THE NEW CREATION, which follows the thousand-year reign of Christ, and is located on the new earth, in which the religious supremacy of Israel is no more, but God dwells with all humanity, is a very appropriate source of figures to set forth the spiritual values of the present. Its physical marvels correspond closely to the spiritual realities which characterize this administration. Yet we should not carry this to extremes. The new heavens and earth themselves have a relation to the previous millennium, and we may compare what we have with that era also, notwithstanding its many points of contrast. In general, we have leaped over the millennial kingdom, yet we should not make this a divine principle from which to reason, but an illuminating observation, to clarify our thoughts.
Those whose eyes have not yet been opened to the grandeur of the grace which is ours in Christ Jesus, and who wish to oppose it, point to the occurrence of such words as (A. V.) "forgiveness of sins" (Eph.1:7), "translated us into the kingdom" (Col.1:13), and "regeneration" (Titus 3:5) in order to "prove" that we have, the forgiveness of "sins" and do belong to the "kingdom" and are "born again." And, in a vague way, they are right, for we have all this in principle, and far more. Our mistake lies in systematizing figures, and assuming that all concerning us must relate only to the new creation. Yet, if these passages, superficially considered, prove that we are in the "kingdom" of the thousand years, then other passages just as clearly prove that we are in the new creation. Since both are "proved" we are in a deadlock. The solution lies in examining both more carefully. Then we will see that both are true, but in vastly different relations. We are closely and clearly connected with one and loosely and vaguely with the other.
THE FORGIVENESS OF OFFENSES
The heralding of the kingdom was characterized by the forgiveness, or rather pardon of sins (Matt.26:28; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18). This is the act of a political executive, a king, not a judge who can justify or condemn, or an unofficial, social offense which we forgive. Hence we render it pardon. In connection with offenses, as in this passage, however, it is not official, and there we prefer forgive (Matt.6:14,15,15; Mark 11:25,26; Eph.1:7). Paul refers to this in describing the place of the Circumcision in the present grace, for whom he writes in the first twelve verses of Ephesians. He carefully avoids using the phrase "pardon of sins," which is connected with the heralding of the kingdom. Yet he uses their past position as forgiven by their heavenly Father, according to Matthew 6:14, as a starting point for their present place. This is a totally different matter from the pardon of sins, based on repentance and baptism. They now have the forgiveness of offenses according to the riches of His grace! They had it once, but in restricted measure. Now it is lavished on them! As a result they are no longer associated with the administration of the earth alone, but of the whole universe!
In order to get the true bearing of the "forgiveness of offenses" in Ephesians we should not connect it with the heralding of the kingdom. That is connected with the pardon of sins. It is a pity that none of our versions seem to have caught the force of the word offense. They translate it variously as sin or trespass. In this phrase in Matthew (6:14) and Mark (11:25) the relationship of the Deity to the disciples is paternal. He is their Father. It hurts Him when they do not forgive one another. So also in Ephesians. It is God the Father, and the relationship of the kingdom disciples who are about to enter into a grander sphere, who come before us. Now they are not forgiven their offenses because they have done the same to others as in connection with the kingdom. Nor is it done in measure as they have treated their brethren. Now it is not a question of right, of justice, of mercy, or even of grace, but of the riches of His grace!
There is, in this, a "connection" between the present and the coming kingdom, seeing that those to whom the beginning of Ephesians was written once expected to have a part in this kingdom, and their relation to the Father is similar in both, yet differing in the degree of the favor shown to them. There is no question here of a pardon by the King, such as would be essential to entrance into the millennium. They are no longer subjects in that kingdom, as their blessings are no longer on the earth (Eph.1:3). But their relationship to the Father has not been severed. It has not even been radically altered except in the greatness of the grace which has now been lavished upon them. Is there not a contrast to this kingdom rather than a likeness to it in this passage?
THE PARDON OF SINS
Nevertheless the kingdom formula, "the pardon of sins," is used of all who partake of the present grace in Colossians (1:14), not only of those who came from the Circumcision. We are rescued out of the authority of darkness, and transported into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in Whom we are having the deliverance, the pardon of sins. The question is one of rescue from one authority in order to be subject to another. In spirit we anticipate the time when Satan will no longer have jurisdiction over mankind. We no longer need to obey his behests. The sons of Stubbornness (Eph.2:2), though they have no inkling of the fact, are loyal and obedient subjects in a vast spiritual realm which is opposed to God. We escape from this dark dominion and enter the domains of light.
This is graphically expressed by transferring it all in figure to the future. When does the race escape from the authority of darkness? During the thousand years Satan is, indeed, bound, yet he is loosed again at its end, when a vast number enlist under his banner. Are we like these? By no means! They probably never were loyal citizens of Messiah's realm, for they turned traitor at the first opportunity. They would make a sorry picture of our deliverance. No, Satan may be bound, but the earth is not fully delivered from his dominion until the kingdom of Christ in the thousand years gives place to that of the Son in the new creation. As Son of Mankind He rules for the next eon, but as Son of God His scepter is for the eon of that eon, which follows in the new earth (Heb.1:8). The reference in this passage is to the kingdom after the millennium, and is concerned with our removal from the sphere of Satan's dominion into that of the Son. It has no bearing on the earthly rule, to which we are still subject (Rom.13:1).
THE PATH OF RENASCENCE
Perhaps the closest approach to the kingdom occurs when Paul contrasts our salvation with that experienced by Israel at the advent of Christ (Titus 3:5). When Messiah makes His advent to Israel those who have repented and have been baptized and have the gratuity of the holy spirit (Acts 2:38) and who endure to the consummation, shall be saved (Matt.24:13) and actually enjoy eonian life. How different it is with us! Now that God our Saviour's kindness and fondness (not Christ's) for humanity (not Israel) made its "advent," He saves us, not for works of righteousness which we do (as in the case of Israel), but according to His mercy, through the bath (not baptism) of renascence and renewal of holy spirit, which He pours out on us richly through Jesus Christ, our Saviour, that, being justified (not pardoned) by that grace, we should be becoming enjoyers, in expectation (not yet tenants) of the allotment of eonian life.
The use of the same or similar expressions as those associated with the opening phrase of the millennial reign has caused confusion in the minds of some, who have not seen that Paul here contrasts our salvation with that which will then be revealed. He uses Christ's advent as a background on which to paint the brighter outlines of the present grace. In both cases there is an "advent" (Acts 2:20). To Israel the Lord Himself will appear. To humanity God's kindness and fondness has already appeared. In both cases comes salvation. Those Who have repented in Israel, and have been baptized in water, and have the gratuity of the holy spirit, and who have endured during the terrible affliction of the end time--these will be saved and enter the kingdom at this advent.
Not so with us! Our salvation has no admixture of works whatever! It is all of God! His mercy alone is the power behind it. We do not obtain a mere baptism, and thus receive a ceremonial cleansing. We are bathed. We are thoroughly cleansed by a renascence, an AGAIN-BECOMING more drastic than that experienced by Israel at that time, as well as a renewal of holy spirit such as they will experience (Acts 2:18), but in our case He pours out the spirit richly, so that the pardon of the kingdom is replaced by justification. Only in one thing do they seem to have more than we. They actually experience eonian life in their bodies. With us it is an expectation, in our spirits.
Thus it will be seen that this passage, Which is supposed to identify our blessings with theirs, simply because some of the same terms are used, in reality is a powerful witness to the fact that the grace lavished upon us far exceeds theirs. We must not reason that Christ's advent has already occurred because there has already been an "advent" of God's kindness and fondness. Nor should we insist that we are regenerated because the term renascence is used of us as well as them. It is not the same as our Lord used in speaking to Nicodemus, though much like it. Therefore we do not translate it the same. No matter what figure is used, a regeneration or a new creation, there is a measure of similarity, for in both there is a renewal. The apostle does not say that ours is identical with theirs but rather points out the differences and our vast advantage over them.
Just as the eon of the eon, the last great administration in the new earth, is vastly in advance of the preceding millennium in its physical marvels and nearness to God, so the present secret administration is beyond the thousand years in its spiritual progress. This is especially true of conciliation. In the millennium the nations will be kept at a distance from God by the intervention of the priest nation Israel. Even the members of that nation will be shut out from His presence in the temple. God tabernacles with mankind in the new earth, just as He does now in spirit. Here the difference is clear and sharp. But there must be a measure of likeness between us and the "regeneration" because this is a step on the way to the new creation. It seems wise to overemphasize the differences so long as identity is supposed to exist, but, once these are apprehended and acknowledged, let us be thankful to our God that our blessings involve all that Israel will have in the millennium, and far more. To put it figuratively, the earth is not ours, but the universe, which includes it! May we appreciate the rich redundance of His grace and praise and adore Him accordingly!