He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. –Ephesians 1:9-10
God and Time Are on My Side
Paul tells us that the price Jesus paid has not only brought the Church into salvation, but Christ's atonement will also redeem all of creation as well. The apostle explains that a unique season would occur at the end of the age. During the last years of this dispensation God would actually begin to gather "all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth."
This great gathering together of all things is not so much a singular event as it is a series of divine initiatives. Thus, the word translated "summing up" was an accounting term used by the ancient Greeks. It simply described the sequence of addition used to bring separate items to a singular total. Other translations use the phrase "gathering together" or "gathering into one" all things in Christ. Those who love Him will be consumed by Him in love; those who hate Him will be consumed in judgment. Either way, God will leave nothing but the fullness of Christ permeating the universe.
What is important for us to know now is that we are in that season spoken of by Paul in the Scriptures. Indeed, even now there is an energy, a power, from God that has begun the process of gathering. We see evidences of His power as He gathers Israel to its land and the Church to its unity and destiny. This is a profound truth. The world is being carried forward into a reality that shall ultimately be filled with Christ. Whether it takes five years or fifty years, this is the great "mystery of [God's] will" which shall occur at the end of the age.
To win our war for righteousness we must keep focused on this larger, cosmic perspective of a world consumed in Christ. Yes, the world remains darkened in its fallen state. Yet, every time we pray, "Thy Kingdom come," we are asking for the Holy Spirit to enter us, and then use us to redeem and transform every darkened facet of human existence.
God's Plan to Invade and Transform
We look at the system of the world and believe it is beyond hope. We see the entertainment industry, for example, and believe that God must destroy it to keep it from contaminating the rest of the world. But what if, at this time, it isn't God's plan to destroy the world, but to invade and transform it? What if He wants to sum it up in Christ? We must pray as if a time will come when godly movies will become commonplace, where the world will be ministered to by the Christian morals that reveal Jesus Christ. Imagine a day when the power of the Cross would permeate the entertainment industry so much so that it would be known as "Holywood" instead of Hollywood.
We might look at world governments with the same cynicism and unbelief, but remember God is going to sum up "all things" in Christ. The time is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). So, we must learn to look at the wickedness of the world with the vision of the Kingdom of God. For at some point in time, worldwide, it will be proclaimed with great shouts of joy, "The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ" (Revelation 11:15c).
God's plan for the end of the age is to invade every single dimension of life and sum all things up in Christ. Whatever refuses to yield to Christ will be destroyed; what yields to Him will be transformed. This is the mystery of God's will. This is the big picture.
When I hear of terrible natural disasters such as we've seen in Japan and other places in recent years or when I watch the turbulent upheavals in the Arab world, I pray as though, somehow, the outcome of what I see is ultimately going to be fulfilled in Christ. When I pray concerning evil in the world, I don't look at the illusion of permanence that appears to protect evil; I look right past it toward the day of God's Kingdom. I see what's wrong, but I'm also saying, God's will is to sum this thing up in Christ. I pray as though God and time are on my side.
Becoming Like Christ
The big picture, the wide-angle view, is that all things shall ultimately be summed up in Christ. Certainly, the Lord will use many mighty ways to fulfill this great plan. However, there is one dimension integral to the process of divine consummation that directly pertains to us. Paul writes, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death" (Philippians 2:5-8).
Paul says, "Have this attitude in you..." What attitude? The attitude Christ demonstrated when He saw mankind's sin and vileness. He didn't destroy evil people. He didn't isolate Himself from mankind's wickedness. He didn't sit in Heaven criticizing man. Christ, who "existed in the form of God," took upon Himself the actual form of man. He completely identified Himself with humanity, even to the point of being found in man's very likeness.
In Christ we see the pattern of how to transform our world: We enter it, take its very form upon ourselves, and by becoming bond-servants (not judges), we give ourselves to whatever it takes to redeem it. To better understand this, substitute the idea that Christ was "being made in the likeness of men" with this: He took upon Himself "the form of need."
So, even though Christ existed in God's form, He knew He couldn't transform the world without taking man's form. As God, He could destroy mankind, but could not redeem mankind. Keep this in mind: You cannot transform anything from the outside. You have to enter the need and take its form to bring redemption.
The Bible clearly and repeatedly states that Jesus is not alone in the mission of redemption. He began alone and set the pattern, but He also is the first born among many brethren. Just as Christ entered us in order to redeem and transform us, so those whom He raises up at the end of the age will do what He did, but on a smaller scale. They will see the need, take its form, and work from the inside to bring redemption.
For example, let's look at the political arena. As Christians, we are so quick to judge politicians and think that the whole system is irreversibly corrupt. Yet, Christ desires that people with His nature enter the system and be a light there. Transformation is an inside job. The Church, however, has taken an outside position to things in need, standing aloof from the world in need of redemption. Our only contribution has been to judge and criticize what is wrong.
When we simply judge something without praying for it or seeking to transform it, we can remain isolated from the nature and pattern of Christ. Not until we have the attitude that was first in Christ, do we begin to truly grow in our Christian experience. We must allow Christ to manifest Himself through us. It is the very area of need that we see and remedy that is the "land of our anointing," where the nature of Christ has opportunity to be unveiled through us.
Everything Will Be Gathered in Christ
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Here again, God's pattern is to identify with the need, not putting Himself above it, but sacrificing Himself for the redemption of that need. He shoulders the need Himself. This is the nature of the Cross. Christ became "sin on our behalf." He identified with our need so that we could be transformed by His righteousness. Whether it is a school, a neighborhood or place of employment, God desires that we identify with that need and bring light into it.
So the big picture is that everything will be gathered in Christ. The incremental movement within that big picture is measured in each of us seeing the need of the world around us, identifying with people who are trapped in sin, and bringing freedom to them by revealing Christ. After you have identified yourself with the need, you will no longer judge it. As a part of it, you desire its redemption rather than God's wrath. You pray for it like you pray for yourself.
May God deliver us from prayers of judgment and destruction. God's will is not to judge or destroy, but to redeem. He hears our prayers if we pray according to His will. Why then would we pray otherwise? So pray instead, Lord God, raise up people from the inside to transform (my school or our government or the entertainment industry).
We must stop thinking and praying negatively. God is doing something today that is so marvelous and so wonderful that He says: If I told you, you wouldn't believe it. Picture taverns becoming churches. Picture churches working together to see cities changed. This is the mystery of God's will, to see everything summed up in Christ. Let us look at nothing as though it cannot be transformed. Rather, let us remember that in what we desire to see redeemed, eventually all things shall be filled with Christ. God and time are on our side.
Ministries of Francis Frangipane