It is especially at this time of year that our thoughts turn to the future. As the old and well marked calendar is replaced by a new one, sporting an unfamiliar scene, we consider the things which may come upon us in the coming year. Perhaps it is the sudden and abrupt change from the old to the new that is to blame for this. Even as a sigh expresses the thankfulness that all has gone well in the past, our souls are gripped with fear regarding the future, and various questions of what lies ahead flood the soul. Though we have arrived at the middle of this first month of the new year, reminiscences of the old and questions about the new still linger in our minds.
The future is nebulous. The future is full of all kinds of uncertainties. And though we often attempt to peer into the darkness of the future, philosophizing and rationalizing about it, the questions about the future remain to a large degree, unanswered. Even an objective analysis of the past combined with a careful projection concerning the future cannot unveil the future.
This must never become a reason for the child of God to be distraught. I know that this is the tendency of the world. The world is very anxious regarding the future. They would much like to have the ability of prophetic prediction. Peering into a crystal ball, reading tea leaves or the palm of one’s hand, as well as the whole craze of astrology, are only a few signs of this. But we as children of God must exclaim, “Thanks be to God.” We must see His inscrutable wisdom even in this, that He has hidden from us the future. Certainly this can never be proclaimed a mistake! Most certainly our God, Who is characterized by divine wisdom, has veiled the future for us according to His all-wise purpose.
The fact that the future belongs to the realm of those things which are hidden, finds its very establishment in the perfection of God’s creation. For when we speak about the future we are dealing with the concept of time, and time is a creature of God. Time is an inherent characteristic of the whole of God’s creation. In the act of creating, God gave a distinct and. separate existence to those things which were eternally in His counsel. That particular distinction of the creative act is the characteristic of time and space. For our purposes, we are interested only in the former. The whole creation is ruled by time. Whether we speak of things animate or inanimate, time affects them all. Wood rots, metal corrodes, chemical elements have half-lives and wrinkles mark our faces. In distinction from the immutable Creator, all things and creatures are mutable. We are constantly changing and becoming. I speak of the way I was, the way I am at the moment, and the way I will be. The past, present. and future are very real segments of time for us.
Not only has God, in His perfection and wisdom, characterized the creation by time, but He has also withheld from the rational, moral creature the capabilities of analyzing the future. That which pertains to the future lies beyond our grasp. Our memories and history books facilitate the recollection of events which belong to the past. We are able to live and act in the present. But the future is beyond our reach.
To the future, therefore, belongs those things which are providentially hidden from view. The future is expressive of things which must yet come to pass, a time subsequent to the present. To the future belongs those things which as yet are shut up in God’s counsel, to be executed before the teleological end of history. To that portion of time belongs speculation and conjecture.
It is the very nature of man to delve into that future. According to the nature of man, he desires to secure for himself the future. Man hates uncertainty. It is revolting to him to think upon things over which he has no direct control, the things which point him to his finite characteristic. The whole of the world illustrates that this is the case. Mankind will not rest until it can secure for itself a prosperous future. Man wants to secure world peace. We need hardly be reminded that today’s “peace-makers” are heralded as heroes, though they seek after a false peace. They who make achievements in procuring methods to perpetuate earthly life are hailed because man wants to be certain about his life and health tomorrow. And, in as far as the great ones of this earth have fallen short of their aims, man buys for himself security for his possessions, health and life itself. As people of God, we must be careful so as not to be swept along with this carnal craving after security. It is man by nature who so strives. Man who stands outside the sphere of God’s particular grace stands in the midst of this world by himself. He has no god because he rejects His Christ! He stands in his own sinful pride professing to be his own god. And in conformity with this, he thinks to be the master of his fate. But we rejoice in quite a different truth! We are not without God in this world, but we are the children of God for–Christ’s sake. We confess the ever beautiful truth of Lord’s Day 10, that ” . . . we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father. . .” He will providentially care for us even in regard to the very minutest detail. So the Scriptures assure us, that not even one hair can fall from our heads except it be in accordance with His will. That fatherly care also applies to the future. As the uncertainties of this pilgrim journey come upon us, as fear grips the soul and questions storm the mind, then we rejoice with the Psalmist, “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee.” (Ps. 56:3)
He is the eternal God. Time is in His hand. The future is past! How is that so? In the first place, because all things are finished in God’s counsel. In God’s counsel appears not only the alpha but also the omega of history and time as we know it. And certainly from the viewpoint of the Almighty and Eternal One, every future as well as past event of history stands fixed. Not, you understand, as if God’s determinate counsel is stagnant, for He is the decreeing God. But we can never interject the aspect of time into the Eternal. He sees the end from the beginning. There is no future with the “I am.” But in the second place, and this is more to the point of this article, though essentially no different, all time is comprehended in Christ. We are referring to the concept of the “fulness of time.” Let us consider this closely.
This particular concept is deep and not without variation in meaning. It is not our purpose to enter into the sundry arguments of exegesis, but simply to point out the central significance of Christ from a historical viewpoint. After all, we are dealing with time and specifically the future. The apostle Paul uses the phrase “fullness of time” in the two familiar passages of Ephesians 1:10 and Galatians 4:4. In the latter, his point is that Christ made His appearance in the flesh when the old dispensational era came to a close. That is to say: Christ fulfilled, made full, the dispensation of the law. Prior to Christ, Israel was under the yoke of the schoolmaster who led them to Christ. In Ephesians Paul speaks of the fullness of time as being the era of the new dispensation in which God will gather all things together in Christ. We may combine these two meanings and note that there is no history that stands in separation from Christ. All of history, as the execution of God’s counsel, finds its summation in the cross and resurrection of Christ as He stands at the very center of that counsel. The result is that every moment, as well as its content or happening, is completed in Christ from a principle viewpoint.
But what does this mean concretely? This, that every historical happening or event is for the wellbeing and benefit of Christ. Oh, but there is more! For Christ is the Anointed One commissioned to stand at the head of His people. Paul tells us that He is the head and we the body. We are Christ’s! Then it becomes clear to us. History from its alpha to its omega has but one function and purpose and that is to be the stage upon which God saves unto Himself a people, along the way of sin and grace. The present and past serve that purpose, but so will the future. Of that we can be certain.
We need not live with fear and trepidation in our souls. We may not! Do not misunderstand; there is a correct concern regarding proper provision for the future. But this may never turn into worry and anxiety! This is sinful. As God’s children, we must daily live by faith ever trusting in our heavenly Father. Never may providing for the future violate our faith. I’m afraid that all too often on our part, a full refrigerator and a good pension plan or insurance policy detract from our faith and trust. The whole way of our pilgrim’s journey unto the heavenly Canaan has been completed in Christ.
The future does not look bright. The anti-Christian kingdom is increasingly becoming realized. Questions flood the mind, fears grip the soul. What does the future hold? We don’t know. Yes! We do know. It holds a pilgrim’s journey upon which every obstacle has been conquered by our Lord. He was in all points tempted like as we will be. He died even as we must die. By the grace of God in Christ we will traverse the future until we receive the crown of glory. We do not walk in fear, but in His fear!