1 Corinthians 15:28
And when all things shall be subdued to him, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him that put all things under him…
There are two great truths presented by this verse and its context — the one, that Christ is now vested with a kingly authority which He must hereafter resign; the other, that, as a consequence on this resignation, God Himself will become all in all to the universe. We begin by observing the importance of carefully distinguishing between what the Scriptures affirm of the attributes, and what of the offices, of the persons in the Trinity. in regard of the attributes, you will find that the employed language marks perfect equality; the Father, Son, and Spirit being alike spoken of as Eternal, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent. But in regard of the offices, there can be no dispute that the language indicates inequality, and that both the Son and Spirit are represented as inferior to the Father. This may readily be accounted for from the nature of the plan of redemption. This plan demanded that the Son should humble Himself, and assume our nature; and that the Spirit should condescend to be sent as a renovating agent; whilst the Father was to remain in the sublimity and happiness of Godhead. And it is only by thus distinguishing between the attributes and the offices that we can satisfactorily explain our text and its context. The apostle expressly declares of Christ, that He is to deliver up His kingdom to the Father, and to become Himself subject to the Father. And the question naturally proposes itself, how are statements such as these to be reconciled with other portions of Scripture, which speak of Christ as an everlasting King, and declare His dominion to be that which shall not be destroyed? There is no difficulty in reconciling these apparently conflicting assertions if we consider Christ as spoken of in the one case as God, in the other as Mediator. And you cannot be acquainted with the scheme of our redemption and not know that the office of the Mediator warrants our supposing a kingdom which will be finally surrendered. The grand design of redemption has all along been the exterminating evil from the universe, and the restoring harmony throughout God's disorganised empire. He was not indeed fully and visibly invested with the kingly office until after His death and resurrection: for then it was that He declared to His disciples, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth." Nevertheless the mediatorial kingdom had commenced with the commencement of human guilt and misery. But when, through death, He had destroyed "Him that had the power of death," the Mediator became emphatically a King. He "ascended up on high, and led captivity captive," in that very nature in which He had "borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." He sat down at the right hand of God the very person that had been made a curse for us. It is certainly the representation of Scripture, that Christ has been exalted to a throne, in recompense of His humiliation and suffering; and that, seated on this throne, He governs all things in heaven and earth. And we call this throne the mediatorial throne, because it was only as Mediator that Christ could be exalted. The great object for which the kingdom has been erected, is, that He who occupies the throne may subdue those principalities and powers which have set themselves against the government of God. And when this noble result is brought round, and the whole globe mantled with righteousness, there will yet remain much to be done ere the mediatorial work is complete. The throne must set for judgment; the enactments of a retributive economy take effect; the dead be raised, and all men receive the things done in the body. Then will evil be finally expelled form the universe, and God may again look forth on His unlimited empire, and declare it not defiled by a solitary stain. Now it has been our object, up to this point, to prove to you, on scriptural authority, that the Mediator is a King, and that Christ, as God-man, is invested with a dominion not to be confounded with that which belongs to Him as God. You are now therefore prepared for the question, whether Christ has not a kingdom which must be ultimately resigned. We think it evident that, as Mediator, Christ has certain functions to discharge, which, from their very nature, cannot be eternal. When the last of God's elect family shall have been gathered in, there will be none to need the blood of sprinkling, none to require the intercession of "an advocate with the Father." Then shall all that sovereignty which, for magnificent but temporary purposes, has been wielded by and through the humanity of Christ, pass again to the Godhead whence it was derived. Then shall the Creator, acting no longer through the instrumentality of a Mediator, assume visibly, amid the worshippings of the whole intelligent creation, the dominion over His infinite and now purified empire, and administer its every concern without the intervention of one "found in fashion as a man." "God shall henceforwards be all in all." Now it is upon this latter expression, indicative as it is of what we may call the universal diffusion of Deity, that we design to employ the remainder of our time. We wish to examine into the truths involved in the assertion that God is to be finally all in all. It is an assertion which, the more it is pondered, the more comprehensive will it appear. You may remember that the same expression is used of Christ in the Epistle to the Colossians — "Christ is all and in all." There is no disagreement between the assertions. In the Epistle to the Colossians St. Paul speaks of what takes place under the mediatorial kingdom; whereas in that to the Corinthians he describes what will occur when that kingdom shall have terminated. We learn, then, from the expression in question, however unable we may be to explain the amazing transition, that there is to be a removal of the apparatus constructed for allowing us communications with Godhead; and that we shall not need those offices of an Intercessor, without which there could now be no access to our Maker. There is something very grand and animating in this announcement. If we were unfallen creatures, we should need no Mediator. The mediatorial office, independently on which we must have been everlastingly outcasts, is evidence, throughout the whole of its continuance, that the human race does not yet occupy the place whence it fell. But with the termination of this office shall be the admission of man into all the privileges of direct access to his Maker. In ceasing to have a Mediator the last barrier is taken down; and man, who has thrown himself to an unmeasured distance from God, passes into those direct associations with Him "that inhabiteth eternity," which can be granted to none but those who never fell, or who, having fallen, have been recovered from every consequence of apostacy. And therefore it is not that we depreciate, or undervalue, the blessedness of that condition in which Christ is all in all to His Church. We cannot compute this blessedness, and we feel that the best praises fall far short of its deserts; and yet we can believe of this blessedness, that it is only preparatory to a richer and a higher. To tell me that I should need a Mediator through eternity, were to tell me that I should be in danger of death, and at a distance from God. There is, however, no reason for supposing that the human race alone will be affected by the resignation of the mediatorial kingdom. We may not believe that it is only over ourselves that Christ Jesus has been invested with sovereignty. It would rather appear, since all power has been given Him in heaven and earth, that the mediatorial kingdom embraces different worlds, and different orders of intelligence; and that the chief affairs of the universe are administered by Christ in His glorified humanity. It is therefore possible that even unto angels the Godhead does not now immediately manifest itself; but that these glorious creatures are governed, like ourselves, through the instrumentality of the Mediator. Hence it will be a great transition to the whole intelligent creation, and not merely to an inconsiderable fraction, when the Son shall give up the kingdom to the Father. It will be the visible enthronement of Deity. The Creator will come forth from His sublime solitude, and assume the sceptre of His boundless empire. And it is not, we think, possible to give a finer description of universal harmony and happiness than is contained in the sentence, "God all in all," when supposed to have reference to every rank in creation. Let us consider for a moment what the sentence implies. It implies that there shall be but one mind, and that the Divine mind, throughout the universe. Every creature shall be so actuated by Deity, that the Creator shall have only to will, and the whole mass of intelligent being will be conscious of the same wish, and the same purpose. It is not merely that every creature will be under the government of the Creator, as a subject is under that of his prince. It is more than all this. It is that there shall be such fibres of association between the Creator and the creatures, that every other will shall move simultaneously with the Divine, and the resolve of Deity be instantly felt as one mighty impulse pervading the vast expansion of mind. God all in all — it is that from the highest order to the lowest, archangel, and angel, and man, and principality, and power, there shall be but one desire, one object. This is making God more than the universal Ruler: it is making Him the universal Actuator. But if the expression mark the harmony, it marks also the happiness of eternity. It is undeniable that, even whilst on earth, we find things more beautiful and precious in proportion as we are accustomed to find God in them, to view them as gifts, and to love them for the sake of the giver. It is not the poet, nor the naturalist, who has the richest enjoyment when surveying the landscape, or tracing the manifestations of creative power and contrivance. It is the Christian, who recognises a Father's hand in the glorious development of mountain and valley, and discovers the loving-kindness of an ever-watchful guardian in each example of the adaptation of the earth to its inhabitants. What will it be when God shall be literally all in all? It were little to tell us, that, admitted into the heavenly Jerusalem, we should worship in a temple magnificent in architecture, and bow down at a shrine whence flashed the effulgence and issued the voice of Jehovah. The mighty and overwhelming thing is that, according to the vision of St. John, there shall be no temple there; but that so actually shall God be all, that Deity itself will be our sanctuary, and our adorations be rendered in the sublime recesses of the Omnipotent Himself. And if we think on future intercourse with beings of our own race, or of loftier ranks, then only are the anticipations rapturous and inspiriting, when Deity seems blended with every association. The child may be again loved and embraced. But the emotions will have none of that selfishness into which the purest and deepest of our feelings may now be too much resolved: it will be God that the child loves in the parent, and it will be God that the parent loves in the child; and the gladness with which the heart of each swells, as they recognise one the other in the celestial city, will be a gladness of which Deity is the spring, a gladness of which Deity is the object. Thus shall it be also in regard of every element which can be supposed to enter into future happiness. It is certain, that, if God be all in all, there will be excited in us no wish which we shall be required to repress, none which shall not be gratified so soon as formed. Having God in ourselves, we shall have capacities of enjoyment immeasurably larger than at present; having God in all around us, we shall find everywhere material of enjoyment commensurate with our amplified powers. Let us put from us confused and indeterminate notions of happiness, and the simple description, that God shall be all in all, sets before us the very perfection of felicity. The only sound definition of happiness is that every faculty has its proper object. And we believe of man, that God endowed him with various capacities, intending to be Himself their supply. Thus, at present, we make little or no approach towards knowing God as He is, because God hath not yet made Himself all in all to His creatures. But let there once come this universal diffusion of Deity, and we may find in God Himself the objects which answer to our matured and spiritualised faculties. We profess not to be competent to the understanding the mysterious change which is thus indicated as passing on the universe. But we can perceive it to be a change which shall be full of glory, full of happiness. Thus we look forward to the termination of the mediatorial kingdom as the event with which stands associated our reaching the summit of our felicity. There is then to be a removal of all that is now intermediate in our communications with Deity, and the substitution of God Himself for the objects which He has now adapted to the giving us delight. God Himself will be an object to our faculties; God Himself will be our happiness. We can only add that it becomes us to examine whether we are now subjects of the mediatorial kingdom, or whether we are of those who will not that Christ should reign over them. If God is hereafter to be all in all, it behoves us to inquire what He is to us now. Can we say with the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee?" How vain must be our hope of entering into heaven if we have no present delight in what are said to be its joys! Again we say, that, if it be heaven towards which we journey, it will be holiness in which we delight: for if we cannot now rejoice in having God for our portion, where is our meetness for a world in which God is to be all in all for ever and for ever?
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.