GOD'S THREE-FOLD REVELATION OF HIMSELF
How do we know that there is a God? How do we know that the Bible is God's Word, infallibly inspired and providentially preserved? How do we know that Jesus Christ is God's eternal Son? We know all this because of God's revelation of Himself. In nature, in the Scriptures, and in the Gospel of Christ God reveals Himself, not mere evidences of His existence, not mere doctrines concerning Himself, not a mere history of His dealings with men, but HIMSELF. In nature God reveals Himself as the almighty Creator God, in the Scriptures God reveals Himself as the faithful Covenant God, and in the Gospel of Christ, which is the saving message of the Scriptures, God reveals Himself as the triune Saviour God. In this present chapter, therefore, we will discuss God's three-fold revelation of Himself, the foundation of the Christian view of the world and of the Bible and its text.
1. In Nature God Reveals Himself As The Almighty Creator God
Modern ethnologists and anthropologists have discovered that belief in God is general among men. It is found even in savage and uncivilized tribes who have never read the Bible or heard of Christ. "About the existence of some form of monotheism," Paul Radin (1954) tells us, "among practically all primitive peoples there can be little doubt.'' (1) W. Schmidt (1931) also states that even among the African Pygmies there is "the clear acknowledgement and worship of a Supreme Being." (2) According to Nieuwenhuis (1920), this idea of God was produced "by the impression which the universe made as a whole on reflecting men, as soon as they set about trying to understand the world round about them." (3)
But these discoveries of modern investigators were anticipated long ago by the inspired psalmist, who exclaimed, O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy NAME in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1). What is God's Name? As many scholars and theologians have pointed out, God's name is His revelation of Himself. God's name is excellent in all the earth. God the Creator is present everywhere in the world which He has made, actively and objectively revealing Himself in all His divine excellence. In the regular motions of the stars and planets He reveals His power and glory (Psalm 19:1; Isa. 40:26). In the immense variety of living things and their harmonious interaction He reveals His wisdom (Psalm 104:24). In the rain, sunshine and harvest He reveals His goodness and His tender mercies (Psalm 145:9; Acts 14:17). In the human conscience He reveals His righteousness. writing on the heart of man His moral law (Rom. 2:15). And in the universal prevalence of death and its attendant sickness and suffering He reveals His wrath and coming judgment (Rom. 5:12).
Because God the Creator is present everywhere revealing Himself in the world which He has made, all men of every tribe and nation may know God if they will and do know Him at least in part. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them (Rom. 1:19). Atheism and agnosticism are inexcusable. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Rom. 1:20). Idolatry and all other false doctrines and observances constitute a departure from this natural knowledge of God, an apostasy which is motivated by human pride and vanity. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Rom. 1:21).
God reveals Himself in the world which He has created. How can we be sure of this? We can be sure of this upon the authority of the holy Bible. As John Calvin observed long ago, (4) the sacred Scriptures are the God-given eyeglasses or contact lenses (to speak in ultra-modern terms) which correct our spiritual vision and enable our sin-darkened minds to see aright God's revelation of Himself in nature (Psalm 119:130). Therefore the guidance of the Bible is necessary in the study of the natural sciences. In the Bible God has inscribed the basic principles which give unity to scientific thought and provide the answers to ultimate scientific questions. In order to prove this let us consider some of these questions in the light of holy Scripture.
(a) What the Bible Teaches Concerning Astronomy
When we believe in God as the Creator of the universe and receive the revelation which He has made of Himself in nature and the holy Scriptures, then for the first time the mysteries of astronomy become comprehensible, at least in principle. Then for the first time we understand how astronomers with their tiny human minds can know as much as they do know concerning the vastness of the heavens. Then we learn once and for all that the universe is finite and that, however vast it may appear to our human eyes, in the eyes of God it is a very little thing (Isa. 40:15). As Thiel (1967) has observed whether the universe is large or small depends on the way you look at it. According to Thiel, if the nebulae were the size of pinheads the space between them would be no more than a hand's breadth. (5) And in God's sight the nebulae are mere pinheads. Indeed, the Scriptures teach us that compared with God's infinite greatness the whole universe is less than nothing and vanity (Isa. 40:17,22). God created the whole universe according to His wisdom (Psalm 104:24). He understands it completely, and to man He gives the wisdom to understand it partially. And it is from this wisdom which God gives that all that is true in astronomy and every other department of science is derived. For with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light (Psalm 36:9).
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1) How long ago was that beginning? There are many who say that this must have been ten billion years ago, because light takes this long to reach the earth from the farthest quasi-stellars. But this argument has no cogency for those who believe in the omnipotent Creator. If God created the stars and put them in their places in space, why couldn't He have brought down their light to the earth in an instant of time? There is no need, therefore, to "re-interpret" the first chapter of Genesis and thus to obscure its plain meaning with modern glosses and rationalizations. On the contrary, the more we let this sublime introduction to the written Word of God tell its own story the more reasonable and up-to-date we see it to be.
The first two verses of Genesis 1 tell us how the whole universe was brought into being by the creative act of God, in an unformed state at first, perhaps as mere energy out of which matter was later constituted. The rest of this first Bible chapter describes to us how the Spirit of God, who moved upon the face of the waters, brought the whole creation out of its original formless condition into an estate of entire perfection. And it was in reference to the earth that this creative power was first exercised. No mention is made of the sun, moon and stars until after the earth is freed from its layers of water and carpeted with grass and herbs. The sun, moon and stars, on the other hand, are younger than the earth, having been created, or at least brought into their present state, on the fourth day. Next the seas and the dry land were populated with living creatures, and then finally man was created in God's image with a mind attuned to heaven's harmonies and a God-given ability to search out its mysteries.
Although the Bible is entirely true and cannot be in any way affected by the opinions of men, nevertheless it is of interest to note that some of the latest developments in the realm of astronomy agree with what the Bible has always taught concerning the natural world. For example, astronomers for many years believed that the sun was at the center of the universe and ridiculed the Bible for speaking of the sun as moving and the earth as standing still. "The Copernican heliocentric cosmogony," Shapley (1960) observes, "prevailed for more than three centuries and widened its range in that the sun eventually was considered to be not only central in its own planetary family, and in full command through gravitation, but also appeared to be the central object for the whole stellar world." But in 1917 this heliocentric cosmogony was found to have been a mistake. "The sun is no longer thought to be in a central position," Shapley continues, but has now been relegated "to the edge of one ordinary galaxy in an explorable universe of billions of galaxies." (6) Evidently, then, the sun is of little significance in itself. Millions and millions of other stars are larger and more impressive. The sun is important chiefly because its rays nourish the earth and the lives of men who are created in God's image. And this is what the Bible has always taught (Gen. 1:14-18). This is what Jesus teaches (Matt. 5:45).
The earth, then, is more important than the sun because it is the abode of men, God's image bearers. It was on earth that the Son of God was crucified for sinners. It is to earth that He shall return to judge the living and the dead. It is to emphasize this central importance of the earth in the plan of God and in history that the Bible speaks of the earth as being at rest and the sun as moving. And even from a strictly scientific point of view this manner of speaking is not regarded as incorrect. For according to Einstein: (7) and most modern scientists, (8) all motion is relative, and one may say with equal justification either that the earth moves and the sun is at rest or that the sun moves and the earth is at rest. Einstein's relativity theory, however, depends on his definition of simultaneity as coincidence in time and space relative to an observer, and this definition is contrary to fact. Observation clearly shows that simultaneous events always occur at the same time but never in exactly the same place. Even simultaneous flashes in a mirror occur at different locations on the mirror.
For this reason and many others scientists will eventually be compelled to lay Einstein's theory aside, and when they do they will probably find that the true view of the universe is that which Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) (9) proposed 400 years ago. He maintained that the earth rotated on its axis and that the sun, moon and planets revolved about the earth. This hypothesis agrees remarkably with the biblical data and is mathematically sound, according to Christian mathematicians such as J. N. Hanson (10) and W. van der Kamp. (11)
(b) What the Bible Teaches Concerning the Fossils
We pass now to geology, the science which deals with the earth and its history. The type of geology which is accepted today by almost everybody is uniformitarian geology. Its basic principle is that geologic changes in the past have been effected gradually by the same processes that are at work in the present. The Scriptures, however, do not support this assumption but tell us of a great catastrophe, namely, the Genesis flood, which alone is adequate to account for the observed geologic phenomena. The following therefore is a brief summary of the principal points at issue:
( 1 ) The warm climates of geologic times. The evidence of the fossils indicates that warm climates once prevailed in regions which are now covered with arctic ice and snow. Sub-tropical heat, it is said, was experienced in Greenland. Why this tremendous difference between ancient and modern climatic conditions? Uniformitarian geologists are hard put to it to find an answer to this question. A rather recent (1954) symposium of scientists stressed changes in the sun's radiation as the cause of changes of climate here on earth, (12) but astronomer F. Hoyle (1955) says that there is no evidence that any such variation in solar radiation took place. (13)
The Bible, however, provides the solution of this problem. The uniformly mild climate which once prevailed everywhere is to be attributed to the invisible vapor canopy which enveloped the earth in the days before the flood, namely, the waters above the firmament, which God established in their places on the second creation day (Gen. 1:7). The effect of this canopy would be to distribute the sun's warmth in uniform fashion throughout the earth and to prevent the formation of cold fronts and the occurrence of wind storms. At the onset of the flood the windows of heaven were opened (Gen. 7:11), that is to say, the vapor canopy was precipitated on the earth in the form of torrential rains which completely flooded it. The Bible indicates that this was the first time it had ever rained. Before the flood mists watered the ground (Gen. 2:6). After the flood Noah saw a rainbow for the first time (Gen. 9:13).
(2) Volcanoes and lava flows. In past geologic ages, we are told, volcanic lava flowed much more plentifully than it does today, both spouting from craters and pushing upward from great cracks in the earth's surface. A stupendous rock formation more than one thousand miles in length along the Canadian and Alaskan shore was formed in this way. The great plateaus of northwestern United States, covering 200,000 square miles, were built by oozing lava, as was also the famous Deccan Plateau in India. Other plateaus of this kind occur in South America and South Africa. Most of the oceanic islands also were produced primarily through volcanic action. (14)
The presence of all this volcanic lava on the earth's surface contradicts the leading principle of uniformitarian geology, namely, that the geologic work of the past was accomplished by the same natural forces that can be observed today. Plainly it was a catastrophe that produced these lava flows, and the Bible indicates what this catastrophe was, to wit, the Noachian deluge. Not only were the windows of heaven opened, but the fountains of the great deep were broken up (Gen. 7:11), and through the resulting fissures both in the sea floor and also in the land surfaces the vast lava deposits observable today were spewed forth.
(3) How were the fossils buried? Uniforrnitarian geologists have never given a consistent answer to this all important question. Instead they assert a paradox. The fossils, they maintain, were buried quickly, but the rocky strata in which these fossils are buried were laid down very slowly. The reason, Simpson (1960) tells us, why there are so many missing links in the evolutionary fossil chain is that these missing animals were not buried quickly enough. "The possession of readily preservable hard parts is clearly not enough in itself to assure that a given organism will indeed be preserved as a fossil. The overwhelming majority of organisms are quickly destroyed or made unrecognizable, hard parts and all, by predation, by scavenging, by decay, by chemical action, or by attrition in transport. The few that escape that fate must (with a few exceptions) be buried quickly (within days or at most a few years) in sediments free of organisms of decay or chemicals competent to destroy the hard parts.'' (15) Howells (1959) says the same thing, observing that it is not easy to become a fossil, (16) and Rhodes (1962) also informs us that the preservation of an organism almost always involves rapid burial. (17)
If the fossils must have been buried quickly in order to become fossils, doesn't it follow that the strata in which the fossils are buried must also have been laid down quickly? Not so, the geologists strangely maintain. In accordance with their uniformitarian dogma these scientists insist that these strata were laid down by the same slow processes which are in operation today. Zeuner (1952), for example, agrees with Bradley's earlier (1929) estimate that during the Eocene period the mean rate of the deposition of the strata was only one foot in 3,000 years. (18) And according to Dorf (1964), the volcanic sediments in Yellowstone Park were laid down at the rate of three-quarters of an inch a year, and this rate is 100 times faster than that estimated for sand or mud sediments of comparable age in the Gulf Coast region of North America. (19)
The fossils were buried quickly, but the strata in which the fossils are buried were laid down very slowly! Uniformitarian geologists would rather insist on this paradox than admit the reality of the Genesis flood. There is abundant evidence, however, that the strata were laid down and the fossils buried in a great world-wide flood. How otherwise can the frequent occurrence of "fossil graveyards" be explained? The Baltic amber deposits, for example, contain flies from every region of the earth. The Cumberland Bone Cave in Maryland is filled with fossils of both arctic and tropical regions. The La Brea Pits in Los Angeles have yielded thousands of specimens of all kinds of animals both living and extinct. In Sicily hippopotamus beds occur so extensive that they have been mined as a source of commercial charcoal. Frozen mammoths and an immense number of tusks have been discovered in Siberia. At Agate Springs, Nebraska, a vast aggregate of fossil animal bones have been found jumbled together. (20) And according to Macfarlane (1923), there is evidence of sudden destruction of fish life over vast areas. (21)
(4) The fossil order out of order. One of the strongest pillars of uniformitarian geology is the alleged invariability of the order of the fossil-bearing strata. The ages of the rock strata are determined by the kind of fossils that are found in them. The strata containing the simpler forms of life are always older. The strata containing the more complex forms of life are always younger. The younger strata are always on top.
This theory, however, often contradicts the facts of nature. Often the younger strata are on the bottom and the older on top. In the Alps such "inverted" arrangements of the fossil-bearing strata occur "on a grand scale" (Geikie). The 19th century geologists explained them by supposing that the strata had been folded together and thus turned upside down. They admitted, however, that there was no physical evidence for this hypothesis. Thus Geikie (4th ed. 1903) acknowledged that "the strata could scarcely be supposed to have been really inverted, save for the evidence as to their true order of succession supplied by their included fossils." (22)
Another hypothesis by which to explain the "inverted" order of fossiliferous strata was that "thrust-faults" had occurred, that is to say, sections of the strata had been raised and pushed up on top of adjacent sections. But B. Willis (1893), U. S. government geologist, had this to say concerning assumed thrust-faults in the southern Appalachians. "These faults of great length, dividing the superficial crust into crowded scales, have provoked the wonder of the most experienced geologists. The mechanical effort is great beyond comprehension, but the effect upon the rocks is inappreciable." (23) Another example of a supposed thrust-fault for which no evidence can be found is the Lewis over-thrust of Montana which measures 135 miles in length and 15 miles in breadth. Here also, according to a recent government survey (1959), the rubble which would naturally be produced by the movement of such a vast quantity of rock is conspicuously absent. (24)
Thus for one hundred years uniformitarian geologists have been putting forth paradoxes. To explain the "inverted" order of the strata they have been assuming tremendous folds and thrust-faults which strangely enough have left no evidence of their occurrence.
But if we acknowledge the reality of the Genesis flood, we no longer need to "explain" the strata but can take them as they come. As Whitcomb and Morris (1960) point out, the bottom-most strata would normally contain the trilobites and brachiopods, because their mobility was least (they would find it hardest to avoid entombment), their specific gravity was greatest (they would sink most easily in the flood waters), and their habitat was lowest (living on the sea bottoms, they would most quickly be affected by the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep). The fish would naturally be found in the middle strata, since in these three respects they occupy an intermediate position. And the reptiles, mammals, and birds would tend to take their places in the higher strata, since their mobility was greatest (they could most easily escape the entrapping sediments), their specific gravity was least (their bodies could float the longest on the surface of the waters), and their habitat was highest (they would be the last to be reached by the advancing flood ). These factors would account for the general order to be found in the fossil-bearing strata, an order due not to an ascending evolutionary scale of life but to the circumstances under which the fossils were buried in the deluge sediments. And since these circumstances often varied locally, there were often instances in which the more usual order was reversed. (25)
(5) Mountains, plateaus, and canyons. According to Leet and Judson (1954), the formation of every mountain system on the globe has involved the following two-fold process: first, thousands of feet of sedimentary rocks were accumulated in great marine basins that slowly sank; second, these sedimentary rocks were slowly elevated to form mountains. (26) In other words, the bottoms of certain seas kept sinking down until the streams had washed in a collection of sediment (dirt, sand, etc.) as deep as the mountains are high. Then the bottoms of these seas came up again and lifted all this sediment thousands of feet into the air, and thus the lofty peaks of Tibet were formed, and also the Alps, the Andes, and the Rockies. But why should the bottoms of these seas (marine basins) move down and up, first receiving sedimentary deposits and then pushing them up into the air? Three possible causes have been suggested for this alleged phenomenon, namely, thermal contraction, convection currents, and continental drift. (27) Wilson (1963) believes that the Himalayan mountains could have been thrown up by the collision of India with the Asian land mass. (28) No one of these explanations, however, seems to be generally satisfactory to scientists.
Not only the mountains but the high plateaus that lie next to them are full of problems for the uniformitarian geologist. One such plateau region occupies some 250,000 square miles, extending over most of Arizona and Utah and also large portions of Colorado and New Mexico. It is here that the Grand Canyon is found as well as its smaller but scarcely less spectacular sister canyons. The walls of these canyons are composed of thousands of feet of sedimentary rock strata lying horizontally. According to Leet and Judson, this whole region was pushed up from the bottom of a sea without any disturbance of the horizontal position of the strata. In defense of this hypothesis these authors point to the fact that the rivers which are thought to have hollowed out the canyons flow in curves called meanders. These curves, it is maintained, were established before the uplift began, and the uplift was so gentle that it did not disturb them, (29) But according to Whitcomb and Morris, such notions are vulnerable from the standpoint of hydromechanics. A river which is downcutting enough to excavate a canyon will not continue to flow in curves but will straighten itself out due to gravitational pull. (30)
The mountains and canyons of which we have been speaking and also the submarine canyons and the rifts which have recently been discovered in the ocean floor can be satisfactorily explained only in terms of the Genesis flood. These effects indicate the process by which God removed the swollen flood waters from off the land after they had accomplished their work of divine justice and purification. In order to accommodate the water which had fallen from the overhead vapor canopy and would never be returned thither, the oceans were made larger and deeper. And as the seas were widened and deepened, the continents were compelled to rise to make room for the displaced earth crust. As part of this general elevation of the continents, the mountains were lifted up to their present lofty heights. Cracks occurred at various angles in the sediments, and along these cracks torrents of flood water poured down, driven by the force of gravity, to the ample new storage space created by the sinking ocean floors and the rising continents. Thus quickly and efficiently the Grand Canyon was formed and also its sinuous sister canyons. And all this is suggested in Psalm 104:6-9, where the coming and going of the Genesis flood is vividly described. (31)
(6) The coming of the glaciers. The Genesis flood narrative also provides the best explanation of the extensive glaciation which took place in past ages, the causes of which are still a matter of debate among uniformitarian geologists. In the words of Whitcomb and Morris, "The combined effect of the uplift of the continents and mountain-chains and the removal of the protective vapor blanket around the earth could hardly have failed to induce great snow and ice accumulations in the mountains and on the land areas near the poles. And these glaciers and ice caps must have continued to accumulate and spread until they reached latitudes and altitudes at which the marginal temperatures caused melting rates in the summers adequate to offset accumulation rates in the winters." (32) Later the earth would be replenished with a new generation of plants and animals. These would fill the air with carbon dioxide, thus warming the atmosphere and causing the glacial ice to recede. Also the carbon dioxide emitted by the volcanoes during the flood would contribute to this warming effect as soon as the volcanic dust had settled. (33)
(7) Searching for the missing links. For over a century uniformitarian geologists and paleontologists have been searching for the missing links in the evolutionary fossil chain, but today these links are still missing. "It is a feature," Simpson (1960) tells us, "of the known fossil record that most taxa appear abruptly. They are not, as a rule, led up to by a sequence of almost imperceptibly changing forerunners such as Darwin believed should be usual in evolution." (34) And according to Rhodes (1962), the Cambrian fauna appears with "Melchisedechian" abruptness, (35) without any obvious ancestors, and the same is true of most of the major groups of organisms.
The most interesting fossil specimens, of course, are those which are said to bridge the gap between apes and men. Some of these, however, were evidently merely apes and not men at all. Such were the Australopithecines. whose brains were only ape-size. At one time it was said that they walked erect like men, but Zuckerman (1964) denied this, (36) and today R. E. F. Leakey (1971) admits that the Australopithecines may have progressed on their knuckles like the extant African apes. (37) Other alleged sub-human specimens were in all probability simply diseased. For example, Sir Arthur Keith suggested that the Rhodesian man might have been the victim of a hyper-active pituitary gland, and Hooton (1946) thought it possible that the Neanderthal men had been suffering from a similar malady. (38)
(8) Dating the strata and the fossils. Attempts to date the strata and the fossils by radioactivity methods reveal the unreliability of these procedures. In 1969 Australopithecus boisei was considered 600,000 years old. (39) In 1961 his date was pushed back to 1,750,000 years ago by use of the potassium-argon method. (40) Recently (1970) R. E. F. Leakey has pushed this date still farther back to 2,600,000 years ago. (41) In 1965 Bryan Patterson of Harvard found an australopithecine arm bone which he dated at 2,500,000 years ago. In 1967 he found an australopithecine jaw bone. He then dated the jaw bone at 5,500,000 years ago and pushed the date of the arm bone back to 4,000,000 years ago. (42)
(c) What the Bible Teaches Concerning Space and Time
Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the father of theoretical physics, was a firm believer in the concepts of absolute space and absolute time. In his Principia (1686) he writes as follows: "Absolute space, in its own nature, without relation to anything external, remains always similar and immovable.... Absolute motion is the translation of a body from one absolute place to another." (43) Thus for Newton space was an existing thing, an infinite, immovable tank or framework in which bodies moved and in reference to which their movements could be calculated. Newton regarded space as co-eternal with God. In his Optics (1704) Newton even went so far as to call space God's sensorium. (44) And, similarly, Newton regarded time as a perpetual stream that flowed on and on quite independently of God. "Absolute, true, and mathematical time, of itself, and from its own nature, flows equably without relation to anything external, and by another name is called duration." (43)
For two hundred years Newton's views regarding absolute space and absolute time were generally adhered to by physicists. In 1887, however, Michelson and Morley, two American scientists, discovered that the velocity of light is the same in all directions and is not affected by the movement of the earth through space. This discovery contradicted some of Newton's basic principles, and it was to reconcile this difficulty that Einstein in 1905 published his special relativity theory, featuring the following operational definition of time: "Suppose that when an event E happens to me on earth a flash of light is sent out in all directions. Any event that happens to any body anywhere in the universe after this flash of light reaches it is definitely after the event E. Any event anywhere in the universe which I could have seen before event E happened to me is definitely before event E. All other events are simultaneous with event E, since they cannot be demonstrated to be either before or after E and that which is neither before nor after is simultaneous." (45)
On the basis of his operational definition of time Einstein defined motion as progress through a four-dimensional space-time continuum. And in his general relativity theory, published in 1915, Einstein went on to define gravity as the effect of the curvature of this continuum. There is, however, an inconsistency in Einstein's operational definition of time. As Reichenbach observes, (46) Einstein made a distinction between the simultaneity of events next to each other and the simultaneity of events far apart from each other. Events next to each other, he maintained, are simultaneous if the observer can know that they are coincident in time and space. Events far apart from each other are simultaneous if the observer cannot know that they are not coincident in time and space. But how can the knowledge or lack of knowledge of a human observer determine the simultaneity of external events? Surely Einstein taught pantheism in the guise of science.
In view of this logical flaw it is not surprising that Einstein's theories are being threatened experimentally. In 1970 Endean and Allen, two British scientists, concluded that electromagnetic fields in the turbulent Crab Nebula are traveling at about 372,000 miles per second, or twice the velocity of light. (47) This is contrary to Einstein's special relativity theory, which makes the velocity of light an absolute that can never be surpassed. Also, as Huffer (1967) (48) and Dixon (1971) (49) remind us, there is evidence that there may be stars which consist entirely of negatively charged anti-matter. This, if true, may endanger Einstein's gravitational theory. At least Burbidge and Hoyle (1958) (50) and Gamow (1961) (51) have expressed such fears.
Newton conceived of time and space as two disconnected absolutes independent of God. In pantheistic fashion Einstein made simultaneity his leading concept but was compelled to operate inconsistently with two discordant definitions of simultaneity. In the Bible, on the other hand, God reveals Himself as the only Absolute. I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me (Isa. 46:9 ) . God's eternal plan for all things is the only ultimate continuum. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure (Isaiah 46:10). God created space and time when He created the world and began to fulfill His plan. (For further discussion of Newton and Einstein see Believing Bible Study, pp. 165-171, 224.)
(d) What the Bible Teaches Concerning Causation and Chance
Scientists for many years have been accustomed to define causation in terms of human prediction. If from a preceding event a following event can be predicted, then the preceding event is considered to be the cause of the following event. Einstein (1934) says that it was Isaac Newton who began to define causation in this way and that this definition is the only one that is completely satisfactory to modern physicists. (52) Similarly, Bridgman (1955) says that the ability to predict is tied up with the ideas of cause and effect. (53)
In the 1920's, however, physicists discovered that the behavior of atomic particles, taken individually, can not be predicted. No matter how hard the physicists strive to make their measurements accurate, a large element of uncertainty will always remain. In 1927 Heisenberg stated this fact scientifically in his famous uncertainty principle. (54) According to Jeans (1947), this principle states that it is impossible to determine both the position and the velocity of an atomic particle with perfect precision. If we decrease our uncertainty in regard to the position of the particle, by that very action we increase our uncertainty in regard to its velocity and vice versa. The product, moreover, of the two uncertainties can never be reduced below a certain minimum value. (55)
We see now why so many physicists say that there is no causation in the sub-atomic realm and hence no causation at all, since the atomic particles are the basic units out of which the larger world of nature is constructed. They say this because they identify causation with prediction. Two events are causally connected when the second can be predicted from the first. But there can be no such prediction at the sub-atomic level, because at this level, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the accurate measurements needed for such prediction are impossible. Hence, since causation and prediction are regarded as synonymous, it is maintained that there is no causation in the sub-atomic realm. According to Heisenberg (1958), classical physics and causality have only a limited range of applicabllity. (56) According to Bridgman ( 1955 ), the law of cause and effect must be given up. (57) And Max Born (1951) tells us that all the laws of nature are really laws of chance in disguise, that is to say, laws of statistical probability. (58)
This statistical probability to which Born refers rests on a principle first discovered in the 18th century when records of births and deaths began to be kept by municipal and national governments. According to this principle, statistics of large groups are regular. That is to say, there is a regularity about large groups of similar events, even when these events seem to occur entirely by accident. For example, it was found that there was a certain regularity about male and female births. Everywhere, year after year, the number of male births was found slightly to exceed the number of female births. In the early 19th century also inspection of government records by the Belgian statistician Quetelet brought to light many other instances of statistical regularity in the seemingly accidental features of life. For example, Quetelet showed (or claimed to show) that year after year the number of suicides bore a fixed ratio to the total number of deaths. (59)
As this statistical regularity began to be discovered, mathematicians began to deal with it mathematically by applying to it the terminology and rules of the probability calculation which had been first formulated in France during the 1650's for the solution of gambling problems. For example, when dealing with birth statistics they began to speak of the chance of a boy being born rather than a girl and to calculate it as slightly more than one half. It was in this way, Cramer tells us, that actuarial mathematics was developed and used in the rapidly expanding insurance business. And from insurance the use of statistical probability theory spread into other fields until now its range of applications extends, as Cramer observes, over practically all branches of natural, technical and social science. Automatic computers, for example, make their predictions on the basis of statistical probability. (60)
But if the universe is governed by the laws of chance or statistical probability, what is statistical probability, and why does it work the way it does? What is back of statistical probability? According to Born, (61) you are not supposed to ask these questions, and he ridicules those who do ask them. Statistical probability is simply to be accepted as an unanalyzable governing principle of the universe. But is it scientific to reject causation as meaningless and then to put in its place an unanalyzable something which you call statistical probability? Even Einstein (62) and other well known physicists have had their doubts about this. Bridgman (1959), for example, concedes that a world governed by pure chance is completely inconceivable. For then, he goes on to say, he might in the next instant turn into his dog Towser and Towser into his Ford. (63)
Only the Bible has the solution to this problem which baffles top-flight scientists. For the Bible defines causation ultimately not in terms of human prediction but in terms of God's works of creation and providence. The God who created the atomic particles also controls and guides them. He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). Hence causation is still operative in the subatomic realm, even though scientists may never be able to measure or observe its action.
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27). God rules and reigns even in the seemingly accidental features of life, the flight of an arrow shot at random (1 Kings 22:34), the trampling of a jostling crowd (2 Kings 7:18-20), the casting of lots (Prov. 16:33), the falling of a sparrow from its nest (Matt. 10:29). If we put our trust in Christ, then we know that He so preserves us that not a hair can fall from any of our heads without the will of our heavenly Father; yea, that all things must be subservient to our salvation. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose ( Rom. 8:28). May the good Lord help us to believe this always.
2. In The Scriptures God Reveals Himself As The Faithful Covenant God
The Scriptures are the God-given eyeglasses which correct our faulty spiritual vision and enable us to see aright the revelation which God makes of Himself in the world which He has created. This is the first aspect in which the Bible presents itself. But the Bible also fulfills a second function. The Bible is a record book in which is outlined the history of God's dealings with men from the creation to the final judgment. In the Bible God reveals Himself as a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. For God's ways with men differ from His ways with plants and animals. God deals with men by way of covenant. He makes His promises and keeps them. All He requires of us on our part is faith and obedience. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies (Psalm 25:10).
Hence the Bible is the Book of the Covenant. This is the name which was bestowed upon the holy Scriptures when they were first given at Mount Sinai. Here God met with His people and promised that if they would keep His covenant He in turn would be their God (Exodus 19:4-6). Here God called Moses to the mountain top and revealed to him His laws and judgments. And here Moses inscribed these sacred statutes in the Book of the Covenant, the first portion of the holy Scriptures to be committed to writing, and then read them in the ears of all the people. And he took the Book of the Covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient (Exodus 24:7).
- The Covenant of Works
Adam, when God created him, was perfect (Gen. 1:31). He was created in God's image and given dominion over God's creatures (Gen. 1: 27-28 ) . Adam obeyed God instinctively, just as dogs bark instinctively and elephants trumpet and lions roar. But God was not satisfied with mere instinctive and automatic obedience on the part of man. From mankind God desires a conscious choice of that which is good, a deliberate dedication of the whole self to the will of God, a devotion which is based on faith in God's promises. For this reason therefore God entered into a Covenant of Works with Adam and his descendants, of whom he was the legal head and representative.
This Covenant of Works which God made with Adam and his posterity was negative in form. Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Gen. 2:17). But although the form of the commandment was negative, the intention of it was positive. In the Covenant of Works God required of our first parents perfect and entire obedience even in such a seemingly insignificant matter as the eating of the fruit of a tree. If they had complied with this condition, the Bible indicates that they would have been permitted to eat of the tree of life ( Gen. 3:22 ) and together with their descendants would have been confirmed in perpetual holiness. And in this happy state they would have fulfilled to perfection the God-given mandate to replenish the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). For it was God's will that Adam and his posterity should erect upon earth a sinless civilization and culture the splendor of which we cannot now have even the faintest conception, a civilization in which every gift of God would be used properly and to the fullest advantage and in which sin, suffering and death would be unknown.
But Adam violated the Covenant of Works, and hence all these pleasant prospects were blasted. By partaking of the forbidden fruit he brought upon himself and all mankind all these miseries which have been mentioned and also the liability to eternal punishment (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21).
- The Covenant of Grace
When God created Adam, He gave him dominion over the earth and assigned him the duty of subduing it and of cultivating its resources to his Creator's glory (Gen. 1:28). This divine command however, has never been fulfilled. Sinful men now exercise dominion in the earth not as the servants of God but as the thralls and minions of Satan, the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), by whose wiles their first father Adam was seduced into his first transgression.
But the sabotage and subversion of Satan could not thwart the plan and program of God. Even before He created the world God had provided the remedy for Adam's sin. In the eternal Covenant of Grace He had appointed Jesus Christ His Son to be the Second Adam who would do what the first Adam failed to do, namely, fulfill the broken Covenant of Works still binding on all mankind. The first man Adam was made a living soul: the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second Man is the Lord from heaven (1 Cor. 15:45, 47).
In the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus Christ frequently testifies that He came down from heaven to accomplish the task assigned to Him by God the Father in the eternal Covenant of Grace. I came down from heaven, He tells the unbelieving Jews, not to do Mine own will, hut the will of Him that sent Me (John 6:38). To accomplish this work of redemption was His delight. It nourished and sustained Him. My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work (John 4:34). Every moment of His earthly ministry our Saviour labored unremittingly in the performance of this divine duty. I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work (John 9:4). Only when He had finished the work which His Father had given Him to do, was He ready to lay down His life. I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gayest Me to do (John 17:4).
What then is that work which Christ, the Second Adam, came down from heaven to do? He came to save His people, to redeem those whom God the Father had given Him before the foundation of the world in the eternal Covenant of Grace. Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee: As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him (John 17:1-2). Those whom the Father has given to Christ in eternity shall be raised up in glory at the last day. This is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day (John 6 39). They can never be separated from the love of God in Christ. No man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand (John 10:29).
Does this mean that any sinner is excluded? No! Only those that exclude themselves by their own sin and unbelief. In the Gospel Jesus assures us that all those that come unto Him in faith shall be saved. All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37). It is the will of God the Father that all those that believe on His Son shall receive the gift of everlasting life and have a part in the blessed resurrection. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40). If we believe in Christ, then we know that we have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world and are safe forever in the shelter of His redeeming love. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand (John 10:27-28).
As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). Just as Adam represented his descendants in the Garden of Eden, so Christ, the Second Adam, represented His people throughout His whole life on earth and at Gethsemane and on the cross. During the whole course of His earthly ministry Jesus did what Adam didn't do. He perfectly obeyed the will of God. He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8). By His life of perfect obedience and by His sufferings and death Jesus completely fulfilled the requirements of the Covenant of Works and paid the penalty of its violation. Through His obedience Christ earned for His people the gift of righteousness and delivered them from the deadly consequences of Adam's sin. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous (Rom. 5:19). And it was on the grounds of His obedience also that Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, claimed for His people the reward of everlasting life with Him. Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).
All God's dealings with men, therefore, from the creation to the final judgment, are summed up and comprehended in these two covenants, the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. In the Scriptures the Covenant of Works is also called the Old Covenant because it was the first to be established in time. The Covenant of Grace, on the other hand, is often called the New Covenant because it was disclosed later and was not fully revealed until after the death and resurrection of Christ.
- The Old Testament—Emphasis on the Covenant of Works
The Bible, then is the Book of the Covenant. This has been its name from the beginning because in it God reveals Himself as a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. But there is another fact, a very familiar fact, which we must notice concerning the Bible. The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old Testament or Covenant and the New Testament or Covenant. (The Greek word diatheke can be translated either testament or covenant.) This two-fold division goes back to the Apostle Paul, who was the first to apply the name Old Testament to the ancient Hebrew Scriptures. The Jews, Paul said, read these Scriptures but did not understand them because of their unbelief. But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ (2 Cor. 3:14).
But why are the Hebrew Scriptures called the Old Testament? Because in them the emphasis is on the Covenant of Works. As we read through the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi, this fact cannot fail to attract our attention.
According to Genesis 2, the very first dealing which God had with Adam was the establishment of the Covenant of Works. Before God brought the animals to Adam to name and rule and before He created Eve to share in Adam's world-wide dominion, He first of all placed our common father in this solemn, covenantal relationship (Gen. 2:17). The Covenant of Works therefore casts its somber shadow over the books and chapters of the Old Testament, beginning almost with the very first page. The angels barred the guilty pair from Paradise in order that they might be ever mindful of their violation of this law (Gen. 3:24).
This also was God's purpose in giving the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, namely, to remind them once again that they all lay under the shadow of the broken Covenant of Works. The Law entered, Paul tells us, that the offence might abound (Rom. 5:20). God gave His people His holy Law in order that they might clearly understand that they were sinners and could not save themselves by their own good works. In this sense the Law of Moses was but a restatement and renewal of the original Covenant of Works made with Adam in the Garden of Eden. In this capacity the Law pronounced a curse on all those that violated any of its ordinances. Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this Law to do them (Deut. 27:26). And conversely in the Law God offered life only to those who kept all its provisions. Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and My judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD (Lev. 18:5).
In the history of Israel also this same emphasis is continued. Repeatedly the children of Israel turned aside from the Covenant which God made with them at Mount Sinai. Repeatedly God visited them with punishment at the hands of their heathen neighbors. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My Covenant which I made with their fathers. Therefore, thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto Me, I will not hearken unto them (Jer. 11:10-11). Through such chastisements the people of God were again reminded of the broken Covenant of Works.
But even in the Old Testament these dark shadows are penetrated by the light of God's grace. As soon as Adam and Eve had sinned, the provisions of the eternal Covenant of Grace were revealed to them in the proteangelium, the first preaching of the Gospel. God announced to Satan in their hearing, I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Gen. 3:15). Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, was to be born of woman and by His active and passive obedience to the will of God was to defeat the stratagems of Satan. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
Not only so but later God established the eternal Covenant of Grace on earth, in a preliminary way, with Abraham, "the father of the faithful." I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Gen. 12:3). In this way God preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham and foretold the calling of the gentiles and their justification by faith (Gal. 3:8). Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be (Gen. 15:5).
Still later the Old Testament prophets looked forward to the coming of the Messiah and the complete and final ratification of the eternal Covenant of Grace. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert (Isa. 35:5-6). Then God's Spirit shall be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28). Then there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness (Zech. 13:1). And these expectations were summed up by the prophet Jeremiah when he foretold the coming of the New Covenant. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD that I will make a new Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jer. 31:31, 33).
- The New Testament—Emphasis on the Eternal Covenant of Grace
The Christian Scriptures are called the New Testament. Why? Because in them the emphasis is on the New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah and the other ancient Hebrew prophets. The New Covenant is the eternal Covenant of Grace completely and finally established on earth and ratified by the shed blood and death of Jesus Christ, the Second Adam. For this reason the New Covenant is also called the New Testament. It is the last will and testament of Jesus Christ which became effective only after His death upon the cross. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth (Heb. 9:16-17).
This cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you (Luke 22:20). In this manner at the holy Supper the Lord Jesus Christ instructed His Apostles concerning His last will and testament. Its provisions, however, did not become clear to them until after their Lord's death and resurrection. These included the following benefits:
(1) Deliverance from the Covenant of Works. It was Christ's will that under the New Covenant His people should be delivered entirely from the shadow of the broken Covenant of Works, and this deliverance He began to accomplish as soon as the Last Supper was finished. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. And they came to a place called Gethsemane (Mark 14:26, 32). Here in the Garden of Gethsemane Christ the Second Adam did what the first Adam failed to do in the Garden of Eden. In agony, with supplication, Jesus overcame the temptations of Satan and the power of darkness. Then in His final act of obedience upon the cross our Saviour delivered us completely from the curse of the law of works. Christ hath redeemed us from tile curse of the Law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Gal. 3:13 ) .
(2) The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit. At the last Supper also Jesus announced a second benefit which the New Covenant would bring His people, namely, union with Himself. I am the vine, He told His Apostles, ye are the branches (John 15:5). This union became effective after His resurrection and ascension into heaven when at Pentecost He poured out the Holy Spirit upon His disciples. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear (Acts 2:33). So Peter describes the Holy Spirit's coming. And since Pentecost all true believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are united by Him in deathless bonds to Jesus Christ, the Second Adam. We, being many, are one body in Christ (Rom. 12:5). Hence Christians are and should be nothing else than a new race of holy men and women. The early Church was supremely conscious of this fact. "What the soul is in the body Christians are in the world." Diognetus
(3) The Calling of the Gentiles. It was Christ's will that the gentiles also should participate in the blessings of the New Covenant. Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring . . and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (John 10:16). The calling of the gentiles was an essential part of Christ's redemptive program. Hence after His resurrection He gave final expression to His divine purpose in the words of the "Great Commission." Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20).
At first, however, the disciples were perplexed as to how they should best obey this commandment of their risen and ascended Lord. Was it not through Abraham (Gen. 12:3) that all the families of the earth were to be blessed? Had not God promised to bestow His covenanted blessings upon Abraham and upon his seed? For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever (Gen. 13:15). And so would it not be best for the gentiles first to become Jews by being circumcised and then after this to become Christians by believing in Jesus? Would not this Judaizing type of evangelism be most pleasing to God? Would it not be most in line with the teaching of the Old Testament?
It was the Apostle Paul who solved this problem under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He pointed out to his fellow Christians that Christ was the seed of Abraham to which God was referring in Gen. 13:15. Now to Abraham and to his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ (Gal. 3:16). Hence the covenant which God made with Abraham was but an earthly manifestation of the eternal Covenant of Grace which God made with Jesus Christ His Son before the foundation of the world. The gentiles, therefore, need not be circumcised or become Jews in any fleshly way. If they believe in Christ and are united to Him by the Holy Spirit, then they are the spiritual children of Abraham. If ye be Christ's. then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:29). The unbelieving Jews, on the other hand, who reject Christ are covenant breakers. Like Ishmael and Esau they are children of Abraham after the flesh but not after the Spirit (Rom. 9:8, 12). Both Jews and gentiles must be justified by faith (Rom. 3:29-30). Both Jews and gentiles must be united in one body to Christ (Eph. 2:15).
- Future Provisions of the Covenant of Grace
When we come to consider the future provisions of the Covenant of Grace, we enter the region of unfulfilled prophecy, an area in which there is a measure of disagreement among Bible-believing Christians. In this brief summary therefore we shall seek to emphasize the points on which all Christians agree.
(1) The Evangelization of the World. Jesus tells us that before He comes again the Gospel must be preached to all nations. And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matt. 24 14). Jesus does not say that the whole world must be converted but rather that the whole world must be evangelized. All nations must hear the Gospel. With our modern means of communication, especially radio and television, the fulfillment of this condition in the near future is a distinct possibility even from a human point of view.
(2) The Conversion of the Jews. The evangelization of the world will be followed by the conversion of the Jews. Blindness in part, Paul tells us, is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in (Rom. 11:25). The Jews are like olive branches which have been broken off the olive tree through unbelief. In their place the gentiles, like wild olive branches, have been grafted in (Rom. 11:17). When the Jews are converted to Christ, they will be grafted back into their own olive tree (Rom. 11:24). The return of the Jews to Palestine seems undoubtedly to be the prelude to their promised conversion on a national scale.
(3) The Advent of the Antichrist. The last days shall also be marked by the advent of the antichrist. This event is predicted by the Apostle Paul. Before Christ comes again, he tells the Thessalonians, there shall first come a falling away in which the man of sin, the son of perdition, shall be revealed (2 Thess. 2:3). This antichrist shall be the personal and final embodiment of the evil tendencies which have been at work in the Church since the days of the Apostles (2 Thess. 2:7; 1 John 2:18). His power as a world ruler shall be both political and religious. Daniel depicts him from the political side (Dan. 11:41-45), Paul portrays him from the religious point of view (2 Thess. 2:4-10), and John presents both aspects of his abominable career (Rev. 13:1-17). His reign shall bring in the great tribulation but the period of his ascendancy shall be short (Matt. 24:21-22).
(4) Christ's Return, the Resurrection and Judgment. The Lord Jesus Christ shall come again from heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30) and destroy the antichrist (2 Thess. 2:8). This second coming of Christ shall be followed by the resurrection and judgment. For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself, and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:26-29). Resurrected believers will be caught up to meet the Lord as He comes, and believers who are living at the time of the Lord's return will be transformed and made partakers in this heavenly rapture (1Cor.15:50-55; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). This resurrection and rapture of the believers is the result of their union with Christ, the Second Adam (1 Cor. 15:22).
(5) The New Heaven and the New Earth. After the resurrection and judgment Christ's redemptive program shall culminate in the complete renewal of the universe. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea (Rev. 21:1). The way to the tree of life shall lie open to all in virtue of Christ's active obedience (Rev. 22:2, 14). And because of Christ's passive obedience the curse entailed by Adam's first transgression shall be removed (Rev. 22:3). Sorrow, and crying, and pain shall be no more (Rev. 21:4). The people of Christ shall see His face and bear His name and reign with Him for ever and ever (Rev. 22:3-5). Christ's Church, which is His body, shall abide throughout all ages in glorious union with her exalted Head (Eph. 5:23-27).
The Bible, therefore, is the Book of the Covenant. In it God reveals Himself as a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. The Covenant of Works which He made with Adam in Eden He fulfills in the eternal Covenant of Grace, in Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, in redeemed humanity, the members of Christ's body, and in the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21).
3. In The Gospel God Reveals Himself As The Triune Saviour God
The Bible is the key to the proper understanding of nature and of science. It provides us with the God-given eyeglasses which correct our faulty spiritual vision and enable us to see aright the revelation which God makes of Himself in the world which He has created. And the Bible is also the key to the proper understanding of human history. It is the Book of the Covenant which teaches us God's ways with men. In it God reveals Himself as a covenant-making, covenantkeeping God. But this is not all that must be said concerning the Bible. For the Bible is, above all, the Gospel. The Bible is a message from the spiritual world. The Bible is good news from God. In this Gospel Christ reveals Himself as Prophet, Priest, and King. In this message God reveals Himself in Christ as the triune Saviour God.
(a) In the Gospel Christ Reveals Himself as Prophet
A message requires a messenger to deliver it. Christ is this Messenger. He is the Angel of the Covenant (Mal. 3:1), the Supreme Prophet whose coming was foretold by Moses long before. The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken (Deut. 18:15). And as Prophet Jesus invites and warns.
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters (Isa. 55:1). In the Gospel Christ takes up this theme of the ancient prophet, inviting sinners to Himself that they may partake of the water of life freely. If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink (John 7:37). In His parables He summons them to joy and everlasting gladness. My oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage (Matt 22:4). In His witnessing and public preaching He gently calls them to eternal peace and quietude. Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation (Heb. 2:3)? As a faithful Prophet Jesus warns us that we shall not escape. In severest terms He made this plain to the Pharisees who rejected Him. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell (Matt. 23:33)? Those that hate the light and choose darkness must perish in the darkness. He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:18-19).
"How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet? Christ executeth the office of a prophet in revealing to us by His word and Spirit the will of God for our salvation." (Shorter Catechism)
(b) In the Gospel Christ Reveals Himself as Priest
At Mount Sinai God ordained Aaron and his sons to the priesthood for the special purpose of offering up sacrifices to atone for the sins of His chosen people Israel. Each of the various priestly sacrifices symbolized some aspect of the atoning death of Christ. For example! the law of Moses provided that before the offerer slew his sacrificial animal he should place his hand upon its head (Lev. 4:29). This was an act of faith by which the offerer indicated that he was presenting the animal as his substitute to bear the punishment which his sin deserved. So also the blood of the Passover lamb, which saved them from the angel of death (Exodus 12:3-30), was prophetic of the blood of Christ which would save them from the just wrath of God. And, above all the blood of the bullock and the goat, which each year on the day of atonement was sprinkled upon the mercy seat of the ark (Lev. 16:14-15), was typical of the poured-out blood of Jesus, which fully satisfies God's justice and thus provides the basis for His forgiveness.
In the Gospel Christ reveals Himself as the great High Priest who has offered up Himself a sacrifice for believers upon the cross and is now making intercession for them at the throne of God. Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25). As High Priest also He urges sinners to come unto Him. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). And since Christ is our High Priest, we have no more need of an earthly priesthood. Every believer is a priest unto God through Christ. Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9). Every believer has access to God through Christ, the great High Priest. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1-2).
"Christ therefore in very deed is a lover of those who are in trouble or anguish, in sin and death, and such a lover as gave Himself for us; who is also our High Priest, that is to say, a Mediator between God and us miserable and wretched sinners. What could be said, I pray you, more sweet and comfortable than this?" (Martin Luther) (64)
(c) In the Gospel Christ Reveals Himself as King
In the Gospel the Lord Jesus Christ reveals Himself not only as a Prophet and a Priest but also as a King. Jesus Christ was born a King. The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1). Such is the beginning of Matthew's Gospel. Jesus was of the kingly line of David, the legal heir to David's messianic throne. He is David's greater Son. At the very outset of His earthly ministry He announced the coming of the Kingdom. The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15). He was condemned to death as one who claimed royal dignity (Luke 23:2) and on this account was mocked and spat upon (Matt. 27:29-30). And when He was crucified, this superscription was placed above Him, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS (John 19:19).
Christ's kingdom is, in the first place, a kingdom of power. After He rose from the dead, He entered into full possession of this aspect of His royal dominion. This we know from His parting words to His Apostles. All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth (Matt. 28:18). And this glad assurance is echoed by the Apostle Paul, who speaks as follows of the risen and exalted Christ: Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11). In His kingdom of power, therefore, Christ is reigning as the Second Adam, bruising Satan's head under His heel (Gen. 3:15) and conquering all His foes, including finally even death itself. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:25-26).
In the second place, Christ's kingdom is a kingdom of grace. The kingdom of heaven, Jesus says, is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding (Matt. 22:2-3). Three things, Jesus tells us, are required of those who would accept this gracious invitation and enter into the heavenly kingdom. First, they must be born again. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5). Second, they must hear the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19) and understand it. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty (Matt. 13:23). Third, they must be converted. Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3).
Hence the Gospel is often called the Gospel of the kingdom because by it Christ calls His people into His kingdom of grace. This is the Gospel which Jesus Himself preached during the days of His earthly ministry. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15). This is the Gospel which was preached by Christ's Apostles. The Samaritans, we are told, were baptized when they believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). This was the Gospel which was preached by Paul at Rome. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no man forbidding him (Acts 28:30-31). And this is the Gospel which shall be preached throughout the whole world before the end of this present age. And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matt. 24:14).
Christ must reign, Christ must conquer! And with the coming of Christ's final victory God's program for the world shall have been completed. Then Christ shall give back His kingdom of power and of grace to God the Father, since the purpose for which it exists shall have been accomplished. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24, 28). Then when all is finished, Christ's kingdom shall assume its third and final form, namely that of everlasting glory. Jesus Christ the Son of God shall sit down upon His divine throne and with the Father and the Holy Ghost shall reign throughout eternity as the triune Saviour God.
Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever (Rev. 5:13). Jesus Christ! King of power! King of grace! King of glory! The triune Saviour God!
"O victorious, O royal, O strong, princely soul-Conqueror, ride prosperously upon truth: stretch out Thy sceptre as far as the sun shines, and the moon waxeth! Put on Thy glittering crown, O Thou Maker of kings, and make but one stride, or one step of the whole earth, and travel in the greatness of Thy strength." (Samuel Rutherford) (65)