Genesis 1:6-10, The Firmament

Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”  Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.  And God called the firmament Heaven.  So the evening and the morning were the second day.

Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.  And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas.  And God saw that it was good.

“The firmament”

What was it, and what did it do?

Though I won’t be dogmatic about the idea, the firmament seems to have been a barrier protecting the new planet. The margin translates “firmament” as “canopy”.   Perhaps the firmament was the atmosphere humans would breathe in a few days.  Yes, I do believe in a recent creation, there being no reason for the millions of years evolutionists claim other than to get rid of God.  Early church fathers wondered why it took God so long to create – six whole days!  After all, He could have done it all at once.

I have no idea what “the waters above the firmament” might have been.  Perhaps they are a source of much of the water for Noah’s Flood.  Among other things describing that event, Genesis 7:11 says, “and the windows of heaven were opened.”  I think there’s more involved in that statement than the fact that “the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights,” v. 12.

Perhaps this whole series of “water, firmament (atmosphere), water” were themselves the protection for the new planet and that life which would inhabit it.  Perhaps their effect would be like that of a greenhouse, providing optimal  surroundings for the new creation.

Among other things, it would prevent potentially harmful rays from the Sun from reaching the Earth’s surface.  This would facilitate the growth of both plant and animal and would explain the appearance of the dinosaurs.  Just the other day, on a creation website, I saw a picture of a man standing next to the leg of a dinosaur.  I don’t remember its name  This man, probably about six feet tall, was next to the tibia and fibula and these lower leg bones were almost as tall as he, and very thick.  It’s hard to imagine the animal they originally belonged to.

Dinosaurs are reptiles, which even now never stop growing.  Imagine such a creature in a perfect environment, such as was before the Flood, with a greatly extended life.  The same is true of plant life.  This says nothing of the abundant oxygen produced by a plant life that makes what we have look microscopic in comparison.

It must indeed have been a paradise.

 

“Let There Be Light”

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the waters.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light, Genesis 1:1-3 NKJV.

Though they are directly and categorically opposed to the thought of this age, and they are categorically opposed and denied by the thought of this age, these verses in the first chapters of Genesis are some of the most profound verses in Scripture.  In broad brush strokes, they give us the picture of the creation of this world and the universe it sits in and lay the groundwork for understanding the moral and spiritual chaos that surrounds us in this year of our Lord 2019.

There is a lot of discussion about these verses, even among Christians.

What does it mean, for example, that “the earth was without form and void”?

Some have tried to answer this and to make room for the millions of years required by the theory of evolution, by translating this clause, “the earth became dark and void,” or empty.  These folks, known as “old earth creationists,” hold to the view the earth is indeed millions of years old.  They advance the idea that the earth underwent some catastrophe by which it became “dark and void.”  Doing so, they think they are believing the Bible while giving science the place it deserves.

Though they likely disagree with me on this, they are wrong.

On both counts.

The earth isn’t millions of years old, and there was no “catastrophe”.

Genesis 1:2 simply describes this planet as it came from the mind and word of God before anything had been done to it.  It was “dark” because there was as yet no light.  It was “void” or empty because God had not yet done anything to it.  It was, as it were, a lump of clay in the Potter’s hand, waiting to be molded by His skill and purpose, except for the fact that when He made the heavens and the earth, there was nothing “in His hand,” no pre-existent material for Him to work with.  He made everything ex nihilo, that is, out of nothing.

As for the “age” of the earth, the Lord Jesus placed the creation of Adam and Eve at the beginning of creation, not as a result of countless ages of “upward” development from an amoeba, Matthew 19:4, but by a direct act of God.  God Himself said that it took Him six days to do all that He wanted to do, Exodus 20:11.

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

It’s a foolish thing to try to understand God by looking at how humans do things, though we do that way too often.  I guess it could be said that I’m doing that in this post.  None of us can create by simply saying something.  And, no, this isn’t the same thing as asking Alexa to turn on the lights for you.  I’ve never sculpted or worked with clay.  I have done calligraphy and, in this case, do know something about laying out work that needs to be done.

So, when the Spirit of God was looking things over, if I can put it like that, was He laying out the basic design for this world?  The Americas here, Europe here, Africa there.  This flower and that bee.  These animals and that locale.  We do know from Scripture that the history of this ball of dirt has been laid out already, so why not its geography?

There are no “accidents” in this world.  Every rock, every clod of dirt, every tree, is right where it’s supposed to be.  As I’ve written before, there are no erasers on God’s pencils.

With this viewpoint, the question often arises, did God “put in” evil? Lord willing, we’ll deal with this difficulty, Lord willing, when we get to Adam and Eve, but for now, did He “put in” evil in the same sense that He put in the rock and the tree?  No.  On the other hand, as some teach, did evil catch Him by surprise?  Also, no.  Did it “mess up” His planning, so that He had to go to “Plan B”?  Absolutely NOT!!

But there is another, much worse, kind of darkness –

There is the darkness of moral evil, of sin.

This other kind of “darkness” has nothing to do with the presence or absence of physical light.  Proverbs 2:13, 14 refers to those who leave the paths of uprightness, To walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice in doing evil…, emphasis added.

It is a darkness in which all of us have walked, and perhaps are still walking:  for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.  For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin, Ecclesiastes 7:20.

This is God’s description of us.

This does not mean that we’re all as bad as we could be.  All of us can think of some who are worse (in our estimation) than we are.  It means that we’re not as good as we should be.  And we’re certainly not holy, harmless and undefiled as Hebrews describes the Lord Jesus.

There’s another agent at work in all this, as well.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul wrote, But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do no believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them, vs. 3, 4.

“The god of this age.”

A lot of people deny any such being as Satan, but Scripture speaks of him from the Garden of Eden clear to that future time when he will finally be cast into the Lake of Fire, never again to interfere in the world of men, Genesis 3; Revelation 20:10.

But he’s the one behind the plethora of cults, false religions, false beliefs and the moral chaos in our culture.  He wants no one even to look at that book which foretells his ultimate doom and wants to take as many as possible with him to that place of torment.  So he does all he can to counteract the clear witness of the Word of God.

What better way than to present a counterfeit worldview in which the idea of “God” has no place at all?  Evolution has no place for God.  From the beginning, with its incomprehensible belief in a hot blob of something which blew up, to the idea that we’ve all just evolved, hit-or-miss, with no purpose or reason, evolution has presented us with that counterfeit.

But that counterfeit won’t do us any good when we stand before God, as we all will, every one of us.  No exceptions.  There’s only one currency, if you will, that can pay for sin and grant entrance into eternal bliss.  That payment is the one made by the Lord Jesus on the Cross.  That death is the reason He was born.  The only reason.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

Acts 14:15, “The Living God Who Made…” …Everything.

“We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, Acts 14:15.

We referred to this in our last post, that the Lord Jesus walked on dusty paths in Israel on the planet which He Himself had created.  Of course, in our “enlightened” society, we no longer believe such out-dated ideas as creation by an omnipotent being.  We can look at the marvels of nature – the flit of a butterfly, the soaring majesty of an eagle, the grace of a deer, the speed of a cheetah, the marvelous engineering of a honeycomb, the unbelievable complexity of even a single cell – and are quite convinced that these all sprang – albeit over a v-e-r-y  l-o-n-g  t-i-m-e – from a blob of very hot material which suddenly appeared all on its very own.  We ourselves finally decided to come down from swinging in the trees and began to walk upright, leaving them to our close relatives, the apes, monkeys, etc.

The stories in Genesis 1 and 2, which tell a far different story, are dismissed as irrelevant, disagreeing as they do with the latest “science.”  However, these two chapters are not the only references to creation that are found in Scripture.  As I read through the Bible, I’m struck by how often it’s mentioned.  We’re going to look at these references to see how thoroughly embedded the idea of the divine origin of things is in Scripture.

Genesis.

1:1; also chapters 1 and 2, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1 makes the simple assertion that God created everything by His word and power.  He spoke…and it was so, as in v. 7 and others.  Further, each part was finished and complete as it came into existence.  Ten times in chapter 1, it’s emphasized that the animate part of creation, birds, fish, animals, were to reproduce according to their kind, or its kind.  That’s also true of vegetation, vs. 11, 12.  This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t room for adaptation to changing situations; it does means that guppies give birth to guppies, cocker spaniels give birth to cocker spaniels, and dandelions produce seed for more dandelions.

Furthermore, all this took a mere six days.  There was no need for the millions or billions of years imagined by evolutionary teaching.  If it’s argued that God could have taken such a long time to create, the simple fact that vegetation was created before the sun – how did the plants survive without sunlight for ages and ages?  Further, in Exodus 20:10, 11, as Moses gives the Law to Israel, he said that they were to work six days in the week, “but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God….For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them….”   See also Exodus 31:17.

Genesis 1 and 2 record the original creation.  Chapter one deals with creation in general; chapter 2 focuses on the creation of mankind.  Adam was created out of the dust of the earth, v. 7, by a special and unique act of God.  He didn’t “descend” from “other” animals.

Genesis 6:5-7 says that because the wickedness of man was great in the earth, that the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, whom, He said, “I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them,” emphasis added.  See also 7:4.  God created in infinite variety; things didn’t just “evolve” without rhyme or reason.

Without getting into detail, Genesis 1-11 forms the foundation for the rest of Biblical teaching.  We’ve dealt with this in other posts.  Without these chapters, we have no account of the Fall of man and thus the need for redemption, the wickedness of man and his judgment by means of Noah’s flood, which was not just a “local” flood or else God lied when He said He would never again flood the earth, or the dispersion of nations and the rise of many different languages, see 9:11.

Exodus.

Exodus 20.  In this chapter,  the Lord Himself gives commands as He enters into a covenant relationship with Israel.  We know the first seventeen verses as the Ten Commandments, though there is a great deal more involved in what God promised to and expected of Israel than just a few verses in Exodus.  In His instructions regarding the Sabbath, or the seventh day, God said Israel was to “labor and do all your work” in six days, but was to “remember the Sabbath” and do no work,” because “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.”

Just in passing, have you ever wondered why God told Israel to remember the Sabbath day?

The answer is in Exodus 16.  I’ll leave you to read it, but Israel was to “remember” the Sabbath because they had already been given it.

Exodus 31 tells us that the Sabbath, or the seventh day, was given to Israel as “sign forever between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,” v. 17, emphasis added.  I emphasize that the Sabbath was given to Israel because of those who insist that Christians are also obligated to keep it.  We’ve dealt with this in other posts, as well.

Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 4:32.  In this review to a second generation of Israelites of the giving of the Law, Moses simply asks if it’s ever happened before “since the day that God created man on the earth” that God has said and done the things He’s done for Israel?  Again is emphasized the fact that man was created; he didn’t come in any way from “lower” animals.

2 Kings.

19:15.

Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.”  

Hezekiah and Israel were in trouble.  Assyria had invaded the land with superior forces, after having overrun a good part of their world.  Jerusalem was surrounded by the enemy and the leader of those forces taunted Hezekiah for trusting in God.  This leader mistakenly thought that Israel’s God was no different from, no more powerful than, the gods of the lands he had conquered: “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” 2 Kings 18:35.

He found out.  When he got up the next morning, he discovered 185,000 of his men dead in their tents, 2 Kings 19:35.  Indeed, as the next verses tell us, he also found out that his own god couldn’t protect him from his own sons, who murdered him while he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god.

2 Chronicles.

2:12.

Hiram also said:

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who made heaven and earth….

Hiram supplied most of the materials with which Solomon built the Temple.  Even a pagan king recognized creation.

Nehemiah.

9:6.

You alone are the LORD;
You have made the heaven,

The heaven of heavens, with all their host,
The earth and everything on it,
The seas and all that is in them,
And you preserve them all.

In this worship service of Israel returned to her land after the Babylonian Captivity, the Levites rehearsed the sad history of an unfaithful Israel and the faithfulness of her God, Who is the creator of the heavens and the earth.

Job.

35:10, 11.

But no one says, “Where is God my Maker,
Who gives songs in the night,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth,
And makes us wiser than the birds of the air?”

38:4-11.

Here God answers Job and his three “friends,” though He doesn’t really “answer” them.  He just reveals Himself in chs. 38-40.  We’re quoting only a small part of that revelation, which shows God’s creation and control of this world.

4] “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding
.
5] Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6] To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
7] When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

8] “Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
9] When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band:
10] When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
11] When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’

The Psalms.

33:6.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.

90:2.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,

Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

115:15, 16.

15] May you be blessed by the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

16] The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s;
But the earth He has given to the children of men.

121:2.

My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

124:8.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

134:3.

The LORD who made heaven and earth
Bless you from Zion!

146:5, 6.

5] Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God.

6] Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever.

Isaiah.

37:15, 16.

Isaiah 36 and 37 give us Isaiah’s account of Assyria’s invasion of Israel and her miraculous deliverance from the enemy.

15] Then Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying: 16] “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.” 

40:22, 28.

22] It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

28] Have you not known?
Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

45:12, 18.

In these verses, God says,

12] “I have made the earth,
And created man on it.
I – My hands – stretched out the heavens,
And all their host I have commanded.”

18] For thus says the LORD,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the LORD, and there is no other,” 

65:17.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

A similar statement is in Revelation 21:1, where John wrote, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also there was no more sea.”  And Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:10-13, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells [or, “is at home”, certainly something that can’t be said about this present world].

There’s some discussion about these verses which mention new heavens and a new earth.  I’ve dealt with this elsewhere.  Some say they all refer to eternity, as indeed the verses in Revelation do.  But Revelation also says in 21:4, there shall be no more death….  That’s not what Isaiah 65 says in verse 20:  
“No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.”

This is not a “mistake” in the Bible.  It is God saying that there is more than one time when He will yet actively intervene in the affairs of men.  While John indeed refers to eternity, we believe Isaiah refers to that time we call “The Millennium,” where the Lord Jesus will rule this world from Jerusalem, where the very physical structure of this planet will be altered, Zechariah 14:4, 6-7, to say nothing of it’s social structure, Revelation 19:15; 20:4-6.  For more detail, see our posts on Revelation 20:1-6 and 20:7-15.

Jeremiah.

10:11, 12.

11] Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.”

12] He has made the earth by His power,
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.

31:35.

Thus says the LORD,
Who gives the sun for light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar
(The LORD of hosts is His name):

51:15.

He has made the earth by His power;
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And stretched out the heaven by His understanding.

Jonah.

1:9.

So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Malachi.

2:10.

Have we not one Father?
Has not one God created us?

Matthew.

19:4.

And [Jesus] answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’  Also Mark 10:6.  Adam and Eve were made “at the beginning” of this earth’s history, on the sixth day of creation, and not at “the end” of a few billion years.

Luke.

10:21.

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”

John.

1:3.

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Acts.

4:24.

So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,

14:15.

and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things?  We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.”

1 Corinthians.

11:9.

Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.

Ephesians.

3:9.

and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.

Colossians.

1:16, 17.

16] For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him. 17] And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Hebrews.

11:3.

By faith we understand that the worlds [or “the ages”] were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Revelation.

4:11.

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

10:5, 6.

5] The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven 6] and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer,
________________

These 35 or so references show that the idea of God creating the earth and the heavens isn’t just some arcane idea found only in Genesis 1 and 2.  It was woven into the very warp and woof of Israel’s existence.  I’m sure there are more references to creation that express it differently than the words I used in searching a concordance.  In fact, three or four showed up which I was typing this, one even heading a program I use to search, and one as I was reading the Bible.  And this doesn’t include the many references to the Lord, or the God, of heaven and earth beside the one I listed.  The God of Scripture wasn’t just some “tribal” god, the god of a bunch of ignorant slaves in Egypt, created by a priestly class to empower it over the people.  He is the God who created the heavens and the earth and sustains them by His power and providence.

So….

What does this mean to the average Christian, or even an unbeliever, for that matter?  It means that if Genesis 1 and 2 are untrue, then there is no explanation for the origin of the earth or mankind, it just happened; there are no absolutes (except that one), there is no real “higher being” to whom we are accountable, there is no need for redemption and, thus, no reason for the birth, life, or death of the Lord Jesus, and, finally, nothing beyond the grave after all.

But these chapters are true and even a cursory glance at this world, corrupted and ruined as it is because of the wickedness of men, still shows evidence of the handiwork and wisdom of its Creator.

Do you know this God?  More importantly, do you know His Son, the Lord Jesus?  He came to this planet He created; He walked its dusty paths, breathed its air and died on one of its hills.  But He didn’t stay there; He rose from the dead, ascended into the heaven He created, and one day will return from there to judge the world and restore things to righteousness.  He came to die for sinners like you and me, and those who receive Him as Lord and Savior, those who throw down the weapons of their rebellion against Him, will live and reign with Him forever and ever.

Do you know this God?

The living God who made…everything.

 

Revelation 4, There Is A God In Heaven

Revelation 4:1-11, After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven.  And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.  And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne in appearance like an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.  And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices.  Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal.  And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.  The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.  And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.” (NKJV)

John has given us a view of seven churches of his time.  Perhaps, perhaps not, they also foreshadow the history of the church in general.  Regardless, in the ebb and flow of church or national history, the rise and fall of cities, nations, kingdoms, or empires, he now points us to one throne that is eternal.  We look back on far more history than Daniel did, and see the rise and fall of many nations, kingdoms and empires yet future to his time, yet he, too, saw the rise and fall of nations under Nebuchadnezzar, and he points out the one central fact of existence.  In the words of Daniel 2:28, “There is a God in heaven.”  And, further, Daniel 5:26, “His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed.”

As we get into the chapter, note what the “voice” said to John, “I will show you things which must take place after this,” v. 1.  “Things,” not “principles,” not “processes.”  Not even just “generalities.”  Things.  Events.  True, there is a lot of discussion about this, but it’s my view that Revelation is the disclosure of history before it happens.  Actual, verifiable history.  Events future to our time which people will be able to point to in the book and say, “See.  This is what is happening.”  We’ll get into this later, Lord willing.

The first thing John saw was a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne, v. 2.

This is where every worldview, every way of thinking about life, without exception, begins.  What do you think of this One who sits on the throne?  Even those who flatly reject Him, or don’t know of Him at all, or worship other gods, live their lives in view of an answer to this question, though they may never actually come into contact with the question.

There are several such incidents in Scripture, beginning with Genesis where Adam and Eve enjoy fellowship with God in the cool of the day, though this soon came to an end when they concluded they could decide for themselves what was “good” and what was “evil”.  In Exodus 24:9,10, after the giving of the Law and Israel’s agreeing to keep it, though they had no idea what they were getting into, we read that Moses, Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, along with seventy elders of the people, climbed Mt. Sinai and they saw the God of Israel.  This, too, never happened again because Israel very quickly broke her promise.

There are other such incidents, but perhaps my favorite is found in Ezekiel 1:25-30, where Ezekiel describes his vision of the likeness of a throne and goes on to describe a little of what he saw, ending with this:  like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud in a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

“Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud in a rainy day.”

Have you ever seen a rainbow?

Really seen one?

I used to drive for a living and one of my vehicles was a well-used 1982 Dodge van.  One day, it rained.  As the storm passed and the sun began to break through the clouds, there was a rainbow.  Not like the ones you see on the horizon, this one looked like it came out the hood of that old beater.  It was right there, two feet in front of me.  I can’t even begin to describe it.  It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

That’s how Ezekiel saw the glory of God.

That’s how John saw the glory of God, with a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.  This is different from the 7-color rainbows we see.  It had just one color, a glorious color “like an emerald.”

As I look out the window, I see the drabness of winter, with just a leaf or two here and there clinging to a branch, defying the pull of gravity.  Soon, though, we’ll begin to see green, just a tinge at first, but it tells us that spring is coming, that life will triumph.

Perhaps John is telling us that here he is seeing life at its most triumphant, in the presence and glory of God.

But he sees something else, as well.  Leaving aside much of the description of what John saw, and the description of the “living creatures,” John tells us of “twenty-four elders” who sit on thrones around the central throne.

Who are these “elders”?  There’s a lot of discussion about this.  My own view is that they represent the redeemed of Israel and the church.  I believe this is borne out by the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, which has twelve gates, named after the tribes of Israel, and twelve foundations, named after the twelve apostles.  This tells me that, no matter how they may be united in the future, Israel and the church will never lose their distinct and separate identities.

What are these elders doing?  Vs, 10, 11 tell us:

…the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,  

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

This is probably as good a place to end this year as chapter 5 is to start the new year.  It takes us back to the beginning and tells us that we’re not here just as the result of some mindless, random, meaningless cosmic explosion.  Strange, isn’t it, that “science” is willing to believe that that’s how it all started, in spite of the fact that no one has ever been able to create anything by blowing nothing up and making something out of it.  They do tell us that there was this tiny amount of matter, and that’s what blew up, but they never really deal with where that came from.  They never really deal with “origins.”   It seems to me that it takes a great deal more “faith,” though of a different kind, to believe as they do than it does to believe –

In the beginning God created…. 

So, as we ring out the old year in a few days and bring in the new, let this be the confidence in which we rest, the hope that we cling to.  Regardless of what the new year brings, let this be our firm foundation:

There is a God in heaven.

Revelation 3:14-21, The Church of the Laodiceans: The Church of the Good Self-Image, part 1.

“And to the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:  “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, having become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.   (NKJV)

1. The City of the Epistle, v. 14.

Laodicea was founded about 250 BC at a critical point in the road system of the country.  It was very strongly fortified, but had one serious weakness:  it was dependent on water from a system of aqueducts from the north and south.  Ruins of these aqueducts exist today.  We’ll have more to say about these aqueducts later on.

The city became famous for three things, all alluded to in the letter.  It was a great commercial and financial center.  It was the manufacturing center for several kinds of widely esteemed garments.  It was the location of a famous medical school, which was noted, among other things, for its medicine for the eyes.

In the 4th century, a council was held in the city which, humanly speaking, established the New Testament canon.

“Laodicea” comes from two words meaning, “the voice, or rule, of the people” – democracy, as opposed to the voice or rule of God, or theocracy.  The church there was a rich church materially, but in a condition of absolute poverty, spiritually speaking.  Surely it speaks of the church in our time, with all the fancy buildings and hierarchy and organization, but little if any real effect on our culture.  Indeed, much of the professing church seems to be adding to the debasement of that culture.  Truly, Lamentations 4:1 may be applied to this church and to the church of our time:  How the gold has become dim!  How changed the fine gold!

2. The Christ of the Epistle, v. 14.

Our Lord uses three titles to establish His connection with this church and to remind them of their own responsibility and failings.

The Amen.  This is an untranslated Hebrew word meaning something is established, certain and positive.  In the case of God’s dealing with Israel – and with mankind in general, it means that what He has said, He will do.  He is dependable and trustworthy.  We may trust our eternal souls and being into His care.  Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20.  He will not fail.  He cannot fail.

The Faithful and True Witness.  See Hebrews 1:1, 2.  No matter how faithless or false the church may be, its Head remains Faithful and True (Genuine).  Our Lord has never once denied or deserted the purpose of God.  Never has He left perfection or righteousness.  He is faithful.  But He is also True.  Many founders or followers of cults and false religions are faithful to what they believe, but those things are not true.  They are not of God.  But Jesus is.  Because He is, He gives a complete and correct description of Laodicea.  They could deceive themselves and others, but not Him.

The Beginning of the Creation of God.  There are those who knock at your door who will say that this simply means that the Word was the first act of creation, “the firstborn over all creation,” Colossians 1:15.  After that, He, the Word, created everything else.  However, Colossians 1:16 goes on to say, For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible….  The JW bible, The New World Translation, (which I DO NOT recommend!) translates this verse as “because by means of him all [other] things were created….”  They add the word, “other,” to the verse, though they do mark it as added.  They also add the word 4 other places in vs. 16-20.  “All [other] things,” v. 16, “He is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things,” v. 17, “reconcile again to himself all [other] things.”

An interesting fact is that in their interlinear Greek NT, which is the standard 1881 Westcott and Hort text, Colossians 1:16 reads, “because in him was created all the things in heavens and upon the earth.”  Surely one can see the difference!  The Greek text says Christ created everything; the JW version says He created everything else!  There is a difference.  There is no word for “other” in the Greek text!  In any of the four verses the NWT had it.  The NWT is a false translation.

JWs also make a big deal out of the word “firstborn” in Col. 15, He is the firstborn over all creation, though they translate it “the firstborn of all creation,” as do the KJV and some newer translations.  According to them, this means that He was the first-created of creation.  However, in Scripture, the word “firstborn” has two different meanings.  It does often mean the first child born in a family, whether human or animal, as, for example, in Genesis 48.  The chapter recounts Isaac’s blessing of Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  When it became apparent that Isaac meant to bless Ephraim more than Manasseh, Joseph stopped him, saying that Manasseh was “the firstborn,” v. 18, also Genesis 41:51.  Manasseh was the older, and by right and custom, should have had that blessing, cf. 43:33; Deuteronomy 21:17, but Isaac said that Ephraim was to receive it.  By the way, those brothers in Genesis 43?  They were terrified because they thought the man who was their host had some magical or demonic power because he knew their birth order.  They had no idea he was actually the brother they had sold into slavery.

In addition to the meaning of being the first one actually born, it also means “preeminent” or “given priority.”  We see an example of this in 1 Chronicles 5:1, Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel – he was indeed the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed [Genesis 35:22], his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph….

It is this second meaning of “priority,” “preeminence” that Colossians 1:15 uses.  Paul concludes the thought of these verses, that in all things He may have the preeminence.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that might mean “may or may not.”  The word denotes certainty, not mere possibility.

Make no mistake about it.  The day is coming, and we hope, soon, when our Lord will return to this earth, and there will no doubt that He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

(Lord willing, we’ll finish this in our next post.)

Hebrews 1:10-14: Made Higher Than the Angels, part 3.

Perhaps you are wondering why in the world we have spent so much time on this subject.  Well, the writer of Hebrews did.  We believe he was guided by the Holy Spirit.  What he wrote, therefore, is important.  Beyond that, though, there are other reasons.  There are at least two religions in this world, both of which teach falsehood about the Lord Jesus, which claim angels brought the revelation to their founder.

There are many people who look to angels, or spirits, or whatever – horoscopes and such – to guide their daily lives.  Besides that, there are many things, even in church,which draw our attention away from the Lord.  Recently, I saw a facebook post in which someone wanted folks to mention their church and pastor if they thought he was a great pastor.  I understand that.  At the same time, how about a church with a great Savior?

During the days of Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, it was a common practice to “church-hop.”  That is, because there were many great preachers in London at the time, some folks would go from church to church to “sermon-taste.”  It’s said that when folks left these other churches, they would say, “What a great sermon,” but when they left Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon’s church, they would say, “What a great Savior.”

That’s what we need, folks –

A great Savior.

Because we are great sinners.

The Bible tells us of that great Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ.

In our previous posts, we’ve looked at the writer’s arguments proving the Lord’s superiority over angels.  These involved His person and His position.  This last post on ch.1 will focus on the final two evidences of that superiority.

1.  His Power, 1:10-12.

As we look at these verses, we are reminded about how much the Bible deals with origins and outcomes, and how little really it deals with what goes on in between.  It doesn’t ignore that, certainly, but it reminds us that this world isn’t all there is and that what we can see isn’t all there is.  Verses like Romans 8:27-30 and Ephesians 1 and 2, especially 1:3-12, 21; 2:7, emphasize more what God does than what we do.

The three verses in the title of our post encompass the entire history of creation.  Perhaps this is to remind us of the brevity of our own lives and the speed with which it goes by.  I’ll soon be 75, Lord willing, and I’m kind of taken aback when I remember something in the past and realize that it happened 50 or 60 years ago!  So long a time ago, and yet it seems so short!

The Past, v. 10, “You, LORD, laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.”   This is a quote from Psalm 102:25-27.  The Psalmist wrote this praise to Jehovah, or the Father.  The writer to Hebrews directs the Psalm to Jesus, the Son.  Another, incidental, proof of the deity of the Lord Jesus.  No faithful Hebrew could ever have done this if Jesus were not truly God.

The verse contrasts the Lord Jesus with His creation, and shows His greatness.  His is the workmanship behind everything, perfect workmanship, whether seen through microscope or telescope.

How long ago was “the beginning”?  Only God knows for sure, but likely not as long as we’re commonly told.  The only reason to believe that it happened billions of years ago is to allow for the time required by the theory of evolution.  There have been those who’ve tried to figure out when the beginning was by looking at the chronologies in the Bible.  The KJV of my youth had a note that Genesis 1:1 happened in 4004 B.C.  The difficulty with that is that the Bible was never given to establish a chronological time-line, but to establish connection between us and Adam.  I have no difficulty with the idea that the earth is more than 6,000 years old.  I just don’t think that it’s billions of years old.

Belief in evolution and the belief in creation are the viewpoints of two opposing religious systems, one which says that man is the creation of God and one which says that “god” is the creation of man.

Whenever the beginning was, the Lord Jesus was there.

The Present, v. 11, “They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment.”  The contrast is again between creation and its Creator.  Creation is perishing, wearing out, passing away, 1 Corinthians 7:31.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics also tells us this.  Our planet, like some old clothes, is wearing out, and all the “patching up” we can do isn’t going to stop it.

The Future, v. 12,  “Like a cloak, You will fold them up, and they will be changed.  But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.”   This picturesque verse shows the tremendous power of the Creator, the Lord Jesus.  One day, He will fold the universe up like a worn-out piece of clothing and replace it, 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 20:11; 21:1.  How foolish we are to act as if this world, this life, will last forever.

2.  His Promise, 1:13, 14.

But to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool?”

 Certainly, no mere angel ever had such a promise made to it.  There’s a lot of discussion about what these verses mean, as well as other verses which deal with the Second Coming, but surely it may be noted that the time is coming, and we believe very soon, when every knee shall bow, …and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” Philippians 2:10, 11.  “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”!

Angels only have a role of service, v. 14.  The Son is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

He has willing subjects.

Are we among them?

Hebrews 1:1, 2: Who Spoke?

1] In many portions and in many ways, of old God was speaking to the fathers in the prophets; 2] in the last of these days, He spoke to us in [His] Son, whom He appointed heir of all, through whom also He made the ages, 3] Who being [the] radiant splendor of [His] glory and [the] exact imprint of His essence, and maintaining everything through the word of His power, and having accomplished cleansing of sins, was made to sit at the right hand of the majesty on high.  [Author’s translation].

The writer begins Hebrews with the assertion that God spoke!  As he develops this thought, he sets up a three-fold contrast between the revelation of the Old Testament, i.e., the First Covenant, (in particular the Mosaic Covenant, but here including more than that), and the New Covenant, that is, the New Testament.

1.  Method.

The First Covenant was given in many portions over a long period of time – about 4000 years, and was not God’s final or complete revelation to Man.  The New Covenant was given complete in the relatively short span of about 60 years and is God’s final and complete revelation to man until the Second Coming.

2.  Recipients.

The First Covenant was given to “the fathers,” the New Covenant “to us.”  The First Covenant, while certainly inspired by God and intended for our “instruction” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-14, especially vs. 6, 12) is nevertheless not the basis for either our faith or our conduct.  Those who attempt to mold the NT church or believers on OT patterns do so mistakenly.  From such a view, we have such doctrines as the Romish priesthood, the Reformed idea of a church-state, and infant baptism.

The idea of a church-state, or an “established church,” such as England and other nations have, and which the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution was designed to prevent, gives to the church magisterial, that is, civil, authority.  Historically, this has resulted in the suppression and persecution of dissent.  History records that both the Roman Catholic and Reformed churches vigorously wielded the civil sword against those who differed from them.  Millions have died at the hands of church authorities for the heinous crime of desiring to worship and serve God only as the Bible teaches and not as some church dictates.

Though many will disagree with us on this, and many who practice it are indeed known by the Lord, yet infant baptism has done for the Reformed churches what the invitation system has done for fundamentalist-type churches:  filled them with lost people.

The Romish priesthood denies the Mediatorial office of Christ, substituting the Virgin in His place (“Hail, Mary, full of grace.  Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”.)  There is no Biblical authority for this.  In fact, the last thing Mary said in the sacred record is found in John 2:5, “Whatever He says to you, do it,”  This is still wise advice.  These practices also deny the liberty and right of the individual believer to come personally and directly to God in prayer and for forgiveness.  Cf. Hebrews 4:16.

All these errors, and others, have come upon Christians simply because they have failed to distinguish between the First and New Covenants.

3.  Messengers.

The spokesmen of the First, or Old, Covenant, though they were truly prophets, were just men, like those to whom they spoke.  They were not “God.”  In the New Covenant, God spoke “in son,” emphasizing the nature and character of the Spokesman.  Though Man, Jesus was also God.

Having stated the equal inspiration of the Old and New Covenants, yet also maintaining the position of the New over the Old, the writer at once answers the question, “Who is this ‘son’?”  He demonstrates that the Son, the spokesman of the NC, is far superior to “the prophets,” the spokesmen of the OC, whom the Jews held in high regard.  Including the noun “son,” the writer makes eight statements about Him:

1.  “son”, His essential nature.
2.  “heir,” His exalted position.
3.  “made the ages,” His eternal power.
4.  “radiant splendor,” His evident deity.  In the words of an ancient confession, He was very God of very God.
5.  “exact imprint,” His earthly being.  That same confession:  He was very man of very man.
6.  “maintaining,” His effectual providence.
7.  “cleansing,” His efficacious sacrifice.
8.  “made to sit,” His earned preeminence.

Numbers 1 – 4 deal mainly, but not exclusively, with His deity; numbers 5 – 8 mainly, but not exclusively, with His humanity.  Corresponding numbers go together.

For example, numbers 4 and 5.  These refer to His essential being, deity (4) and humanity (5).  He was God; He became Man, John 1:1, 14.  In His incarnation, He didn’t cease to be God.  In His resurrection and ascension, He didn’t cease to be Man.

Numbers 3 and 6 speak of His power, referring to the creation of all things (3), and to their preservation and continuation according to God’s eternal purpose (6).

Numbers 2 and 7 refer to His position.  He is “heir” (2) because (7) He laid aside His eternal glory and prerogative in order to assume human existence so that He could be the substitute for and Savior of His people, Philippians 2:5-11.

Numbers 1 and 8 refer to His unique nature and character. (1) eternally God the Son, one with the Father in essence and nature, yet (8) still truly human.

Number 8 poses a difficulty for some.  Believing that Jesus merely returned to some former angelic state, they ask, “If he were God, how could he be exalted higher than He was before?”

Those verses which tell of His exaltation give a two-fold answer.

1.  He is exalted in His deity, because of the Incarnation.  As an example, suppose an earthly king stepped down from his throne in order to rescue some of his subjects at the price of great personal suffering and indignity.  On returning to his throne, the honor and praise he would receive because of the successful completion of his task would in no way detract from nor deny his kingship before the mission.  So with Jesus Christ.  Eternally God, yet He receives more glory because of His stepping down from His throne to rescue His people.

2.  He is exalted in His humanity, because of the Resurrection.  His humanity has been elevated to the dignity and glory of His deity, so that fully God, fully Man, he sits at the right hand of the Father.  1 Timothy 2:5 clearly establishes His present humanity:  For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (emphasis added).  Hebrews 8:6; 9:15 and 12:24 all confirm His present role as Mediator, so that it can’t be argued that 1 Timothy just refers to His earthly ministry.

It’s interesting that Jehovah’s Witnesses do the same thing with 1 Timothy 2:5 that they do with John 1:1.  Since there is no article (“the”) before “man Christ Jesus” in the original text, they translate it, “a man Christ Jesus,” just as they translate John 1:1, “the word was a god,” citing the absence of the article before “god.”  They assert that John was not claiming deity for Jesus, but merely that He was “godlike.”

Did Paul write to Timothy that Jesus was merely “manlike”?  Or was he asserting His real and true humanity, just as John asserted His real and true deity?