THE DIVINE PLAN OF THE AGES IN BRIEF
GOD proposed in himself before the foundation of the world the great Plan re Redemption, because he foreknew man's fall and the death penalty he would put upon it. For the first 1656 years up to the flood God permitted the holy angels to demonstrate their inability to recover the sinner to righteousness. On the contrary, the contagion of sin spread to some of the holy angels. As the Scriptures declare, "The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair, and they took unto them wives of such as they would. And there were born unto them children, which were giants and men of renown. (Gen. 6.) And the earth was filled with violence and sin--to such an extent that God declared that the imagination of the human heart had become only evil and that continually. Foreknowing this God had already arranged that one of the aqueous "rings," still suspended above the earth, should descend, causing the flood, which wiped out that order of things, destroying every human being, except righteous Noah and his family, of whom it is written, "Now Noah was perfect in his generation (there was no admixture of angelic seed).-- Genesis 6:9.
Thus the angels were tested by contact with sin for centuries--so that all of those who desired had opportunity to transgress the Divine Laws. The disobedient ones are referred to in the New Testament as those angels who kept not their first estate or spirit condition, but who preferred to live on the earthly, animal plane. These were restrained in chains of darkness until the great Millennial morning--cut off from fellowship with God and the holy angels and no longer permitted to materialize and thus to commingle with humanity.--2 Peter 2:4.
When God's due time came he called Abraham to make of him a type of himself, and to give him a son, Isaac, to be a type of Christ, and to call for Isaac a Bride, Rebecca, who would be a type of the elect Church of this Gospel Age. And as with Rebecca came maids, so with the elect Church comes the "great company" class. As Abraham offered Isaac on the altar in a figure and he was recovered from death in a figure, so God really offered his Son in death and recovered him out of death actually by resurrection from the dead. As all that Abraham had he gave to Isaac, so it is that all the blessings that God has to give to all others of the human family who will become his people will come through the antitypical Isaac. And when Rebecca became Isaac's bride and joint-heir, she became sharer with him in all the joys and privileges which were his. Thus was represented the future glory of the Church with Christ in blessing all the families of the earth.
Moreover a double figure is used to represent The Christ, namely, Jesus the Head and the Church his Body. In the fulfilling of this figure the Apostle tells us that all of the consecrated overcomers are members of the Isaac class, saying, "Ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise." The Church as the Bride is pictured in St. Paul's statement, "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's Seed and heirs according to the promise"-- the promise that through us the world shall be blessed.-- Gal. 3:29.
ABRAHAM'S WIVES TYPICAL
While the foregoing is a brief synoptical picture of the whole, the details of Abraham's life represent the details of the Divine Plan of the Ages. As Abraham had the promise that he should be the Father of many nations, it implies that, eventually, many peoples of the world will become God's children--but only through Isaac and through the promise made respecting Isaac's work. Furthermore, the Seed of Abraham, it was foretold, would be as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the seashore. The stars of heaven represent the spiritual Seed of Abraham. The sand of the seashore represent the multitudinous earthly seed, the human family brought back to life during the Millennium, the result of the redemptive plan.
St. Paul gives us the key to the entire situation in the suggestion that Abraham's wives were typical of Covenants and this explains to us the seemingly harsh treatment of Hagar. Abraham was obeying Divine instructions, and the Divine instructions were so shaped as to constitute the matter in type a picture and lesson for our instruction. Abraham's first wife was Sarah. St. Paul explains that Sarah typified a fundamental promise, and her name, Sarah, signifies princess or chief one. This princess Covenant, the one upon which all the others depended for their fulfillment, is the one which fulfills its mission or purpose in the development of the spiritual Seed--Isaac--"We as Isaac was are children of the promise." This Covenant has nothing whatever to do with the development of any other children of God except through the Isaac class, the Mediator class, the great Prophet, Priest and King class, through which all of God's blessings are to descend to humanity.
Because Sarah was to serve as a type of spiritual things she was barren for long years, to teach that God's primary Covenant with Abraham would be barren (unfruitful) for long centuries. Meantime, in order to make another type, Sarah's bondmaid, Hagar, was given to Abraham for a wife, Sarah seeking to appropriate the child of Hagar as the Seed of promise--as her own. Hagar represented the Law Covenant made with Israel at Sinai, as St. Paul explains. The child or offspring of [R4682 : page 295] that Covenant was the Jewish nation, Israel in the flesh. The fact that Sarah sought to recognize Ishmael as her son and held Hagar in her arms at the time of his birth, implied that the Law Covenant with Moses as its Mediator would, for a time, seem to constitute Israel the heir of the original Covenant--which included the blessing of all the families of the earth. But this was not the Divine will.
APOSTOLIC EXPLANATION OF COVENANT TYPES
And so, in God's due time, Sarah brought forth Isaac, who typed the true heir of the Covenant or Promise. This birth of Isaac was represented primarily by the begetting of our Lord Jesus Christ by the holy Spirit to the spirit nature; and, later on, by his resurrection to the perfection of spirit nature; and in a larger sense, as St. Paul explains (Ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise), the birth of Isaac represented the begetting by the holy Spirit of the entire Church, which is the Body of Christ. Then came the persecution, the mocking of Isaac by Ishmael and the subsequent casting out from Divine favor of the Hagar or Law Covenant and her child, the Jewish people. They have been outcast for centuries and were about to die--about to lose their national identity, about to be absorbed by other nations, just as Hagar and Ishmael, after being cast out, wandered through the desert until they had eaten their loaf and had drank the water they had with them and Ishmael was ready to die. Then the angel of the Lord drew their attention to a spring of water in the desert and, after their refreshment, counseled their return and submission to the Divine arrangement--their recognition of the Sarah Covenant and spiritual Israel. We have come close to this very point of time now. The poor Jews, losing hope, were about ready to die, to give up all faith in the promises. But, behold, at the opportune time, a well-spring of hope revives them and the message to them is that there is a spiritual Israel and also a natural Israel and that their blessings are along natural lines and must come to them through the recognition of the glorified Mediator of a New (Law) Covenant.
The Apostolic explanation of this wonderful system of types stops here. And we would be inclined to stop here also, were it not that other Scriptures clearly point out that later on, after the death of the Hagar Covenant and after the principal Covenant shall have accomplished its purposes in the bringing forth of spiritual Israel, the antitypical Isaac, a New Covenant is due to be introduced "after those days"--after the interim of this Gospel Age specially set apart for the development of the antitypical Isaac. That New Covenant is referred to by St. Paul. When discussing this very subject he says respecting natural Israel's restoration to Divine favor, "This is my Covenant with them when I shall take away their sins; as concerning the Gospel they are enemies for your sakes; but [R4683 : page 295] as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes,...for as ye in times past have not believed God, but have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."--Rom. 11:26-32.
The same great Covenant, future for Israel, is referred to by the Prophet Jeremiah. (31:31.) Israel is there told that after certain days God will make a New Covenant with them, not the Sinaitic Covenant--not the Hagar Covenant--and just as surely not the Sarah Covenant, which gives birth only to a spiritual Israel. The prophecies respecting that New Covenant are earthly, restitutionary. Under it, "after those days," God will take away the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh--he will make them tender-hearted human beings, loving, kind, etc. But he will not make of them spirit beings or New Creatures.
The Mediator of that New Covenant, Israel understood, will be a greater Mediator than Moses, though like unto him in the sense that Moses was the type or small fore-finger of him. Even so the Mt. Sinai Covenant, with Israel as the Ishmael class gendered thereunder, were typical of the greater blessings and upliftings to be accomplished by the New (Law) Covenant. For these reasons the Lord did not confuse the types by reinstating Hagar as Abraham's wife after the death of Sarah, as representing a renewal of Divine favor toward Israel and the use of natural Israel as the earthly channel of Divine favor and blessing to all the families of the earth. Instead, God permitted Hagar to cease as a type after showing her subserviency to Sarah and the recovery of her child, the Jew, from perishing. When Abraham, after the death of Sarah, took another wife, Keturah, we have every reason to believe that she, also, was a type and represented a third Covenant. And her many children represented typically the many people, kindreds and tongues of the world which will ultimately become, under the New Covenant arrangement, children of the Highest.
THE SUPERIORITY OF THE SARAH COVENANT
Nevertheless it should be continually borne in mind that in this series of types the Lord everywhere showed the superiority of the Sarah Covenant. In one sense of the word Sarah was Abraham's only wife, because Hagar and Keturah are mentioned merely as concubines. Thus the Divine Plan all centered in the promise, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Nevertheless the Jew and his Law Covenant have been used of the Lord as a supplementary means of blessing and instruction to the Church and to the world. Likewise in the future the blessings that will go to Israel and through Israel to the world under the New Covenant will all depend upon the first Covenant, the Sarah Covenant, the spiritual one and its spiritual Seed--The Christ, Head and Body. The New Covenant can go into effect as a better Covenant than the Mosaic one only by reason of having a better Mediator than Moses, "The Mediator of the New Covenant"--The Christ. And he will become the Mediator of that Covenant and put it into effect for the blessing of all through or by means of his "better sacrifices." First, the sacrifice of Jesus, the foundation of all reconciliation with the Father--"and we through him." Secondly, the Father's acceptance of the Church as members of the Body of Christ, upon the condition mentioned by St. Paul, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God." These are the better sacrifices which the great Mediator presents to Justice, all founded upon the merit of the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. His merit will be shared in, through God's arrangement, by the "little flock," the Royal Priesthood, who not only by faith accept the Redeemer's merit, but who, by grace, also lay down their lives. They become dead with him, that they may also live with him and share his glory, honor, immortality, Kingship, Priesthood, Mediatorship, etc.
"Ah, these are of a royal line,
All children of a King,
Heirs of immortal crowns divine,
And lo, for joy they sing!
"Why do they, then appear so mean?
And why so much despised?
Because of their rich robes unseen
The world is not apprised."