GOD'S GREAT PLAN, in its broad outline, cannot well be considered without our becoming obliged to include the crisis introduced by Satan, the Adversary. In view of such a well thought out plan and such thorough preparation, indeed, with the definite determination of the consummation, the question arises, how was it possible that a single creature could bring about such a staggering crisis, which would continue throughout the eons? After God had placed all into the hands of His Son, the Christ, and He became responsible for it, it is not of so much moment whether all entrusted to Him by God would be saved, but rather whether, at the close, He would be forced to the shameful confession before the Father that a great part has been lost through the machinations of Satan. This failure would actually be a fact if the doctrine of eternal damnation were in accord with the Scriptures. Here we stand before one of the most serious of all problems, and we cannot evade it, for the honor of both Father and Son are at stake.
The question whether the entrance of sin into paradise could not have been hindered, is far too late in time. We must consider it long before, at Satan's beginning, when he was still in God or in His Son. He also was included in the great transfer of all out of God into the Son, and created in Him. Even at that time this mighty one was definitely designated. In the catalogue of all that were created in the Son we find sovereignties and authorities. Here is a clear indication of Satan, for he is the chief of the authority, or jurisdiction, of the air (Eph.2:2), and the jurisdiction of darkness (Col.1:13). (This, of course, also includes the celestial beings who were not involved in his apostasy). Along with all other creatures, Satan, as such, was modeled as he later came into conscious existence. God it was Who made him beforehand and exactly as he was to be in his later life.
The Son, in His supreme place, as God's image and likeness, was then already Satan's Head, and the latter was fully subject to Him. When the counter-worker, or adversary, was still unconscious, he was recognized by Christ. In the days of His humiliation, Jesus perceived from the beginning who it is that gives Him up (John 6:64). How much more must He have known in the glory which He had before the world was, with the Father (John 17:5), that He carried in Himself the deadly enemy who would later lead Him to the cross! How easily could He have eliminated this tendency from Satan before the adversary himself knew anything about it! And now, how is it possible that this celestial creature, notwithstanding his inferior position, could, out of his own mind, that is, out of himself, originate the opposition to God, cast off the headship of God and His Son, take up the warfare against the Christ, alienate many of His creatures from Him, and radically alter God's entire plan? Yes, and with all this, how could he force God and His Son into a conflict, against Their will, that They will never be able to end? What almighty power would he need to have? One who could engage in such a battle with God would be fully the equal of God Himself, if not His superior.
When one of two contestants was fully at the mercy of the other at the beginning, yet was able, by means of wiles and artifices, to free himself and deliver blows which damaged his opponent beyond recovery, and was then able to reduce the latter's success to a minimum, then he really deserves admiration, the other, however, a severe censure, because he allowed his inferior opponent to do so much damage.
It is a pity that a tradition has crept into the sects of Christendom which actually teaches just such an outcome of the work of Christ. He is represented as important, because He has not succeeded in carrying out the Father's plan according to His will. God is supposed to be like a man who turned over his business to his son too early, and he, because of his unfitness, brought it so near bankruptcy that both father and son had to struggle to save what was left. According to orthodoxy it looks like this in God's creation: Because the Son could not hinder the interference of Satan, He had to come down to earth in order to rescue some of the great number who were lost. Could it not be said that, in such a case, it would have been better had the Father kept the creation in His own hands? Of what use were all the thorough preparations and definite determinations, if these could not be attained? Should we seek to explain this failure, by saying that God foreknew all this, yet was compelled to do so in order to preserve the freedom of the creature, we still could not help asking if God, in wisdom, could not have found some other way, which would not demand the eternal damnation of many of His creatures. As He must have known about this, it looks like malicious indiscretion. But the teaching of the Scriptures (God be thanked!) is essentially different.
How thankful are we when we are allowed to find the way out of all the false maze of human reasoning, which leads to the true goal of God for His creation! When we follow the way from the cross to the highest heights, we discover the object which God has in view in using evil.
Satan began by leading astray some of the celestial host and came down to Eden, where he drew down Adam, the head of mankind, into the abyss of sin. He sank down into distance from God. The words up and down are often used figuratively to express the effects of sin and its opposite. God will eventually head up all in Christ (Eph.1:10). In the same chapter we read of the disruption (literally casting down) of the world when it became waste and void (Eph.1:13; Gen.1:2).
Satan's deception never succeeded in making an absolute severance of the creation from God and Christ. He was never able to accomplish that. The deepest roots, which lie in its inclusion in God and later in His Son, could never be disturbed. That is the testimony of Col.1:17: All has its cohesion (literally HAS-TOGETHER-STOOD) in Him. Not that it once stood in Him and was torn out of Him by the intrigues of the Adversary, but today, in the condition in which it is now, it stands in Him. He is still the All-mighty, the Pantokrator (ALL-HOLDer), the One "carrying on all by His powerful declaration."
Sin is able to make children stubborn and rebellious toward their parents, yet it cannot destroy the vital bonds that hold them together. Notwithstanding disobedience, the child still remains, in many ways, naturally as well as legally, the offspring and possession of its parents.
After the breach in the creation, Christ, as the responsible One, was in duty bound to do all in His power to win it back. That does not necessarily imply that the way of the cross was the only one. It would seem, from John 10:17,18, that there was another possibility. He had the right to go about it as an owner who has been robbed of his possession. The creation belongs to God, but had been transferred to the Son. Satan unrighteously usurped some of it, so that Christ had the right, due to His responsibility for the creation, to take it back by force.
According to the parable of the strong one (Matt.12:27-30), He, as the Stronger, could have used physical power to bring it back. That He was able to do this He often proved by driving demons out of those obsessed by them. At the very beginning He could have sent a messenger to bind Satan in the abyss, as He will do in the future (Rev.20:1). He had the authority to put Satan in his place immediately when He was about to undertake his very first attempt to deceive. But such a deliverance would never have brought creation to His feet in adoring love, so it must not be done by physical strength, but only through the might of God's invincible affection.
And so Christ Jesus, God's Son, emptied Himself of His inherent, divine form of equality with God and took the form of a slave and the likeness of humanity, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil.2:6-8). This He did, not merely as the One who was responsible to God to bring back that which had been entrusted to Him, but because of the great unselfish love which He had toward the creation when it was still included in Him.
When Adam was tested he found himself in a position without contention or opposition, yet failed. Christ, however, agonized until His sweat was blood-like, because the will of His Father was all to Him. Then He yielded up His life on the accursed cross. In this deed of love His mediatorship reached its fullest expression. We can already see that He wrought this great deed for the creation so that every creature might be assured of blessing. But He also acted on the cross as the One in Whom God had created all, and to Whom He had entrusted all. So He prepared the way on which the entire creation will return to the Father's heart. We are enabled to perceive and comprehend this truth only when we see Him on the cross, as the Head of the universe. On the basis of this authority and His esoteric union with every creature He took the old humanity, with its stubbornness toward God, not as separate units only, but as a whole, with Himself on the cross. The world was crucified with Him there, so that, through resurrection, He might bring to light a new life for all. As the sin of Adam, the head of all, involved the disobedience of all mankind, so, also, the obedience of all was involved in Christ's obedience, because He is the head of all. Headship operates the same in Him as in Adam.
These firstfruits of His death and resurrection are already enjoyed in spirit by the members of His body, for they know and experience in their lives that their old humanity was crucified together with Him. They reckon themselves to be dead to sin, yet living to God (Rom.6:6-11). Paul judged thus, if One died for the sake of all, consequently all died (2 Cor.5:14). Because all were partakers in Christ's death, they will all partake of His life. When Christ, on the cross, cried out "It is accomplished!" (John 19:20), He did not think merely of the end of His sufferings, but of the attainment of the goal foreseen by God for the whole creation. For Him its return to God was a fact because of what He had accomplished on Golgotha.
For the ascent of all out of its distance from God back to Him by union with Christ, the spirit of God, through the apostle Paul, has used a special expression. The decisive passage reads as follows: "making known to us the secret of His will (in accord with His delight, which He purposed in Him), to have an administration of the complement of the eras, to head up anakephalaioosasthai all in the Christ—both that in the heavens and that on the earth—in Him..." (Eph.1:9,10).
Notwithstanding that this expression conveys the exact sense of the Original, it is almost unknown. Such new words are apt to create distrust. Of course all may and should be tested, but always in an honest and upright attitude toward the truth. When it really concerns an expression found in the inspired text, as in this case, we should accept it and recognize it as correct. If we incorporate it into the vocabulary of faith, it will be found to contain an overwhelming divine force of expression and reveal a transcendent treasure of divine thought. As a matter of fact, this one word indicates the whole victory and triumph of Christ. It shows the way in which Christ will bring back the creation to Himself, in that all will recognize Him willingly as their rightful Head. And that will be the grand fulfillment of the promise which was involved in the creation of all in Him.
As the understanding and appropriation of such a word means a great enrichment of faith and knowledge, we will examine more closely the only other occurrence, in Romans (13:9): "and if there is any other precept, it is summed up (UP-HEADING ana kephalaioutai) in this saying, in this: `You shall love your associate as yourself.'" Before this was said, some laws were cited: "You shall not commit adultery...murder...steal..." etc. It is law on a lower level which speaks in this fashion, but no one could keep it. In reality, however, it aimed at the greatest: love. (The Hebrew thorah, law, means aim. Corresponding to this, men did not "break" the law, as we say, but missed the target, or sinned). In this connection it is doubly emphasized that love is the fulfillment and complement of law (8,10). But the power to fulfill it the law could not give, yet God can, in that He pours out His love in the hearts of believers through the holy spirit (Rom.5:5). In this way they may gain the great goal. And, as this love is on the highest level, the laws which only aimed at it, which are fulfilled by it, are raised to this level, as the Scriptures put it, up-headed! In the same manner all will once again become united into one in Christ.
Such a union of the celestial and the terrestrial, under Christ, the Head, was not revealed until the ministry of the apostle Paul. That is why Paul speaks of this truth as the secret of God's will, which was first made known to the ecclesia to which he ministered. Up to that time much had been revealed of God's plan of salvation, but Paul was the first to teach a final and finished, a consummate and universal reconciliation of all, in the heavens as well as on the earth, and that only in his last revelation, in the perfection epistles. The foundation of this he lays in Colossians, where he sees a reconciled universe (1:20). In Philippians he shows the Christ acclaimed by all (2:11). This truth he teaches in Ephesians, when He says that all in heaven and on the earth will be headed up in Christ (1:10). This esoteric union of all in Him was predestined by God and was His delight. Like the administration of the secret of the present ecclesia (Eph.3:9), this purpose was then hid in God.
Indeed, right after His ascension God installed Him as Head of the heavenly hosts (Eph.1:21; Col.2:10). That, however, was the operation of His might, an installation over and above all. But Eph.1:10 speaks of a heading up in the complement of the eras, in the last administration, and not till then. Besides it will consist of the entrance of the creation into a vital love relationship, for it is twice explained by the use of the connective in "to head up all in the Christ...in Him." Now we cannot take this as if all will return into Christ in the same unconscious condition as it already was in Him in the past. Paul gives us a fine explanation how we are to understand this. Twice he mentions those whom he has in his heart. First it was the Corinthians. When he bids these believers to "make room for us," take us up in your heart (2 Cor.7:2), he is able to assure them that, "I have declared before that you are in our hearts." In genuine love Paul had taken up these believers in his heart, although this was not the case with them.
A different relationship existed between Paul and the Philippians. To these believers also he could testify: "according as it is just for me to be disposed in this way over you all, because, having you in my heart..." (Phil.1:7). But in this case the wonderfully beautiful esoteric relationship was mutual. As Paul wished the best for the Philippians, because he had them in his heart, so were they disposed toward Paul (Phil.4:10), because they had him in their hearts.
Paul says of Philemon that he was his very compassions (literally, intestines, or entrails, verse 12). Everyone understands what it means to have someone in your heart. It is a love relationship, in which self is overlooked and forgotten. That is the normal relationship of every communion. See John 6:56; 14:10,11,21; 15:4-5; 17:21; 1 John 3:24. As soon as the word "in" is used of such a union, we may be sure that it involves a mutual love relationship. And such a one it is which will lead to the heading up of all in Christ.
Today the majority are much more indifferent or antagonistic toward Christ than the Corinthians were toward Paul. Christ has demonstrated, by His love sacrifice on the cross, that He has taken all into His heart, as Paul did the Corinthians. Now He prays, through His ambassadors, "Be conciliated with God!" (2 Cor.5:20). In other words, Receive Me into your hearts as your Saviour and Lord! To be sure, this grace is granted only to the elect in this administration, but the heading up will eventually open all hearts for Christ, because the ideal normal condition of the creation as originally in Him will then be reached and perfected. The "in" is the keyword, before which the "through" must give way. A similar contrast is found in 1 Cor.15:22: "For even as in [not through] Adam, all are dying, thus also, in [not through] Christ, shall all be vivified." This universal vivification, in which all mankind receives justification of life (Rom.5:18,19), is a complementary aspect of the heading up of all, and will occur in the complement of the eras. It is much more than the universal resurrection at the end of the thousand years' reign, when all the rest of the dead are raised and stand before the great white throne.
The Father and the Son combine in bringing about the heading up of all in Christ. According to Ephesians, it is the Father Who accomplishes this achievement. In accord with this we read in Heb.2:8, "All dost thou subject underneath His feet." God, the Father, "subjects all under His (Christ's) feet" (Eph.1:22).
In 1 Cor.15:27 and Phil.3:21 it is Christ, the Son, Who subjects all to Himself. In John's account our Lord Jesus expresses this cooperation in a wonderful way: "No one can come to Me if ever the Father Who sends Me should not be drawing Him"..."Everyone, then, who hears from the Father and is learning the truth, is coming to Me" (John 6:44,45). Yet, "No one is coming to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
In the present administration of grace we have the same precious cooperation. According to 1 Cor.1:9 we were called into the fellowship of His Son. And it is through the Son that we have the access to the Father (Eph.2:18; 3:12).
The heading up of all in Christ displays the weighty character of the salvation which is in Christ. The raising of heavy loads out of deep depths demands a tremendous expenditure of power. And the elevation of a universe sunk in sin and death to the highest height will display to all what Christ has accomplished (Isa.53:11). However, the elevation of all is not accomplished by a single act, but by steps, according to a definite divine plan. Among the first to enjoy this restoration are the members of the body of Christ, as His select. In spirit we have already attained to this goal, for our position in Christ is in the spirit which He has imparted to us. We are already headed up in Him, for He is the Head of His body, which He has united into a single corporation. One who loves Christ above all, who serves Him, and lives in Him, already presents a miniature of the grand goal.
After the present ecclesia, in the great affliction, a select company out of Israel will follow, the start of the kingdom ecclesia, which had already commenced at Pentecost. Then Christ will have two eons at His disposal, in which he will bring back every sinful creature to Himself. What Satan has dragged down, He will raise up.
Even if, in this eon, the darkness becomes more dense, evil increases and ripens, the apostasy makes gigantic strides towards antichrist, and he succeeds in bringing almost all over to his side, yes, even if Satan, at the end of the thousand years again deceives all nations and turns them against God and His Christ—nevertheless, upward the cause of Christ now wends its way!
This upward movement has commenced, in Christ, and will yet include all and take all with it. Fulfilled will be what is written: "Wherefore, also, God highly exalts Him, and graces Him with the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should be bowing, celestial and terrestrial and subterranean, and every tongue should be acclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God, the Father" (Phil.2:9-11).
When the heading up of all in Christ is fully accomplished, then God's great goal to be All in all will be practically attained. When the acclamation of all, "Jesus Christ is Lord!" is heard, it will require no great effort to turn the hearts of all to God in submission and love. God then receives all, who once were in Him, without the slightest loss, back from Christ, with the great gain that Christ has won all hearts for Him. Then the Son Himself also, with all of whom He is the Head, is subject to Him, a sign that His work has been done, in accord with the Father's will and has fully succeeded, and now is presented to Him crowned with grace and glory.
This sublime conclusion will celebrate the great homecoming of all into the Father's house. Joy and jubilation will fill every mouth. A blessedness beyond words will grip every heart, and praise and thanksgiving to God and the Son of His love will never end.