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Before Time Was

            What does Scripture have to say about this?  I expect most of us would say: “Not a lot”, and that would be true, but it does say some things. My thought is to consider what it does say. Generally it is thought that what we have before time was simply eternity. God we know exists from eternity to eternity (Psalm 41:13). Wisdom existed then (Proverbs 8:12 and 22). It existed in God for He is the only wise God (Romans 16:27) and it is inconceivable that he could ever be anything other than wise.

            The Old Testament tells us little about what was before the ages of time as it begins with the creation of the physical heavens and earth that we are acquainted with. The New Testament goes further and speaks of the coming into being of everything (John 1: 3). The one we know as the Word (Luke 1:2) was instrumental in bringing all things into existence (John 1:3). He Himself was not a created being, except for his physical body (Hebrews 10:5), as He brought all created things into existence. He came down from heaven (John 6:38) where he had a glory before the world was, along with his Father and was loved then by Him (John 17:5 and 24). Possibly referring to the wisdom spoken of in Proverbs 8 already commented on above, Paul speaks of the wisdom as predetermined before the ages (1 Corinthians 2:7).  It may be said that there was no time before Genesis 1, because time only started then, for Scripture begins with “in the beginning”. It is true there was no time then but Scripture does speak of what was before the ages of time (2 Timothy 1:9) and describes what we have then as the days of eternity (Micah 5:2). However, Scripture has to speak of what was before time to distinguish the eternity which we think of by a backward look and the eternity which is at least future to us (2 Peter 3:18).

            What does Scripture tell us about ourselves before the world’s foundation?  Paul speaks of God’s people in Ephesians 1:4. God chose them in Christ then. Later he speaks of his “own purpose and grace, which [was] given to us in Christ Jesus before [the] ages of time” (2 Timothy 1:9). For those who may wish to pursue the matter Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:9 and 11 are relevant passages. Also, Colossians 1:26 and Titus 1:2. Jude 25 not only carries us back before the whole age, but also speaks of the present time and future ages.

            From what has been said above Christ existed, in fact must have done, before the beginning in Genesis 1. It I think helps in making his personal position clear to say that Adam was a man (Genesis 5:1/2). I also am a man, but I am not Adam personally, but a descendent of his (Genesis 5:3). God is the Father (John 17:1-3). Christ is also God (John 1:1), but He is not God the Father personally. He is the Son of God the Father (1 John 5:20 and 2 John 3). When He was accused of saying He was God He rebutted what they said by saying He was the Son of God (John 10:36). Put simply his divinity hung on the fact that He was God’s Son just as our humanity hangs on the fact that we are descendents of Adam. The passage that Christ quotes shows that we are called gods because we are children of the Most High (Psalm 82:6). However Christ also makes it clear that his own sonship was much greater than what is spoken in the Psalm of us (John 10: 35/36).

            A careful reading of Job 38: 1-11 speaks of certain things not spoken of in Genesis 1. God speaks of the founding of the earth in Job 38 verse 4 whereas in Genesis 1 verse 2 the earth was already in existence. It was covered with water and in darkness. However, antecedent to this, the waters had burst forth issuing out of the womb – a clear reference to the breaking out of the waters in childbirth (verse 8). Then verse 9 speaks of the thick darkness being a swaddling band – a clear reference to what is done to a newly born child (Luke 2:7). Verses 10/11 probably speak of what happened on day 3 in Genesis 1. What all this shows is the fact that Genesis 1 does not tell us all that was involved in the creation of the physical universe and there may well have been preparatory work done before the setting up of the heavens and the earth. What about the setting of the measures of the earth and the stretching of a line upon it spoken of in verse 5. Clearly God did not take a material measuring tool as someone would do who was going to build a house. However, God, so to speak, determined the size, shape and weight of the earth before he made it. He no doubt also had the materials ready for its construction before he actually brought the heavens and the earth into existence (Consider Isaiah 40:12). In this connection one would make the point that verse one of Genesis 1 is simply a summary of what was done in detail in the rest of the chapter. Compare the first three verses of Deuteronomy 1. Numbers 25 verses 1 and 2 may be another example. Note the “And” at the beginning of Genesis 1 verse 2, and in Deuteronomy 1 verse 3, and in Numbers 25 verse 2. If we say that Genesis 1 verse 2 is an additional thought then we are virtually forced to accept that something must have come in to make the earth waste and empty, because Isaiah 45:18 specifically states that God did not create it waste and empty. The question also arises, if we ignore the passage in Isaiah just referred to, as to what was the point of what is said in verse 2. I might say that it took me a good half a century to appreciate in some measure the reasons for the conditions spoken of in that verse.

            It is interesting to note that in Genesis 1 what we have is God acting as king so to speak, in that He gave commands and they were obeyed, as it says in Psalm 33:9 ”he spoke, and it was [done] ; he commanded, and it stood fast.” See also Ecclesiastes 8:4 “The word of a king is power”. However in chapter 2 from verse 3 we find Jehovah Elohim actually working down here on earth. Thus we have it said that he formed man and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (verse 7). It was what we would call today ‘very hands on’. The breathing into man’s nostrils is very like Christ in John 20:22. Then in verse 8 of Genesis 2 we have Jehovah Elohim planting a garden. He did it Himself. He Himself put man in the garden (see also verse 15). Further, God formed the animals and fowls out of the ground and brought them to man. He did not get someone else, such as an angel, to do it. Then as to the making of the woman God acted like a surgeon on a sedated man and He built the rib He had taken from Adam into a woman. In a way God’s power was displayed in Genesis 1 but in Genesis 2 one would say it was more his divinity. What man could have done what God did in Genesis 2?

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April 2012