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With all wisdom and insight God has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Ephesians 1:8-10

The world seems kind of crazy right now! There is not a lot of good in what we call the news, with wars boiling over in Europe and the Middle East, our national debt out of control, soaring rates of depression, and warnings about a new virus looming called “Disease X”. Sadly, for a culture boasting about being Post Christian, there is little room for hope in our world. If matter is all there is, then nothing really matters. We are a culture like that described by the apostle Paul: “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).  Listen to the popular music, watch the movies, pay attention to the stories and see a culture shrunk to Macbeth’s view of life as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” What a grandly different, gloriously different picture of our world’s future is revealed in today’s scripture! It is Bible truth like this that calls for Christians to always be ready “to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:13).

Today’s scripture tells that “God has made know to us the mystery of his will.” The very word “mystery” means that we would be left guessing about the world’s future, except that God has revealed to us His “plan for the fullness of time.” Earlier in this passage we see God initiating His plan for us “before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). With God’s plan reaching from eternity to eternity, God will “in the fullness of time”, or when history has run its course, “gather up all things in him [Christ].

The Greek word anakephalaioó translated “gather up all things” is a fascinating word describing the object of God’s “good pleasure.” It will be pleasing to God to anakephalaioó, “gather up all things” in Christ! Anakephalaioó was used in ancient Greece for adding up all the numbers in a column and placing that sum under the head of the column. Thus, God’s eternal plan for our world is to gather up all things that are divided and separated and bring them under the headship of Christ. Note how various Bible translations unpack the rich meaning of anakephalaioó:

  • “all human history shall be consummated in Christ” (J. B. Phillips New Testament)
  • “everything brought together and summed up in Christ” (The Message)
  • “bring unity to all things in heaven and earth under Christ” (New International Version)
  • “the summing up of all things in Christ” (New American Standard Bible)

It is God’s glorious purpose for our world that we recently celebrated at Christmas as we sang “Joy to the World!”:

“He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness
and wonders of His love,
and wonders of His love,
and wonders, wonders of His love.”

The Rev. Maltbie Babcock was a nineteenth century Presbyterian minister, described by his wife as often going on walks “to see the Father’s world.” He loved to meditate on the beauty and glory of God in the world He created. Shortly after Rev. Babcock’s death his wife published a poem he had written, now sung as the well-known hymn “This Is My Father’s World”. His poem’s last verse celebrates the wondrous gathering up of all things in our Savior:

“This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be one.”

In the midst of today’s craziness, what great hope we have for the future!

A fellow traveler,

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