The Final Consummation in Christ
November 25th, 1956 @ 10:50 AM
THE FINAL CONSUMMATION IN CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-25-56 10:50 a.m.
The message this morning is entitled The Final Consummation in Christ, and it is an exposition of verses 9 through 14. So turn in your Bible to the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians and the passage begins at the ninth verse and concludes with the fourteenth. This is the reading of the Word:
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 into one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will:
That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.
This is the purpose of God: unchanging, predestinated according to the dispensation of the fullness of times – according to the oikonomia. The word for a dwelling place is an oikema. The word for a manager of a dwelling place would be an [oikonomos], a man who is to be the manager of it, and an oikonomia would be the steward of it, the manager of it.
According to the management, the administration – the "dispensation" translated here [Ephesians 1:10] – there is somebody, the Book says, in this world that guides our dwelling place. He rules it. It is according to His administration, His dispensation, that in the fullness of times He might – and this is the ultimate ordained purpose of God – that He might gather together in one – anakephalaioÃ³ that He might sum up under one head, anakephalaioÃ³, put under one head – all things in Christ. The great ordained purpose of God: that all things shall find their summation in our Savior, the Lord Jesus.
He says that this is a musterion that has been hid through all of the ages, but, according to the mercy of God, the riches of God, God hath made known to us the musterion, the mystery, of His will according to the good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself [Ephesians 1:9, 3:4-9].
That word, musterion, translated "mystery" – to us, a mystery is something that’s unfathomable. It’s an enigma. Oh, it has nothing of that in the Bible! The word musterion in the Bible meant this is a secret that God kept in His own counsels in the ages past but now He has made it known to us [Colossians 1:26]. He has revealed it to us.
The mystery religions were religions back there in Paul’s day that had secrets that were known only to the initiated. They had to be revealed. That’s the same way Paul uses it in the Bible – a musterion. It’s a secret that was hid in the heart of God but now is made known unto us who are the initiates in the Kingdom of Christ: the mystery of His will which He’s revealed to us according to the riches of His grace and according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself [Ephesians 1:9-10].
There’s not any unforeseen development in human history or in the world by which God made that known, but He purposed to do it [Ephesians 3:9-11]. It was a foreordained purpose and choice of God to make known to us this mystery according to the good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, which mystery is that in the fullness of times, according to God’s ordering of this world, He shall gather together in one all things in Christ. He shall sum up under one leader – one Head, one Lord, one Christ, one King – He will sum up under Him – that one Lord – everything in heaven, everything on earth. All of it, according to the good pleasure and the choice of God, shall be summed up under Him [Ephesians 1:9-10].
That is the unchanging purpose of God for our world, and it is the consummation of our history. All things in Christ – all that’s ever proceeded in days past – is a preparation for that one great and consummating event that God hath foreordained from the councils of eternity. What we see in the world around us is an outworking of the great preparatory purposes of God. The ages of the ages deter Him not. The purpose of God always carries through in the preparation of this world.
God spake to thousands upon millions of His little creatures, and they made the limestone rocks. God spake to His great forest that grew and perished and formed beds of coal. Heat, and snow, and frost, and vapor, and stormy wind carried out the great mandates of the Almighty God. Volcanic eruption, the slow moving glacier, the swift coursing river – all of it contrived under the direction and commission of God to bring our world to the present pleasant place in which mankind dwells. These things were wrought by God through the ages of the ages but always the divine design ever the unchanging purpose of the moving Spirit of God.
What I find here in this world in which I live, I also find in the great moral spiritual purposes of God. Through the ages, through the centuries, through the millenniums, God’s design and God’s purpose carries through. Sometimes evil deflects it. Sometimes the obstreperous and incorrigible will of fallen man will cross it and thwart it [Matthew 23:37-38; 2 Peter 3:9], but the unchanging purpose of God carries on [Matthew 16:18].
Do you remember the last chapter of the Book of Genesis when Joseph was 110 years old? He gathered the Israelites around him and said, "God will surely visit you," and he took an oath of the children of Israel that they would carry up his bones hence. "Some of these days," said Joseph, "God will send a deliverer, and God will take you back into His promised land" [from Genesis 50:22-25].
A hundred years passed. Two hundred years passed. Three hundred years passed. Three hundred ninety-five years passed – the United States, only 180 years old. Three hundred and ninety-five years passed, and the children of Israel cried in their bondage and in their slavery unto God. But more than five hundred years before, God had sworn to Abraham that the people would be delivered [Genesis 15:13-14]. And in the fullness of time, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, according to the sovereign will of God, that deliverer came, and God brought His people out and into the Promised Land [Exodus chapters 1-14].
So it is, I say, with the great moral purposes of God with us and with this world in which we dwell. It is His good pleasure that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, He will bring together all things unto Christ: things in heaven and things on earth [Ephesians 1:9-10]. That’s a favorite expression of Paul: en tō Christō, "in Christ," in Him. He’ll use it here in this passage many times. He uses it in his epistles about 164 times. It’s to be in Christ, in Him. All of the moving of the Spirit of God is toward the Lord Jesus, our Christ.
In the days of the long, long ago, that will of God in Christ was but faintly prophesied by adumbrations, by tokens, by types, by rites. God was preparing for the full revelation in Jesus. Clearer it became as the ages unfolded and the will of God became known: finally in a visible temple, in a human priesthood, in rites and ceremonies [Hebrews 10:1]; finally, in the bold open declaration of the prophets [Luke 24:44; John 1:45]; and finally in the startling announcement of the forerunner that Christ of God did come [John 1:14-35].
Nineteen hundred years have passed since He came, and one generation after another of the saints of God have perished. And we in our day and in our time, we are perishing as the saints died before us. But the consummation still hasn’t come. Will it ever come? Paul said in the Book of Romans, the eighth chapter: "For the whole creation groaneth and traveleth in pain together until now. And we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, namely the redemption of our bodies" [Romans 8:22-23].
This dying house and our perishing people: will God never bring us to that final consummation? "And I saw under the throne, under the altar, the souls of them that had perished for Christ . . . and they cried saying, "O, Lord, how long? How long?" And the answer of heaven was "yet for a little season" [from Revelation 6:9-11]. And that little season now has been nineteen hundred years. How long? How long? How long?
God says our clocks are not His clocks. Our time isn’t God’s time. A thousand years in His sight are but as a day, as a watch in the night [2 Peter 3:8]. He says it is not for us to know the fullness of the times [Acts 1:7]. But in that dispensation, in that administration, in that ordering of God, in that foreknowledge of the purposes of the Spirit guiding through history and through time, God says that there is coming assuredly and certainly that final consummation when He will gather together under one in Christ everything in heaven and everything in earth [Ephesians 1:9-10].
Now, I cannot speak of the times. Jesus said the angels do not know. Jesus said, as He walked in the days of His flesh, He did not know. Jesus said only God the Father knows [Mark 13:32].
But there are some things about it that God hath revealed, and three of them are here in this passage. What of that great and final consummation toward which God’s power and God’s Spirit is moving in time, in history, and in us? These three things that He says are these:
First, that the final consummation will gather together everything above, below, and around – that all of it will be gathered in Christ [Ephesians 1:10]. Outside of Him, nothing – outside of Christ, everything perishes [Matthew 7:21-23]. Everything that lives must be brought into union with Christ, and outside of that union, there is nothing but fire, and the worm, and the night, and eternal damnation and perdition [Matthew 13:36-43; Revelation 20:11-15]. It’s like the vine and the branches. The branch that is cut off perishes and dies and is to be burned in the fire [John 15:6], but the branch that is to live must be in the vine which is Christ [John 15:4]. "I am the vine, and ye are the branches" [John 15:5].
It’s like the wheat that is gathered into God’s corner but the chaff is burned with unquenchable fire [Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17]. It’s like the great saying of Christ in Matthew 16:18: "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not hold it down" – katischuo, shall not have power to hold it down.
Death dissolves everything we know in this life. If a man’s president of the bank, in death he’s not president of the bank. If a man is leader of a great mercantile establishment, in death he’s not the leader of that establishment. If a man is President of the United States, in death he’s not President of the United States. If a man is married, in death he’s not married [Romans 7:2]. His wife is free to marry somebody else.
Death dissolves every relationship, every relationship we have in this earth – all except one, says God. There is a relationship that a man can establish in Christ, and the gates of death have not power to dissolve it, to hold it down. Everything that is united with Christ shall live, is quickened now and forever.
The second thing that He says here about that final and glorious consummation is this: "that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ." [Ephesians 1:12] I’ve read that, I suppose, all my life just as you’ve read it again and again. I never did see that thing until in the preparation for this sermon I looked at the most unusual Greek formation I thought I had seen: that we should be to the praise of His glory in this great, final consummation.
First, everything that lives shall be in Christ, and outside of Him nothing, nothing. The honor and glory of men shall pass away [1 Peter 2:24]. The strength and might of the kingdoms of the earth shall dissolve away [1 Corinthians 15:24]. The wealth that we have accumulated, the toil and effort we’ve devoted in this world and life [Luke 12:15-21] – all shall perish – the earth and the works thereof [Matthew 24:35]. Only that shall live that is vitally, intricately built in Christ [1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 1 John 5:11-13].
But this second thing that we should be to the praise of His glory [Ephesians 1:12] and the thing that I saw in preparing the message is that Greek order of the words. The word "be" is first. That we – I can’t say it like it is in Greek: eis to einai hēmas, "into to be us" in that great and final day of the Lord. Well what does He mean? This is what He means.
I wonder if Paul had any contact with the Buddhist religion. I wonder. I don’t see why not. He was a brilliant Greek scholar of the university at Tarsus of the Gamaliean school of rabbinical theology in Rome [Acts 22:3]. He could quote from Greek literature. He wrote the magnificent, beautiful paean of love in the Greek language in thirteenth of First Corinthians [1 Corinthians 13:1-13]. As I studied this, I wondered, "Did he ever have any contact with the Buddhist religion? Did he know it?" For the Buddhist religion is this: that as we are able to annihilate personality, as we are able to destroy desire, finally, says Buddha, through a series of incarnations as we come up, and up, and up, and up, and up, finally, we reach the great Nirvana. And what is the Buddhist Nirvana? The Valhalla, the heaven of the Buddhist religion, what is it? It’s nothingness. All personality is destroyed. All desire is vanquished finally, finally, finally, finally until we are absorbed into the great infinite emptiness and nothingness of the universe. That’s Buddhism.
I cannot say that Paul had that in mind. All I’m saying is this: that in the most unusual construction here in that verse, he says that in this final consummation we are to be, to be [Ephesians 1:12]. We are to be – you, somebody, a personality.
In the great final ages of the ages, in the eternity of the eternities that is yet to come, what is it God hath purposed? Is it just the unending tides of the eternal seas? Is it just the everlasting orbits of the spheres around their suns? Is it just the twinkle and shining of the silent stars? Is it just the vast illimitable emptiness of the universe? "No!" says Paul. For in that great and final consummation, Paul says in that we are to be! God is to have somebody to sing His praises [Revelation 7:9-10]. God is to have somebody to love Him [Revelation 21:3-8, 22:3-5]. God is to have somebody to think His thoughts after Him. God is to have somebody to adore the works of His hands [Revelation 14:7]. God is to have somebody to praise Him forever for the riches of His grace [Ephesians 2:4-7]. We are to be.
Do you ever think things like that? When I die, do I go out like a light? Is that what it is? When I die, is that the end? Is that the night? When I die, do you snuff out the little candle of my life? When I die, is that forever the dark, and the night, and the grave? Do you ever think things like that?
Paul says in the great consummation of the ages we are to be to the praise of His glory: conscious, alive, quickened, vibrant – you [Ephesians 1:5-6, 12].
If I had time here this morning, I’d like to stop there and talk about us in that great final consummation of the ages. Would you know each other? Would you? Will you be you, and will he be he, and will she be she, and will they be they? Will we be ourselves? Will we? What does God say?
Oh, ye haven’t time. In the thirteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, Paul says: "For now we see through a glass, darkly" [1 Corinthians 13:12]. It’s a shadowed revelation. "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known to be" [1 Corinthians 13:12] – to wake up and it’s glory, to wake up and it’s heaven, to wake up and all of the shadow and the mists have rolled away.
I don’t have time to read this old-timey song that we used to sing when I was a boy – I copied it down here – but I’d like to take just this moment to read the last stanza of it. It was written by Ira Sankey [1840-1908] who was Dwight L. Moody’s [1837-1899] wonderful singer. And haven’t you heard it, too, if you are an old timer – been brought up in the church? "When the Mists Have Rolled Away" – did you ever hear it?
We shall come with joy and gladness,
We shall gather around the throne.
Face to face with those who love us
We shall know as we are known.
And the song of our redemption
Shall resound through endless day
When the shadows have departed
And the mists have rolled away.
["When The Mists Have Rolled Away," Words by Annie H. Barker, Music by Ira D. Sankey, 1883]
"We shall be to the praise of His glory . . ." [Ephesians 1:12].
Now in this little brief moment, this other thing about that final consummation: He says, "We shall be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ" [Ephesians 1:12] – proelpizo, who hoped beforehand, hoped beforehand. Don’t have it now. The consummation isn’t ours now. I’m a perishing man – as Baxter said, a dying man preaching to dying people. That’s what I am now. ". . . who first hoped in Christ," [Ephesians 1:12] who hoped beforehand in Christ, who trusted beforehand in Christ. Don’t have it now. Don’t see it now. Don’t possess it now, but we have hoped before and looking forward to the promises of God.
Now, I wish again we had an hour just to dwell there on that word. Wonder why it was that God ordained that His kingdom should be possessed by those who hope in Jesus? "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for it? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" [Romans 8:24-25].
That’s God’s ordained way of seizing the kingdom, of grasping the kingdom, of entering the kingdom. It’s by hoping in Christ. It’s by trusting in Him, not in past merit, not in present resolutions, not in future expectations of ourselves, but in Christ: who have beforehand hoped in Him, who have trusted in Him [from Ephesians 1:12].
Oh, as I thought about it, a multitude of things crowd into my heart – why God did that, why God did it. For one thing, it glorifies God. We should be to the praise of His glory who, according to His riches in Christ Jesus hath ordained us, hath chosen us to be in His Kingdom [Ephesians 1:4-6]. That honors and glorifies God.
I can go out here and build an orphan’s home; that’s good. I can go out here and minister to the poor; that’s good. I can give all my goods, my body to be burned; that’s good. But the great thing that honors God is for His creatures to trust Him, to hope in Him, to believe in Him [Hebrews 11:6].
Do you remember the sixth chapter of the book of John? "And they said, ‘Lord, what shall we do, that we might work the works of Him? What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ And Jesus said, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him that sent Me’" [from John 6:28-29]. The great work that honors God is a man’s faith. It’s a man’s trust. It’s the committal of his life to Jesus. It’s hoping in Christ. That honors God. Another reason: it encourages a man to follow God openly and publicly and unashamedly, the man who hopes and who trusts in Jesus – we who hope beforehand in Christ.
Do you remember Nicodemus, in the third chapter of John, coming to the Lord by night, secretly, in the shades of darkness where nobody see this great aristocrat who belonged to the Sanhedrin? Nobody watch him as he found out the Lord by night and sought Him out. That’s in the third chapter of John [John 3:1-2]. The [seventh] chapter of John, he’s standing up in the Sanhedrin, and he’s saying to his fellow Sanhedrinists, "This man whom you condemn, you’ve never listened to what He says in defense" [from John 7:50-51]. And in anger they turned to Nicodemus and said, "Read for yourself! No prophet comes out of Galilee" [John 7:52]. But they didn’t condemn Him – not then.
And in the nineteenth chapter, Nicodemus appears again, but he’s not coming by night any longer, and he’s not clandestine and furtive in his questionings and in his devotion. In the broad light of day where everybody could see and everybody could know, Nicodemus is there with his fellow Sanhedrinist Joseph of Arimathea. And those two men boldly, under the eyes of Pilate, under the eyes of the Roman legionnaires, under the eyes of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the Sanhedrin and the whole world and angels above, Nicodemus with Joseph of Arimathea is pulling out the nails in the Lord’s hands and the spikes from His feet, and gently, tenderly, taking the body down from the cross and winding it with spices and laying it in the tomb [John 19:38-42]. That’s what trust does, faith does, commitment does.
You couldn’t stand back there! You could not sit back there, not finally, not finally, when that thing is happened to your heart. Once you’ve given your life and soul to Christ, you would burst in your heart or say it. The very bones cry out in acknowledgement.
And that thing, and I must quit, that beautiful passage that you read. What does trust do? These who hope beforehand in Christ – who look to Jesus – the Kingdom is theirs, says Paul. In the great consummation, it belongs to them. In the ordained purposes of God, it is theirs, says Paul [Ephesians 1:14; Thessalonians 2:12]. Why that trust and hope? Because it has power to move the heart of God.
In that passage we read together, the eleventh chapter of the Hebrew letter, did you get it? Did you see it? By faith, by faith, Abraham and his family, by faith Abraham confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth [from Hebrews 11:8-13b]. Here they had no abiding home because, said the eleventh chapter of Hebrews that you read, they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth dwelling in tabernacles, in temporary dwelling places, with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise. They confessed they were strangers and pilgrims here because they sought a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God [from Hebrews 11:9-13].
They believed that here was not their home. God had one in heaven. This frail tent rot and collapsed but another house not made with hands. They were looking for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God [Hebrews 11:10]. The Hebrews says that was their faith, that was their trust.
What did God do? God looked down upon them. You just read it. God looked down upon them, and it says God was not ashamed to be called their God [Hebrews 11:16]. It moved God to see those men with such trust in Him, such faith in Him. ". . . wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them that city" [Hebrews 11:16]. They said, "God will do it." And God looked down and said, "For their sakes, I will do it."
What is that city? John said in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation:
And I, John, I saw that city, the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there [shall] be no sorrow, or suffering, or death: for these things are all passed away.
[from Revelation 21:2-4]
God honors that faith that grasps His promises. That’s the consummation. That’s God’s intended purpose for us. Don’t you be weary. Don’t you be downcast. Don’t be over-consumed with the sorrows and tragedies of this life. Look up; look up. There is that for which we before hoped in Jesus: the consummation of every dream, the answer to every prayer, the fullness and fruition of our faith, the kingdom of God in Christ Jesus.
While we sing this song this morning, somebody you, "Pastor, I have felt in my heart that design and purpose of God, the drawing of the Holy Spirit" – into that aisle and down here to the front, would you come and stand by me? Would you? A family of you to put your life in the fellowship of the church, anywhere in the balcony around, down these stairwells, here to the front, would you come and stand by me? I do not call; it’s God’s call. I’m an echo, a voice. It is the Spirit of the Lord, or it’s nothing. It’s the moving of God. While we sing this song, while we make this appeal, anywhere, somebody you, a family you, two you, however, would you come? On the first note of the first stanza, would you make it now while we stand and while we sing?