The Appreciation Of God

by A.E. Knoch

THE KNOWLEDGE of God's Word is good, an acquaintance with His ways is better, but a realization of Himself is best. Faith accepts His sayings, confidence acquiesces in His ways, love rests in His essence. Let us believe what He says, and we will not only delight in what He does, but exult in what He is. How few of His saints are found with even the first of these favors! Faith they have, but so scant, so adulterated with credulity, and so faltering, that God's ways are dark and inscrutable, and He Himself is hid behind a thick curtain of ignorance and tradition. Alas! even to His children, He is the great Unknown and Unknowable, the Distant, the Unapproachable, even the Dreadful Deity.

The attitude of scant faith is clearly revealed when its own welfare is at stake. It does not deem it safe to leave the future in God's hands, without some definite promise, some written bond, that will hold Him to His Word. It is this trembling unbelief which changes God's eons into eternities, for it rightly reasons that, if the eons end, there is no certainty of future bliss, unless they leave their fate in the hands of a God Whom they do not fully trust! It is true that God has made no "promises" beyond the eons. As He gives us deathlessness and incorruptibility, why should we be concerned about "eternal" life? Where there is no death, such a "promise" would only reflect upon His character, and our future welfare is far more dependent on His integrity than on His declarations.

Even today men in business life have learned to look beyond the words and ways of their clients, in dealing with them, and in estimating their worth and dependability. Some men could not borrow anything from a bank without the best of security. Others need merely sign their names to get millions. A shrewd banker is not so much interested in the promises a man may make, as in his record, and in his character. What he can do and what he will do, in case he undertakes an obligation, is more vital than the written bond. Of what use is this if he is not able to fulfill it, or if he evades it, or if he makes a legal loophole to slink out of it? So all of God's promises are dependent on His ability, and on His character. Only during the eons, while few realize His power or His essence, are promises in place. Once He is fully appreciated, and sin is repudiated, there is no place for promises.

The same principle can be seen in the relations between the great nations, especially when they are strained. Attempt after attempt is being made to create all sorts of pacts and treaties, and the diplomats seek to spread the impression that, once the signatures are safely affixed, all is well. But very few even of these diplomats really intend to keep their promises should these seriously interfere with the vital interests of their country. No one seems to think it necessary to be ashamed for not disarming, according to the treaty of Versailles. Thus even written promises are only scraps of paper unless backed by the integrity and character of the parties who promise. Human history should teach us the futility of promises among men, who often are neither able nor concerned to abide by their word, in order that we may trust in God Who will do more than we can apprehend, without in any way obligating Himself.

It will be seen in the Scriptures that the abundance of promises decreases rapidly once the millennium is past. Not many refer to the new earth and the new heavens. There is hardly a specific engagement on God's part beyond the eonian times. Why should there be? There is no need for many promises when all men are vital with life and where sin has been repudiated, where faith is replaced by sight, and all are subject to God. Where there is no sin there can be no salvation, where there is no enemy there can be no rescue. With God the All of all hearts, the present is bliss and the future felicity, and there can be no concern, no anxiety as to either.

There are saints who would be in despair if the promises in the Bible should suddenly be revoked, and they should be left entirely at the mercy of God, without any recorded document to which they could hold Him. But can they hold Him? If He is not to be trusted without a definite promise, can we be sure that He will stand by His Word? Promises are expedient and gracious, a help to confirm faith, and we would not be without a single one of them. Yet our confidence should not rest in the promises but in Him Who made them. We should be more than willing to trust Him when and where His promises do not reach.

Scant faith is afraid of the consummation. Israel's promises on earth and ours in the heavens come to a conclusion when Christ abdicates the throne. We will no longer reign, for all rule will be abolished. Our eonian mission will be fulfilled, for all will be reconciled. True, there is no death, so we cannot die. Deathlessness indeed is ours, yet we have no written assurance of peace or happiness or glory in that consummation. To the average saint it looks like a leap in the dark, or into an abyss without a bottom. There is nothing on which faith can fasten--except God! And is not this precisely what He wishes? Then He will be All in every one. Faith, promises, and all such crutches will be past. They would only mar the perfect and mutual confidence which will exist between God and His creatures. It is not a leap in the dark, but a serene entrance into light and love unlimited.

The overwhelming glory of God's grand ultimate has been utterly wrecked by current unbelief, and the substitution of such a fearful future for God as the annihilation of the bulk of His creatures, or their far more heartless and hideous torment for all eternity. Let us for the time consider these only as they affect God's glory, not human welfare. If He is a real God, then all destiny is the deliberate fruit of His efforts. Even if He is the subordinate deity of Christendom, Who has lost control of His creation and cannot do what He would, these destinies are foreseen and allowed by Him, and He makes no adequate effort to prevent them. Say what you will, they make it impossible for even His saints to trust Him as they should.

If He is such a God, the thought will arise, Could He not save the bulk of His creatures in the past, how can He preserve His saints in the future? If sin came in and ruined His fair creation against His will, what will hinder a repetition in the eternity to come? Even if we believe His promises, can we rely upon His love and power when they have been fulfilled, and there is no further guarantee? The more closely one considers the false doctrines of annihilation or eternal torment, the more it will be apparent that they make it utterly impossible for God to gain the full confidence of His creatures. The usual result is His dethronement by the doctrines of free will and divine irresponsibility in the past and present, and by the utter eclipse of His ultimate goal in the future. An annihilator and tormentor eternal cannot become All in all, not even if we make the all a tiny residue.

Here we have the secret source which supplied the mistranslations everlasting and eternal. And this shows why saints are so slow to give them up. They cannot trust their God, and must have a public record to bind His actions in the future. He has promised them eonian life. If this is not eternal, they are not sure--in fact, they are afraid--that He will take life from them when it comes to its end. Can we not see how the promise of "eternal" life really defeats its own purpose? It is given that the saints may get to know God, yet, being endless, it implies that they never attain this goal. As it denies the possibility that He shall be All in them, it totally defeats the object for which it is given, of making them so utterly content with Him that they not only are willing but eager to leave themselves in His heart, without a single assurance from His lips. What He is, is enough!

It is the office of faith to transfer us, in spirit, to this consummation, even in the midst of our present career, while everything visible still seems the very reverse of God's ultimate. Perhaps never, in the history of mankind, has there been such marked distrust, between men as well as toward God. Confidence is going or gone. Faith is vanishing. And I, for one, freely confess that, without a knowledge of the consummation, when God will reconcile all and become All in all, I could not have confidence in a deity who allowed the world to work itself into such a mess, and who can do little more for most men than to sweep them into destruction, extinction or torment. I, too, would fear that such a god must be put under bond to perform His oaths, and even then--? But now, how can I distrust Him? Mankind is just where He has brought it. The effect of all the present evil and distress will be salutary. God will get glory out of it, and men will be prepared by it to appreciate the gifts He has in store for them.

Here we have the great contrast between man's miserable self- made destinies and God's grand and gracious goal. Man not only destroys God's creatures, but undermines His deity and robs Him of the appreciation of His heart's handiwork. God's goal not only upholds His deity but gives His creatures such confidence in Him that all concern as to His love and power disappears. They willingly, yes eagerly, leave themselves in His hands without any assurance whatever on His part as to His intentions. Faith and hope are no longer needed, so they vanish, and only love remains. Knowing Him as God, limitless in power and wisdom, and as essential Love, they prefer to remain in fond anticipation of that which the ear hears not, to which the heart of man cannot ascend, that which God makes ready for those who are loving Him. They rely on His Word, they delight in His ways, and they revel in the appreciation of Himself.

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