Relentlessly we have maintained the doctrine of the particular atonement. And rightly so, for it is just as relentlessly being attacked in these present days. It should not be necessary in Reformed circles to have to prove that Christ, according to the intention of God’s decrees, died, not for all, but only for the elect. But it has often become, and gradually more often becomes, necessary to have to maintain that redemption is particular. And therefore we with unabated force have to maintain that the blood of the cross went no further and was intended to reach no further than “them whom the Father had given” Him.
But now, while doing this, we must not go about setting the redemption certain limits which are foreign to Scripture. To limit the reconciliation through the blood of the cross to the elect is certainly Scriptural. . . . provided this limit is set to oppose Arminianism, Universalism, and its kindred errors. But, having successfully opposed these errors, we ought not to tarry at these limits, thinking that the reconciliation of the cross affects only men and leaves all the rest of creation untouched. For then our view is too narrow in scope.
Not infrequently the discourse and confession of our Reformed people betray that the cross to them has significance only for the elect mankind. They conceive of heaven afterwards as being the ingathering of the church, her redemption and glorification, and there they let it. Reconciliation affects the church, nothing more. And this is not as it should be.
That the reconciliation has for its central object the redemption and the future glorification of the church is, of course, true. Scripture continually sets that up ahead. And that is as it should be, for the salvation and redemption of fallen and elect mankind is the crown of the praise of His grace. Man, moreover, is crown also of creation. But the redemption of man must not be taken to exclude the redemption of creation as a whole. Rather we ought to see that redemption of man includes the redemption of all creation. In fact, Scripture teaches us in more than one passage that the blood of the cross was intended not only to redeem fallen, elect mankind, but that it was intended also as a Reconciliation of ALL THINGS, both in heaven and upon the earth.
Shall creation become the prey of Satan? Shall we conceive of it so that, after sin entered the world and Satan had gained the mastery of man, creation falls into the hands of Satan? Or will creation, organic creation, afterwards be forever destroyed? Did God create all things to use them for a season and afterwards to destroy them forever? Shall a part, a great and important part, of His creation fall?
Nay, reconciliation redeems centrally the church, but together with the church, through Christ, also ALL THINGS shall be lifted out of the ruin and chaos of sin into the glorious state of eternity. Hence, when thinking of the blood of the cross and the final restitution, we must be conscious of the far-reaching plan of our God, to “gather together in Christ” not only the church (of both dispensations, Jew and Gentile) but also to gather together into Christ ALL THINGS, both the things in heaven and upon the earth (Eph. 1:10). In what form it will appear afterwards and how creation will stand there then is beyond the scope of this present article. This we know, however, that there will one time be a new heaven and a new earth. And all this is realized through the blood of the reconciliation of the cross.
This is taught us in Scripture. It is taught us by inference first.
First then we are led to infer a restitution of ALL THINGS from the headship and kingship of the first Adam. Adam in perfection stood as head and king of creation. In him creation reached its high purpose, for through him creation lay as it were in God’s bosom praising and glorifying him. In Adam creation was one grand unity, and in that unity it had peace and harmony. Adam had dominion over all, and with it all he served God. But sin entered the world. Adam went down under the curse of sin. And creation went with him into the ruin of sin. There comes, however, the Second Adam, King of all things, Head and Lord of all. All things are put under His feet (Ps. 8, Heb. 2). Through His redemptive work man is raised out of the curse and chaos of sin into the liberty of grace. And shall not then creation with Him be likewise lifted up? If the relation between man and all things is such that with man it must fall, shall not then the relation be that with man it shall also be raised up into glory?
We are likewise led to infer a cosmic redemption from God’s dealing with Noah. Into the ark of salvation went man, but also all creation was there represented. It says: every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth went into the ark. Besides that, the covenant established with Noah is plainly of cosmic embrace. For God sets up His covenant (the everlasting covenant) with Noah, but, says God to him, “and with every living creature that is WITH you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and every beast.” A little further it says, “All that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.” And again it speaks of “every living creature of all flesh.” Plainly showing how the creation was sharing with man. Now it is true that this covenant had a significance for the present, but in this covenant there lies also the prophecy of the restitution of all things.
Both the above inferences, however, become the more permissible when we view two others. The one is that well-known passage from the book of Romans, chapter 8:20, 21, where it says that “the creature was made subject to vanity. . . .IN HOPE, because the creature itself also shall be delivered. . . .into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Here it is shown that the creature shall certainly be delivered, but it is also evident from this passage that the creature itself has this hope. As we see creation it lies under the curse, but we must not forget that it lies there “in hope.” Of the natural man, the wicked, it may truly be said that he is without hope because he is without God in this world. But that is not true of creation. It has hope. And the object of its hope is the deliverance, the future glory of the sons of God. Again evident that creation will enter glory with man.
The other inference is in the book of Revelation, the panorama of the final restitution as it passes before the eyes of John upon the isle of Patmos. In the very outset of the scene (chap. 4), John sees the “four beasts” or rather the four living creatures. John sees them standing around the throne. Again he sees them standing with the four and twenty elders. Again he sees them singing and rejoicing with that glad refrain of “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” Once more in chapter 5 after the conquering Lion of Judah’s tribe has taken that seven-sealed book, and to the amazement of all has opened it, we hear heaven reverberate with applause. And in the group of them applauding we see the four and twenty elders, we see the many angels, we see the four beasts. But, coming to vs. 13, we find among them also “every creature in heaven and earth and under the earth,” all giving praise and glory to God. From this passage it is evident that in that final chorus all creation is present, all giving praise and glory to God. The four and twenty elders in the fore and all creation with them, round about the throne, praising and glorifying God.
We have, however, not only these inferences. We have also direct references to this matter. One you have in Eph. 1:10, where Paul declares the mystery of grace to the Ephesians and tells them that it was God’s purpose to gather together in Christ, all things, both the things which are in heaven and the things upon the earth. If through the first Adam all plunged into ruin and if in him it slid down into destruction, in the Second Adam all things shall be united into one grand and glorious whole. And this gathering together takes place, says Paul, “IN CHRIST,” i.e. in the sphere of the redemptive work of the Christ, the Servant of God. The reconciliation of Christ affects therefore not only the redemption of the elect, but also the restitution of ALL THINGS. The other we have in Col. 1:20, where Paul is speaking of the pre-eminence of Christ, the Head of the church. When speaking of the blood of atonement, Paul says, “by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.” God, says Paul, reconciled all things unto Himself, through the blood of Christ, and this reconciliation effects, not only elect, fallen mankind, but affects “things,” all things, everything in heaven and earth. And when it speaks of heaven and earth, it refers to the totality of the works of God’s hands, all creation therefore.
Hence, when speaking of the reconciliation of the blood of Christ, we must be conscious of the far reaching effect of that blood. Through the sin of Adam all creation went down under the curse of the righteous God. For man’s sake it is subject to vanity. Because of man it bears a relation toward God of wrath. Creation has become vanity because of sin. It no longer reaches its purpose because of sin. The cross of Jesus Christ makes peace, the peace of reconciliation. God reconciles the world unto Himself, secs that world before Him in a relation of love and peace, so that He can once again look down in favor upon that work of His hands. Redeemed man is once again king of the creation, and with man it shall enter into the glorious liberty of the children of God. And having entered into that liberty, all creation shall praise and glorify Him unto all eternity.
And the center of all things is the cross of Christ Jesus.
The cause of all things is, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”
That shall be the world without end, the world to come, the world God was, in Christ, reconciling unto Himself.