The Foundation of the World (Part 1)

A. Leckie, Airdrie

Part 1 of 2 of the series The Foundation of the World

The word translated "foundation" in the expression "the foundation of the world" occurs eleven times in the NT, Apart from Hebrews 11. 11, where it is translated "conception", it is only used to denote the founding (lit. the casting down) of the world. The ten references to the foundation of the world are divided into two distinct categories. The first category concerns the expression "from the foundation of the world", and the second the expression "before the foundation of the world". These two expressions must not be confused.

The words "from the foundation of the world" are used in a variety of contexts, (i) Hebrews 4 emphasises that God's works in creation have been completed "from the foundation of the world", v. 3. (ii) Hebrews 9 tells us that Christ's once-for-all sacrifice at "the consummation of the ages" (cf. 1 Cor. 10. 11} is in contrast to Israel’s high priest entering every year into the worldly sanctuary with the blood of others, v. 25. Had the Lord Jesus been required to offer Himself repeatedly, the writer argues, then He would have needed to suffer repeatedly "from the foundation of the world", v. 26. (in) Matthew refers to an O.T. prophecy (Psa. 78. 2} as having received a fulfilment in Jesus' parabolic teaching, Malt. 13. 34-35. Matthew quotes the prophet as having said, "I will utter things hidden from the world's foundation", (iv) The Lord Jesus said, "that the blood of all the prophets which has been poured out from the foundation of the world" (spanning the period from Abel to Zacharias) would be required of the generation to which He spoke, Luke 11. 50-51- (v) Matthew 25. 31-46 makes it clear that the destiny of the nations after the church's rapture will be determined by their treatment of the King's "brethren", the remnant of Israel. Those to be blessed are summoned to "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the world's foundation", v. 34, in contrast to those who are consigned to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, v. 41. (vi and vii) The book of the Revelation speaks of those who will wonder at and worship the beast. Of them it is said that their names were not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life, Rev. 13. 8; 17. 8. Compare the usage of "from the beginning of the world". Matt. 24. 21 , "from the beginning of creation", Mark 10. 6; 13. 19: 2 Pet. 3- 4; "since the world (time) began", Luke 1. 70 : Acts 3. 21 ; 15.18 (Greek); "since time was", John 9. 32, and "from the world's creation", Rom. 1. 20.

It must therefore be understood that the expression "from the foun­dation of the world" is used in con­nection with the human timetable, God's dealings with the earth and in particular with the nation of Israel.

The phrase "before the foundation of the world" occurs only three times in the NT. Twice it is used of the Lord Jesus and once of the church, (i) The Son of God said to the Father, "Thou lovedst me before the founda­tion of the world", John 17, 24. See too His reference to the glory He had along with the Father "before the world was", v. 5. (N) Peter spoke of Christ as a lamb without blemish and without spot, who was foreknown (cf. Acts 2. 23) "before the foundation of the world", 1 Pet- 1. 20, (iii) Paul referred to believers of the present dispensation as chosen in Christ "before the world's foundation", Eph. t. 4. At a later date he wrote concerning "the ages of time", before which eternal life was promised and God's purpose and grace were given to us in Christ, 2 Tim. 1,9; Titus 1. 2, The church is therefore an eternal thought, conceived in the heart of God before time. The founding of the world and God's dealings with men are but stepping stones in the accom­plishment of His purpose to introduce the church as the masterpiece of divine wisdom. Paul teaches that, when God created all things, He was erecting a stage upon which He would introduce the church, and display in it now to the principalities and auth­orities in the heavenlies "the all-various wisdom of God", Eph, 3. 9-11 Human failure has marked each of "the ages of time" of which Paul wrote, but God has nevertheless made each of them to serve His purpose. The age of Innocence ended with the fall of man, but God promised a Saviour in "the seed of the woman", Gen. 3. 1 5. The age of Conscience ended with the flood, but God saved Noah and his family that the promised seed might be preserved. The age of Govern­ment was marked by the introduction of idolatry, but God called Abram out of it and made him the depository of His promises. The age of Promise ended in the bondage of Egypt, but God wrought deliverance by blood and water. The age of Law, that related particularly to God's dealings with Israel as a nation, ended in the crucifixion of Christ, in which both Jew and Gentile were involved. The cross was the conclusive proof of this world's sin and hatred of God. In the crucifixion of God's Son both Jew and Gentile stand condemned: they are no longer on trial. Of His forthcoming death, Jesus said, "Now is the judgment of this world", John 1 2. 31. God has, however, used the very occasion of man's condem­nation to procure salvation for both Jew and Gentile! The result is that angelic beings not only witness appar­ent defeats through the ages as serving God's purpose, but they wit­ness in the church today the all-various wisdom of God ; that is. that Jew and Gentile are joint heirs, a joint body and joint partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus, Eph. 3. 6, 10-11. Here is something new. The church is certainly not a mere extension of God's dealings with Israel.