In Gen. 9:9-17 God made a covenant (or contract) with the whole earth. It was a covenant that said He would never again destroy the earth. Many today mistakenly think that the earth is soon going to be destroyed, either by men or by God. This is not true. It may look like disaster is coming, but God has promised to prevent it.
This is the first covenant that God made with anyone. The first time that the word “covenant” is used in the Bible is found here in Gen. 9:9. At earlier times, God made promises, not covenants.
Years later, in the story of how God brought Israel out of Egypt, we find that the Israelites were rather stubborn and disobedient to God, and they came near to stoning Moses more than once. Finally, after ten examples of direct disobedience, God told Moses in Num. 14:12, “I'm just going to destroy the whole nation and start over with you and your children.”
This was, of course, just a test, for God knew He would not do this. So did Moses. That is why Moses reminded God of His promise to Israel. He also said in Num. 14:15 and 16 that if He were to destroy the people, it would be admitting that He was not powerful enough to do what He had said He would do. The people of the other nations would say that it was because He “was not able to bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath.”
Here is the crux of the matter. Was God really able to fulfill His intent? Could His will be thwarted by man's will? Is man's free will more powerful than God's sovereign will?
Nowadays, many people would say that God could not be blamed for the refusal of the people to be obedient to Him. But that is not the issue. The fact is, if God was unable to make Israel obedient, then God would be perceived as a failure. It is much like a disobedient child. If the parent is unable to turn the child into a productive citizen, then it is ultimately the responsibility of the parent, not of the child. The child is not the one in authority. The authority figure is the one who is responsible for those under him or her.
So God tempted Moses to see if he would take the bait. But Moses had no such ambitions to make his own family the chosen people. Moses then challenged God in an extraordinary manner, telling Him that the nations would think God is not able to perform His will—that man's will was stronger than God's will.
God's response was to tell Moses in Num. 14:21, “as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.”
Not only was God able to bring this one nation into the land God had promised, but He was also able to fill the whole earth with His glory. In other words, man may temporarily remain in bondage as a slave to sin, but ultimately, God's will is that the whole earth would be filled with His glory. God's will is to save all men (1 Tim. 2:4). There is nothing and no one on earth that can prevent this from taking place. Either men will consent to be redeemed in this age, or they will do so after the final judgment at the Great White Throne.
One may do this the easy way or the hard way. But either way, God is God, and His will shall ultimately prevail. By the time of the final Jubilee, when He sets all men free, they will be filled with His glory. The prophet echoes this verse in Hab. 2:14, saying that, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
How much of the sea is covered by water? One hundred percent of it.
How much of the earth will be covered by the knowledge of the Lord? One hundred percent.
That is how the prophet interpreted what God said to Moses. It means that all men will be saved, and God's presence will fill the entire earth. Keep in mind that men were made with the dust of the ground. God intends to fill the whole earth, which includes all of humanity.
In Isaiah 45:23 God says, “I have sworn by Myself [by my own name] . . . that unto Me every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance to Me.”
This is quoted by the apostle Paul in Phil. 2:10, 11, saying, “ at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
The question is this: Is God able to fulfill this oath, or is it an idle boast?
Col. 1:16 tells us that “by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible . . . all things were created by Him and for Him.”
Then a few verses later in verse 20, we read that Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, “has reconciled all things unto Himself . . . whether they are things in earth or things in heaven.”
In other words, Paul's use of the term “all things” really does mean all things. He not only created all things, but He also has reconciled all things to Himself. His death on the cross was not merely effective for a few, but for the whole of creation. It is not slated for destruction, but to house the glory of God.
Paul speaks again in 1 Cor. 15:22-28 of the time when all men will be raised from the dead for judgment and to receive the rewards due them. Paul says that Jesus Christ must reign over the earth until all enemies have been subdued—that is, until no one disagrees with Him and His divine law. Everyone will ultimately come into agreement that God really is a good and a just God. To know Him is to love Him.
Then Paul says that the final enemy to be destroyed is death. Only then will mankind be able to enjoy fully the presence of God. Only then will all the earth be full of His glory.
Paul says in verse 28 that “God will be all in all.” His full presence will not be in just a few people, nor will He dispense just a little of His glory in all men. Rather, His full glory will radiate out of all men.
That is the plan. And God is indeed able to perform His will. Many are now unwilling to go along with the plan, because of ignorance, for if they knew the glory that God had prepared for them, they would not hesitate to avail themselves of the redemption that Jesus has provided by His death on the cross.
We close with John's vision in Rev. 5:13, “and every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and all that are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying, ‘Blessing and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb [Jesus] for the ages of the ages'.”
This is a picture of the goal of history and the divine plan for His creation. No one will be grumbling that a tyrant has come to power and ought to be overthrown. All will know the love that God has for them and for all mankind. It is a happy scene. There are no tortured screams coming from an imagined pit of hell. God really is able to save all mankind—and He intends to do it.