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presents "God's Great Salvation"
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Lesson 13: God's Great Plan
God wants His children to be "rooted and built up" in Christ and "established in the faith." How are we established in the faith? We are established in the faith by seeing God's purposes and God's great plan.
God is a God of purpose. He plans what He will do; then He carries out His plan. Whatever God has purposed will surely come to pass. God said,
"I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning…My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure…I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it." (Isaiah 46:9-11)
Before the creation of the world, God knew what He was going to do. The Bible says, "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world." (Acts 15:18) When we are grounded and established in God's purposes, we get a great sense of His power. God is working according to His mighty power to accomplish all that He has purposed to do.
Christ is the Center of Everything in God's Plan
The center of all God's plans and purposes is His Son, Jesus Christ. All of God's truths center in Jesus Christ. All the promises of God will be fulfilled in Christ.
We will never understand God's actions until we see what His objective is. Why does God do what He does? God's objective in all things is the glory of His Son! In whatever God does, from eternity past to eternity future, God's great objective is to honour and glorify His Son.
We tend to think that we are the center of all God's plans and purposes. We are like the astronomers of old who thought that the earth was the center of the universe, and that the sun revolved around the earth. Astronomy was confusing and a great mystery to them until that they learned that the sun, not the earth, is the center of our "universe."
Likewise, the Bible will be a great mystery to us until we learn that God's Son, not man, is the center of everything in God's plans and purposes.
God's Purpose in Creation
Why was the universe created? Why were angels created? Why was man created? God's Word tells us that all things were created by Christ and for Him. The Bible says,
"For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by Him, and for Him." (Colossians 1:16)
God has purposed that His Son, Jesus Christ, shall have the preeminence—the first and most important place—in all things. The Bible says,
"He is before all things, for by Him all things consist [hold together]. And He is the Head of the body, the church: who is the Beginning [of God's new creation], the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:17-18)
God's Purpose in Creating Man
What was God's purpose in creating man? The creation of man was a most solemn act on the part of God. God, as it were, took counsel with Himself. God said,
"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion…" (Genesis 1:26)
God's purpose was to have a man in His own image and "after His likeness." He was to be like God in his character. God's purpose was that this man should rule over all the earth for God's pleasure.
The first man, Adam, disobeyed God and brought sin and death into the world. But God gave the human race another Head—His Son.
God's Second Man, Jesus Christ, removed the great barrier of sin that stood between God and man. He glorified God with regard to our sin by bearing in His own body the righteous wrath of God against sin. The result of this was that God raised Him from the dead and glorified Him by seating Him at His own right hand.
God now has this Man before Him that He had always purposed to have; He has Christ before Him as the object of His love and delight.
God's Purpose for His Believers
Before the foundation of the world, God had this wonderful thought that He would have many sons just like His beloved Son. As exalted as Christ is, He is to have companions in glory. The Bible says that Christ is to be "the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)
We may think that everything in the Christian life began for us at the time we believed on Christ. As we grow in the knowledge of God, we make the amazing discovery that God had marked us out for Himself before the foundation of the world! The Bible says,
"[God] has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (2 Timothy 1:9)
God's purposes for His believers are like a golden chain stretching from eternity past to eternity future. The Bible says,
"We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30)
Let us consider the "links" in this golden chain, one by one.
"Foreknown" means that God knew us before the world was created, and He chose us according to His purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus. We cannot possibly understand all that this means, but we can bow before God and worship Him for His love for us.
"Predestined" refers to God's goal for us. We are to be conformed to the image of His Son.
We are "the called of God." We heard the gospel, believed on God's Son and received the Holy Spirit.
At a definite point in time, we were declared righteous in God's sight. We were justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
So sure is God of the fulfilment of His purpose for us that He looks at those who have been justified as having already been glorified!
This "golden chain," stretching from eternity to eternity, is entirely of God. The saints are foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified—all according to God's purpose. Every link in this chain is absolutely unbreakable. We can put our complete confidence in God's great purpose of love.
What is the final result of "the calling of God"? The final result is that we shall be like Christ as He is now. The Bible says,
"When He shall appear, we shall be like Him." (1 John 3:2)
God's Purpose for the Church
In God's time the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the earth. The Bible says,
"Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to those who look for Him He shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:28)
Christ is coming to take His believers to be with Him. All believers, those who have died and those who are living when Christ comes, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and to go with Him to heaven.
Believers will stand before Christ to be judged for rewards or loss of rewards. Those who have faithfully served the Lord will receive great rewards. Jesus said,
"For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works." (Matthew 16:27)
Then shall come the most wonderful event that we could ever imagine—"the Marriage of the Lamb." All the believers are part of the Church, the Bride of Christ. One day we shall be joined to Him in marriage. The Bible says,
"Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." (Revelation 19:9)
While the believers are in heaven with Christ, the unbelievers will go through a time of great trouble here on earth, lasting seven years. Evil and wickedness will abound.
During this time, a man called "the Antichrist" will come to world-wide power. The word "anti" means "against." The Antichrist is against Christ and against God. The Antichrist will perform great miracles, but his power will not come from God, but from Satan.
During the middle of the seven years, the Antichrist will gain control of the whole world. He will reign over all the earth for three and a half years. During this time there will be wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences, and worldwide disasters such as the world has never seen, as God pours out His wrath on the wicked, Christ-rejecting world. This terrible time is called "the Great Tribulation." (See Matthew 24:15-22—click link.)
At God's appointed time Christ will return to the earth with His believers and His mighty angels. He will come in great power and glory. He will destroy the Antichrist and his followers and put an end to this time of tribulation.
After the Antichrist is destroyed the Lord Jesus will reign over the earth for a thousand years, and His believers will reign with Him.
God's Purpose for Israel
When the Church is caught up out of the earth to be forever with the Lord, God will still have special people on earth for whom He has His purpose. That people is Israel.
Will God fulfil His great promises to the Jews? Will their "Messiah," the promised Saviour, indeed come to them? Will the government be "upon His shoulder" as Isaiah prophesied? Will God restore them to their ancient, beloved land? Will the Son of David sit upon the throne of Israel, judging the twelve tribes in righteousness? Will the Lord call them His people and will they call Him their God once more?
The answer to each of these questions is: Yes! God will fulfil all His promises to His chosen people—the children of Israel.
During the time of the Great Tribulation, the godless nations of the world will seek to destroy the people of Israel. But the Lord Jesus Christ will come in great power and glory to deliver His ancient people. The people of Israel will then recognise Christ as their long-awaited Messiah. Speaking of Christ, the Bible says,
"They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son." (Zechariah 12:10)
When the Lord Jesus reigns on earth for a thousand years, He will be reigning over the people of Israel, sitting on "the throne of David" just as God promised. Israel will be the most favourite nation on earth through which God will pour out His blessing upon other nations.
This will be earth's golden age. Satan will be bound so that he will not be able to tempt people or cause trouble. God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ will rule the world in righteousness. There will be no wars, no hunger, no disease. Men will live together in peace and harmony. Everyone will know the Lord. The Bible says,
"The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:9)
After the thousand year reign of Christ, Satan will be loosed from his prison for a time. He will again deceive many people into following him. This time fire will come down from heaven to destroy him and his followers. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. Never again will he be able to cause trouble.
The wicked dead—all unbelievers—will stand before God to be judged. Some will receive greater punishment than others, but all will be lost forever.
God will then create new heavens and a new earth where there will be no more sin. The Lord Jesus and His believers will reign forever.
God has made known to us His Great Plan
God could not show any greater favour to His children than to bring them into the knowledge of Himself and all that He plans to do. In the ages past, God's great plan was a "mystery"—known only to God. But now, through the apostle Paul, God has made known His great plan to His believers. Paul wrote,
"…the riches of his grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight. He did this when he revealed to us the secret of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, toward the administration of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ—the things in heaven and the things on earth…" (Ephesians 1:8-10 NET Bible)
What is God's great plan? God's great plan is to head up all things in heaven and on earth in Christ. This means that Jesus Christ will be the Centre and the Head of God's universe. Christ will be the absolute Ruler of everything on this earth. The Bible says,
"The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)
Christ's exaltation means that we share in His glory. He is "bringing many sons to glory." It also means that Christ is going to put an end to all rebellion against God. Every creature in heaven and on earth will acknowledge Christ as Lord, to the glory of God. The Bible says,
"Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him [Christ], and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)
God is going to have a universe of happiness and joy, headed up by His Son. Everything is to come under Christ's rule and dominion. The Bible says,
"The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand." (John 3:35)
Christ will be the glorious Head of God's new universe, which will be filled with the glory and love of God. He will reign forever and ever, and we shall reign with Him, sharing His throne and His glory forever. This is the glorious future that awaits every child of God.
Why am I so blessed? How did I come to repent of my sins and believe on Christ, when millions do not? It is all of God's sovereign grace. He saved us and called us according to His own purpose and grace, which was us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
Knowing this causes us to adore and worship our God. We say with the apostle Paul,
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out…For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory for ever." (Romans 11:33,36)
* Our salvation rests on God's purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
The Glorified Christ.
In the Godhead each person has His distinctive glory. The glory of the Father is that He is the Originator of all the counsels and purposes. The glory of the Son is that He is the Accomplisher of all the purposes of God. The glory of the Holy Spirit is that He is the Agent by which all is accomplished, to the glory of God.
The Father showed His complete and perfect satisfaction with the Son's work of redemption by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand. The glorified Christ is the guarantee that all of God's plans and purposes will be accomplished.
Three men on earth, Peter, James and John, had a preview of Christ's future glory. They were with Him on the mountain when He was "transfigured before them." His face shone as the midday, and His clothes were white as light.
Three men on earth, Stephen, Paul and John, actually saw the glorified Christ after He went back to heaven. When Stephen, the first martyr for Christ, was being put to death, he saw Christ in all His glory. Stephen said,
"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55)
Shortly after Paul's conversion, he received a message from one of the disciples. Ananias said to him,
"The God of our fathers has chosen you, that you should know His will, and see that Just One, and should hear the voice of His mouth." (Acts 22:14)
Paul, a man in Christ, was carried away by the Spirit of God into Paradise. There he was received in the most wonderful way possible, and he actually saw the glorified Christ.
(See 2 Corinthians 12:1-4—click link.)
The aged apostle John, exiled on the island of Patmos, for his testimony of Jesus Christ, saw the risen Christ in all His glory. John was so overcome by what he saw of the glory of Christ that he fell at His feet as dead. Jesus laid His right hand upon him and said,
"Fear not, I am the first and the last, I am He that lives, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." (Revelation 1:17-18)
The Holy Spirit Himself is the best witness of the glory of Christ. The Holy Spirit has come down to make the unseen things in the spiritual world real to us. Jesus said,
"He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine and shall show it unto you." (John 16:14)
We have not seen the glorified Christ with our natural eyes, but we have seen Him with our spiritual eyes. The Bible says,
"You have put all things in subjection under His [Christ's] feet…But now we see not yet all things put under Him. But we see Jesus…crowned with glory and honour…" (Hebrews 2:8-9)