back to our original definition and reminding ourselves that the
word 'horizon' is the English form of the Greek word horizo,
and that it is applied to Christ twice in the book
of the 'Acts' (10:42, 17:31), its definite meaning being: 'to
mark out or off': horizon is the full range of vision, whether
physical or mental. Everything is within its range and sphere.
This is what the Bible teaches as to God's Son, our Lord, Jesus
Christ. When all these present things are dissolved (2 Peter
3:7,10,11 - a possibility so much more understandable in the
atomic age than when it was written by Peter) and 'the new
heavens and the new earth' take their place, then Christ will
actually be the Horizon of all things. But He is that
now in the mind of God, and in all His activities
through the Holy Spirit.
the earlier chapters we have been noting this feature of Christ
in the universality of His person, spiritual history and work. It
is now our purpose to say more about this in a particular
connection. It is by no means a new truth that we are to
consider, but, although well known, yet it is one, the
implications of which have all too insufficiently been grasped.
It is that the entrance of Jesus Christ into this creation meant
The Beginning of a New
this meaning He is the Horizon of the race that is eventually to
inhabit God's new Heaven and earth, and it is this that lies
behind every Divine activity in this age, from new birth to
this are gathered the greatest magnitudes and mysteries: the
greatness and the mystery of Christ's person; the profound
meaning of the Holy Spirit's work in new birth, spiritual
discipline, and sovereign ways, the evident supreme value of
character above all else.
are four major matters which everyone who takes life seriously
must understand. And, sooner or later, this taking life seriously
will be forced upon a vast number of people.
four matters are:
The meaning of human history: past, present, and future.
The meaning of Christ and Christianity.
The meaning of the (true) Church of God.
The meaning of spiritual experience.
Bible is the book which embodies God's revelation concerning
these four things. The Bible centres in a person - God's Son, and
it is one solid revelation of the fact that He is the explanation
and interpretation of those four magnitudes.
will become clear as to all four if we look into the first only.
The Meaning of Human History
are living in one of the most significant phases of this world's
history. It is nothing less than the final stages of a
long-drawn-out working of the terrible permissive
will of God, necessitated by man's deliberate and
knowing wrong use of his greatest trust - free will. God hung everything
for His own pleasure and satisfaction, and man's
supreme blessedness, not upon compulsion, which for ever rules
out love, but upon free will, voluntary choice. He made it quite
clear that man's eternal good lay in the direction of his using
that trust in humble, selfless obedience, in a spirit of
dependence upon God. This is love! He, at the same time, let it
be known that only dire consequences would follow in the train of
a wrong use of that sacred trust.
man chose to act in mistrust of God and
independence of Him, God might have destroyed him there and then,
and have started again. But could He? Could He morally do that in
an act? To have done that would have meant two obvious things. It
would have been to violate at once the principle of free-will and
say that man could not do as he chose. Thus despotic compulsion
would have set aside the possibility of love. Then, who was to
say that - given the same liberty - the next man would not repeat
the course of the first? Man is a moral creation or he differs
not a whit from a beast, a plant, or a machine. That is, he has a
sense of right and wrong, and is thereby a responsible creature.
then did God decide? It was, in some senses, a very grievous
decision that He had to make, but it had two sides. On the one
side He decided that history must bear its own testimony to the
folly and evil of man's self-chosen way; that the nature and
implications of that choice should work themselves out in
history. But that line of independent action carried with it -
and this had been the warning beforehand - something for which
the Bible has three names - 'vanity', 'curse', 'death'.
the Bible 'vanity' means much more than our modern usage means.
It is not the superficial thing implied when we speak of a
person's vanity; i.e., self-flattering conceit. It means, as does
also the word 'curse', that nothing will reach finality. All
will, in the end, be in vain. Indeed, everything will turn
against man and ultimately meet him with a closed door. Our more
modern word (and it is significant how much it is both being
used, and is increasing in human experience) is the word
'frustration'. It is something that dogs the steps of human
effort and takes the certainty out of every movement.
we must go back a bit to get into line with the two-fold course
which we are noting.
was made with immense possibilities and potentialities. When he
was told to "have dominion", and when it is said,
"thou madest him to [in order to] have dominion", no
one but God knew the immensity of the kingdom in which he was
intended to reign. Certainly man could never have imagined it.
But, for all that to be for man's blessedness and ultimate glory,
the law was humble, obedient, trustful dependence upon God and an
unbroken fellowship with Him.
violation of that law did not mean the cancellation of those
potentialities, but the uniting with them of the element which
brought - like a spectre - progressive and ultimate doom. Enmity
had entered the very constitution of things, and every effort for
peace would only result in more and greater wars. Dissatisfaction
had entered the soul of man and, no matter how much he exploited
his abilities, to reach satisfaction would only lead to greater
discontent. Labour, toil, travail had come into the realm of work
and no matter how exhaustive and abandoned in his search for rest
man might be, unrest, restlessness, would grow upon him until he
was worn out. Lawlessness had entered the creation, and however
much he would work, organize, institute, use force or persuasion,
all his restraints would be broken through and anarchy,
rebellion, violence, delinquency would run side by side with what
man calls 'progress' and would make nonsense of his 'education'.
Lust had supplanted love, and hand in hand with what is called
'civilization' moral degeneration, passion, and cruelty would
blight all refinements. Every amenity, discovery, and invention
which promised full alleviation would but be followed by a new
problem and complication.
so, on it goes, until man's greatest of all 'achievements' - so
far - the splitting of the atom, the production of the atom-bomb,
has become his greatest-ever menace, constituting an imminent
threat to his whole civilization, even to the human race, and
putting into human hearts 'a fainting for fear'.
lies behind every effort for security, appeasement, and 'safety
by strength'. Never in this world's history, and in such a short
period, has there been so much 'progress' and 'advance' (?)
accompanied by so much wearing-out frustration and abortive
effort. It is startling and bewildering. But of course man is
blind to the real meaning of it all. It is a part of the 'curse'
that, when his eyes were opened in one direction - his self-hood,
they were made blind in another, the all-important other, to the
doom of that self-hood out of relation to God.
is what we mean when we say that we are living in the most
significant phase of human history. With a speed which is the
characteristic of everything in our age
man is moving as never before to close the gap and bring in the
'superman' who will finally (?) abnegate God and proclaim the
deity of man. Man already believes that he cannot realize himself
and at the same time believe in - to say nothing of depend upon -
God. As man becomes more God becomes less (to him).
Bible has long ago told us all about this and what the issue will
be, both as to man, the earth, and God's Son.
spoke of another aspect of the course of history. God marked off
a period, a dispensation, in history, and took a nation from the
nations to demonstrate to the world this history. In that
dispensation, faithfulness to God and dependence upon Him was
rewarded in the most literal and practical ways by prosperity and
people whose only strength and resource was in God was made the
head of the nations, and endued with supernatural powers. Marks
of the greatness intended for man, and his 'dominion' are clearly
manifested in Israel's faithful days. So God made them His object
lesson. When they departed from Him, over a long period He
allowed reverse after reverse, shame upon shame, and frustration
to fall upon their way, and thus sought to teach the world this
historic lesson. When, at length, they carried their rebellion to
its consummation in the rejection and crucifixion of His Son,
their doom was reached and for two thousand years they have been
the most frustrated people on this earth. This story has been
written in vivid and ghastly pages in recent years.
a new age has been brought in. It is the age in which these
historic principles are at work in a spiritual way. The
true believer in God through Jesus Christ has peace
within; has purpose over against the
world's frustration; has assurance and security in an eternal
sense; has hope where despair deepens in men's hearts; has life
where 'death' is the frustrating power over all the world's
efforts. This is but a hint at the so much more which could
occupy all our space. But what is God doing in a hidden way in
as the Bible says - is 'taking out of the nations a
people for His Name'. He is working in that people the power of a
different humanity. He has introduced and instated the Pattern,
the Archetype, the "last Adam", and is working
according to Him. Those who have received this new life and are
the subjects of the inward operation of the Spirit of the New
Creation are to form together the "one new man", the
"fullgrown man... of the stature of the fulness of Christ"
of which the New Testament speaks (Eph. 2:15; 4:13).
Christ is the Horizon of this new humanity.
have just so lightly touched upon the meaning of history, but our
object over all is to show that Christ Himself is the meaning of
history on both of its sides. So He has been "ordained"
(horizoned) to be from eternity to eternity.
we have to come much closer to the meaning of this.
The Horizon of Spiritual
only, does the New Testament reveal that in this dispensation God
is taking out of the nations a people
for His Name, but it is a solid mass of revelation that every
additional member of that people becomes an object of deep - ever
deepening - activity of God in terms of discipline, testing,
emptying, breaking, and re-making on another pattern. A twofold
process is being carried through to a point of finality. The old
humanity with its mental, moral, and sometimes physical powers is
being exhausted and proved impotent in the realm of
spiritual things. A new kind of ability, not natural
but extra-natural, or supernatural, is deeply - usually
unconsciously - being instated. The subjects of this process,
while very conscious of the former aspect, are often - we might
say usually - only aware of the other supernatural side as they
know that their very survival at all is a miracle, for naturally
they had seen nothing but disaster facing them, and, like Paul,
they felt that they had 'the sentence of death within themselves'.
is a great difference between the work of Divine power in us,
even "the exceeding greatness of his power", and our
feeling it or being conscious of it. Yet, just as our
'translation into the kingdom of the Son of His love' was a
supernatural thing, the expression of power more than all that is
human, so is the keeping, maintaining, and ascendency of those in
that kingdom. What is true of the Divine power, is also true of
understanding. That God's ways defeat and defy natural
understanding is better known by those in His school than by all
others. Spiritual understanding is not firstly intellectual, it
is heart-assurance. We can be utterly bewildered in reason, but
deeply assured in heart.
is the very point to which we have now come in our consideration.
The life, history, and experiences of a child and servant of God
are an enigma to the world and to the natural man. And even to
the unperfected child of God the word 'Why?' may often be his
cry. That 'Why?' can be set over against so many perplexities and
bewildering experiences. Is there a key, an answer, an
explanation? Yes, there is, but it is no easier for the natural
man in us to accept it when it is offered. Whether
we like it or not, whether we accept it or reject it, the Bible
comes down - so to speak - with both feet and there is
overwhelming proof that God is far, far more concerned with a
certain kind of manhood than with anything else. If this were not
the case, then God would be involved in terrible contradictions.
He would also be involved in terrible defeat. Work for God in
this present world is fraught with many contradictions, defeats,
and enigmas. But when God makes spiritual character and the
measure of Christ His all-governing object, there is no defeat
while man remains in faith and submission.
for the moment, we break off, but let us - if necessary - adjust
to this truth overwhelmingly revealed in the Bible, that God is
supremely set upon a kind of Man, and that Man is "the image
of his Son".