WHO'S IN CHARGE?
(A DISCUSSION ABOUT GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY
AND HIS ULTIMATE SUCCESS
)


By James William

JOB 42:2 

"No purpose of Yours can be withheld." - New King James
"No one can stop You." - Living Bible
"No purpose of Thine can be thwarted." - Revised Standard
"No plan of Yours can be thwarted." - NIV

WHAT'S HIS PLAN?
ISAIAH 45:22-24

"Look to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. He shall say, 'Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength.' "

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?
REVELATION 5:13

"And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such that are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: 'Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!'"

CALVIN, ARMINIUS OR... ?

As we all peer through that same dimly lit mirror Paul described to the Corinthians, Calvinists see a figure of a very sovereign God, much to their credit. But outside the image, the picture of fairness and justice appears somewhat fuzzy as they explain their belief that God has predestined some for heaven, while most to eternity in hell. Arminians find the Calvinist image of God disturbing. With a little more focus on His fairness, they explain predestination as foreknowledge based on God's advanced knowledge of who will choose Him through free will. This gets God off the hook of responsibility by giving man freedom of "choice". In this view God is a gentleman who never imposes His will on others. For in this scenario it's all up to man to make the right decision. So, I guess you could conclude that in the Arminian model, God is sovereign, except when it comes to salvation.

THE CASE OF PAUL
(FORMERLY SAUL) 

However, if we look closely at the series of miraculous events surrounding Paul's conversion, one could easily arrive at a very different conclusion regarding God's sovereignty versus man's free will. We will take a close look at this event in the pages that follow. Also, the Arminian picture begins to get a little more fuzzy when we consider the words of Paul in Romans 9 where God's election comes before Jacob and Esau were even born, not having done any good or evil. Adding to the confusion is the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. Yet the scripture says that God shows no partiality towards men. These are very difficult passages to understand. And we've probably all seen some good word gymnastics in honest attempts to reconcile God's sovereignty, man's free will, and predestination. I believe these philosophical problems were designed with good intentions and serve in the great drama of life where we search and ultimately find out more about the God whose character we were created to replicate.

SAVING FAITH

I was once in a Bible study with a group of friends who were studying Ephesians when the class came to a stop on chapter 2, verses 8 and 9. Here, Paul states that we are saved by faith given to us by God, so that no one will be able to boast. My friend, a great Christian who was leading the group, stopped in a moment of brutal honesty, and confessed that he just couldn't understand those verses. It didn't fit the Arminian model. Others joined in the chorus stating that it was hard for them to understand too.

When we have trouble sorting it out, we often fall back to the position that we can't understand it all because God transcends our existence. And He certainly does! But that may be just an easy out. Maybe the answers are wonderfully simple, and we're just in the wrong model. Perhaps if we look at the end result of every knee bowing, every tongue confessing and taking an oath, and compare it to the end game of the Calvinist and Arminian paradigms, we'll get our first "Blue's Clue" that we need to recheck the math. Something's not adding up.

 
The chances are very slim that a brief 7,000-word apology would convince others to change models. The scope of the subject is far too big and the emotional attachments far too strong. So, I hope you view this article not as an attack on the walls of the Calvinist and Arminian paradigms, but more of a request for a momentary stroll out of these strong holds into another model where the ubiquitous anomalies previously mentioned just may be resolved. You can always go back if you so desire, and I promise, the walking exercise won't hurt, or take very long.

LEAVING PORT AUGUSTINE

First let's start with the definition of a paradigm. It is a set of boundaries by which we use to process data. In this case, think of it as a walled city where we live our lives inside a defined set of limits. The walls represent our security as long as we stay within its confines. We'll call the city where we are leaving, Port Augustine. As we leave the gates of the city where most twenty first century Christians live, I want to point out that the walls around it are pretty massive and impressive. Over the centuries there has been a lot of support and strength drawn from church leadership, and as always, there's strength in present numbers. But not all Christians have lived here in the past.

 
It is a little known fact, but there is plenty of good historical evidence that prior to Augustine the majority of Christians in the first five centuries lived in the city where we are now going. We'll call it, Port of Paul. The history behind our next destination will be something you'll have to visit later if you want to know more about it. There's something else I would like to discuss before we leave. Let's talk about some other cities where the rest of the secular world resides. It's nice to talk about common ground before we move on. Their cities are much larger than any of ours. When we ask who's in charge, their answer reveals a place full of despair and without hope. Let's briefly review how some of their leaders would answer the question, and find out why they won't move to a better place.

OTHER PORTS TO AVOID

One leader was Charles Darwin. Upon the death of his daughter, he decided there couldn't be a God. Further, he couldn't believe that his brother and many of his deceased friends were burning in some place of eternal torment. It was just not compatible with the idea of a loving God. For these reasons and others, he rejected the Christian model and launched a search for meaning in biological evolution. "Chance" would be the one in charge in this model. Darwinian evolutionists say it is survival of the fittest, and the competition is responsible for all the evil, pain, and suffering. It's embedded in our genetic drive to survive at all costs. "Goodness" and "cooperation" are anomalies in their cities.

 
David Hume, a noted atheist, reasoned this way: If God is willing to prevent evil but not able, then, he is impotent. If he is able and not willing, he is malevolent. If he is willing and able, then where does all the evil come from? In summary, he said if God were all-powerful, he would stop evil and suffering immediately. Since they exist, God does not. Therefore, like Charles he answers that "chance" rules in his world. One of the many problems in this model comes from a part of the laws of thermodynamics, which state for every effect, there is a cause. In other words, chance has no power. In his book, Not A Chance, RC Sproul's central theme is that scientists are committing an error in logic when they claim that "chance" acts as a causal force. In other words, chance has no power to produce anything. An admission of chance is merely an admission of ignorance of the causes producing the known effect.

 
Sproul's application of this knowledge to quantum theory is insightful. When discussing unexplainable quantum leaps by electrons, he said, "It is one thing to say electrons behave in a certain way for uncertain reasons. It is another thing to say they behave in a certain way for no apparent reason... We cannot say with humility that they behave this way for no reason without cause. To say that things happen for no reason, or that effects take place without a cause is to speak with unmitigated and consummate arrogance... I call it arrogance because... it presupposes omniscience... that we have full knowledge of every possible cause in the universe." So who's in charge in the secular world? Their leaders falsely declare, "It's chance."

 
Now, let's pose the same question to those in the city we are momentarily leaving. I already know the immediate response; "God is in charge in our model city!" And upon that answer we have unity, but not so fast. Saying it and believing it are two different transactions. Is God in charge in a place where only a handful of people escape eternal torment or annihilation? The tragedies of the holocaust or 9-11 would pale in comparison to this calamity. God just becomes another helpless bystander who tries real hard, but suffers more human defeats than victories, eternal defeats I might add. Maybe we should put together a small group of our leadership and launch an internal investigation like the 9-11 panel. They might be able to determine how much advanced warning of the terrorist attack by Satan God knew about, and what steps He took to prevent it. If He could have prevented it, but did not, we wouldn't want to elect Him as the one in charge anymore. Right? We could hold Him responsible.

DETOUR: THE LAND OF JOB

But just as quickly as we answered who's in charge the first time, we change our answer to reveal "man" as the one with authority since God has given him "free will". This typical Christian response is found in the story of Job. Here we have the story of an innocent man who lost his possessions, family, reputation and health. His God fearing friends came to mourn with him and help him make sense of the terrible circumstances. The discussions turned ugly when they told him that he was the cause of the evil. They said Job was responsible, and God was that helpless bystander who could not do a thing unless he repented. What was not understood was that God had allowed the events, just as He set up the circumstances for Adam and Eve in the garden. And thankfully, by His own law, He is responsible for the outcome. Again, we'll have to postpone the study of His great love as found in His laws where He made Himself responsible when He knew we would not act responsibly for ourselves.

 
After explaining to Job who was in charge, God went on to comfort him by opening his eyes to hidden purposes in all things implying there was a purpose even in Job's trouble. In effect, He said, "I'm in charge, not you, and I know what I'm doing". After Job came to that realization, he replied back, "No purpose of Yours can be withheld". Next, God scolded Job's friends and said they had misrepresented Him while JOB HAD IT RIGHT!

 
Job's friends were wrong because they did not understand the paradox of man's free will versus the sovereignty of God. A paradox is something that seems or appears to be something else. It is something that seems like a contradiction but can be resolved. We have free will but Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will (not your will, his will, her will) draw or drag all men unto me." There's the paradox. We have free will, and He has the power to mold and shape it. This is a process where we learn how to use the great freedom He gave us. It's like a grand master playing chess with a novice. Despite the free will of the novice to make any move he wants, the grand master eventually brings the novice to checkmate.

 
But that's not the message that most of Christianity is giving to the world. We give them Eliphazism (Job's friend's misguided defense of God.) God can't do a thing; it's all up to you. The ball is in your court. You're the commander of the ship, the boss, the headman, the big cheese, the head-honcho, numero uno! Man's will can trump God's will. Man is the center of the universe, and everything revolves around him. Isn't it strange that it was the Christians who had the biggest problem with Copernicus when He said the earth revolves around the sun and not the reverse? Isn't it strange that in the big picture, our orbit or the path we take is dominated by the gravitational pull of the sun even though there are no visible strings attached. He has written the answer to our question in the heavens for us to plainly see that He is in charge.

JOB FINALLY UNDERSTANDS

Let's summarize Job's experience. Like the religious leadership of our day, Job's friends concluded that Job's actions and decisions were the causes, and goodness, evil, pain and suffering were the effects. God's answer to Job was that He was the creator-cause, and goodness, evil, pain, and suffering are part of the processes where repentance, reconciliation, restoration, and greater love will be the effects. That's the kind of model we'll be visiting. It's the place where His kingdom will come, and His will is done on the earth. This was meant to be a statement in faith, not a wimpy, whiney wish.

 
At the end of the story, we find Job restored with twice what he had before, but more importantly, listen to the words of Job after experiencing the full brunt of evil. "I know You can do everything and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld (sovereignty)... I have uttered what I did not understand (why all this evil?) things too wonderful for me, which I did not know... I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear but now my eye sees You (as a result of this experience) therefore... I repent". This experience exposed the contents of Job's heart and after repentance produced a greater love and appreciation of Him.

ALLENDER ON SUFFERING

All Christians struggle with the question of who's in charge no matter their model. Dr. Dan Allender, a noted Christian counselor, wrote a book called The Healing Path. In it he said after years of counseling, he identified four routes that all Christians take when dealing with difficulties in their life. Each route is logical and has a measure of truth to it, but it can be a tangent from the redemptive healing path of God.

 
All four routes seek to avoid life's pain and unknowingly credit chance, the enemy and man as those in charge. When we recognize Jesus as the one in charge, we will find real purpose as He develops faith, hope and love. As Allender points out, "as men and women after God's own heart, we are called to walk the path that Jesus walked. Isaiah 53:3 states he was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief and familiar with suffering... The road to Golgotha was full of temptations to side step death, yet Jesus learned obedience through suffering. His choice to embrace the battles resulted in victory over death, and we are called to that same journey."

 
Allender challenges Christians to recall. He encourages us by helping us realize that every one of us has a unique story of God's redemptive intervention in our lives. I don't know if you know it or not, but God is telling a story, His story in you. He is intimately involved in every moment of everyday. Allender describes how He orchestrates and tells our story as the author and narrator. "Faith increases to the degree that we are caught up, enthralled by, and participating in His story in ours."

 
Allender reminds us that approximately 70% of the Bible is written in narrative form. "God is a story-teller who weaves His presence into every story in the Bible. And how does He God tell a story? With drama. He tells stories that excite, confuse, entice, disrupt, and change the human heart. Drama involves a beginning, with a setting, characters, and a search or problem to be solved, then, a middle with a plot that has moments of tragedy that brings a rise in tension and risk that demands faith, then an ending that instills confidence and invigorates hope." If we realize His story in ours, we will know who is in charge. The Healing Path is a wonderful book that I would highly recommend to every Christian.

 
In summary, the world without God has "chance" in charge. Calvinists declare it correctly that He is in charge, but miss the mark on His fairness, justice and impartiality. And Arminians confuse themselves and others when their lips speak one answer, but their hearts reveal another. Dr. Allender informs us that when evil, pain, and suffering invade our circumstances, we all struggle to answer who's in charge.

NOW LEAVING JOB

But our Father wants us to know by experience and anticipated our struggle. The book of Job was written as an answer to those who have given their hearts to Him. It came from a man who God described this way: "there is none like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil." His story lets us know of hidden purposes in His plan for us as Christians. But what about the ones who are currently enemies of Christ? Who's really in charge in the secular world?

BECOMING PAUL

This question is answered by Paul's miraculous conversion. It is a simple message demonstrating His intentions and confirming His fairness, justice and impartiality. But before we look closely at Paul's story, let's start with a statement of intentions straight from the mouth of the creator. In Isaiah 45:22-24 we find God speaking these words,"Look to me and be saved all you ends of the earth... I have sworn by myself... that to Me every knee shall bow and every tongue shall take an oath. He shall say, Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength." Every knee? Take an oath? My righteousness is in the Lord?

OFF HIS HIGH HORSE 

Paul, you and I are great examples of how He intends to make this happen. But in case you missed it in your own story, or in my testimony, let's look closely at the conversion of Paul who said he was the first to experience the Lord's longsuffering as a pattern for others that will follow. Once we see Jesus in control in the life of an enemy of Christ, the blurry image in Ephesians 2: 8-9 suddenly begins to clear. In Acts chapter 9, we find Saul on a journey to Damascus when suddenly a light shone from heaven around him. He then fell to the ground and heard a voice ask why he was persecuting Him? Saul then asked, "Who are you?"

TWO THINGS ABOUT SAUL

 First, it should be obvious to us that Saul was an undeserving fellow seeing how he was arresting and participating in the killing of Christians. His being a murderous traitor to his own people makes his lack of worthiness even more profound. Further, Paul delivers another indictment in his first letter to Timothy where he uses the word "hubristes" to describe his old self. Aristotle defines the noun form "hubris" as a person who means to hurt and cause injury for no other reason than finding delight in the suffering of another. "Hubristes" describes a man who inflicts pain for the sheer joy of it. Paul was not only admitting ignorance in his past, but also arrogant sadism. Secondly, it should be apparent that Saul was not pursuing the Lord, or asking for a revelation. He had no idea who was behind the voice and had to inquire. Further proof of his ignorance of the identity of Jesus is found in his response when informed; he was astonished!

 
I love how my friend Mike Meeker put it in the following: "I maintain that Saul was positive that what he was experiencing was indeed supernatural. He knew something was amiss. His query, 'Who are you Lord?' to me has always been one that did not illustrate his ignorance per se' - he certainly knew the God of the OT was capable of such interactions. What I believe Paul was seeking was to know who was the person behind the voice - God, an angel, or someone else? I fully believe he knew he was in the Divine presence. Picture the man's heart as it was beating at an accelerated rate as he awaited an answer. Picture the sweat becoming more effusive on his skin as he awaited the identity of the one who has accosted him. "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting." Jesus!!! Anybody but that name! Don't you know his knees instantly became Jell-O? Don't you know he could hardly swallow? His mind became a swirling current of thoughts. Instant realization followed that the very guy he thought he was serving turns out to be the one he was persecuting! The level of devastation that must have brought his soul could only have been exceeded by that of Judas or Peter in their denial of Christ, perhaps. Don't you know how crushed he was? If there had been a freshly dug grave nearby, I'm sure Saul would have asked to be thrown in, thinking, 'for me it's over.' "

 
After Jesus revealed himself and exposed him as an enemy, Saul's natural response in "fear and trembling" was, "what do you want me to do?" At that point Jesus told him to go into the city and wait for further instructions. In effect, He was allowing Saul some time to absorb what had just occurred. Being exposed and struck with blindness, Saul was HUMBLED AND HELPLESS. The other men around him heard the voice of Jesus as well but were not exposed to the light. We don't know the exact conversation that followed immediately afterward, but I'm sure Saul and the boys confirmed what they all heard leaving no doubt in their minds what had happened.

 
Blind and helpless, Saul's only choice was to be led by the hand to Damascus. He was so shaken by the event he could not eat or drink for the next three days. Do you blame him? Would anyone react any differently after a demonstration like that? HE QUICKLY REALIZED WHO WAS IN CONTROL!

 
Mike Meeker again: "I maintain that during those three days Paul saw continually in his mind the faces of those he had arrested, thrown in jail, or executed. I'm sure tears flowed easily and often. I'm sure he agonized on how he - a superlatively trained Jew - could have gotten it all so wrong about God and what God wanted for man. After all, I don't believe too many people knew the OT better than Paul. How could he have been so wrong? I'm also sure that he wrestled back and forth in his mind whether the sentence of death was a matter of time or could he dare hope for something lighter... The agony in his soul must have been horrific."

 
During those three days I'm sure Saul wondered if he would be permanently blind as judgment for his treacherous deeds. His only choice was to repent and ask Jesus to restore his sight. THERE WAS NO OUT! All he could do was ask for mercy and forgiveness.

ENTER ANANIAS
 

The answer to his prayers came in a vision that a man named Ananias would come and lay his hand on him so that he might receive his sight. And three days later a man showed up at the door named Ananias. Imagine that! He confirmed the miraculous Damascus lane experience, and then told him the Lord had sent him to lay hands on him so that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And when Ananias laid his hands on him, Saul received his sight and was baptized. What a miraculous salvation experience including A HEAVENLY LIGHT, A VOICE, INSTRUCTIONS, WITNESSES, A VISION, CONFIRMATION OF THE HOLY HIGHWAY HIJACKING FROM A TOTAL STRANGER, VALIDATION OF THE VERBIAGE IN THE VISION FROM THAT SAME STRANGER, A HEALING, A BAPTISM AND A FILLING WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT all within three days! It's no wonder Paul was later able to write that faith to believe is a gift from God not originating in the works or deeds of man thus eliminating any boasting.

QUESTIONS

Will Paul be able to boast that he was faced with a decision, and fortunately, He made the right choice? Will he ever be able to brag about his "right doing" in the choice he made?

I thought the oath quoted in Isaiah said we would claim that our right doing was in Him, not ourselves. God knew what it would take to make a believer out of Saul. He knew what it would take to bring him to repentance. Jesus was the cause that produced the effect. He controlled the complete situation from the date, time, place, and all the characters. It wasn't chance or man who produced the outcome. It was the will of the Father that resulted in checkmate! This is not complicated. ANYONE READING THE STORY SHOULD EASILY SEE THAT JESUS DID WHAT WAS NECESSARY TO CONVINCE SAUL TO BELIEVE AND FOLLOW HIM.

 
Jesus revealed himself openly, exposed Saul's sin, and brought him to a place of humility and repentance WITHOUT HIS ASKING OR PERMISSION. Jesus provided the direction, correction, restoration and new identification without consultation. What happened to that gentleman who would not impose himself on anyone? Paul also stated in I Timothy 1:16 that Christ was showing His longsuffering first in him as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him hereafter. The King James says "all longsuffering". Here, the word translated "all" means "thorough" or "all inclusive." In reviewing the type of person Paul was prior to his conversion, it is easy to see how thorough the Lord's longsuffering was for this enemy of Christ. It was enough to adequately provide for his salvation.

EXAMPLE OR PATTERN?

Also, it is worth noting the word "pattern" is incorrectly translated "example" by the NIV, Living, and Revised Standard Bibles. The word meaning "pattern" is used twice in scripture, and all three versions translate it correctly as "pattern" the second time it is used because "example" would not make any sense. Furthermore, these three versions butchered the entire verse (16) by leaving out phrases, adding ones not there, and rearranging them so that the original meaning is lost. The King James is much more accurate. The Lord's "all inclusive," or "thorough" longsuffering demonstrated in Saul is the "pattern" for others that will follow! This was a case of the remedial judgment of God falling upon Saul and was the fulfillment of Isaiah 45:22 where God chose the time and place for Saul TO TAKE HIS OATH, the same oath God swears all will take in His timing. This is the clearest example of God in His mercy imposing His will on man for salvation.

IS GOD IMPARTIAL?

But somehow, Arminians insist that Saul could have rejected Jesus without ever really offering a reason why he would have done so. The same can be said of the lost. As Talbott has noted in his book, it presses credulity to the breaking point to assume that the lost having experienced the fires of Hell would opt for staying there if given the opportunity to leave. But even if one continues to deny the fact that God left Paul's story as confirmation of His sovereignty and intentions to cause every knee to bow and confess, Arminians are still left in a precarious position to defend a God who shows partiality. It's the same problem and argument Arminians use to dump Calvinism. If God is impartial, then He would give everyone equal knowledge, time and opportunity to be saved.

 
According to Romans 1:20, all men are without excuse because "His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." So Saul had this knowledge available like everyone else in his time, and yet He rejected Jesus in a very demonstrative way prior to this experience. There were thousands on earth at the time of Saul who had rejected Jesus with the same or a lot less knowledge than Saul. SO WHY WOULD JESUS CONTINUE TO PURSUE THIS ARROGANT, SADISTIC ENEMY OF CHRIST GIVING HIM THE ADVANTAGE OF A SERIES OF UNQUESTIONABLE MIRACLES THAT WOULD RESULT IN HIS COMPLETE CONVERSION AND LET THE REST GO TO HELL?

 
IF JESUS COULD HAVE CONVINCED ANYONE ELSE USING THIS SAME METHOD, BUT DID NOT USE IT, THEN HE SHOWED PARTIALITY TOWARDS SAUL! For of the billions of people who have died without experiencing salvation, if there was EVEN ONE who would have been convinced by having an experience as Saul, then one must conclude that God loved Saul more than the one who would have believed but is now suffering in eternal torment without Christ, or facing annihilation after judgment depending on the Arminian's beliefs on eternity.

DISCRIMINATION

NO ONE COULD DEFEND THIS KIND OF DISCRIMINATION IN A COURT OF LAW! For example, I just obtained a license to practice real estate as an agent in Texas. We were trained and tested on how to treat everyone equally and avoid the consequences of breaking the Fair Housing Laws. To avoid discrimination we were asked to answer one simple question; "Are we doing this for everyone?" If not, whether intentional or unintentional, an agent opens the door to liability where the courts can grant injunctions, unlimited actual and punitive damages, and other appropriate equitable remedies. Some brokers go so far that they make sure if one customer is offered coffee, all must be offered coffee.
 
The Department of Human Resources in all successful organizations are careful to ensure all have equal access, opportunity and training. The laws protecting the public against discrimination are carefully followed because it's the right thing to do and to protect against expensive litigation. But we are not talking about coffee, equal opportunities to purchase a piece of dirt, or take a temporary job. We are speaking of discrimination in practices against the majority of humanity in this model, and the stakes are for eternity! How many people do you know that have been privileged to a Pauline experience?

It is beyond reason to think that none of the billions who have passed on without knowing Christ would not have turned their hearts in repentance if they would have had such a miraculous set of circumstances sometime during their life. I believe ALL would have given their hearts to Christ after experiencing something that grand because the pattern of longsuffering was thorough. But all you need is ONE PERSON, who would have accepted but did not get that chance to prove God's partiality towards Saul in the Arminian model.

BOTTOM LINE FOR ARMINIANS

Even if one believes Saul somehow had a choice in his salvation, then, why wouldn't Jesus go to the same extremes with all others? I believe the Bible plainly states He WILL go to that extreme in His timing whether in this life or the next because of His great love for us. Jesus said we are like sheep who have gone astray, and then He uses a parable to tell the story of the Good Shepherd who left the ninety nine to go save the one who was lost. He got 'em all!

ALL IN ALL

In Paul's story, yours and mine, we have the classic case of the potter shaping and molding without input from the clay. With our knowledge of His fairness and justice without partiality, we can only agree with His word that in His timing, He will become "all in all." And we should be eternally grateful that He did not leave salvation to chance or to man's decision. Predestination now becomes a matter of His choosing as He uses people to complete the process for all. Sovereignty remains in place; God is more than just and fair, and all the credit goes to Him.

The stories of Job and Paul were given to us to reveal who's in charge. These stories act as demonstrations to the rest of the world of His plan to take objects deserving of His wrath and turn them into vessels of His mercy because of His great love for us. And the end result is summarized in Revelations 5:13: "And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such that are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: 'Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!' "

EARLIEST BELIEVERS WERE JEWISH

Now, let's stroll into the early church model where all are brought to repentance. In this city, judgment is remedial not just punitive. The purpose of the law and judgments are to provide direction, correction, and restoration. It's a system of justice where the victim and criminal are both restored. Here, we view the three major feasts celebrations spoken of in Exodus 23: 14-17 as symbolic steps in confirming the purposes of the law and judgments. In his book "Creation's Jubilee" Dr. Stephen Jones gives us some great insights within these feasts.

The first celebration was the Feast of Passover. It marks the starting point in the journey to the promise land. The process begins with salvation. Passover started with the selection of a lamb or goat without blemish being sacrificed and the blood being spread over the doorpost of each household. The sheep signified the sacrifice was for His chosen people and the goat for all other foreign nations. The meat was cooked, then eaten with bitter herbs reminding them of the bitterness of their oppression (sin) in Egypt (the world). The meat and the unleavened bread were cooked over fire reminding us it's the fire of God that purifies and brings us to righteousness. Unleavened symbolized purity or righteousness.

 
Passover was connected to the Abrahamic covenant where the seed of His Kingdom was planted in the earth, Abraham's bosom. It was to be an eventual kingdom where "all families of the earth would be blessed." May I add that having family members suffering endless torment or annihilation would not be considered a "blessing." In Exodus 12:41 we see this covenant cut on the SAME DAY AS PASSOVER. In that covenant there was a blood sacrifice, and then a deep sleep that fell upon Abraham. He was totally unconscious and had nothing to do with what happened next. GOD WITHOUT ABRAHAM COMPLETED THE CEREMONY PLACING FULL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE COVENANT'S FULFILLMENT (SALVATION) ON HIMSELF. That is why He repeats over and over, "This is my Passover."

 
The people ate the meal with a belt on their waist signifying the truth of His Word, shoes on their feet signifying a journey on the healing path, and with a staff in their hand signifying the authority of God and letting them know who was in charge. Passover meant justification but only through grace. It had nothing to do with our works, but rather what God has done for us. The law and judgments provided direction for the journey through Passover.

PENTECOST AND TABERNACLES

Next, it provided correction through the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost. It was during this time that God gave the Ten Commandments. In Leviticus 23 we find two loaves of flour with leaven offered to God. Leaven was symbolic of corruption, and God knows at this stage of our journey, we still have sin. The purpose of the fire in the oven was to bake out the leaven. And notice the fire did not last forever. The last celebration was the Feast of Tabernacles. It shows the purpose of the law and judgments were to provide restoration. In Numbers 29 we read the feast of Tabernacles beginning with the sacrifice of 13 bullocks on the first day, 12 on the next, then 11, all the way down to seven. The total sacrificed was 70.

HIGHER MATH

So what is God saying with these numbers? 13 is a number that is symbolic of rebellion, 7 perfection, and 70 restoration. So here's the story behind the numbers. What began in rebellion ends in perfection for the purpose of restoration!

JUSTIFIED, SANCTIFIED, GLORIFIED

In Nehemiah 8 we find the Israelites returning to Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity. At the time of the Feast of Tabernacles we find them gathering with all Israelites and strangers in the land to read the law. At this point, they stand together and say, "Amen" in unity. The significance here is that they have heard the law and now have understanding and agreement. The down payment of the Spirit received on the Day of Pentecost was associated with speaking in tongues as a way of pointing to fullness we will all receive at Tabernacles. This will be a time when we will all hear and have the same understanding. The law and judgments were given to provide direction at Passover, correction at Pentecost and restoration at Tabernacles. These three major feasts correspond in order with justification, sanctification, and then glorification with a new tabernacle!

In this town we see fire as a purging agent that works in the lives of non-believers the same as it does for present believers. That is, it exposes sin and purifies hearts. What about the fire and brimstone in Revelations 21:8? Since the text was written in Greek, let's see how they understood the terms. Brimstone is sulfur, something sacred to the Greeks. It was used to purify, cleanse, and to consecrate for divine service. The root word in the Greek is "Theion". The root "Theo" means God. "Theou" means "to hallow, make divine, or dedicate to God."
 
So what is the Lake of Fire? John saw it as a lake, Daniel as a river flowing from the throne of God, and Israel as the laver in the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Here, priests washed, baptized, and purified their vessels and sacrifices. In Solomon's Temple the laver was called the "Molten Sea". When gold has been refined to its pure state, it's as clear as crystal. Revelations 4:6 describes it as "a sea of glass" and in 15:2 as "a sea of glass mixed with fire."

THE MEANING OF FIRE

The early church believed the fire was spiritual to be applied in one of two stages, this life, or the next. Those who wished to avoid the second must be willing to submit to the first. Here are a FEW quotes from some of the early church fathers:

Clement of Alexandria (150-213 AD) "Fire is conceived as a benefit and strong power, destroying what is base, preserving what is good; therefore, this fire is called 'wise' by the prophets." He further described this fire as "saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion."
 
Origen (180-253 AD): "As therefore we say God is a consuming fire, what is it that is to be consumed by Him? We say it is wickedness, and whatever proceeds from it, such as figuratively called 'wood, hay and stubble' which denote the evil works of man. Our God is a consuming fire in this sense; and He shall come as a refiner's fire to purify rational nature from the alloy of wickedness and other impure matter which has adulterated the intellectual gold and silver; consuming whatever evil is mixed in all the soul."

Bishop Titus of Bostra: "The punishments of God are holy, as they are remedial and salutary in their effect upon transgressors; for they are inflicted, not to preserve their wickedness, but to make them cease from their sins. The abyss... is indeed the place of punishment, but it is not endless. The anguish of their sufferings compels them to break off from their sins."

HARVESTING FIRST FRUITS

In this model city Christians are a type of first fruits. However, the harvest of the first fruits marked the beginning of the harvest, not the end! First fruits had to be dedicated to the Lord as a faith offering that the rest of the harvest would come in full! So what is the order of the harvests? Stephen Jones points out three harvests that were associated with the three major feasts mentioned in Exodus 23. Barley matured first and was harvested at the Feast of Passover. Wheat was harvested next at Pentecost, and grapes harvested at the Feast of Tabernacles.

God's plan for harvesting all souls is summarized by Paul in I Corinthians 15:22-23, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive, but every man in his own order." "Tagma" in the Greek is the word for "order", and it is a military term that means "squadron." Here is the order; here are the squadrons. The first squadron is associated with the harvest of Barley. "Christ the firstfruits" should read, "the anointed firstfruits". "Christos" simply means, "anointed." If there were an article in front of christos, then we translate "the anointed one", or "the Christ" as in versus 22 and the second part of verse 23. But there is no article preceding it here.
 
Remember how Jesus fed the masses with Barley loaves? Isn't that our calling as first fruits? Also, remember that in the sacrifices how barley was mixed (anointed) with oil? Gideon was a loaf of barley. Ruth was purchased by her near kinsman at the time of the barley harvest. The Barley squadron represents the over comers who are granted the privilege to rule and reign with Christ in His Kingdom. They represent the high calling in Christ that Paul was striving towards. They are like the sons of Zadok, high priests in the Temple who were able to minister to the people in their wool garments and change into their linen garments to minister to God in The Holy of Holies. There's tremendous symbolism and prophecy here.
 
Continuing the order, "afterward those who are with Christ at His coming." This squadron is connected with the wheat harvest, or the rest of the church, the believers who did not qualify with the first group. There's much to say about this group, but we'll have to save it for another study. Next, verse 24 starts with, "then comes then end." The end of what? The world? NO! We've been talking about the order, squadrons, harvests! Then comes the end of the order, the last squadron, the final harvest! And grapes were harvested at the last feast celebration of Tabernacles.

And what do you do with grapes after harvesting? You stomp um under your feet to get the juice! And notice the continuing language, "then comes the end, when He delivers the Kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all authority and power. For He must reign until He puts ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET." The grapes are the Sauls of this present world, the enemies of Christ! And Paul repeats the "under the feet" idea several times until he ends in verse 28 with "that God may be ALL IN ALL!"

THE LORD'S SUPPER

I'm so amazed at the harmony of language and ideas used in the scriptures! No man could ever put it all together that well! And it continues. The first part of communion is to serve the bread, which represents His body, us, the barley and wheat harvests! We are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice! He is the bread of life in us. And I can't resist the next; He will serve no wine before its time! The communion is now complete. He spilled His blood to the point of death and said, "It is finished!" The harvest is complete, and the victory is total! No one is lost! All are saved because of His tender loving mercies that really do endure throughout the ages!

THE LORD IS NOT WILLING

It is His goodness that will lead all men to repentance. His kingdom will come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven! 2 Peter 2:9, "The Lord is... not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." And we'll end our brief tour where we started in full agreement with Job who said, "No purpose of Yours can be withheld."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you want more details on this model city, I suggest Stephen's book, Creations Jubilee. You can read it for free at his web site (listed on our "Links" page). We also have several other books and web sites available to offer a more detailed perusal of this model. I have stated before, and I feel compelled to close with it again, that I did not arrive at this conclusion by any great analytical processing of data. In boldness, but with humility, I confess that Jesus was the one who miraculously revealed it. My part is to declare it, and I've laid out my testimony for all to see. I hope you will prayerfully consider it.