All The World’s A Stage

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.

‘As You Like It’—William Shakespeare

WHEN GOD CREATED the world (Genesis 1:1) He created the most fantastic stage set there ever was. But ahead of the coming of any actors upon the scene He had also written a great drama, with a cast of millions and an amazing climax. Just for a moment admire the set—in the distance, the heavens in their stellar glory. The immediate background shows the wonders of the creation as we view them every day.

God then created the first pair of performers (Adam and Eve) and explained to them the role He wanted them to play in the unfolding drama (Genesis 2). But in the second scene (chapter 3) disaster struck. These two actors wanted to take a short cut to the final climax—they did not appreciate that for the drama to work it would have to be played out as the Director wanted. Happily the scenario had been devised by the great Director so as to take into account variations, not to say disasters, caused by the actors trying to change the storyline.

Good and Bad Actors

As the play has unfolded many other actors have come and gone. Some indeed have observed the intentions of the great Director and have struggled valiantly to play out their part, believing that there will indeed be a grand finale in which they will play starring roles. They each developed their own vision of where the play will end, based upon the script. When their part was finished, they went to wait in the wings for the final moment. None of these will be disappointed.

Sadly, others—many others—have come upon the scene and spurned the part they were given to play. They have spent their time examining the scenery, asking how it came to be and experimenting with changing the script. Some simply dropped out. They sat in the audience, wondering at the alterations that people had made in the Director’s script. Many were deceived into thinking that the scene in front of them was all they would ever see. Sometimes they found the action worth applauding, at other times they could not understand it, but either way they were not inclined to be part of the great production.

The script of course explained what the unfolding drama was about. Even in the earliest scenes it anticipated the appearance of the Star of the play, and showed clearly how the performance was going to end in its great climax.

It has to be said that much of the action apparently got out of control. The rate at which participants in the drama made their own changes to the script was bewildering, and to some the play just seemed chaotic. Great battles raged across each scene. The Director Himself sometimes apparently seemed to lose interest in what was going on, but then He intervened in order to bring peace for a time and bring the action back on track.

In point of fact, through every scene there were some actors who were, as best they could, following the script. And because they trusted that the Director knew what He was doing they successfully navigated each set as it changed, with His help and promptings.

There was the Flood (Genesis 6–9), in which the whole stage was submerged in water for a time, but afterwards as the waters receded the Director reaffirmed His interest and carefully arranged evidence through a rainbow that spanned the whole stage as a reassurance that His planned drama was still on track. Throughout the action there were other hints that His purposes were being fulfilled. He chose specific individuals and then a nation (Israel) to carry on His script.

The Star of The Production

At a crucial point in the script the Star of the production appeared: Jesus Christ, through whom the whole drama would be held together and enabled to come to its final conclusion. This one actor was actually born on stage (Luke 2), amid the apparent chaos. He lived, and died whereupon all seemed lost. He amazingly came back to life (Luke 24) in the climax of a wonderful scene. It was as if it was a great rehearsal for the greatest finale that was yet to come.

Interestingly this one actor made an appeal to all the supporting cast. More and more of them engaged with him and took their parts in the development of the grand plot. Sadly most pursued their intentions not to bother with the Director’s story. But this one superb actor was able to help anyone with their own part, to enable them to conform to the unfolding drama.

What this one special actor did show, particularly, was that the Director was passionately interested in every single actor, and was constantly engaged in all that happened on stage (Luke 12:32). He was all unseen directing events toward the grand finale. Even those with apparent bit parts had the Director’s full attention. In fact, to those who watch closely, the whole apparently chaotic plot can be seen to be progressing towards its brilliant conclusion.

What the Star brings to his role is indeed challenging to others: but for those who adopt his acting method, who follow his instruction, there is an inner conviction that they are part of something wonderful and that they are empowered to be fully part of all that the Director intends.

The Climax

Clearly, because of the self-delusion of those who want to ‘do their own thing’, the whole drama is headed for a violent conclusion. The penultimate scene is darkly frightening, with ‘noises off’ and the stage shaking alarmingly, and it will appear that the play is descending into ruin (Luke 21).

The chaos results in the scenery being seriously damaged. The whole atmosphere on stage is soured by the actions of those who, it is revealed, simply do not care. Most of the time actors are falling out amongst themselves—there is serious fighting even though there are efforts to keep out of it. People are breaking up into smaller and smaller groups, hoping to create happier sub-plots of their own. There is a final cataclysmic event, and the lights go out.

But, under the expert hand of the Director, the drama has arrived at its intended conclusion. The lights slowly come on again to reveal a scene of breath-taking beauty (Revelation 21). Jesus Christ is back centre stage! The shining brightness of God’s glory fills the stage—the consummation of peace and happiness on earth which He had in mind from the very beginning has finally come about. And all those, actors from all ages who have faithfully played their part, are there gathered before the King. On this scene the curtain will never fall.

David Nightingale