Hoson zēs, phainou; Mēden holōs sy lypou; Pros oligon esti to zēn
    To telos ho chronos apaitei
''While you live, shine; Don't suffer anything at all; Life exists only a short while
    And time demands its toll.''

                                             THE GREAT TELOS                                             
I Corinthians 15:20-28


INTRODUCTION

Bible translators have given the Greek word telos several English meanings. Telos is found 40 times in the New Testament where it is taken to designate the end, outcome, result, or finish. In I Corinthians 15:20-28, it has these meanings in respect to the culmination of God’s great plan for all, in one comprehensive event. But the telos of the Corinthian epistle designates more than just a grandiose finale; it is likewise the beginning of a new perpetual system of everlasting bliss for all.

There are several preliminary steps that God will enact in advance of and leading up to the telos. All peoples’ works will be examined by the Lord. Believers will face Divine correction at the bema seat of Christ. People who die outside of the faith of Christ will undergo strict but fair evaluation when the “books” are opened. While God’s judgments are a different subject than the glorious telos, they are brought up every word about judgments in the Bible will be fulfilled. The Bible clearly shows that God’s judgments will be stern but it also demonstrates that they will not last forever (see other essays on this site and on the linked sites.)  

ALL RULE, POWER, AUTHORITY, AND ALL DEATH WILL BE PUT DOWN

The word katargeō is a verb occurring 27 times in its various forms throughout the Greek New Testament. The NIV translators have sometimes made it mean “destroy” or “destroyed.” In I Corinthians chapter 15, however, Young’s Literal Translation rendered it “made useless,” which is in close alignment with the meaning of its two sections: kata (down) and ergon (power). Katargeō states that certain works, activities, actions, and deeds will be “lowered,” put down, made powerless, down-powered, or deactivated. Verse 24 declares that: “All rule, all authority and power” will become idle. Colossians 1:16 reports that God had previously “created” all these “thrones, lordships, sovereignties, and authorities.” But it is His decision to deactivate them before the telos, during the rule of God the Son (I Corinthians 15:24). Colossians 2:15 recounts that Christ in His crucifixion triumphed over “powers” and “authorities” and that “He [Christ] made a public spectacle of them.”

God is going to render death idle too: “This last enemy is made powerless—death” (I Corinthians chapter 15, verse 26). In addition to being rendered idle, death is one of the “enemies” that will be put under the feet of Christ during His reign..

The verb katargeō is used in II Timothy 1:10 to tell us that: “our Savior Christ Jesus will be putting death down…” The term “death” (thanatou) used in these verses designates all death with no distinction made between the “first death” and the “second death.”  The second death will quite obviously end in the lake of fire, as proclaimed in Revelation 20:14: “…death and hades were cast into the lake of fire; the lake of fire is the second death.” The commonly used phrase “eternal death” [meaning “everlasting” death for unbelievers] is not found in scripture.

In one of its forms, katargeō is also used in Hebrews to state that “…through His death, He [Christ] might render powerless the one having the power of death, this is the devil…” Hebrews 2:14-15. When God deactivates death, He will likewise cause Satan to become powerless and He will “…free those who through fear of death lived all their lifetime in bondage”. This promise includes all people because all humans have lived in fear of death. We are told in I John 3:8 that Christ’s very purpose in coming as a man was “…in order that He might undo [unloosen--lusē] the works of the devil.” These verses prove that even the deeds of the devil will be abolished. Hebrews 9:26b shows that sin will undergo annulment by Christ’s sacrifice of Himself. Satan, Satan’s works, sin, and death will all be dealt with prior to the great telos. No group of people will be left outside of Christ in an everlastingly sinful state; sin will be entirely gone.

II Thessalonians 2:8 says that it is the lawless one who will be dispatched or “set aside” by the Spirit of Christ’s mouth and will be brought to nothing “…in the advent of His appearing [coming]…” This verse refers to a satanic agent rather than to Satan himself, but the passage shows that every aspect of Satan’s control will end, leaving no sinful vestiges.

ALL GOD’S ENEMIES WILL BECOME HIS FOOTSTOOL

I Corinthians chapter 15 makes it obvious that Christ’s reign will last until He puts all enemies under His feet (verse 25). Verse 26 says that He will subject all (panta) under his feet. The word hypotassō in verse 26 comes from hypo (beneath) and tasso (arrange) giving a reference to Christ’s final benevolent control in which all is to be arranged under His domain. These verses designate the same event in which all is to be made into [changed into] a footstool for Christ.  This transformation could be called the “footstooling of His enemies and of all else too.

    The Hebrew word for footstool occurs seven times in the Old Testament. Some of these Old Testament footstool references deal with a glorious act of worship. One of them, Isaiah 66:1, says that the earth is God’s footstool. Only one of the Old Testament footstool passages is linked to God’s indignation (Lamentations 2:1)—while one more simply states that God’s enemies will become His footstool—Psalm 110:1, which was later quoted in Acts 2:34-35. .

    In none of the six New Testament occurrences is the Greek word for footstool (hypopodion) presented as a figure of adverse judgment or of a punitive sentence. Two of the New Testament references are a quotation of Isaiah 66:1 saying that the earth is God’s footstool—Matthew 5:35 and Acts 7:49. Four of the New Testament hypopodion scriptures state that Christ’s enemies are going to be converted into a footstool for Christ’s feet—Luke 20:43, Acts 2:35, Hebrews 1:13, and Hebrews 10:13. The footstool in the Bible is thus not a picture of the conquering God permanently crushing the head of His struggling adversaries under His foot. It is rather a portrayal of His enemies having undergone corrective judgment, which will change them into a very useful item in Christ’s kingdom rule, an object of comfort and satisfaction—a stool to support His feet. In Acts 2:34-35 and in Hebrews 10:13 Christ the Lord is peacefully sitting down and using this footstool; He is not standing on the heads of vanquished opponents The end result of footstooling is that all (panta) will be completely and peacefully subjected to (hypotassō) the Son.

ALL WILL BECOME SUBJECTED TO THE SON

Before the telos takes place, all rulers, all authorities, all powers, all enemies, and the last enemy (death) will be subjected to (hypotassō) Christ. I Corinthians 15:26-27 shows that all else (panta) except the Father will likewise be subjected to Christ by God the Father. In these important references, the word “things” has been put into English translations [“all things” or everything]. But the word “things” is not present in the Greek text. Its routine insertion has been unfortunate, having led many to believe that these texts deal  with the subjection of things only (like rocks, rivers, mountains, stars, and deserts) to God. Throughout the passages, however, it has been people who are under discussion, all people!

    The work by which the Father will head up (anakephalaioō) all people in Christ is also mentioned in Ephesians 1:10 where it says that He [God] heads up all in Christ. First, God the Father will bring all together under Christ. When that has been accomplished, God the Son will then deliver the coherent kingdom over to the Father. This will be a very interesting transfer of leadership, taking place at the onset of the telos, as we will see.

THE SONS OF GOD WILL BE REVEALED

While not mentioned in I Corinthians 15, another divine act that will occur prior to the telos is the revealing (unveiling—apokalypsin, as in Romans 8:19) of the sons of God The creation itself is watching anxiously and in “eager expectation” of this event (Romans 8:19). When it occurs, the creation will be freed from the slavery of corruption (decay) and will enter into “…the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). “The children of God” or “sons of God” in these verses are individuals whom Christ drew to Himself during this life (John 6:44). They will be raised from the dead: “I will raise up him in the last day…” I Thessalonians 4:16-17 puts it this way: “…the dead in Christ will rise again firstly, then we the living…shall be seized in clouds to a meeting of the Lord in the air” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). Philippians 3:20-21 shows that the believer’s “body of humiliation will be changed” so that it will be like Christ’s glorious resurrection body! Christ will be able to accomplish this because He “…is able to subject to Himself the all” (verse 21) and because nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:25, Jeremiah 32:27, etc.).  Romans 8:23 likewise speaks of this great moment when the children of God will fully experience “sonship” (huiothesian), thereby undergoing “…the redemption of the body (apolutrōsin tou sōmatos).” There is thus an underlying biblical connection between, the revealing of the Sons of God, the deliverance of their bodies, the completion of their “sonship,” and the ultimate liberation of the entire creation from the bondage of corruption!

    I Timothy 4:10 makes clear the difference between the salvation of all and the salvation of believers. It also emphasizes the connection between the salvation of the children of God and the ultimate salvation of all other people by saying that God is “…the savior of all men, especially of believers.” It is implied in I Timothy 4:11 that “the salvation of all people” is not a concept to be hidden—it is not a secret nor is it anything to be pushed aside. Instead it is to be openly commanded in Christian teaching: “Charge [command] thou these, and teach” (I Timothy 4:11).

THE KINGDOM WILL BE DELIVERED OVER TO GOD THE FATHER

Christ “… delivers the kingdom to God, even the Father” (I Corinthians 15:24). And again verse 28 states: “…when the all is subjected (hypotassō) to Him [the Son], then will the Son Himself be subjected to the One [the Father] Who subjected all unto Him…” This amazing transition of leadership has been called “the great abdication.” It is not as abrupt, however,  as a typical “abdication” but consists instead of a free and glorious final  transfer of authority from one person of the Godhead to the other: from the Son to the Father.

    The giving up or delivering over (paradidōmi) of the kingdom from the Son to the Father is the consummation of an on-going process in which the Father had been previously putting all under the control of the Son, over a period of time: Matthew 11:27, John 3:35, and John 13:3. After all has been completely placed under Him, Christ will deliver the kingdom over to the Father (I Corinthians 15:24).

GOD WILL BE “ALL IN ALL” WHEN THE TELOS IS COMPLETED

The telos is named and discussed in I Corinthians 15: 24 where it says that after the resurrection of Christ and of Christ’s own people, at his appearing (coming), “…then, the telos when He delivers the Kingdom to God, even the Father…” This same event is described in verse 28 where it states that all the previous events, especially the delivering of the kingdom from the Son to the Father, occurred “…in order that (ina) God may be all in all (panta en pasin).” After this act is culminated, God encompasses all.

A prelude to God’s becoming all in all is seen in the church. In Ephesians 1:23 we learn that right now the church is Christ’s body: “…the fullness (plerōma) of [the one] who fills (plēroumenou) the all in all (panta en pasin).” The church is His body nowadays and the church manifests His fullness. In the telos, all will be filled with Him.

Right now, each believer is filled with the Spirit of God, but after the telos all will be filled with God. Then too, all will be reconciled to God: “Through Him to reconcile the all into Him, making peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, whether on the earth or in the heavens” Colossians 1:20. “But now we see not yet all put under Him, but we see Jesus…” Hebrews 2:8. We can see Jesus nowadays and we can see His work in the church, even though all has not yet been subdued to Him. Philippians 2:10-11 puts it this way: “…that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow: heavenly, earthly, and under the earth; and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” We know this will be true Spirit-led worship by every individual. They will all be confessing Christ as Lord; and no one can do that unless they are filled with the Holy Spirit: “no one can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit” I Corinthians 12:3. This confession is not a grudging admission by sinful souls confined forever to hell. Since they will all worshipfully proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, we know that they will all have been reconciled, redeemed, and Spirit-filled.

    All the events prior to the telos occurred “in order that” God might accomplish this last glorious event. It all happened so that God would pervade and permeate the entire universe. God has always been omnipresent but the telos appears to involve much more than “omnipresence.” It is a new program in which God will embrace and pervade all. If the universe is finite, as many Christians think, then even what lies beyond our universe will likewise experience this fullness of God!

    It does not mean that every individual will become a “god” as some cults wrongly teach. It shows instead that God will control and saturate everyone; He will incorporate every corner of every human being into Himself. No one will “become a god” but God will become all in everyone! A hymn like the one in Revelation 5:13 will then be sung in unison by the whole human race: “And every created being who is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth—and they that are in the sea—and all that are in them heard I saying ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him Who sits on the throne and to the Lamb for the aeons of the aeons.’”

    It is excellent that believers eagerly look forward to “Heaven” as their future abode. We are told in John 14:2 that they will live in the Father’s house where there are many rooms—presumably dwelling places of all the elect individuals of all times. While  is worthy for believers to anticipate “heaven”, they ought to express even greater expectancy for the eternal telos wherein God will finally become all in all, not only in them and their redeemed companions, but in every person from every civilization past, present, and future! Thus the “heaven” which Christians anticipate, will give way to the eternal and much greater telos in which every individual will become gloriously saturated with God.

Once the telos ensues, all present human trials will vanish; there will be no more death, ignorance, sin, pain, fear, anxiety, loneliness, worry, starvation, trouble, doubt, unbelief, illness, boredom, depression, or grief. In fact, no more annoyances of any sort will occur. The absence of all these negative factors will be even more exquisitely enjoyable because we will be able to remember our troubles of this life in stark contrast.

The scope of the telos is unimaginably broad. Until we can experience it, much must be left to joyful speculation. We speculate about what activities will exist in that “eternal telos environment.” We wonder if people will be able to finish everything God intended them to do, even accomplishments they failed to achieve while living here on earth. Will each individual be enabled to correct all mistakes made here below? Will children who died in infancy or who were aborted as babies complete a plan God has for them? We may wonder what will happen to all the animals that have lived. The particulars of the telos are so monumentally grandiose that no essay of this sort can do them justice! May the recognition of the telos become widespread among all God’s people! When someone says  “Won’t it be wonderful when we all get to Heaven?” let us reply by saying, “Yes indeed—but it will be even more glorious to exist WITHIN God after the telos takes place!