All of the above fixes for its full consummation to the latter days, the coming eons, the thousand years, to the glories of Messiah’s rule on earth.
But Paul’s evangel bypasses all these things: it leads in one vast leap to the new creation in which, as John tells us at the very close of Scripture, is a new heaven and new earth. So the end-product of Peter’s circumcision evangel is the transcendent glory of the new earth (Rev. 21:1) in which, as Paul tells us, God will be All in all.
The end-product of Paul’s Evangel is new creation, and all that implies, with God All in all, on earth as well as in heaven, in perfect oneness, as the Lord Jesus Himself prayed (John 17:21-23) (Adapted from “First Things First” p.4).
With these thoughts in mind, let us look at 2Cor. 5:14-17.
“For the love of Christ is constraining us, judging this, that, if One died for the sake of all, consequently all died. And He died for the sake of all that those who are living should by no means still be living to themselves, but to the One dying and being roused for their sakes.
“So that we, from now on, are acquainted with no one according to flesh. Yet even if we have known Christ according to flesh, nevertheless now we know Him so no longer. So that, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: the primitive passed by. Lo! There has come new!
Yet all is of God,…”
Knowing Christ according to flesh has to do with the promises to Israel as God’s covenant people as just described. Christ according to flesh distinguishes between Jew and Gentile. Israel under covenant will be teachers, leading the Gentiles into salvation and understanding of their Messiah and Savior. Israelites will be reigning under Christ here on earth. Gentiles will be blessed through this New Covenant People, but they will not be on par with them.
All of these things just mentioned are part of what Paul refers to as “primitive things” (old things). They are promises dating all the way back to Israel’s patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, all of the above belongs to God’s revealed prophetic program on earth in which Israel as God’s covenant people, under Christ, will be the channel of blessing to the Gentiles. Whereas Israel in ancient days was the wife of Jehovah, under the new covenant of the future era Israel will be the bride of the Lambkin, thus illustrating a fresh new relationship between Israel and Yahweh. Israel as a nation will be begotten anew. Nicodemus being a teacher of Israel should have known this fact, for it was part of the expectation of Israel brought out in their Hebrew Scriptures. The truth of being “begotten anew” (born again) was part of the old things associated with knowing Christ according to flesh.
Now Paul says, “Yet even if we have known Christ according to flesh, nevertheless now we know Him so no longer. So that, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old things passed by. Lo! there has come new things! Yet all is of God…” (2Cor. 5:17-18a).
Paul’s evangel doesn’t begin with Christ’s earthly ministry, for when Christ was on earth, He became the Servant of circumcision (the covenant)…to confirm the patriarchal promises” (Rom. 15:8). Rather, Paul’s evangel begins with Christ’s death, entombment, and resurrection and all that that implies. Paul didn’t see Christ until after His resurrection and ascension. It was then that grace overwhelmed Paul’s unbelief, and he began to see the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ’s faith and the power of God in the cross of Christ. As a result of such experiences and teachings direct from the resurrected, glorified Christ, Paul was shown new things. Now believers in Christ have a relationship with Christ apart from Judaism, a relationship in which we are described as a new creation.
The term “new creation” looks forward to the new heaven and new earth during which time there will be a passing away of all natural and fleshly distinctions—one such distinction being Jew and Greek (Gal. 3:27-28). The new creation (Gal. 6:15) is associated with the “one new humanity” (Eph. 2:15).
In the figure of the new creation, in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything (Gal. 6:15). This is why the term “new creation” directly applies to all saints being saved in this era in which Israel’s covenant standing is temporarily set aside and Paul’s evangel (the evangel of the uncircumcision) is in operation. We today picture that far future era, for during this administration of grace there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, and upon believing, in one spirit, we are all baptized into one body and all are made to imbibe one spirit (1Cor. 12:13). Therefore, all who belong to the body of Christ that is being called out today under Paul’s ministry, we become a sampling of all at the consummation of the eons when all of humanity will belong to the “one new humanity.”
The term “new creation” is also a more fitting term in relation to our home and service among the celestials in the heavens, whereas “begotten anew” is more fitting for Israel and those associated with the New Covenant People whose home is on earth.
To sum up, the apostle Paul alone was given the administration of the grace of God and secrets concerning God’s operations that were unknown by all other prophets, apostles, and teachers before him. In particular he was given insight into God’s relationship with all those saints He is calling out while Israel and her promises are set aside. This relationship involving Christ among the Gentiles along with the expectation of the body of Christ, all of which is based on the cross of Christ, are what Paul says are “new things” (2Cor. 5:17b). And just as the “old things” were out of God, so are these “new things” out of God (2Cor. 5:18a).
In 1Cor. 10:11, Paul writes, “Now all this befalls them (Israel) typically. Yet it was written for our admonition, to whom the consummations of the eons have attained.” In other words, God’s goals or finishing results of the coming eons have been made known in some measure to the saints. Every one of the four occurrences of the verb “katantaO” in Paul’s letters shows that he used it as a meaning to attain in spirit, to draw up alongside in spirit (see 1Cor. 10:11; 14:36; Eph. 4:13; Phil. 3:11).
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, our Father, Who loves us, and is giving us an eonian consolation and a good expectation in grace, be consoling your hearts and establish you in every good work and word” (2Thess. 2:16-17).
OLD THINGS AND NEW THINGS
According to Biblical prophecy, how would you describe the era in which we are living?
To begin a round about way of answering this, I first want us to consider what I call the revealed prophetic program that begins in Gen. 12:1-3 (read).
In these verses Abram is promised the following:
1) The land
2) A great nation
3) Abram will be blessed and he will be a blessing
4) God will bless those that bless him
5) God will curse those that curses him
6) That in Abram shall all families of the earth be blessed
SIDE NOTE: In what way are all the families to be blessed? In or through Abram – not the nation. Later the apostle Paul interprets this to refer to Christ (see Gal. 3:9, 16).
Gen. 15:18 (read)
The land is promised to Abram’s seed (Israel).
Gen. 17:7-8 (read)
The covenant between God and Abraham includes Abram’s seed and the promise of the land is repeated.
Exodus 19:3-6 (read)
More detailed blessings to the children of Israel. They shall be unto God a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.
Deut. 30:3; Ezek. 20:27, 34-38, 41-42; Jer. 23:7-8 (16:14-16 is the same).
In these verses we learn the following:
1) God will gather the Israelites from all the nations to which they have been scattered.
2) This is the greater exodus of which the exodus in Moses’ day from Egypt was just a small sampling.
3) God will bring them into the bond of the covenant and will purge out from among them the rebels.
4) The faithful will enter into the land that was promised to their fathers.
Ezek. 36:22, 24-32 (read)
Besides being brought out of all countries into their promised land, God will sprinkle clean water upon them, give them a new heart, and a new spirit (His spirit) will He put within them.
Jer. 31:31-34 (read)
God will make a new covenant with Israel. In this new covenant, He is going to put His law in them and write it on their hearts. He will be their God and they will be His people.
Isa. 2:1-4 (read)
In the latter days Israel will be a blessing to the Gentiles. Gentiles will be going to Jerusalem to be learning. Israelites will be teachers. It will be a time of worldwide peace. Zech. 8:20-23 (read)
These are complimentary verses again showing us that Israel will be a blessing to the Gentiles. Gentiles will be clinging to the Israelites to get God’s blessing.
God will one day establish peace within Israel and she will be the exalted nation she was purposed to be.
Rom. 15:8 (read)
Christ during His earthly ministry was the Servant of the covenant given to Israel. He was confirming the patriarchal promises.
What are these patriarchal promises? They would be all those I have shared from Genesis to Zechariah.
As the Lord told the Canaanitish woman in Matt. 15:24 – “I was not commissioned except for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
This thought leads us to the commissions given to our Lord’s 12 apostles. Each commission is sequential.
The first is Matt. 10:5-7 (read).
Notice the 12 were only to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Because Israel needs to receive Christ as their Messiah; they need to be brought to a state of redemption before they become a channel of blessing to others.
Next is Luke 24:44-49 (Acts 1:6-9 is a continuation of the commission in Luke 24.)
Jesus tells His disciples that they shall be heralding repentance for the pardon of sins to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem. They were to wait in Jerusalem first until they received power from on high (the Holy Spirit).
The message was basically that Jesus is the Messiah. The aim of this commission was to bring repentance to Israel because they crucified the Messiah.
They needed to repent and then be baptized (cleansed) because they were to be a nation of priests (Ex. 19).
Just as the individual priests had to be ceremonially cleansed and anointed with oil, so does the nation of Israel. This is why all Israel was to be baptized by John. This baptism of repentance was the cleansing. Afterward comes the anointing with oil that pictures the spirit coming upon them.
Well – because of Israel’s unbelief as a nation, they did not enter into the “seasons of refreshing” that Peter refers to in Acts 3:19. That waits a future day for its fulfillment.
Notice the qualifier of the Luke 24 commission – that they were to start in Jerusalem – is not mentioned in Matt. 28. That’s because this commission presupposes a time when Israel is once again God’s covenant people.
During the millennial reign of Christ, Israel will not only be teachers, but will be reigning under her King, Christ. It is then that Israelites will be discipling and baptizing Gentiles.
The baptizing of the Gentiles will enable them to be in a relationship with God under the new covenant.
So these commissions are progressive. Peter’s letters are also in line with Israel’s prophetic promises. He is reiterating that the nation of Israel is a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a procured people (1Pet. 2:9).
Likewise, in John 3:7 when Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be begotten anew,” He was referring to the nation of Israel. Begotten anew here has to do with Israel’s national expectation.
In John 3:10 Jesus mildly scolds Nicodemus by saying to him, “You are a teacher of Israel, and these things you do not know?”
Now in going back to my original question, what part of all of this applies to us today?
NONE OF IT!
Turn to 2Cor. 5:14-17 (read)
What does Paul mean when he writes, “the primitive (old things) passed by?
I suggest that the old things refer to everything that has been stated so far. They would include Christ’s ministry according to flesh, Israel’s covenant standing, and the patriarchal promises given to Israel.
SO, if these are the old things, then what are the new things that have come to us?
First let me say that the new things involve a close relationship to Christ apart from law and apart from God’s covenant people—Israel.
The events in Acts 13 picture what is occurring today.
1) Saul of Tarsus is severed by the Holy Spirit for the work that God has called him.
2) A Jew is blinded until the appointed time (not permanently).
3) A Gentile believes, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
This single Jew and Gentile are representative of the unbelieving nation of Israel and those of the Gentiles who come into belief and salvation through Paul’s ministry.
THE POINT IS THIS – Salvation is going out to the Gentiles during a time when Israel is set aside as God’s covenant people.
Paul touches on this point in Rom. 11:12, 15, and 25.
SO, TO ANSWER MY ORIGINAL QUESTION – We are living in an era that was totally unknown to all Old Testament prophets and the Lord’s 12 apostles during His earthly ministry.
In order for us to know where we fit in God’s operation of the eons, we have to read the apostle Paul’s letters, for these “new things” were only revealed to him.
Rom. 16:25-27 (read).
In closing his Roman letter, Paul’s focus is on God, Who is able to establish us (to make stable, solid, firm).
God establishes us in accord with “Paul’s evangel” (not the evangel of the circumcision entrusted to Peter).
“And the heralding of Christ Jesus in accord with the revelation of a secret hushed in times eonian, yet manifested now…”
This has to do with Christ’s saving work among the Gentiles apart from Israel. This involves the body of Christ and it’s calling in the oncoming eons under the Headship of Christ.
Eph. 3:8-11 (read)
Col. 1:24-29 (read)
BACK TO 2COR. 5:17
“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.”
1) “New Creation” looks forward to the new heaven and new earth during which time there will be a passing away of all fleshly distinctions—one such distinction being Jew and Greek.
2) The “new creation” is associated with the “one new humanity.”
3) In the figure of the “new creation,” in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything (Gal. 6:15).
4) This is why the term “new creation” directly applies to all saints being saved in this era in which Israel’s covenant standing is temporarily set aside.
It is just a fact that when Israel is in covenant relationship with Christ, Gentiles are not on par with them. This was the case in the previous era and it will be the case in the future. However, in the current era while Israel is cast aside, all who believe belong to the body of Christ and are part of a “new creation.”
As the “new creation” we become a sampling of all at the consummation of the eons when all of humanity will belong to the “one new humanity.”
5) The term “new creation” is also a more fitting term in relation to our home and service among the celestials in the heavens. Only Paul, the dispenser to the ecclesia that is Christ’s body, speaks of our home inherent in the heavens (Phil. 1:20-21).
In Eph. 3:10-11 Paul states that the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials are now learning through the ecclesia, the multifarious wisdom of God, in accord with His purpose of the eons.
They have observed God’s work in creating man in the garden, and later God singling out Abraham and a nation. But now they are observing God working with a people, not through law, but in grace through faith.
In other words, what God is doing now through the ecclesia that is Christ’s body—is something brand new—it’s something that reveals God’s multifarious wisdom to these spiritual beings. We are unique; we are indeed a “new creation.”
2Cor. 5:18 – The ministry of conciliation is given to us—members of the body of Christ. It’s a ministry that will be ongoing until the consummation. We are also in the process of being trained for such service (Titus 2:11-13).
Rom. 8:18-21 (read)
After we (the body of Christ) meet our Lord and are unveiled as the sons of God, we will be instrumental under the Headship of Christ of delivering the rest of creation from the bondage of corruption.
In 1Cor. 6:2-3 Paul mentions the fact that we will be judging angels, the world (involving humanity), and life’s affairs. All of this judging is a part of our ministry of conciliation. It’s a judging that leads to all in the heavens and on the earth becoming reconciled to God—the basis of which is the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20).
1Cor. 2:6-8 (read)
The work that God is doing and will do through the body of Christ as a result of Christ’s death on the cross, caught Satan and the spiritual realm by surprise. The “chiefs” of the eon go far beyond humanity (2Cor. 4:3-4). This work of God, more specifically His wisdom, was concealed, yet to us God reveals them through His Spirit (1Cor. 2:10).
Paul elaborates on this wisdom of God that was a secret in Eph. 1:9-11 (read).
God had a secret, a secret that was in accord with His delight – that He is to eventually have an administration that will bring all under the Headship of Christ—both that in the heavens and that on the earth. God will be glorified through our participation in this work—a work of taking conciliation out to those still in bondage. As Paul states in Eph. 3:21 – “To Him (God) be glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons! Amen!”
The eon of the eons refers to the last eon which is also the greatest of all the eons because it is then that death will be finally abolished (1Cor. 15:25), all in the heavens and on the earth will be brought under the Headship of Christ (Eph. 1:9-11) and reconciled to God (Col. 1:20), and will be acclaiming of themselves that “Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God, the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).
Yet as great as all this is, God wants us to know that He has chosen us—the ecclesia that is Christ’s body—to have an important part in completing the reconciliation of all.
In reflecting upon 2Cor. 5:17, when the apostle Paul writes – “Lo! there has come new things” he is referring to all that Christ entrusted to him (Gal. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:1-13). In this study I have only scratched the surface. 2Cor. 5:17 is speaking of our relationship to Christ based on His death, entombment, and resurrection. Though I briefly mentioned this earlier, I see now that this needs to be the main focus on another day.
However, for now, in regard to my initial question – we are living in a very special era in which, while Israel is cast aside as God’s covenant people, God is working among those who are believing the evangel. All such ones having faith are being trained as members of the ecclesia that is Christ’s body for a service in the oncoming eons when we will be used under the Headship of Christ in reconciling all back to God.
It is then, when all is subjected to Christ that God will become All in all (1Cor. 15:28).
It is then that God will receive glory in the ecclesia and in Christ for all the generations of the eon of the eons (Eph. 3:21).
It is then that Col. 1:20 will be fulfilled. All on the earth and in the heavens will be reconciled to God!
May God grant us more and more realization of Him and the place He has for us in His purpose for creation. Amen!
(Completed March 28, 2014)