It is not often that I come across a synopsis of God’s purposes in human history that expresses succinctly the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. Dallas Willard, professor and former director of the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, in his book, Renovation of the Heart, (217,218) has supplied such a summary in four paragraphs. I wish that I could be so clear and concise. Here it is.
WHAT IS GAINED BY HUMAN HISTORY
“The significance of human life upon the earth must either be very small or very great. Very small from the strictly natural point of view. If we represent earth’s history on a twenty-four-clock, from midnight to midnight, then according to the evolutionary story, our remotest human ancestors appeared at 11.59 p.m., and what we call the ‘civilization’ of the last several thousand years is represented as the pop of a flashbulb at midnight. By any account, from the merely scientific point of view, the earth will not support human society for any long period of time (in cosmic terms), and if the future of the earth’s surface resembles its astonishing past, for a few thousand more years at most.
God’s purposes for human history, as set forth in the Bible, are of course quite another matter. According to the biblical picture, the function of human history is to bring forth an immense community of people, from ‘every nation and tribe and tongue and people’ (Revelation 14:6), who will be a kingdom of priests under God (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; Exodus 19:6), and who for some period of time in the future will actually govern the earth under him (Revelation 5:10). They will also, beyond that, reign with him in the eternal future of the cosmos, forever and ever (Revelation 22:5)
These people will, together as a living community, form a special dwelling place for God. It will be one that allows his magnificence to be known and gratefully accepted by all of creation through all of the ages (Ephesians 2:7;3:10; Philippians 2:9-11). What the human heart now vaguely senses should be, eventually will be, in the cosmic triumph of Christ and his people. And those who have fully taken on the character of Christ – those ‘children of light’ in Paul’s language – will in eternity be empowered by God to do what they want, as free creative agents. And it will always harmonize perfectly with God’s own purposes.
Spiritual formation in Christlikeness during our life here on earth is a constant movement toward this eternal appointment God placed upon each of us in our creation – the ‘kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matthew 25:34; see also Luke 19:17). This movement forward is now carried on through our apprenticeship to Jesus Christ. It is a process of character transformation toward complete trustworthiness before God.”
Now, obviously, even that summary requires unpacking in order to understand what it fully means. The prospect of us governing the earth and reigning with God in the eternal future of the cosmos is mind-boggling. However it is the grand vision of the Bible and we need to take it seriously. We have been called by the grace of God to an extraordinary vocation. It is exhilarating and exciting. This is no small venture we are engaged it. It takes us above and beyond the reach of human history and mortal life. It gives a lie to the despairing and hopeless reductionism of the atheists, and those who do not believe in the resurrection of Christ, and his winning for us the resurrection of the body. It is a faith worth living for, and dying in.