What in the World is Happening – Part 2

Isaiah 14:12-14

by Paul George

In part 1 of the series, “What in the World is Happening,” we focused on God’s eternal plan for creation. In this article, we will examine Satan’s opposition to God’s plan. Satan’s opposition began before creation of the heavens and earth. Satan and the angels existed before the creation of the world. How do we know this? The angels witnessed creation and rejoiced (Job 38:4-7). Job was not present at creation. No man was, but the angels were. In Genesis 3, Satan is present in the garden, but he is already fallen. Two Old Testament passages, Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, deserve solemn reading as they graphically portray Satan’s fall.

Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, contain important information about Satan which is helpful in understanding his activities throughout history. He is a created being, who was without sin in the beginning (Ezekiel 28:15). He is an angel, a cherub (Ezekiel 28:16). He was created wise, beautiful, and powerful. His beauty, splendor, and power led to his downfall, because he did not receive these as a gift from God. Instead, he took pride in what he was given. Ambition grew in the soil of pride, and Satan was no longer content with what he had. He wanted more. He wanted that which rightly belonged to God. Because of this, he was cast down, and his position was taken from him.

The one who wanted to be “like God,” was cast down because of his pride and ambition (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:2, 9). He convinces Eve that disobedience to God’s command will make her “like God” (Genesis 3:5). Satan begins with a question, raising doubts about the goodness of God, and ending with an absolute denial of God’s words that imply that God is a liar. He changes Eve’s view of God. She sees God as one who withholds what is good from man, for His own selfish reasons. In the final analysis, Satan seems to achieve a total success by bringing about in men the same rebellion for which he was condemned. Satan approaches Eve as an ally, but in the end, he is exposed as her adversary. The fall of man, and its resulting curses, is a direct result of Satan’s deception.

The first reference to Satan in the Bible is found in First Chronicles chapter 21 verse 1; The second reference is found in Job chapter 1 verse 6; the third in Job chapter 2 verse 1; the fourth in Psalm 109 verse 6 and fifth in Zechariah chapter 3 verse 1.

While Job is not among the very first books of the Bible, many scholars believe Job lived during the patriarchal times, before Moses. While Satan may not be prominent in the Old Testament as a whole, he is introduced as God’s enemy and man’s adversary. He is counted among the “sons of God, angels. He is free to go about the earth and has access to heaven and the throne of God. He acknowledges God’s authority, but does not respect it or fully submit to it. Satan knows he cannot afflict Job without God’s permission. He acknowledges that for him to afflict Job is ultimately for God to afflict him (Job 1:11; 2:5) Satan’s words reveal his belief that men only serve God when it serves their own fleshly interests, and that they will turn from God when suffering comes into their lives. Satan cannot imagine anyone worshipping God for who He is, rather than for what He gives. He thinks men must be bribed to worship and to serve God.

Satan’s efforts produced the opposite of what he hoped to achieve by inflicting Job with adversity and suffering. While Satan is rebellious toward God and an adversary of Job, the suffering ultimately resulted in a deepening of Job’s faith and brought greater blessings to Job. Job’s final condition is far better than his first. In spite of and because of Satan’s opposition, Job is blessed, and Satan’s purpose frustrated. In the end, Satan learns nothing and gains nothing. God gained a more intimate relationship with Job, an opportunity to instruct the angels, and an occasion to teach us about Satan, the spiritual war, and the role of suffering in the life of a child of God.

As described in the Book of Job, what happened through Satan’s opposition to God and inflicting suffering upon Job is exactly what always happens in the plan of God. Satan is allowed to manifest his rebellion and bring about that which he supposes will hinder God’s people and His plan. Satan is allowed to do only that which God has planned for His glory and our good. He does nothing apart from divine permission. He does nothing contrary to God’s plan. Through Satan’s opposition, God’s purposes are fulfilled, and Satan’s purposes are frustrated. In spite of his failures, Satan never learns. Instead, he continues his rebellion.

The account in 1 Chronicles informs us of Satan’s role in the numbering of Israel’s men. It also tells us Satan worked through David and that his purpose was to oppose Israel.

In one of his visions, Zechariah saw “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’” (Zechariah 3:1-2).

While these account add little to what we know about Satan, they underscores an important fact: Satan is the untiring, unceasing adversary of God and of His people. He seeks power and recognition for himself, arrogantly resisting and rebelling against God. He is rebellious, evil, and cunning. He persists with his devious work. In his ambition and efforts to further his own position, he willingly sacrifices humanity and indeed all creation. He may approach us as an ally, but eventually he is unmasked as our adversary, a deadly foe.

Satan’s character and conduct do not change in the New Testament; they only intensify. Satan’s purpose is always the same: he seeks to exalt himself above God by opposing God and men. While his goals are always the same, his methods differ greatly. We see this in the way Satan opposed our Lord at the time of His first coming (Matthew 4:1-11).

Satan was “a son of God” and he rebelled against God and was cast down. In the wilderness, the issue was clear: Jesus’ son ship, thus the repeated challenge, “If you are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3, 6). In the past, Satan was quite successful in tempting men based on his own fallen perspective, ambitions, and values. Satan’s temptation of Jesus reveals much about himself, as well as something very important about our Lord. The temptations that found a responsive chord in the hearts of fallen men had no appeal to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Unlike Satan, Jesus was intent on doing the will of the Father. Jesus, unlike Satan, was willing to humble Himself, even to the point of death, to fulfill God’s purpose of providing the only means for man’s forgiveness and eternal life. Our Lord’s submission to the will of God was the basis for our Lord’s victory in the wilderness, as well as His victory at the cross over Satan, sin, and death.

Motivated by pride, Satan opposed Jesus, the Apostles, the first century church and the Gospel message. In these last days, Satan’s attack upon the character and nature of Jesus and the church has increased to the point where God will complete His plan for the removal of Satan, sin, and death from this earth. Only then will God’s cure for the curse be complete.

The Bible predicts and describes the defeat of Satan. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, Satan’s doom is implied in the taunting of the earthly kings of Babylon and Tyre. God spoke of Satan’s defeat in Genesis 3:15.  The Old Testament prophets provide more details concerning the “bruising of the heel” of the Seed who will bruise the head of the serpent (Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53).

Jesus spoke of Satan’s defeat during His earthly ministry, especially as the time of His death drew near. The apostles likewise spoke of Satan’s doom, seeing it as accomplished through the death of Christ, but still to be fully carried out fully in the future (Romans 16:20; 1 John 3:8). Satan’s downfall is described in the Book of Revelation in three major stages. The first phase of his final destruction begins with the termination his access to heaven and the throne of God (Revelation 12:7-11).  This “casting out” of Satan serves only to increase his anger and rebellion toward God which he now takes out on those who dwell on the earth. The period of great tribulation is set in motion. God’s wrath on sinful men is achieved through this angry outburst of Satan, and the world is judged for its sin.

After the time of great tribulation, our Lord returns to the earth as its King to establish His rule over all the earth for a period of 1,000 years. During this time, Satan is bound so that he can no longer oppose God or men (Revelation 20:1-6).

At the end of the 1,000-year reign, Satan is released for a time. He finds on the earth a large number of people, who prefer Satan’s reign to that of our Lord, and so a great and final battle is waged against Satan and those who have chosen to follow him. When Satan and his forces are defeated, he and all of his followers are judged and cast into the lake of fire, forever (Revelation 20:7-15).

The Good News 

Unlike Satan who is everyone’s adversary, Jesus is the sinner’s advocate. Jesus humbled Himself, resulting in redemption; Satan exalted himself, resulting in man’s sin. Jesus intercedes for us before God; Satan accuses us. Those who follow Jesus share in His reign; those who follow Satan share in his ruin. Those who follow Jesus become like Him; those who follow Satan become like him. Jesus is the truth; Satan the liar. Jesus sets free the slaves of Satan; Satan promises freedom but enslaves. Jesus is the only way to the Father; Satan turns men away from the Father. Jesus delivers His followers from eternal separation from the Father; the followers of Satan are eternally separated from the Father. The followers of Jesus submit to the will of the Father; the followers of Satan resist the will of the Father. Jesus is gracious and compassionate; Satan is cruel and sadistic. The Bible ends with an account of Satan’s final doom. Those who follow Satan share in his doom. Those who receive God’s grace in Christ share in His reign of righteousness.

Beyond this destiny-determining decision, there are other implications we must consider. We must never underestimate the power of Satan. Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 8 and 9).

The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord (2 Peter 2:9-11). It is troubling to hear Christians speak flippantly of Satan. Nowhere in Scripture is Satan a joking matter. Nowhere is he taken lightly. Nowhere in Scripture do we find men or women of God taking Satan on as though he were an easy match. I hear a great deal about “binding Satan” and other such actions, but I do not find these practices in the Bible. Let us remember that he is an angelic being with great power, though an enemy we must respect him as a deadly foe.

Second, we must not overestimate the power of Satan. Just as some do not take Satan seriously enough, others give him too much credit, often crediting Satan for every irritation or problem of life. Satan does not often bother with such matters, at least so far as Scripture speaks of him and his activities.

Satan has significant limitations. For example, he is limited to those activities consistent with God’s plan. Satan is not allowed to act in a way that actually alters God’s plan. Further, he is neither all knowing nor all-wise. Satan does have a vast demonic network and is therefore supplied with much information. However, he is still not omniscient. We have no evidence, for example, that he can read our minds, though he surely can hear our spoken words and prayers. Although he was created with great wisdom (Ezekiel 28:12), Satan is most certainly not wise. The Scriptures reveal that his perspective is now very warped. True, the Scriptures instruct us that Satan has not learned lessons from history or from God’s dealings, such as in the Book of Job. He persists at pressing on with his rebellion.

The Book of Proverbs often reminds us that wisdom is proportionate with humility. Likewise, arrogance is proportionate with folly (Proverbs 1:20-33; 3:5-7). Wisdom is also a result of the “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 9:10; 15:33). Wisdom comes from God; thus, those who reject and resist Him cannot be wise (Proverbs 21:30). Satan is intelligent. He is incredibly cunning; but he is not wise. Everything he thinks and does is from a mind and heart warped by pride and arrogance.

Third, nothing can hinder or frustrate God’s plan for the redemption of humanity.  The combined opposition of Satan and his host of fallen angels cannot frustrate the will of God.

Fourth, God has provided a way of escape from sins of pride and rebellion. We can be sure that Satan will tempt us in these very areas. In His grace, God has provided “a way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Pride is continually condemned in the Scriptures as sin. The Bible constantly emphasizes God’s grace and reminds us that nothing worth boasting about finds its source in us; instead, it is a gift from God.

Fifth, The Bible has been written to increase our ability to look behind the immediate source of circumstances to see the ultimate source. The kings of Babylon and Tyre were those who opposed God and His people. Behind these men was Satan, but there is a holy, righteous, and compassionate God, who is causing all things to work together for His glory and the good of His children.

We often assume adversity or difficulty come from Satan. This may or may not be true. Perhaps it has. Perhaps not. But if it has come from Satan, it has ultimately come from God. In the midst of his trials, Job was not aware that Satan was involved. For him, it did not matter. Job knew that God was sovereign, and thus whatever came his way came ultimately from the hand of God. Job’s problem was that he questioned the wisdom of God. Job’s great comfort came when he grasped that God is not only sovereign, but also wise and good.

Satan is out there. Sometimes we will know it. Sometimes we will not. However, the God of the universe is in complete control, using Satan, angels, kings, and sinful men to accomplish His plan. Satan’s might and power are great but not when compared with God’s power.

Satan’s names and designations tell us about the nature, character, and attributes of Satan. Most of these may be summarized as follows:

Satan [adversary] (1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:7, etc.) The Devil (Matthew 4;1; John 8:44, etc.) The Dragon (Revelation 20:2) The Serpent (Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 20:2) The Evil One (Matthew 6:13; 13:19, 38; 2 Thessalonians 3:3) The angel of the abyss (Revelation 9:11) Abaddon or Apollyon (Revelation 9:11) The accuser of our brethren (Revelation 12:10) The Adversary (1 Peter 5:8) Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24) Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15) The deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9) The great dragon (Revelation 12:9) The enemy (Matthew 13:28, 39) The evil one (Matthew 13:19, 38) The father of lies (John 8:44) The god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) The prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) The ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) The ancient serpent (Revelation 12:9) The tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5) Leviathan (Isaiah 27:1)

Satan’s nature, character, and attributes: 

An angel, a cherub (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:14 A son of God (Job 1:6; 2:1) A liar (John 8:44) A murderer (John 8:44) Cunning, crafty (Genesis 3:1) A hinderer (1 Thessalonians 2:18) A deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:3) One who takes advantage of others (2 Corinthians 2:10-11) A tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Corinthians 7:5) Evil (Matthew 13:19, 38) Arrogant (Job 2:4; Luke 22:31) A schemer (2 Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 6:11) A hypocrite (1 Timothy 4:2) Cruel and lacking any compassion (see Luke 13:10-17)

Satan’s goal is to promote himself and his glory by opposing God. In reality, just the opposite is happening. In God’s plan, Satan is bringing glory to God by his opposition.

Satan has considerable power, but he is not at all free. As we can see from Job 1 and 2, Satan can do nothing to Job apart from God’s permission. God permits Satan to do only that which is a part of His plan.

From all that we can discern from Scripture, Satan is intelligent but his perspective and thinking are warped by his own arrogance and ambition. He has a broad-based network of demons, which keep him well informed. Satan is not God, nor does he possess the attributes of God. He is powerful, but not all-powerful; He knows much, but he does not know all.

Satan’s weapons are the flesh and the world. Most often, Satan works indirectly, through these means. In addition, Satan employs fallen demons, unbelievers, and even the failures of the saints, like Peter (Matthew 16:23). There are other beings, such as the two beasts of Revelation 13 and the false prophet (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10).

Satan’s power comes from God’s divine providence that allows him to do what he does. In addition, Satan has the power and authority rendered to him by the fallen angels, demons, who have followed him in rebellion. Further, Satan has power to affect men. This comes through the internal “pull” of the flesh and through the external “push” of the world.

What is Satan’s destiny? Defeat and doom. His downfall was first pronounced in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. It was promised in Genesis 3:15. Jesus spoke of his defeat in John 16:11. The Lord Jesus Christ, specifically through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, defeats him. He is overcome at the cross, but his full and final defeat is future (Romans 16:20). Through the preaching of the gospel and personal faith in Christ, men are being delivered from Satan’s grasp and granted eternal life (Acts 26:18; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 2:9). Sometime in the future Satan will be cast out of heaven, and his anger toward God and men will be intensified in its expression toward men in the limited time he has remaining (Revelation 12:1-12). Just before the 1000-year reign of our Lord, Satan will be bound, so that he cannot oppose men or God (Revelation 20:1-6). After 1000 years of living under God’s rule, Satan will be released for a time, and many will choose to follow him. This leads to a final battle between Satan and his followers and God and His saints (Revelation 20:7-9). Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire forever, along with all who have followed him (Revelation 20:10-15).

Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of darkness. That kingdom includes every person who has not trusted in Christ. The “father” of the unbeliever is the Devil. His followers behave as he does (John 8:44). Whether men realize it or not, they are under his control, and they do his bidding. Often his control comes indirectly through the world or the flesh. Men may think they are free, but they are actually Satan’s slaves. Satan works hard to keep men from the truth–and from deliverance from him and his kingdom which comes through believing in Christ (Luke 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4).

Satan seeks to destroy the Christian (1 Peter 5:8). To do this, Satan seeks to distort the truth, to deceive the Christian, and ultimately to turn the Christian away from simple faith and obedience in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-5). Often, Satan will disguise himself or his teaching as coming from a true believer as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15). He is a master of disguise, a creature with many faces.

Let us pray: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

What in the World is Happening – Part 1

Isaiah 46:3-11

by Paul George

Jesus warned about “straining gnats and swallowing camels” (Matthew 23:24). By this, He was referring to a fixation on particular details of the Law, while losing sight of the purposes of the Law. Many of us get “lost in the details of Scripture,” and lose sight of what God is doing in this world. The question,” What in the World is Happening” is answered in God’s eternal plan for the creation of the universe and humanity which He is carrying out in history.

We have all asked the question, “What in the world is going on?” We ask this question when we perceive that what is happening does not seem to square with our understanding of how things are supposed to be. When Job’s life seemed to crumble, his family, flocks and wealth suddenly snatched from him he asked God for an explanation of what was going on in his world. Habakkuk also questioned what God was doing when God informed him that He was about to chastise Judah by means of the cruel and wicked Chaldeans.

Job and Habakkuk needed to learn the lesson we need to learn in this trying age. God’s plan for creation is a good plan. It is good in a functional sense, because the plan is certain to work, producing the ends for which it was ordained. Ultimately, it is good because it is God’s plan.

When Jesus came to earth, Mary pondered many things in her heart that she did not understand concerning the coming of the Messiah. In the beginning, the disciple’s hearts were filled with joy and excitement, when Jesus began to speak of His rejection, suffering, and death, the disciples were baffled. They probably asked themselves, “What in the world is going on?” How could the Messiah possibly speak of His own death? They did not understand God’s plan.  As the time of His crucifixion drew near, Jesus began to spell out more clearly details of the divine plan for creation. He drew their attention to the Old Testament prophecies, explaining how His rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection were a necessary part of God’s eternal plan. The disciples still did not understand. After His resurrection and before His ascension into heaven, Jesus finally opened their eyes to understand the plan of God, especially concerning His sacrificial death. On the road to Emmaus Jesus called the two disciples, “foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken.” He asked them, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27).

The foundation for God’s plan for the universe and humanity. 

Because God is the Creator, He is the rightful owner of all creation. As the rightful owner, God has the right to do with His creation as He wishes. As Creator God also has the freedom to design and fashion His creation in a way that would best serve His purposes. God, the Creator, is also the Sustainer of His creation. He is not distant and uninvolved with His creation; He is deeply involved in every aspect of its existence. He knows each of us intimately, including the number of hairs on our head and the thoughts of our hearts. He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29-30). He knows not only what will happen, but also what could happen. Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow (James 1:17). Human plans change, and they change frequently because of imperfection. Our imperfection causes changes to occur. God alone is perfect, and thus there is no need for Him to change.

Since God’s plans are perfect as well, they will not change either. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation (Psalm 33:11). Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand (Proverbs 19:21). “This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:26-27).

God’s plan is trustworthy 

The statements of the Second Person of the Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ, are consistent with the words of Scripture concerning God’s plan. Repeatedly Jesus indicated He was not pursuing His own plan but fulfilling the plan of the Father:

And it came about that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And when they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” And they did not understand the statement which He had made to them (Luke 2:46-50).

Jesus told the disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).

God’s plan reflects the will of God  

When our Lord spoke of the Father’s plan for all eternity, He spoke of it as the Father’s will. Likewise, when we speak of “God’s plan for creation” or of “God’s plan for the ages” we often refer to this as God’s will, and rightly so. However, this “will” of God must be distinguished from God’s eternal decree, God’s desire, God’s standard for humanity, and the permissive will of God. The eternal decree of God will surely happen and encompasses God’s desire, God’s standard for humanity and God’s permissive will. God’s desire refers to what is closest to God’s heart such as He is not willing that any one should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God’s standard for humanity is God’s will set down in the Scriptures as commands, standards, or principles which govern what we do or do not do. God’s permissive will include those events or actions of men that are, in and of themselves, sinful. They are contrary to God’s decree and to His standard for humanity. God used the sinful actions of Joseph’s brothers to bring the entire family of Jacob to Egypt (Genesis 15:12-16). He used the opposition of the scribes and Pharisees, the treachery of Judas, and the political cowardice of Herod and Pilate to bring about the sacrificial death of our Lord.

God’s plan is eternal 

God’s plan for the universe and humanity was established in eternity past, long before God created the heavens and the earth. It extends to eternity future when God’s kingdom will be established on the earth, and men will enjoy the eternal blessings of being in His presence, or the agony of eternal separation. The revelation of God’s plan in the Bible begins in the Garden of Eden. Because the Bible is addressed to men, the story of creation is the starting point.

God’s plan is infallible 

The plans of humans generally fail because we have overlooked some detail. Something unforeseen arises, and our plans collapse. This is because not every detail was taken into account. God’s plan is all-inclusive. It is based on God’s omniscience so that everything past, present, and future is taken into account. God’s omniscience includes all things that will actually occur, as well as all things that could possibly occur. God’s plan includes seemingly insignificant details. It excludes “good luck” or coincidences.

God’s plan also includes the creation of life, the design, and the destiny of men (Psalm 127; 139). It includes the calling of individuals to specific service (Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15). The plan has precise timing as well (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Daniel 9:2, 24-27; 12:11-12; Mark 1:15; 13:32-33; Luke 1:20; John 7:6).

The goal of God’s plan 

The goal of God’s plan is to bring glory to Him. To the Christian, the glory of God is our hope, “Through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2).

God’s plan does not change 

“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” (Hebrews 6:17-19).

The plan of God is certain: 

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation” (Psalm 33:11).

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).

“This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:26-27).

The assuring truth that God’s plan is certain is because it is God’s plan. This is based on the truth that God is all- knowing and all-powerful, that He is faithful to His promises, and that His glory is at stake. It is also based on the fact that God’s plan is eternal and all-inclusive.

The plan of God is complete, fully developed, and as good as done, from God’s point of view: “His works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3). From a human point of view, the plan is being revealed progressively through history and is only partially revealed. The Old Testament Law contains the outline of God’s plan. God’s plan could be seen in its initial phrase through the history of Israel. The Old Testament prophets persisted in calling Israel’s attention to God’s plan in the Law. They also added more detail to the plan that God had outlined in the Law. If the Law foretold of a Savior through the “seed” of Eve (Genesis 3:15), it was later revealed that this seed would be the offspring of David (2 Samuel 7) and also of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). The suffering of the Messiah is hinted at in Genesis 3;15 and is foreshadowed in the offering up of Isaac (Genesis 22) and in the rejection and suffering of Joseph (Genesis 37-50), as well as in the Passover (Exodus 12). It is further explained in the Psalms (16, 22) and Isaiah 53. The coming Messiah, who was at first understood to be a “son of man” is later described as the “Son of God” (Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:2). When the Lord Jesus came to the earth, suffered, died, and rose again, God’s plan for the Messiah’s first coming was fulfilled. The Gospels, along with the Epistles, thoroughly explain the plan of God for Messiah’s first coming.

God’s plan is a mystery  

God’s plan is a mystery because it is the product of the divine mind of God and not the finite mind of man. God’s plan  is a mystery because of the mysterious way in which God works, using sin to accomplish His good will, suffering to produce glory, death to bring about life, a mystery which fallen man cannot fathom apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

The outcome of God’s plan  

God’s plan is not only for His glory, but for the good of “those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). His plan is not for the “good” of those who rebel against Him and reject His plan. God’s plan has a purpose for both the saved and the lost, but the destiny of each is vastly different:

While the outcome of God’s plan is certain to be for the good of the Christian, the process that God uses may appear otherwise. God allows sin to be committed when it produces the good He has purposed. It is very difficult in the midst of the process to see the “good” God is producing as the final product. God’s children must therefore live by faith, trusting in God’s promises even when present circumstances seem to contradict them. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us this was the case with all of the Old Testament saints:

“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).

We must come to see suffering not just as the result of sin but the process for producing saints:

“And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives. “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:5-11).

God’s plan for creation is to rule over His creation in a way that demonstrates His glory. Until that day, when our hope of glory is realized, we must live in a world that suffers the effects of man’s fall, a world in which there is suffering and groaning. We shall find that we ourselves groan, waiting for His perfect rule (Romans 8:18-25). The Messiah came to save men from their sins, and He will come again to establish His rule over a fallen world. When we repent and turn to Christ in faith, we should understand that we receive Him as Savior and Lord. Throughout human history, men have demonstrated their faith in God by submitting to His rule. They understood that one must trust and obey. If we love Him, our Lord Jesus said, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). This is why Moses set the law before the people of Israel as a matter of life and death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). It is not because law keeping saves us, but because reverence for God will be reflected by respect for His laws.

As Christians, our plans ought to be subordinate to and guided by God’s plan. God has not revealed His entire plan to us, and thus we do not know the specific dates and timing of promised future events (Matthew 24:34-36). Because God’s plan is a mystery, understood fully only after its fulfillment, we dare not be presumptuous in our plans for the future. All of our plans must be subordinate to God’s plan and must take into account God’s rearranging of our plans. We should heed the words of James:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil’” (James 4:13-16).

We must not take our plans too seriously. In the Book of Acts, the apostles devised a plan to replace Judas (Acts 1:12-26). From what we can tell, the action taken by the apostles did not have much of an impact on the church. When, on the other hand, God raised up Paul as an apostle, completely independent of the apostles, the world was turned upside-down. The apostolic church had not planned to evangelize the world and probably would have opposed it (Acts 10 and 11). Nevertheless, God sovereignty sent out witnesses (Acts 8:1; 11:19-21) so that churches began to spring up in the Gentile world.

The Apostle Paul’s plans serve as a model for our plans. They were inspired by and consistent with God’s plan for him and for his ministry, as well as for the world (Acts 9:15-16; Romans 1:1-15). Because God’s plan included the salvation of all nations, Paul kept pressing toward those places which were unevangelized (Romans 15:18-21). He drew tentative conclusions concerning God’s plan for his life, and then set himself to carrying out God’s purpose (Philippians 1:19-26; 2:19-24). His plans were often modified by divine intervention. Sometimes human and or satanic opposition played a part in the changes in Paul’s plans, but all of this was in the providence of God (1 Thessalonians 2:14-18).

The important lesson for us to learn is that we should plan for the future. Our plans should be governed and guided by what we know of God’s overall plan for His creation. Our plans should also be tentative, knowing that God often accomplishes His will in ways that we would never have imagined and for which we would never have planned. In these cases, our plans must change as the hand of God becomes evident.

God’s plan has not been revealed to suppress our sense of responsibility but to reinforce our sense of responsibility. The expression, “What will be, will be” does not go far enough. The Bible teaches, “Whatever God wills, will be.” This truth is taught in the Bible to encourage and motivate us to live godly lives. It is not intended to cause us to become careless as though nothing we do matter. God’s kingdom is certain, but whether His purposes are realized through a Moses, who obeyed God or a Pharaoh who opposed Him, God’s plan will be completed.

Let us pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.