Is Redemption Complete?
All of us will agree that we have been redeemed but is that redemption complete? It would pay every Christian to ask himself the above question and turn to the Scriptures to find the answer. For it seems that very few folks have any conception of how clearly the answer is given. Most of us have the tendency to confound God's method with His object; to mix up His process with His purpose; to confuse His technique with His goal.
There are no less than seventy, (70) clear statements of that goal to be found in the Bible besides many suggestions and allusions to it. Out of these many statements, let us look somewhat carefully at only four. In them we will find the answer to four aspects of the question at the head of this chapter. That is, we shall find how complete redemption is: (1) in its extent, (2) in restored fellowship, (3) in loving attitude, (4) in devotion to God.
(1) How complete is redemption in its 'extent'? Probably no clearer word regarding that question can be found in the entire Bible than in Ephesians 1:9-11, which reads, "Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him: in Whom we also have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."
The purpose or plan of God is one which pleases Him and the secret of that plan has been revealed to men and that plan is to gather together, or head up, all things in Christ. Twice in the quotation above that expression "all things" is used. The Greek words are 'ta panta', which literally, means "the all." They are the common Greek expression for "the universe." Paul means that the entire universe is to be gathered together, or headed up, in Christ. And that agrees with Romans 8:21, "...because the creation itself [not creature] shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Surely no part or parcel of that universe can permanently remain out of Christ!
(2) How complete is redemption in restored fellowship? Let us study Colossians 1:20-21: "And having made peace by the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things on earth, or things in the heavens...And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled." Here again is the expression "all things," ta panta, which is used here universally. God intends to do for the universe exactly what He has already done for the Colossians, which is to reconcile it. What chance is there for part of that universe to be held in eternal torment and unending estrangement if it is all to be reconciled? And how can part of it be exterminated if it is all to be reconciled?
(3) How complete is redemption in the loving attitude of the redeemed? Paul said in Philippians 2:9-11, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him the name which is above every name: that in the name of Jesus every knee should 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."
In my early ministry I used to explain this as a sort of compulsory adoration by beings who couldn't help themselves: a sort of "Heil Hitler!" from conquered subjects. But how little I knew of what Paul wrote. The word translated "bow" is 'kampto', found in the Bible only in Paul's writings, which means to bend and is always used of worship. "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father," wrote Paul in Ephesians 3:14. No compulsory adulation in that! And the word translated "confess" is also used to mean "praise" or "acclaim." The same Greek word is used to express Jesus' gladness as recorded in Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21. He said, "I thank [or "acclaim"] Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth." Now according to Paul every being in heaven and in earth and in the underworld is to bow the knee in the same worshipful humility that characterized Paul himself and every tongue is to thank or praise or acclaim Christ as Lord in the glad spirit that characterized our Lord Himself. The loving attitude of the whole universe is to be complete and perfect.
(4) How complete is redemption in the matter of 'devotion to God'? Well, let us look at 1 Corinthians 15:22-28. Here is one of the most remarkable statements in the entire Bible. It tells us how and when all things in the universe are to be brought into subjection to God.
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be All in all." What shall we say about all this?
First, the time element. This Scripture looks far beyond the time of anything told us in the book of Revelation. Christ does not reign "for ever," as the false translation tells us so often, but He reigns "till"; "till He has put all enemies under His feet"; till He has put down "all rule and authority and power." Revelation 20:4 says, "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them," which is indicative that rule is still being exercised. Revelation 21 tells us of the New Jerusalem, and at verse 24 it says, "and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it," Here, too, we still see the presence of the exercise of rule and power. Similarly, Revelation 22:15 lists the wicked people outside the city, enemies that are not yet under His feet. Hence, it becomes evident that 1 Corinthians 15:22b, 26, 28, reaches far beyond Revelation in time.
Second, let us consider the life element. "For as in Adam all die, even so, in Christ, shall all be made alive." I used to say that it meant that all would be restored to life simply to be judged. But that is not what Paul wrote. There are two Greek words for life, 'bios', which always means physical life or the means to sustain physical life and 'zoe', which means the principle of life, spiritual life, or immortal life. Now the verb Paul used here is compound which, I am sure, means to make alive spiritually or immortally. It cannot mean merely to make alive physically. The word used suggests that and the illustrations used sustain the contention.
Christ is "the firstfruits." But He was raised immortal. "Christ, being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him" (Rom.6:9). That is, He is immortal. "Afterward they that are Christ's at His coming." And how are they to be raised? They are raised immortal, of course. Read the whole of 1 Corinthians 15 in order to see this.
But Christ and they that are Christ's, however, do not include all who died in Adam; they are only a handful compared to the remaining ones. When are the rest to be raised to immortality? Well, in the words, "Then cometh the end," the word "cometh" is in italics, showing that Paul did not use that word at all. It was supplied by the translators and, in this case, completely changes the meaning. Paul is talking about the order in which all are to be made alive. The word translated "order" means a "group," or "rank," or "band," like succeeding groups or bands in a parade. Christ is the first order; they that are Christ's are the second order; and the rest constitute the third order to be made alive, "when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power."
These three orders constitute the "all" who are to be made alive spiritually or immortally. Some will insist that this is a mere assumption in order to support an opinion. But there are two facts in the Greek of the passage that prove the statement to be correct. In the first place, the Greek word 'hekastos', translated "every man," or, more accurately, "each," is regularly used to signify each one of several items. If there were only two items or individuals, the word meaning "both" would be used. This same distinction is also regular usage in the English language, so that there should be no difficulty in understanding it.
In the second place, two other words are used which make the conclusion inevitable. The adverbs 'epeita' and 'eita' make unquestionable the significance of three orders. They are words used to mark succession of time or order, meaning that which precedes the statement which they introduce is related in time or order to what follows and that what follows is related in the same way to what precedes. So that the Greek words 'eita to telos' meaning, "then the end" (or "consummation") simply have to refer to the "order" or "rank" that is referred to in the preceding verse.
Paul is writing about three orders or classes of mankind to be made alive, and these three orders constitute all of mankind. And, "all" are to be "subject." In verses 27 and 28, one verb, meaning "put in subjection," is used six times. It is variously translated "put under," "subdues," and "be subject." But it is the same word in Paul's own writing. He seems to pile up words to make clear his meaning that all things in the universe are to be brought into subjection to God. In 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 he uses the word "all" twelve times and in just the last two verses he repeats the idea of subjection six times. One wonders what else he could have written to make men understand his meaning. He is saying as clearly as words can say that the ultimate goal of God is the bringing into subjection of all beings in the universe, both in heaven and in earth. If our theology, or our "orthodoxy," or our church creed will not allow us to believe the plain statement of Scripture, then we ought to throw away our theology and our creed. "Let God be true, and every man a liar." Christ will succeed in bringing the entire universe into subjection to God. Praise His Name!
"THE LAST ENEMY that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:26). According to the Bible the first death would be all past for the Church at the time of the second coming of Christ and later it would be all past for the wicked and lost. The only death left will be the second death. Will the second death be destroyed also? Or will it be the means through which death itself will be abolished (Heb.2:14,15)?
Many people do very careless thinking about death and its conquest. I used to believe, as many folks do, that death would be destroyed as soon as the act of dying stopped. How partial a viewpoint that is. This entire present earthly scene is under the condemnation of death. Even our scientific definition of life confesses it: "Life is the sum total of the forces that oppose death," it says. And everyone knows that life here and now can oppose death for only a brief time at best.
In one of his books, Glenn Clark discusses the problem of why a rotten apple in a barrel of good ones will spoil the whole lot but a good apple in a barrel of rotten ones is powerless to make the rotten ones sound. He says that the good apple has the stroke of death in it. When the stem was severed from the tree its source of life and health and growth was removed. Even a good apple is a dying thing.
He should have added that death was hovering near the apple while its stem was still fast to the tree. Just let the wind swing the apple against a limb near at hand and break the skin, immediately
rot sets in. Let a bird pick a hole in it, or a worm enter its body, at once the forces of decay and death have gained an entrance, and the end is putrefaction. "In the midst of life we are in death."
The first warning against disobedience, according to the Bible, is "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." The words "thou shalt surely die," are often translated "dying thou shalt die," or "thou art dying to die." That is, "dying" is a process and "to die" is the final act or event in the process. When Adam sinned it was life and vitality that he lost; it was death and dissolution that he received. The word "death" means vastly more than the act or event of dying; it means not only the state into which one passes in the act of dying but also the condition which makes such an event and such a state possible.
For death is not only a condition or state which affects the physical body, it is primarily the state or condition of the spiritual life in which unregenerate men now live. Until men are made alive in Christ they are "dead in trespasses and sins," here and now. It will be the condition or state of the lost "in the ages to come," "having no hope, and without God in the world." Anyone apart from God in Christ is "dead," whether in this life, or in any other. "He that hath the Son hath life and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:12). Physical (i.e., literal) death is only one of the results of a previous spiritual "death." When Adam sinned, fellowship was broken between himself and God, "in Whom we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). It was not merely his physical demise after 930 years that constituted his death but his separation from God on the very day he sinned was the inner reality of his death. That separation with its fear, its alienation from God's love and care and intimate fellowship, is the real death that is to be destroyed (Luke 15:24,32; Rom.-8:6,7; Eph.2:15; Col.2:13).
In Gen. 2:17 God said, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Did Adam die the day that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? The answer is yes! Death began to operate in his physical life and some 930 years later succeeded in causing his physical body to die. This happened in one day according to God's day. Peter said in 2 Pet. 3:8, "... that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. At the same time death was immediate. When Adam ate the fruit he died spiritually in his mind and thinking. He was separated from the intimate spiritual relation with God and considered himself as something inferior to God.
How silly it is to teach, then, as I used to do, that when the act of dying is ended death would be destroyed! When Adam died physically he was still separated from God which is spiritual death.
Some have changed their thinking, in order to get rid of such an awful God as eternal torment pictures, and accepted extermination. But this did no better, so far as destroying death, or the separation from God, is concerned. If death is the absence of life, and that must be true of anything that ever had life and later on lost it, then extermination is only another method of decreeing eternal death on the vast majority of mankind because they would still be separation from God. In the case of either "eternal torment" or "extermination," death would reign forever!
Death will be destroyed by putting life in its place. That nullifies the objection made by many that the teaching of Reconciliation destroys the hope of everlasting life. They say that Jesus' words in Matthew 25:46 make punishment and future life the same length: "And these [the wicked] shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." If the punishment of the wicked is only age-lasting, not everlasting, then the reward of the righteous is also age-lasting, and not everlasting. This is their argument, and so far as the above quotation is concerned they are correct.
Now the promise of "eonian life" is a marvelous provision. It is the proclamation to all who believe. That is the privilege of living in Christ in this present life and living with Christ, reigning with Christ, and being like Christ, "in the ages to come" (Eph.2:7). During those eons when He is bringing the entire universe into harmony with God, the Church will share with Christ in all that glorious activity. But the assurance of unending life is not in this offer, wonderful as it is. For the eons will end! However, the assurance of unending life lies in the promise that we shall be made immortal when Christ calls us into that fellowship of service with Himself. Our alienation and separation from God are already ended in this life, through Christ. But it is not until His second coming that immortality is conferred through change for living saints and through resurrection for dead saints. Immortality is life over which death has no power. So it embodies unlimited life.
The only way that death will ever be destroyed is to replace it with life. The only way to get rid of darkness is to obliterate it with light. The only way to get rid of error is to supplant it with truth. The only way to get rid of sorrow is to submerge it in joy. So, some glad day, "Death will be swallowed up in victory!" (1 Cor.15:54) And God will do this by destroying for every being in the universe, all alienation and separation from God. (Death) But that can take place only when the Lord of life has proven Himself Lord over death! Not till then will the Son "deliver up the kingdom to God our Father." When that joyous day comes men will answer their own questions, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor.15:55) by the triumphant shout, "Thanks be to God Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor.15:57). "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ, shall all be made alive" (1 Cor.15:22).
This is the Gospel, the good news that Jesus gave to Paul to bring to the Gentiles. It wasn't a Gospel just for the Jews and the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel. This Gospel that Paul taught was the Gospel for all of mankind. It is the Good News that God has taken upon Himself our sins and iniquities and has redeemed all of mankind and will destroy death which has been separating us from Him and once more there will be total harmony in all of God's creation and peace and love and harmony will reign through out all eternity. Then will we truly begin to live and express His love for all.