Post mortem salvation

In the Bible we don’t find many allusions to the beginning of all the creation of God. All this was indeed hidden in Christ, the beginning of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14). The ancient creation record is greatly ethnocentric, speaking of the world known to the forefathers of Israel, and centered on them (Genesis 1; 2:10-14; 5:1 etc.). We are told of the heathens, that they were left to themselves but not forgotten by God (Acts 17:26-30) yet as nations excluded from the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:12). But with Christ there will come a time where every knee will bow and confess Christ is Lord, the remote Islands will be glad (Philippians 2:10, Psalm 97:1).

In the popular Christian understanding, Christ does offer grace to the world, but if someone dies without faith in Christ, they are forever lost, immortal in some underworld of pain and misery. There is no doubt that the great non-biblical assurance of this dark doctrine and the sophisticated and devious defenses of it have been used in the interest of unforgiveable oppression and abuse of power. Evil will find an excuse. This teaching is not found in the Bible, but we will briefly look at some verses believed to say so.

Quoting from Luke:

Luke 13:1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Now what is special about this situation? Not that people die but that they die in a disaster. So is Jesus saying if you don’t repent, you will die in a disaster? Yes. In AD 70, a disaster happened to Jerusalem. It was destroyed by the hands of the Romans. It is believed a million Jews died in the Roman war AD 66-70. Those who accepted Christ obeyed his words:

Matthew 24:15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Now is the popular interpretation of Luke 13:1-5 even possible? Were saints not killed in horrible manners? Do we know if these victims spoken of were saved or not? No, but if the listeners did not repent, they would all die in a disaster. Taken in a general universal way, countless saints have perished in disasters.

Now are those perished done for if they did not die believing?

Matthew 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Luke 15:6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’

There nothing in the terminology saying so. Tradition speaks of the lost in hell, but the not-saved are already lost in this life.

Briefly we may also look at:

Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

People die and then come the judgment. There is no suggestion in the Bible that the judgment is a mock trial like the ones men have conducted through history. On the contrary:

Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.

But what about the lake of fire found in Revelation 19 and 20? Revelation is a highly symbolic book. What exactly the lake of fire means is difficult to say but it seems reasonable to see it as a kind of alternative situation to the death with Christ mentioned in Romans 6, also symbolic.

Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.

That old man needs to die somehow and it is certainly the old man that goes into the lake of fire, not the new. Fire in a very positive way is used here:

Zephaniah 3:8 “Therefore wait for Me,” says the Lord, “Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination is to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy. 9 “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him with one accord.

This indeed would be a very happy end.

Now how can we as believers in the Bible know that the end scenario of Revelation is not the “real”/final end?

Revelation 21:24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.
Revelation 22:2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22:14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

There will be an end to reign, when it is no longer needed. There will an end to the healing mediator purpose. Notice in Revelation 21:24 of “those who are saved” is disputed, NKJV footnote says: “NU-Text and M-Text omit of those who are saved”.

Now you might ask what about the “forevers” in the Bible. Now those forever’s have to be taken a little carefully. Consider:

Exodus 12:24 And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. (this speaks of Aaron and his sons)
1 Kings 12:7 And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”

The common New Testament translations don’t really contain such an obvious blur in translation, instead a certain creativity is used;

Romans 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.
Hebrews 9:26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Ephesians 2:7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

These are common examples that every respected source will accept. You are wellcome to tell me otherwise. The Greek word is aion, so often translated forever or eternal but here it speaks of the world or the ages. The common explanation is that the same word is used for eternal life. So these examples are exceptions but generally it does mean eternal, the explanation goes. I think a much better solution is that eternality was not a concept of the Hebrew Old Testament cultures as demonstrated well in the previous Old Testament verses.

All in all, there are solid Biblical reasons to hold to a larger hope.

Creation part 2

Now let us look at whether evolution theory should be an problem for Christianity. First of all what is biological evolution? In the Scientific terms it can be described as genetic change in a population from one generation to another. The speed and direction of change is variable with different species lines and at different times. Continuous evolution over many generations can result in the development of new varieties and species. Likewise, failure to evolve in response to environmental changes can, and often does, lead to extinction. We can imagine a population of brown and green beetles. Increasingly succesful predators prefer the green ones, and eventually the green ones will become less in numbers. If this continues to their end, the green ones will become extinct. Then later the environment changes. The remaining bettle population will adapt successfully to the new conditions offered or will eventually perish. This way life changes over hundreds of millions of years. Studies of blood protein and DNA show which species are closest related. Some see a problem in letting science add millions and even billions of years to our understanding of history. Such numbers are too big for us. The Bible says God is eternal, and that is not easier to grasp. What did God do before the supposed creation 6,000 years ago according to Young Earth Creationism? What did God do before the big bang, dated 13,77 billion years ago according to mainstream science? I don’t know if it is simple minded or heretical to say so but 125 billion galaxies could perhaps explain what keeps God busy. Certainly big numbers do not introduce a new problem to Christianity. The Mormons have a doctrine of eternal progression of Gods. They believe that God the Father was once a creature that progressed to Godhood. There are millions or billions of Gods in the universe whose offspring must strive for progression too. This way they have an extra-biblical story bringing more light on eternity but not making it any easier to understand. It’s noteworthy that evolution theory actually did exist in a primitive form among the ancient Greeks, a people that excelled in philosophy and science, whereas the Hebrews excelled in at least hygiene and limitation of birth defects. Anaximander was one of the first and much later the Roman Lucretius wrote of similar thoughts:

Anaximander (* c.610-547 B.C.) says that the first animals were produced in moisture, enclosed in thorny barks. When their age increased they came out into the drier part, their bark broke off, and they lived a different mode of life for a short time. Aetius (5.19.4) He also declares that in the beginning humans were born from other kinds of animals, since other animals quickly manage on their own, and humans alone require lengthy nursing. For this reason, in the beginning they would not have been preserved if they had been like this. Pseudo-Plutarch, Miscellanies (179.2) Anaximander… believed that there arose from heated water and earth either fish or animals very like fish. In these humans grew and were kept inside as embryos up to puberty. Then finally they burst and men and women came forth already able to nourish themselves. (R, 12)Censorinus, On the Day of Birth (4.7) And in the ages after monsters died, Perforce there perished many a stock, unable By propagation to forge a progeny. For whatsoever creatures thou beholdest Breathing the breath of life, the same have been Even from their earliest age preserved alive By cunning, or by valour, or at least By speed of foot or wing. And many a stock Remaineth yet, because of use to man . . . Lucretius (* ca. 99 BC – ca. 55 BC). On The Nature of Things, Book V

Do the Biblical creation accounts allow for evolution theory? We will take a look at the biblical creation accounts, foremost in Genesis 1-2:3 but also John 1:1-5 and Colossians 1:15-20. We should read these accounts considering the culture they were written in. There is a conflicts of interest here. If the accounts were written in a language agreeing with modern science, it would be an amazing witness today. It would also be an awesome testimony today if the book of Revelation spoke about airplanes and nuclear weapons. Oh boy, we could get those mocking atheists. But the first receivers and ancient man would be left behind. He would not understand talk about the Universe and even evolution. Imagine the volumes speaking of yet not discovered Things. In the case of Revelation, the 1st Century Christians would have a book written under severe persecution that they could not understand and that didnt concern them. I include some thought provoking quotes from Rabbi Rashi (as well as some of my own thoughts and quoutations), medieval Judaistic scholar and highly respected in Judaism, showing Judaism does not read the creation account like a science record saying the earth is 6,000 years old.

Genesis 1-2:3 Verse 1. Creation of heavens and earth. The whole account is from the phenomological perspective from ancient man watching the world, our planet. The universe is not in view. Rashi on verse 1: In the beginning: Said Rabbi Isaac: It was not necessary to begin the Torah except from “This month is to you,” (Exod. 12:2) which is the first commandment that the Israelites were commanded, (for the main purpose of the Torah is its commandments, and although several commandments are found in Genesis, e.g., circumcision and the prohibition of eating the thigh sinew, they could have been included together with the other commandments). Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning?” Because of [the verse] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Ps. 111:6). For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they will reply, “The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us. Verse 2. The earth is chaotic and dark. Waters covering the earth. But God is there, his Spirit is moving upon the waters. Compare to Psalm 74 putting some further Ancient Near East perspective on the record: Psalm 74:12 For God is my King from of old, Working salvation in the midst of the earth. 13 You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters. 14 You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces, And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness. 15 You broke open the fountain and the flood; You dried up mighty rivers. 16 The day is Yours, the night also is Yours; You have prepared the light and the sun. 17 You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter. (See Rashi on Genesis 1:21 quoted concerning the slaugther and feast upon sea serpents). What happened? Is it a chaosbattle with the ancient seaserpents (sea; chaos, mystery, sin, evil) with God as the winner implied? Or is a previous creation implied? Or is this a timeless chaotic state we are to read God created from/out of? We don’t know, but such speculation is certainly biblical valid. Compare also this language with the prophet Jeremiah on the destruction of the Jewish nation by the Chaldeans: Jeremiah 4:23 I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; And the heavens, they had no light. 24 I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, And all the hills moved back and forth. 25 I beheld, and indeed there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens had fled. 26 I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities were broken Down At the presence of the Lord, By His fierce anger. So despite verse 14-19, it is possible to imagine the destruction of a former system, that was then covered by a Chaos-sea. We looked at the meaning of heavens and earth in the paper about Revelation 21:1 in ANE culture. I think it is plausible to imagine something was before. Verse 3-5. Creation of day and night. Verse 6-10. Heavens and earth is made by God dividing the earth covering the sea into two, one part placed above the firmanent called heaven, one part below on earth and after this arrange the waters on earth in a manner where dry land appeared. To ancient man, the heavens looked like a great sea above was held back by a firmament or bowl. Rashi on verse 6: “Let there be an expanse: Let the expanse be strengthened, for, although the heavens were created on the first day, they were still moist, and they solidified on the second [day] from the rebuke of the Holy One, blessed be He, when He said, “Let there be an expanse.” This is what Scripture says (Job 26:11): “The pillars of the heavens trembled” the entire first day, and on the second day: “They were astonished by His rebuke,” like a person who stands in astonishment because of the rebuke of the one who frightens him. [Genesis Rabbah 12:10]” Psalm 136:6 To Him who laid out the earth above the waters, For His mercy endures forever; Verse 11-13. Gras and fruits trees are made on God’s command to the earth. Notice God speaks to the earth implying it understand. One of the great scholars of Judaism, the medieval Rabbi Rashi comments on verse 12: “And the earth gave forth, etc.: Even though לְמִינֵהוּ.“according to its kind,” was not said regarding the herbs when they were commanded [to grow], they heard that the trees were commanded thus, and they applied an a fortiori argument to themselves, [a קַל וָחוֹמֶר -from the minor to the major], as is explained in the Aggadah of Tractate Chullin (60a).” You don’t hear such quotes from Young Earth Creationists, when they appeal to the understanding of Jewish Rabbis. Verse 14-19. Lights are placed on the heavens, they are needed under the firmament, especially the son and the moon to divide night and day. Rashi on verse 14:Let there be luminaries, etc.: They were created on the first day, and on the fourth day, He commanded them to be suspended in the sky, and likewise, all the creations of heaven and earth were created on the first day, and each one was fixed in its proper place on the day that was decreed upon it. That is why it is written:“with the heavens (אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם) to include their products,”and with the earth (וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ),” to include its products. — [Gen. Rabbah 1:14] Rashi, on verse 16: “the two great luminaries: They were created equal, but the moon was made smaller because it brought charges and said, “It is impossible for two kings to use the same crown.” – [from Chullin 60b] Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this derash is based on the discrepancy of the two expressions, “the two great luminaries,” which intimates that the moon was a great luminary, and“the lesser luminary,” which intimates that the moon was smaller than the sun. To reconcile this difference, the Rabbis asserted that the moon was originally created equal to the sun, but, because of its complaint that the sun wielded the same power that it wielded, it was forced to relinquish that power.” Verse 20-25. Animals are made. Notice also that God speaks to the animals, implying they understand. So this is the background of the talking serpent, there was nothing unusual about his ability in this symbolism. Rashi on verse 21: “the…sea monsters: The great fish in the sea, and in the words of the Aggadah (B.B. 74b), this refers to the Leviathan and its mate, for He created them male and female, and He slew the female and salted her away for the righteous in the future, for if they would propagate, the world could not exist because of them. הַתַּנִינִם is written. [I.e., the final “yud,” which denotes the plural, is missing, hence the implication that the Leviathan did not remain two, but that its number was reduced to one.]- [from Gen. Rabbah 7:4, Midrash Chaseroth V’Yetheroth, Batei Midrashoth, vol 2, p. 225].” Rashi on verse 22: “And…blessed them: Because [people] decimate them and hunt them and eat them, they required a blessing; and the beasts also required a blessing, but because the serpent was destined to be cursed, He did not bless them, lest he [the serpent] be included. — [from Gen. Rabbah 11:3, Midrash Tadshe 1]” Re the serpent, Rashi on Genesis 3:1: “Now the serpent was cunning: What is the connection of this matter here? Scripture should have juxtaposed (below verse 21): “And He made for Adam and for his wife shirts of skin, and He dressed them.” But it teaches you as a result of what plan the serpent thrust himself upon them. He saw them naked and engaging in intercourse before everyone’s eyes, and he desired her. — [from Gen. Rabbah 18:6]. cunning, more than all: Commensurate with its cunning and its greatness, was its downfall- [it was] cunning, more than all, [and it was] cursed, more than all. — [from Gen. Rabbah 19:1]” Verse 26-27. Man is made in God’s image. Notice God is asking someone to participate here in verse 26. Judaism as well as modern Christian scholars say the angels. Yet God is attributed fully in verse 27, so if anyone participated creating, it was though God’s power. Chapter 2:1-3. The ending of the first creation account. God resting after his work on the very long creation day (Hebrews 4:1-5) resembles Christ resting after his resurrection in glorified state (Hebrews 1:3). It means that a significant divine job has been finished.

Despite all the to us mysterious ANE culture, the theological message comes across clearly; a God this powerful is one you should fear and revere, and He is the God of Israel.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

The Word / The Logos here bear resemblence to the Greek philospher Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) who lived long before John wrote his Gospel:

This Logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this Logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep. (DK 22B1)

The Logos, the Word is the reason behind all things. This term was wellknown in John’s time. Philo the Jewish Hellenist had linked the Logos from Heraclitus and other Greeks to the Word of God in the Hebrew scriptures. One examples from the Old Testatement is:

Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

John is saying; this reason and purpose behind all things you Greeks talk about, is the Son of God. Christ is the Creator, Sustainer and Savior of all. He is the appointed Mediator and Heir by which the Father accomplishes all things, God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). A similar thought is found in Acts 17:23-31, although not about the Logos, but about an unknown idol worshipped by the Athens. Notice the past tense here and in Colossians 1:13-20. The Greeks spoke in past tense about future events they believed were sure to happen. For this reason, these passages could contain both a progressive creationism worldview and an evolutionary worldview. However it would be going too far to say the Bible contains any hint of ancient biological evolution. Now are there any serious conflicts between the Bible and evolution? I think the only perceived hard case is Adam. Often Adam is presented as the death blow to a theistic evolution compatible with the Bible. Simply put Adam and Eve as the first two humans biologically and historically is impossible to reconcile with the evolution of the great apes. As both Christ and Paul confirms the teaching and Paul even builds a case for the need of salvation upon all men descending from Adam, opponents of theistic evolution are very sure this settles the case. You must choose. The Word of God or those “satanic mainstream scientists”. Many theistic evolutionists seem quite defenseless on this issue. Paul’s argument can’t be saved. ADAM is not a historical person but ancient science and myth. It seems to me the belief in the natural immortality of the soul rather than conditional immortality (i.e. that the saved will become immortal) is “the serpent in paradise”. I was disappointed to see a prominent theistic evolutionist argue that the penalty to Adam was physical death in his recent books. He even quotes out of context from 1 Corinthians 15 that says if Christ is not risen, then the saints have perished. Being an immortal soul in God’s hands hardly qualifies as perishing and having no hope. If the punishment to Adam was physical death only, then God’s warning in Genesis 2:17 isn’t true. Mainstream theology must add a lot to the early Genesis chapters. Cain married his sister and God changed his mind about the penalty. No, the death spoken of in Genesis 2:17, 3:17-19, Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 is spiritual (really quite clear from Genesis 3:17-19 also) and based on the Hebrew totality concept of body and soul – and the spirit returns to God that gave it. So we don’t have to reject Romans 5 as some immortal soulism believing theistic evolutionists claim we must. The death that entered the world with Adam was spiritual death and as far as revealed to us, that kind of death can only happen to a human being in spiritual fellowship with God. Paul can be outdated on the science of his day but not on such a fundamental spiritual argument. But Adam and Eve are difficult to exegete. On one hand, Adam appears in a genealogy of what would become Israel, on the other hand he appears in an account with a sheltered garden, a talking snake and supernatural fruits. I think the proper solution is that Adam was a real person placed in a symbolic setting. I suggest Adam was the father of Israel –to-come the lineage described in Genesis 5. He is the first man as far as the record goes and first man in sense of first in rank. The teaching of federal headship is found in Romans 5, for instance:

Romans 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

This is God’s arrangement. Adam was appointed to that role regardless of his biology. It is totally irrelevant whether we are in his biological lineage or not. It doesn’t in any way explain or make “original sin” more logical. This view of Adam also explains why other people were around that we see in the never soberly and morally solved issue of Cain’s wife. Did I leave out something important? Comments are welcome.

Creation part 1

Science today makes it possible to estimate the age of the universe to be 13,77 billion years old and the age of the earth 4,53-4,58 billion years old. Science can also demonstrate through verifiable methods that all natural life evolved ever since the dawn of organic matter. Reaching this understanding has been a gradual process since the dawn of the Scientific Revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries. Science has no holy answer book, but makes hypothesis validated by emperical evidence.

In 1862 Lord Kelvin used the science of his day to calculate the earth’s age to 98 million years and this was accepted by many conservative Christians. With the mysterious beginning of Genesis 1 speaking of an empty and void earth (gap theory) and understanding that ‘day’ in the Bible does not have to be 24 hours literally, a very old earth is reconciable with the creation text and does not bring into question commonly accepted core doctrines like evolution theory later did according to the opinion of many. Man could still be created 6,000 years ago and dinosaurs millions of years ago, all directly by God’s hand. Many Christians accepting the old earth, also believed in the local flood theory or a purely figurative flood as science showed that a global flood could not have happened. There is no geological evidence, despite the claims of pseudoscience and flood myths found all over the World (just as dragon myths etc.). But this was not known before sciencitific geology. To the ancient church fathers the global flood had a powerful theological message; all the other gods people worshipped all over the earth were powerless against it. They had no other origins account but the biblical perceived through their “glasses”. But due to geology science, the creation record was reinterpreted and Bible faith found to be reconciable with the new science.

To the point that the flood could be local according to the Bible. It’s an indirect support I see, and I think the flood account in itself is open to both a global flood and a local flood.

When we read about “the earth” in the Bible today, we tend to think of the planet earth. This is because of our modern science. But the ancient Biblical “cosmic geography” was more restricted and sometimes this is seen clearly. Granted when we read that God created the earth, we have no reason to put any limits on it. There are much fewer Words in biblical Hebrew than in modern languages, and we must therefore consider the context. Examples where the earth – or another cosmic term – clearly isn’t the Whole planet / earth in modern sense:

Deuteronomy 2:24 “‘Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and engage him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
Habakkuk 1:6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.
Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

To the point that ‘day’ in the Bible does not have to be 24 hours literally, consider some examples:

God’s rest day is very long:
Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Hebrews 4:3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ”although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”

Israel’s 40 years in the desert “day”:
Hebrews 3:8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness,

The day of salvation is very long:
2 Corinthians 6:2 2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— 7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

Why? Because the Bible uses a lot of figurative language. The anti-symbolism claim of the fundamentalists that the Bible “Means what it says” (in their warped literal definition) is ignorant and since it creates false understanding and slavery, we should not be silent.

One of the first Christian writings accepting the early science revolution came from the influencial reformer John Calvin. In 1554, John Calvin had his huge Genesis Commentaries published. Among his comments to Genesis chapter 1, we find:

Moses describes the special use of this expanse, “to divide the waters from the waters,” from which words arises a great difficulty. For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels ; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the World. He who would learn astronomy,” and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach all men without exception ; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned.’The things, therefore, which he relates, serve as the garniture of that theatre which he places before our eyes. Whence I conclude, that the waters here meant are such as the rude and unlearned may perceive. The assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance respecting them, is not in accordance with the design of Moses”.

By the rude and the unlearned, he refers to those not knowing the latest science of his day. So Calvin is being very progressive and visionary concerning issues that would later become very talked of and important. But such a knowledge was not and is not required to understand the creation record. Men ignorant of science ever since Moses can understand and apppriciate this record. As Calvin knows, it is not scientifically true that there is a sea above the earth. But ancient man could relate to it. God kept Water up there to let it rain and so God could also flood the earth later. The theological point is that:

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

In 1855, the famous preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon expressed Classic Old Earth Creationism in his sermon “The power of the Holy Ghost”:

“But if you will look in the first chapter of Genesis, you will see there more particularly set forth that peculiar operation of power upon the universe which was put forth by the Holy Spirit; you will then discover what was his special work. In Ge 1:2, we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” We do not know how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be—certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God”.

In part 2 we will look at the implications of evolution science on creation and the Christian faith.

The heavens, the earth and the sea in Revelation 21:1

The Bible is a spiritual book. It’s also an ancient book written to ancient people as the first receivers. They lived in a specific part of the World and at a specific time. It’s good to remember this in interpretation.

Now I offer my interpretation of the heaven, the earth and the sea in this verse:

Revelation 21:1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

The sea:
Some noteworthy verses:

Isaiah 27:1 In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.
Isaiah 51:9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent?
Revelation 13:1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
Revelation 20:13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

“the Waters”:
Revelation 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
Revelation 17:15 Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.

What is it that will:
a) disappear at the White throne judgment?
b) contains symbolic beasts and dead people?
c) which necessarily must be connected with “the many waters”, in which another beast, the whore of Babylon sits and which is “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues”?

The conclusion seems pretty obvious; the sin World. There will be no more sin World.

A new heaven and a new earth
Some noteworthy verses:

Isaiah 51:15 But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared – The Lord of hosts is His name. 16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” [same theme as verse 9 quoted above]
Zephaniah 3:8 “Therefore wait for Me,” says the Lord, “Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination is to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy. 9 “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him with one accord.
Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

What happened in the days of Pentacost:
Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’

A literal heaven and earth can’t be in view. God will when salvation is fully established have “planted the heavens” and laid “the Foundations of the earth” and be the God of Zion. All the earth devoured in fire connected with (possibly universal – so Origen thought) salvation. Heaven and earth flees away from God in the judgment. A case can be established for the heavens being the religious systems and the earth the political powers. They will flee in vain when God conquers them and establishes a new heaven and a new earth.

Finally an example is shown in which the annointing at Pentacost according to Peter fullfilled an Old Testament prophecy that includes some radical apocalyptic language concerning the sun and the moon.

Many other verses could be quoted. Why this – to us today – strange symbolism? It is not spelled out anywhere to my knowledge. But there is a widespread scholary conclusion that the biblical perspective on the natural World and also when the natural World is used symbolically as here is phenomenological (knowledge based on observation). From a view that embraces inspiration of the Bible, there is no mentioning of Mars, neanderthals or dinosaurs in the creation record because Israel did not know these and could not relate to them. If a World system collapses, it would be a fitting use of symbolism to speak of heavens and earth collapsing. Or from the individual viewpoint:

Leviticus 26:19 I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.

Heavens like iron and earth like bronze obviously ruins the harvest (or rather makes it impossible). Or as we say in modern language exaggeration promotes understanding.

Concerning the sea, this is possibly more obvious. There are several biblical references to people quite understandably being afraid of the pontential and unpredictable dangers of the sea:

Isaiah 57:20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
Luke 21:25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;

So in conclusion, what Revelation 21:1 is saying in my opinion, is that a new system has appeared in this vision. It has replaced the old “heavens and earth”. The sin world is no more, the source of the beasts, powers hostile to God’s people and containing a great deal of mankind, has been emptied and is no more.

Additional October 26th 2014:

The end times are compared to Noah’s time.

Luke 17:26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

2 Peter 3:5 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, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

There will be judgment of the old World/Heavens and earth and a new World/Heavens and earth made. Whether this is AD 70 – judgment upon God’s fallen Israel and in symbolic terms a cosmic event or future yet, is not clear and easy, but I favor AD 70.