Plan of the Ages
1. Since man sinned and the death penalty resulted, has God expressed his purpose to restore and bless mankind? If so, where do we find the first faint glimmer of light concerning man's restoration? (p. 77, par. 1,2)
God repeatedly expressed his purpose to restore and bless mankind through a coming deliverer. The first faint glimmer of hope was in the obscure statement that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. Gen. 3:15
2. How much time passed until God called Abraham, and to whom was the promise to Abraham afterward confirmed? (p. 77, par. 3)
About two thousand years passed until God called Abraham. The promise was assured by God's oath unto Isaac and confirmed to Jacob and to Israel.
3. What was the expectation of the twelve tribes of Israel at the time of Jacob's death? And who delivered Israel from their captivity? (p. 78, par. 1,2)
The expectation was that Israel, as the promised seed of Abraham, would soon possess Canaan and rule and bless the world. Moses delivered Israel from captivity.
4. What further insight into God's plan was revealed by Moses? Who was Moses' successor, and what did he accomplish? (p. 78, par. 2)
Moses revealed that not only would the nation as a whole be associated with ruling and blessing, but that one to be selected from among them would lead to victory and to the fulfilment of the promise. Joshua was Moses' successor. Under him, they won great victories, and Joshua actually entered the land promised in the covenant.
5. Under what kings did the nation of Israel seem about to realize their hopes? How was their hope again deferred? (p. 79, par. 1)
Under David and Solomon, Israel reached the very zenith of their glory; but soon, instead of seeing the promise accomplished, they were shorn of their power and became tributary to other nations.
6. What was the expectation of all Israel at the time Jesus was born? Why didn't they receive him as their long promised Messiah? (p. 79, par. 2)
All men were in expectation of the Messiah, the coming king of Israel and, through Israel, of the world. Israel overlooked the types and prophecies which pointed to a work of suffering and death, as a ransom for sinners, necessary before the blessing could come. Hence, when Jesus came as a sacrifice, they did not recognize him.
7. How did Jesus' unexpected death affect his followers? What was their attitude after his ascension? (p. 79, par. 2; p. 80. par. 1)
They were sorely perplexed and felt their confidence in him had been misplaced. They failed to see the death of their leader was a surety for the New Covenant under which the blessings were to come. However, when they found that he had risen from the tomb, their withered hopes began to revive.
8. When did the disciples begin to comprehend the divine purposes more clearly? What light was thrown upon the Gospel Age and its work by the Apostle James? (p. 80, par. 2; p. 81, par. 1)
It was some time before they got a clear, full understanding of the work being done and its relation to the original covenant. James began to read in God's providence, in the sending of the Gospel through Peter to the first Gentile convert and through Paul to Gentiles in general, that during this age believing Jews and Gentiles were to be alike favored. He then looked up the prophecies and found it so written; and that after the work of this Gospel age is completed, then the promises to fleshly Israel will be fulfilled. Gradually the great mystery began to be understood by the saints.
9. What is the great mystery (Col. 1:27)? What does Christ in you signify? (p. 81, par. 2,3; p. 82, par. 1)
The great mystery is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." "Christ in you" signifies the saints of this Gospel age are an anointed company (1 Jn. 2:27), and together with Jesus, their chief and Lord, they constitute Jehovah's Anointed -- the Christ. The Christ is not one member, but many.
10. How has the Apostle Paul and our Lord guarded the church against any presumptive claims? (p. 82, par. 2)
By saying of Jesus that "God hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is his body," "that in all things he might have the pre- eminence." (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18)
11. How does the pyramid illustrate nicely the Lord and his church as an anointed company? Who is the chief corner stone in the building of God? (p. 82, par. 3,4; pg. 83, par. 1)
The top-stone is a perfect pyramid of itself. Other stones may be built up under it, and, if in harmony with all the characteristic lines of the top-stone, the whole mass will be a perfect pyramid, just as joined to and perfectly in harmony with our Head, we, as living stones, are perfect; separated from him, we are nothing. Jesus is the chief corner stone.
12. Why do "living stones" nicely illustrate the body members of the church? (p. 83, par. 2)
Because the body members need much polishing, transforming and conforming to his example, under the direction of the great Master-builder; and in order to have the ability and ideality of the builder displayed in them, they need to see that they have no cross-grained will of their own.
13. What is the "high calling," and why is it called a mystery? (p. 84, par. 1)
God intends to raise up not only a deliverer, but a deliverer composed of many members. This is the "high calling" to which the consecrated believers of the Gospel age are privileged to attain. It is a mystery because none but new creatures can now appreciate or understand this high calling.
14. How does the Apostle Paul open up the entire mystery in Galatians 3 and 4? Why was it necessary to keep this mystery hidden for so long? (p. 84, par 2; p. 85, par. 1)
He shows that the Law given to Israel did not interfere with the original covenant and that the seed of Abraham which is to bless all nations is Christ. Then, carrying out the idea already alluded to, that the Christ includes all anointed of the Spirit, he says: "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ;...and if ye be Christ's then are ye (together with Jesus) Abraham's seed, and heirs, according to the promise" made to Abraham. Following up the same line of reasoning, he shows that Abraham was a type of Jehovah, Sarah a type of the covenant and Isaac a type of Christ (head and body); and then adds, "We, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise."
The mystery was hidden in types until the Gospel age began the development of the Christ.
15. Why is the peculiar course that the little flock has been called to walk a mystery to the world? (p. 85, par. 2; p. 86, par. 1)
To the world, it appeared that Jesus foolishly wasted his life. They could not understand him. The apostles and their companions were likewise mysteries in the world, in leaving their business prospects, etc., to preach forgiveness of sins through the death of the despised and crucified Jesus. All who so follow in the Master's footsteps are, like Paul, counted fools for Christ's sake.
16. Will the divine purposes always remain a mystery? If not, how will the world of mankind be brought to a knowledge of God's promises which are now only appreciated by his servants and handmaids? (p. 86, par. 2,3; p. 87, par. 1)
The dawn of the Millennial Day brings the fuller light of God to men, and "the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth." In the age to come, when God shall "pour out his spirit upon all flesh," then indeed all will understand and appreciate the promises now being grasped by the "little flock," and they will rejoice in the Church, through whom blessing will be flowing to them.
17. What are the two senses in which the mystery of God is used, and when will it be "finished"? (p. 87, par. 2,3)
The mystery or secret features of God's plan will then be made known and will be clearly seen; and also the "mystery of God," the Church, the embodiment of that plan. The mystery of God will be finished during the period of the sounding of the seventh (symbolic) trumpet.
18. What does the greatness of the mystery, so long kept secret, suggest respecting the work to follow its completion? (p. 88)
It suggests that the work to follow its completion, for which for six thousand years Jehovah has kept mankind in expectation and hope, must be an immense work, a grand work, worthy of such great preparations. We may expect great blessings upon the world.