The Cross & the Ages to Come by G. Campbell Morgan - Part I
As the Judgment came unto all men, even so the free gift came unto all men. Romans 5:18-19
"Through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His Cross; through Him, I say, whether things upon earth or things in the heavens." [Colossian 1:20]
The sphere of reconciliation is declared - "all things ... upon earth or things in the heavens." Describing the glory of Christ in creation the apostle declares -- "In Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth." But when he tells of reconciliation, it is in the opposite order: "things on earth and things in the heavens." The creative order was that of heavens first -- the reconciling order, of earth first. It is not for us to discuss now as to whether this planet of ours is indeed the center of the universe. It is certain there are far reaching stretches of creation of which we know nothing. It is enough at the moment to recognize the fact that, for the purpose of our apprehension of the meaning of life we are compelled to deal with the universe as circling about the earth on which we live. Recognizing necessity, the apostle shows that reconciliation begins here and later affects the heavens. That which demands reconciliation is here, but that which is here exert its influence to the utmost bound of the creation of God. [Hebrews 9:23 and context.]
All Things In The Heavens and Earth
This conception of the world at once lifts it and our theme into highest dignity and vastest importance. If we can grasp it, it will deliver us from all mean thinking about our own lives, our own sin, our own redemption.
The sphere of reconciliation is first that of "things on earth." That is not, however, the phrase which startles us most, but "things in the heavens." This all-inclusive term has reference first to angels - intelligences described elsewhere as "thrones, dominions, principalities, powers." These are included in the reconciliation Christ wrought on His cross.
Far Reaching Realms, At The Center; The Cross
The conception is a remarkable recognition of the cosmic unity of the universe. Man is seen at the center. Beyond are the far-reaching realms which he is incapable of understanding during his earth-life. At the center of all things Paul sees the CROSS. He declares that by that cross God reconciles all things [lit. "The all"] unto Himself. Yet the phrase "things in the heavens" takes us one startling step further. The sphere of reconciliation is not only man, -- not only the created beings in the heavens above him, -- it is that of the very Being of God. Remember the words of the Psalmist -- "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Omitting for a moment the fact that they have met and kissed, let us consider them separately. They all exist in the nature of God. If we reverently think of God as apart from the mystery of evil, we recognize the perfect harmony of these: mercy, the tenderness bending over in love: truth; which is uprightness, stable, and builds: righteousness, which is a straight line without deviation; peace, which is absolute safety. All these coexist in the nature of God.
Breaking Up Of Harmony
The introduction in to the universe of the principle of sin breaks up the harmony of these, and there is the necessity of reconciling within the very being of God. He is a God of truth. In His universe a being violates truth. How is it possible for Him to bend in tenderness and love over such a one whose action threatens the stability of the universe? God is the God of righteousness of that which cannot deviate from absolute rectitude. The introduction into the presence of essential righteousness of that which contradicts it must make peace impossible. It is not by the caprice of a God who is a despot, but because of the necessity of the essential facts of His Being, that, the moment sin existed in the universe there was need for reconciliation, if mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, were to meet and kiss each other.
The Nature of The Reconciliation, The Healing Of The Wound, The Closing Of The Breach
The consideration of the suggested sphere of reconciliation leads immediately to our second line of thought, -- that of the nature of reconciliation. This is expressed in the words "unto Himself," or more literally, with reference to Himself. Here again we begin on the lowest level -- "things on earth." What is the nature of the reconciliation necessary to the restoration of order? Fallen man misrepresents God, and "science governs nature." The results? Chaos, instead of cosmos. In the words of the prayer Jesus gave to His disciples, the supreme thing is that His name be hallowed. His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as in heaven. The reconciliation here is restoration to the government of God. The healing of the wound, the closing of the breach, the gathering into one of all that has been scattered. [Ephesians 1:10]
Reconciliation Of The Heavens
What then is the reconciliation necessary for the heavens? Peter says "the angels desire to peer in to the sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow." Bending over the worlds, they saw sin and suffering culminating in the experience of Christ. We must ever think of angels as finite; of all the principalities and powers, as limited. While loyal to the government of God, servng with perfect satisfction, they watch the processes among men without foreknowledge of the issue. Their peering into these things was in the nature of inquiry. I am not suggesting there was even incipient rebellion in these high places. There was surely an expectation that there would be some explanation of the mystery of that which they recognize as a rupture in the nature of God, resulting from the presence of sin in the universe. Angels need an answer to their inquiry.
Continuing Activity Of Mercy and Truth
Again, reverently, we take a further step. Reconciliation, in order to completeness, must be such that, in the BEING of God there shall be possible the continued activity of Mercy and Truth, Righteousness and Peace, so that violence be done to none.
All this leads us finally to the consideration of the supply of the reconciliation which is revealed in His words, "Peace through the blood of His Cross." The Gnostic teachers were suggesting the necessity for the inter-mediation of angels. They were declaring the need for ascetic practices, urging voluntary humility, and even the worship of angels. Paul, recognizing the necessity for reconciliation, not merely as between man and God, but throughout the universe, in the heavens as well as the earth, declares that it is provided in "the blood of His Cross."
Not Just A Roman Gibbet!
In this connection it is necessary to repeat a warning and utter a solemn protest against the idea that when we speak of the Cross, we refer only to a Roman gibbet, and to the death of a Man thereon. If He of the Cross were Man only, then all this writing of the Apostle is not only foolish, but vile dreaming, mirage, and nightmare; a delusion and a snare. On the other hand, if He of the Cross be the Image of the Invisible God, the original Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the Firstborn out of the mystery of death into life, then in the presence of His Cross I begin to tremble, and yet to believe the declaration that through that Cross He reconciles all things [ta panta -- the universe] unto Himself upon the earth and in the heavens.
Through that Cross there is first the reconciliation of things upon the earth. This is established first by the creation of peace with God in the case of man, and then in the peace of God througout the order over which redeemed man reigns. The process is a slow one as mortals count time. The travail is an agony, the conflict is unto death, but the victory is assured; and that victory is the reconciliation of all things upon the earth, first of man to God, and then of the whole creation to man in that peace of God which issues from the establishment of His throne, and the right relation thereto of all the kingdom.