God Meant It for Good

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20a)

Perhaps the biggest issue people have with Christianity is how a good God can coexist with the evil and suffering of this world. More ink has been spilt trying to give a sufficient answer to the question of God’s goodness in an evil world than I could write in ten lifetimes, but in this one verse we find perhaps the best concise explanation. 

Let’s at least get one thing out of the way before we break down what is going on in this text: the problem of evil cannot really be a problem to God. Were God to face a real dilemma He cannot solve, such as the presence of evil, He would cease to be the sovereign authority of all creation. The problem of evil then is really only a problem from our human perspective. The old saying, “If God is God, He is not good. If God is good He is not God”, from a play by Archibald MacLeish, sums up the belief of many regarding this issue. Yet in the life of Joseph, we encounter a God who is God and He is also good. On the one hand, He is in total sovereign control of all things (including evil and suffering), while on the other hand, He is altogether good and loving. Isn’t that the kind of God we all know exists anyway? One who is truly God and is truly good?

The story of Joseph’s life is quite remarkable. A dearly loved and favored son, Joseph dreams a strange dream of his family bowing before him only to be sold into slavery by his own brothers for even mentioning it to them. He is then falsely accused by an evil seductress and imprisoned, only to later be released by Pharaoh for interpreting dreams, and ends up becoming second in command over all Egypt and saving multitudes from a dreadful famine. 

Joseph’s story has traces of evil and suffering all over it: favoritism, envy, hatred, slave-trading, betrayal, lies, temptation, false accusations, prison, and famine. Yet at every turn in Joseph’s story, the reader is reminded of God’s good purposes and presence. In his slavery, imprisonment, and rise to power, we are told, “God was with Joseph.” Apparently a good and sovereign God can coexist with evil and suffering in this world. But how?

Later in his life, Joseph’s dreams have been fulfilled. He stands as second in command to Pharaoh and his brothers finally come bowing before him. The very plot meant to destroy Joseph’s dreams actually was the instrument by which those dreams were fulfilled. Had Joseph never been sold into slavery, he would have never been falsely accused, and had he never been falsely accused, he would have never been imprisoned, and had he never been imprisoned, he would have never been released to become Pharaoh’s right hand man, and had he never become Pharaoh’s right hand man, multitudes would have perished in a severe famine.

In Genesis 45:5-8 Joseph tells his brothers, “do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life…God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth…so it was not you who sent me here, but God.” The psalmist, in Psalm 105, is so bold as to add that God, “summoned a famine on the land” and “sent a man ahead of them, Joseph.” How do we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory statements? You sold me…God sent me. You meant evil…God meant it for good. Famines are bad…but God summoned it. 

First we must realize that what often seem like contradictions in our Bibles are actually not contradictions at all, but paradoxes. A paradox is the coming together of two parallel truths that don’t seem to be reconcilable. When 19th Century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon was asked to reconcile God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility, he said, “I wouldn’t try…I never reconcile friends.”

The glorious truth obvious to Joseph and to all God’s suffering saints throughout the ages and needs to be understood by us as well is: behind every drop of suffering and behind every dark spot of evil, God is sovereignly working out His good and perfect plan. This truth is one some believers foolishly run from, yet which is given by God as a support for them in the trials of life. Instead of embracing God’s sovereignty and goodness behind our suffering and behind the evil of our world, many believers choose to attribute all supposed “bad” events to Satan and all supposedly “good” events to God. I was in a Bible study once with a godly Christian woman who said her father’s death was all the work of Satan and refused the thought that God could have been sovereign behind it. After a time of her own prayerful reflection and study, she told the group that she now understood that God was sovereign and did allow her father to die for His own good purposes.

Think of the most ungodly and heinous act in human history. Now, can you confidently say, “The perpetrators meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”? Perhaps you were thinking of the Holocaust or September 11th. But these crimes pale in comparison to an even more despicable crime: the crucifixion of God’s only Son. The early church understood the cross to be both the most heinous crime ever committed and an offense God predestined to occur for His own good purposes in redemption. In Acts 2:23 we read, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” So on the one hand, there are “lawless men” who “killed” Jesus and on the other hand, Jesus’ death was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” Then again in Acts 4:28 the church prays that all the evil perpetrators (Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and Jews) did, “whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” 

If God is sovereign over a famine in Joseph’s day and all the sin leading up to that event in his life and the horror of Christ’s crucifixion, then He is sovereign over every evil event and amount of suffering in this world. Yet God always has a good purpose which He brings out of evil and suffering. The ultimate good purpose of all evil and suffering in this world will be realized in the new heavens and new earth when the bride of Christ will finally be redeemed out of this sin-cursed world and all will be renewed. Until then, may we learn to rest in God’s sovereign care over our lives even as we live in a world full of sin and suffering. 

After all, what hope would there be if there were no sovereign and good God behind the helm of this world and behind the wheel of our own lives?

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From the Archive: The Purpose of Genesis May Be Different Than You Think

What is the purpose of Genesis? If I asked you this what would you tell me? I recently asked a friend about this and this was his response, “The story of our beginning, of creation.” I responded and said that he was not wrong, creation is in there for sure, but I did say that he was missing something in the grand picture of Genesis.

The grand purpose of Genesis can be seen when we notice that it was Moses who wrote the book. This matters because what else did Moses write? He wrote the entire Torah as well. Most people will say that Moses wrote Exodus through Deuteronomy to prepare the people of Israel to enter the promise land, but always exclude Genesis from this purpose believing it to be written to describe the story of creation alone. This should not be done.

I think Genesis should be included with the rest of the Torah as regards to its purpose as a whole. Therefore this means Genesis was written to prepare the people of Israel to enter into the promise land along with the other books in the Torah. How? Genesis begins with Gods people dwelling safely in Eden, is then filled with all sorts of sin, and ends with Gods people dwelling in safety in Egypt.

What then was Israel supposed to learn from Genesis? That God is still with them, that God really does keep His promises, and that God really means to encourage them as they enter the land He’s giving them. No matter what sin happens to them, around them, or even from them, God will still take them exactly where He wants them to be.

How are we to be encouraged today from the book of Genesis? Rather than merely focusing on Genesis as a scientific argument for creation over evolution, we ought to be encouraged in a somewhat similar manner to Israel. God is still with us, that God really does keep His promises, and that God really means to encourage us as we live out our lives under His gracious sovereign hand. No matter what sin happens to you, around you, or even from you, God will still take you exactly where He wants you to be. His people always dwell securely and we never need fear over anything that happens in our lives.

This is the God intended purpose of Genesis.

After the Dark, Dawn Will Come

The starting point for all of the prophecies of the coming Messiah is Genesis 3:15, where we see for the first time, the promise that one of the Descendants of the woman will one day come and end the work of the serpent. People have rightly called this verse the ‘Proto-euangelium’ or the ‘first-gospel’ because Genesis 3:15 is the first place in the Bible where there is a promise that the Redeeming Messiah will come. We know two things from this verse. 

The ‘Seed’ of the woman will do work that will crush the serpent’s work, and the result of this work is that the serpent shall receive a fatal blow, while the ‘Seed’ of the woman receives a non-fatal blow to His heel. Of course this fatal blow to the serpent is referring to the entire life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God: His birth, His life, His ministry, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension provide for us everything we need for redemption while the non-fatal blow the serpent will deal to the Messiah is His temporary death on the cross.

The consequences flowing out of Genesis 3:15 are massive.

Even in the midst of such blatant defiance, death, and darkness in the fall of man – God is there to give grace to His people.

It is astonishing, almost unbelievable that God will not allow man to perish but is determined to bring rescue. Genesis 3:15 introduces us to the grand plan of salvation. Much is still dark, true. We do not see with clarity as we do now.

This gracious promise becomes an organizing theme for the rest of Scripture and the rest of human history, such that every character and every event find their place in relation to the great battle now unfolding between the conquering ‘Seed’ of the woman and the lying serpent, Satan.

Though much is still in the dark, we learn that God will take the initiative to save His people. To provide redemption. To do for mankind what mankind cannot do for Himself. He will introduce enmity and the long foretold coming ‘Seed’ of the woman shall deal the decisive fatal blow. Even way back in Genesis 3:15, in the midst of such sin, we see the light of the gospel breaking forth.

Amen!

3 Things to Notice in Genesis 3:15

First, note the authority of God as He speaks to the serpent.

How boastful had the serpent been? With such unbridled confidence he had promised the woman freedom from God’s commands. In doing so did he not make himself to be God? Didn’t he give Eve the impression that his words were true while God’s Words were false? But how strange is it to see this tempter able to do nothing but listen to God cursing him? Where are his bold words now? Where is his confidence, power, and wisdom hiding? Not a word flows from his mouth as the Judge of all the earth pronounces him to be cursed. God is the Lord, He will not give His glory to another, and no one is His equal. When God speaks, no one speaks back. Sure Satan may be wise, wiser than us, and his wisdom may overwhelm us, but his wisdom is a microscopic drop of water compared to ocean of God’s mighty wisdom. Here we see that Satan the creature is no match for our Creator. For Satan this is the most humiliating moment of his entire existence, “for he hears his doom uttered with infallible authority.” (E.J. Young)

Second, Genesis 3:15 embraces all that is noble and glorious that is to be found in the Scriptures.

Adam and Eve plunged themselves into death and darkness by believing the serpent and eating the fruit. They as our first parents therefore plunged the whole of mankind into death and darkness from such evil. It is now natural and normal for us to hide from God, to believe lies, and to be against our Creator. We now call good evil and evil good. All of mankind now finds himself in need of life, light, and rescue, and in this verse God promises that very thing. There is no enmity or hatred between the serpent and mankind, but God will place it there. Between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman, enmity (hatred) will exist. Adam had seen the serpent as his friend and God as his enemy. Adam was willing to listen to his words and ignore God’s. Adam must learn the opposite – that God is his friend and His Word alone is to be trusted. In order for this to take place within Adam a complete reversal of heart must occur. He must learn the serpent was merely pretending to be his friend and is his largest enemy in life. Adam must be at enmity with the serpent and because God said, “I will place enmity” between these two parties for all time we see that God takes the initiative to save His own people through His triumphant sovereign grace. God must do this if man is to be redeemed. If God does not place enmity between them there is no hope.

Third, note the Person in view.

“…He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Just as the man and woman were to be at enmity with the serpent so also will her seed and the serpents seed be at enemies. What does ‘the woman’s seed’ mean? Is it referring to one individual or is it referring to all those who descend from Eve? In the early Christian Church most believed there is here a specific reference to the ‘Seed’ of the woman, Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that as the centuries progressed, and especially after the enlightenment many began to move away from that view saying there cannot possibly be such a reference of Jesus Christ in so early an OT book. But in the OT there is a remarkable progression of God’s revelation of the truth concerning the Messiah to come. As you move forward in OT progression the prophecies concerning the Christ reveal more and more about who He will be and what He will do.

Why Genesis 3:15 Matters So Much

As we move out of Genesis 2’s scene with Adam and the garden and move into Genesis 3 there is a verse that is the most famous verse of Genesis, 3:15. Now, every individual text of Scripture gains it’s meaning from its immediate context, and the immediate context of Genesis 3:15 is Genesis 1-3.

Recall that in Genesis 1-2 we see the entire creation taking place. Some liberal theologians believe chapter 1 and chapter 2 are contradictory creation accounts and discredit the Bible. What they miss is that Genesis 2 is not another creation account, it’s a commentary on the creation that took place in Genesis 1. Up until the beginning of chapter 3 all is well in God’s created order. Much grace had been shown up to this point. God being fully self-sufficient on His own, needing nothing, creates a people for His own purposes and glory. The man and woman have life and breath through no ability of their own, they have provision and sustenance and purpose through no power of their own, they have intimacy with God through direct contact and conversation through no ability of their own, and because God loved them deeply He gave them a warning of the consequences of disobeying His commands.

The whole creation account shows two clear things: we see who God is, and we see who man is not. What would man have on his own effort? NOTHING. Adam and Eve wouldn’t even exist, but now because of sheer grace and undeserved favor, mankind has all it ever needs for life from God and in God. After seeing such grace displayed, the horrors of Genesis 3 make it the saddest and darkest chapters in the entire Bible. But though the darkness is thick, despair and death abound, hope is not aloof, light and life are not hidden from sight. We’ll see this soon.

The serpent, one of God’s created creatures, it says in 3:1, was craftier than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. Tragically the first words in the Bible spoken about God from someone other than God in all of history come from the serpent’s mouth. This, the first sermon, was filled with lies, and sadly many sermons follow suit still today. “Did God actually say?” the serpent said to the woman. The woman believed lie, took the offer of fruit from the only forbidden tree in the garden, gave some to the man, and they ate together. Their eyes were opened, sin filled them, and when God came to walk in the garden they did something they’d never done before – they hid from their creator.

God then asks a series of questions to point out their guilt and folly, and in response to such blatant defiance He addresses the serpent first, the woman second, and the man last. In 3:14 God curses the serpent saying, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life…” God could have stopped here, but chose to continue His condemnation of the serpent, and in 3:15 God deals a decisively deadly blow.

Genesis 3:15 says, “…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

more on this verse tomorrow…

Adam, the First Priest Within the First Temple

Recall that it is my opinion that Adam wasn’t merely a farmer but rather, he was the first priest who labored in the first temple. I hold this opinion because I believe the text of Genesis 1-3 teaches this in two ways. First, in the features of the garden, and second, in the activity of Adam.  This past Monday we looked into the features of the garden, today we’ll look into Adam’s activity.

God’s Direct Presence: God walked among the garden, with Adam, talking with him in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). That God was present here in the garden, and only present throughout the rest of Scripture in temples and tabernacles means the garden was the first temple (Lev. 26:11-12, Deut. 23:14, 2 Sam 7:6). It also means that John 1:14 is very important for how God walks among us today, through His Son, who had dwelt (or tabernacle’d) among us.

Adam’s Responsibilities: Genesis 2:15 says God commanded Adam to do two things in the garden, ‘work it and keep it.’ This is why people have said Adam was merely a farmer of the world God had made. Yet, do you know the only other place these two Hebrew words (work and keep) are used together again in Scripture? The only other place these words are used together in the Bible is when Moses describes the priest’s duties within the tabernacle in Numbers 3:7-8, and 4:23-24, 26. As Adam was called to work and keep the garden, Moses calls the priests to work (or tend to) and keep the tabernacle. Conclusion? Adam was the first priest, in the first temple, whose duties were more priestly and agricultural.

When you take all the features of the garden and place it next to the duties Adam received from God to in and with the garden, it becomes evident that Eden was not a farm, but was a microcosmic version of God’s sanctuary, it was the first temple.

This means that in Genesis 1-3 we see God creating and calling man to dwell within His own temple forever, ministering to Him as priests. Moving forward into Scripture this sets the stage and prepares us, as Bible readers, for the 2nd coming of Christ when it won’t be a giant city-farm descending from the throne, but a city-temple.

Thus, God planted a temple in Eden, not a farm to prepare us for the greater temple; and within it placed the first priest, not a farmer, to prepare us for the faithful and greater High Priest, Jesus Christ.

What have we learned so far? That God created man, in His image, placed him in the garden-temple, brought man into a covenantal relationship with Himself through the pronouncement of blessings and cursing’s, gave him the work of filling the earth with the image of God and extending this temple to the ends of the earth, doing all these things with his helpmate, Eve.

In this work Adam failed, but the first and faithless Adam prepares us for the last and faithful Adam to come.

Was Adam More than a Farmer? Was Eden More than a Garden?

Throughout the history of the Church, and I’d even say today also, most people have viewed Eden as a Mesopotamian farm, and since it’s viewed as a farm, most people view Adam as a farmer.

Here’s a few quotes to show you this. Henry Morris said, “Adam was instructed merely to till the ground in the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and keep it.” Similarly John Calvin said, “…the earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation.” Martin Luther agreed and said Adam received a twofold duty “…to work or cultivate this garden and, furthermore, to watch and guard it.” Is this really the intent of the passage? Is Adam merely a farmer? Many people have understood such a meaning from Genesis 1-3 and deduced a simple work-ethic. That man working is a pre-fall activity, therefore work is good. What’s the problem with this? It interprets Scripture without a view to Christ, and if you’ve seen anything so far in this seminar it is that we should interpret all of Scripture with a view to Christ.

Therefore, it is my opinion that Adam wasn’t merely a farmer but rather, he was the first priest who labored in the first temple. I hold this opinion because I believe the text of Genesis 1-3 teaches this in two ways. First, in the features of the garden, and second, in the activity of Adam.

a) Features of the Garden:

Eastward Location: Genesis 2:8 mentions that God planted a garden in Eden, specifically placing it in the east. The eastward direction is important when it comes to Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning God’s presence in His temple. Ezek. 11:1 Ezekiel is brought to the east side of the temple, and in Ezek. 11:23 it says Ezekiel watched the glory of the Lord depart to the east. Years later in Ezek. 43:1-4 it mentions Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord return to the temple through the eastern gate. If Eden was the first temple, it would make sense to see the garden within Eden as the holy of holies and the garden as a whole as the rest of the first temple.

On a Mountain Top: there is no explicit statement in Genesis 1-3 that the garden in the east of Eden was higher in elevation than the surrounding land, but there are clues that tell us this very thing, and further passages of Scripture that make this important. Genesis 2:10 states that a river flowed out of Eden, and knowing that rivers flow from high elevations to lower elevations, downstream, is further evidence that Eden sat on a mountaintop. Throughout Scripture there are many references to God’s temple and God dwelling on top of mountains. In a judgment against the nation of Tyre, Ezekiel rebukes them in Ezekiel 28:14, “You were on the holy mountain of God.” God made His presence known on top of Mt. Horeb (Ex. 3:1), Sinai (Ex. 18:5), Mt. Zion (Ps. 48:1-2), and the Mount of transfiguration in the gospels. Hebrews 12:22 mentions that we have come to mount Zion, the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. And lastly in Revelation 21 we see the holy city Jerusalem, a great and high mountain, coming down out of heaven from God. Taking all this together, Scripture makes an important connection between God’s presence in His temple, and the temple’s location being atop mountains. Because a river flowed out of Eden means it was on top of a mountain, and is further evidence that Eden itself was the first temple.

The River of Eden: Also, that a river flowed out of Eden in Genesis 2:10 means much to indicate Eden as the first temple. Psalm 46:4 mentions the connection between the presence of rivers or water and temples. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” Also, a river flows out of the temple Ezekiel saw in Ezek. 47:1, healing everything it touched in Ezek. 47:8. It would make sense with the rest of Scripture that God’s presence is likened to moving waters that bring healing because in Jeremiah 2:13 God is called “the fountain of living water.” Joel 3:18 and Zechariah 14:8 mention that “a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.” John’s vision at the end of Revelation (22:1) also shows “a river, with crystal clear water, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.” Lastly, Jesus Himself mentions that when one has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of him that “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38-39). All this is evidence that Eden was the first mountain top throne or temple, because a river flowed out of it.

The Trees of the Garden: in Genesis 2:9 we learn there were trees in the garden, which would make sense if it was the first temple because trees have always had a place, and will always have a place in God’s presence. They were present in Eden, they were present in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:31-39), they were present in Solomon’s temple in the form of drawings of palm trees (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 7:18), they were present in all of Ezekiel’s visions of the temple (Ezek. 31:8-9, 41:18-26, 47:12), and they are going to be present in the new heavens and new earth, the temple that will descend from the throne of God. Psalm 1 also gives us the image that the trees in glory won’t be actual trees like the earthly temples but will be the saints themselves which are likened as trees that drink deeply from the river of life in Psalm 1.

Precious Stones and Metal: Genesis 2:10-14 also records that there were precious gems in the garden as well. There was gold and onyx in the garden temple, and the only other places precious gems show up in Scripture is always in reference to a temple. There was gold, onyx, sardius, topaz, diamonds, beryl, jasper, sapphires, emeralds, and carbuncle in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 28), and the only other place this shows up is in the John’s vision of the new temple in Revelation 21:18-20 where we see gems on a high mountain of jasper, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethysts.

The Cherubim: in Genesis 3:24 it states that cherubim were placed at the east entrance of the garden to block Adam and Eve’s way back in. Cherubim are only mentioned in Scripture in relation to temples. Moses had them craft two cherubim to sit on top of the ark as well as weaved into the fabric of the veil (Ex. 26:31). In Solomon’s temple two cherubim guarded the inner sanctuary (1 Kings 6:23-28). In Ezekiel’s visions cherubim played a prominent role in the temple as anointed guards (Ezek. 28:14). And when Jesus was killed on the cross what tore in two? The veil, which was blocking the way into the holy of holies in the temple, on which were woven images of cherubim (Matt. 27:51). All this to say, that cherubim were present guarding the garden, means the garden is more than a Mesopotamian farm, it was indeed the first temple, the first holy of holies.

The Great Commission as Dominion Mandate and ‘Plan A’

Lastly, we come back to missions.

The first Adam failed to use his helpmate Eve to accomplish the tasks assigned to him in the mandate. But Jesus didn’t fail as Adam did. Jesus, the last Adam has a helpmate as well. I hope by now you can see that Adam was a type of Christ, what is rarely mentioned along side of this is that Eve as Adam’s helpmate is a type (or foreshadow) of the Church. As Eve was Adam’s helpmate, the Church is Jesus’ helpmate. Jesus is now using His helpmate, the Church, to accomplish this work on earth. It is through the Church that Jesus saves people and forms them more and more into His image. So when missions happens, people are saved, when people are saved, they begin to grow into the image of Christ more and more. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, so those growing Christians, are growing in the image of God, and when those Christians go on missions they are spreading the image of God by sharing the gospel in word and deed!

Thus we have missions, fully developed in the Dominion Mandate of Gen. 1:28. Jesus, as the last Adam, is using His helpmate, the Church, to spread His image around the world, by bringing men and women from every tribe, nation, tongue, and language to treasure Himself above all things among all the peoples of the world. Adam points to Jesus, Eve points to the Church, and God is the main actor in all of it!

Notice that this mandate was given before the fall of man? What does that tell us? Jesus fulfilling the Dominion Mandate, by sending His helpmate, the Church, around the world with the gospel, was plan A, not plan B. Too many people think that Jesus was merely God’s answer to the problem of sin (as if God didn’t know what to do and asked Jesus to solve this problem for Him). Wrong. Jesus is not only an answer to a problem, Jesus was always in view, He was present and planned Gen. 1:28 to be written so we would get a preview of missions. Don’t get me wrong here. Matthew 28 is a great place to preach and think on missions. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I’m just saying that Matthew 28 exists, because of Genesis 1:28! So, if you’re doing missions to any degree, you are Jesus’ helpmate, spreading the image of God throughout the world, through the gospel. You are part of a plan that is not NT only, but a plan that goes back from the foundation of world! When you do missions, you’re part of plan A.

In conclusion: as a type of Christ and the image of God Adam was the first prophet, priest, and king, but by rebelling against God we look to another Adam, the Second and Last Adam Jesus Christ to make us right with God. The difference between Adam and Christ is the reason Genesis 1-3 exists, and to see this closer, we must take a look at the setting Adam was placed – the garden.

To that we’ll look next week.

Christ, the Image of God and Goal of Redemption

Let’s back up from yesterday’s theological discussion and ask a broader question: Why did God give a command to Adam and Noah, and give a promise to Abraham? Why the change? I think God still had Gen. 1:28 in mind. I think that God was planning to display the fulfillment of Gen. 1:28 through the obedience of His Son. Follow me, I just said that Jesus is now fulfilling Gen. 1:28, we need to ask how did He is doing this? Remember, Adam was commanded to do 4 things:

1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation

2) Subdue the earth

3) Exercise authority over the creation

4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve.

Adam failed to do these things, and so did Noah. But where these two failed, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, succeeded. Here’s how:

1) The first Adam failed to fill the earth with the image of God by procreation with his wife Eve. But the last Adam, Jesus, is now filling the earth with the image of God, not by procreation, but by making new creations out of us. When someone is made a new creation in Christ, they begin to be conformed more and more to His image, the image of Christ, and Christ is Himself the image of God. Therefore Jesus is filling the earth with the image of God by making new creations out of people through the gospel. Because the first Adam was created in the image of God and the second Adam, Jesus Christ, is the image of God, then the overall message of Scripture is that though man was made in the image of God and lost it through the fall, the image of God will be restored to fallen man through the work of the second Adam. Thus, when we talk of man being created in the image of God we cannot stop in Genesis we must move forward into the rest of Scripture to see the One who is the very image of God Himself.

Anyone have Hebrews 1:1-3 in mind? “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the Heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Lesson? The triune God created man, male and female, in His image. That God did this and placed mankind in His world to rule over creation was a declaration that the triune God ruled over creation. That man is made in the image of God shows that both male and female possess many of the qualities of God, reflecting God’s own character. Because the fall took place, this image of God in man was marred, and in made complete when we become new creations in Christ, who is Himself the very image of God.

Christ as the image of God means that the image of Christ defines what man is truly supposed to be, He is indeed the Perfect Man. Yes, both Adam was and Jesus is the image of God but one was created while the other always has been the uncreated image of God. To look at Christ, the image of God, is to see what man is truly supposed to be like.

Christ as the image of God also means the image of Christ is the goal of mans redemption. Think Romans 8:29 here, “Those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The goal of a Christians sanctification therefore is Christ-likeness. Anthony Hoekema once said, “Since Christ is God’s perfect image, likeness to Christ will also mean likeness to God. This perfect likeness to Christ and to God is the ultimate goal of our sanctification. John Calvin said in two ways: one quote says, “All that we lost in Adam we regain in Christ.” Another quote says this, “The beginning of our recovery of salvation is in that restoration which we obtain through Christ who also is called the Second Adam for the reason that He restores us to the true and complete integrity.”

2) The first Adam failed to subdue and exercise authority over the earth, but who is it that the NT says has all authority in heaven and on earth to do whatever He pleases? The Last Adam, Jesus. Jesus is obedient where Adam was disobedient. The first Adam failed when he tried to grasp equality with God by grasping the fruit. But the Last Adam, the true Son of Man, Jesus, was equal with the Father and yet He didn’t use His equality with God to save Him from the cross, but He willingly went to it, as Phil 2:6-8 gloriously states, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (like Adam did), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

In the disobedience and failure of the 1st Adam, we see how glorious the obedience and humble submission of Jesus is.

more tomorrow…

The Image of God and the Dominion Mandate

It is my opinion that missionary work received it’s call into existence not in Matthew 28:19-20 but in Genesis 1:26-28. Missions is more than a New Testament idea. I believe that we’re given the full picture of missions in Genesis 1.

Some people call Genesis 1:28 the ‘Cultural Mandate’ while others call it the ‘Dominion Mandate.’ The name doesn’t matter here, what does matter is what Adam was told to do in this mandate.

1:26-28 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

In this mandate Adam was commanded to do 4 things:

1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation

2) Subdue the earth

3) Exercise authority and dominion over the creation

4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve.

Now we know how Adam did don’t we? In all these things the he failed. Remember what the serpent said? “You will be like God if you eat this fruit.” He wanted it, and grabbed it, and proved to be disobedient. Through this sin Adam tried to grasp equality with God by grasping for the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

Now, you may think that the Mandate may have disappeared after Adam, but it didn’t. Listen to what Noah was told by God in Genesis 9:1-2, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.” Did you hear that? All the same elements from Adam’s mandate are back in Noah’s mandate. Now the question turns to: Did Noah fulfill all these things? Not fully, because of the actions of his son Ham (who was the father of Canaan). Because of what Ham did, Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan for his actions; and blessed his other sons Shem and Japheth.

After Noah, we read of Noah’s descendants, the incident at Babel, and then Abraham. And with Abraham we see a dynamic turn of events. Remember Adam and Noah were given commands in Genesis 1:28 and 9:1-2 while Abraham receives something else. God didn’t tell Abraham to do certain things like He told Adam and Noah. Rather, Abraham (who was known as Abram at the time) was given a promise, not a command. God told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand of the seashore, and that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed.

To confirm this covenant promise, in Genesis 15 God has Abraham cut an animal in two pieces, so that the two could walk through to confirm the covenant. In that day, this is how you formed a treaty/covenant. You would cut an animal in two and walk through the pieces together. This would symbolize the binding oath between two parties by stating, “If either one of us breaks this covenant, what has been done to this animal will be done to me.” After Abraham prepared the animals, God did something unexpected. He caused a deep sleep to come over Abraham, and then God alone walked through the animal parts. Why did God do this? He wanted to show Abraham that this covenant did not depend on his own actions, but on His own. And more so, if either party, God or Abraham breaks the covenant, the curse of the covenant would fall upon God alone. This is called a self-malecdictory oath.

Can you see how rich the OT is with the gospel? We know that Israel broke this covenant with God, and God kept His Word by causing the curses of the covenant to land on His Son in full measure. God killed His Son because His people did not keep the covenant.

more tomorrow…

Missions from Genesis 1, Part 2

Yesterday I told you God gave Adam and Noah commands and gave Abraham a promise, but I didn’t ask :Why did God do this?  Why did God give a command to Adam and Noah, and give a promise to Abraham? I think God still had Gen. 1:28 in mind. I think that God was planning to display the fulfillment of Gen. 1:28 through the obedience of His Son. Follow me, I just said that Jesus is now fulfilling Gen. 1:28, we need to ask how did He is doing this? Remember, Adam was commanded to do 4 things. 1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation,

2) Subdue the earth, 3) Exercise authority over the creation, 4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve. Adam failed to do these things, and so did Noah. But where these two failed, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, succeeded.

Follow me:

1) The first Adam failed to fill the earth with the image of God by procreation with his wife Eve. But the last Adam, Jesus, is now filling the earth with the image of God, not by procreation, but by making new creations out of us. When someone is made a new creation in Christ, they begin to be conformed more and more to His image, the image of Christ, and Christ is Himself the image of God. Therefore Jesus is filling the earth with the image of God by making new creations out of people through the gospel. Because the first Adam was created in the image of God and the second Adam, Jesus Christ, is the image of God, then the overall message of Scripture is that though man was made in the image of God and lost it through the fall, the image of God will be restored to fallen man through the work of the second Adam. Thus, when we talk of man being created in the image of God we cannot stop in Genesis we must move forward into the rest of Scripture to see the One who is the very image of God Himself.

Anyone have Hebrews 1:1-3 in mind? “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the Heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Lesson? The triune God created man, male and female, in His image. That God did this and placed mankind in His world to rule over creation was a declaration that the triune God ruled over creation. That man is made in the image of God shows that both male and female possess many of the qualities of God, reflecting God’s own character. Because the fall took place, this image of God in man was marred, and in made complete when we become new creations in Christ, who is Himself the very image of God.

Christ as the image of God means that the image of Christ defines what man is truly supposed to be, He is indeed the Perfect Man. Yes, both Adam was and Jesus is the image of God but one was created while the other always has been the uncreated image of God. To look at Christ, the image of God, is to see what man is truly supposed to be like.

Christ as the image of God also means the image of Christ is the goal of mans redemption. Think Romans 8:29 here, “Those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The goal of a Christians sanctification therefore is Christ-likeness. Anthony Hoekema once said, “Since Christ is God’s perfect image, likeness to Christ will also mean likeness to God. This perfect likeness to Christ and to God is the ultimate goal of our sanctification.” John Calvin said in two ways: one quote says, “All that we lost in Adam we regain in Christ.” Another quote says this, “The beginning of our recovery of salvation is in that restoration which we obtain through Christ who also is called the Second Adam for the reason that He restores us to the true and complete integrity.”

2) The first Adam failed to subdue and exercise authority over the earth, but who is it that the NT says has all authority in heaven and on earth to do whatever He pleases? The Last Adam, Jesus. Jesus is obedient where Adam was disobedient. The first Adam failed when he tried to grasp equality with God by grasping the fruit. But the Last Adam, the true Son of Man, Jesus, was equal with the Father and yet He didn’t use His equality with God to save Him from the cross, but He willingly went to it, as Phil 2:6-8 gloriously states, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (like Adam did), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In the disobedience and failure of the 1st Adam, we see how glorious the obedience and humble submission of Jesus is.

3) Lastly, we come back to missions. The first Adam failed to use his helpmate Eve to accomplish the tasks assigned to him in the mandate. But Jesus didn’t fail as Adam did. Jesus, the last Adam has a helpmate as well. I hope by now you can see that Adam was a type of Christ, what is rarely mentioned along side of this is that Eve as Adam’s helpmate is a type (or foreshadow) of the Church. As Eve was Adam’s helpmate, the Church is Jesus’ helpmate. Jesus is now using His helpmate, the Church, to accomplish this work on earth. It is through the Church that Jesus saves people and forms them more and more into His image. So when missions happens, people are saved, when people are saved, they begin to grow into the image of Christ more and more. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, so those growing Christians, are growing in the image of God, and when those Christians go on missions they are spreading the image of God by sharing the gospel in word and deed.

Thus we have missions, fully developed in the Dominion Mandate of Gen. 1:28. Jesus, as the last Adam, is using His helpmate, the Church, to spread His image around the world, by bringing men and women from every tribe, nation, tongue, and language to treasure Himself above all things among all the peoples of the world. Adam points to Jesus, Eve points to the Church, and God is the main actor in all of it!

Notice that this mandate was given before the fall of man? What does that tell us? Jesus fulfilling the Dominion Mandate, by sending His helpmate, the Church, around the world with the gospel, was plan A, not plan B. Too many people think that Jesus was merely God’s answer to the problem of sin (as if God didn’t know what to do and asked Jesus to solve this problem for Him). Wrong. Jesus is not only an answer to a problem, Jesus was always in view, He was present and planned Gen. 1:28 to be written so we would get a preview of missions. Don’t get me wrong here. Matthew 28 is a great place to preach and think on missions. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I’m just saying that Matthew 28 exists, because of Gen. 1:28! So, if you’re doing missions to any degree, you are Jesus’ helpmate, spreading the image of God throughout the world, through the gospel. You are part of a plan that is not NT only, but a plan that goes back from the foundation of world! When you do missions, you’re part of plan A.

In conclusion: as a type of Christ and the image of God Adam was the first prophet, priest, and king, but he rebelled against God so we now look to another Adam, the Second, Last, and Greater Adam – Jesus Christ.  He makes us right with God.

Missions from Genesis 1, Part 1

It is my opinion that missionary work received it’s call into existence not in Matthew 28:19-20 but in Genesis 1:26-28. Missions is more than a NT idea. I believe that we’re given the full picture of missions in Genesis 1.

Some people call Genesis 1:28 the ‘Cultural Mandate’ while others call it the ‘Dominion Mandate.’ The name doesn’t matter here, what does matter is what Adam was told to do in this mandate. 1:26-28 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

In this mandate Adam was commanded to do 4 things:

1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation

2) Subdue the earth

3) Exercise authority and dominion over the creation

4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve.

Now we know how Adam did don’t we? In all these things the he failed. Remember what the serpent said? “You will be like God if you eat this fruit.” He wanted it, and grabbed it, and proved to be disobedient. Through this sin Adam tried to grasp equality with God by grasping for the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

Now, you may think that the Mandate may have disappeared after Adam, but it didn’t. Listen to what Noah was told by God in Genesis 9:1-2, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.” Did you hear that? All the same elements from Adam’s mandate are back in Noah’s mandate. Now the question turns to: Did Noah fulfill all these things? Not fully, because of the actions of his son Ham (who was the father of Canaan). Because of what Ham did, Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan for his actions; and blessed his other sons Shem and Japheth.

After Noah, we read of Noah’s descendents, the incident at Babel, and then Abraham. And with Abraham we see a dynamic turn of events. Remember Adam and Noah were given commands in Genesis 1:28 and 9:1-2 while Abraham receives something else. God didn’t tell Abraham to do certain things like He told Adam and Noah. Rather, Abraham (who was known as Abram at the time) was given a promise, not a command. God told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand of the seashore, and that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed. To confirm this covenant promise, in Genesis 15 God has Abraham cut an animal in two pieces, so that the two could walk through to confirm the covenant. In that day, this is how you formed a treaty/covenant. You would cut an animal in two and walk through the pieces together. This would symbolize the binding oath between two parties by stating, “If either one of us breaks this covenant, what has been done to this animal will be done to me.”

After Abraham prepared the animals, God did something unexpected. He caused a deep sleep to come over Abraham, and then God alone walked through the animal parts. Why did God do this? He wanted to show Abraham that this covenant did not depend on his own actions, but on His own. And more so, if either party, God or Abraham breaks the covenant, the curse of the covenant would fall upon God alone. This is called a self-malecdictory oath. Can you see how rich the OT is with the gospel? We know that Israel broke this covenant with God, and God kept His Word by causing the curses of the covenant to land on His Son in full measure.

God killed His Son because His people did not keep the covenant.

more tomorrow…

Genesis Creation Days: Kings and Kingdoms

Many people naturally think of the length of creation when Genesis comes to mind, and I don’t think we should avoid such conversations but when you look back over the creation days with the 100,000 ft. view an interesting point is made.

Notice that on days 1-3 God made the kingdoms of the earth: sky, sea, and land. Notice also that on days 4-6 God made the kings that would rule over those specific kingdoms: birds, fish, man. Then after making the various kingdoms with their respective kings we see God, the true King over all resting from His labor on day 7.

This point is important to note simply because when one is so focused on how long creation took you miss the intention and specific ordering of the text itself, which is to show you the King resting after His labor.  There is a view that stems out of this line of though called the Literary Framework view of Creation.  I’ve posted an article here below from Lee Irons for your benefit.

The Framework Interpretation: An Exegetical Summary (Lee Irons)

Genesis 1:1-2:3 presents us with the picture of God’s performing His creative work in the space of six days marked off in order by the rhythmic cadence of the six-fold evening-morning refrain. The framework interpretation is the view that this picture functions as a figurative framework in which the eight divine fiats are narrated in a non-sequential or topical order. The days are ordinary solar days, but taken as a whole, the total picture of the divine work week is figurative. Although the temporal framework has a non-literal meaning, the events narrated within the days are real historical events of divine creative activity. What is the exegetical support for such a view?[1]

The First Three Days

We begin by observing that on the first day of creation God created daylight and the alternating cycle of day and night. The divine naming of this phenomenon “day” (Gen. 1:5) establishes its permanent meaning and significance both during and beyond the creation period. On the very first day of creation, and from that moment on—until the sun is replaced by the immediate light of the divine radiance in the eschatological new creation (Rev. 22:5)—the created reality “day” has existed. Nothing in the text leads us to hypothesize that the light of the first three days was some undefined supernatural illumination different from what obtained after the creation of the sun on day four. Arguably, the use of the terms “day,” “evening,” and “morning,” which presuppose ordinary solar processes, dictate that the first three days are in fact solar days.[2]

But what about the fourth day itself? Does not the fact that the luminaries were created later, four days after the creation of day and night, prove that the first three days were non-solar? That is one possible interpretation of the fourth day, although the difficulties raised above would still remain (e.g., why did God name these allegedly sunless days “days,” complete with sunset and sunrise?).

Another explanation, which we believe to be more plausible, is that we have here an example of temporal recapitulation. Oswald T. Allis explains this feature of Hebrew narrative in his defense of Scripture against the higher critics. “The sequence in which events are recorded may not be strictly chronological… We often find in describing an event, the Biblical writer first makes a brief and comprehensive statement and then follows it with more or less elaborate details.”[3] Taking our cue from Allis, it is possible that when Moses comes to the fourth day of creation, he returns to events that had already been narrated on day one to describe them in greater detail. Day one narrates the creation of light and its basic physical result—the establishment of the day/night cycle. Day four returns to the same event to narrate the divine creation of the solar mechanism that stands behind the results of day one as their physical cause. This interpretation would explain why the first three days seem so ordinary, without so much as a hint that they existed apart from the sun.[4]

The Two Triads

Confirming the plausibility of this approach is the presence of similar parallels between days two and five, and days three and six. Just as days one and four are very closely related (dealing with light and luminaries), the other remaining days also reveal strong parallelisms. Day two narrates the creation of the firmament, which divides the waters above the firmament (the clouds of the sky) from the waters below (the seas). Day five is thematically linked to the sky/seas of day two in an unmistakable manner: on the fifth day, God creates the denizens of the seas and of the sky. Likewise, on day three, God forms the dry land—which will be inhabited by the living creatures of day six—and the vegetation. To what creature of day six does the vegetation correspond? Man. The linking of vegetation and man anticipates the close connection in Gen. 2 between man and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which will function as the probationary element of the covenant of works. Most modern commentators recognize the validity of this two-triad structure.[5]

Differences exist on how to classify the two triads, but Meredith G. Kline’s analysis is suggestive: the first triad (days 1-3) narrate the establishment of the creation kingdoms, and the second triad (days 4-6), the production of the creature kings. Furthermore this structure is not without theological significance, for all the created realms and regents of the six days are subordinate vassals of God who takes His royal Sabbath rest as the Creator King on the seventh day. Thus the seventh day marks the climax of the creation week.[6]

CREATION KINGDOMS CREATURE KINGS
Day 1. Light Day 4. Luminaries
Day 2. Sky
Seas
Day 5. Sea Creatures
Winged Creatures
Day 3. Dry land
Vegetation
Day 6. Land Animals
Man
THE CREATOR KING
Day 7. Sabbath

This deliberate two-triad structure, or literary framework, suggests that the several creative works of God have been arranged by Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in their particular order for theological and literary, rather than sequential, reasons. For this reason we believe the days of the creation week are a figurative framework providing the narrative structure for God’s historical creative works.

“Because It Had Not Rained” (Gen. 2:5)

Although the above considerations make the framework interpretation a plausible understanding of the days of creation, we recognize that we have not yet demonstrated the impossibility of a sequential understanding of the creation days. One might still argue that day four need not be taken as a recapitulation of day one, proposing instead that God could have sustained day and night for the first three days by supernatural means prior to the creation of the sun, moon and stars. But Gen. 2:5 rules out such an explanation and further strengthens the link between days one and four in a figurative framework.

Gen. 2:5a states that “no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted,” and verse 5b provides a very logical and natural explanation for this situation: “for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground” (NASB). Then, in verses 6-7, we are told how God dealt with these exigencies. In verse 6, the absence of rain is overcome by the divine provision of a rain cloud (“a rain cloud began to arise from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground”); and in verse 7, the absence of a cultivator is overcome by the creation of man.[7]

Notice that Moses offers his audience (ca. 1400 BC, long after the creation period) a perfectly natural explanation for the absence of vegetation. The Israelites would have been familiar with the idea that some form of water supply is necessary for plant growth—whether God—sent rain or man-made irrigation. So when Moses states that God didn’t create vegetation until He had established the natural means of sustaining that vegetation, i.e., the rain cloud (verse 6), he is assuming that the Israelites would recognize the logic of this situation based on their own experience. The very fact that Moses would venture to give such an explanation indicates the presence of an unargued presupposition, namely, that the mode of providence in operation during the creation period and that is currently in operation (and which Moses’ audience would have recognized) are the same. Since the mere giving of a natural explanation presupposes providential continuity between the creation period and the post-creation world, we may infer a general principle, applicable beyond the case of vegetation, that “God ordered the sequence of creation acts so that the continuance and development of the earth and its creatures could proceed by natural means.”[8] In other words, during the creation period, God did not rely on supernatural means to preserve and sustain His creatures once they were created.

With this principle in hand, we now return to the problem of daylight, and evenings and mornings, prior to the sun. Although the sequential view attempts to explain this problem by hypothesizing that God sustained these natural phenomena by some non-ordinary means for the first three days, this speculation of human reason is contradicted by the disclosure of divine revelation that God employed ordinary means during the creation period to sustain His creatures. Thus, we are cast back upon our original suggestion that the fourth day is an instance of temporal recapitulation, narrating the creation of the normal physical mechanism God established to sustain the daylight/night phenomenon throughout the creation period and beyond. Gen. 2:5 necessitates a non-sequential interpretation of the creation account, and non-sequentialism in turn demonstrates that the week of days comprises a figurative framework.

The Seventh Day

The final exegetical observation that ultimately clinches the case is the unending nature of the seventh day. “On the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which God had created and made” (Gen. 2:2). The seventh day is unique in that it alone lacks the concluding evening-morning formula, suggesting that it is not finite but eternal. Further cementing this impression, the author of Hebrews equates the seventh day of creation with God’s eternal rest (“My rest”) when he writes: “although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works,’ and again in this passage, ‘They shall not enter My rest'” (Heb. 3:4-5). Hebrews interprets Ps. 95:11 in light of Gen. 2:2. Although the works were finished from the creation of the world, that is, although God’s own rest has been a reality ever since the conclusion of the sixth day of creation, yet it is incumbent on the covenant community that they not passively assume that their participation in God’s rest is a fait accompli. Rather, they must “be diligent to enter that rest” by mixing the gospel message with faith (Heb. 4:1-2,11).

God’s rest is an eternal, ongoing reality, to which the covenant community of all ages is called to enter. It began on the seventh day of creation and so, according to the terms of the covenant of works, Adam was called to enter that rest as signified by the weekly observance of the Sabbath after the divine pattern (Gen. 2:3). The eternal divine rest continued after the fall, and so the offer was reissued in the covenant of grace on the basis of faith, but the wilderness generation failed to enter because of unbelief (Heb. 3:18-19). The divine rest continues in the new covenant administration of the covenant of grace, for the church is called to enter it “today” by responding in faith to the gospel message (Heb. 3:13; 4:7-9). Evidently, God’s seventh-day rest did not end when the sun rose on the first day of the week! It continues even “today” and will continue for eternity, when the elect, who by sovereign effectual calling had been granted rest-entering saving faith, are ushered into the eternal Sabbath rest of God at the blessed appearing of our glorious rest-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ (Gen. 5:29; Matt. 11:28; 2 Thes. 1:7; Heb. 4:8-9).[9]

If the seventh day of creation is not a literal, finite day measured by the sun-earth relationship which defines our experience of time, it must belong to another temporal arena. The divine Sabbath rest must not be viewed from the earthly point of view, as if Gen. 2:2 were merely telling us that creative activity ceased on earth, though that is certainly true. No, in Gen. 2:2 the veil is parted that we might behold a heavenly scene in the invisible world above—God’s royal enthronement in the heavenly sanctuary (Ps. 132:7-8, 13-14; Isa. 6:1). Thus, as Kline writes, “It is heaven time, not earth time, not time measured by astronomical signs.”[10]

And if the seventh day marks the passing of heaven time, then the whole picture of God’s performing His creative work within a “week,” must be heavenly, and thus figurative, as well. The two-triad framework underscores the theological import of the days, marked off by the six-fold evening-morning refrain and brought to their climactic zenith in the seventh day of rest, as forming a grand picture of God’s creating with a sabbatical teleology in view. The six days of creation have no independent, earthly meaning apart from the concluding capstone of the seventh day which completes the sabbatical picture and gives it meaning. Thus, to arbitrarily sever the seventh day from the preceding six by asserting that the seventh day is heavenly, while the six days are earthly, is to sever the head from the body, leaving a truncated torso of six days emptied of eschatological significance.

The fourth commandment has been appealed to by critics of the framework interpretation as proof that the creation days are literal (Ex. 20:11). However, this argument presses the relationship between God’s work-rest pattern and man’s too far, as if the two are identical rather than analogical. The weekly cycle of work and rest appointed for man may still be modeled on God’s work week of creation even if the divine archetype is calibrated according to heaven time.

Evolution Disclaimer

One final issue. What do proponents of the framework interpretation teach concerning evolution? Before answering this question, it should be pointed out that the framework interpretation itself is limited to the exegetical question of whether the picture of God’s performing His creative work in a week of days is literal or figurative. So evolution is logically a separate issue. However, in today’s climate of debate, it is best to be clear on this point to avoid misunderstanding.

Kline states explicitly that he understands Gen. 2:7 to exclude an evolutionary scenario for the origin of man’s body, since that text makes clear that the same act of divine inbreathing that constituted Adam in his specific identity as the image of God, also constituted him a living creature. Divine revelation therefore rules out the possibility that God impressed the divine image on a pre-existing biological organism.[11]

With regard to the other (non-human) living creatures, I believe that Gen. 1 teaches that God created all the various plant and animal “kinds” by direct acts of supernatural creation, apart from any processes of biological change or ancestry, allowing only for microevolutionary processes of differentiation within the basic “kinds.” (Most scholars recognize that the Hebrew word “kind” [min] has a broader range than the modern scientific term “species.”)

But many critics of the framework interpretation are concerned that, though the current defenders of the view do not espouse evolution, a figurative approach could eventually lead down the slippery slope to macroevolution. But this fear would only be justified if the figurative view were adopted in spite of the text, out of the desire to achieve harmony with science. While God’s revelation in nature and God’s revelation in Scripture can never be in conflict since God is the author of both, God’s revelation in Scripture has presuppositional priority over natural revelation. Thus, if there is an apparent conflict, the only role that natural revelation can (and should) play in the interpretive process is to serve as a warning flag suggesting that our interpretation of Scripture may need to be reexamined.[12] We reject as invalid any interpretation of Scripture which achieves harmony with natural revelation at the price of sound exegesis. All Biblical interpretation must conform to the analogy of Scripture, which is the ultimate touchstone of exegetical validity. These hermeneutical presuppositions flow from sound Reformed principles, and ensure a correct handling of God’s authoritative self-revelation in Scripture.

Conclusion

The framework interpretation agrees with the 24-hour view that at the literal level Gen. 1 speaks of ordinary solar days. In fact it is even more consistently literal since it insists on this meaning even for the first three days. What sets the framework interpretation apart is its claim that the total picture of the creation week is figurative. The creation history is figuratively presented as an ordinary week in which the divine craftsman goes about His creative toil for six days and finally rests from and in His completed work on the seventh. To insist on taking this picture literally is to miss the profound theological point—that the creation is not an end in itself but was created with the built-in eschatological goal of entering the eternal Sabbath rest of God Himself in incorruptible glory.

Genesis 1:4-18 – God’s Work of Separation

In Genesis 1:4, 1:6-7, 1:9-10, 1:14, 1:17-18 there is a repetitive theme that we would do well to pay attention to. This repeated theme present in these verses is one of separation. Watch for it as lay these verses out before you.

1:4 says, “And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 1:6-7 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.” 1:9-10 says, “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the waters that were gathered together he seas. And God saw that it was good.” 1:14 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years…’” 1:17-18 says, “And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.”

In these few verses we see the theme of separation repeated. God separated the light from the darkness in v4, God separated the waters above from the waters below in v6-7, God separated the waters under the heavens and the dry land in v9-10, and in v14 and v17-18 God separated day from night by creating the stars. You can even say God made another act of separation in 1:26-31 when He called everything He has made ‘very good’ only after He made man, which in turn gives mankind a distinct status that is higher than every other creature He had made.

Now, usually we tend to think of God’s creative activity in making the world an act of bringing harmony into chaos, and this is right for us to think so, for this is what God truly did. But rarely do we see this from another angle, that in God’s creative activity He brought separation into certain aspects of creation where it did not earlier exist. And after creating separation He called it good.

Think about this idea of separation more. That God brought separation into His creation for the purpose of distinguishing between one thing and another thing, God is preparing us to see how He will deal with His redeemed people. This has meaning for both Israel and the fulfillment of Israel, the Church. As for Israel, God called them to Himself out of Egypt in the Exodus. Once He called them to Himself what did He then command them to do? He gave them His Law so that they would obey it and become different than the other nations. Again and again, we see God calling His people to be different, not like the other nations; so different that the nations would notice a difference between Israel and all other nations on the face of the earth.

In Leviticus 11:44 God says, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” Another way to translate the word ‘holy’ is to be ‘separate.’ So just as God did great works of separation in creating the world to distinguish between this and that, God, by redeeming Israel out of Egypt did another great work of separation, setting His people apart from all other nations, for Himself. This also shows us the root of Israel’s sin through the OT was such that they no longer looked different than the nations around them. Each time they began to resemble the surrounding nations more than God, God would send a prophet to rebuke them and remind them of His Law.

This work of separation does not end when we cross over into the New Testament. Peter, in 1 Peter 1:14-16 applies Leviticus 11:44 to the Church saying, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written ‘You shall be holy, as I am holy.’” More so, using OT language notice how Paul speaks to the Corinthians in regard to their conduct before the pagan world in 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.’ Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

Notice what’s happening here. The same work of separation that God did at creation, He then did with His people Israel, and then also did with the fulfillment of Israel, His Church. As His work of separation was to distinguish between this and that in Genesis 1, and as His work of separation was to distinguish Israel from their surrounding nations in the OT, His work of separation now continues by distinguishing His Church from the unbelieving world. He calls us to be holy, calls us to be separate, calls us to be the light of the world, to be light in darkness, and calls us to be different from the world that He calls us to reach for Christ. This work of separation prepares us for Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” God is working to conform His people to His own character and by doing so, He is creating a people that will be holy, distinct, and separate from the rest of the world.

Therefore, when we see God doing works of separation in Genesis 1 we get a preview of the kind of life He calls His people to live in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Genesis 1:3 – Creation & New Creation

Genesis 1:3 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

When we come to 1:3 we come face to face with the gospel of grace.

It may not seem like it, but 1:3 is the first place in the entire Bible when we come face to face with the drama of redemption. How so? One grand reason: Paul quotes Gen. 1:3 in 2 Cor. 4:6 to show that the same creation power at work to make the world is also at work in the salvation of every sinner.

Let’s read 2 Cor. 4:1-6, “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

In this passage we see Paul defending his ministry, encouraging us to not lose heart but renounce disgraceful, underhanded ways, refusing to tamper with God’s Word as Paul does. Sure the gospel may be veiled to those who are perishing because Satan, who is called here ‘the god of this world,’ has blinded them. But just as the darkness could not hold back the power of God in Genesis 1:3 when light came bursting forth at the command of God, so too the darkness of the blinded human heart cannot hold back the power of God in new creation here in 2 Cor. 4:6 when light comes bursting into the heart at the same command of God.

Conclusion? Genesis 1:3 shows God’s creation power to make the world. 2 Cor. 4:6 quotes Genesis 1:3 to show God’s power to remake the sinner.

Genesis 1:3 shows us creation, 2 Cor. 4:6 quotes Gen. 1:3 to show us new creation.