The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Ages in Ephesians

The Ages in Ephesians

In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.

Paul opens his epistle to the Ephesians with a clear statement about God’s purpose in the ages.

An administration suitable to the fulness of times. What does that mean?

Let’s break it down a little bit.

The word administration is translated from the Greek word “oikonomian”

The word is translated variously as “stewardship”; “dispensation”; “management”; and literally means “household management” or “house law”.

The word fullness is translated from the Greek word “pleroma”.

Significantly, pleroma means complete fullness, and is the word used in 1 Cor 10:26, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains”(NASB)(and the fulness thereof- KJV)

There are many other verses where pleroma means virtually all, but 1 Cor 10:26 is sufficient for this writing.

The “summing up” is a word that is only used twice in the NT, anakephalaiōsasthai

In the KJV it is translated “gathering together into one”.

God’s plan, executed over a dispensation that includes the completion of all times, is the gathering together into one of all things in Christ.

How often have you heard Ephesians 1:9-11 taught in church or on the radio or TV?

Not likely very often, if ever.

Let’s break it down a little further.

“In all wisdom and insight He made known unto us the mystery of His will”…

Paul explains that this “gathering together of all things into one in Christ” is the mystery of the Father’s will, and that He has made it known unto us.….“according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him”…

The Father’s plan is a “kind intention”, the KJV calls it His “good pleasure”. The Greek word is “eudokia”, eu meaning “good” and dokia meaning “will, desire, pleasure”. This is the same word used in the angelic proclamation concerning Messiah’s birth, “peace on earth, good will(eudokia) towards men”.

So, God’s purpose in Christ is a “kind intention” with a view to, or from a perspective including the summing up of all things in Christ, whether things in heaven or things in earth.

The word for “all things” is “panta”, a tense of the word “pas”, which means all, inclusive of everything. Pas/panta is translated “all things”; “all men”; “everything”- and in over 1200 occurrences simply means all. Paul further amplifies the “allness” of this “summing up” by adding, “whether things in heaven or in earth”.

The scriptures speak of time in several ways. Seasons(kairos), appointed times(chronos), generations(geneas), generations of generations, ages(aion), ages past and ages to come.

In this introduction in Ephesians Paul speaks of the totality of times as an administration of God’s purpose in Christ- to gather into one all things.

Paul makes the same statement in the introduction of the epistle to the Colossians in slightly different terms. In Colossians Paul is much more definitive as to what “all” is.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

The all things that Jesus will reconcile is the same all things that He created. As John says in John 1, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.

According to Paul the Father made His fulness(pleroma) dwell in Jesus so that He could reconcile all things to Himself through the blood of His cross. This is “His kind intention which He purposed in Him” in Eph 1, the blood of His cross being the means by which He will gather all things together into one in Christ- reconciling all.

One of the problems with breaking the scriptures up into chapters and verses(there are benefits to it but problems as well) is that we tend to break up continuous thoughts as if they were unrelated. The whole epistle to the Ephesians is not all that long. The continuity and integrity of thought is incredible. Paul tells us the mystery of God’s will is the summing up of all things in Christ in verses 9-11 of the first chapter- as a general statement about the purpose of God through the fullness of time. The He prays….

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

God has exalted Christ above every power in this age and in the age to come. Continuing His purpose through the ages, the exaltation of Christ is key to the dispensation of the fulness of times- as it is written in 1 Corinthians 15….

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
Paul again plays this glorious theme. Christ has been exalted over all so that all may be gathered unto Him, into Him, even as He prophesied, “If I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me”(John 12:32).

Jesus has been lifted up from the earth, His cross and His throne are inextricably sown together.

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Phil 2)

Because Jesus descended furthest, He ascended highest. “No greater love has any man than this”. Because He descended in love, He ascends in love, reigns in love, and will gather all things into His love. His corrections and punishments fulfill the purpose of His love, His eyes, as flames of fire and His face, like the sun shining in its strength, will ultimately penetrate every hiding place and pierce every heart until every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

People are generally taught that God will force every knee to bow and every tongue to confess just before He throws them into “hell”. Really though, when you read Ephesians 1, Colossians 1 and 1 Cor 15 it becomes apparent that Christ’s cross will reconcile all and His throne will subject all so that God will become all in all. Death will be done away with, because death is the penalty for sin, and when all things are gathered into one in Christ, there will be no more need for death, because God will be all in all, “everything in everyone.” This is YHWH’s purpose in the ages.

32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever(eis tous aiona-to/thruout the ages). Amen.

Notice the similarity of language in all these texts. All things. Unto the ages. Fulness.

When we read the words “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things”, we are seeing a summation of the wise counsel of YHWH, whose glory throughout the ages is the gathering together into one of all things in Christ.

Peter speaks of this purpose as it is to begin in earnest in the age to come in one of the first messages after Pentecost,

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you,21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

Before we finish we will see that this purpose of gathering all things together into one has been prophesied from ancient times by the prophets. It is the “good news”(euaggelion) of God’s “good pleasure”(eudokia). His kind intention towards all. Again, the language of Peter is in keeping with Paul’s- who is at this time not even a disciple yet, but is rather about to become a chief adversary of the gospel. Peter is proclaiming that with the return of Messiah, in the age to come, the period of the restoration of all things will begin. A period prophesied by Isaiah for instance……

The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
And refined, aged wine.
And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.
9 And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

Paul spoke of this veil in 2 Cor chapters 3 & 4
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Isaiah has prophesied that this veil will be removed from over all people. Paul states in 2 Cor 3:

But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Today the veil remains intact over many Christians who read the Bibe ut do not understand God’s purpose through the ages to come- or even see that such ages exist. But see what Paul says in Ephesians chapter 2, in one of the most quoted portions of scripture there is.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, andseated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace inkindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

We were saved by grace to become His workmanship, conformed to the image of Christ, created in Him for good works prepared from beforehand (protoimazo-predestined) that we should walk in them. As Paul says in the first chapter, just a few sentences earlier, “In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.”

His glory is the gathering together of all things into one in Christ. This “inheritance” unto which “we who were the first to hope in Chist” are predestined to is the “surpassing kindness of His grace” that will be showered upon us “in the ages to come”- the “good works prepared for us beforehand that we should walk in them”, the continuing work of “gathering all things into one in Christ”.

In the first 3 chapters of Ephesians we have the “administration suitable to the fulness of times”(Eph 1:10); the “this age and age to come”(Eph 1:21); the “ages to come”(Eph 2:7)

In Eph 3 Paul states, "To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

This is the same “mystery of His will” from Eph 1:9, the same "wisdom, the same “administration”- it is the gathering together of all things into one in Christ.

In Eph 4 Paul states, of Christ’s exaltation, "He who descended is also He who ascended “that He might fill all things”(Eph 4:10).

All of this is consistent with the opening thought, the introduction to God’s purpose in Ephesians chapter 1. Then, as we see in Colossians 1:15-20, 1Cor 15:23-28, Phil 2:9-11; Romans 11:32-36- it becomes increasingly clear that God’s purpose in Christ is to become all-in-all though the ages past and the ages to come. It also becomes clear that we, as the first to hope in Christ will receive as our inheritance, the joy of serving in the restoration of all things in the ages to come.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

The whole creation groans. The earth is about to yield up its fruit. The first fruits, those that are His at His coming. Their inheritance, their mission, the gathering together into one of all things in Christ, the restoration of all things, the glory of God to be revealed in all the earth as the waters cover the seas.

For by the word of truth He has begotten us a kind of first fruits of His creation.(James 1)

If any man be in Christ Jesus He is a new creation, old things pass away, behold, all things become new.(1 Cor 5)

5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.(Rev 21)”

Jesus is the beginning and the end of God’s plan for the ages, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be the glory to the ages.”

As Paul says in Ephesians 3…

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory among the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus to all generations of the age of the ages(aionos ton aionon). Amen.