What is God’s “Purpose for the Eons”?

 Lorraine Day, M.D


In Paul’s letters, repeated reference is made to God’s “purpose.”

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

“For the children (Jacob and Esau) being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth.”  Romans 9:11 

“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.”  Eph 1:11 

“According to the eternal (eonian) purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Eph 3:11 

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works (acts), but according to His own purpose and the grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (literal: before eonian times).”  2 Timothy 1:9 

In all these scriptures the word is prothesis.  Its force is understood from the fact that prothesis is used to describe the twelve loaves that were placed before the Lord on the Tabernacle table (Matt 12:4; Mark 2:26; Luke 6:4; Heb 9.2).  Prothesis means before-placed.  Hence the scriptures that speak of God’s prothesis tell us that He has placed before Himself a definite aim or object that He is bent on achieving.

In Ephesians 3:11, the phrase occurs, “in accord with the purpose of the eons, which he makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” 

This phrase is filled with deep meaning; it indicates that God, through the eons, is accomplishing a certain work, in pursuance to a prearranged, definite planNothing is left to chance, or to the emergencies of the case, but everything is arranged with perfect precision beforehand. 

Yet the prevalent idea among Christians is virtually the same as if God had no plan at all: they hold that God’s purpose has sustained a rude setback at the hands of Satan, so that the whole period of sin’s existence resembles a haphazard scramble between good and evil.  And so far, evil has had the best of it, but the good will triumph in the end: or rather, while the good will not be absolutely triumphant, it will at least gain some advantages. 

In opposition to this rather childish idea, Paul asserts the fact that God has a purpose, the purpose of the eons, prearranged and perfected before the first step was initiated: a plan providing for every event and movement, and according to which the minutest detail will be carried out.  The program has been mapped out by God, and every step in the process – even as the final outcome itself – is infallibly settled.

Some may object saying that if this is so then man’s free moral agency (free will) is completely ruled out.  But isn’t that the Good News?  Wouldn’t we happily give up the notion of “free will” if any part of man’s supposed “free will” is incompatible with the achievement of God’s pre-determined purpose?  

In any case, our present question is in regard to God’s purpose of the eons, which purpose He will achieve. 

Virtually all of Christendom believes in the following way in respect to the work that God is doing in the world:

In the beginning God created everything in six days, and rested on the seventh. 

But His rest was soon disturbed by sin and He was obliged to resume work.  Hardly had God finished His work and pronounced it “very good,” than the devil appeared upon the scene and unset God’s work, spoiling everything. 

As a result, the Lord was compelled to go to work again in order to repair the damage, and has been busy ever since straightening out the tangle.  Ultimately, He will succeed in establishing something like the semblance of the pristine order.  Even so, He will be unable to wholly undo the evil perpetrated by Satan, or to entirely destroy the mischief wrought by the devil, since many will be irrecoverably lost, and will be eternally tormented in the lake of fire. 

It is claimed that God will succeed in rescuing a portion (some say the minority, others, the majority) of humanity from this terrible doom, and to this end God is working. 

But who can, after sober reflection, adhere to a view like that above, a view that utterly maligns God’s character and power, representing Him to be a weakling, as One whose will can be thwarted, whose plans can be obstructed, and who Satan can successfully resist? 

Views responsible for such misconceptions must be at fault somewhere.  Let us seek to find out where the fault lies. 

The first chapter of Colossians, within the compass of a few verses, contains a summary view of the Divine fore-purpose.  The creation of all is the first movement in the execution of the plan; at the opposite extreme, as the climax of the plan, we have the reconciliation of all.  The character of the intervening period, and the divine activities during its course, is graphically emphasized in the phrase {making peace through the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20). 

Since it is obvious that reconciliation has been, from the very outset, the goal of all that is created, it is evident that the original creation was not the adequate expression of His final consummated plan.  It was only the preliminary stage of an ultimate glorified world in which weakness, flaw or failure can have no place. 

Therefore, creation by itself may be said to have been complete only in the sense in which a particular step, that is an integral part of a complex whole, may be said to be complete in itself. 

Some may suggest that, according to this view, creation was not perfect.  But the answer is, the universe as it came forth from God was perfect, but it was not perfected with the perfection of maturity – maturity in Jesus Christ.  

The difference between “perfect” and “perfected” is the difference between the good work begun and the good work completed.

Our Lord furnishes a striking illustration of the distinction we seek to emphasize where He said, “Lo! I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am being perfected” (Luke 13:32).  Every act and word of His was perfect and complete; but each was only part of a mission, so that while each step was “perfect,” His ministry could not be perfected until the full number of steps had been reached. 

It is the same also with creation.  God leads it to the appointed goal not at one bound, but by a long process and a gradual one; a process marked by successive stages and those stages all contributing toward the appointed end.  Thus creation, though perfect when looked at by itself, is seen to be incomplete considered as the initial step of a vast undertaking.  

The New Creation is no afterthought called forth by the opposition of the Adversary; rather, it is the foreordained culmination of a process appointed for creation, every stage thereof being divinely prearranged.  The New Heavens and New Earth are not something devised to replace those that the Adversary “spoiled”; they are the fruitage of creation’s finished course – perfection perfected. 

Are there “conditions” to salvation? 

We hear on every hand about “conditions” of salvation: theology loudly proclaims that man’s salvation rests entirely on himself (“You must make a choice.”); that there are certain rules to be complied with in order to be saved; that God has done what He could, made man’s salvation possible; and if man will repent and do many other things he will be saved; otherwise, not. 

This colossal error roots itself in a misapprehension of salvation, and of God’s work.  The work of God, as has been shown, is to conform man to the image of God’s Son.  This is the task that God proposed to Himself, and He alone is responsible for its attainment. 

And now the question arises, What is salvation?  The Scriptures answer that salvation is life - - life from the dead.  The Bible represents man in Adam as dead, having “no life” in him.  When we speak here of “life,” we mean physical existence; yet Scripture does not recognize mere physical existence as life. 

After his transgression Adam had physical existence as much as before; but, he was dead unto God.  Our Lords’ saying, “Let the dead bury the dead,” means that those bearing the corpse were as dead as the corpse itself.  That saying illustrates precisely man’s condition before God: physically he is active; spiritually, he is dead.  Hence the mission of Christ was to bring life to the world: “. . . My Father is giving you Bread out of heaven, the true, for the Bread of God is He Who is descending out of heaven and giving life to the world” (John 6:33). 

Fallen man is not only guilty, needing justification, or sinful, needing cleansing; he is dead, needing life, and anything short of that is vain, futile.  Salvation, then, is life for a dead race.  The Scriptures bristle with this truth: it is the great central truth of the Word - - Christ our life, not merely our wisdom, redemption, propitiation, or mediation.  All this is true and blessed, yet it falls short of the fullness of His mission.  He comes to bring life; He is our life, as He Himself declares: ‘I am the resurrection and the life.” 

Salvation is the consummation of creation, the impartation of life to a dead race, thus bringing them finally to His image; and this work depends solely on God; it is not conditional, for if it were it would be contingent, in the sense of uncertain; but that is inconceivable.  We cannot allow the thought that God’s creative work is contingent, or that He would commence a work and not bring it to a worthy finish. 

In a word, the truth on this point is this: all that man does has to do with his training, development, instruction; his final salvation – his entrance into life – in no sense or degree depends on what he does.  The end is fixed and settled in the immutable purpose of God, and all will ultimately be vivified in Christ, as surely and unconditionally as all have died in Adam. (1 Cor 15:22) 

The misconceptions that many entertain on this subject arise from their religious training, and not from the teaching of the Bible.  In current evangelical theology salvation is conceived of as nothing more than escape from the penalty of sin – (supposedly) the scorching fires of hell.  In order to effect this escape, man must do certain things, thereby securing to his own credit the merit that properly accrues alone to Christ.  Add to this the ideas in vogue investing man with power to persistently resist His Maker, so that in vain God expends upon him all the resources of infinite mercy, wisdom, and power.  Add to these errors, and you have a groundwork of falsehood broad enough to build up almost any amount of tradition, superstition, and absurdity. 

On the other hand, when we see the truth that salvation is life, the consummation of the creative work of God, the completion of Christ’s mission, Who came to give life, Who is our life, and hence is called a “vivifying Spirit (breath” (1 Cor 15:45) – the life-giver of the world—discerning as well that this stupendous work of vivifying a dead race is entirely of God, and has nothing to do with the penalty for sin, any more than it has with the reward for good works – we shall cease talking about “conditions” of salvation. 

“Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind for life’s justifying.  For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just” (Rom. 5:18,19). 

Every passing hour brings man nearer to his final goal, which is immutably settled in the will of God.  If it were not so, everything would be uncertain; if the final outcome were contingent, there could be no certainty as to what it would be.  It might be chaos instead of a perfected consummation.  When we know that God determines both the first and the last, then we can look upon all things intermediate with perfect trust and composure.  Think you that God would make the ultimate results of Hs purpose – His “purpose of the eons which He makes in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11) – depend upon weak, foolish mortals? – place the infinite in the hands of the finite?  Of course not!  The wisdom of God is not so foolish; God alone determines eternity. 

It makes all the difference in the world whether we consider God’s work as having been completed in Eden, and then upset by the Adversary, or whether we see that this work only began there, that Adam’s sin was part of that work, and that redemption, resurrection, judgment, punishment, are simply steps and stages in the same creative process. 

According to current ideas the “fall” was an “accident,” a mishap to God no less than man, and redemption is then degraded to the level of a makeshift expedient – a “scheme” as it is often called – to repair damages.  Such a view makes God to be someone just like us, a being subject to accident and failure, instead of the One Who is operating all according to the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11).  Surely, no thoughtful, enlightened person can entertain ideas so derogatory to God’s character. 

God’s work began with creation; the “fall” was a step in the same process; and, all the results of that step, up to the consummation, are further stages in the same process.  God’s Purpose, Vladimir Gelesnoff, Unsearchable Riches, September 2010