When we speak of the existence of the people of God in Christ before the world began, we speak of their spiritual life. They had no other existence until the world began. Their earthly existence had its origin in Adam, who was made of the dust of the ground. Our earthly bodies and carnal nature were created in him, and from the date of his creation existed seminally in him; as the oak existed in the acorn. As the tree could not exist anterior to the acorn from which it is developed, so our earthly existence did not exist until Adam was created. Our spiritual existence, if we are the children of God, is an existence of life, and that life is eternal; and that eternal life is in Christ, and that life is Christ. Christ, as the life of all his members, is eternal life. John says, "And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (I John 5:11,12)." In this one "eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us (I John 1:2)," was the eternal life of all the children of God; for, "They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed (Romans 9:8)." The identification of the children of God is in their identification with Christ, as their Eternal Life. Hence the election of grace is an election, not in the earthly Adam, but in Christ, "According as he (God) hath chosen us in him (Christ,) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (Ephesians 1:4,5)." Now predestination does not relate to that which is absolutely eternal. The Eternal Life, which is Christ, does not exist by predestination, for nothing can pre-exist that which is eternal. Christ is eternal, and he is eternal life; and the predestination to the adoption of children relates to the people of God in their relation to the earthly Adam, who were predestinated, in the order of time, to the adoption of children; and by virtue of that predestination, in the time appointed, they receive the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba Father.
In the elucidation of this election IN Christ before the foundation of the world, and predestination of us as children of men, to the adoption of children BY Christ, after the foundation of the world, the apostle speaks of a mystery. A most profound mystery, linking eternity with time, heaven with earth, God with man. "According to the riches of his grace, wherein he hath abounded to usward in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will; according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself." Here let us pause and enquire, What is this mystery of his will? It is no less than this: "That in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are in earth, even in him (Ephesians 1:7-10)." Here are things in heaven, and things in earth. How wide apart! Yet both belonging to Christ, and, although so widely distant, predestinated to be gathered together in one, even in him. That Eternal Life which was with the Father, was never out of Christ, never out of heaven. The subjects of his predestination unto the adoption of children, embracing untold millions of the human family, are in the ample provisions of his grace, wherein he hath abounded to usward in all wisdom and prudence, provided with redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. In which redemption they are redeemed from the earth, from death, from guilt, wrath and condemnation. Redeemed unto God, to an identity with the risen and glorified Savior, and their mortality to be swallowed up of life; so that ultimately all things embraced in this mystery of the will of God, which are in heaven (including our spiritual eternal life, which is hid with Christ in God, and all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ), and all his purchased or redeemed possession on the earth (including all that the Father has given him, of the sons of men, and embracing all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call), shall be gathered together in one, even in Jesus Christ our Lord.
When Christ, who is the eternal life of his church and body, was made of a woman, and under the law, in his advent and incarnation, God was manifest in the flesh; and in the mysterious connection, exemplified the great design of his Mediatorial relations and work. In his wonderful conception, by the overshadowing Spirit, that holy thing should be called the Son of God. Made, by the same conception and birth, under the law. Heaven and earth, eternity and time, the divine and the human natures, were identified in his person, as the one Mediator between God and man; equally related to, and identified with both. On the one point, embodying all the fullness of the infinite and eternal Godhead; and on the other, he took on him the seed of Abraham, with all our infirmities, liabilities and responsibilities. In these two distinct, yet consolidated, natures he fully represented and embodied all things which are in him in heaven, and all things on earth that belong to his mystical body. Thus was made manifest the child born, the Son given, and his name is Wonderful. In this unparalleled mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh, justified by the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory. In legal oneness with his people under the law, he is recognized by the fiery law, and the inflexible justice of God, as Shepherd for his sheep, as Husband of his bride, and as Head of his body the church, he sank in death under the weight of the transgressions of his people, which were all laid upon him. In his circumcision, he put away the body of the sins of the flesh, burying the seed of Abraham by baptism into his death, reproducing, regenerating, and rescuing from the power of sin, death, and the dominion of the law, all his members; they rise with him to newness of life. Death is abolished, sin removed, righteousness brought in, and all his redeemed members freely justified through the redemption that is in him.
Having now removed all legal impediments out of the way, he shall now gather his sheep with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. He has ascended up on high, the heavens have received him; and in testimony to us that his Mediatorial work is accepted, the Holy Ghost is sent down, and the dispensation of the fullness of times shall witness the ingathering into his kingdom all his members. The kingdom is in Christ; therefore, all who are gathered into his kingdom are gathered into him. All must come in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. In that identity they are all one; where "there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11)."
In the gathering into the kingdom, by the new birth, we are made partakers of that eternal life which Christ is unto his people. And although our fleshly nature is excluded from this spiritual kingdom, and flesh and blood cannot come into, or inherit it, we still rely upon the infallible promise that our vile bodies shall be changed, and fashioned like his glorious body; and in that promised change, mortality shall be swallowed up of life. It is sown a natural body, it shall be raised a spiritual body; and the saying that is written shall be fulfilled, and these mortals shall put on immortality, and these corruptibles shall put on incorruption; and all for whom this glorious resurrection is secured, by the resurrection of our blessed Redeemer, shall be fully gathered together in one, even in him.
Whether we have succeeded in making this subject clear to A Little One, or not, if we have understood his views, as stated in his letter, they express substantially what we contend for. That eternal life, which he speaks of as being given to the saints when they are born again, is what constitutes us the children of God; and in that life we were chosen in Christ before the world began. And when we receive that life experimentally, by it our whole persons are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and sealed unto the redemption (or deliverance) of the purchased possession; when "the creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God;" and then shall we be satisfied, when we awake with his likeness.
In reply to the enquirer, as to the signification of John 3:5, we do not understand that the being born of the water alludes to the ordinance of baptism, only figuratively. There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.
In being born again, the Spirit quickens the sinner that was dead in sins; the water of life, clear as crystal, from the throne of God and the Lamb, flows freely to the newborn child of God, and the blood of Christ is applied in all its power to cleanse us from all sin. Christian baptism is emblematic of this, as it sets forth our death, burial, and resurrection to a newness of life.
July 15, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 234 – 238