ISSUE: 2018, Volume 15, Issue 3
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‘having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him’, Eph. 1. 9, 10 NKJV.
Science is searching for a Grand Unified Theory (GUT), a single equation to harmonize the disparate physical laws of the universe. As yet, it remains an unsolved mystery.
However, the Bible has its own GUT, a Grand Unified Theology which explains the purpose of the universe. This, too, was a mystery for ages and generations, but was revealed by Christ, through Paul, in Ephesians chapter 1.
The goal of history, the purpose of the universe, is that one day everything and everyone will be under the headship of Christ, that the whole universe will submit to Him and be complete in Him.
But like its scientific counterpart, God’s Grand Unified Theology is comprised of different parts which, at first sight, do not seem to fit together.
In this study, we will investigate how God has, at different times, and in different ways, revealed Himself to mankind, and how the different methods He has used are part of the bigger picture which will ultimately be displayed in the unification of all things under Christ.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Have you ever wondered why Genesis chapter 1 verse 1 does not say, ‘In the beginning God created the universe’?
Had He wanted to, God could have established a universe in which the heavens and the earth were already united under Christ. But He created a separate heavens and earth. Heaven is where God and the angels reside. Earth was made for man. If God wanted fellowship with man, He had to ‘come down’ and walk in the garden.
But one day, in the ‘Grand Unification’, this separation will be removed. Then, ‘the tabernacle of God [will be] with men, and He will dwell with them', Rev. 21. 3.
In the original creation, God committed authority to Adam. Satan rebelled, and forfeited his place in heaven, making it his mission to take down Adam with him. As we know from Genesis chapter 3, he succeeded.
One day, in God’s plan, a man will have authority over the earth again, and the heavens too. That man is the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ.
But God’s plan is not accomplished suddenly. Rather, it will happen, as Ephesians chapter 1 verse 10 states, ‘in the dispensation of the fullness of times’.
We do not often use the word ‘dispensation’ in modern English, and other Bible translations have paraphrased it as ‘plan’ (ESV) or ‘put into effect’ (NIV). Darby gives a more literal alternative – ‘administration’.
Perhaps the best way to understand what this word means is to see how it is used elsewhere in scripture. The first usage is in Luke chapter 16 verses 1 to 4 where it describes the way a house owner delegates the stewardship (NKJV, Darby) or management (ESV, NIV) of his property to a servant. The owner tells the steward how he wants his house to be run, and a faithful steward should ensure that it is run according to the owner’s wishes. The Greek word is oikonomia, from oikos (house) and nomos (law).
God appointed Adam as manager or steward over the earth. In this arrangement, since Adam was largely innocent regarding God’s ‘house-law’, he would need to be in regular contact with his Master. Perhaps, if Adam performed faithfully in innocence, it would have been very easy for God to bring about His purpose in uniting heaven and earth. But Adam soon proved to be an unfaithful steward, a bad manager. He did not run things according to the owner’s very minimal stated requirements in Genesis chapter 2 verse 17 but preferred to do things his own way. Consequently, the whole house fell into ruin, Rom. 8. 20.
Despite the failure of the manager, God did not abandon His plan. In our next study we will see how God introduced a new arrangement and gave mankind another chance.