Gen. 1: 2.
The Word of God does not sanction the current idea that our earth was originally created in the chaos state.
Satan, then, albeit a usurper, became not only earth’s divinely recognized chief ruler, but with the progress of human corruption, succeeded in getting himself accepted as its god.
The result continues to this day as it was 6,000 years ago, viz.:- the exchange of allegiance due to Jehovah alone, for open revolt against Him and His authority.
This revolted condition is one of sin, wretchedness and misery, as the history of this world has amply proved since the fall of our first parents. Any recovery therefrom must necessarily begin with removal of the first cause of the evil. And this is precisely what the Word of God promises shall take place.
We thank God that existing conditions are not to be permanent. The Son of God has come, whose mission has been announced as the destruction of the works of the Devil of which the ruin of this world most surely is a part.
As stated above, this lower heaven and our earth are at present under Satanic dominion. Although apparently this world is under man, it is really subject to angels Heb. 2: 5 implies as much. Nor are all of these good angels. For the majority of them everlasting fire is prepared as Matthew 25 declares. But the inward and inherent energy of all corrupted humanity is Satan, and of Satan. All human procedure, moreover, in whatever sphere or department (excepting where, from time to time, Divine interference is pleased to hold sway), is in reality Satanic control by means of human agency. This is a terrible thought.
The first step toward the actual restoration of revolted humanity as a whole is due allegiance to God has been revealed. For Satan is going to be forcibly expelled from his kingdom of the air as the source of all this evil. This is the leading condition of full restoration.
this earth into which he and his will be cast for a short time will experience
the fearful “woe” of his concentrated wrath (Rev. 12: 12). Then,
he will be cast into the abyss for the period during which the Lord Jesus shall
Any theory for the recovery of the world to God which excludes this Divine judgment and the binding of Satan from the important place assigned to it in the Word of God must be radically wrong and its fruit error and darkness instead of light and wisdom.
After this great preliminary in the disestablishment of Satan, comes the regeneration of Matt. 19: 28. This is not that new creation of men in the Holy Spirit mentioned in Titus 3: 5, but it is accompanied by the “restitution” of Acts 3: 21, which in the Revised Version is translated the “restoration.” Both this regeneration and restoration are contingent upon the Son of Man’s sitting on the throne of His glory. These important revelations therefore involve three things:-
1. The suppression of human revolt by the overcoming of Satanic power.
2. Purification of this world and its lower heaven.
3. Restoration to some original state or condition at present in abeyance.
It will be good to consider how these predicted results are to be attained, and how far certain present agencies are calculated to bring them about.
All humanly devised plans for improvement and restoration of the human race invariably leave out the chief factor in the calculation, for they never show how the Devil is to be reformed. Many indeed deny or ignore his personal existence. As products of human folly we may dismiss them with a shrug of pity.
But it is not so when we are confronted with the proposition that the whole earth will be brought to God by the Gospel of His grace now being proclaimed to Jew and Gentile alike.
Here we are to all intents and purposes upon scripture ground, and this pretension must be tested in the balance of the sanctuary.
To begin with it is not scriptural. The Divine object in this present dispensation [or evil age] is set forth and amplified in the Pauline Epistles, and may be summed in the words of an able writer as Divine appropriation to certain specified uses, in a possibly near future and throughout eternity, of a special people for God’s own possession.
If eighteen [now twenty] centuries of Christian service should be found not to have failed of God’s openly avowed purpose - and indeed upon our detractors falls the burden of proof to the contrary - this constitutes what men call success. Christian service is no failure for not having accomplished that which God never predicted of it.
The [bodily] presence of the Lord Jesus upon this earthly scene is God’s only way of recovering this world to allegiance. This involves the suppression of Satan and removal of his angels and of demons from the present scene. We also learn that both before and after the Lord’s return many wicked members of the human race will also be removed. First, by grace, there will be a people secured to God, seemingly by Israelitish agency; and then all open rejectors of grace will be removed by judgment. Subsequently the full realization during a thousand years of Eph. 1: 10. [“A dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth…” R.V.]
Apart from the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus in power, there can be no question of the recovery to God of this world’s allegiance.
If all mankind were converted tomorrow, so stupendous a miracle of Divine power would begin and end with the objects of it. A fresh revolt would always be possible with the Devil and his angels still at large. Nothing but the exercise of competent power set in motion is able to suppress revolt. Such a power of force God has not committed to the Church, nor would its exercise in the suppression of evil be compatible with the Divine purpose in this present dispensation. So that it is as futile for the church to think of transforming this world as a whole, as it is for the weak-minded - (whether in or out of Parliament) - to imagine that any rebellion, or any manifestation of lawlessness can be finally quelled by diplomacy or by concession made to the malcontents.
God has promised that the Lord Jesus shall be King over all the earth, and for this the Church [of the Firstborn (Heb. 12: 16, 17)*], the Israel nation and a groaning creation hope and wait; but the loftiest hope of all is the fulfilment of Col. 3: 3, 4 - the manifestation of the sons of God - in glory [during the millennium] with Christ.
[* See G. H. Lang’s “Firstborn Sons Their Rights and Risks”.]
For this, the whole creation waits, for nothing short of this will end its groanings.