I have to start on this one where the reader might think I have forgotten the title. I assure you my mind has a picture that it wants to paint with words and I do know where I want to go. So, without rambling I shall be as “to the point” as I can.
“Before the Foundation of the world,” to me, clearly means before time began. So in the opening verses of the pith of the Ephesian letter Paul starts off in verse three for thanking God for His dropping on every Christian that has ever lived the whole warehouse, storehouse and treasure chests of blessings and goodies from Heaven that are “in Christ”. And this depositing of everything heaven has to give, has come to us in accordance with the fact that He has chosen us to be “in Christ” before time had begun. (Ephesians 1:3-4a)
I know the statement goes much further than what I have just written. I shall be extending the meaning and context of the lengthy sentence as we proceed with each phrase. Greek exegetes of varying stature and frames of reference assure me that when reading from Ephesians 1:3 through to the end of verse 14, we are snagging with one single solitary sentence. I have no idea how experts in English parse such a statement (or should I say “statements”), but I have found through the years that pondering over these twelve verses and making diagrams of them in all sorts of contexts to be a most edifying study and an uplifting meditation.
So what does, “Before the Foundation,” add to the statement that Paul is giving us here?
Picture if you can (and I know jolly well that you can’t – in fact none of us can) where there is nothing but God. (Just to let you in on a secret, I typed, first of all, “Picture if you can a time when…” But, the picture I want to paint with you is a picture that was factual before time had started.) The picture is a picture of nothing but God. There was God and nought else! Nothing else at all! No space, no world, no universe – nothing – nothing but God. Only God! Nothing more than God! Nothing with God! Nothing but God! If you feel mentally comfortable and the suggested mind’s eye picture sits well with you and is something easy to conceive, just let a few important people and you may get a knighthood or something for your genius and breakthrough in conceptualities in philosophy and theology.
God created Time. What is time? How can we define time? “Time is nothing but a measurement of change,” says one. “Time is obviously the universal sequence of events, some of which have already happened, some of which are happening as I write, and some are yet to happen,” says another. From that fact we know that when we talk of time, we have to refer to the past, the present and the future in our discussions. Two of the best definitions I ever heard were from under 7’s at school when I was teaching. One child told me: “Clocks are the rulers that measure how long time is.” Schnazzy! Another genius like profound statement was a little girl who was 6 going on 30, who said while her index finger was touching her chin and looking something like a University professor in deep thought; “Time is what stops everything happening at the same moment.” Now that is a good one… I think.
When God made the heavens and the earth that was the beginning. So I am concluding that before there was a heaven or an earth there was nothing but God. Because God is God, i.e. eternal, immortal, invisible and only wise, He, unlike any of His creation did not, does not, and never will require a context in which to exist. He is Spirit. Before the heavens and the earth existed, there was nothing but God! One could not ask, where was God before He made the heavens and the earth, because there was nowhere to be. There was no time, and no space, no other plane or dimension other than God. There was just nothing and nowhere but infinite God. Have you got your mind around that one yet?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” What beginning? On the grounds that the opening scripture infers that creating the heavens and the earth was the first dot of creating things that needed to progress, I suggest that “In the beginning” is a euphemism for, “The moment time began.”
It was Leonardo Da Vinci that said that a principle he used when creating a painting, sketch or invention was: “First the dot, then the line, then the square and finally the cube.” His meaning, as far as I can discern was that when one starts to create anything it starts with the dot – arguably non dimensional; then the line is the one dimensional expansion of a creation; the square becomes the two dimensional creation, and the cube is the three dimensional completion of a creative project. “In the beginning” – there’s the dot. “God created the heavens and the earth.” There is the one dimensional fulfilment of creation. It was simply a foundation of what it was all about to become. This was the foundation of the cosmos to my understanding.
The earth as it was at first created in Genesis 1:1 was nothing but a foundation, a scaffolding, a solid rock, if you will, that the Almighty sculptor was about to sculpt into something breathtakingly beautiful. It was a globe that was covered in water and darkness. There was nothing else but the earth and the visible, as well as invisible heavens. This was the entire cosmos.
“Before the foundation of the world,” means when there was nothing and nowhere – just God.
“In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God, and the word was God” (John 1:1). God had to have been before time, because the apostle tells us that “by Him,” that is Christ, “all things were made, and without Him was not anything made that is made.” So when John’s Gospel starts with “In the beginning,” It may mean before time started, or at that same moment when time began when He was creating the heavens and the earth. Both meanings have the same impact. The point is that Christ “existed before anything else did.” (Colossians 1:17. International Standard Version).
Before time, when there was only God in existence and nothing and nowhere else, the relationship that existed between Father and Son was such that it wonderfully arose in Christ’s memory during the days of His flesh. His time together with His Father outside of and before time actually became a prayer point for Jesus in the intensity of the build up to His Passion. In John 17:24 the Saviour prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Eternal loving intercourse was ever present between God the Father and God the Son. And when I say “eternal” I do not mean a very long time, for time had not yet begun before the foundation of the world. Eternity, outside of time is I believe impossible for the human mind to conceive and picture, though considerably easier to define by the use of words. If somebody was to ask you to draw a picture that defines eternity, what would you create?
The scripture tells us some astonishing things about what happened “before the foundation of the world.” Decisions were made between Father, Son and Holy Spirit that impact us all.
Before the foundation of the world, that is, before time had been created, God had settled the issue of salvation for mankind. It would seem that even before time had begun He had written the Lamb’s book of life, and had even listed the names of those predestined to be saved, sanctified and glorified. The Apostle John wrote of some unbelieving people on earth in the very end times, writing, “They that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 17:8). To see it from the other perspective, it was before the foundation of the world that God had chosen those that were, are and will be glorious and holy in the presence of God without spot or wrinkle of any sort to their character, spirit or purity for eternity to come. Paul is referring to himself and all the Christians he knew of when he wrote, “according as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).
The statement is virtually repeated when we read that it was from the Foundation of the world that those who would reject Christ were already known (“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, (Revelation 13:8)), as well as those who were chosen and ready to enter the kingdom (Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:34)).
Most important of all, the means that effected the salvation as well as the election of those that were to be saved was settled in the counsel of God before the foundation of the world. We know this as fact because Peter who walked and talked with Jesus throughout the three years plus of His ministry on earth wrote of Christ, saying, “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you (1 Peter 1:20). The plan was set in place before time had begun, never mind before Adam and Eve had committed their first sin.
Having made these huge and momentous decisions before the foundations of the earth were laid, God decided that these issues and truths would be kept as a secret until a certain time. That time was initiated when Christ was preaching and teaching in the days of His flesh just as the four gospels record. Matthew, in one of his momentary voiceover commentary’s in his gospel, when referring to the truths that Jesus was explaining to the people says: “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 13:35).
Why is this remark about being chosen, important? It is wonderful to be chosen in any context, in time or out of time, isn’t it? Why does it even matter for Paul to explain to us that we were chosen “before the foundation of the world?”
I hold several reasons why I think it is mentioned in this context. These are reasons that are explosive in the environment of building faith in the believer’s heart.
In the first six days after the laying of the foundations of the Cosmos there was no veil that hid the heavens from the earth. When man was made there was no “visible” and “invisible,” all things were visible. One part of the cosmos was intrinsically spirit in its source its environment and in its population. I am referring to heaven and the angels. Then there was the physical world that was just as spiritual in its derivation as heaven was, put with a physicality that was birthed out of the spiritual. Everything physical has an end to it. Things spiritual have no end. The physical came out of the spiritual. That is why the physical universe is contained within the spiritual universe. The physical human population of the earth are also spiritual. The physical shall die as a seed for the eternal future. But the human spirits shall remain until the resurrection. Christians shall judge the angels, says Paul. This means that seeing angels and indeed, seeing the invisible world in which they exist will be the norm again in the resurrection. Pre the fall Adam and Eve could see God and the angels, as well as the devil. With this understanding, the first reason I believe it is important for us to know that we were chosen before the foundation of the cosmos, is to let the Christian see that we were chosen to be glorified in the cosmological setting at a time when things will be as they were in the beginning, “from the foundation of the cosmos.” In the resurrection we shall see His face, His glory, and aspects of the resurrected creation that have not been seen since the days before the fall of Adam and Eve. It is to let the believer know that he or she was no afterthought, no “plan B” and no second best in God’s economy. We were part of the original plan that was blue printed “before the foundation of the world.” Now that is important.
“Before the foundation of the cosmos,” is used in Ephesians 1:4 to impress believers with the sure and certain knowledge that they have been planned and predetermined by God to be saved. The knowledge of this fact should strengthen a solid and practical faith. The phrase was used to let us know that as God lives outside of time and yet has still chosen us to be adopted into His family, our eternal life and our very existence hereon is set on something that we can be more than confident about.
I believe also that “before the foundation of the Cosmos,” is a phrase that is used that facilitates a great and broad understanding of the unmitigated unleashing of the power of God that was released at the death and then the resurrection of Christ. When life was given to Adam and Eve their habitat, their world, the existence was, for want of a better phrase, in the same dimension as God, angels and demons. The fault lines that split the universe because of man’s sin were huge. It brought about the process that leaves us with the universe as it is now. The spiritual cannot be seen normally in the present status quo excepting for when something or somebody in the spiritual world decides to break in to impact on things visible. Christ’s death and resurrection, as well as His ascension were the initiation of the process of bringing all things in the universe in harmony and to be subject to Christ. That harmony will be finalised when in a none aging immortal body, the resurrected redeemed will be in motion in the physical as well as the spiritual cosmos. The whole of the universe will be one, again, and visible to all.
From the beginning of the foundations of the cosmos both God and man’s habitat were in the same dimension. Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. The domain of God was in the physical as well as the spiritual. Adam could be said to have been domiciled in both the physical and the spiritual. From the foundation of the world, the earth and the heavens had no veil between them. Even though the curtain betwixt the two was closing from the moment of the fall of man in Genesis 3, God at various times opened the curtain again, as when Enoch and Elijah was taken to heaven without dying, as when Isaiah was taken to the heavenly temple in Isaiah 6. (Isaiah could not have been in the temple in Jerusalem as he was not a Levite.) Ezekiel also had heaven’s glory opened to him as described in Ezekiel 1. The casting out of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden was not only geographical but dimensional. The spiritual dimension was divorced from the natural/physical. They will be conjoined again when the New Jerusalem returns.
When salvation’s process is complete we will be in a unified cosmos where earth and heaven, angel and human, God and man will be in a conjoined world where all will be seen and unified, and interaction between each world will be possible. Whether we call them domain’s, plane’s or worlds I am not quite sure but I am convinced of what the reality will be like. I am sure that when Clive Staples Lewis wrote the Narnia Chronicles, the interaction between the normal physical world as we know it, and the land of Narnia has more revelation in it than we normally credit it for.
The veil will be removed. The language I am using is biblical. Isaiah 25:7-8 states it clearly. Without making lengthy notes on the full context of the prophecy, I refer strictly to the two verses:
“On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
The sheet that covers all nations;
He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;
He will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.”
Isaiah sees the veil as a death shroud that enfolds all people. It is a veil that prevents the world from seeing things as they really are. Like Lazarus coming out of the grave with perfect sight, perfect hearing and the ability of speech, yet all he could do was hobble like a deaf dumb and blind crippled man until the shroud was removed. Hence the first instruction Jesus gave after the people saw Lazarus emerging from the tomb was to, “Remove the grave clothes.”
But note Isaiah 25 talks of the sheet (veil/curtain/ intervening obstruction) covering all nations, that is, the entire cosmos of the physical world. Christ in His atoning sacrifice pierced that dark curtain, wonderfully symbolised in the fact of the torn curtain in the temple as He cried, “It is finished.” The resurrection was the glorious first step of He who had opened heaven had also been to hell and returned to planet earth as a kind of half way house on the way to bee seated on the right hand of His Father.
Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden, dressed in light the visibly and tangibly saw God, angels and even the still bright and shiny fallen Satan. It was God’s intention to live and dwell and walk and talk with man without any curtain or veil to interrupt the dialogue. That is still His intention, and will be to its fulfilment. God’s purpose is to dwell with man without any veil interfering with the looking into the whites of each other’s eyes. The sky will be rolled up facilitating glorious vision amongst all things.
People talk of going to heaven when they die. We don’t go to heaven in the resurrection, the curse is removed from earth for the first millennium, and thereafter heaven comes down to us in the form of the New Jerusalem.
Until then our staring into the face of Christ and into heaven is something analogous to looking through a filter at the sun. It is like standing on the blind side of a one way mirror. The spiritual world and all it inhabitants can see us plainly while we live in a world that is a spectacle for all things spiritual to look into.
We need to seek God for an ever increasing unveiling of Jesus Christ. Every breakthrough and revelation, whether it be direct from scripture, through dreams or in prayer moves toward the full and glorious restoring of this open and free vision. (Ezekiel 1:1. Matthew 3:16. Acts 7:55-56. Revelation 19:11).
Every truly born again Christian was chosen before time began, before the foundation of the world.
- Christ Ascended and Exalted… What does it mean? (regenerationandrepentance.wordpress.com)
- Echoes of Encouragement from Ephesians (III) (mtsweat.com)
- Becoming like Christ (dezkev.wordpress.com)
- Eternal Purpose (regenerationandrepentance.wordpress.com)
- Introduction to Ephesians (revelationsoftheinvisible.wordpress.com)