I’ll bet you thought God’s eternal purpose was to save mankind, didn’t you? Well, maybe you didn’t, but if you had asked me a few years ago, that’s probably the best I could have come up with. It doesn’t make sense, though, and here’s why;
Before man fell, before God created the heavens and earth through Jesus, God had a reason. He was not in need; within the Godhead, God has always been complete and whole. He didn’t make us so He would have someone to love. The triune God is love, is community, selves-contained. The Father is always pouring Himself into the Son, and the Son is always pouring Himself out into the Father, creating the divine dance of giving, receiving, living, dying, sacrificing, rejoicing love that is itself the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. God had no lack, and He didn’t create the universe because He was bored. He was fully and satisfyingly occupied with the business of love.
So why? Man hadn’t fallen; hadn’t even been created, so there was no need to save man. There was no man. The angels hadn’t been created and Lucifer hadn’t fallen, so there was no need to show off for them. Yet God had it in His heart to create a universe populated by . . . us. Is that odd, or what? We may never fully understand His purpose, but it is clear that God did have a desire, and that desire was to expand Himself (and particularly to expand His Son) into someone other — someone created in His image who was not Himself — someone with whom He could share this divine dance. God wanted a family. He wanted a body through whom the Holy Spirit could be expressed. He wanted a bride for His Son. In the words of one dear brother, “It was not good for God to be alone.”
God wanted to express Himself through His Son, and for this, He decided to create a body whose head and source is Christ — the ekklesia. (the assembly of the saints, the church) God wanted a place to lay His head, a house for Himself, and for this, He decided to create a temple of living stones — the ekklesia. God wanted many sons and daughters, and for this, He created a family of chosen and adopted and cherished ones — the ekklesia. God wanted a bride for His Son, a suitable companion into whom He could pour out his passion and His sacrificial love, with whom He could share Himself completely and from whom He could receive perfect, mature, voluntary love and devotion — the ekklesia.
This is God’s eternal purpose and His passion. It is for this ekklesia that Jesus bled and died and rose again. We who belong to Him are the many living stones that He is building together into His living temple. Together with Him, we are the one new human being. Just as God is One, we are designed to be one with one another and with Him that He might become the all in all. This is the image of God in which He originally created mankind.
God said, “Let Us create man in Our image.” He hasn’t changed His mind. His eternal purpose is still to have an accurate and living image, expressing the fullness and beauty of His Son; the gathering of the saints; the ekklesia.