And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues…
The prevalent opinion no doubt has been that the atonement is simply an historic fact, dating back now some fourteen hundred years; and that only the purpose of it is eternal. But Johann Wessel, the great German theologian, who died only six years after Martin Luther was born, got hold of the idea that not election only, but atonement also is an eternal act. And this, it seems to me, is both rational and Scriptural. Eternal election, profoundly considered, requires eternal atonement for its support. Both are eternal, as all Divine realities are eternal. And so the relationship of God to moral evil stands forth as an eternal relationship. Not that evil is itself eternal; but God always knew it and always felt it. It may help our thinking in this direction to remember that there is a sense in which creation itself is eternal; not independently eternal, but, of God's will, dependently eternal. There must nothing be said, or thought, in mitigation of the ethical verdict against moral evil. The hatefulness of it, no matter what its chronology may be, is simply unspeakable. Wrong doing is the one thing nowhere, and never, to be either condoned or endured. Nor should any attempt be made to get at the genesis of moral evil. The beginning of it is simply inconceivable. The whole thing is a mystery, and must be let alone. Moral evil is not eternal; or there would be two infinities. Nor is it a creature of God; or God would be divided against Himself. And yet it had the Divine permission, whatever that may be imagined to have been. Practically, historic sin finds relief in historic redemption. Apparently, there was little, if any, interval between the two. But the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world suggests a far sublimer theodicy. We are taken back behind the human ages, behind all time, into awful infinite depths, into the very bosom of the Triune God. Trinity is another name for the self-consciousness, and self-communion of God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are vastly more than the revelation of God to man; they are the revelation of God to Himself, and the intercourse of God with Himself. They suggest infinite fulness and richness of being. Our scientific definitions of God do not amount to much. What we need is to see God in the life, both of nature and of man. God creates, governs, judges, punishes, redeems, and saves; but love is the root of all. This yearning, grieved, and suffering God is the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: Son of God, Son of Mary. This sinless child should have had no sins of His own. His sorrows could have been only those old eternal shadows of permitted sin. The Cross on which He died, flinging out its arms as if to embrace the world, lifted up its head toward the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Our hearts now go back to Calvary; and from Calvary they go up to God. One word more. This stupendous idea of eternal atonement carries with it the idea of universal atonement. Whatever it was, and is, it must needs have been infinite. No magnitude of sin, no multitude of sinners, can bankrupt its treasury of grace. "God so loved the world," is its everlasting refrain. "He that will, let him take the water of life freely."
(R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.