The Fourfold State in a Nutshell
1. All mankind were, by Adam’s fall, separated and scattered from God, as sheep gone astray, 1 Pet. 2:25. Mankind was at first joined to God in the bond of the first covenant, and so they were his family about his hand, headed by him, and enjoying his favour. But by sin they broke away from him, and being gone from him, the centre of unity, they were separated in affection one from another, Tit. 3:3. And in this state they remain while out of Christ, scattered and wandering on the mountains of vanity.
2. To bring scattered sinners to God again, Christ was appointed the head to whom their gathering should be, 1 Pet. 2:25, "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Chap. 3:18, "Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." The first Adam was the head under whom they went away, and he left them wandering, a ready prey for the devourer; the second Adam is the head for their return, by whom they may be brought back unto God, and put up in safety with him for ever, John 11:52. He is the great Shepherd, entrusted by his Father for gathering the strays of mankind, into one stock and fold.
3. There is a double gathering of scattered sinners to Christ. The one is now a doing, has been from the beginning, and will be to the end of the world; and that is a gathering of sinners by the gospel to him into the bond of the covenant of grace, Gen. 49:10. The other is to come certainly at the world’s end, and that is a gathering of them by the angels to meet him in the air, never to set their foot more on the cursed earth, but to go away with him to heaven. And that will be a gathering quickly dispatched, as appears from the text [Ps:50:5 “Gather my saints together unto me: those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”].
4. There are many who will not be gathered to Christ now, whatever pains he is at to gather them, Matt. 23:37, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" He sets up his standard among them, he calls to them to come to him; but they get away from him. They love better to wander on, than to return; they prefer a vain world, and their deceitful lusts, to Christ; and they love rather to be at their liberty, than to be brought into the bond of his covenant. They cannot endure to be so hedged up, Ps. 2:3. So they refuse to gather to him.
5. Yet there are still some who, with heart and goodwill, gather to him, and willingly come into the bond of his covenant. Efficacious grace makes them willing, Ps. 110:3. They are weary of their distance from God, and their wandering life, seeing how in that case they are exposed to the utmost danger, and are in no safety from the roaring lion, who goes about seeking whom he may devour; and so they willingly gather to Christ, and come into the bond of his covenant, as their only safety.
6. Lastly, At the end of the world, whatever separation there is between these parties now, the wanderers and those within the bond of the covenant, there will be a greater then. The wanderers and the gathered being both raised out of their graves at the sound of the last trumpet: all those gathered within the bond of the covenant, shall be gathered together to Christ in the air, to go with him, and be ever with the Lord; and the wanderers will be brought together on the earth before him, receive their dreadful sentence to depart from him; and then, they going away, the earth will be set on fire. Mankind, in the garden, was a family with God as its head, united, as symbolised by the marriage bond between the man and the woman, and free to choose between good and evil. In glory, we will again be a united family, symbolised by our being taken there by the angels who are also sons of God (but who neither marry not are given in marriage) and we shall be perfectly free there to do the good that will be natural for us to do. We differ from the angels in this, that some of them fell into sin but not all and all of us have fallen in Adam. We, by nature, now have Adam as our head, are alienated from the family of God and have wills that are in bondage to choose evil only. Our course will take us from the wilderness of this world to the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
(Works V 517-518)