God Has a Plan

MANY long centuries ago God caused one of his prophets to write that “the desire of all nations shall come.” (Hag. 2:7) The desire of all nations is to have peace, with security and happiness. But human wisdom has been unable to deal with the problem of selfishness in a manner to safeguard the peace of nations for more than brief, intermittent periods. Today, in spite of all the advantages of modern education and enlightenment, the world seems further from solving its problems than ever before. Sincere and self-sacrificing efforts are made by the democracies to defend themselves against aggression, but no workable formula has been found to deal with the fundamental causes of war.

However, while all human plans for lasting peace are failing, God has a plan. This plan is just as certain to be successfully carried out in all its details as that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. On this point God himself has said, “My word … that goeth forth out of my mouth, it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa. 55:8-11; 14:27) God’s plan for everlasting human happiness is revealed in his Word, the Bible.

But some may counter that the Bible is not very dependable; that it is like an old fiddle on which any tune can be played. This is not true. It may be possible to find passages of Scripture which can be used to support almost any theory human ingenuity is able to devise, but this merely represents a misuse of the Bible, and does not mean that the Bible itself is contradictory and unreliable.

When we think of a plan, we think of something involving more than just a single element. An architect’s plan for a building consists of drawings and specifications descriptive of its several floors, including styles of plumbing, decoration, arrangement of rooms, etc. Unless each floor of the building is to be identical to every other floor, necessarily the drawings and specifications for any given floor do not harmonize with the details of the other floors. No one, however, would construe this to mean that the architect is incompetent, nor that his plans and specifications are contradictory.

God’s plan, like the plan of a building, is also made up of many parts. Instead of different floors, however, it embraces epochs and ages. Through each of these the divine plan has steadily progressed toward completion. Only when it is complete, and mankind sees the result, will they be able to appreciate the wisdom, justice, love and power of the Divine Architect.—Ps. 72:1-20

While the preparatory features of the divine plan have all been related to the one harmonious program, they have varied in detail. This means that in our study of the Bible it is necessary properly to apply its promises and prophecies, else there will be seeming contradictions. That part of the divine plan which was developed prior to Christ’s first advent was different from that which God has been doing since. His plans for the new world of tomorrow are again different from what is being done today.

An example or two will help to illustrate this point. In the second psalm there is a prophecy which applies to Christ, the Messiah. Here the Creator, the Heavenly Father, says to his beloved Son, Christ Jesus, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [nations] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potters vessel.”—Ps. 2:89

When Jesus came at his first advent, he did not ask for the nations of the world at all. Instead of that he said, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me [out of the world].” (John 17:9) Does this mean that the prophecy of the second psalm is not in harmony with what the Messiah actually did? Not at all. It simply means that the fulfillment of this prophecy belongs to a different epoch in the divine plan.

In the Book of Revelation (2:26,27) Jesus quotes a portion of the second psalm and applies it to his church, promising that they are to share with him in ruling the nations with a rod of iron when the time comes for him to ask for and receive the nations for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession. This is in harmony with other New Testament promises to the followers of the Master, which show that they are to be joint-heirs with him in his inheritance of the nations. (Rom. 8:17; II Tim. 2:12) It is in harmony also with Jesus’ prayer on behalf of his disciples, in which he explains that his purpose in calling them to be associated with him in the Father’s work is that the world might believe on him through them.

We see, then, that when the time element is applied to these apparently conflicting scriptures, they at once become harmonious. Jesus is to possess and rule the nations, but first there is the work of calling and preparing those who will be partners with him in that universal rulership of the world.—Acts 15:14-18

Another example of how the Bible may seem to be contradictory is found in the promise Jesus made to his disciples concerning the preparation of a place for them (John 14:2; Matt. 19:21; Luke 12:32), together with the statement made to the sheep class in the parable of the sheep and the goats, which reads, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”—Matt. 25:34

In these scriptures we have mention of two separate rewards. One is said to have been prepared from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), but the other had not yet been prepared at the time of the Lord’s first advent. Is this a case of inaccuracy or contradiction in the sacred Word? Certainly not! One promise is made to the followers of the Master in this age, while the other describes the blessings coming to mankind in general at the end of the Messianic Age.

The kingdom prepared at the foundation of the world is the dominion that was given to our first parents back in the Garden of Eden. They were given dominion over the earth, and everything that lived upon the earth. As a result of sin, which brought death, that dominion was lost. It was redeemed by the blood of Christ, and is to be restored during the messianic kingdom period now near.—Matt. 25:34; Acts 3:19-23

But the disciples of Jesus are promised a higher reward than the restored paradise, because they are invited to follow him at a time when it calls for self-sacrificing effort to do so. To these Jesus gave the promise, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2) This promise implies a heavenly reward for the church, while the blessings coming to the restored world of mankind will be earthly. In this example, therefore, we have both time and place as elements for consideration in our study of the Bible.

The promises of the Bible which are to be fulfilled during the Messianic Age describe earthly blessings of health, everlasting life, happiness, prosperity, security and peace. On the other hand, the promises that are made to the disciples of Christ are of a spiritual character, and their fulfillment to the individual Christian of this age is dependent upon his faithfulness in laying down his life in the service of the Master. The Christian is invited to suffer and die with Christ, and is inspired with the promise that if he does, he shall in the future live and reign with him.—Rom. 8:17; II Tim. 2:11; Rev. 20:4

Briefly stated, it might be said that in the plan of God there are three major divisions of time, marking three epochs, or worlds. The Scriptures outline these three divisions as the world that was, the world that now is, and the world to come. (II Pet. 3:6,7,13) The first of these ended at the time of the Flood; the second is now coming to an end; while the third will constitute God’s happy world of tomorrow.

According to the Bible, these three worlds are subdivided into ages. There was the age in which God dealt with the natural descendants of Abraham, the Jewish nation—that was the Jewish Age. With the coming of Christ a new age began, which we call the Gospel Age. These are preparatory ages in the divine plan, during which the personnel of the messianic kingdom are prepared for the future work of blessing the world of mankind. The earthly representatives of the kingdom were prepared prior to Jesus’ first advent. The Bible calls these “princes,” who will be resurrected and become the earthly representatives of the kingdom.—Ps. 45:16

The first age in the new world will be a thousand years long. (Rev. 20:4) It will be the thousand years of Christ’s reign. (II Pet. 3:8) It will also be the thousand-year judgment day for the world, when the people will be on trial for everlasting life. (Acts 17:31) During that age the resurrection of the dead will take place.—Rev. 20:12; John 5:28,29

During that thousand-year period Christ will be the spiritual king over the whole earth, supplanting the present spiritual ruler of the world, who is Satan. (Ps. 66:4; 22:27,28) Through that kingdom arrangement peace and understanding will be promoted among the nations. Selfishness will be eradicated from human hearts. Love instead of selfishness will become the motivating power of human activity. Men will strive, not to get the best of one another, but to give their best to one another. Thus all cause for disharmony and strife will be removed.

Sickness also will be destroyed, for “the inhabitant of that day,” the prophet declares, “shall not say, I am sick.” (Isa. 33:24) Tears will be wiped away from off all faces, and death will be swallowed up in victory. (Rev. 21:4; 7:17; I Cor. 15:54; Isa. 25:8) All of these blessings, and many more, the Bible assures us, will soon become the heritage of humankind. These promises have not yet been fulfilled because it has not been God’s due time. But now his world is near, and in expectation of receiving the answer soon, we continue to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” That divine kingdom will be the desire of all nations, and all the ends of the earth will rejoice in the feast of blessings it provides.—Isa. 25:6-9

Dawn Bible Students Association
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