THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE BIBLICAL HISTORICAL REVELATION
Dawn of World Redemption
THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE BIBLICAL HISTORICAL REVELATION
THE PRE-CREATION ETERNITY
" The sense which one ran fathom is not the sense."
God is the one, eternal, absolute Spirit (John 4: 24). Spirituality, unity,
and eternity are of the very essence of His being, and He Himself is the sum of
all highest, most perfect life. But as such He is at the same time the most real
of all realities, self-determining Ego, conscious Personality, indeed, eternal
super-personality, and all finite attempts by the human intellect to explain His
infinite being are eternally vain.
Therefore "proofs" of the existence of God cannot be given. The Scripture
itself never once attempts it. For the idea of God transcends all human means of
thought, and the mere attempt of a dust-begotten creature even to wish to
"demonstrate ' God (!!) is nothing else than a childish over-estimate of self,
yea, the boundless presumption of small-mindedness and morbid delusion. God as
God is the eternal and infinite, and as such can never be the thought-problem of
human mole-like speculation.
Nevertheless the so-called "proofs " of God have a value not to be
underestimated. Even for Kant the teleological and the moral evidence had
significance. They prove that faith in God is consonant with reason, and make
the visible world a witness and symbol of the eternal. They compel the
thoughtful mind to a final unavoidable alternative: Either our thinking rests on
an unescapable chimera, or God exists, and then our thought is the expression of
an unconditioned all-embracing reality.
God must exist: this is the testimony of universal Nature:
as thc Cause of all, thc primal basis of the world: this belief is required
when we look into the past, and inquire as to the origin, the "whence" of all
existence. This is the "cosmological" proof of God (Aristotle, Cicero, Leibnitz,
as the world's Master-Builder, of consummate artistic skill and beauty: this
belief is required when we look into the present and recognize the order, the
"how" of all existence (Rom. 1:20; Psa.104:24; 94:9). This is the
"physico-theological" proof of God (Socrates, Aristotle, Leibnitz, Wolff).
as the One Whose plans give purpose and goal to the world: this belief is
required when we look into the future and inquire as to the meaning, the
"whither" of all existence. This is the "teleological" proof of God (Socrates,
Plato, Philo, the Scholastics).
telos (Greek) = goal.
God must exist: this is the testimony of the human soul:
as the highest conception of thc understanding-for how indeed could the
highest of thoughts be unreal? This is the "ontological " proof of God (Anselm).
as thc supreme Lawgiver to the will (or conscience)-for how can the moral law
have come into being without a legislator? This is the "moral" proof (Kant).
as the only Giver of full happiness to the emotions-for why does the soul
find no rest till it rests in God? This is the "psychological" proof
(Tertullian, Augustine, Schleiermacher).
Thus all things on earth witness to His existence: the world without and the
world within us, the outer and the inner man. Without Him the world is only an
"all-devouring grave" an "eternal cud-chewing monster," a giant organism, which
down to the smallest and minutest details is, indeed, regulated with exactness
and with a purpose, but in its vastness and totality has as its very motto that
it is without goal and without purpose. Without Him all value in the world is
only unreal fancy, and the basis of all that is full of meaning is for ever that
which is without meaning. No; in view of the existence of unsearchable wisdom in
the entire universe the unbelief that denies God is only a phrase devoid of
thought, a brainless, dull-minded stupidity. Only "the fools say in their heart:
There is no God" (Psa. 14:1).
God is love (I John 4:16). Love is the deepest element of His life, the
innermost fount out of which His nature eternally flows forth, the creative
centre that begets all His working and ruling.
But love is a trinity. Augustine has said: "If God is love, then there must
be in Him a lover, a Beloved, and a Spirit of love; for no love is conceivable
without a Lover and a Beloved." Now in men there may be a love-bond in which a
duality of persons -and in that duality precisely-finds its satisfaction; but
nevertheless the conception of love itself always involves a trinity: because
it always proceeds from the Lover:
it always moves toward the Beloved:
it always intertwines the two together through the common Spirit of Union;
"Where love is there is trinity" (Ubi amor, ibi trinitas: Augustine).
Thus far human thought can grope its way. But the fact that three persons of
the Godhead actually correspond to these three fundamental conceptions of thc
idea of God, this only the revelation of the eternal God Himself can make known.
"The Father is the One out of Himself existing, the Son is the One to Himself
attaining, and the Spirit the One in Himself moving God." The Father is the
Lover, the Son the Beloved, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love.
Three divine Persons and yet one God: the Son, by nature equal with the
Father and yet voluntarily subordinate to Him (I Cor. 15:28), Cause of all
causes and yet Himself uncaused- truly here are mysteries upon mysteries. Here
the finite spirit stands for ever before the riddle of the infinite. Even in
endless eternity finite thought, conditioned by space and time, never can attain
to the sphere of God beyond space and time. For like can be discerned only by
like and thus God only by God.
This divine mystery is one revealed by stages in the sacred history. First
God revealed His unity, and this in express contrast to the polytheistic
environment and polytheistic inclinations of the Old Testament covenant people
(e.g. Ex. 20:1, 2; Isa. 45: 5, 6). Only after the lapse of centuries, when faith
in the unity of God could no more be uprooted in Israel (which came to pass six
centuries B.C. through the captivity in Babylon, after which polytheism was no
more a temptation to Israel) God revealed in the new covenant the plurality in
the unity. For is Jesus of Nazareth more than a prophet, is He in His nature
God, then here a Divine duality reveals ttself; and is the Spirit of God not
merely a force but a Divine Person, then here the Divine tri-unity reveals
In the New Testament this tri-unity stands forth for the first time at the
baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3: 16, 17), and then especially in the Great Commission
and the command to baptize (Matt. 28: 19). Hence also the many "trinitarian"
passages in the New Testament (e.g. II Cor. 13: 1,; I Pet. 1:2; II Thess. 2: 13,
14; Eph. 2: 18-22; Heb. 9: 14). The word "trinity" (tri-unity is better than
trinity) is indeed not in the Scripture, but the fact is, as is shown in the
foregoing. All philosophical speculations concerning the content of "the
trinitarian problem" are, however, to no purpose and mostly from an evil source.
(Consider the Trinitarian controversies of the fourth to sixth centuries.
What did God do before the foundation of thc world?
This question has received very different answers. Some have simply declared
it to be unjustified (Luther); others have attempted to explain it
philosophically (Origen). The Bible takes a middle course, in that it at the
same time conceals and reveals, and with divine condescension clothes its
information as to the eternal and super-temporal matters in the form of thoughts
from the realm of creation and space (e.g. Isa. 43: l0).
For God Himself as the eternal there is no limit of time, no sequence of
"before" and "after." He surveys all times at once, and therefore to Him the
world in all its extensions is already eternally present. His creative word did
indeed give to it its temporal, historical beginning, but in His thought it was
already present from eternity, without a beginning and timeless. But of this
organic connexion of eternity and time, as generally of God's whole thinking, no
creature is able to form any conception.
In this sense the Bible gives a sevenfold answer to the question as to what
God did prior to the foundation of the world.
i. Before the foundation of the whole universe God had been in eternal loving
intercourse with His Son. Already " before His works of old" He possessed the
eternal "Wisdom" (Prov. 8: 22, 23), the "Word" which later appeared in Christ
(John 1: 14). Thus, "in the beginning," this Word was already "with God,"
present eternally with Him in the intercourse of a mutually responsive
fellowship (John 1:2). And the Father loved the Son, who afterwards testified on
earth, "Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17: 24). "And
now glorify thou me, Father, with thyself, with the glory which I possessed with
thee before the world was" (John 17:5). So then the Son was with the Father
the eternal Word (John 1: 1,2),
the eternal Wisdom (Prov. 8: 22, 23),
the eternally Beloved (John 17: 24),
the eternally Glorious (John I7: 5).
ii. Before the foundation of the earth-world God had created the angels and
the stars. Therefore He says to insignificant man: "Where wast thou when I
founded the earth? . . . Who has laid its corner stone, when the morning stars
shouted for joy all together and all God's sons exulted?"(Job 38: 4, 7; comp. 1:
iii. Before the foundation of the world God settled the counsel of salvation
for the individual. Therefore before the beginning of the world He already wrote
their names in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 13: 8; 17: 8); indeed, prior to all
creation He had appointed them in love unto sonship and holiness (Eph. 1:4,5).
But therewith "before all time" He also promised them life (Tit. 1:2), and
therefore, from the standpoint of God as above time, His grace is thus given to
us "before the times of the ages" (II Tim. 1:9).
iv. Before the foundation of the world God conceived the counsel of salvation
for the church. Already from eternity that amazing structure the "body" was
determined by the Redeemer. Therefore " from before the ages " the
Christ-mystery was already hidden in God "that those of the nations should be
fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body and fellow-partakers in Christ Jesus
of His promise through the gospel" (Eph. 3: 9, 6).
v. From the foundation of the world God had prepared the kingdom for His own.
Therefore will the King say one day to those on His right hand, "Inherit the
kingdom which is prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:
34), and therefore is the hidden wisdom of the mystery already "before the ages"
appointed to our glory (I Cor. 2: 7).
vi. Before the foundation of the world God had appointed His Son to be the
Mediator of the pre-determined counsel of salvation. The Son is the Lamb,
without blemish or fault, before-known, prior to the foundation of the world
(I Pet. 1:20).
Christ is the Mediator of world-creation: "for in him has everything been
created which is in the heaven and on the earth" (Col. 1:16; Rev. 3: 14; John 7:
Christ is the Meditator of world preservation: for " He upholds the all
through his almighty Word." (Heb. 1: 3; Col.1: 17).
Christ is the Mediator of world-redemption: for "it was the good pleasure of
the whole fulness to dwell in him and through him to reconcile all things unto
himself." (Col.1: 19, 20; Eph. 3: 11; 1:4; Heb. 1:2; I Pet. 1: 20).
Christ is the Lord of world-judgment: for "the Father has committed all
judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22).
vii. But from eternity the Son was willing to carry out the work of
redemption. Therefore His later death on the cross was an offering of Himself to
God "through the eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9: 14), that is, through His eternal
Spirit through which Christ performed all His other works also, and in which
finally He presented Himself to the Father, in obedience unto death, which
death, although carried out in time, is nevertheless an act above time.
So behind all the course of time, there stand eternal realities. Endlessness
flows into time, even as time shall at last flow again into eternity. Thus,
according to the eternal plan, the Father chose the Son in advance as the
Redeemer, and determined to "send" Him into the world which was to be saved as
the highest, inexpressible "gift" John 3: 16; II Cor. 9: 15); and at the same
time, and according to the same eternal plan, He appointed to Him, as the
Mediator of the salvation, the host of the redeemed as His "inheritance" (Psa.
Thus the Son became the gift of the Father to the world, and the world, so
far as it is redeemed, became the pre-temporal gift of the Father to the Son
(John 17: 6, 9, 24). Therefore, also, could the Son, in His high priestly
prayer, designate those who, at the time He was on earth, had not yet been born
again, but who should later come to believe, as those whom the Father had then
already given to Him (John 17: 24; comp. 20), and Paul could say, "Whom He
justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8 30).
The historical unfolding of this eternal decree of redemption, thus conceived
in God, becomes in time the covenants and testaments of God with mankind; of
which the goal is the "eternal covenant" which the blood of God's Son has
dedicated (Heb. 13:20). "Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me may be
with me where I am." (John 17: 24.)
But all these mighty words stand in the Scripture not for the satisfaction of
curious inquisitiveness, nor even only for the intellectual completion of our
picture of the history of the world's salvation, but in order to show us the
greatness of the Divine love. Even before all the ages of time the Highest
concerned Himself with your glory and with mine. Before the sea raged and
swelled, before the earth was built or its foundations were sunk, yea, before
those morning stars exulted and those sons of God shouted for joy, God, the
Almighty, even then had thoughts on me. On me, the worm of the earth, who have
given Him so much trouble and labour with all my sins; on me, He Who is God, the
Ancient of days. Truly these are depths not to be fathomed, and which the heart
of every man despairs .of being able to describe in words. Here we can only bow
and worship, and lay our life at the feet of Him, the All-loving.