by Virgil Goodpasture

If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding,
if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hidden treasures,
then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:3-5

God's plan of the ages

A beautiful theme runs as a golden thread through the Bible from the first of Genesis to the last of Revelation. This is the story of "the love that passeth knowledge," and the revelation of the purpose for which God sent his Son into the world. When writing this, Paul called it "the plan of the ages."

We purpose to call to your attention a number of scriptures that are usually overlooked because their importance is not fully realized.

Before God created the earth and placed man in it, he made a definite plan for that creation. As the Master Architect, he made a plan which could never need to be revised. Because he knew the end from the beginning, he knew what would be necessary to bring that plan to its perfect consummation. This is why Jesus was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. God knew the price for the world's redemption was the sacrifice of his Son.

All of us know the perfection of the natural creation and the precision with which the universe maintains its existence. Since the scriptures declare that the natural creation is a picture of the spiritual, dare we assume the spiritual to be less perfect than the natural? Knowing that "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork" we can with complete confidence assume that God's spiritual creation is to be completed with the same degree of perfection.

What was God's plan? Did he plan "to save that which was lost," or, did he plan that a great portion of his family was to be finally relegated to a place of eternal torment?

Church tradition for more than eighteen centuries has so clouded the picture that the real purpose of God is almost unknown to the Christian world. It is important that we know his purpose.

At the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, those whose eyes were blinded by the traditions of men were unable to see in him anything other than just another man, even though he was the very God whom they professed to know. It is now the same with the written word. Because God saw fit to have it brought into the world by man, and thus made subject to man's limitations, they fail to see the Divine Hand in its pages, and are never able to comprehend its wisdom.

On occasion these self-appointed critics have pointed out what they deemed to be contradictions in the Bible. This is not surprising, since it is a spiritual book, and its secrets are not to be discerned by the unregenerate mockers and revilers.

There are seeming contradictions in the Bible, but these are but clues to hidden secrets, hidden behind a door which may at first be closed, but which will open to us as we seek "our daily bread" from him who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift."

Within the decade of 120-130 A.D. (as near as history can place the time) there was introduced for the first time into the church the doctrine of "eternal torment" for the "unsaved." This doctrine was not known in the primitive church; at no time had it been taught by Jesus or his disciples. But there were certain "church fathers" who labored to make this an established dogma of the Catholic Church. There were many who stood against this intrusion of heresy; foremost of whom was Origen. The matter remained a subject of debate in the church for about four hundred years, until the II Council of Constantinople in 553. At that time the proponents of this doctrine were powerful enough to win their way; Origen was anathematized, and the doctrine of eternal damnation became an established dogma of the Catholic Church.

If we were to accept this doctrine as true, there are many scriptures which can in no way be reconciled.

We shall quote a number of these scriptures. As you read them remember that they were written that you might believe. Allow no one to "explain" their meaning to you, but take them at their true value, and consider that the Author of this most wonderful of all Books knew how to say what he wanted to say about his "plan of the ages."

When the word of God goes forth, whatever God speaks shall be done! God's word cannot return to him until it shall have accomplished the purpose for which it was given. When God said, "Let there be light," light was! When Jesus said, "Lazarus, come forth!" there was nothing in the universe that could have kept Lazarus in the tomb. Because Jesus prayed, "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven," God's will shall be done in the earth and there is nothing can hinder it. As surely as God said, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, ALL the ends of the earth," you shall see this an accomplished fact. When God commands it, it shall be done! "--who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God beside me; a just God and a Savior; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW, and EVERY TONGUE SHALL SWEAR." Isa. 45:21-23

When quoting this scripture, Paul reveals that it is to be in the "name of Jesus" that every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Lord, "to the glory of God the Father." Phil. 2:10

In this declaration, God tells exactly what he wills to accomplish, and in one short verse makes known his "plan of the ages." If there is any question as to God's ability to do whatever he plans to do... "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, MY COUNSEL SHALL STAND, and I will DO ALL MY PLEASURE." Isa. 46:9-10 Paul had the same conviction of God's ability to accomplish all his pleasure. "In whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Eph. 12:11 Many scriptures tell the same thing; whatever God plans to do, he will do.

What was the purpose of God's sending his Son into the world?

The following scripture quotations give God's answer to the question.

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be SAVED." John 3:17. To assure that we understand the purpose of his crucifixion, Jesus said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL men unto me." And again, "If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not, for I come not to judge the world, but to SAVE the world." John 12:32,47 Jesus also said, "For the Son of man IS COME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST." Luke 19:10

The apostle John wrote, "And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but ALSO for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD." I John 2:2

Other scriptures which also tell of God's plan: "There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light. That ALL through him might believe. He was not that Light, But was sent to bear witness of the Light, that was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." John 1:6-9

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29

A brief recapitulation of these scriptures could be helpful to insure that we don't miss the meaning of what they say:


"--I will draw ALL MEN UNTO ME."

"For the Son of man is come TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST."

"For he is the propitiation NOT ONLY for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world."

"--to bear witness of that Light, that ALL through him might believe."

"That was the true Light, that lighteth EVERY man that cometh into the world."

These scriptures completely contradict every thought of "eternal loss" of any part of God's creation. If Jesus did not come to save the world, he would make of himself a liar. If he is unable to save the world, he would then be an impostor.

These scriptures state in the simplest and plainest possible words that the whole purpose of Jesus' coming into the world was that he might save the world. Jesus definitely stated that his purpose was to save THAT WHICH WAS LOST. Either he will succeed in his announced purpose, or else he will not. Church tradition says he will not, but the scriptures declare that he will. What are we to believe? The Word of God is our judge.

For these many centuries Satan has offered every lie he could imagine to "explain" the reasons why Jesus either could not or would not save the world. Sometimes he has said that "man's will" is in the way; and sometimes he has said that "God's justice" demands that the sinners be eternally damned. But where did the thought originate that God gives to anyone what he "deserves?" Who among all that ever lived deserved the salvation of Jesus Christ? Who of us was not yet a sinner when Christ loved us and died for us?

The Apostle wrote: "For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach because we trust in a living God, who is the Savior of ALL men, specially of those that believe.

We who are chosen to be members of his body, and co-workers with Jesus in his great plan of redemption, are privileged above all others. To have been called out of darkness into this marvelous light means that we not only have the opportunity of serving Jesus Christ now, but we are to be made kings and priests with him, and be co-workers together with Jesus Christ." In that priesthood we shall have opportunity of ministering the life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for as long as there yet remains one in need of salvation. It is no wonder Paul said, "specially of those who believe." I Tim. 4:10

Paul did not limit the grace of Jesus Christ to this age alone. He wrote: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have ALL men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, for there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for ALL, to be testified in DUE TIME, whereunto I am ordained a preacher and an apostle." I Tim. 2-6

"That in the DISPENSATION of the FULLNESS of times he might gather together in one ALL things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." Eph.1:10

Paul speaks of the "mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;" Eph. 3-5 In speaking of this to the Colossians, Paul wrote: "And having made peace through the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile ALL things unto himself, by him, whether things in earth, or things in heaven." Col. 1:20

"All things were made by him and for him." "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given unto us the ministry of reconciliation, to wit: that God was in Christ, reconciling THE WORLD unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." 2 Cor. 5:18-19

It is a mistake to assume that in the coming age God will change; that he--whom Paul was so fond of calling "our Savior God"-- will not be the same for the ages as he was yesterday and as he is today. His saving grace and mercy will never end while there are still those in need of that mercy!

All God's judgments are good and for the purpose of correction. David said, "I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O Lord, will I sing." Ps 101:1 "--for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Isa. 26:9 "For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Heb. 12:6

Before Martin Luther's time the Bible was not in general circulation; the church was the main source of spiritual instruction. For centuries the doctrine of eternal torment had been an established dogma of the church, and none dared disagree. This attitude did not change with the establishment of the Protestant movement. The theologians of the new movement were as adamant on this point as had been the Catholic clergy, and any who dared protest were as quickly excommunicated, as was formerly true in the mother church.

This teaching influenced the thinking of those who began the task of translating the scriptures into English. William Tyndale was the first to attempt this, and being subject, as he was, to this influence, he followed the lead of the Catholic Vulgate, a Latin version of the Bible prepared by St. Jerome in the 4th century. In every instance wherein the Greek word "eon" appeared he rendered it as "ever," or 'forever," whereas it is actually equivalent to "age," an indefinite period of time. The Greek "eonian" he gave as "everlasting," or "eternal." The literal English for this is "age-abiding,' or "for the ages."

When King James I, of England, gave the commission to bring out a new translation of the English bible, it was done not only under his patronage, but under the influence and domination of the Church of England. Since this church was also an advocate of the Catholic tradition, it is not surprising that the "Authorized" version contained the same error in the translation of the Greek word "eon."

In Matt. 25:45, "eonian" is translated in two different ways; "--and these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." Literally translated this would read, "and these shall go away into age-abiding correction, but the righteous into age-abiding life."

Just as the scriptures have nothing in them concerning "eternal torment," they at no time mention "eternal life." This is a wonderful example of the miraculous perfection of the Bible. If the scriptures had said that God would give us "eternal life," this would imply that death was to remain in existence. When death shall have been destroyed, nothing will remain but the life of Christ. In the meantime, we have the promise of "the life of the ages." Because there shall be no more death, (Rev. 21:4) there could be no reason for God to promise "eternal" life. "His kingdom is an age-abiding kingdom, and all the dominions unto him will render service and show themselves obedient." Dan. 7:27 "Then cometh the end when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down ALL rule and ALL authority and power. For he MUST REIGN, till he hath put ALL enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.": I Cor. 15:24-26

None of us has all the truth. There is much we do not have that the primitive church had which should be ours. "--it was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Jude 3

Paul prayed that "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may KNOW what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." Eph. 1:18

Joshua could never have commanded the sun to stand still if he had any doubts about which side should win! The church must have the same confidence; must KNOW there is no DEFEAT, there is NO LOSS in Christ. "--and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," I John 5:4 We have a God worthy of all faith and trust! "The Lord hath sworn, saying, Surely, as I have THOUGHT so shall it come to pass; as I have purposed, so shall it stand." "For the Lord of Hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back." Isa. 14:24, 27

Whatever is truth is of God, and whatever is a lie is of Satan. If I speak or teach a truth, I am a messenger of God. But just as surely, if I speak or teach an untruth, I am a messenger of Satan.

Jesus, as our High Priest, has entered into the heavens and "ever maketh intercession for us." As our example and pattern he showed us the true meaning of the priesthood. He was "put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which were sometime disobedient when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah." I Pet. 3:1-20 "For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but LIVE according to God in the spirit." I Pet. 4:6

In his sermon to the house of Cornelius, Peter said that God raised Jesus from the dead and showed him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses. "And he commanded us to PREACH unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead." Acts 10:42 "For to this end Christ both died, and rose and revived, that he might be Lord BOTH of the dead and living." Rom. 14:9

God is a Spirit, and it should not seem strange that he is both willing and able to minister to the spirits in prison. Because of Adam's transgression the entire creation was shut up in prison. Paul says that the creation was not willing to be subjected to this bondage, but "God subjected the same in hope," and "the creation SHALL BE DELIVERED from this bondage into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Rom. 8:20

Jesus said that he was fulfilling the prophecy of Isa. 61:1 "to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." "All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us ALL." That sacrifice shall not have been in vain, for he "shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied."

Jesus is the "Word;" his name was given "Because he shall save his people from their sins:" "So shall my WORD be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish THAT WHICH I PLEASE, and it shall PROSPER in the thing whereto I sent it." Isa. 55:11

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