by Thomas Goodwin
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet.—EPH. 1:21, 22.
THESE words set forth and proclaim the supremacy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ over all persons, by what names or titles soever distinguished or dignified in all God's dominions, belonging either to this world or that which is to come. I shewed you before what it was for Christ to sit at God's right hand, as also how it was amplified by the sublimity of the condition, and by the quality of the persons over whom Jesus Christ is set. By principalities, might, and dominions, he would include all sorts whatsoever, as angels, good and bad, and so magistrates. Now I am to speak of the extent of Christ's dominion, and that is in this world, and in the world to come. The great thing to be opened is, what is meant by the world to come. There are three interpretations given of the words.
Sense 1. First, It is taken for heaven and earth, this state of the world on earth, and that state of the world in heaven, which are two worlds; only here will be a question, why heaven should be called a world to come, when it is extant now as well as the earth, which is called the present world. To which it maybe answered, that though heaven be a world now that is extant, yet to us poor creatures here below it is a world to come; though it was created at the same time this lower world was. It is comfort to saints that they have a world to come; for wicked men come in for the greatest share in this, therefore called men of this world; let them take it, it is their world. Saints have a world to come, Luke 18:13. But this doth not seem to be that which the apostle aims at here.
Sense 2. Secondly, This phrase may note the duration of Christ's kingdom, that it is everlasting; for so in Scripture it is used to express 'eternity,' Mat. 12:32. And therefore Isa. 9:6, which we translate, 'the eternal Father,' the Septuagint reads, 'the Father of the world to come;' and so Christ's kingdom is said to be 'for ever and ever;' that is, not for one ever, but for all evers. The apostle in Heb. 10:12 saith, that Christ, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, 'for ever sat down at the right hand of God.' Now that word for ever doth not relate to Christ's sitting at God's right hand, but rather to the sacrifice he offered, who for ever by one sacrifice took away sin; for it may be said that there are not principalities and powers for ever, that Christ may sit for ever at God's right hand. When this world ends, there will be an end of all principalities and powers: 1 Cor. 15:24, 'Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, and shall put down all rule,' &c. Take notice in what sense Christ hath a kingdom, and sits at God's right hand for ever, and in what sense he is said to give up this kingdom to the Father. I would clear it by two distinctions.
Distinction 1. First, There is a natural kingdom due to Jesus Christ as he is in the Godhead, and a natural inheritance due to him, being man, as he is joined to the Godhead. For so he inherits the privileges of that second person, which is this natural kingdom, which he obtained, and which was due to him by inheritance: Heb. 1:8, 'To the Son he said, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.' He speaks of his natural inheritance, though the right be involved in him as he is God, and so he is joined in commission for ever as God and man with the Father; and so in respect of this natural dominion of his, all things are said to be made 'by him and for him,' Col. 1:16. Now this natural right that Jesus Christ hath remains for ever, and accordingly many of those privileges which are to be understood by his sitting at the right hand of God, they likewise must remain for ever.
As, first, a fulness of joy: 'At thy right hand is fulness of joy.' Jesus Christ doth enjoy a fulness of joy immediately by God himself.
Secondly, All that personal honour and those glorious abilities which he was filled and crowned with, when he went first to heaven, Heb. 2:9, all these shall remain to eternity. And they are naturally due to Christ, though they were bestowed on him then when he came to heaven; he is thus in commission with his Father, so far as natural rule goes, though in that respect less than the Father.
2. The second part of this distinction is, that there is a dispensatory kingdom that Christ hath; and that is, as he is considered as mediator between God and his church, which kingdom is given to him. It is not by nature due to him, but as he was the Son of God, he was chosen out to exercise that power which in this kingdom is held forth; and this is pointed out by his sitting at God's right hand, which God gave him as the reward of his obedience: John 5:22, 23, 'The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son.' It is committed to Christ; he is that Lord that God hath set up to do all his business for him visibly and apparently; and this kingdom is in a special manner appropriated to Christ; it is so Christ's, as it is not the Father's, in a more eminent manner: 'The Father judgeth no man.' To appropriate a work to one person rather than another, is an act of God's wisdom; hence it is that Christ hath his work for a time, and afterwards gives it up to another. Till the day of judgment be over, Jesus Christ hath the government of the kingdom, and shall reign; but after the day of judgment, the kingdom is to be given up to the Father. And the reasons why God hath appointed a time of reigning to Christ,
First, Is to draw all men's thoughts to him; that is, that all men might honour the Son as they honour the Father, John 5:22. As for every work there is a season, so likewise for every person, wherein they shall in a special manner be more glorious.
Secondly, This was a reward exceeding due to Jesus Christ, that he should have a kingdom appropriated to him for a season, that all judgment should be committed to him, and be should draw all men's eyes to him in a more immediate manner, because he veiled himself in obedience to his Father; therefore the Father, to recompense him, he will not appear himself so much in the government; saith he, Let my Son take it, I will commit all judgment to him. And see the equity of this: because God will put all things under the feet of Christ, therefore will he again give up all things to God, and be subject himself to him as God-man, 1 Cor. 15:28. Though Jesus Christ hath this kingdom, and means to conquer all his enemies, before he gives it up, yet when he is in the height of his dominion, when he is in his full triumph, and hath cleared all the world's accounts, then will he give up the kingdom to the Father; which may teach us, when we are highest, and most assisted and raised, to fall down and give glory to the Lord. So Jesus will do when he hath all enemies under his feet, and judged and pronounced sentence upon all; then will he set up his Father, deliver up the kingdom unto him, and he shall become all in all. This will be the last great solemnity of all.
This is the first distinction, his natural kingdom which is due to him as man joined to God, that remains for ever; but there is something of his mediatory kingdom to be given up.
Distinction 2. The second distinction is this: This mediator's kingdom it receives a double consideration.
First, Consider Christ as a mediator for the church, and so consider him as under imperfection, sin, or misery, or any other want, till they shall be complete; or
Secondly, Consider him as he is head to the church, made complete and perfected in all parts and degrees. That I may explain myself: you may call to mind that when I opened the third and fourth verses, compared with the seventh verse, I told you that in election there were two great designs or contrivements: the one was more principal, and chief, which I called God's decree of the end, what God's design was to make us; and there it was that God chose us in Christ as a head unto absolute glory, which with Christ and in Christ we shall have for ever in the highest heavens.
Secondly, God designed the way unto this end, and so God was pleased, that he might set off the glory of that perfect state the more; therefore he lets us fall into sin and misery, and suffers our bodies and souls to be separated before we shall come to that end which God hath designed us to. To enjoy this Canaan, we must go through a wilderness to it. Now, answerable to this double design of God, Jesus Christ hath a double relation to his church: the one as a head simply considered, and so were chosen in him to that perfect state unto which God hath designed us; secondly, Christ hath the relation of a redeemer and mediator for us, that as we are fallen into sin, and misery, and distress, so he might redeem us and help us. Now while the church is in an imperfect state, and hath not all its members, nor they out of all danger neither; though they be in no real danger, yet they are to give an account of their actions, and there is a final sentence to be passed upon them; and in that sense there may be said to be forgiveness of sin in the would to come, and therefore Paul, prays for one, that he may find mercy at that day. Now, while there is any such thing as guilt, or the appearance of it, or any imperfection, and till that final sentence be passed, so long is Jesus Christ a mediator for us, and so God hath 'given him all power in heaven and earth, to give eternal life to them that believe.' Now, so long as Jesus Christ rules in a way of conflict, and as a conqueror is destroying sin and death, and all enmity, also raising soul and body and bringing them together, in this sense the Scripture speaks of his sitting at the right hand of God; but when once the final sentence is passed, then this work of the mediator, his reigning as to destroy enemies and such like, is over, and then Jesus Christ will present us to his Father: 'Lo, here I am, and the children which thou hast given me;' we are now as thou didst look upon us in thy primitive thoughts in election. So he stands in relation to them as a head; there we are considered as perfect, and the mediator's office is laid down, and God becomes all in all both to Christ and us. I would add a third thing to this, and that is, how Christ is a king, and sits at the right hand of God for ever. When Jesus Christ hath given up this kingdom of his redeemership unto the Father, yet then he shall sit down for ever with this honour, that it was he that did exercise this office, so that there is not a soul lost, nor a sin unsatisfied for, nor any enemies unsubdued. It is true, he is not a general in war any longer, but he shall have this honour, that he did all these exploits, brought all these rebels in; so that in deed, and in truth, Jesus Christ shall reign more gloriously with the Father after that time of judgment is over, than ever he did before; now he shall reign triumphantly, whereas before he reigned as one in conflict and conquest. Jesus Christ himself will say, that he never was king so much as he shall be now; Jesus Christ shall ever have the glory of it, that he was that great and glorious dictator, that he subdued all enemies, and delivered up the kingdom peaceably to his Father, and in some sense set the crown upon his Father's head, who was, as it were, in some sense put out of his rule in the world by Satan and wicked men, that did what they list; and the saints they lie under sin and misery, and Christ he subdues all these enemies, and presents all these souls to the Father with a peaceable rule and government; and this he enjoys with the Father for all eternity. Now whereas it is said, 'Of his kingdom shall be no end,' the meaning is, it shall not be destroyed for ever. It is a kingdom that gives way to no kingdom, it shall still be continued though he himself give it up to the Father, and become visibly and apparently more subject than he was before; not in respect of his Godhead, for so he is never subject; nor in respect of his manhood, for so he is always subject; but then Christ shall acknowledge the Father to be the author of his kingdom, and that he gave him power, and honour, and glory, and then shall he resign up his crown to his Father again from whom he had it. So much for the second sense of the words.
Sense 3. Now I will add a third interpretation of these words, 'not only in this world, but in the world to come;' but not to exclude the other two I named before, but it shall rather take them in; and that which I shall say is this: that between the state of this world as now it is, and the state of things after the day of judgment, when God shall be all in all, there is a world to come, which is of purpose, and in a more special manner appointed for Jesus Christ to be king in, and wherein he shall more eminently reign.
God hath appointed a special world on purpose for Jesus Christ, which in Scripture is called a world to come, and Christ's world. That as this world was ordained for the first Adam, and given to the sons of men, so there is a world to come for the second Adam, even as that time after the day of judgment is more eminently for God, when he shall be all in all. So there is a world to come, which is made for Jesus Christ, and which the angels have nothing to do withal, for it is not subjected unto them, as this world now is: Heb. 2:5–8, 'Unto angels hath be not put into subjection the world to come, whereof we speak, but one in a certain place testifieth, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him?' &c. 'Thou madest him lower than the angels, thou crownedst him with glory and honour,' &c. 'And hath put all things in subjection under his feet: but (saith he) we see not yet all things put under him, but we see Jesus Christ, who was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour,' &c.
We see plainly that he speaks them of Jesus Christ, as he doth here in the text. And what he here in the Ephesians calls 'sitting at God's right hand,' there he expresseth it to be his 'crowning with glory and honour.' And then, likewise, for that passage, of all things being under the feet of Christ, which is spoken of here in the Ephesians, the apostle quotes out of Psalm 8:6, which speaks of Christ's dominion; and that sentence is nowhere found in the Old Testament but only there, and quoted likewise in 1 Cor. 15:27, all which places relates to Christ. Then, again, he calls it a world to come, in Heb. 2, that is ordained for this man, and he doth the like here in the text: therefore, these places compared together, we see how they agree: 1 Cor. 15:25, he saith, Christ most reign 'till he hath put all things under his feet,' which he quotes out of Psalm 110:1. So that these places before named, they are all parallel places with the text; and there is another place parallel with it, 2 Peter 3:7 compared with verse 13: 'The heavens and earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, and reserved to fire against the day of judgment.' And at the 13th verse, in opposition to the heavens and earth which are now, he saith, 'We, according to his promise, look for new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness;' that is, we look for a world to come, wherein righteousness dwells. And that these places hold forth the same thing, appears by this, that when he had alleged there was to be a new heaven and a new earth, that is, a world to come, at the 15th verse he quotes Paul, that he had written to them of these things, and that was in his epistle to the Hebrews. For it is the best argument to prove that Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews. He hath written to you, saith he, of this new world, and that was in Hebrews 2; there he wrote of this new world. So likewise, 'unto this give all the prophets witness,' in Acts 3. And therefore I am not ashamed to give witness to it too. Rev. 5:10, when they saw Christ once take the book, and was installed king, what do their thoughts presently run out to? It is to the world to come. 'He hath made us kings and priests, and we shall reign on earth.' To be sure at the day of judgment they shall, which shall certainly be a long day, when all the accounts in the world shall be certainly ripped up, and the world shall be new hung against the approach of their new king, and the glory of the creatures then will put down the glory of this old world. We see then how this place to the Ephesians, and that in Heb. 2, how parallel they are. Now I would have you consider likewise the scope of the 8th Psalm, as the apostle brings it to prove this new world. And, indeed, any one that reads that psalm would think the psalmist doth but set out old Adam in his kingdom in paradise, who was made in his nature a little lower than the angels. One would think that were all the meaning, and that the apostle applies it to Christ only by way of allusion: but the truth is, the apostle brings it to prove and to convince these Hebrews, that that psalm was meant of the Messiah whom they expected: saith he, 'One in a certain place hath testified.' He brings it as an express proof and testimony that it was meant of Christ, and was not an illusion only. Now the scope is this, as you read in Rom. 5:13, that Adam was a type of him that was to come, namely, Christ. So in Psalm 8, you read there Adam's world is the type of a world to come. The first Adam had his world where there were sheep, and oxen, and fowls of the air. Now, whereas it is said in the psalm, that all things were under his feet, it is not meant of man in innocency, but of the Messiah, Christ and his world, which is made of purpose for him, as the other world was for Adam. That it was not meant of man in innocency properly and principally, appears,
First, Because it is said, 'Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.' There was no babes and sucklings in Adam's time; he fell before there was any.
Secondly, It is said, was 'to still the enemy and avenger.' But the devil was not stilled by Adam, he overcame him; therefore it must be meant of another that should still this enemy: 'How excellent' saith the psalmist, 'is thy name in all the earth,' speaking of this world. Adam he had a paradise, but he never propagated God's name in all the earth, much less did he sound it in the heavens.
Again, Adam, though man, yet he was not the son of man, but called the son of God, he came not of a man.
Again, take the argument the apostle useth; saith he, this must have all subject to him, all but God; he must have angels subject to him, for 'he hath put all things in subjection under his feet.' This could not be Adam, no, not in the state of innocency; but it is true of Jesus Christ, angels and all were under his feet.
2. As it is not meant of man in innocency, so it cannot be meant of man fallen neither; that is as plain as the other. The apostle himself saith, that 'we see not all things subject to him.' Some think that is an objection the apostle answers, but indeed it is a proof to prove that man fallen cannot be meant, for we do not see all things subject to him. You have not any one man of the whole race of mankind to whom all things are subject; take all the monarchs of the world, there was never any man that was a sinner that had all subject to him, therefore it is not meant of man fallen; but saith he, 'We see Jesus crowned with glory and honour,' and therefore it is this man, and no man else, that is there spoken of. And then again, take notice, that it is not an angel to whom all shall be subject, but plainly man, that is made a little while lower than the angels, but then crowned with glory and honour.
And it is not only this world that shall be in subjection to this man, but it is 'a world to come.' For, saith he, 'We see not yet all things under his feet, but we see Jesus Christ crowned with glory and honour.' Therefore it is not this world, but there will be a world that shall be in subjection unto Christ, when all things shall be under his feet. And it is that which Psalm 8 speaks of; besides, Christ interprets this psalm of himself, Mat. 21:16. When they cried Hosanna, and made him Saviour of the world, the Pharisees were angry at it: and our Saviour confutes them out of this psalm: Know you not, or have you not read, that 'out of the mouths of babes and sucklings he hath ordained praise'? quoting this psalm to speak of himself. What the meaning is, I refer to what Mr Mead hath written upon Psalm 8; he interprets it of that man Christ principally, that was but a babe, by whom God would still the enemy; it is therefore Jesus Christ to whom only all things are subject, and shall be put under his feet. He is the sole man, whom the psalmist and apostle means, that hath a world to come ordained for him. As the first Adam had a world made for him, so shall Jesus Christ, the second Adam, have a world to come made for him; this world was not good enough; 'When I consider,' saith he, 'thy heavens, the workmanship of thy hands.' Jesus Christ hath a better world, a better heaven and earth, than Adam had. A new heaven and a new earth, according to his promise, when the saints shall reign: 'This world he hath not subjected to angels;' none of those principalities and powers rule there. As there are two Adams, and the one was the type of the other, so there are two covenants, the law and the gospel. The angels, they by nature were above the world and all things in it, and the law was their covenant, they were the deliverers and declarers of it, the law was given by angels.
There is a second covenant, which is the gospel, and that declares and speaks of this second world made for Christ. Now, the angels, God hath not used them to preach the gospel, they do not meddle with it, that work is not carried on by them; but God hath appointed men to do it, who were babes and sucklings; out of their mouth hath he ordained strength, to begin to create this new world. But then, why is it a world to come? If we speak of it as the gospel beginning of it, because, as the other world was six days in making, the work went on by degrees, so will it be in this new world; and we are now but at the first day's work, the perfecting of it is to come. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is said to be like to a grain of mustard seed, which is the least of all seeds, but grows to a great bigness by degrees. The apostle calls conversion a delivering of us from this present evil world; there is the first day's work, and God will never leave till he hath perfected this world: and because the perfection of it was to be afterwards, therefore it is said to be a world to come. And as the first world had a seventh day for the celebration of the creation in it, so hath the new world a Lord's day, a rest, of which he speaks in Heb. 4. Now this world, when it is finished, it shall not be subject to angels, but to Christ and his babes and sucklings, to the man Christ Jesus, for whom it was made, and to the saints who shall be the citizens of this world. As they suffer with him, so they shall reign with him. We do not read that the angels at the day of judgment shall sit upon thrones of judgment. But it is said of saints, that they 'shall sit upon thrones,' Mat. 19:20, and so in Rev. 20. And so likewise Christ promiseth to give the government of ten cities to him that had ten talents, and improved them, and five cities to him that had five talents. The devils shall be shut up; and if they be gone, there needs not the principalities of good angels to oppose them. That which good angels do to the saints in this present state below, that office and work shall the saints that arise from the dead perform unto the saints that shall remain alive in that world to come. For it is now such as have part in the first resurrection that shall have to do in that world, and not angels, and it is no absurdity neither. And if angels which have always beheld the face of the Father, as Christ saith of them, yet have they been busied and employed about things below, why may not saints be so too? It will be an honour rather to them: 'Thou hast made us kings and priests, and we shall reign on earth.' It is true, the angels shall gather the elect from all the corners of the world, and they are executioners to throw men to hell; but they that are the principalities and powers of this world to come, they are men that shall judge the angels, and then shall Christ's kingdom be at its height; and when that is ended, the kingdom shall be given up to the Father.
Use 1. First of all, take notice, that here is two worlds for you that look for happiness. Methinks you should be satisfied with the expectation of this. Alexander wept before he had half conquered this world, that there were no more for him to conquer; out of a supposition, when he had conquered all, what he should do afterwards. If thou hadst the same desire, thou needst not cars for this world, for there is another world; as there are things present, so the comfort is there are things to come. Care not for this world, it is old Adam's world, it brings ofttimes much loss to saints, it is well if thou canst get handsomely rid of it, with little sinning. It is called a 'present evil world.' It was all Christ desired for his disciples: John 17, 'Not that they might be taken out of the world, but kept from the evil of it.' But there is a world to come, which Abraham and all believers are heirs of; so they were not only heirs of Canaan, but it is expressly said in Rom. 4:13, that they were heirs of the world.
Use 2. Secondly, Admire we this man Christ Jesus, whom God hath thus advanced and set up, and hath made a world of purpose for him, peculiarly for him and his to enjoy, and for him and his (as under him) to rule and govern. That he that was the scorn and derision of men (for so Christ was when here below), that God should raise him up, and set him at his own right hand, and subject all principalities and powers unto him, and use him in all that great business of judging the world; if this had been spoken of God it had been no wonder, for all nations of the earth are but a drop of the bucket to him; but to hear it spoken of man, who is but as the drop of that bucket, that this babe or suckling should still Satan, subdue angels, have them under him, 'Oh how excellent is thy name in all the earth!' This made the psalmist admire: 'What is man, that thou visitest him?' Visiting is sometimes put for visiting in anger, as in Psalm 59:9. So God visited Christ at first; and when that was done, he visited him with favour; he takes that broken, shattered man, and raiseth him up, to crown him with glory and honour. What is man? He speaks of the nature of man as being united to the Godhead. What is this babe, this suckling, that thou shouldst raise him up to such an height? All this concerns us, for the psalmist calls him the Lord our God, how excellent will his name be one day in all the earth. This will swallow up the thoughts of man and angels to eternity. Now, put all together, and here is the most glorious appearance of a kingdom that ever eyes beheld, more by far than all the kingdoms of the world that Satan shewed our Saviour, take but what this chapter holds forth of it.
First, Here is a Father of glory mentioned, ver. 17. For as God is the fountain of glory, so himself is the Father of it. This Father hath an eldest Son, whom he made a man, and visited him as you have heard, and set him in the throne at his own right hand. There is your king; and to set out the glory of this king he hath nobles under him, as principalities, and powers, and mights, and dominions, he hath them all under his feet. Those that are his friends, they fall down and worship him, they throw down their crowns before him; and for those that are his enemies, he hath the most glorious conquest over them; he sits and makes them his footstool, that he may sit the easier. And for Satan, that great devil, Jesus Christ triumphs so over him that he makes his children set their feet upon his neck. Here is the highest exaltation that ever was. What can be added to make Christ Jesus more glorious? One would think he had enough. He is a king over a whole world, is advanced in the highest throne, he hath the highest power, all is under his feet; what is there more to be added? Look upon Adam, who was the type of Christ: he had a world about him, he had a paradise, a court which was peculiarly his as the king of the world (if he had stood), he was the father of our nature; what wanted this man? he wanted a wife, a helper, God himself saith so; all this was in a type. This man Christ Jesus, we hear of his advancement 'far above all principalities and powers.' Here is a Father of glory, and a Son set in glory, and he hath glorious nobility enough. But where is the queen? what saith the words following? 'He hath given him over all to be the head of the church,' above all privileges else. He counteth this the highest and chiefest flower in the crown, that he is a head to the church, who is his body, and the fulness of him that filleth all in all; as if our Lord and Saviour should have said, Though I have all this honour, and am thus full, yet if I have not a body, a church, I want my fulness; for the church is the fulness of him that filleth all; therefore above all hath God given this to him, to be a head to his church. Christ hath all else under his feet; but come up, saith he to the church, and sit on my right hand, Ps. 45. As I sit at my Father's right hand, and as I sit down in my Father's throne, you shall sit down with me in my throne. And though all things else be under my feet, I will have my church, my body, sit on my right hand, for she is my fulness. My brethren, Jesus Christ delights more in love than in power. Though he be a king, and hath all power committed to him, yet that doth no whit abate his love, he takes care that his church shall share with him in his glory and greatness. Oh what is man, that thou art mindful of him! The Lord Christ and the church made up that man.
THE WORLD TO COME; OR, THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST ASSERTED
THE SECOND SERMON
Not only in this world, but in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet.—EPH. 1:21, 22.
THE last time my work was to shew you, that between this world as now it is, and the state of things after the day of judgment, when God shall be all in all, that there is a state which the Scripture calls a world to come, which is of purpose, and in a more special manner, appointed for Jesus Christ to be king, when he shall have all things put under his feet. I quoted divers places to make it good, especially that in the 8th Psalm and the 2d of the Hebrews. At the 5th verse of Heb. 2, I found it was the apostle's scope to prove that the psalmist had prophesied of a world to come ordained for Christ; and he proves it by this, that he was to have a world, wherein he was to have all things subject to him, which was but the same thing that follows here in the text. And saith he, though we now see Christ crowned with glory and honour, ver. 8, which is all one with sitting at the right hand of God, yet, saith he, we see not all things put under him; therefore it proves that there is a world to come, wherein all things shall be subject to Christ. Now then, finding in the text mention of a world to come, wherein Christ hath his kingdom over all, and all things is under his feet, and which in the judgment of most interpreters is taken out of the 8th Psalm, no rational man could imagine, but in the same sense that the world to come is taken in Heb. 2, it must be taken here in the Ephesians. I spent time the last day to prove that the Son of man, prophesied of in the 8th Psalm, that was to have all things under his feet, was Jesus Christ; now I shall speak of this, that he hath a world to come ordained for him, and I shall express myself in these two heads:
First, That the world to come mentioned in Heb. 2:5, wherein Christ is to have all things under his feet, it is not this world that now is, or merely the government that Christ now hath; nor it is not the world or state that shall be after the day of judgment; and yet it is said to be a world to come.
And, secondly, I shall in a few words shew what I think is meant by that world to come, and see the several steps and degrees of its growing up to perfection. I shall speak a little to these two things, to clear up what I delivered the last day, because I fear I was not well understood in what I said, and I shall do it with as much brevity as I can.
First of all, that the world to come, mentioned in Heb. 2:5, and prophesied of in the 8th Psalm, that it is not the world that now is, that is plain; for the apostle distinguisheth the world that now is from that world to come, by this; saith he, 'we do not now see all things subject to him;' and it is the argument by which he proves there must needs be a world to come that must be subject to Christ: Heb. 2:8, 'We see not all things now put under his feet,' which implies that there is a world to come wherein this is to be fulfilled. Take this world now as it is in its rough, and it falls short of that world to come, wherein all things are to be subject to Christ, for that is not grown to perfection; we see Jesus now only crowned, but we see not all things subject to him; it is true, this world to come is begun, but is not come to its perfection.
Secondly, I shall prove that it is not the state of the world after the day of judgment; and that I shall prove likewise out of Heb. 2 compared with this place.
My first reason to prove that the world to come ordained for Christ is not that world after the day of judgment. I mean it is not that state then, because this world to come here spoken of which is for Christ, Adam's world was the type of. Now look into Rom. 8:19–22; he shews you there that Adam's world, that is, this very world wherein now we are, which is the type of that world to come; he tells you there, that this world that now is, the creatures in it they groan for the manifestation of the sons of God; for, saith he, 'the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that hath subjected the same in hope; for we know that the whole creation groaneth,' &c. We may in these words plainly see that there is a world to come, which is not that world or state of things after the day of judgment; for what will become of these creatures then, no man can tell; but it is this very individual creation wherein we live that groans for restitution, and the restitution of it is a world to come, as the present corruption and bondage of it is this world. Then look into the 8th Psalm, which is Christ's world typed out; it is said, that heaven and earth, the moon and stars, the sheep and oxen, the fowls and fish, &c., they are all said to be subject to him. This cannot be meant after the day of judgment, for there is nothing after that which heaven and earth, the sun, moon, and stars, the sheep and oxen, &c., should signify and typify; so that the world to come is a state which is between the state of this world, which is yet in its ruff and height, and that state which is after the day of judgment.
A second reason for it is this: When this world to come shall come, and Christ shall have all subject to him, now after this subjection of all things to him, 'then shall he deliver up the kingdom to his Father,' namely, after the day of judgment is over. This is plain in 1 Cor. 15:24, 25. When Jesus Christ is fully in possession of this world to come, that all things are subject to him, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him that put all things under him, so that this world of Christ's shall cease after the day of judgment is over, for then cometh the end.
Thirdly, Out of the words of the text you have this world and the world to come, wherein there are principalities, powers, mights, and dominions. Now, after the day of judgment there will be no principalities, and mights, and dominions; that is plain in 1 Cor. 15:24, 'He shall deliver up the kingdom to his Father, when he shall have put down all rule, and power, and authority;' so that the world to come the apostle speaks of, wherein Christ is actually to have all things under his feet, it is not that time or state of things after the day of judgment is ended, nor is it this world, or the state of things now. So much for the first general head.
Now I would a little explain what is meant by this world to come, and that but in few words. I would first shew why it is called a world, and then why a world to come, and the several degrees and countings on of this world, and when it is at its perfection, and when it shall cease.
First, Why is it called a world? My brethren, you must know this: that as God made this world for Adam, and put all things under him, though not under his feet, so God appointed a world for the second Adam Jesus Christ, and Adam's world was but a type of this world, Rom. 5:13, it is said Adam was the type of him that was to come; answerably this old Adam's world, which now good angels, and bad angels, and sinful men rule, it is but the shadow of that world which is to come, prophesied of in the 8th Psalm, and mentioned in Heb. 2.
Yea, let me add this, that God doth take the same world, what was Adam's, and makes it new and glorious. This same creation groans for this new world, this new clothing. As we groan to be clothed upon, so doth this whole creation; even as God takes the same substance of man's nature and engrafts grace upon it, so he takes the same world and makes it a new world, a world to come. For the second Adam, for the substance, the same world shall be restored which was lost in Adam; this God will do before he hath done with it, and this restitution of it is the world to come.
Now, then, why is it called a world to come? It is called so. Though the foundation of it be now laid, and was laid then, when our Lord and Saviour was upon earth, the foundation of it is laid in the new creature. As the first creation began the old world, so this new creature begins the new world; and as the old world was six days in making, so this new world is not perfected at once: the new creature that is in your hearts, it is but the beginning of it.
Mark in Heb. 2 how this new world is begun, and but begun, and when it began: ver. 2, 'If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken of by our Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him, God also bearing them witness?' &c.; 'For unto angels hath he not put into subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.' It is plain, he speaks before of the preaching of the gospel, which was begun to be preached by Christ; and though the angels delivered the law, yet this gospel, which is the kingdom of heaven, and the beginning of the world to come, whereof we now speak, this gospel was not delivered by angels, this world to come was not subjected to them, they preached it not, neither shall they have to do in that world which the gospel begins; so that you see this world to come began when Christ began to preach, and therefore observe the language of the gospel: 'Repent,' saith John the Baptist, 'for the kingdom of heaven is at hand;' the world to come is coming upon you; so our Saviour, Mark 1:14, and Mat. 16:28, 'There be some standing here that shall not die,' saith Christ, and yet all were dead that stood there long ago: 'they shall not die,' saith he, 'till they see the Son of man come in his kingdom.'
The foundation of this world was laid by Christ in bringing in the gospel, and it was he that was prophesied of in Dan. 2:44: 'In the days of these kings' (whiles principalities and powers were standing, he that meant to reign in the world came stealing in upon it) 'In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed,' &c. This new world began in the flourishing and height of the Roman monarchy. What did Christ when he came into the world, and afterwards went up to heaven? He began this world. Before that time, the devil was worshipped as the god of this world, in all parts of it; Christ he flings him down: Luke 10:17, 18, 'I saw Satan fall down like lightning.' Christ destroyed the devil in all those heathen oracles whereby people were deceived; when heathenism did not prevail, then did Jewism shew itself, and Christ he throws that down too by the preaching of the gospel. The apostle calls this a shaking of the earth. There was a great deal of the old world gone presently, and fell down before this new world. Jesus Christ he converted by the apostles millions of souls over all the world. In 2 Cor. 5:17, conversion is there expressed by the passing away of old things; this is the first day's work, for the world is yet to come; this is but a delivering us out of this present evil world, and not a subjecting of it to Christ, as in Gal. 1:4. When Christ threw down heathenism and Jewism, it was but the first day's work, like a new nail that, being strucken in, puts out the old one by degrees. This kingdom of Christ's break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms, Dan. 2:44, this will eat out all the monarchies and glory of the world.
Now, after this first day's work of throwing down heathenism and Jewism, then came a night of popery, which was set up in the room thereof. What will Christ do before he hath done? He will have a second day's work, and will not cease till he hath thrown down every rag, all that dross and defilement that antichrist and popery brought into the world. We now are under the second day's work, we are working up still to a purer world; it is still this new world, working up to its perfection; and Jesus Christ will never rest till he hath not only thrown out all the dross of this world, both of doctrine and worship, which conformity to the world hath brought in.
But for a second degree of this work. Jesus Christ will not rest till he hath brought in the generality of men in the world to be subject to himself. The world (according to Scripture account) consists of Jews and Gentiles; and how bitterly doth the apostle complain in his time of God's cutting off the Jews; the generality of the nation was cast off: and for the Gentiles, saith he, 'Who hath believed our report?' There was very few of them in comparison that did come in to Christ; but there will come a time when this new world shall have a further perfection, when the generality of mankind, Jew and Gentile, shall come in to Christ. The world was made for Christ, and he will have it before he have done: Rom. 11:26, 'All Israel shall be saved.' There he tells us of a new world of the Jews; and for the Gentiles, he tells you 'they shall be cast in, the veil shall be taken from off all nations,' Isa. 25:7. And that which is so much alleged for unity shall one day be fulfilled, but it will be when Christ is Lord of all the earth, and not till then. Christians will not agree till then. Here will be a brave world indeed, that will be another degree of that world to come, one shepherd and one sheepfold of Jews and Gentiles, and that as large as all the world, John 10:16. This was never yet fulfilled, Jews and Gentiles were never yet one sheepfold together, but they shall be so one day. Read the prophets, and you shall read there of strange things, of glorious times that shall be here upon earth, of all nations coming into the church, the mountains of the Lord's house being set on the top of the mountains, and all nations flowing unto it, and of great prosperity they shall have, which was never yet fulfilled; and there are many fall in and acknowledge this much, that there shall be a glorious church on earth, when the Jews shall be called. But there is a third thing which is much controverted, which here followeth.
The third degree of this new world is this, that when this glorious time comes, that Jesus Christ, as we have said, will call home both Jews and Gentiles, and have a new world, in respect of the multitudes that shall come unto him. Christ will also make his new world more complete, he will bring part of heaven down, too, to add to the glory of this state. I shall briefly give you some grounds for what I say, such as for this twenty years I have not known well how to answer.
I do not say that Christ himself shall come down from heaven to reign hare on earth; but let it be understood that Christ shall still remain in heaven, and there to be his court, where he shall reign both over this world and the world to come. Yet this I conceive, that part of heaven shall come down sad rule this new world, to make the glory of it more complete, and that it may clearly put down old Adam's world. My reasons and grounds which satisfies me in this are these.
If this be not so, I do not know how to understand that place which shall be the foundation of the rest. In Rev. 20, the whole chapter, but specially the five first verses, you shall find, and such as know that book they to acknowledge as much, that in the chapter going before both pope and Turk is destroyed. In chap. 19 ver. 20, it is said there, 'The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet, that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image; these both were cast alive into the lake of fire, burning with brimstone.' Here we see the beast and the false prophet is gone. Where is the devil? He is left still. Therefore in the beginning of the 20th chapter he tells us what becomes of the devil: 'I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand; and he laid hold of the devil and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended.' The devil, though he now travel the earth up and down, and is ruler over the world, yet here he is kept up that he may not deceive the nations. This was never yet fulfilled, it could not be fulfilled during the times of antichrist; for the devil never deceived the creatures more than he did in that time; and we see how it follows in order, after the beast is taken and destroyed, then is Satan bound up. But we know the beast is not yet destroyed, therefore this thing is not yet come; and it cannot be after the day of judgment his binding up, for he is after his binding to be loosened a little season; and you shall find that after Satan is let loose a little while, then the day of judgment follows, when all the dead shall rise to be judged, as in the 11th, 12th, and 13th verses.
Now, take notice, that when the devil is gone and thus shut up for a thousand years, what there is done in these thousand years, of that we read in the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th verses: 'And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.' Who are they that have this judgment given unto them? What is meant by judgment, but reigning and authority, that such shall have? 'And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and the word of God' (which were the martyrs in the primitive times, under the Roman emperors' persecution) and (saith he) 'which had not worshipped the beast, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands,' which were such as had stood it out in the times of antichrist, and had not defiled themselves. 'They lived,' saith he, 'and reigned with Christ a thousand years, but the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.' Now it is said by some that the first resurrection is a spiritual resurrection of men's souls from the death of sin; such interpretations are commonly put upon it. Now I desire you would consider with yourselves a little, and weigh the place.
First of all, it is the body of men that are said to be dead; that is plain, for they are said to be beheaded or slain with the sword, for the witness of Jesus. It cannot be said so of the soul, that it is beheaded or slain with the sword. And as the death is, such must be the resurrection; but their death was a natural death, and their resurrection must be answerable. And, saith he, 'they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.' This is not meant the glory of heaven, that they reigned with Christ only there, for so they shall reign for ever with him, and so they had reigned from the first time that they were slain, they were with Christ in glory; but this reigning is upon their rising from the dead, for, saith he, 'the rest of the dead lived not again;' therefore this rising of theirs is a living again. 'This,' saith he, 'is the first resurrection.' Now, my brethren, consider further, where do these reign? It seems it is on earth by this argument, because why else is the devil bound up? He need not be bound up for their reigning in heaven; but we see here, as a preparation to their reigning, the devil is bound. This is a place I could urge multitude of things out of, but I must not enlarge; I know not likewise how to answer another place, Rev. 5:10, where we have the saints in John's time saying, 'Thou hast made us kings and priests, and we shall reign on earth.' They do not say we do reign, but we shall reign on earth, and then join with that what is said in 2 Peter 3:13: 'We according to his promise look for new heavens, and a new earth,' &c. We apostles, we saints that live now, we look for it. How prove you that? Because the use he makes of it shews as much, as in ver. 14, 'Wherefore, beloved, seeing you look for such things, be diligent, that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.' It could be no argument to them in those times to be holy and blameless, if they that lived in those times might not personally look for it. And what was it which, according to his promise, the saints then looked for? It is for a new heaven and a new earth. If we take heaven properly, there is new heavens to be made, but the old heavens shall continue which was made from the foundation of the world, and where we shall ever be with Christ after the day of judgment. And how is there a new earth? It shall be an earth wherein righteousness dwells; because, as I said, it will be a new world, subject to Jesus Christ, when the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven. If you ask me what the saints that rise from the dead shall do here in this new world, for that I shall give you such considerations as shall take off the absurdity that seems to be in the thing.
First, To tell you what they shall not do. 'They shall not eat and drink, nor marry, and give in marriage.' So Christ tells us in Mat. 22:30, 'The children of the resurrection do none of these things.' And therefore to imagine a Turkish heaven here below, is the absurdity that hath been put upon it, and which indeed made the fathers, many of them, after the first three hundred years after Christ, to fly out so much against this subject; for there was an opinion then that Christ should reign at Jerusalem, and that they should abound in all several pleasures and delights, &c., and this the fathers were against.
I have told you what they do not, I will tell you what they do. He tells us, as I said before, that 'they shall be kings and priests,' as in Rev. 20:6: 'Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection.' Why? 'On such,' saith he, 'the second death hath no power;' they are out of all danger of it, being in a celestial state. 'But,' saith he, 'they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.' Here is both their reigning and their priesthood set out; I would open it a little. First, they shall be kings. You heard before out of Heb. 2:5, that 'he hath not put this world to come in subjection to angels.' The angels now they are the thrones, and principalities, and great ones that rules this present world, but the saints shall be kings then. And for them to take the angels' places, to be as the angels now are, after their resurrection, there is no absurdity in it. Christ saith, after the resurrection, the saints they shall be as the angels of God, and they shall be priests likewise. I shall take off what absurdity there may seem to be in that by this. Our Saviour, when he took up his body out of the grave, he continued forty days upon the earth. What did Christ do all that while? It is plain he performed the part of a priest and prophet; he did instruct them in the worship of God, and speaking to them of things pertaining to the kingdom of God. So you read expressly in Acts 1, the apostles had a brave teacher, Christ risen from the dead; so he began that new world, and he remained forty days here of purpose to do it. Now consider, is it any absurdity for the saints to be conformed to Christ their Lord and Head, to run through the same states that he did? He lived in this world, was poor and miserable, so are you; when he died, he commended his spirit into the hands of his Father, and whither his soul went our souls go. So likewise when he took his body again out of the grave, he remained forty days upon earth instructing his disciples in the things concerning the kingdom of God. If the saints do so when they take up their bodies again, in all this here is but a conformity to Christ: he ascended then up to heaven, and so shall his, and be for ever with the Lord.
But the great objection is, that the souls of men that are now in heaven, and see the face of God, for them to come down and reign on earth, and do such service here below, it would be a disadvantage to them, or changing a better estate for a worse, which seems to be a great absurdity.
For answer, consider, to take off the absurdity, that even this state I speak of will be a better state than what their souls are now possessed of, for otherwise our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, when his body and soul was united again at his resurrection, was not in a better state than his soul was in after death, when It was separated from his body. Certainly his state after his resurrection, whilst upon earth, was better than his state before his resurrection. But you will say, They are now in heaven, where they behold the face of God as the angels do, which they may lose by coming here upon earth. That doth not follow, for the angels came down here below, and yet Christ saith, 'they always behold the face of their Father;' so may these saints on earth behold the face of God. Stephen, though a mortal man, yet the heavens were opened to him: he saw the glory of God, and Jesus sitting at the right hand of his Father. My brethren, God hath eternity of time to reveal himself to his people in; and he doth advance his favourites by degrees. First, he glorifies their souls apart; after, when soul and body is united, it is in a better condition, simply considered, than the soul had before. How many ways God hath to manifest himself to his saints, and how many degrees they shall pass through, and how many worlds he will have to do it in, that is known to himself; however, the more the better. If God shall lead you by degrees through this and that glory, from one to another, it will be to your advantage; as in a masque there are several shows, which adds to the excellency of it. God hath eternity of time to make all these shows and representations of himself to his children. And let me add this, that the will that he fulfilled, which is prayed for in that we call the Lord's prayer, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' There is a time when the will of God shall be done on earth as completely as in heaven, which is in that time of the first resurrection. My brethren, I have spoken these things as that which hath a great show of truth in it, and as that which is exceeding probable. I have told you my grounds for it, which I could never answer myself.
Now, there is a fourth degree of this world to come, and that I am sure will hold; and that is, that time during the day of judgment, strictly so taken, after the general resurrection both of just and unjust. Then, to honour this new world, not only shall the saints come down, but Jesus Christ himself will come down and abide a long day here below. Therefore it is not absurdity for saints to leave heaven, when Christ himself shall do it; neither will it diminish anything from Christ's happiness, for he will come and bring all his glory with him. That we call the day of judgment will be a long day; judge you yourselves whether it will be so or no. Do you think that the accounts of all the world can be cast up in the twinkling of an eye? Doth not Solomon say expressly, that 'God will bring every work to judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil,' in Eccles. 12? And doth not the apostle say in 1 Cor. 4:5, that when the Lord comes 'he will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart'? Will not this require much time? Surely it will be a long day, when our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will do that great work or service to God, the greatest that ever was, more than all his preaching, which is the examining the accounts of all the world, convincing all mankind of their evil, and sending them speechless to hell. Things shall be so there, that the saints shall be able to judge the world too, according to that in 1 Cor. 6:2.
Now, here this new world will be in its height and perfection, here is AChrist and all his saints and angels about him. Yet, not that this world shall be subject to angels, but they shall gather all the nations together, and shall execute the sentence that Christ pronounceth against them, and fling them all to hell; but the angels shall not sit as judges, they shall stand and not sit, whereas the saints are said to 'sit upon twelve thrones,' and they are said likewise in 1 Cor. 6 to judge angels. And now shall this world to come be at its perfection; that creature that hath groaned under man's lusts shall then be fully restored to the glorious liberty of the sons of God; the world will then be new hung. This is Christ's world to come, wherein he shall have all things subject to him. For at this time shall all things be under Christ's feet, and never till then; for the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death; and when all things shall be subdued to him, then shall the Son also himself be subject, then shall he give up the kingdom to the Father. And what that state is that shall come after Christ hath given up the kingdom to his Father, no man knows; only the Scripture saith this of it, 'that God shall be all in all, and that Christ himself shall then be subject.'