John A. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
A truth that gives the child of God boundless comfort, when he takes hold of it and rests upon it, is what we find in Psalm 73:24. There Asapth writes: “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory.” No matter what happens to us, that truth assures us that all is well; for it speaks of the counsel of the almighty, sovereign, unchangeable and merciful God of our salvation. Nothing will happen that is not in that eternal counsel. He is the I AM, Who never changes His mind and rules every inanimate as well as animate creature, ordering every step of every angel and man, and using every grain of sand and most minute disease germ to fulfill His counsel. And He has a mercy that assures us that after His counsel is fulfilled, as far as this present creation is concerned, we will most assuredly reach the everlasting glory and blessedness which in that counsel He decreed to give us.
However, there are instances in Scripture which seem, but only seem, to deny this fact. In Proverbs 1:25we read: “But ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.” But read on and take hold of the next verse where he writes: “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.” And in Proverbs 19:21 Solomon writes: “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”
That truth we had better hold on to tightly, not only in our miseries and afflictions but also when we read God’s word and find in it events that seem to deny the fact that before He created the world, God had an unchangeable counsel which is being kept in every detail every moment of time. And that surely must be kept in mind when we consider what happened in the day of shadows.
Yes, the whole creation of heaven and earth and all that they contain came forth exactly as God had eternally decreed it to be. And in Genesis 1:31 we read: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” With that we have no problem. But what do you say about what transpired and is recorded in Genesis 3? Satan tempted Adam and Eve, got them to rebel against God, and bring upon themselves the death God told them would come if they ate of the forbidden fruit.
We already called attention to the first creation in all its beauty as a shadow of the glorious and blessed creation that is coming in the day of Christ. However, there is a work of Satan that seems to have spoiled God’s work, and there is man’s sin that seems to say that man, as in Proverbs 1:25 quoted above, set at naught God’s counsel. Did not Satan and man then throw a monkey wrench into God’s work and force Him to begin a new work? Did they not make it necessary for God to send His own Son into our flesh and into hell in order to redeem us and bring forth a new creation which He could call very good? And is He not now fighting Satan, as he is striving to bring forth the antichrist, in order to keep His counsel and to fulfill it?
No, a thousand, thousand times, NO! It was in that counsel of God that Satan would fall into sin and take with him a large part of the angel world. It was in God’s eternal plan that Adam would listen to Satan, accept his lie as the truth, and bring the curse upon this earth. Things did not slip out of God’s hands. Satan tried to set at naught God’s counsel and seemed to succeed in making bad what God created and saw as very good at the end of the creation week. Instead, the truth of the matter is that God’s unchangeable counsel stood and that Satan’s “success” and man’s fall took place because God had it all planned exactly the way it took place.
This is plain from the fact that God created only one tree of life and placed it in a relatively small garden of Eden, and that the fall came before Eve conceived, and before a child began to grow within her that would not be born with a sinful nature. One tree of life would not be sufficient for the multitude of people that died in the flood. That relatively small garden of Eden which God brought forth could not hold hundreds of descendants of Adam. And had Eve conceived before that fall of Adam a guiltless, sinless people would have been on this earth. God had no intention to let that take place.
The question here, however, is whether the holy God could plan that unholy thing of Satan’s fall and spiritually-sinful attack upon man created in God’s image. Are we not accusing God of sinful thoughts when we say that in His eternal, unchangeable counsel He decreed and planned Satan’s sin of rebelling against God, and man’s sin of rejecting God’s word and believing Satan’s life? Are we not saying that God had sinful thoughts? If we plan something sinful, are we not sinning?
If we take the position—and we must—that God is almighty and sovereign, we cannot rightfully say that Satan, created as a holy angel, could overpower God and take away some of His sovereignty. God is never overpowered by a creature. Every creature depends completely upon God for every breath of life and existence. He was not by Satan robbed of His right to rule, but always has complete control over every creature, and eternally determined all their actions. He made no mistake when He created Satan, and was not overpowered by him. His counsel was not overthrown by Satan.
We must remember what we considered last time. We must keep before our minds the fact that our covenant God had eternally in His heart and mind the coming kingdom of heaven of which the first creation was a shadow; and that Adam, created in the image of God, was a shadow of the covenant fellowship that we will have with God in the new creation. Satan’s fall and victory over Adam, and man’s fall in Adam were designed and necessary for the coming of Christ, for His cross, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, and the realization of His Kingdom of Heaven that will soon be here. This we ought to see,consider, and appreciate to see the blessedness of God’s eternal, unchangeable counsel.
Let us be on our guard lest we insult and malign God. He did not sin by decreeing sin in His eternal, holy counsel. Let us first of all take hold of the fact that He is God, and that it is sinful on our part to accuse Him of sin. We may call those who go contrary to His holy will sinners. That we must do. But if we say that He might not decree the sin of Satan, and of mankind through Satan’s clever and crafty temptation, we are raising ourselves (in our minds) above Him and telling Him what He may and may not do.
We may decide to submit to some very painful surgery so that we may be healed from a disease that without surgery would give us far more agony and only a few more years of life. A wife may be willing to suffer the discomforts and severe pains of the travail of childbirth in order to have a child of her own from God’s hand. Much more the sovereign God may decree that which is against His holy will, but will realize a covenant life with man that is closer than the one in which he was created, and one in which he could not be created without God Himself coming into our flesh and giving us the spiritual bodies of which we read in I Corinthians 15:42-49. Remember that this first creation with its glory was a shadow of what is coming when Christ returns. And it was a stepping stone to the more glorious kingdom with a richer covenant fellowship with God. God hates sin, but He may decree it for a richer glory which He intends to realize through Christ and His cross. And His goal is a man, made in His own image, that has the life of which we read in I John 3:9. There John writes: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
God created Adam as one able not to sin, a man ethically and morally clean. But sovereignly He decreed that man would become not able not to sin, and to send His Son, Who would through His perfect obedience and suffering of the hellish agonies, receive the right to make man not able to sin. Deny God the right to do this; malign , and insult Him with that idea, and we sin. For then we deny Him His sovereignty and take the position that we are above Him as His judge, while actually He is our Judge Who may, as we read in Isaiah 43:21, form (in the way of the fall of man and salvation in Christ) for Himself a people that shall show forth His praises. Do not forget that fact. God’s purpose behind Satan’s fall and man’s spiritual death is that a people may be formed through whom His glory shines more richly in praise concerning His grace in Christ. Perfect Adam could not do that. He was created able not to sin; but he could not thank God the way he will do in that new creation of which the things in the first creation were a shadow. And we with him, in that grace of God, will praise God more richly than righteous Adam could, for the gift of salvation that Adam could not know.
More of this will, the Lord willing, be treated next time, but let us not fail to appreciate the fact that Satan’s attack upon Adam and Eve, his vile deed of bringing them to an act that would bring death upon them, was a shadow of the cross of Christ. Satan could not and did not have this in mind yet; but his attempt to get man to sin against God and to hate Him rather than love Him was a shadow of what he would do when God Himself came into our flesh. It was not Satan’s shadow. It was God’s shadow of things to come. Here again we ought to take hold of that truth in Proverbs 19:21, namely, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” We can in this verse substitute the word Satan for the word man. Satan’s devices do not keep God from realizing all in His eternal counsel. God uses him for the realization of His counsel. And though he does not know it, he is God’s tool for the realization of that kingdom of heaven of which the first creation was a shadow.
Some like to maintain a covenant of works, insisting that Adam could have reached that Kingdom of Heaven by remaining sinless for a given time. How long that time would be they cannot say, for Scripture nowhere speaks of a covenant of works, and does not set a time during which Adam had to walk a sinless life to reach a higher glory than that in which he was created. It is true that God did tell Adam he would die the day he sinned. It is true that if he walked in love to God, he would continue in that life in the garden of Eden. But it is not true that God promised Adam higher glory if he continued in a sinless life. No, that glory in the first creation was a shadow of what we are going to receive in Christ.
God made no covenant of works with Adam. He eternally intended as well as unchangeably determined to send His Son into that flesh of Adam in order to bring us to a higher glory than Adam was given. And even then, Adam was created a little lower than the angels and will in Christ be above the angels. Are they not in Hebrews 1:14 called our ministering spirits? And do we not in the preceding verse read, “But to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool”? We get above the angels, not through a covenant of works, but through the covenant of grace in Christ. God’s covenant is by His almighty power realized. He did not make a covenant of works that was not kept.
Satan, not God, suggested a covenant of works. He presented to Adam and Eve the possibility of reaching a higher level of glory by sinning against God. And the covenant of grace in Christ was no repair work, made necessary because of Satan’s victory over man. Not for one split second did Satan keep God from bringing man where He eternally intended to have him: in a covenant life of far more intimate fellowship and glory.
The covenant relationship Adam enjoyed before he fell was a shadow of the richer fellowship we will have in Christ. And in His mercy, but also in His inscrutable wisdom and almighty power, God used Satan for the realization of His covenant of grace. Satan did not frustrate Got for one split second. God used him to prepare the way for His Son to come in our flesh and bring into being that indescribably wonderful covenant fellowship of which the one in which man was created was but a shadow. .God’s love for those whom He eternally chose in His Son used Satan so that in Christ He might lift us to a higher, everlasting glory.
Yes, Satan and sin serve God’s counsel, and do not in any way delay or disturb the fulfillment of it.