Ephesians 1:9-10

Sermon preached on January 8, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

Last August our little niece, Olivia came to visit us with her mother and father. Olivia is a delightful little girl and she was three years old at the time. We had a wonderful visit except for the time when Olivia got a splinter in one of her fingers. It was hurting her and she was complaining about it. Her mother is a doctor and Lois set about trying to get the splinter out. But the problem was that Olivia wouldn’t hold still. She didn’t understand that in order for her finger to get better—the splinter had to come out. She didn’t want more pain—she wanted less pain. So every time one of us tried to dig the splinter out—she would pull her hand away and start to cry and scream. It was a terrible ordeal for her.

Now if one of us got a splinter—we would know that we would have to keep our finger still while someone dug it out. We’d know that if it was left in that it would get infected and that that would not be good. We’d know that we’d just have to grin and bear it and that once the splinter was out that would basically be the end of the pain and that everything would be okay.

Knowing the outcome of something can help you endure. Knowing the ultimate goal of something can give you patience and hope. Knowing the outcome of something can help you rejoice and look forward to it.

The knowledge we are given in Scripture can be especially helpful to us in this way. The apostle Paul writes,

“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure,
which he purposed in Christ,
to be put into effect
when the times will have reached their fulfillment—
to bring all things in heaven and on earth
together under one head,
even Christ.”

What we see from our text is that God has bestowed a great and wonderful privilege on you.

He has revealed to you the mystery of His will.

You Christians know the mystery of God’s will. He has revealed it to you. F.F. Bruce writes, (Ephesians, p. 261)

“a ‘mystery’ is something which has formerly been kept secret in the purpose of God but has now been disclosed.”

The New Testament uses this term ‘mystery’ in a number of contexts. Many mysteries have been revealed to us. In Ephesians 3 it refers to the Gentiles being incorporated into Christ. In Ephesians 5:32 the mystery is the union that exists between Christ and the church. In Colossians 1:27 it is ‘Christ in you’. Peter O’Brien suggests that these are all aspects of the one supreme mystery—all things being summed up in Christ. He writes that,

“This key motif refers to the all-inclusive purpose of God which has as its ultimate goal the uniting of all things in heaven and earth in Christ.”

This mystery is not something like the physical secrets of the universe that can be discovered by observation and calculation. I’m continually amazed by the brilliance of some men and how they have figured out some of the secrets of the universe. I’m currently reading a book called the “Big Bang”. The beginning of the book gives an account of how someone first figured out the size of the earth. It gives the honor to Eratosthenes, was born about 276 BC in northern Africa. He spent many years as the chief librarian at Alexandria in Egypt. While there he learned of a interesting well situated near the town of Syene in southern Egypt. What was remarkable about this well was that on June 21 of each year, the sun shone directly into the well and illuminated it all the way to the bottom. Eratosthenes realized that on that day the sun must be directly overhead, something that never happened at Alexandria. He wondered if he could use this to measure the circumference of the earth. So he stuck a stick in the ground on June 21 in Alexandria and measured it’s angle, which he found to be 7.2 degrees. That’s about 1/50th of a full circle of 360 degrees. Knowing the distance between Alexandria and Syene, Eratosthenes was able to do the math and was able to come up with a fairly accurate measurement of the size of the earth.

It’s incredible that men like Eratosthenes and Einstein can figure out the mysteries of the physical universe. But the mystery spoken of here is not like that. It’s something much greater. John
Eadie says that it refers to,

“something long hid, but at length discovered to us by God, and therefore a matter of pure revelation.”

What we have here is a mystery that is greater, was more secret, and is more illuminating than any mystery of the physical universe. God has revealed to us the outcome of all things. Here He shows us His ultimate purpose for the universe, for His creation—that it is going to be summed up in Jesus Christ.

How thrilled you ought to be about this! How filled with praise you ought to be to God for this! He has revealed this mystery to you. But even more than that

this to give you great confidence in the midst of many troubles and trials.

Why has God revealed this to you? Why has He taken this great mystery and made in known to you? Obviously the revelation of this mystery is to have a great effect on you. You have a challenging job in going forth with the gospel. Both the present and the future have many terrible and disturbing things in store for the church. Today we are faced with skeptics, mockers and hardened sinners. In the future the church will face many strange and dreadful things. Revelation 13 describes the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth. The whole world will follow the beast out of the sea whose fatal wound will be healed and men will worship the dragon. He will blaspheme God and slander His name and His dwelling place. He will make war against the saints and conquer them. The beast out of the earth will perform many great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down out of heaven. He will order everyone to worship the beast out of the sea and will force many to received his mark.

How can Christians stand in the face of such things? John tells us that all this calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. It also calls for wisdom and knowledge. As you Christians go out with the gospel—Jesus wants you to know the great mystery—so that you can be full of confidence no matter what happens. You should be filled with confidence and faith in Jesus because

all things will be summed up in Christ!

The end of all things will be for the glory of Jesus Christ. Everything will resound for His glory. Everything will recapitulate for His glory. All things will be gathered together in Him! The Greek word here means, (BDAG)

"to sum up, recapitulate".

It occurs in only one other place in the New Testament, in Romans 13:9 where we read,

"The commandments,
'Do not commit adultery,'
'Do not murder,'
'Do not steal,'
'Do not covet,'
and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this one rule:
'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Everything is going to be summed up in Christ. Charles Hodge writes that the purpose of God is,

"to reunite all things as one harmonious whole under Jesus Christ."

F. F. Bruce writes that in Christ, God,

"has planned to 'gather up' the fragmented and alienated universe… All things, then, are to be 'summed up' in Christ and presented as a coherent totality in him."

We are given glimpses into this in other places of Scripture. In Philippians 2:10-11we read,

"at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

In 1 Corinthians 15 about how Jesus is the firstfruits, and that when He comes, those who belong to Him will come with Him. In then verses 24f we read,

"Then the end will come,
when he hands over the kingdom
to God the Father
after he has destroyed all dominion,
authority and power.
For he must reign
until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

Everything will be reconstituted in Christ. Everything will be summed up in Him. Everything will become one harmonious whole in Him.

This is the context in which we should view the most difficult questions of life—everything will be summed up in Christ.

God has a glorious purpose for the universe.

Some people today don't believe in God and criticize Christianity because of the discord, suffering and disorganization that they see in the world. Herman
Bavinck puts it this way, (Doctrine of God, quoted from Hendriksen, p. 87) )

"Round about us we observe so many facts which seem to be unreasonable, so much undeserved suffering, so many unaccountable calamities, such an uneven and inexplicable distribution of destiny, and such an enormous contrast between the extremes of joy and sorrow, that anyone reflecting on these things is forced to choose between viewing this universe as if it were governed by the blind will of an unbelieving deity, as is done by pessimism, or, upon the basis of Scripture and by faith, to rest in the absolute and sovereign, yet—however incomprehensible—wise and holy will of him who will one day cause the full light of heaven to dawn upon the mysteries of life".

The full light of heaven will dawn upon the mysteries of life. Why? Because all things will be summed up, reunited in Christ.

Stott writes,

"At the present time there is still discord in the universe, but in the fullness of time the discord will cease, an that unity for which we long will come into being under the headship of Jesus Christ."

This is the context that is so often neglected when people ask questions about God's plan for the universe. Why did God allow sin into the world? Why did He allow Satan to tempt Eve? Why did He not save everyone? Why did He plan on having such a horrible place as hell?

Now I don't have the answers to those questions. But I do know that this 'summing up of all things in Christ'—is to form the context of such discussions. God is going to recapitulate everything in Christ. He is going to reunite everything in Christ. When everything is summed up in Christ, all people are going to bow to Him and praise Him. Everyone is going to see the wisdom and glory of His plan and give Him honor for it. Everyone is going to be echoing the song of the angels that we read about in Revelation 7:12,

Praise and glory and wisdom
and thanks and honor and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

But what exactly does it mean that all things will be reconstituted in Christ?

Does it mean that everyone is going to be saved?

John Stott writes,

"A number of theologians both ancient and modern have seized on the expression 'all things' as a basis on which to build universalistic dreams. That is, they speculate that everybody is going to be saved in the end, that those who die impenitent will one day be brought to penitence, and that even demons will finally be redeemed, since literally, 'all things, things in heaven and thing on earth' are going to be gathered together into one under Christ's saving rule."

But what's wrong with that interpretation? It's not compatible with other clean biblical teachings. Are the demons going to be redeemed? Are all men going to be redeemed? That's not what Jude 6f tells us. It reads,

"And the angels who did not keep
their positions of authority
but abandoned their own home—
these he has kept in darkness,
bound with everlasting chains for judgment
on the great Day.
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah
and the surrounding towns gave themselves up
to sexual immorality and perversion.
They serve as an example of those
who suffer the punishment of eternal fire."

The demons are bound with everlasting chains. The fire is described as eternal. In Revelation 20:14-15 we read about the final judgment. It says,

"The lake of fire is the second death.
If anyone's name was not found
written in the book of life,
he was thrown into the lake of fire."

Verse 10 of that chapter also describes the fate of the devil, and the beast and the false prophet. We read,

"And the devil,
who deceived them,
was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur,
where the beast
and the false prophet had been thrown.
They will be tormented day and night
for ever and ever."

So any universalism that people try to build on the basis of our text is incompatible with clear biblical teaching that occurs in many other places.

But if all things are going to be summed up in Christ, and those who die without Christ are not going to be ultimately saved, and the demons are not going to be redeemed—what exactly is going to be summed up in Christ?

Some Christians see it as referring just to just the 'subjects of redemption', and see it as not encompassing the last. Charles Hodges writes, (Ephesians p. 47) about the scheme of redemption,

"the design of which is to unite all the subjects of redemption, as one harmonious body, under Jesus Christ."

They see this as only referring to those human beings who have believed in Jesus and become Christians.

But that hardly seems to do justice to what it says here, or to other biblical teaching. Our text says that God will,

"bring all things in heaven and on earth
together under one head,
even Christ."

And in Colossians 1:19-20 we read,

"For God was pleased
to have all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood,
shed on the cross."

The scope of the reconciliation there is very broad. The preceding context suggests that the things in heaven and things on earth is co-extensive with Christ's activity in creation. In verse 16 we are told that all things were created by Him, whether things in heaven or things on earth, the visible and the invisible. The summing up in Jesus is going to be cosmic in its scope.

We also see this in
Romans 8 which us that the whole creation groans and, (verses 19f)

"waits in eager expectation
for the sons of God to be revealed.
For the creation was subjected to frustration,
not by its own choice,
but by the will of the one who subjected it,
in hope that the creation itself will be liberated
from its bondage to decay
and brought into the glorious freedom
of the children of God."

F. F. Bruce writes, (Ephesians, p. 261)

"the universe has its place in God's secret purpose."

Romans 11:36 also speaks of the all encompassing cosmic scope of Jesus' work. It says,

"For from him and through him
and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever!

Are the holy angels included in Christ's reconciliation?

John Murray writes about how the holy angels are included. (Reconciliation, Collected Writings, Vol. 4. P. 94-95)

"It may be difficult to conceive of the holy angels as becoming the beneficiaries of fruits accruing from the reconciliation and in this way embraced in the "all things" reconciled. These angels have not sinned and in the strict sense in which the reconciliation is applicable to men they have no need of reconciliation. Yet it is not impossible to think of the angelic host as being affected by the liabili….ties devolving upon men particularly and also upon the created order because of man's sin. According to Scripture angels have played and still play an important role in God's manifold ministrations to men. This ministry of angels brings them into contact with sin and its evil effects. If, as Peter says, "the angels desire to look into" the sufferings of Christ and the glories that were to follow (I Pet. 1:11, 12), it is surely reasonable to believe that they look forward to the consummation of this glory when their ministry will no longer require this contact with sin and its evil consequences, when no longer will it be necessary for them to guard the heirs of salvation in the assaults of the hosts of darkness. We do not know what all the occupations of angels are. But in their ministry to men the sphere is one conditioned by sin and evil. From the necessity of ministering in such a sphere they will finally be released. It is the consummation proceeding from the reconciliation once accomplished that will provide this release. Surely this will be consummated bliss for the angelic host as well as for the saints. But, as indicated, it is the fruit of the reconciliation. Thus there are lines of thought that may properly be entertained whereby even the holy angels may be brought within the scope of the reconciliation."

What about the fallen angels, commonly referred to as demons? How can this summing up in Christ include them?

In his work on reconciliation John Murray (Collected Writings, Vol. 4, p. 98) argues that on the basis of Colossians 1:20 and our text, that fallen angels must be included in this summing up in Christ. He writes,

"We cannot think of the summing up of all things in Christ and the attainment of the goal that all things were created for him apart from the final triumph over all enemies. The latter is an essential ingredient of the final end."

Murray continues,

"when Paul speaks of God as reconciling all things upon the earth and in the heavens, he proceeds to state the relationship which that same cross of Christ sustains to the principalities and the powers of evil."

Murray then quotes from Colossians 2:15 which is about Christ's triumph over all evil powers. We read,

"And having disarmed the powers and authorities,
he made a public spectacle of them,
triumphing over them by the cross."

Murray continues,

"This is the language of conquest and subjugation."

Murray continues and again reiterates that these fallen angels will not be restored. They will not be saved. Rather,

"They are to be subjugated, brought to nought, and placed under Christ's feet. It is this finale that stands in sharp contrast with their present activity. They are now intensely active within the realm of the kingdom of God in the heavenlies (cf. Eph. 6:12) and upon earth. The church is constantly in conflict with them and they war against the saints. Since redemptive history has not reached its goal, this history is to a large extent conditioned by this conflict. It is one of warfare. The spiritual hosts of wickedness are the epitome of that enmity which constitutes the essence of sin. But redemptive history will one day be consummated and the new heavens and the new earth, the eschatological kingdom of God, will be established in righteousness. We may properly apply the words: 'The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father' (Matt. 13:41–43). This consummated order, however we may describe it in the various designations Scripture provides, is one from which all conflict, enmity, disharmony, warfare will be excluded; it will mean the final triumph of righteousness and peace, in a word, of reconciliation. The powers of darkness will be cast out and by the judgment executed made to 'confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father' (Phil. 2:11). Bowing the knee in compulsive submission, this will be the reconciliation as it bears upon them; it will constitute the ultimate unconditional surrender, the confessed defeat of age-long assault upon the kingdom of God. We can and must see in this grand climax of victory the fruit of the blood of Christ's cross. It was by his cross that he despoiled the principalities [WTJ 29:1 (Nov 66) p. 10] and powers and triumphed over them (cf. John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14; I John 3:8). The last judgment upon them is integral to the undisturbed bliss of the new heavens and the new earth. And so we may the better understand how Paul, with this subjugation in his purview, could say that it pleased the Father through Christ 'to reconcile all things unto himself … through him whether they be things in the earth or things in the heavens' (Col. 1:20)."

All things summed up in Christ. He will deliver His people, cast His enemies away and establish a new heavens and a new earth, wherein will dwell righteousness.

At the end of the book of Isaiah we read, (
Isaiah 66:22f)

"As the new heavens and the new earth
that I make will endure before me,
declares the LORD,
so will your name and descendants endure.
From one New Moon to another
and from one Sabbath to another,
all mankind will come and bow down before me,
says the LORD.
And they will go out and look upon
the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me;
their worm will not die,
nor will their fire be quenched,
and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

E. J. Young writes, (Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 537)

"The thought is that as often as they go out (from Jerusalem) they will see… The sight.. will remind them and should ever remind us of the greatness of our redemption and of the terrible punishment from which we have been saved by Christ."

Lastly, for any of you who are not Christians. This is what the end of all things will be. Summation in Christ.

I ask you—where will you be?

Will your dwelling place be on the new heavens and the new earth, dwelling with God in glory—or will it be in the lake of fire—where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth? It's going to be one or the other. If you die as you are—it will be the lake of fire. What danger you are in! In an instant you could be in the lake of fire and there you will regret not going to Jesus for salvation—you will regret it for ever and ever and ever.

Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus now. He will accept you. As He said in
John 6:37,

"whoever comes to me
I will never drive away."