That Blessed Hope
Is our Hope today different from believers in the past?
In beginning God created the heavens (dual) and the earth (singular). Gen 1:1.
In the same chapter the firmament was established and called heaven, but not called good.
Then after mentioning the heavens and the earth, the account goes on to deal with the earth, the man, his fall, and the plan for redemption. Nothing is said about the heavens, whether inhabited, in need of redemption, or what part they play in the affairs of men.
All power is given unto Me in heaven (singular) and in earth (singular). Matt 28:18.
Here heaven is singular since it is mentioned in contrast to earth. See note in Companion Bible. But again we are disappointed, for the Lord goes on to give an earthly program to the apostles and gives no information about the heavens.
From the two references given in Genesis and Matthew, we see only an earthly program of redemption. Man is given dominion over the earth. He has a relationship with beasts, fowls, fish and the like. Later on we can see that there is a ministration of angels, but all connected with the administration of promise which began with Abraham.
Peter gives us a pretty good panorama of the heavens and the earth. He speaks of those in Gen 1:1 as those that then were. And he speaks of the heavens and earth that are now. And he looks forward to the heavens and earth that are to come in which will be righteousness. Read 2 Peter 3.
The Lord's words in Matt 28 and those of Peter in 2 Peter 3 give a slight hint that there might be sentient beings in the heavens. He is to have power there and there is to be righteousness there. These references show that there are 3 heavens and 3 earths in the Scriptures. John was caught up to the 3rd heaven and also to paradise, the new earth. See 2 Cor 12:1-4 where Paul speaks of a vision he experienced and then compare what Paul said with what John experienced in various expressions in the Revelation.
The great turning point in our account of redemption is where God began to reveal something about the heavens. For over 4,000 years the earth was man's domain and place of dominion. His hope in resurrection was to be again in the earth in a great kingdom, or in a new earth in either a great city made without hands or in paradise. And all this great salvation which had to do with the kingdom and the great city was of the Jews.
At Acts 28:28 the Jews are for the present set aside and the salvation of God sent to the Gentiles. This is where the switch is made. The theme, the hope from there on of salvation is connected with the heavens, not the earth. This is where the church of the administration of the mystery began.
The church is blest with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Eph 1:3).
All in heaven and earth to be under one Head ( Eph 1:9-10).
The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the holiest of all, heaven itself (Eph 1:18).
Christ over every power in heaven and earth, as well as every name (Eph 1:20-21).
The two spheres mentioned in Gen 1:1 , are the subject of the rest of the Word of God. Although both are mentioned at the first, we soon discover that the earth is the main subject till we get to the epistle to the Ephesians.
Both spheres were in the overthrow which must have come about with the rebellion of the greatest and wisest creature ever created (Eze 28:12-19). Peter speaks of this overthrow as being by water (2 Pet 3:5-6). And we note that when redemption is completed, as far as the earth is concerned, there will be no more sea (Rev 21:1).
We are assured that the redemption of all creation was in view, even before the overthrow. We are told in Eph 3:6 that the members of the church have a part in a promise in Christ. In 2 Tim 1:1 it tells us that this promise is one of life. And in Titus 1:2 it is eternal life promised before the ages began. Note that this is in connection with the revelation of the mystery. It was not revealed to God's earth people, Israel.
After man was put on the earth and failed, and the nations also failed for a period of 2,000 years, then a new nation was formed to have a ministry among the other 70 nations, and from this nation would arise the Redeemer, a King from Judah.
This nation of Israel was a chosen nation. They were to be a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6) to make known the name of Jehovah to the nations. They were called God's firstborn (Ex 4:22). They were the church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38).
Because of their sins, Israel were unable to fulfill their purpose. So finally their Redeemer came, who was to save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21) so that they might accomplish that for which they were chosen. They rejected their Redeemer. The work they were to do was postponed (Acts 28:28). But redemption was procured by the blood of Christ. All was set in order for the work to begin. After the administration of the mystery is over, Christ will come. Then Israel will begin her work among the nations with the Lord and the 12 directing it.
Upon the rejection of Israel's Messiah for the second time (Acts 28:28), the great secret of a work of redemption in heavenly places is revealed. Another people from among the Gentiles has been chosen. They are another firstborn (Eph 1:5). Even now this church is making known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers in heavenly places (Eph 3:10 ). No promised land on the earth for this church! It is blest with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ . Read Eph 1:3-14.
So we discover that a church (Acts 7:38) was chosen as one body for God's earth program. When it was set aside, then another church called the body of Christ came into being which has its citizenship in heaven (Phil 3:20 ).
We must conclude that the heavens and the earth of Gen 1:1 are the objects of redemption, for we know that redemption must reach out as far as sin did.
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