Bible study series: The Beginning and the End - Genesis and Revelation
The plan... (From before the beginning!)
by I Gordon
It is always good to have a plan, Stan. God has a plan. And it involves a man. An incredible man and an ancient plan. This plan goes back longer than you may think. I mentioned in the first study that we are going to look at the 'big picture' in this series. So to do so we need to extend our focus to look at that plan right from the beginning. In fact for the really big picture we would even have to look back beyond the beginning... if that is possible!
Well, good news... It is possible. In part at least! So we'll give that a go in this study. We'll look at God's plan from the beginning and then go back further still. So... with that slightly cryptic thought where would be a good place to start?
Let's begin, argh, at the beginning
'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.' (Gen 1:1)
Genesis 1:1 starts with the beginning. There was a beginning to everything... Except the One mentioned at the beginning, God. He has always been there even before the beginning. Before there was time, before there was space, before there was matter... there was God. We know a little from the time of the world's creation but occasionally we are allowed to peak back deeper still. Scripture gives us three glimpses of this time using the phrase 'before the creation of the world'. This phrase was spoken by Jesus, Paul and Peter. And what is it that we see? Does it tell us anything about God's plan before creation existed? Let's have a look.
1. Before the beginning: The love
John 17:24 Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
The first instance of this phrase 'before the creation of the world' is given by Jesus Himself. And what does it speak of? It speaks of love. The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8,16). Before time, before matter, before angels, before humanity, there was love... love within and between the Godhead. There was love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When the Bible describes love it says the following:
1Co 13:4-7 Love (God) is patient, love (God) is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it (He) does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This verse describes what and who God is for God is love... right from the beginning and beyond. Love, by its very nature, does not seek its own. That is, it is not self-focused but needs another to love. And this love is willing to bear all things, believe all things and endure all things... for another. That is pure love. That is the love of God. So while this love existed within and between the Godhead, by its very nature this love was also thinking of another. It was thinking of others, not yet created, that it would be willing to bear all things and endure all things for. I'm sure you know who that is but if not, have a look at the second mention of this phrase 'before the creation of the world'.
2. Before the beginning: The recipients
Eph 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.
This is an amazing passage! It is understandable that there would be love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit even before the foundation of the earth. But this passage tells me that God was also thinking back then of all those that would be His even before they came into being! He was thinking, in love, towards me? Before the foundation of the earth? Why is He thinking about me then? Let alone you! Ok... I can understand you, but why me? And if He is thinking about you and me, knowing what we'd become, why is it in love? The wonder of this passage tells us that even before anything came into being God, through His pleasure, will and love for us, chose us to be holy and blameless sons in His sight. God, it seems, right from day zero (or negative something), was looking forward to the time when there would be many in His family!
3. Before the beginning: The cost
1Pe 1:18-20 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
Not only were we, believers, chosen before the foundation of the Earth, but so was Jesus. We were chosen to be His, holy and blameless in His sight. He was chosen to be the One who could make that happen. I'm not sure about you but I think we got the better deal. Can you remember what we said about love above? It 'bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things'. Before the foundation of the earth Jesus, in perfect unadulterated love, was willing to be the Lamb of God that would offer himself so that we could go free. And all planned and agreed before there was space, time or matter. That's why Revelation speaks of Him being 'the lamb slain from the foundation of the earth' (Rev 13:8). If that isn't love I do not know what is. J Vernon McGee writes well on this verse saying:
'When we begin to deal with words like foreordination, election, predestination, foreknowledge, etc., I feel that we, with our finite minds, treat God as if He were a great big computer. He isn't that at all. He has a heart bigger than the whole universe. When I was in seminary studying theology, it seemed pretty important to know whether or not foreknowledge comes before foreordination; but, frankly, since that time I have not been concerned with which comes first. I realize now that the important thing is that Christ was "foreknown before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." To put it very simply, the Cross of Christ was not an ambulance sent to a wreck. Christ was the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world because God knew all the time that Vernon McGee would need a Savior, and He loved him enough to provide that Savior. I don't need a computer to go over this. I only need a God with a great big heart of love who provided redemption by His grace.'
4. Before the beginning of time: The promise
There is a final verse that uses a similar phrase to describe something that happened before time even existed. We have seen so far that before time, before the creation of the world, there was love between the Father and the Son. But that love also extended to us who would believe. We were in His thoughts, chosen to be holy and blameless before Him. Finally we saw that the cost was in the thought of God. To fully show humanity His love, Jesus would have to demonstrate it by dying in their place. With this in mind, scripture tells us about an ancient promise:
Tit 1:1-2 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness-- a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.
A promise was made before there was even time. A promise before there was anyone around... except God! It was a promise made from the Father to the Son and it involved eternal life. The promise was that if the Son would become the Lamb of God, the Father would grant eternal life to all who placed their trust in Him. And God, who cannot lie, promised this before the beginning of time!
John Macarthur writes on this verse: 'God's plan of salvation for sinful mankind was determined and decreed before man was even created. The promise was made to God the Son'
So here is the wonderful plan of God, right from before the beginning of time: Jesus, in love, was willing to be the One who would come as the Lamb of God and die as a sacrifice for sin so that those who were lost could be adopted back into His family and experience all the blessings that God had been planned from the beginning of time.
Jesus. Came. To. Die. It was not plan B.
The plan of man vs the plan of God
Of course the plans of men, without knowing it, played into this. The Jews plotted and formed their plans to get rid of Jesus. Speaking to the Jews, Jesus said:
'I know that you are Abraham's offspring; yet you plan to kill Me, because My word has no entrance (makes no progress, does not find any place) in you. (John 8:37 AMP)
The Jewish council (Sanhedrin) especially planned to do away with Jesus using any means or lies necessary! Though the Bible speaks of one member who didn't agree with their plan:
And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (Luke 23:50-52)
Even after the resurrection the Jewish leaders were still making their plans on how to deal with Jesus!
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan , they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' (Mat 28:11-13)
But in all of this, the plan of God was not thwarted or swayed! God is always unlimited steps ahead! Listen to what Peter says to the Jews on the day of Pentecost where he nails (excuse the pun!) their involvement while still showing that it was all in accordance with an ancient predetermined plan... one established before time!
"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God , you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Act 2:22-24)
What about Revelation and the days to come? How is the plan played out?
The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation (Psalm 33:11).
The plans of God obviously involve more than just the cross. It involves the events right down through the ages and especially the dramatic days of the end leading up to the return of Jesus. What is coming upon the Earth will seem like the most 'out of control' time ever. And yet it will be perfectly controlled... from the throne of Heaven. As Jan Markell often says, 'things are not falling apart, they are falling into place!' As an example from the book of Revelation consider the following prophecy:
"The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. "These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. "These will wage war against the Lamb... (Rev 17:12-15)
This passage speaks of a 10 division kingdom that will rule the planet in the last days. This will be ruled by 10 kings who in turn will give their allegiance, power and authority to a single world ruler called 'the beast'. Now notice that it says they all have one purpose in mind - they will wage war against the Lamb (Jesus). This dictatorship will be rabidly anti-Christian and anti-Christ. From an earthly perspective it will look like Satan has unleashed hell upon the earth as events unfold that could cause some to question whether God is still on the throne! And yet He is and none of this is outside of His plan. Look at what the scripture goes on to say:
"These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."... " For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled . (Rev 17:14-17)
God, even in the most trying of circumstances in the darkest of days on planet earth, will still be in control and He has a purpose for even His enemies which they are unwittingly carry out. While these earthly 'kings' rebel against the Lamb of God, it says that God has actually given them this purpose until the words of God are fulfilled. Nothing, even in the darkest days, is out of control from heaven's perspective. And Revelation shows us how this plan will unfold for the next 1000 years and into eternity!
Its that time again... Application
What about the here and now? What can we take from this thought that God's plan was designed before the beginning of time and will come to fruition? What can we take from it for our own lives today? Here are some closing thoughts concerning this.
1. God's plan means life isn't meaningless or random. Statistics show that more and more people are taking their own life because life just seems to be completely random, purposeless and hopeless. But there is a plan, a purpose, a set course that the earth is travelling on and the ending is one of glory, hope and endless joy for those that know the Lord.
2. God's plan often involves life out of death! The Father's plan for His own Son wasn't easy. To succeed, it even involved death. Ultimately it involved life for all who believe, but it was life through death. We often hear 'that God has a great plan for your life'. That is true (Eph 2:10) but in what sense? Your terms or His? Just to make things easy? Did God have a 'great plan for Jesus' life?' Well yes He did but it was one that involved the cross first of all. Is it likely that our lives may taste something of the same plan and path? Don't despise the difficulties that you face. In God's order life often comes out of death. His plans are deeper and wiser than we can see. Ultimately God balances our temporal needs (knowing that we are but dust!) with His eternal purposes. But we have to be careful not to think that the ultimate purpose of God for our life here and now, is our happiness. Charles Hodge shows the error in making man's happiness the goal of God's plan writing: 'If we make the good of the creature the ultimate object of all God's works, then we subordinate God to the creature, and endless confusion and unavoidable error are the consequences.'
3. God's plan is often veiled at the time. God is in control, even when we don't understand. Looking back, God's plan that was determined before the foundation of the world was hidden for a long time. Even when Jesus came His own disciples didn't understand why He kept speaking about 'the cross'. Maybe that is you today. Maybe as you look at events occurring within your own life you wonder 'why has God allowed that to happen?' 'Lord why won't you take it away?' We don't often get to know the 'why's' at the time of the event but looking back sometimes we can see why. But whether we can see the 'why' or not isn't the main point. 'What is God trying to teach me and how does He want me to respond' is the main point. As an example Job in the Bible never got to find out 'why' all the things happened to him. Yet God was in control even in the chaos and Satan was only allowed to go so far. The beauty of the story is that through it all Job got to know God. Like, really got to know Him. At the end he could say 'My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.' Job 42:5
The time of the end is approaching but all things have been written to give comfort and hope to the believer even in these challenging days. There is a kingdom and a King coming that has been planned since the beginning and beyond. Can you remember what Jesus said He will say to the sheep on that day?
"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' (Matt 25: 34)
What a day and what a plan! Forged in the love of God and the willing sacrifice of the Lamb of God. And even for today, God has a plan for you. It is our joy to discover what that is and to walk in it. I will leave you with this thought from James H McConkey:
God has a plan for every life in Christ Jesus. What a wondrous truth is this! And yet how reasonable a one. Shall the architect draw the plans for his stately palace? Shall the artist sketch the outlines of his masterpiece? Shall the shipbuilder lay down the lines for his colossal ship? And yet shall God have no plan for the soul which He brings into being and puts "in Christ Jesus"? Surely He has. Yea, for every cloud that floats across the summer sky: for every blade of grass that points its tiny spear Heavenward, God has a purpose and a plan. How much more then, for you who are His own in Christ Jesus, does God have a perfect life plan.'