- Published: 14 April 2011
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A believer wrote:
Even before the overthrow? What does it mean? I remember a verse in the bible that says:
Before me there was no God.
implying that there was a time before God. I do not know about other translations.
God bless your beautiful heart and thank you for writing. There was a world that was and perished or was overthrown - 2 Peter 3:6. If there was no world that perished then the following Scripture could not be true:
Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Here is why:
There is something unique in Ephesians 1:4, that when once perceived, makes the calling of the Church of the One Body, completely separate from that of any other company spoken of in the Scriptures. The peculiarity of this calling does not rest on the word foundation whatever that word shall ultimately prove to be, it rests on the word before, this is the unique feature.
All other callings are related to a choice and a purpose that is dated from or since the foundation of the world, this calling of Ephesians alone, is related to a choice and a purpose that goes back before that era. As a certain amount of doctrine must be built upon these two prepositions before and from, some acquaintance with them seems called for.
Pro before is a preposition that indicates time, place or preference.
- Before in respect of place:
- The Judge standeth before the door (Jas. 5:9).
- Before in respect of time:
- Judge nothing before the time (1 Cor. 4:5).
- Before in respect of preference:
- He is before all things (Col. 1:17).
- From that time Jesus began to preach (Matt. 4:17).
- From two years old and under (Matt. 2:16).
- From the beginning of the world (Eph. 3:9).
- With reference to the use of parables, in speaking of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven: 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 (Matt. 13:35).
- With reference to the separation of the nations at the second coming of Christ: 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 (Matt. 25:34).
- With reference to the character of those who killed the prophets sent to them: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation (Luke 11:50).
- With reference to the typical character of the Sabbath: As I have sworn in My wrath, if they shall enter into My rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world (Heb. 4:3).
- With reference to the character of the offering of Christ: Nor yet that He should offer Himself often ... for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world (Heb. 9:25,26).
- Every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain (Rev. 13:8, R.V. margin). They whose name hath not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world (Rev. 17:8, R.V.).
- With reference to Christ alone:
- Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).
- As of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:19,20).
- With reference to the Redeemed:
- Chosen us In Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
Our thoughts naturally turn to such passages as Job 38:4 and Isaiah 48:13 where the Lord speaks of laying the foundation of the earth. Now, happily, we have a New Testament quotation in Hebrews 1:10, where the word foundation is expressed by the word themelion, but when we turn to any of the passages where the words before or from the foundation of the world occur, themelion is not found, but instead the word katabole is employed. It is impossible to argue, that Paul for some peculiar reason would not and did not employ the word themelion, for it occurs as the translation of the foundation of a temple in Ephesians 2:20, the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and again in 1 Corinthians 3:10 and 2 Timothy 2:19. There must be, therefore, some good reason for choosing so different a word as katabole.
This word has entered into our own language as a biological term - metabolism, being the name given to the process in an organism or a living cell, by which nutritive material is built up into living matter, and this process is divided into (1) constructive metabolism, which is called anabolism, by which protoplasm is broken down into simpler substances to perform special functions; and (2) destructive metabolism, which is called katabolism. In its biological use, katabole indicates destruction.
It is strange, if the word means to place upon a foundation, that it should have been adopted by scientists to indicate disruption. The verb kataballo is used three times in the New Testament.
- Cast down, but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:9), and
- The accuser of our brethren is cast down (Rev. 12:10),
Examples can be adduced to show that in some passages of classical Greek, the words katabole and kataballo approximate to the translation of the A.V. and speak of laying a foundation, but there are many references that can be brought forward to prove exactly the opposite sense. Liddle and Scott in their Lexicon give in explanation of kataballo to throw down, cast down, overthrow, lay down, to strike down, kill, to bring down to nothing, to let fall, drop down, to cast off, reject, neglect, abandon and only in the middle voice are examples given of laying down a foundation. So under katabole, the meaning is divided between laying foundations and paying down instalments, and periodical attacks of illness and generally any disease, a cataract in the eye. It will be seen that classical usage points in two ways, but with the preponderant weight in favour of the translation overthrow.
The Septuagint version knows no such diversity. This version comes down solid for the translation overthrow and uses the verbal form of themelion (foundation, Eph. 2:20) when it wishes to speak of laying a foundation, see for example Joshua 6:26, 2 Chronicles 8:16 and Job 38:4. If the apostle wished to speak of laying a foundation he had this word themelioo right to hand. In Ephesians 1:4, he evidently did not wish to speak of laying a foundation, and so chose by divine inspiration a word that consistently means in the Septuagint overthrow. It should be remembered, moreover, that there is no word for foundation in Ephesian s 1:4 apart from katabole, the word under review.
It is possible to dig out from the writings of antiquity examples that go to prove that katabole and kataballo are employed to mean to lay a foundation, and similar examples can be found of most important words. When, however, the believer learns that the Septuagint consistently uses kataballo to mean overthrow and employs themelioo to mean lay a foundation the matter is settled. If the apostle, when writing to the Ephesians, introduced a word with a new meaning from that which had been associated with it in the sacred books of the Jews for over two centuries, then it would have been necessary for him to have warned his readers of the change.
With these prefatory remarks, the reader is invited to consider the scriptural meaning of the words of the apostle translated in the A.V., before the foundation of the world.
Kataballo occurs some thirty times in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament Scriptures. It will strengthen the faith of many, and deepen the conviction of most, if these references which contain the word kataballo are quoted, but to avoid occupying a disproportionate amount of space, verses will not be given in full. We will also quote from the A.V. instead of giving translations of the LXX version, except in those cases where the LXX has an entirely different text. Those who have access to the LXX will not be hindered, and those who cannot refer to it will be helped.
2 Samuel 20:15.
(LXX 2 Kings.) Joab battered the wall, to throw it down'.
2 Kings 3:19,25.
(LXX 4 Kings.) Ye (they) shall fell (felled) every good tree'.
2 Kings 6:5.
(LXX 4 Kings.) As one was felling a beam'.
2 Kings 19:7.
(LXX 4 Kings.) I will cause him to fall by the sword'.
2 Chron. 32:21.
They ... slew him there with the sword'.
Behold, He breaketh down, and it cannot be built again'.
He teareth me in His wrath'.
He breaketh me with breach upon breach'.
(LXX 36.) To cast down the poor and needy'.
(LXX 72.) Thou castedst them down into destruction'.
(LXX 105.) To overthrow them in the wilderness'.
She hath cast down many wounded'.
(LXX 8.) A fool's mouth is his destruction'.
Like a city that is broken down, and without walls'.
Esebon and Eleale have cast down thy trees' (LXX translation).
The lofty city, He layeth it low'.
I will cause them to fall ... before their enemies.
I will cast down your slain men before your idols.
Thy remnant shall fall by the sword.
They shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers.
He shall cast down with his swords (LXX translation).
He shall cast down thy walls (LXX translation).
I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness.
I will cause the sword to fall out of his hand.
Have cast him down upon the mountains (LXX translation).
Will I cause thy multitude to fall.
Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel.
He shall cast down many ten thousands.
This is rather a formidable list, and the verification of each reference is no light task, yet we believe it is impossible for any reader not to be impressed with the solidarity of its witness. Every single reference is for the translation overthrow, not one is for the translation found in the A.V. of Ephesians 1:4. This, however, is not all. If each reference be read in its context, the references will be found to be those of battle, of siege, of destruction, of judgment, which tilt the beam of the balances still further. If still further we discover what Hebrew words have been translated by kataballo in the LXX our evidence will be complete. These we will supply, for the benefit of any who may not have the facilities to discover them.
To cast down, to fall (LXX ref. 2 Sam. 20:15 and sixteen other references).
To crush (LXX ref. Job. 12:14; Ezek. 26:4,12).
To mar, corrupt or destroy (LXX ref. Ezek. 26:4).
To leave, spread out (LXX ref. Ezek. 29:5; 31:12).
To break down (LXX ref. Ezek. 26:9).
To break forth. (LXX ref. Job 16:14).
To tear (LXX ref. Job 16:9).
Not a solitary Hebrew word is here that means to build, to lay a foundation, to erect, but a variety of words all meaning destruction, spoiling, causing to fall. This is proof positive, no reasoning is necessary except the most elementary recognition of fact when it is presented. From every point of view, the word katabole in Ephesians 1:4 should be translated overthrow. The Church of the one Body consequently is blessed with peculiar blessings, these blessings are to be enjoyed in a peculiar sphere, and now we learn, they are according to a purpose made and to a peculiar period.
Without a careful study of the Scripture we would fail to divide those things that God has made the same from those that differ and miss His True Blessings that He has bestowed upon us. When we teach His Word without careful examination of the words in the Word we will fail in our responsibility to help others by rightly dividing what He has told us of creation and the spheres of blessings He has placed therein.
Next, let us look at if the creation spoken of in Genesis was just physical.
Shamayim. This Hebrew word is the one that is translated "heaven" or "heavens" in the O.T. except in those portions where the Chaldee equivalent shemayin is used (Ezra, Daniel and Jer. 10:11). The Hebrew shamayim occurs in the O.T. 419 times, of these, twenty-one occurrences are translated "air", as in Genesis 1:26. In the N.T. only one word, ouranos, is translated "heaven". This Greek word occurs over 280 times, of which "air" accounts for ten occurrences and "sky" for five. "The name 'heaven' in our own language has been explained, according to its etymology, that which is heaved or lifted up, and a similar origin has been assigned to the Greek ouranos, and the Hebrew shamayim" (Imp. Bib. Dic.). The nature of the temporary "heaven" stretched out like a tent over the earth during the ages of Redemption. In this article we deal with heaven itself. Whether the translation reads "heaven" or "heavens", the word is always plural in the original. This no more indicates a plurality of "heavens" than the plural Elohim "God" indicates a plurality of Gods. There is a use of the plural in the Hebrew language known as "The Plural of Majesty" as, for example, "the sacrifices of God" in Psalm 51:17, which means "the great sacrifice".
Creation is divided into two parts, "heaven and earth" (Gen. 1:1), which in Colossians 1:16 is expanded to mean "all things visible and invisible", and the term "heaven" may include thrones, dominions, principalities and powers, as well as physical sun, moon and stars. Heaven is often used as a symbol of authority, for example, when Nebuchadnezzar learned "that the heavens do rule" (Dan. 4:26). The superiority of the heavens to the earth is expressed in the words "on high" (Luke 1:78, Heb. 1:3), "height" (Isa. 7:11, Psa. 148:1, Provo 25:3). It is possible that, after Genesis 1:1, there are but nine or ten references to "heaven itself", i.e. the heaven of Genesis 1:1, in the whole of the O.T. This can be put to the test by reading the book of Genesis, and noting every allusion to "heaven". We" read of the waters that are under heaven, lights in the firmament of heaven, fowl that fly in the "air", the windows of heaven opened at the deluge, Abraham directed to look toward heaven, to the countless number of the stars, but no passage demands that the term "heaven" should be interpreted of the heaven of Genesis 1:1. We cannot print here the 419 references to heaven, but we can print the nine or ten references that look beyond the present limited firmament.
- "Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's thy God" (Deut. 10:14).
Even when we bring these passages forward, they only emphasize the fact that "the heaven" of the O.T. was the "firmament" of Genesis 1:8, stretched out like a curtain or a tent for God to dwell in (Isa. 40:22), and any reference in Psalm or Prophecy that speaks of heaven as God's "dwelling place" refers to this tabernacle formed by the firmament. When we open the N.T. it is pardonable if we there expect to find a great advance upon this limitation of the term "heaven". Twelve times do we read in Matthew of the "Father which is in heaven", but we also read that the heavens were opened at the baptism of the Lord, that the heavens are to pass away, and unless it is a matter beyond dispute that "angels" inhabit the heaven of heavens, we shall find no instance in the gospel of Matthew of a reference to any other "heaven" than the firmament of Genesis 1:8.
We have to wait until we reach the gospel of John for any explicit reference to the highest heavens, and there the Saviour speaks of ascending up to heaven to where He was before (John 3:13, 6:62), to the glory that He had "before the world was" (John 17:5). In these few references is contained practically all that is said of the "heavens" of Genesis 1:1 in the four gospels. The only calling and company, hope and sphere of blessing, that pierces the present firmament above us and ascends to where Christ sits at the right hand of God, is the Church of the Mystery. Christ is set forth, in Ephesians 4:10, as having ascended "far above all heavens" yet revealed as seated at the right hand of God "in the heavenly places". These heavenly places therefore must be above the limitations of the outstretched heavens. This is not invalidated by the fact that the selfsame sphere is called in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians "heaven", for we must not allow ourselves to rob "heaven itself" of its true title, simply because we have used it so often of the limited firmament. In connexion with this same calling Christ can be said to be both "far above all the heavens" yet "in heaven" at the right hand of God.
There are eleven references to "heaven" in the epistle to the Hebrews, one only speaks of "heaven itself", the others refer to the lesser and lower heavens. For the heavens created as recorded in Hebrews 1:10 are to "perish", but this can never be said of "heaven itself", Christ is said to have "passed through the heavens", dierchomai (Heb. 4:14), and as being made "higher than the heavens" (Heb. 7:26), without involving any contradiction in the saying that He Who passed through the heavens and was made higher than the heavens, was at the selfsame time depicted as entering "heaven itself" (Heb. 9:24). The contradiction only exists in our minds if we fail to distinguish the heaven of the beginning, Genesis 1:1 from the heaven of the ages, Genesis 1:8. The only references to the heavens of Genesis 1:1 that are found in the remainder of the N.T. are those of Peter and of the Revelation, which speak of a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1).
The new heavens and the new earth spoken of by Isaiah are related to Jerusalem (Isa. 65:17,18). Where we read in Revelation twenty-one of a "first heaven" and a "first earth" the word translated "first", protos, is rendered in verse 4 "the former things", and we should possibly translate Revelation 21: 1 "the former heaven and the former earth", the reference to "no more sea" being an evident allusion to Genesis 1:2. In connection with the subject before us, let us turn to the words of Paul as found in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. In direct connection with the visions and revelations which he had received he refers to an extraordinary experience. Whether he was "in the body or whether out of the body" he could not tell, but he did know that he had been caught up to the third heaven . . . caught up into paradise.
First, we must be clear as to the meaning of the term "caught up". The word "up" in this passage has no equivalent in the Greek, and to attempt to make it have any bearing upon the subject betrays as much ignorance of the original as would be betrayed by anyone seeking to extract the idea of direction upward, from such idiomatic phrases of the English language as "shut up", "wash up", "lock up" and the like. We can omit the word "up", for the Greek word arpazo is translated "take by force", "catch away", "pluck", "caught away" and "pull". The phrase "in the body" translates en somati, which is very like the phrase en pneumati "in spirit" used of the occasion when John was translated to the Day of the Lord (Rev. 1:10). The closest parallel is that of the experience of Philip, who was "caught away" by the spirit of the Lord, and was "found at Azotus", some miles away.
It is evident that the third heaven to which Paul was caught away was Paradise, otherwise his reiteration would need a deal of explanation. Paradise has been located in different regions by different teachers, mainly in accord with their peculiar beliefs concerning the intermediate state. Ir we keep close to the Scriptural meaning of Paradise we shall know that it is derived from the Hebrew pardes (Neh. 2:8, Song of Sol. 4:13) and means "a garden or orchard", and when we meet the word in the book of Revelation, it has no connection whatever with an intermediate state but is still a garden and orchard, it is indeed the garden of Eden restored and extended.
In what way, we may ask, can this Paradise at the end of the age be in any way related to the "third" heaven? If we count the third heaven as being like the third story of a building, it will certainly appear incongruous. But Revelation twenty-one has already spoken of "a new earth" and a "former earth", consequently it would be true to say, even as Peter in 2 Peter three has indicated, that there was a first heaven, in the beginning (Gen. 1:1); a second heaven, at the making of the earth ready for man (Gen. 1:8); a third heaven, at the end when redemption shall be finished (Rev. 21:1). It was to this "heaven" and this "paradise" that Paul was caught away, and as he stresses more than any other writer in the N.T. the blessings of the New Creation, it is quite understandable that this great goal of the ages, should be associated by him with the visions and revelation he had received in connection with his apostleship.
The great lesson that forces itself upon our attention, however, is the fact that, apart from Paul's ministry, and especially his prison ministry , there is scarcely any reference in the Scriptures, either Old or New, to the heaven of Genesis 1:1. The hope of the Mystery alone pierces the intervening firmament and places the believer "far above all" even where Christ sits at the right hand of God. We must now go on to the consideration of the special term "heavenly places", but to this we will devote separate studies.
All Gods Blessings,