The Gospel Age and the Selection of the Church
“The period between the first and second advents, between the ransom for ALL and the blessing of ALL, is for the trial and selection of the Church, which is the body of Christ; otherwise there would have been only the one advent, and the work, which will be done during the period of his second presence, in the Millennium, would have followed the resurrection of Jesus. Or, instead of saying that the work of the second advent would have followed at once the work of the first, let us say rather that had Jehovah not purposed the selection of the “little flock,” “the body of Christ,” the first advent would not have taken place when it did, but would have occurred at the time of the second advent, and there would have been but the one. For God has evidently designed the permission of evil for six thousand years, as well as that the cleansing and restitution of all shall be accomplished during the seventh thousand.
Thus seen, the coming of Jesus, as the sacrifice and ransom for sinners, was just long enough in advance of the blessing and restoring time to allow for the selection of his “little flock” of “joint-heirs.” This will account to some for the apparent delay on God’s part in giving the blessings promised, and provided for, in the ransom. The blessings will come in due time, as at first planned, though, for a glorious purpose, the price was provided longer beforehand than men would have expected.
The Apostle informs us that Jesus has been absent from earth–in the heaven–during all the intervening time from his ascension to the beginning of the times of restitution, or the Millennial age–“whom the heaven must retain UNTIL the times of restitution of all things,” etc. (Acts 3:21) Since the Scriptures thus teach that the object of our Lord’s second advent is the restitution of all things, and that at the time of his appearing the nations are so far from being converted as to be angry (Rev. 11:18) and in opposition, it must be admitted either that the Church will fail to accomplish her mission, and that the plan of God will be thus far frustrated, or else, as we claim and have shown, that the conversion of the world in the present age was not expected of the Church, but that her mission has been to preach the Gospel in all the world for a witness, and to prepare herself under divine direction for her great future work. God has not yet by any means exhausted his power for the world’s conversion. Nay, more: he has not yet even attempted the world’s conversion.
This may seem a strange statement to some, but let such reflect that if God has attempted such a work he has signally failed; for, as we have seen, only a small fraction of earth’s billions have ever intelligently heard of the only name whereby they must be saved. We have only forcibly stated the views and teachings of some of the leading sects–Baptists, Presbyterians and others–viz., that God is electing or selecting out of the world a “little flock,” a Church. They believe that God will do no more than choose this Church, while we find the Scriptures teaching a further step in the divine plan–a RESTITUTION for the world, to be accomplished through the elect Church, when completed and glorified. The “little flock,” the over-comers, of this Gospel age, are the body of “The Seed” in or by whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed.
ELECTION AND FREE GRACE
Those who claim that Jehovah has been trying for six thousand years to convert the world, and failing all the time, must find it difficult to reconcile such views with the Bible assurance that all God’s purposes shall be accomplished, and that his Word shall not return unto him void, but shall prosper in the thing whereto it was sent. (Isa. 55:11) The fact that the world has not yet been converted, and that the knowledge of the Lord has not yet filled the earth, is a proof that it has not yet been sent on that mission.
This brings us to the two lines of thought, which have divided Christians for centuries, namely, Election and Free Grace. That both of these doctrines, notwithstanding their apparent oppositeness, have Scriptural support, no Bible student will deny. This fact should lead us at once to surmise that in some way both must be true; but in no way can they be reconciled except by observing heaven’s law, order, and “rightly dividing the word of truth” on this subject. This order, as represented in the plan of the ages, if observed, will clearly show us that while an Election has been in progress during the present and past ages, what is by way of distinction designated Free Grace is God’s gracious provision for the world in general during the Millennial age.
If the distinctive features of the epochs and dispensations outlined in our previous post be kept in mind, and all the passages relating to Election and Free Grace be examined and located, it will be found that all those which treat of Election apply to the present and past ages, while those which teach Free Grace are fully applicable to the next age.
However, Election, as taught in the Bible, is not the arbitrary coercion, or fatalism, usually believed and taught by its advocates, but a selection according to fitness and adaptability to the end God has in view, during the period appointed for that purpose.
The doctrine of Free Grace, advocated by Arminians, is also a much grander display of God’s abounding favor than its most earnest advocates have ever taught. God’s grace or favor in Christ is ever free, in the sense of being unmerited; but since the fall of man into sin, to the present time, certain of God’s favors have been restricted to special individuals, nations and classes (Exod 33:19; Eph 1:4,5,11: Rom 8:28-30), while in the next age all the world will be invited to share the favors then offered, on the conditions then made known to all, and whosoever will may come and drink at life’s fountain freely. Rev. 22:17
Glancing backward, we notice the selection or election of Abraham and certain of his offspring as the channels through which the promised Seed, the blesser of all the families of the earth, should come. (Gal. 3:29) We note also the selection of Israel from among all nations, as the one in whom, typically, God illustrated how the great work for the world should be accomplished–their deliverance from Egypt, their Canaan, their covenants, their laws, their sacrifices for sins, for the blotting out of guilt and for the sprinkling of the people, and their priesthood for the accomplishment of all this, being a miniature and typical representation of the real priesthood and sacrifices for the purifying of the world of mankind. God, speaking to the people, said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) This people alone was recognized until Christ came; yes, and afterwards, for his ministry was confined to them, and he would not permit his disciples to go to others–saying, as he sent them out, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.” Why so, Lord? Because, he explains, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 10:5, 6; 15:24) All his time was devoted to them until his death, and there was done his first work for the world, the first display of his free and all-abounding grace, (or “our common salvation,” Jude 3) which in “due time” shall indeed be a blessing to all.
This, God’s grandest gift, was not limited to nation or class. It was not for Israel only, but for the entire world; for Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man. Heb. 2:9
And now also, in the Gospel age, a certain sort of election obtains. Some parts of the world are more favored with the gospel (which is free to all who hear) than others. Glance at a map of the world and see how small is the portion enlightened or blessed in any appreciable degree by the gospel of Christ. Contrast yourself, with your privileges and knowledge, with the millions in heathen darkness today, who never heard the call, and who consequently were not called. When the called-out company (called to be sons of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord– who have made their calling and election sure) is complete, then the plan of God for the world’s salvation will only then be beginning.
Not until it is selected, developed, and exalted to power, will the Seed bruise the serpent’s head. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Rom. 16:20; Gen. 3:15) The Gospel age makes ready the chaste virgin, the faithful Church, for the coming Bridegroom. And in the end of the age, when she is made “ready” (Rev. 19:7), the Bridegroom comes, and they that are ready go in with him to the marriage–the second Adam and the second Eve become one, and then the glorious work of restitution begins. In the next dispensation, the new heaven and the new earth, the Church will be no longer the espoused virgin, but the Bride; and then shall “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come! And let him that hears say, Come! And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Rev. 22:17
The Gospel age, so far from closing the Church’s mission, is only a necessary preparation for the great future work. For this promised and coming blessing, the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Rom. 8:22, 19) And it is a blessed fact that free grace in fullest measure, not merely for the living but for those who have died as well, is provided in our Father’s plan as the blessed opportunity of the coming age.” (A94-99)
Continued with next post.