"IN HIM is all created, that in the heavens and that on the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones, or lordships, or sovereignties, or authorities, all is created through Him and for Him..."
(Col.1:16). How are we to understand this divine achievement?
Our previous consideration of the basic truths in the first part of this passage should fully prepare us to enter into the further particulars contained in this, one of the greatest of all divine revelations concerning His beloved Son. What the Word of God here states is simply overpowering. That all was created through the Son we may be able to grasp. But that the entire creation, before its existence otherwise, was created in Him which could only be done by God is beyond the scope of the human intellect. There we see, in spirit, all of God's creatures come into being, that is, all mankind from Adam to the present, as well as all future generations including the eons of the eons (Eph.3:21), as well as the myriads of the heavenly hosts, of whom the political divisions are especially named. We hardly find any feature in our human existence which resembles this. Here we have an inimitably divine method of operation. Nevertheless, as always, God's Word grants our searching spirit enough light so that it contributes to our joy and strength. For we can hardly expect to attain to a full mental comprehension of all that this involves.
To begin with, we are not to understand this as if the universe, in the form in which it later became perceptible, was fully finished in the Son and so sprang forth from Him. This is denied by the method in which the first human was created, as set forth in God's Word elsewhere. It is confirmed by this very verse, which not only makes known the creation of all in Him, but also goes on to say that all was created through Him. With this agrees 1 Cor.8:6, where we read of one Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom all is. The same is taught in John's account, when he speaks of Him figuratively as the Word of God, that all came into being through it (John 1:3).
Nevertheless, the divine, preparations for the creation of the universe consisted in much more than the mere sketching of a plan, such as any man can make. What God intends to call into existence He is able to anticipate in a spiritual living reality. The Scriptures present us with many examples of His skill. The prophet Ezekiel, for instance, was taken, in spirit, to the temple in the holy oblation, as it will be in the coming kingdom. To him it was all a reality. The man, whose appearance was as copper, led him through all the precincts of the temple and measured them. Indeed, the prophet had to actually enter the stream that flowed from beneath the right shoulder of the house (Ezek.40:47).
Many more experiences of this kind came to the apostle John. He not only saw the throne and the messengers and the elders in a prophetic vision, but he heard the ascriptions of praise to the Lambkin (Rev.5). By this method John perceived the future unveiling of Jesus Christ. Besides, Paul was snatched away to the third heaven and heard ineffable declarations which he was not allowed to speak of at that time (2 Cor.12:1-4). And that was the heaven, which follows the present one, which is not even yet created (2 Peter 3:7,12,13).
Perhaps the most august example of this method is the sacrificial death of Christ. After it was accomplished on Golgotha, and had taken its place as an actual occurrence in human history, John is inspired to write that the Lambkin was slain from the disruption of the world (Rev.13:8), for from that time God reckoned with Christ as the true sacrificial Lamb in a very real way. This finds its expression in the divine evaluation of the blood shed by the many sacrificial animals which, apart from their relation to the great Antitype, would have been worthless, yet were able to shelter from sin, until the time when God would deal with it thoroughly and finally (Rom.3:25,26).
These examples indicate how we are to conceive of the creation of all in the Son of God's love. It was a sort of preconception and establishing of the fulfillment which God had in view. How this magnifies our Lord, since God accomplished this in Him! And what a confirming commentary it is to the truth that Christ Jesus was then inherently in the form of God (Phil.2:6)!
COMPARISON OF THE BEGINNINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
In order to fully grasp the basic position of the creation of all in the Son and to realize the full significance of the beginnings in the divine plan of blessing, we must consider them in the light of the conclusions. It will afford a valuable insight into the wisdom and order which prevails in God's plan if we compare these and see that they exactly balance one another. The seeds of the mighty objectives of God's loving purpose in regard to creation are already apparent in the earliest phases, and thus the conclusion of God's operations is unalterably and immutably settled at the start. That already obliges every student of the Scriptures to teach nothing else than that which agrees with the beginning and object as shown in God's Word. The symmetry which characterizes the development of creation puts the whole of it on in indestructible and beneficent foundation. The following scheme, which must be reckoned as only a partial help, will show us something of the harmony and balance of the divine plan.
|The Beginnings |
All in Him
|All in all
|Christ's sacrifice||Christ's coming
This reversal shows only those features under discussion. In grand outline it sketches the history of creation from its beginning to its consummation. It came out of God and was then placed in the Son, in order to come into existence through Him. Satan, the adversary of God, estranged it.
The cross is the great crisis. By an eonian long way the creation is headed up again in Christ (Eph.1:10), and, as a new creation, restored to the Father's heart. It is evident that God does not begin by chance or as an experiment, but has an immutable purpose.
When all was in God, the whole universe was subject to Him. That is one side of God's headship. It will be complemented at the consummation of the eons, when God will be All in all. This is the shortest and concisest declaration of His headship in the Scriptures. It is based on the vital relationship of God to all, rooted in unfathomable love. Created by Himself, every creature will willingly and joyfully enter into it. Then every heart will be overpowered by His love, so that He may be All in all! That will be the sweet fruit, which will sprout from His own love, brought to a ripe harvest.
During His inclusion in God, the Son originally was embraced in the universal subjection of all creation. This also will find its complement in the future. It is a preview of the crisis when God's plan comes to its victorious close, when the Son, after His successful rule as the Christ, has brought all into voluntary subjection to God, and is Himself subject to Him (1 Cor.15:28).
After this foundation is laid, and therewith the blessed and predetermined conclusion is insured, God now guides the universe into another situation by transferring it into His Son. In this conveyance we see the work begun by the Father laid into the hands of the Son, with the commission to carry it on to a successful consummation. This official appointment is based on the transfer of all into the Son, in whom it was created. Such a divine act also bears a mighty prophecy in itself which will find a fulfillment in the far future. It will consist in this, that the universe, after it was estranged, will be headed up in Christ again, when all creatures will recognize Him as Lord, and accord Him voluntary and joyful acclamation. For a preview of the divine purpose, the creation of all in the Son is more significant than the later creation through Him, for it points forward to His future headship.
During His presence on earth Jesus repeatedly affirmed that the Father had given all into His hand, and then added, with triumphant certainty, that He would be losing nothing (John 3:35; 6:39; 13:3). We can see how many an utterance of His in the days of His humiliation, when brought into contact with the primeval period of creation, is full of deep significance.
The earliest divine activity in bringing the universe into existence lies in the Son. Indeed, we may say that the first development began in Him. The Son, therefore, is the beginning of the creation of God in a double sense (Rev.3:14). Not only is He Himself God's first Creature, but the creation was formed in Him beforehand and eventually created through Him.
Alongside with this we are informed for the first time of one of the most important revelations concerning God's operations. While the universe as a whole rested in God, it was during its transfer into the Son divided into two grand divisions, that in the heavens and that on the earth. In this we get a glimpse into the two great methods used by God to bring salvation to His creatures. One is through Israel on the earth, the other, through the ecclesia which is His body, and brings blessing to the heavens.
Now God has not only inaugurated His grand operations in Christ, but He commissions Him to carry it on, and called into existence the necessary time periods. In Ephesians we read of the purpose of the eons which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Eph.3:11). We can see from this that God knew in the beginning how much time would be needed for the creation and redemption and reconciliation, for He had already formulated and settled the plan of the eons. Furthermore we are told in the letter to the Hebrews (1:2), that He made the eons through the Son. This purpose presents a surprising parallel to that concerning the material creation. As all was created in Christ and then through Him called into an outer, visible existence, so God, first of all, made the eons in Him and then called for these planned time periods through Him. In these Scriptures we find the clear evidence that the eons had a beginning. But not only a beginning, for each also has an end, as the Scriptures speak of both the conclusion and the consummation of the eons (Heb.9:26; 1 Cor.10:11).
The eons begin their course with the creation of the heavens and the earth. The primeval creation, then, reaches to their beginning. Therefore we may give it the sub-title, "Before the Eons."
In our meditations on the universe in Christ, we found ourselves in Him. Now anew we are reminded of our pre-eonian election. Now we see ourselves, in spirit, originally in Christ. This divine fact is emphasized again for the members of His body by Paul in Ephesians (2:10): "His achievement are we, created in Christ Jesus..." Here we begin to see the outlines of the ecclesia. The whole of the following on our choice in Christ is proof positive that all the saints were then in Christ. He was already our Head and Lord, to Whom the Father gave all. The glory of our present position in grace is the fact that, in spirit, we are in Christ. And now we discover that once before we found ourselves in this blessed location (1 Cor.1:30). Though absolutely unconscious of the fact, we were in Him, fervently loved. In affection and compassion His Father's eye rested on us, and, as we shall see, had already wrought in love in our behalf. How our hearts are warmed and moved with joy, and filled with power for our daily drudgery, when they are affected by this thought, that our choice in Christ reaches back to the pre-eonian times!
Never must we allow these glorious revelations to mislead us to think that we were consciously pre-existent at that time. Christ alone had such an experience, and no creature besides Him. We were in Him only in the sense in which all humans were in Adam. In Christ God viewed us as we will yet be in the glory.
One of the greatest God-likenesses (Phil.2:6) which came to Christ when all was found in Him, consists in this, that the oneness which existed between God and creation, now was transferred to Christ. This made Him the Head of all. In exploring the beginning of the unfolding and the consummation of God's loving plan this is one of the greatest as well as the most important revelations. It belongs to that group of divine truths which have been made known only through the apostle Paul. In his epistles the headship of Christ is prominent. The apostle teaches that Christ is the Head of every man (1 Cor.11:3), of the ecclesia (Eph.4:15; 5:23; Col.1:18), every sovereignty and authority (Col.2:10), of all (Eph.1:22). As this appellation is a figure of speech, it is necessary and helpful to stress the features which arise from it.
Even the Hebrew Scriptures teach much about a figurative headship, as Ex.28:13, heads of the people; Deut.28:13, Israel, head of the nations; Judges 22:14, head of the father's house; 1 Sam.15:17, head of the tribes of Israel, etc. In every case headship implies authority and leadership over a few or many humans, which, in this connection, form an organization. Never, however, are we to think of a headless body on which a head is to be set. The figurative expression, "the head," is much used in our social structure. We speak of the head of the state, the church, the family, etc. The headship consists simply of this, that one person has authority over individuals who are united as one body. That, however, is only one of the relationships which the head and body represent, and a loose and superficial one.
The significant prayer which David offered at the coronation of his son brings this truth to the fore, "Thine, Jehovah, is the greatness and the might and the beauty and the permanence and the splendor, for all in the heavens and the earth dost Thou rule. By Thy presence are disturbed all the kings and nations. Thine, Jehovah, is the kingdom, and Thou dost lift Thyself to be Head of all" (1 Chron.29:11,12). Here we have a headship which consists of the unlimited lordship of the Creator over the creation. More and deeper David could not go in his day, for the complete revelation was not given until Paul. He leads us back to the earliest beginning and reveals the actual origin of Christ's headship. When God transferred all out of Him into the Son, this involved the coronation of Christ over all. This headship is based on a deep, esoteric union with every creature and embraces ever so much more than mere outward authority over them. God brought the creation into a vital relationship to Christ. Sin has interfered and disturbed, but can never annihilate the living connection on which it is based.
Here we see the original relationship of the creation to Christ, free and untouched by sin. No opposition, nothing to disturb or sadden, was found there. All was subject to the Son, and submissively rested in His heart. By the vital connection with His own life He was able to determine the constitution and unfolding of every creation. What we now see in the heavens and the earth was once in Him, and is the model and preview of that which the future has in store. The ecclesia already possesses spiritual blessings that presage those which will eventually embrace all.
This first installation of Christ to be Head of all implies a future heading up, for even then it was far beneath Him. But, by being transplanted into Him, and created through Him, it was drawn up to Him, and this exaltation brought it to a position of honor and nobility.
The transfer of all by the Father into the Son made Christ responsible for the whole creation. Even among mankind it is understood that one who takes over the administration of another's possession assumes the responsibility attached to it. Here, however, we are concerned with far more. God did not create all first, and then transfer it to His Son, but created it through Him. He clothed Him with all the necessary rights and authorities to act independently. Should there be any failure, or anything be lost or robbed, it is His right and duty to retrieve it. Christ was well acquainted with His great undertaking. Even before the disruption of the world, even before sin entered, He was recognized as the flawless and unspotted Lamb, that is designated to be the sacrificial Victim (1 Peter 1:20). Through David, Christ made it known that it was His delight to be the great Antitype of the Jewish sacrifices (Psa.4:7,8). We may say that we have the cornerstone laying for the cross here, and that it became a reality long after it was already in God's purpose.
What an immeasurable confidence in His Son is expressed by his divine act! God must have found a perfect accord with His purpose in the knowledge and will of Christ, as well as complete competence to carry out His grand plan for creation and salvation, so that He could entrust all to Him so absolutely. He was sure of His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. The Father had not the least fear that He could be disappointed, for He knew that He would emerge from the conflict with the adversary as more than Conqueror.