“And this is the plan, that at the right moment, with a view to an administration suitable for when the times reach their fullness and complete fulfillment, and when time itself ceases, He will gather, collect and bring together all of creation, summing it all up and bringing all of history to its goal, re-establishing everything and uniting the whole under the authority of Christ the Messiah, yes, everything in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1:10. My own paraphrase)
In, the world bestselling book, play, film and computer game “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy,” a question was put into the greatest most advanced computer in the universe. The question was; “What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the Universe and everything?” If I remember rightly, it takes the mega super duper computer 100 years exactly to find the answer to this, the Mother of all questions. What was the answer? It was a piece of paper with nothing but the number “42” written on it. (If the reader would care to take the trouble to look up the number “42” on Wikipedia, one will see the fascinating connotations that apply to these double digits. It is very humourous, and the first time I saw it on a Television production I chuckled until I cried.
However, the question is so huge and important that it need not be ashamed of the funny answers that comedians and writers throw at it. It is big, brash and bold and old enough to withstand the ridicule that is thrown at it throughout the generations. Ephesians 1:10 however, in the context of all the other spiritual and eternal data that Paul gives us in this incredibly revelatory letter, is the Bible’s definitive answer to that very question.
Jesus Christ Himself is the purpose for all creation; the hub and centre of what all of life is about, and only in submission to Him and adoration of Him will the world – indeed the universe, fulfil its purpose and reach its eternally set goal. Those that reject or spurn Him will not and cannot be part of this coming together as they are simply not “in Christ.” The gathering is of all things that are “in Him.” They who have responded positively to Him in faith believing will be welcomed into eternal conscious bliss with the joy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when this eternal unified oneness in Christ takes place.
We have no means of even guessing when this final summation shall come. The details are discussed and debated and argued opon by Christian academics, theologians and prophetic types not because the Bible is vague, far from it, but because it is future and so specific in its far-reaching vision. Because the Bible says some amazing things, the differences of opinion on eschatological matters are nearly always about the order of predicted events. There are also wildly different perspectives on the literalness or otherwise of the events explained in scripture. Finally, voices are raised from all corners of the theological spectrum when individual eschatological viewpoints are snagged on the template of the framework of world history and the resulting interpretative nuance’s of what has already taken place. What fits into history and the present political scenario and what doesn’t is conceivably the hottest potato in all tyhe dialogue of the end-times.
However Ephesians 1:10 reads as if Paul was aware before all the “school’s of thought” were even school’s that could do any thinking of the confusion that was to come, and so he wrote down the sentence which is far shorter than the manner in which I have paraphrased it above. It sums the whole universe up. The conclusions that cannot be debated concerning the purpose of life are these:
1. God has a clear and defined purpose and time for all things.
2. Nobody knows when the ultimate moment of the consummation of all things will come.
3. It will happen outside time in the outworking of the fullness of time.
4. Circumstances in cosmic, world and human events have to conclude history.
5. All things “in Christ” are to be gathered, suggesting that those things outside of Christ will not be.
6. The visible and invisible, the heavenly and the earthly, the angelic and the human in Christ shall be collected.
7. “In Christ,” as in almost everything Paul talks about is the hinge of inclusion of exclusion.
8. The eternal purpose of all things is to be made subject to Jesus Christ.
9. It will take place at God’s initiation and NOT at the expediency of the human condition.
10. Ephesians 1:10 must be seen in the context of all that is written from verse 3 through to verse 12.
11. This verse must surely be seen as an ongoing event in perpetuity, rather than a “Judgement Day,” that comes and passes.
12. This is the last event for the universal existence, and existence that will never come to a conclusion yet has this final “event.”
Whatever biblical Eschatological viewpoint one adopts, it has to be affirmed that all Christians affirm that history and world events are in His hands and control. No matter how corny the pun and word play may seem it is absolutely true that “History is His story.” God is pro-actively working with a strategy that stems from the plan He conceived in eternity. That plan has been, is being, and will continue to be outworked through time past, time present and time future being fully disclosed by the prophetic insights of scripture within time, and climaxing outside of and beyond time into eternity future. The bible has a pre planned pre destined linear plan in linear time that steps out into eternity in the same way Peter stepped out on the water. It cannot be doubted, be it by biblical scholars, or people with the most rudimentary grasp of the Bible that the hub and centre of the entire eternal plan and purpose of all things is the person and character of Jesus Christ. It’s all about Him and His redeemed, reconciled and blood bought people that follow in the train of His triumph.
What’s the purpose of it all? John Stott wrote, “God is making human beings more human by making them more like Christ.” That is his succinct remark of why we are here. The message for this generation is ensure that each individual is “in Christ” through believing the gospel message. God take us there.