The counsels of God represent all the work God will do on behalf of all creation. Certain parts of His counsels preceded the creation of the world. These counsels spring forth from God’s own will. His will is the cause of, or results in, the decisions and choices He makes. The purpose of His will is directly reflected by His choices and decisions. God has always had a plan, and when He works, it is always according to His plan. As the sovereign God He simply works ‘all things.’ This does not mean that He is the direct agent of everything that takes place, but rather that nothing escapes Him. Nothing can happen, nor does happen, that does not fit into His overall plan. This would have to include the general as well as the specific, the good as well as the evil – if God is sovereign, then nothing escapes Him or is outside His plan. God exercises an active control and oversight over all things and all events.
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,”
The Counsels of God – the specific purpose of His will
This verse gives credibility to the general statements I made preceding it above. An additional truth of specific detail is evident from this verse – that ‘in Christ’ the believer has been made or enabled to obtain an inheritance from God. The giving of this inheritance is seen as to certain ones (we) before the creation of the world. These are all true believers being made acceptable to God, as they are found ‘in the Beloved’ Son (Eph. 1:6). This ‘acceptance’ by God of certain ones in the Beloved also preceded the foundations of the world (Eph. 1:4-5).
All these verses in the first half of Ephesians 1 help to establish certain spiritual truths and realities.
1) God’s counsel and plan exists according to the purpose of His will – His choices and decisions are of His will and therefore reflect the purpose of His will.
2) God is sovereign and therefore works all things. As God’s word cannot return to Him ‘void,’ neither can His counsel (Is. 55:11).
3) Certain parts of His counsel were determined before the world was created. This is part of the meaning of the word ‘predestined’ in Ephesians 1:5 and Ephesians 1:11.
4) In the first half of Ephesians 1 there are two things definitely seen as before the foundation of the world – the inheritance given in title to the believer (v. 11) and the complete and absolute acceptance by God of the believer in His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ (vs. 3-7).
The Counsels of God before the Foundation of the World
Now with these understandings from the scriptures, we will look at a similar passage in the epistle to the Romans.
(29) “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
The passage is speaking of the counsel and plan of God. It speaks of the believer in Christ and the sovereign work of God on his behalf. With the use of such words as ‘foreknew’ and ‘predestined’ we know the Spirit is speaking of the parts of God’s counsel that existed before creation, before the world existed. What is interesting are the five prominent words in this passage and the need for our correct understanding and perceptions concerning how they are used.
- Foreknew – the predetermined counsel of God before the foundations of the world.
- Predestined – the choice of God in His predetermined counsel.
- Called – the beginning of the work of God in drawing and separating unto Himself. It is based upon His previous choice and is always without repentance – He never has to change His mind or have an alternate selection ready. That would simply be unnecessary and contrary to any proper understanding of God’s sovereignty.
- Justified – God becomes the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus; a faith in His death and blood. God’s righteousness was satisfied and demonstrated in Christ being made sin and bearing sins, His blood being the propitiation (Rom. 3:24-26). God has justified all those in Christ, freely by His grace, through the redemptive death of Christ. God raising Christ out of death represents the already accomplished truth of the believer justified by God. Jesus was raised because of our justification (Rom. 4:25).
- Glorified – the believer will be clothed in a heavenly body, a building from God (II Cor. 5:1-2). We will all be changed (those in Christ) – I Cor. 15:51. This will be either resurrection from the dead, or life swallowing up the mortality of the earthly body.
Each of these words is used in the past tense in the passage. In the mind of God His counsels are already accomplished. Certainly Jesus came to this earth at a given point in time, but He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. When He was raised from the dead, the believer was already justified. For the believer, only one of these remains yet future – the glorified body. However, as we can see, it is as good as done. If it is God’s counsel, then there can be no question about it. As is the testimony here, those God justified, these He also glorified.
Conformed to the Image of His Son
This passage makes it decidedly the counsel of God – He is the one who foreknew us, and He is the one who predestined us. And for what purpose? God’s counsel is for every believer to be conformed to the image of His Son. This directly refers to the glorifying of the believer, the glorifying of our bodies. It will be the time of the rapture of the church. All that remains from this list of five above is for the believer’s body to be conformed to be like Christ.
The list of five words in the above passage describes the sovereign grace and work of God in accomplishing the redemption of the believer. It is God’s work, it is God’s will, and it shows here how it is actually and entirely God’s decision. This is the sovereignty of God and it speaks of the only way redemption is accomplished. It is easy to see that there is no human involvement at all in the list. That is because there is no human involvement in the redemption of the believer. All believers are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, and for His glory. God alone will be the One who will conform every believer into the image of His Son.
Now if we want to pervert the teaching of the passage we will add in human thoughts and human efforts. We will say the ‘conforming to the image of His Son’ is sanctification. The problem is the word ‘sanctification’ didn’t make the list. And this is for good reason. The phrase ‘conformed to the image of His Son’ refers to the word ‘predestined’ – the expression of the purpose and will of God as decided by Him before the foundations of the world. The word predestined comes before the words ‘called’ and ‘justified.’ How would the thought of sanctification fit there? It wouldn’t! Further, believers conformed to the image of His Son is for a definite reason – so that Christ might be the firstborn among the many brethren. Firstborn? Yes – Christ is the firstborn from among the dead (Rev. 1:5, I Cor. 15:20, 23). It is evident and obvious that since we are to be conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus, it must be by way of resurrection and by glorification. Why? Because He is the firstborn as risen and glorified! And this, for the believer, will be the rapture of the church and alone the work of God.
Sanctification – for our walk of Faith on this Earth
There is a present work of God’s grace that goes on within every believer as we walk upon this earth and in this world. It is a work of grace in us that we can properly call ‘sanctification.’
(14) “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (15) I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. (16) They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (17) Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
This is the progressive working of God’s grace in the believer. It is the washing of the water of the Word of God. Jesus gave us the Father’s word and by it He keeps us from the evil in this world. This is what we should be experiencing in our walks – a real setting apart from the world around us. Sanctify them by Your word. As He said concerning the disciples at that time in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Again, this is our present experience. The mirror is the Word of God. When we are taught by the Spirit in His Word, we behold a Christ in glory. It is this image we are progressively changed into, from glory to glory. But on this earth and in this world we never stop walking as believers. If we do we effectively join to the world in our experience. As our High Priest, Jesus never stops washing our feet, for this world is defilement for us as we walk around in it (John 13:7). And while we are here we can never say we have already attained, or are already perfected (Phil. 3:12), because sin remains in the flesh. We are progressively changed, being transformed into the image of a Christ in glory. However, none of us can count ourselves as having apprehended yet, but we press on (Phil. 3:13).
The Believer’s Glorified Body
Yet we know we will be perfectly like Him. The Father desires that all the brethren be conformed to the image of His Son.This will not be a progressive work of grace in the believer on this earth, but rather the display of His exceeding great power, in the twinkling of an eye, and a catching away from this world. He has already made provision for this.
2 Corinthians 5:4-5
“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
God has prepared the believer for this very thing, the glorifying of our bodies. He has given us the Spirit to dwell in us. This same Spirit is our guarantee of all our proper hopes, which is not to be unclothed, but further clothed and to enter into glory. The Father has sealed us with the Spirit of sonship (Rom. 8:15-17).
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
This is the glorification of the believer. And it is purely a Christian thing – the result of the presence of His Spirit dwelling in you. It defines what the scriptures refer to as the resurrection of the just. It will be what occurs at the rapture of the church, for the body of Christ is individual members one of another, united corporately by the Spirit.
The Blessed Hope of the Believer
(23) “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (24) For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
As believers, having the indwelling Holy Spirit as the guarantee, we eagerly wait for the redemption of our bodies. In our present earthly bodies we groan, a type of intercession and longing, looking forward in a sure anticipation for what God will do for us. “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven…for we who are in this tent groan, being burdened…” (II Cor. 5:2-4).
We are presently saved. We possess eternal life. We are now sons of God, and have the seal of the Spirit. But it is clear we were saved (past tense) in this hope (the future glorifying of our bodies). All our proper hopes, as believers, remain to be fulfilled when our bodies are redeemed. And our Christian hopes remain unseen, for they are not of this present time, nor during this present life on the earth (Rom. 8:18). Nevertheless, they are true and certain hopes given to us in promise from our faithful God and Father. It is a sure and steadfast hope, an anchor of the believer’s soul, which enters into the Presence where the forerunner has gone already (Heb. 6:19-20).
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
The believer’s home is in heaven. It is from there that we eagerly look for our Lord to appear from and to take us there. It is where our Father is. We are to live as sons in the house of the Father. The Lord is coming for us to take us to Him. At that time our lowly earthly bodies must be changed. When we are glorified, our bodies are transformed into the image of His glorious body. It is a hope that we eagerly wait for and earnestly desire. We will be conformed to the image of the Father’s Beloved Son. It is accomplished already in God’s mind. The Spirit expressly testifies, “…and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” This is the blessed hope of the believer and the blessed hope of the church.
Chapter 4: Endnotes
 God is never the direct cause or agent of evil. God is holy and righteous in nature and character. It would be impossible for God to be guilty of such. He is holy and by definition hates evil and sin. He is righteous and by definition always deals justly when He deals directly with man. Men often point an accusing finger at God, but His direct or indirect judgments are always righteous. God will never compromise His own nature in anything that He does, always remaining true to Himself. All His acts and judgments are righteous dealings and serve to glorify Him.
God is sovereign, and although He is never the direct agent of evil, He will use evil men to accomplish His own purposes and plans. The Assyrian, Nebuchadnezzar, and the Romans were all used by God as a rod of judgment and correction. Pharaoh was humbled by His direct judgments so that the name of Jehovah would be declared in all the earth.
The principle of this present time is the goodness and grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the gospel to every creature, those who believe will be saved, and those who do not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15-16). Please take note: this is an individual thing. Israel as a people and a nation are set aside presently by God. The principle in operation during the gathering of the church is not God dealing with nations on the earth. The principle of the gospel does not have this character. Israel will not be saved by the gospel and neither will America. At the present time the Son of Man sits at the right hand of God, hidden from the world. Consequent to this, the Holy Spirit has been sent down to gather in the body of Christ. When the fullness of the Gentiles is gathered in, God will remove the body from the earth. Then you will see the power of God in His judgment of evil on this earth and in this world. Then you will see God dealing with nations, and the first one will be Israel.
We would do well to trace the principle of evil through the history of man in scripture. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) When man was chased from the garden, he entered the world and spread sin all around. In principle evil grew and filled the earth and God could no longer tolerate it. He righteously judged and destroyed it. After the flood, Satan introduces idolatry into the world as a new form of evil, filling the earth. The world continues in its principles of sin and evil. Satan is the god and prince of this present evil age.
As for Israel as a chosen nation, delivered from the world (Egypt) in type by the power of God and brought before Him at Mt. Sinai, they did not fare much better. Immediately they made the golden calf. Also many were judged by God for their sin and evil, dying in the wilderness. When God brought them into the land they eventually set up idols in high places and committed apostasy. God chastised the nation in many ways and by His prophets tried to call Israel back to His law. But man in the flesh cannot please God. Eventually the presence of God left the nation of Israel, and the city and temple were destroyed. The unclean spirit of idolatry was delivered from Israel by their captivity in Babylon. This spirit now travels through dry places, seeking rest, but finding none. It will return to the house from which it came, only with seven other spirits more wicked than itself. This house is Israel under the Antichrist in the end. Then last of all God sent His Son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my Son.’ They cast Him out and killed Him. Evil in principle has grown and flourished in Israel in many ways and in many different sins.
In the cross, both the world and Israel rejected God. He came into this world in goodness and grace, but only received hatred for it (John 15:22-25). In His humiliation, He walked as a suffering servant, always showing compassion and grace, and loving His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end (John 13:1). Our portion as believers, on the earth and in this world presently, is to walk as He walked and to love one another as He loved us (John 15:12-13). In His humiliation He did not reign as a King. Neither will the true believer reign as a king in life at this present time. The principle of this present age for the believer’s portion is to suffer with Christ, so that in the coming age we may be glorified together. The Lord tells us that in the world you will have tribulation and that the world will hate us because we are not of them (John 16:33, 17:14, 15:19 and II Tim. 3:10-12).
What about the principle of evil in the church world? In Paul’s lifetime the testimony of the Spirit was that the mystery of lawlessness was already at work! Early on evil had a foothold through the lack of responsibility in the corporate body (II Thess. 2:7). It has been growing and ripening to full fruit ever since. (Please see: II Tim. 3:1-5, 3:13, 4:3-4, I Tim. 4:1-2, I John 2:18-19, 4:3-5, II Peter 2:1-2, Jude 3-8) Ephesus never returned to its first state and position, and the church world has been on a path of steady decline and decay. More scripture could be referenced, more examples could be given, but this is suffice to prove that the principle of evil was present early on in Christendom and did well and prospered.
As Sovereign, God at this time restricts evil in the world. He only allows it to go so far. But this is not the time in which God will use His power and righteously judge this world. That time is yet to come. Presently, it often looks like evil and the wicked prosper in this world. Again, the principle toward this world at this time is goodness and grace from God, not judgment. At this time God hinders the full expression of evil in the church world (II Thess. 2:6-7). When this restraining comes to an end there will be a great apostasy in Christendom, after which the man of sin comes forth (II Thess. 2:3). The apostasy will result from the body of Christ being removed from the earth in the rapture. The evil and corrupt condition of the professing church world is seen symbolically in Thyatira, Sardis, Laodicea, and the great harlot of Revelation 17-18. It will be judged and destroyed first, before God turns to judge the world (I Peter 4:17).
In the coming dispensation the principles will be different. By the return of the Son of Man to this earth, God will righteously judge and destroy the present evil, rebellion, and apostasy of the world. Jesus will take up His power and by it destroy all the civil power and influence brought on the face of the earth through the four great Gentile dynasties (Dan. 2:31-35), “…so that no trace of them was found.” Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit for 1000 years. It is only after this initial judgment of the present evil that the ‘stone’ that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. During the millennium, the Son of Man will rule all nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5, 2:26-27, Ps. 2:6-9). The use of His power in the righteous judgment of evil and sin is how the glory of God will fill the entire earth. At the end of this dispensation the Son of Man will judge the wicked dead at the great white throne. This is the resurrection of the wicked as distinguished from the resurrection of the just in scriptures. All at the great white throne are cast into the lake of fire, as is Satan. The lake of fire is God’s final and eternal location for all evil judged. All the living that remain on the earth at the end of the 1000 year dispensation will be glorified, sin being removed from their flesh.
What follows this is the new heavens and earth. Here the principles are different as well. All sin will have been removed from the flesh, and all evil and wickedness contained in the lake of fire. Evil and sin will not exist in the eternal state. There will be no need for a reign of power in righteous judgment, but rather it will be a state wherein righteousness dwells and God is all in all in His divine eternal glory.
This has been a short discussion of the principle of sin and evil as it is found in Scripture and in the history of man. It has also been a discussion of differing Biblical principles established at certain periods of time by which the sovereign God deals with evil. Without understanding the general principles, the believer will not comprehend the overall plan and counsel of God. When one grasps these general principles, then the detail of scripture and prophecy is made easier to understand.
One last point: At the end of this present age there will be a time of the greatest display of evil ever known to man on the face of the earth (Mark 13:19). It is the three and a half years that precede the return of Christ to this earth. These years are known in scripture as Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7, Dan. 12:1) and the great tribulation (Matt. 24:21-22). The body of Christ will have previously been removed from the earth by which the remaining tares of professing Christianity will apostatize. The great dragon will be cast out of the heavens down to the earth. It will be, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath (Rev. 12:12), because he knows that he has a short time.” The character of the dragon on the earth, as well as the two beasts of Revelation 13 at this time, is open rebellion, apostasy, blasphemy, and idolatry. The Jewish people will be seven times worse than the nation was in the time of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. God will have removed His restraint of evil so that ‘the man of sin’ could come forth. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception…for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.” (II Thess. 2:8-12)
 All proper Christian hopes are unseen. Hope that is seen is not hope at all. Therefore, there are no proper hopes for the believer in our walk presently on this earth. We have a walk of faith in this life. And we know this (Heb. 11:1), “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” All proper Christian hopes can only be found in glory. So we have, “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christian faith has three understandings or emphasizes:
1. Faith is in the God who raises the dead. This is the object of Christian faith – the God of resurrection (Rom. 4:23-24, II Cor. 1:9, Heb. 11:19, Rom. 10:9, I Pet. 1:21, Col. 2:12). This places the doctrine of the rapture, the resurrection of the church, as an integral part of Christian faith.
2. Faith is the substance of all our hopes, the evidence of the unseen (Heb. 11:1). The Christian’s hopes are beyond this present time and associated with the glory we will enter into (Rom. 5:2, Col. 1:27).
3. Presently, we walk by faith, while on this earth and in this world (II Cor. 5:7). By faith we endure hardships, afflictions, persecutions, hatred in the world. Presently we suffer with Christ (Rom. 8:17-18), and we are privileged to count it all joy to suffer for Him (Phil. 1:27-30). When we leave this world our walk by faith ends.