Bible Studies/ephesians 1:10
All the famous commentators agree that this passage and in particular this verse means that God has been the one who has "arranged" history so that all things could come under one head, and that head is Christ.
1) Stalin Killed almost 20 million people, then you have hitler. History itself is just a series of horrors - even a lot of the history of the church. If God is the head and arranger of history as the ancient Greek would assume, how can I possibly believe he is loving. The fact that Stalin killed 20 million people cant be shrugged off and said that God had nothing to do with it - its way to big an historicle event to say that. So just what kind of God would arrange history the way history has presented itself?
You asked how we can believe that God is a loving God when there is great evil in the world. You asked this with Eph. 1:10 in mind.
The scriptures, taken all together, do show that God can control world events and the actions of selected individuals (Dan. 2:21) in order to fulfill his plan for mankind, which includes Christ returning as King of Kings over the whole earth (Acts 1:11, Rev. 11:15).
Eph. 1 is one of about ten passages said by some to "prove" predestination for individuals. Those who do not accept predestination also point to ten scriptures or more, that discuss "free will", and correctly point out that the existence of free will, in each of us, disproves predestination in the Calvinistic sense (that some are ordained of God, in advance, to receive salvation while others are ordained in advance, of God, to receive damnation).
God did ordain that the righteous shall receive eternal life and that the unrepentant will receive death. He could not give all of us free choice and also know which choice all of us would individually make.
Your question is often asked in some form of, "If God is good, why do "innocent" people suffer?"
To understand anything requires a definition of terms such as "innocent". For any two people to understand something in the same way, it is necessary that they agree on the definitions being used. A failure to agree on definitions is one cause of many religious arguments.
In Gen. 6-9, we see that God killed a lot of people. Based on the elapsed time from Adam (approx. 1,656 yrs.), with men having an average life span in hundreds of years (Gen. 5), with many having multiple wives (Gen. 6:2), and often having large families, it would appear that there were millions or even billions of people who died in the Flood that God caused.
These were not innocent by God's standards (Gen. 6:5 "every imagination of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually"). Evil thoughts start at an early age (Gen. 8:21, "for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth;").†
Can anyone be accepted by God? Yes.(Isa. 66:2, ". . .but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor [humble, not necessarily in poverty] and of a contrite spirit [repentant of sin] and trembles [in awe and respect, not terror] at my word."
Obviously, the millions or billions that God killed by drowning did not meet his standards, because their every thought was evil.
How did his killing them show love? To understand God's way of thinking requires that we think on his level, not ours. (Isa. 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.")
We typically think of children as being "innocent", but God, who knows our thoughts, knows otherwise (Gen. 8:21).
The example of Lazarus shows us that the dead can be resurrected to physical life at any time. Since the Pharisees were determined to kill Lazarus, we know he was resurrected to physical life (Jn. 12:9-11), like many others who came out of their graves after Christ's death (Mat. 27:51-52, Heb. 11:35).
Because God can resurrect us at any time, or kill us instantly (Acts 5:5-10), he views death differently from us. For God, our physical death is merely a temporary condition.
[One reason for the difference in thinking is that many believe that judgment is immediately at death and that everyone dead has already gone to some kind of Heaven, or to an everburning hell. Christ explained that the unrighteous dead will not be resurrected until 1,000 years after the righteous dead are resurrected (unrighteous Rev. 20:5a, righteous Rev. 20:4, 5b, 6, 1Ths. 4:16).
The righteous dead are resurrected and given their reward from Christ (Rev. 22:12), of immortality (1Cor. 15:51-54) in the "first resurrection" (Rev. 20:4, 5b, 6, 1Ths. 4:16), which is why it is called a "better resurrection" (Heb. 11:35).
The unrighteous are resurrected after the first millennium (1,000 years) of Christ's reign on earth (Rev. 20:5a, 1:6, 5:10). Infants who died before they were old enough to be taught about Christ, and those adults who never heard of Christ, will be resurrected to physical life and will have 100 years of physical life to choose eternal life or eternal death (Isa. 65:17-21, Deu. 30:15, 20, Jer. 21:8, Jn. 5:24, Lk. 19:27).†
God is not unfair, but he knew that he would be accused of that (Eze. 18:25-32, 33:17).
For more discussion of what happens at death, see, "Okay, I'm Dead, Now What?" at http://thechurchofgodinamerica.com/B101.C.6.a.Okay_I%27m_Dead_Now_What.htm
God also killed a lot of people in the cities of Sodom, and the others "cities of the plain", because "their sin is very grievous" (Gen. 18:20). He promised, at Abraham's request, that he would not destroy Sodom if just ten righteous men could be found there.
(Abraham's request was not for the Sodomites, but for Lot's benefit. Even Abraham knew there wouldn't be more than ten or he would not have taken the number that low).
The cities were destroyed because Lot was the only righteous man there. The rest, "both old and young, all the people from every quarter (of Sodom)" gathered at Lot's door and wanted to use the two men (angels) as the main objects of an orgy.
Even other pagan kings considered themselves to be righteous compared to Sodom (Gen. 20:4).
How did God show love in this? 1) By removing these evil and unrepentant people from the land before they corrupted all the cities of Canaan and Trans-Jordan. 2) By ending the lives of people who were corrupting their own children to the extent that there were none righteous, except for Lot, who was an immigrant (Gen. 19:9) from Ur, (known later as Babylon, now Iraq) (Gen. 11:27-28).
Every generation was corrupting the next generation, just as the "whole world" was in Noah's time. When they are resurrected in the second resurrection, the evil will not be allowed, and they will have a lifetime to choose between eternal life or eternal death.
Previously, they did not know God's plan, but even with Abraham's example (he had previously rescued them from captivity, Gen. 14), and Lot's less than perfect example, they were not ready to repent of their sins. They had that option and rejected it, but even Lot's own sons did not understand (Gen. 19:14b). Everyone gets at least one chance, with understanding (Heb. 8:11).
With the Flood, and with Sodom, God actively killed the people. With the mass murders (genocides) by Stalin, Hitler, and by despots ruling in the Balkans, China, Africa, and southeast Asia, plus mass killings (including religious conflicts) throughout history on every major continent, God did not order it, but simply allowed it. Since he is all-powerful, he could have stopped them, but he did not.
The reason? Pro. 26:2, ". . . the curse causeless, shall not come". In other words, for every curse, there is a reason.
First, no one is truly innocent ("for all have sinned", Rom. 3:23, and 1Jn. 1:10).
Second, we can suffer curses because those around us, among us, and over us (terrorists, Sandy Hook school shooting, corrupt politicians). We can suffer the consequences of our parents' wrong choices (children of abusers, alcoholics, drug abusers, criminals), going back for several generations (Ex. 20:5). Our children and grandchildren can suffer physically and emotionally for our mistakes, for up to two or more generations (with health, financial, emotional, or legal repercussions).
In the time of Noah, the people had Noah's example of righteousness to follow, and he warned them for 100 years (1Pet. 3:20, 2Pet. 2:5, Gen. 5:32 with Gen. 7:11).
The history of Israel, and later of the divided kingdom, from the time of the Exodus until 70AD, is a history of God using gentile nations to punish Israel and later Judah, of his using Israel and Judah to punish gentile nations, and of using some gentile nations to punish other gentile nations.
Part of the lesson from the account of Lot, is that the righteous can also suffer because of the wickedness around them. Lot's adult children refused to leave because they accepted the culture of Sodom (Gen. 19:12-14), his (Canaanite) wife died because she did not want to leave her people (v. 26). Lot lost all his possessions because he did not flee immediately ("lingered" v. 16). He only had his two daughters with him because they were very young (v.8) and still subject to his authority. However, they had also been corrupted by the Sodom culture (v. 30-38).
We see here an example of the effect of sin on subsequent generations in that the daughters produced sons who sired the Moabite and Ammonite nations (v. 37-38), two unrighteous nations that later caused Israel many problems (see Exodus).
There may have been some righteous people among the victims of Stalin, Hitler and other despots. Righteousness does not guarantee freedom from the effects of evil (Heb. 11, esp. v. 35-39).
Christ said that the righteous would also suffer tribulation (trouble, oppression, persecution, anguish) (Jn. 16.33). It is one way that God tests our faith and determination (Mat. 13:21, Acts 14:22, Rom. 5:3, 8:35, 12:12).
Paul wrote about enduring it with a right attitude and that God will help us to endure it (Rom. 12:12, 2Cor. 1:4, 7:4, 1Ths. 3:4).
Christ inspired John to write about it (Rev. 1:9, 2:9-10, 7:14), and he promised that it would never be more than we could endure if we trust him (Deu. 4:27-31, 1Cor. 10:13).
We live in an evil world (Gal. 1:4). It is getting worse and will continue to get worse until God uses the coming Great Tribulation (Mat. 24:21) to execute punishment for the sins of the world as a whole (Rom. 12:19). He offers protection for those who seek him (Lk. 21:36, Mat. 24:1-51).
Those who died in genocides (righteous or not), did not die because of a lack of love on God's part, but because of their own sins, or because of the sins of those around them. The concept that he will always look the other way regardless of sin, began with Satan telling Eve "you shall not surely die" for breaking God's commandments (Gen. 3:3-4).
God is patient, merciful and loving, but he will not tolerate sin forever.
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. . . .And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. . . . He that overcomes [sin] shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Rev. 21:1-8).
[For a full discussion of why God allows suffering, see http://thechurchofgodinamerica.com/B101.C.2.c.Why%20does%20God%20allow%20sufferi
We hope this helps.
If you have additional questions, feel free to write anytime.
Mel and Guyna