The Rapture and The Spirit of Adoption – (Part 2) – by Gary Stearman –  
The Universe Eagerly Awaits Us
In this key statement, Paul makes two assertions that are truly stunning in their import.
First, the adoption is the redemption of our body. It is synonymous with the resurrection, which occurs at the rapture of the church.
Second, the entire Creation waits for the completed revelation (translated “manifestation”) of the adopted children of God. It seems that there is some future event of great importance that can’t happen until that signal moment in which the adoptive process is completed, and the church is caught up and glorified.
At that time, we will ascend into an entirely new role. In part, it is to rule and reign with Christ. After “… the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9), and the establishment of the Kingdom Age, we will share the administration of God’s Kingdom. But if what Paul says is true, we will also participate in the restoration of the broken and sin-wracked universe.
No doubt, there are other aspects of the resurrection that will only be known after it happens. It is a deep mystery, but for some reason, the reconciliation process for the Creation cannot be brought to pass until the body of Christ is complete.
We do know that when Satan fell, the Creation became enslaved to a growing corruption, and an abiding emptiness … vanity. Somehow, when we rise to the realms of glory, the Creation will also be delivered. According to Paul’s words, it will be freed from the enduring corruption that has rendered it a place of pain.
Concerning our universe, one of the early discoveries of physicists is that in systems using energy, some of it will always be dispersed or dissipated. Once lost, it cannot be restored. With passing time, systems are said to proceed from order to disorder. The irreversibility of this energy loss has been called entropy. Under the present conditions, the arrow of time points only toward increasing chaos and emptiness.
In the 17th century, English mathematician and scientist Isaac Newton and his contemporaries saw the universe as a place of clockwork perfection. Later, as observations were increasingly perfected and the power of instruments increased, it came to be seen as a place of collisions, cataclysms, explosions, supernovae and geophysical decline – entropy. As described by Paul, it is in bondage to corruption.
Truly, the entire Creation groans and travails in pain, awaiting the restoration of its original ordered energy state. In some way not yet completely understood, the redemption of believers and their ultimate adoptive glorification will be used in this process. It is a spectacular and surprising fact that the universe and its present keepers are waiting in a state of suspense, until this process is completed.
The Celestial Theater
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul made one of the most humble statements in Scripture. Speaking of himself as a minister of Christ, Paul wrote concerning the activity of the angels, as they observed the growth of the early church. Almost in passing he reveals an interesting fact:
“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
“Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised” (I Cor. 4:6-10).
Indeed, the Apostles were — and are — a spectacle to the world. The word “spectacle” is from the Greek theatron, from which comes our word “theater.” Thinking about this, we are immediately reminded of the historical diorama of the church. Its procession of shining successes, miserable failures, internal corruption, martyred saints, heroic witnesses, and laborious carrying-forth of the Gospel are perhaps the most dramatic theater in the history of this earth.
From the earliest days of Graeco-Roman society, theater was the cultural glue that held a community together. Every major city in the ancient world had its amphitheater, where plays, music, orations, religious dramas and politics were played out to audiences numbering in the thousands. In the city of Ephesus, the theater could seat twenty-five thousand people!
In the most literal sense, Paul was made a central figure in that theater, after his ministry there became so effective that the pagan powers of that city gathered in the theater to publicly demand his arrest. The worshippers of Diana filled the theater, creating an uproar, as they attempted to thwart Paul’s teaching, and by extension, the growth of the early church. But because Paul and his companions hadn’t directly opposed the existing society or religion, they weren’t found guilty of breaking any specific Roman law. Still, in that confrontation, the Apostle’s cause was furthered by the noisy publicity of the theater.
In the epistle to the Hebrews, the same term — theatron — is used to describe the plight of early Christians, as they battled both Roman and Jewish authorities in their effort to spread the good news of the resurrected Christ. In the following quote, the term “gazingstock” is a translation of the word:
“But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
“Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used” (Heb. 10:32, 33).
But being “made a spectacle unto the world,” encompasses a sphere of activity far larger than any amphitheater, or for that matter, today’s global satellite television. As we often point out, the “world” of the New Testament includes far more than life on the face of planet Earth. It is, in fact, the cosmos, or “world system,” which includes not only the powers of this planet, but the unseen heavens, where “principalities and powers” are in an ages-long contest for supremacy. The redeemed man is “Exhibit A” in this battle.
Perhaps the best-known example of this fact is found in the book of Job, where an ancient landowner of great wealth becomes a theatrical spectacle to the powers above:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
“And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
“And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
“Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
“Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
“But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
“And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD” (Job 1:6-12).
Scholars agree that Job is an ancient book, perhaps dating back to the days prior to the call of Abraham. His life span alone (probably 175 to 200 years) suggests that he lived in the years just following the dispersion at the Tower of Babel.
As a man of wealth and influence, Job became a kind of representative for the common man of the Middle East. In other words, he is a key exhibit in the long panoramic battle for man’s soul.
His life literally became a theatrical production. The Lord used him as a demonstration of faith under extreme testing. The message in Job’s struggle was intended first, for Satan, and no doubt for his fallen angels, then most probably for the host of angels who had remained faithful to the Lord. Job’s life is a kind of passion play, an encouragement for each and every redeemed life since he battled his way back from a series of diseases and disasters.
In very real terms, Job represents a microcosm of the universal groaning and travailing in pain that was brought about by Satan’s rebellion. Not only the physical Creation, but an incalculable myriad of heavenly spectators eagerly watch the redemption process. In a way, they are like us, intensely awaiting the completion of the reconciliation.
The Prophets and the Angels
Peter writes most persuasively about the woeful state of the world system, and the spectacle that it presents on the universal scale. He begins by describing an incorruptible inheritance. In other words, he foresees the Creation in its future, restored state … the precise opposite of its current condition. He writes concerning the hope of the redeemed and the inheritance (remember the adoption, so persuasively depicted by Paul) of something entirely incorruptible and eternal.
He is, in plain terms, describing a future universe without entropy — without sin — and without Satan. In the following passage, he invokes all these ideas, including the trial of one’s faith, recalling the life of Job, whose friends and advisors failed to understand the real purpose of the Lord in the vast process of restoring the Creation to its original, unblemished state:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
“ To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
“ Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
“ That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:3-7).
Like Paul, Peter sees the trial of one’s faith in the adoptive process as central, both to the perfection of one’s walk with the Lord, and ultimately, in the restoration of the universe. As we have previously noted, the entire cosmic order is poised in a state of suspense, pending the moment when the trumpet sounds and the saints arise.
As Peter continues his discourse, this thought emerges in dramatic fashion:
“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
“Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
“Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
“Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
“Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (I Pet. 1:8-12).
Peter confirms that from the ancient days of Job to the present era of the church, the powers in the heavens have marveled at the complex and detailed redemptive plan of God. And well they might, since redemption is something that the angels do not personally experience. Those who did not follow Satan have no need of it. Those who did, are not eligible for redemption, since, as we understand the matter, Jesus did not die for the angels that sinned, but for human beings who were born into a state of preexisting sin.
Here, Peter acknowledges the astonishing fact that the “salvation” which is to be finally realized in the glorification of the saints was not fully understood by even the prophets who wrote of it. This “salvation” is not merely the individual experience of each saint, but the final glorification of all saints, as well as the cosmos! It is clear that even the angels are not in a position to fully understand its details.
It is most important to see the language of Peter’s statement. When he writes that the angels desire to “look into” the facts surrounding the reconciliation of the cosmos, they do so with an eager fervency. The Greek word, parakupto, means that they lean forward, or bend down to look into the progress of salvation. It is of consuming interest to them.
The angels were present at the creation of the earth. Though unable to completely understand it, they rejoiced at God’s plan to redeem the broken Creation. As God told Job, they literally sang with joy as they saw what He was doing: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:7).
The Long-Ago Adoption
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the defining facts of the body of Christ are carefully laid out, in transcendent language. He speaks, not only of the foundation of the earth, but of “the foundation of the world” — the vast cosmic system that the Bible constantly describes as a broken system that is falling toward final corruption.
Since we live within the strictures of time-space, there is no way for us to imagine how we were chosen before the foundation of the cosmos. Nevertheless, we were predestined to be adopted as sons. His language is precisely the same as found in the epistle to the Romans, quoted earlier in this article:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
“According as he hath chosen us in him 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 to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
“Wherein he hath abounded toward us 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:
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Eph. 1:3-10).
Here, we find the most compact and precise link between the adoption of His children and the restoration of “all things.” Notice that this includes the universe that we can see, as well as the ones behind the veil. Once again, Paul paints the picture of a shattered system that awaits repair.
Actually, It Awaits Us!
Certainly, the Lord arose and proclaimed victory to the denizens of the underworld. After His resurrection, “… he went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (I Pet. 3:19). His victory over Satan and the ruin he caused was complete, and Jesus left no doubt about this fact, even to the nethermost regions of hades.
But what they didn’t know was that the Lord had included a future body of believers in his grand design. Why? We simply don’t know … except for one thing: His love. He has lovingly invited us to be adopted into His family. In practical terms, the restoration of all things was complete, all but the completion of His body by adoption.
Yes, His work was finished. But then began the unfolding drama of the church age. Over the past two millennia, millions of saints were born, then born again. They joined the ranks of those awaiting “the fulness of times.”
Exciting times are just ahead. The adoption is almost complete. The saints will rise in glory to join the family business. They will participate in the completion of a beautiful design that was first laid out in eons past by a God whose love is beyond our comprehension.