Digesting the Universe

April 2, 2020

Imagine your life was nearly over. You lived long and learned so much with so much difficulty. All that knowledge should never vanish. Could you summarize everything in 10 or 20 words? For a generation whose attention span is limited by a Tweet? What words would work? Something like, “Be strong! Don’t be such a bum!” Like a dad says. Or, with Mom’s depth, “Time is precious, there’s never enough!” The task itself trivializes a lifetime.

Yet the Apostle Paul did this and more—he also summarized the Bible, his scholarship, and all of God’s purpose and work even before “the foundations of Creation” were first established, he said. Paul’s digest of God’s activity and everything he learned or taught and could possibly explain was,

“a view towards 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.”

Cryptic? Not. Is it vague? No. It is purpose with precision. It mandates thought, however, which makes it strange and uncomfortable for some.

The Powers that Be

Three powers are engaged in one, universal effort, Paul said. A universal cause. Two are facing a third. First, “The King” leads the cause. “Christ” is Greek for “King” or “Messiah” in Hebrew. Second is “an administration” like the US President’s administration funded by a massive payroll. The King’s Administration also cost a massive price, we learn later, but not in dollars-and-cents. The Administration is working on a third power which involves all Creation on Earth, which is big, but also all Creation “in the heavenlies,” which means the physical universe and beyond. The third power includes all diverse life forms in Creation.

This third collection “in the heavenlies” never gets the attention it deserves, so focused we are on whatever is nearby and makes the loudest noise. Yet there is activity swirling all around, near and far, with tremendous power and impact. It may be good much of this goes unnoticed. God gives only glimpses of the diverse shapes and forms of Creatures surrounding human life and beyond human perception, and it is a shocking glimpse. Earthlings are the weakest of all spiritual creatures and fortunately shielded from direct contact with those mobs—there are mobs of them, outnumbering the human population. So many of them are dangerous, too. The prophet Daniel was bedridden for a week after facing one of these towering, effervescent creatures. The encounter drained his strength somehow. They are generically called angels in the Bible, but that term has become so benign in common use, it does not convey their power, nor their threat, nor the broad spectrum of extraterrestrial spiritual life filling the heavenlies. It’s odd when people who know something about the Bible ask me if there is such a thing as extraterrestrial life. If extraterrestrial means intelligent life not based on earth, then it must be an accurate term for the generic term “angel” found everywhere in the Bible, from the first book to the last, and everywhere in between.

Digesting the Universe

The Bible’s perspective reverses the role for humankind. Homo Sapiens seems to be at the top of the food chain, but that is only true among dumb animals. Among spiritual creatures, humans are at the bottom. Daily life would be a terror for humans to be exposed to this. We are so dense and weak, blind and deaf, the Bible says, “having ears, they cannot hear, and having eyes, they cannot see.” Deafness and blindness are serious handicaps, but even more pronounced by ignorance about the other handicaps. Put another way, it says humans are “dead” while still alive, “walking according to the course of this World.” It describes the Walking Dead! Put another way, earthlings are herded around by “the Prince of the Power of the [poisoned] earth-zone,” like cattle. The “Prince of Power” is “the Spirit energizing” masses of earthlings, and the classic mob mindset does seem highly energized. And historically evil. Like a lynching. Or mob hatred of Jews. Today it is innocuously named “the Wisdom of the Crowd,” driven by Social Media platforms like Twitter or Facebook, but no less energized by the same Prince of Power.

The Center of Creation

Then suddenly, in a complete reversal, God steps in and elevates humans to the top of all Creation. In that simple Universal Digest, God decrees that helpless earthlings are to become the central force working in all Creation. Earthlings are the ones composing the Administration, under the leadership of the King. His full name is The King of God’s Rescue, which is what Jesus Christ means, and His great rescue is aimed squarely at humankind. Those trusting in God’s rescue are called the Body of Christ, the ecclesia (meaning a “called-out assembly,” like a town gathering), called out for a significant purpose. They are also called God’s Household. This term is synonymous to “administration” because the Greek word oikonomia is translated both ways. It was commonly used to mean “household stewards” in wealthy families. Thus, “Family of God” is another, suitable term used for the same populace.

It matters little how handicapped or nasty humans are. God calls himself the “Heavenly Father” of all humankind. He is “the father of all spirits” but treats humankind with the greatest privilege of all. “When has God ever helped the angels?” Paul pointed out. Beyond helping us, the Almighty Creator also stepped inside the poisoned earth zone as a human, born as a baby and burdened with all the same physical limitations, especially in poverty and cruel injustice suffered by most of humankind. Jesus is a member of humanity forever. Which means God is intimately tethered to humankind forever. Still, despite His lowered status, God is worshipped across Creation and with greater awe and amazement, all aimed at the human, Jesus Christ. God is not only relevant to humans as Heavenly Father, but as Jesus, a human brother. God so earnestly desires to be close with humans, He worked around the classic (and defective) human tendency to keep a respectful distance from their fathers. (As a father, I know about this.) He established a less intimidating role with humans as a sibling, a brother. God is our brother and our Heavenly Father. Take your pick.

This is just one glimpse of how uniquely privileged Humankind is by authority of the Creator God. He put the whole universe is on hold while He builds and works through His Administration, all centered here in the poisoned earth. All composed of lowly earthlings. All spiritual creatures perceive this astonishing work, some with seething scorn, but most are amazed at what this new Administration reveals about The King of Creation—"things into which angels long to look,” the Bible says.

Apathetic Miasma

Meanwhile, humans easily shrug off all this God-given privilege. Even Believers who belong to the Administration get distracted, losing sight of what makes human life on earth so fantastic. Apathetic miasma is the classic response to whatever God says or does because humankind is enamored with what humans say or do. But there’s a reason why God tolerates the growth of injustice and evil, and it is not because God is evil or loves it. God loves people and wants to give us an opportunity to build eternal significance and glory. God cannot be indifferent towards His Administration or any individual within it. God is raising “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession.” It makes no sense for God to single out any individual Believer to be the insignificant exception, the useless or despised one. No, God’s Administration exists, “So you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!” Any Believer living in defeat is out of touch with God’s proclamations, or God’s Word, or God’s character.

The greatest problem on earth is ignorance of God’s Word, especially among His Believers. There is a widespread dearth of knowledge about God's Word. What a shame. God so carefully recorded and preserved it for millennia. It is often called “God’s Love Letter to Humankind” because that’s the effect God’s Word has on those who care to open and read it. Thus, “the love of Christ controls us,” Paul said. That man was beaten, hounded, stripped of everything near and dear, and yet he never regretted what the King of Creation gave in return—His love. It is “the peace of God that surpasses understanding,” Paul said.

I am in a race against time with a death sentence of inoperable pancreatic cancer looming like an axe over my neck. If I can promote and impart the simple understanding of the excitement that comes from participating in God’s Administration before I die, I will die happily. It changed the course of my life to see it.

The Letter to the Ephesians is where Paul’s Universal Digest appears, in Eph. 1:10. The letter is six pages long. In my opinion, Ephesians it is the best place for a new Believer to grasp what God’s up to. It’s the best way for any confused Believer to get unconfused. Within those six pages, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul captures the essence of God’s Word and God’s work on earth across the span of time. It begins with time “before the foundations of the earth.” He explains what the “summing up of all things” entails, How God does it, and all the practical implications in the workplace, at home, in marriages, on raising families, how the Administration works by God’s power—not by the power of religious institutions—and then facing the greatest threats to a Believer’s life, which come from malevolent angels.

Read Ephesians. Check back with me again. I would love the privilege of opening a new chapter of understanding to His Believers.