according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:11 NIV
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
Ephesians 5:25~31 NIV
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:13~22 NIV
Have you heard any sermons, or discussion around "His Eternal Purpose"?
In this post, we are going to explore what His Eternal Purpose might be. Why this understanding is important, maybe even vital as we navigate the time until He returns.
First an observation. There are only four chapters in the Bible that describe the plans, events, purpose of God outside the influence of sin or the fall of man. These are the first two chapters of Genesis (ch 1 & 2, prior to the fall) and the last two chapters of John's Revelation of Jesus Christ (ch 21 & 22 after Jesus redeems all things and the new Jerusalem is in place). Kinda like the book ends of the entire library.
These opening and closing chapters reveal what God's eternal intent and purpose is.
The Godhead, Trinity, have a plan, and the design, implementation and intent is threaded throughout the narrative of the Bible. One could be forgiven the initial thought that Jesus coming as a man and dying on a cross to redeem humans, was plan B.
Nothing could be further from the truth, right from the start and all the way through the story, we see Their intent as they call and direct Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon and Finally the capstone Jesus.
We get to see that Jesus the son of God and the son of man is central and pivotal throughout. It is by Him, through Him and for Him!
In these four chapters there is mention of:
The Lord God's intention, desire as they created the world and man in their image is able to be discerned.
The first clue, was that man alone (by himself) was not good, and thus they created woman. And the two would become one flesh. Marriage was and is God's idea and is the imagery used for the relationship Jesus has with His bride.
Second clue, God visits with man each day, in the cool of the evening. He wants relationship, and a place to hang out with His creation. Not just visit but dwell, stay.
Third clue, Adam and Eve as image bearers are given dominion over the planet. Physical presence and work are part of the intrinsic design - hence we have a body and inhabit a time / space continuum.
Fourth clue, the command to go out and multiply ... have kids, build a family.
Now lets examine each of these in a little more detail. But first, why is all this important?
Perspective and context are vital to proper understanding.
Over most of my life time, (full disclosure, born in the mid 1950's) there has been an emphasis, in the growing churches, on the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The need for personal salvation. Thus the crucified Christ, the shedding of His blood, His conquering of death, hell and the grave, have all been central to the evangelical church. Then the fresh out pouring of Holy Spirit and the Pentecostal movement have revealed a God that still speaks, cares about His creation, leads, delivers, makes whole (spirit, soul and body). Massive evangelism throughout the world, with lots of talk and measuring of the number of "converts". Some talk and attempts at discipleship.
None of the above is a criticism, simply an observation. Indeed I have been actively immersed, involved in all these things for most of my life.
Thus, we have mostly talked and presented the suffering Christ. Indeed some portray Him still on the cross, and yes I understand the importance of remembering.
In no way do I want to minimise or in any way try to negate the vital and intrinsic need for the cross, the shedding of His blood, the centrality and importance of what He achieved, and our need to embrace, accept and walk in the newness of life all this makes possible.
However, for the last 2000+ years He, Jesus the Christ has been seated as King of Kings and Lord of Lords at the right hand of the Father. The prophetic promises of Psalm 2 are being played out.
All of the above (and yes I've not covered all of what He did, but enough to paint the picture) are part of a much bigger and more important whole.
One of the consequences of not being aware off the bigger picture, and thus viewing the cross and personal salvation as the central theme, means we are likely to think it is all about us. Indeed, much of the marketing of the church over the last 3 or so decades has approached evangelism on the basis of selling "what's in it for me?" Going to heaven when we die, .... the list is long. Don't get me wrong, the benefits of submitting to His will and carrying our cross each day are out of this world (pun intended).
Another potential problem, is that we look back more than we look forward. Maranatha (come soon Lord Jesus), was the cry of the early church, and will be its cry once more. His ultimate rule and reign over the entire creation, with every knee bowed before Him, are coming to pass.
As the world has begun the birth pangs Jesus prophesied, the inevitable troubles and difficulties, that we will need to navigate, means that we need to have our eyes clearly fixed on the hope to come. We need to understand the bigger picture!
Least anyone misconstrue what I am describing here let me try to be clear.
Jesus Christ was "In the beginning" - John clearly portrays the critical role that Jesus has, and always has, even in the whole creation process. In many places throughout the old testament, there are portrayals of Jesus involved in the journey of Israel - Abraham, Moses, Joshua, the prophets ... etc. Then we have the miraculous birth, the demonstration of the Kingdom of God being "at hand" or within reach as He walks this earth as the "son of man". Then the passion of the Christ which ushered in a new covenant. Then the resurrection, ascension and crowning of His ruler-ship at the right hand of the Father. Then finally John once again portrays the Christ in glory, the only one worthy, the one who conquers all and has dominion over the entire creation. Finally the culmination, the marriage of the Lamb with His bride, made ready, perfected, and living as the original design and intent of the Godhead was for His creation, His image bearers.
It was always about Him, started by Him, redeemed by Him and for Him. The Father will have a bride for His Son, a dwelling place where He can tabernacle with His kids, a body that has dominion over all, under the only One worthy, and a family that lives out the life always intended.
Central to ALL THIS, is a God who is love and displays it through every aspect of the story. This is all about the ultimate LOVE STORY!
Each of the four parts, we will now explore, are how and where He demonstrates His LOVE.
Why is God interested in, and planning for a wife / bride for His Son? Interestingly, the second chapter of the Bible, when talking about the creation of man and woman, the chapter ends with this statement: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh."
It also says "Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." Will not cover this any more here, just point out that this too is significant.
Thus before the fall, prior to sin entering into the story, there was already a statement about God's design and intent. This never wavers throughout the entire Bible, marriage (as we used to refer to it) was a significant part of God's design and it was also somewhat mysterious; in that "... they become one flesh." This relates to covenant, something the 21st century western world has largely forgotten, and tries hard to ignore.
For example, Merriam-Webster in their online dictionary show an example that exposes this long held perspective "a traditional rule held that a husband could not enter into a covenant with his wife, because that was the equivalent of covenanting with himself"
There is an unexpressed but vital implication, that the two are totally united and committed to the same ideals and outcomes. Indeed, with our western worldview and emphasis on the individual, we struggle with the binding nature of being so locked into a relationship with another that to separate is unthinkable. We are distinctly uncomfortable with such a perceived loss of choice. Unfortunately we also suffer the many consequences that such a lack of commitment brings, and thus miss the resultant security it brings.
Man is not good alone. Everything God created was described as good, or very good. However, man alone, by himself, is declared as "not good". Thus God addresses this by creating a purpose designed and built companion for man, that man then names (just as he named the rest of God's created world), woman or 'out of, or from man'. The strength of the marriage relationship, visible over most of human history, has demonstrated the uniqueness and power, of this 'by design' relationship.
As we traverse the Bible, we see that God covenanted Himself to Israel. Marriage is used as a metaphor throughout the old testament, to describe His view of the covenant that He instituted with Abraham and his offspring - the Israelites. Similarly the Bible then uses broken marriage metaphors (adultery, harlot etc.) as Israel turns away from God. Clearly, God has design and intent to have a very special relationship with His created, made in His image, offspring - then referred to as son of man, used well over 100 times.
Israel totally messes up this covenantal relationship, time and time again, and thus demonstrates the need for a better covenant. Jesus enters the story in human form, and establishes a new and better covenant. By extreme mercy and grace, this covenant is accessible to all 'made in His image' humans. We thus get introduced to the ecclesia, the corporate church or gathering, described once again with the bride / wife / marriage description. E.g. see opening verses quoted above, from the epistle to the Ephesians.
Finally, as we see at the recorded end of the story, Jesus gets to marry a bride, made worthy, not by her own actions, but by the power of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit.
There is much more detail to this amazing narrative, spread throughout the book. Hopefully this has planted a seed and desire to learn more, to search out the scriptures to see if these things are so.
The Trinity has from the beginning of time, had a desire for a bride / wife / covenant relationship with their created image bearers, and will surely get what they planned for and want, at the end of the ages.
It was "... the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day ..." that exposed the dramatic change that departure from obedience caused.
We can see however, that the Lord God want to spend time with His kids - Adam and Eve. He liked hanging out with them at that special time of the day. For those that have lived on farms with animals running around, you will know that as the sun begins to settle low in the sky, that the animals, particularly the young ones, begin to frolic and play together. It is quite noticeable, and different from other times of the day. Curious huh?
From Noah, building an altar and dwelling in a tent - sacrifice and nomadic life style, through to Abraham and Jacob likewise building altars and calling the location "Bethel" meaning House (or dwelling) of God. There once again is a pattern throughout the Bible, demonstrating another purpose the Godhead has in mind for their creation.
As the children of Israel leave Egypt and slavery behind, and meet with God at the mountain - Moses is given clear and very explicit instructions to build a tabernacle, and warned not to depart from the detailed layout and design he is shown. Once completed, God's presence comes down at the dedication and sanctification meeting. He dwells in the tent of meeting and hangs with Moses, so much so that Moses is physically changed and glows as he leaves the tent, and needs to cover his face to prevent damage to the rest of the gatherers. I believe that is why at 120 years of age, as God took him, that his natural strength, vigour and life force was unabated. God's presence is what we are designed for.
Further on, David prepares and Solomon builds the first temple in Jerusalem. Once again, as the dedication and sanctification meeting takes place, God's presence comes and fills the temple, so much so that the priests cannot stand and function in the presence. Israel as a nation / people fail to obey, and after immense patience and lots, and lots, and lots of warnings and prophetic pronouncements, both Israel and Judah are banished from the promised land to pagan Babylon. Interestingly, this is where the synagogue is introduced as man tries to restore the broken relationship, loss of Presence, and the 613 laws are developed to try and enable man to obey the life command template revealed through Moses. This fails miserably and is the backdrop to what Jesus encounters and rails against in the Gospels.
In John we see that Jesus tabernacles with us. He talks to Nathaniel and describes the stairway to heaven, the Bethel reference not lost on them (Gen 28:12 c.f. John 1:51). His desire and intention has always been to dwell in and amongst His image bearers.
Finally we see
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:1-4 NIV
What an amazing culmination of the purposes of Elohim. He will get to dwell in and amongst His kids, just like he planned and purposed. There is lots more woven throughout the Bible. You may notice that the scale and impact of His presence grows: From Noah as a single family, the children of Israel as a people group, however initially nomadic, then Solomon's temple, now a city, then the ecclesia united by Holy Spirit throughout the earth until finally His original purpose, the bride now married to the Son, ruling and reigning over the entire earth. WOW!
We humans are spirit beings first and foremost, uniquely carrying the Ruah 'breath' of Elohim. We have a soul, expressed through our mind, will and emotions, and live in a physical body. It is this body that enables expression of the life force within it. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in Spirit and in truth. John 4:24, this is how we bear His image.
However, most of our world and its value system have turned this understanding backwards. Thus we see an almost exclusive focus upon our bodies, what we look like, what we wear, etc. Massive amounts of money and effort spent on tweaking the peripherals of our body, as Jesus cuts to the chase and says who can add an hour to their life, or a cubit to their height (Matt 6:25-34 & Luke 12:22-29) and then punches it home by calling those two things - little things. (Luke 12:26).
Once more we get to see the original design intent. Adam, inhabiting his physical body, works with God by naming all the birds of the air, insects and animals on the land. I'm guessing that was a little more than a week's worth of time and effort. See Gen 2:19,20
Just in case you are confused, work is part of our original intent and purpose and not a consequence of the fall.
God has plans to work with and alongside His creation. Paul expresses this in
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 NIV
Thus before we were created, He planned specific good works for us to do. Our work requires our bodies. He has activity for us to engage in, and with the power and guidance of Holy Spirit make manifest, visible His glory and presence.
The original command was to have dominion (rule) over all the earth - Gen 1:26
Once again, this mandate is being turned upside-down as mankind's abuse of the planet, its resources and inhabitants threatens entire species, causes malignancies and deformation to local community inhabitants and massive pollution to ground and waterways, need I go on? The human reaction to this, is equally damaging, but in different ways - its impacts, upon our young people and their understanding of life purpose and hope for the future. The creation was created to be ruled, not be our ruler. Outside the following of the life commandments, and the leading and guidance of Holy Spirit, this will always fail, sooner or later, just read some history.
The original intent is God centric, working alongside Him, influenced and led by Him, as He alone has the knowledge and wisdom necessary for this to work.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
Ezekiel 37:1-10 NIV
This prophecy by Ezekiel shows us some important aspects and characteristics of a well functioning body.
The body needs structure, shape, and strength to function. The bones provide basis for this. They each have a correct place and purpose and God will move each of us into the correct place and relationship to those around us. Until this is done, we will be deformed! Our relationships within the body, matter, a lot!
Then tendons are put in place, these enable the muscles to attach to the bones. Tear a tendon and the muscles are useless. Tendons by their nature and design have much fewer blood vessels and thus less access to blood and oxygen, thus their growth, and repair if damaged, takes significantly longer. I believe this represents commitment and covenant. Unless we are committed to each other, seeing each other as Christ sees them, building each other up, covering each other in love, we will end up tearing our tendons and thus limping or even being paralysed. The trust needed to function correctly is easily damaged and takes time to repair. Criticism and accusation are not to be found in us - that is the role satan takes before the Father. Let's not do satan's work.
Then the flesh or muscles can take their correct place and provide the energy, movement and correct functioning of the body. This I believe represents the ministry or work of the body. Until we get 1 and 2 sorted, the work is going to suffer massively. Interestingly, many of the muscles in the body work antagonistically. They work as a pair in direct opposition to each other, yet in harmony, otherwise you get locked up and cannot move at all. We have a significant way to go in this respect in the body of Christ.
Finally the skin covering appears. It is the skin that enables the body to touch the outside world. It is also the largest organ of the body and provides lots of feedback to the brain about the body's movement and activity. I believe this represents our mission and task in the world, however it must be permeated with prayer and communion with the head, Christ Jesus.
As with the previous two eternal purposes, Bride and dwelling, the body too is threaded throughout the Bible. We can see God establishing Israel with an intent that it demonstrates to the world the love and correct divine order for living. This fails. Then the church or ecclesia, the gathering of the redeemed ones is charged with demonstrating God's love to His creation. Let's just say this is a work in progress, however there is much hope as we can see from the end of the story that the bride, inhabited and empowered by Holy Spirit becomes complete and ready. Demonstrating what the rule and reign of the King of Kings looks like.
Each of us have the responsibility to pursue Him, love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and thus learn to love our neighbour as we ought.
Elohim from the outset, wanted a body, is preparing a body and will have a body worthy for His Son.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Genesis 1:28 NIV
Family is defined as the descendants of a common ancestor. Adam is called the son of God - Luke 3:38, thus a family relationship is described. God intends to have a family.
Right from the beginning, the instruction was to 'increase in number'. Some translations use the word multiply. After the flood, Noah and his family are also told to multiply. This too is part of the eternal purpose.
Family is the designed and designated way that this process was to be executed.
This is a huge topic, thus only some aspects will be briefly discussed here.
Much of the world now actively believes the world is over-crowded, cannot provide enough food for its inhabitants, and thus takes steps to reduce family size. China's one child per family is such an example. Now many decades later, they are struggling to find sufficient women for all the men looking to find a partner.
Science and mathematical modelling shows us that the birth rate per woman to keep an ethnic group alive at its current numbers, needs 2.2 live births per woman. Most western world countries have birth rates significantly lower than this, thus already, most countries are facing a crisis of cultures as many ethnic groups decline with significantly ageing populations. Some examples:
Japan has recognised the problem (in 1989) and tried (largely unsuccessfully) to stem one of the lowest total fertility rates (TFR) in the world. This will have massive economic impact in the decades to come - the world as they know it will change significantly. Germany is another country facing a culture crisis, with very low birth rates of native Germans, and massive immigration of other cultures with significantly higher birth rates, it is only a matter of time until a swing in culture takes place.
Studies have also shown that the planet has sufficient capacity to produce food for all its inhabitants with further growth potential. The reason for hunger throughout the world: greed and avarice, corruption and civil unrest.
All this can sound very depressing, thus we find it is seldom talked about in 2022, or that it gains much publicity. However, the eternal plan of God clearly has growth as one of the core purposes, and the family is central to this occurring. As we read through the Bible we see a God of the generations, He designed and set up the family as the basic building block of a well ordered and thriving community. We depart from His design and intent at our peril, and most of the world is blissfully unaware and thinking contrary to the instruction and heading in the wrong direction.
When we look at creation, we see that all living things grow. We also see that they give and produce something necessary and desirable as they grow. e.g. The sun gives light, a tree as it grows produces oxygen. As families and communities grow, they produce more wealth, ideas, inventions, the list goes on. All this is intrinsic in the design.
We now know through psychology that the first 1000 days of a child's life journey (counted from conception) sets in place the world views they will likely carry for the rest of their lives. Further, we know that these world views will influence all their decision making, largely without them being aware of the fact that they do so.
e.g. they will learn that the world is a safe place for them (or not), that they can succeed at the things they try (or not), that they are loved, cared and provided for (or not), plus many other cultural perspectives are planted at this time.
The family is the creator's chosen environment for the training, mentoring, modelling needed to prepare the next generation for life.
"... He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
Malachi 4:6 NIV
Interestingly, the last verse of the old testament gives a warning instruction to families.
God will hold us accountable for our family relationships, the way we bring up and train our progeny.
These things matter and our failure in this critical endeavour carries a severe penalty.
So why does God want a family?
Jesus refers to God in heaven as His Father, much to the annoyance of the religious leaders. Clearly this is describing His relationship to God in familiar family terms. However it goes much further as Jesus then refers to the disciples as 'brethren' or brothers. We are considered and named by Jesus as family members.
Finally in Revelation 21:7 we, the thirsty redeemed and victorious ones, are described as children of the Alpha and Omega.
Family is part of the eternal purpose.
Alongside marriage, I believe that family is the closest form of relationship possible within a community, and God wants us that close to Him.
There is a lot of cross over and shared facets across each of the four purposes we have briefly been examining.
There is also distinct difference and function for each:
Please don't just blindly accept, or ignore or dismiss this. Paul in the verse quoted at the start, refers to "... His Eternal Purpose ..." in such a way that it must have been familiar to the those living in Ephesus, to whom this letter is addressed. The New Testament writings use these same descriptive terms throughout as a means of conveying the will, intent and purpose of God through Holy Spirit. Through whom we will be taught and led into all truth, indeed you have no need for anyone to teach you .... see 1 John 2:27
So as we take this in for a landing, I think the eternal purpose truly frames the entire narrative. From creation past, until the final, inevitable return of the King of Kings there is design, intent and purpose. We each, are a small part of a much bigger "whole".
As we have examined the four facets, briefly outlined, we can see an amazing tapestry designed and woven throughout human history. God, who is eternally "GOOD", loves His creation and did not randomly throw mankind into existence as an experiment to see how it would play out. Rather, we can see the deliberate unfolding of an amazing love story. A love story where, the creator and sustainer of all, demonstrates in elaborate detail, the need of the created being, for the life that can only come out of relationship with the creator. Yet via the one, God become flesh, a unique and totally appropriate and functional relationship is made possible.
We have the free will to respond to the offer, to choose this day whom we will serve. Remember, you're gonna to serve somebody .......