God's Dealings With Man
In the world to come God will explain Himself, He will be justified in the display that He will give of Himself, but I want now, from some well known scriptures, to speak on questions raised as to God's dealings with men.
i) Man's Question
"What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?" (Job.7:17)
In the Old Testament this was a very perplexing problem to those who wrote or spoke these words. The question was raised in the book of Job at an early date "What is man?" as though man was puzzled as to why God was so interested in him with all that marked him in His movements in this world. It is wonderful to think that God kept speaking to him, counselling him, warning him, and never lost contact with him. This may well raise the question as it did 'What is it all about?'
The simple thought that comes to light first of all is that God put man under trial. Think of that coming to light in the book of Job. I think we must agree Job was the best man in the Old Testament, at least in the day that he lived, God Himself bore witness to him in his movements here and in his righteousness, "Hast thou considered my servant Job?" There was not another like him. But Job was under trial, and the whole book presents that trial. Job himself said that God tried him every moment (7:18). What happened to that perfect man? Under the trial he broke down; the very best of men of Adam's race is always bound to break down. We often speak of John 3 where probably the best man in the New Testament was told "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again" (v.7). We find the same thing coming to light in Job, great man thou he was, under trial he is bound to break down, and he did, but only that he might learn that if he has done anything right at all in this world it was God that was behind it and not Job himself. The first question then, Job 7:17, raises the thought of man under trial.
"Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him?" (Ps.144:3)
Moving on to psalm 144 we get the end of this line of thought, the presentation of man under judgment, for this is bound to be the result of the trial. What is man? "Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away" (v.4), he is bound to come under judgment. The only result for any one of the sons of Adam being put under trial, whatever trial, in whatever day that trial was given, is that they must ultimately come under judgment.
"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Ps.8:4)
Looking back for a moment at psalm 8, again the same statement is used, but with this wonderful difference, man is presented in eminence, in glory, for I believe from the outset of that psalm, "[The Lord has] set [his] glory above the heavens" (v.1), we have a prophetic picture of man in his eminence as God has established him, here coming out in that prophetic word. We simply ask tonight, beloved, how does it come about that man under trial, breaking down and coming under judgment in psalm 144, is found set above all things in psalm 8?
ii) God's Answer
Where is the solution to the enigma? Why, we have it revealed today to be in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, for all down that trial God still had Christ in reserve, until at last He came into the world via the virgin, giving Him a link with mankind in this world, yet distinct in His order and His introduction. He was "the second man, out of heaven" (1 Cor.15:47, J.N.D.), but He came into the condition of flesh and blood, into the scene of trial where every other man had broken down, and how thankful we are today that the one man under trial, who sustained that trial, who never broke down under that trial, is the one man who is the answer to the question, is now crowned with glory and honour at the right hand of God. But what about man under judgment? Oh, beloved, he has been there; substitutionally He has tasted death for every man. The only man that sustained the trial was the man that was cut off under judgment substitutionally in order that He might carry out the thought of God as raised again from among the dead and set God's glory above the heavens. The solution is Christ. If the first man under trial comes under judgment, the second man sustains the trial and bears the judgment due to the first, and the result is that now, to carry out the thought of God, He is at he right hand of God in glory. Oh, what God has worked out in a man, but such a man, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God, coming into manhood that He might effect God's thought in relation to man in the place where He is tonight! Hence we have read three well known passages from the New Testament concerning Him where that same question is brought in, not the question from Job 7, nor from psalm 144, but rather the question from psalm 8 in the thought of God and in the thought of glory connected with a man.
"Thou madest him a little lower than the angels: thou crownest him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." (Heb.2:7-9)
The first thing we find about Him in fulfilment of that is that now, at this moment, (this is what is emphasised in Hebrews 2) "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour". Oh, He is in that place, the place that God intended that man should fill, He is filling it and God has put all things under His feet, and though to natural eyes we do not see it, I am persuaded that not one of us has the slightest doubt that He is there tonight established of God and even now all things are under His feet with a view to giving effect to the purpose of God. That is the teaching of Hebrews 2; it is now.
"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph.1:19-23)
In Ephesians 1 this thought is stretched a little further, it is here connected with the world to come, "not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" and "given him to be head over all things...... putting all things under his feet". It presents Headship on the one hand, and Lordship on the other, and both of them are centred in that man at the right hand of God. Ephesians 1 presents Christ to us, looking on to the kingdom and the world to come when manifestly He will be Head over all things and manifestly it will be seen that all things are under His feet, when that Man will order the universe and everything in heaven and everything on earth will be ordered for the pleasure of God and will fill it with "the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab.2:14).
"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 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." (1 Cor.15:22-28)
Again in 1 Corinthians 15 we see psalm 8 quoted in its fulfilment at the end of that kingdom. Having introduced Him in the first chapter of Ephesians as the One to whom has been given Headship and Lordship, and using that power until at the end of that kingdom in the display of the glory of God and of the administration of Christ, He will bring all things into subjection, rule, authority, and power, and having brought all into order for the pleasure of God and filled it with the glory of God for a thousand years when there will be a complete answer for the pleasure of God of every thought of His heart, it is the Son having and using this power that is seen at the end of that kingdom in this passage in Corinthians. Having brought all back to God, having died to reconcile it for the pleasure of the Godhead, having filled it with His glory, He will administer it for a thousand years for the pleasure of the Godhead and will hand all back into the hand of God in all its perfection, as perfect as when it came forth from the hand of God, when He, the Son, created it for the pleasure of the Godhead, thus closing up God's ways in time. Then we will move with Him into that eternal state where we still feel assured, as the subject Son, He will hold all in that scene for the pleasure of God, that God may be all in all.
Perhaps for a few moments we can look at the details of these verses. We read in verse 24 that firstly He will annul all rule, secondly all authority, and thirdly all power. It may be indicated in these words that all rule would have to do with the kings that are upon the earth, whereas authority would cover heavenly beings (Col.1:16), and may look still further on until Satan himself is cast into the lake of fire; and thirdly, power would refer to death itself, when, as this chapter assures us, it is the last enemy that is annulled. It would seem then at the beginning of that administration all rule on the earth is brought into subjection to Christ Himself, then at the end of that kingdom every adverse heavenly being will at last be subdued and cast into the lake of fire, and then thirdly, as we see from Revelation 20, at the moment when all the wicked dead that had been still in their graves having come out as the Lord in John 5 said they would do and standing before the great white throne, death itself, the last power is dealt with; the dead, small and great, will stand before God.
No doubt the saints of God, a thousand years at least before that moment have been made alive, and have reigned with Christ a thousand years, but what then does it mean when it says, "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (v.22)? We must remember that this is not moral death, necessitating for the saints the quickening power of God into the power of endless life, it is the physical death of the saints, the death of the body that is involved, and does not so far as we see in the whole of this chapter involve life in the soul; it is the resurrection of dead bodies, not the quickening of morally dead sinners. Just as "As in Adam all die" refers to the whole of his posterity, saint and sinner alike, "so in Christ shall all be made alive" likewise refers to saint and sinner alike, and hence the guard is immediately brought in, "but every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then 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" (v.23-26).
It is not so much the recovery of the saints here, though that is involved, but the complete victory over death itself, whether it be saint or sinner, that at the end of God's time and ways, at the end of the kingdom we read that "death and hell were cast into the lake of fire" (Rev.20:14). So we see then the power in the hands of Christ utilised, made effective, every opposing force is cleared out of the universe, God is glorified in regard to every outstanding question, and then the kingdom having accomplished its end, Christ hands all back to God Himself who will dispense with it in view of that eternal state where God shall be all in all and the subject Son we are assured will still be in control of all for the eternal pleasure of the Godhead. The first order began under the headship of Adam, all subject to man, and it failed, but not only does Christ recover it and hands it all back perfectly to God, the new order, the new heavens and new earth will again be under a man, the man Christ Jesus, the Son, who without any failure, will order those things throughout that eternal day for God's praise and glory.