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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

In the beginning............Covenant Creation from Genesis 1 & 2 to Hebrews 12:18-24 & John 1:1-3 to II Corinthians 5:17

For years, those who perpetuate the idea of covenant creation, especially when applied to the original ( Genesis 1 ) creation account, have encountered resistance, in varying degrees, to their theological 'wanderings'. I believe that this is due, in part anyway, to the fact that many people have made the assumption that when we apply a covenantal meaning to the original creation account, that necessarily means that it is only concerned with covenant implications, and not a historical account at all. Although I believe that the original creation account has a primarily covenantal meaning, in other words, it's worded in such a way as to reveal God's covenant purpose ( the Gospel ); as I've written before, this is 'without doubt, a factual and historical account!' There is no doubt in my mind, and I'm sure in the minds of most of my readers, that God created the universe, and that out of nothing, and while there are many Scriptures that seem to show this; the primary purpose of God's revelation, from Genesis to the Revelation, is to chronicle God's relationship and dealings with His covenant people. Our first, and primary reference, of course, is the creation account from Genesis 1, which most of us are very familiar with.

'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'.

Pretty straight-forward, or so it would seem, right? There is no doubt in my mind that God created, 'in the beginning' and out of nothing; but is that the primary meaning of these words? In previous articles that I've written; I've tried to explain why this is not necessarily so. When the apostle Peter wrote, 'For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water' ( II Peter 3:5 ). Referring back to the 'Great Flood' of Noah's day, of which Peter spoke, we see that it was not the physical 'globe' that was destroyed, but the people which God had placed upon that land. In the context of Scripture as the chronicle of God's dealings and relationship with His covenant people; I believe that it is safe to say that the 'heavens and earth' of which Peter wrote, are the same 'heavens and earth' that were 'formed' ( Genesis 1:26 & 2:7 ) 'in the beginning'. ( Some might object here, and say something like, 'why does Genesis 1, then, record that the heavens and earth were created first, and Adam on the sixth day?' As I said above; the creation account; while it is factual, although not primarily historical or chronological, but is primarily prophetic in purpose, to typify and reveal beforehand God's purpose in the Gospel: the original creation account, I believe, does refer to God as being the Author of all things. ( Please refer to my series, 'The Gospel Typified in the Book of Beginnings' )

Next, we turn to a somewhat familiar passage, although it's relation to the Genesis creation might not be so obvious: Hebrews 12:22.

'But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, , to an innumerable company of angels.'

Reading the surrounding passage; we can see that the writer was speaking, not of a certain 'place' ( John 14:2 & 3-I often use the phrase 'qualitative, not quantitative' ), but of  'the general assembly and church of the firstborn', even of 'Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant'; in other words, he was speaking of the Presence of God Himself! Isaiah prophesied of a 'new heavens and a new earth' ( Isaiah 65:17-25 ). Like Hebrews 12, above, we see as we read further in this passage, what this 'new heavens and new earth' is, because in the next sentence, God says, 'behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy'. Most people will agree that this 'New' ( Revelation 21:2 ) or 'heavenly Jerusalem' is part of these 'new heavens and new earth', but fail, for whatever reason, to make the connection between the two, and realize that, as we 'have come to...............................the heavenly Jerusalem', so we have come to, or entered; in essence have become part of, these 'new heavens and new earth' of which Isaiah, Peter, and John wrote. To further explain why I made the connection between the original creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 and the passage in Hebrews 12; let's look at a short passage from Genesis 2:8. 'The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.' Just as God made a special place to begin His relationship with Adam, and later, as in Exodus 15:17, ' You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.', and Exodus 19, when He chose a special place to ratify His covenant with His typical Old Covenant people, so the writer to the Hebrews told God's first-century covenant people that they had come, not 'to the mountain that[c] may be touched', but to the true 'mountain', the spiritual reality of rest in Christ, to which the 'Promised Land', or 'mountain' that Moses sang of, in Exodus 15:1-18.

Returning now, to the apostle John's famous words of genesis, in John 1:1-3;

'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.'

Traditionally; this is one of those passages to which we have turned, among other reasons, to show that God, through His Son and Holy Spirit ( רוח-'wind, breath, mind, spirit' ), did indeed create all that we see, and even that which we don't: but, more importantly, particularly in the covenant context, refers to the fact that God purposed, as we see in the following verses of John 1, to reveal that 'Word', or 'Light', progressively and then finally, at the consummation of the New Covenant 'age'. Although it could be argued that if the Genesis ( 'in the beginning........' ) creation refers to the creation, or implementation, of God's covenant with His people, that John must also be referring to the same 'beginning', but as I wrote above, and previously in another article, 'Even though I believe that the Bible primarily teaches covenantal truths; it is a fact that the Scriptures also teach, or show that God created the physical universe and all that we see ( or don't see ) around us.' ( 'Let there be Light' )

Finally; we come to the last passage that I noted above, referring to the covenant creation, II Corinthians 5:17, which is most often referred to, and mostly agreed upon, as speaking of the regeneration of our spirit, but more correctly should be viewed as a total 'change' ( I Corinthians 15:52 )

'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.'

I'm not really sure if many of us actually fully understand the implications of what Paul wrote here. 'All things have become new'! Do we feel most of the time like all things had become new? I know I don't: I'm sure that most, if not all of my readers can attest to the fact that they don't feel like everything has been renewed, and this world most definitely has NOT been made new! How then, could Paul write that 'all things have become new'? In the covenant context of Scripture, that is, reading all Scripture in 'Light' of the covenant that God made with Himself ( Genesis 1:3 & 26 ), we see that Paul was speaking of the covenant redemption that Christ had accomplished in actuality on the cross, 'not imputing their trespasses to them' ( II Corinthians 5:19 ). From Hebrews 9:15, we read that 'for this reason He ( Christ ) is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.' Quoting Jeremiah 31:33 & 34; we read, in the next chapter, at verses 16 & 17, 'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”;[c] then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”[d]' Hebrews 8:7-13 reveals the reason for this 'new' covenant ( which wasn't really anything 'new' at all, but 're-newed': 're-formed' ( Genesis 1:26 ) might be another word for it! ); 'For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah' and finally, 'In that He says, A new covenant, He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away'. Again turning to II Peter 3; we read, in verse 10, 'But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.[c]'. John wrote, in I John 2:8 that 'the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining', and later, in verse 17 'the world is passing away', this 'world' in the covenant context of Scripture, being the 'world' of Old Covenant Judaism.

May this short article be a blessing to all my readers, and whether they realize or not that Scripture is written primarily to reveal His purpose for His people; I pray that God will use my feeble writing to bring glory to His holy name.

In His service and ( part of ) His Kingdom,
Charles Shank

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