In our last message on the Kingdom of God, we considered a number of passages that set forth wonderful and amazing facts about the future time when God will govern the earth. One of those was Acts 17:31.
“Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man Whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
This amazing verse tells of a time when God will judge the world. As I discussed in my message on “Non-judgmentalism Examined,” we have a theological idea that “to judge” means to decide when someone else is doing something wrong. When it comes to God’s judgment, we always attach this to punishment, and men speak of “God’s terrible judgments” and so forth. Yet an examination of Scripture would reveal that this is neither what the Scriptures mean by “to judge,” or by the word “judgment.” God’s judgments are spoken of in Scripture as being wonderful. In the words of Psalm 19:9b-10, “The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. 10. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” We can hardly imagine men desiring punishment more than gold, or describing “terrible judgments” as “sweeter than honey.” It is clear that we have a wrong idea of what these words mean.
I believe that a study of the word “judge” in Scripture will lead to the conviction that this word is often used as it is in the book of Judges in the Old Testament. These judges were men who ruled over Israel. Their function was not just to punish. Their job was not to look down on people for doing things they thought were morally wrong, for which many today will accuse others, telling them not to “judge.” No, what they did was govern. They ruled over people, and in doing so, they judged them.
So this is what it means to judge. It does mean to determine what is right, true, but it also means to set things in order according to what is right. You don’t just decide what is right, but you also do something about it. Ultimately, that means you have to have some authority over the situation, so that you can set it in order. When it comes to things in this world, in many cases we do not have the authority to do anything about them, so we cannot judge them. When we do have authority, of course, we must judge righteously.
So someday God will set the world in order. The “world” here is the Greek word oikoumenen, which means the inhabited world, or the world of men. So what this verse is saying is that God is going to set the world of men upon this earth in order in righteousness by Jesus Christ. What a change this will make in the world! Surely after this happens, nothing will ever be the same. Moreover, we can be assured that He will indeed do this, for we are told that the assurance of this that He gives to all is that He raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. So as certain as we are that God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, we can be just as certain that He is someday going to judge the world of men in righteousness.
There are many passages in the Word of God that speak of what the earth will be like once God has done this, and has ordered the world of men the way He wants it to be. One of these passages is Psalm 67:1-7. This psalm, which is not credited to any human author in our Bibles, tells us what the earth shall be like when God governs. Let us examine this important Psalm together.
A Psalm. A Song.
1. God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us, Selah
All the wonders that this Psalm is about to declare, all the glories that it predicts, all will come about because God is merciful.
2. That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
When God is merciful and gives His blessings, when He causes His face to shine upon His people, this will cause there to be great knowledge of God and His ways on earth. How little knowledge is there of God on earth today! How great a change would it be for His ways to become known on earth! Even now, it seems that the view that many have of God is that His job is to decide when disasters should come, and to decide when people should die. This is the view that many have of God and His works today. Even many “Christians,” who it seems should know better, have a view of God not too different from this. Oh, what a blessing it would be indeed for all the earth to have a clear understanding of God’s ways! It would be a great act of mercy and grace indeed for Him to make His true ways known.
When God’s ways are known on earth, His salvation will also be known among all nations. The nations now, as we well know, are generally clueless when it comes to understanding God’s salvation. Can we say our own nation truly understands it? How much less many other nations where the Bible is much less well known? The nations on the earth come up with many schemes, many policies, many plans for preserving their nation and establishing their place in the world. Some of these policies work for a time, but none of them can ultimately answer all the problems or fix all the difficulties. What a difference it will make, however, when God’s salvation is known to these nations. Surely the earth will never be the same again!
3. Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
As we might expect, the knowledge God gives them causes all the peoples to praise God, and the Psalmist calls upon them to do so.
4. Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
For You shall judge the people righteously,
And govern the nations on earth. Selah
Now the Psalmist calls upon the nations to be glad and sing for joy. Nations today are generally in a sad state. Even those for whom things appear to be going well have little knowledge of God or His ways, and so have little reason to rejoice in a world that has so many problems and so much grief. There is not a whole lot of reason for rejoicing in our world today. Yet the Psalmist does not call upon nations to be glad or sing in the state they are in now. Rather, he calls upon them to rejoice because God shall judge the people righteously and govern the nations on earth.
This verse demonstrates my point above, that “judging” is “governing.” The second and third lines go together, and explain each other. Judging does not mean just deciding, “This one goes to heaven, but this one goes to the lake of fire.” It does not just have to do with having or expressing an opinion about whether what someone is doing is right or wrong, as many use the word today. They usually use their idea of “judging” as a weapon to cast at people whenever they dare to suggest that some immoral thing they are doing is unacceptable in the sight of God. Yet they are not holding fast to the form of this sound word, for having an opinion is not judging, unless one has the power to do something about his opinion. Determining what is right, and setting things right…that is judging. So when God judges, He governs the nations on the earth. That is the truth this verse is telling us.
The word for “earth” here, the Hebrew word erets, can be translated as either “earth” or “land,” depending upon the context. We could demonstrate multiple examples of passages where it must mean earth (like Genesis 1:1, “God created the heaven and the earth,”) and of passages where it must mean land (like Genesis 41:29, “all the land of Egypt.”) So how do we know that God is going to govern the earth, not just the land of Israel? Because of the word “nations” here. This cannot just be limited to one group of people, to the sons of Israel. This must include all nations. This must include all the earth. What an amazing promise this is! What cause for rejoicing the nations will truly have, when God acts to govern them Himself!
5. Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
The Psalmist repeats his call for praise, for the facts of verse 4 are cause for praise indeed!
6. Then the earth shall yield her increase;
God, our own God, shall bless us.
Now the Psalmist speaks of the earth bringing forth fruit, yielding her increase. This is the result of God, Israel’s own God, blessing them. I cannot say for certain, but I believe that this is most likely referring to the lifting of the curse on the ground that the Lord gave in Genesis 3:17-18. There is no picture of a wasted and empty earth in Scripture!
7. God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.
The final result of all this is that Israel is blessed. Yet even beyond this, even the most remote places on earth respect Him. What a time this will be for the world, when these things take place at last!
To the Chief Musician.
This song was dedicated to the Chief Musician for public worship. We can still learn much from it today, for it tells us of God’s wondrous plans for the time to come.
It is not just the Old Testament that speaks of the great, future time when God will reign over the earth. Nor is it only in the book of Acts that the Holy Spirit through Paul tells us of this time. In Romans 15:8-13, we read also of the truth that God is going to someday take control of the governments of this earth, and make them what He wants them to be. These verses show us God reigning over all people. Let us examine this passage together as well.
8. Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,
This verse assures us that Jesus Christ was a servant to the circumcision. By this, of course, is meant the nation of Israel. Many try to deny the fact that the Lord’s ministry was only to Israelites when He was on earth, yet the Scriptures confirm this fact over and over. The Lord did not come to serve Gentiles. He came only to serve God’s chosen people of Israel.
This passage also tells us that Jesus Christ confirms the promises made to the fathers. What fathers are these? They can be none other than the fathers of the nation of Israel told about in the Old Testament. These are men like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, men like Moses and Joshua, men like David and Solomon. These are not fathers of Gentiles, for Gentiles do not have the fathers. As Romans 9:4-5 confirms for us, the fathers belong to the nation and family of Israel, as do the covenants. Men can make up “church fathers” if they wish, but these are not the fathers spoken of in the Word of God, which was written before their time. The fathers of Israel are the ones to whom the promises were made, and Jesus Christ confirmed that the promises will be fulfilled to these.
9. and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:
“For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.”
The word “Gentiles” here is from the Greek word ethnos, which means “nations.” The nations will yet have cause to glorify God for His mercy in the future. This clearly speaks of a future time from ours, for the nations are unwilling to recognize God today. Christ may have confirmed the promises, but the nations as a whole pay little attention to this fact. Only when these promises start coming true will the nations start glorifying God. And they will have good reason, then, to do so!
10. And again he says:
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”
When this takes place, the nations will rejoice along with Israel. Clearly, the promises that God made to Israel regarding the future mean good things for the other nations as well.
11. And again:
“Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!”
Again, all nations have cause to praise. Could this be at any time but when God takes control of all nations and makes their governments His Own?
12. And again, Isaiah says:
“There shall be a root of Jesse;
And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.”
This verse confirms for us when these great things will take place. This will occur when Jesus Christ, the root of Jesse, shall rise to reign over the nations, and when they hope in Him. Nations do not do this today. They hope in many things that cannot help them. Nations always have some new scheme, or some new political movement, or some new plan to try to bring about their own good. Some of these schemes have some limited success. Some do more harm than good. Yet none of them is a perfect solution. None of them can fully deal with what is humanity’s real problem. Yet when Jesus Christ reigns over the nations, they will learn to wait expectantly upon Him, for they will realize that His policies are always good, and His ways are always right.
13. Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Having set forth this future time, Paul prays for us to be filled with all joy and peace in believing. Believing what? I think he means believing these truths he has just set forth. Our own hope is bound up in this, and we should abound in it. Our hope is in Christ, Who will someday accomplish all that this passage says He will accomplish. May we abound in this hope indeed!
Now, the question suggested by the title of this message is, “What is God’s ultimate purpose?” In other words, where do all these glorious promises finally bring us? What is it that He hopes at the last to accomplish? I believe that His immediate purpose is wrapped up with the truth of the dispensation of grace, and that God wants to set forth the grace that is inherent in His character. It is also clear that soon His purpose will be to bring in the kingdom of God upon earth. But what is God’s ultimate purpose? What is it that He finally wants to accomplish through His long dealings with mankind?
I believe that God’s final purpose in this is to produce from the race of men upon earth a people who can live in relationship with Him. Otis Q. Sellers has suggested that the Divine purpose is, “To produce a people who know Him, understand Him, and appreciate Him, with whom He can dwell.” I think this is a very profound statement. God wants to dwell with us! What an awe-inspiring truth that is. And how short do we fall of being worthy of it!
When will God have finally accomplished this ultimate purpose that He has? I believe we have a picture of this purpose accomplished at the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:1-3. Let us end our study by examining these verses and seeing what they have to say about the purpose of God reached.
1. Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
John, the author of the book of Revelation, sees a new heaven and a new earth. We read that they are necessary because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. This brings many questions to mind as to what this means. If we truly believe that the heavens and earth will pass away in a great fire, as II Peter 3:7,10-13 seems to say, then we have to wonder what will happen to the inhabitants of both these places when this takes place? How will we avoid being burned up by fire, if all things are thus destroyed? We cannot say that we will escape by being in heaven, for the heaven passes away as well. Nor could we escape by being upon earth when this takes place, for the earth is to pass away. It is clear that this statement needs further study as to what exactly heaven and earth passing away really means.
Yet the bottom line is that heaven and earth do pass away, and are replaced by a new heaven and a new earth. They are new for they are remade. We also read that there is no more sea. In the Bible, the sea is usually specifically the Mediterranean Sea, so this does not necessarily mean there are no more large bodies of water. Yet think how much more could fit on the earth if so much of it were not covered by water! It is clear that we have far more ocean than is really needed. So it could very well be that the new earth will have much less water covering its surface.
2. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Now John sees the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It is described as a bride adorned for her husband. The figure of the bride, then, is seen to be fulfilled at last in this New Jerusalem. Notice that this city comes down out of heaven from God. Where is it coming down to? Obviously, the answer is to the new earth. So this New Jerusalem is not heaven, nor is it something in heaven. Rather, it is something that will exist on the new earth, at least in the new heavens and the new earth. Whether it exists first in heaven before this time it is hard to say.
3. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
This now is the last great event, the one that I believe the whole plan of God is moving towards throughout the Word of God. Now, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He dwells with them. A “tabernacle,” strictly speaking, is a tent. Yet we know that, for the men of that day, it spoke of a center of activity, like a “home-office.” When Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were a nomadic people, we can certainly see how this was true, for their whole lives were lived out of their tents. When the children of Israel were forty years in the wilderness, this was true for them as well. But for the people of John’s day, this also applied to things like an army, where one lived and did one’s activities out of a tent. So this figure of God’s tabernacle being with men means that God’s center of activity, the place where He dwells and from which He does all His work, will be among men on the new earth.
We cannot help but wonder at this point what these activities will be? What is it that God will do from His new tabernacle? What purposes will He want to work out? What plans will He labor to accomplish? This we cannot say, for it is at this point that the Bible comes to an end. God has finally brought humanity to the place where He wanted to bring them all along, and now they are ready for Him to dwell among them and to do His work from among them. And yet the Bible leaves off here, not telling us what that work is that He wants to do, or what He will accomplish with us. It is like we have gotten to the end of the Bible, and found it to be the beginning! Yet whatever that purpose of God might be, and whatever those plans of His in the future will involve, we can be certain that they will be wonderful, and that those who are there to see them will be blessed indeed.
So ultimately, God wishes to dwell with men, to center His activities among us, and to make us His people. This is what I believe God’s final and ultimate purpose is. Now the Kingdom of God, around which this series of messages is centered, is one step on the road to accomplishing this. Notice that I do not say step one, but one step. Yet I think we need to keep this ultimate purpose in mind, for this will explain to us what this whole thing is all about, and why God is doing all that He is doing. God wants to dwell among us in relationship with us. That truly is God’s ultimate purpose.