- Published: 12 August 2011
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Of all the terms used in dispensational truth, the Pleroma by its very nature and meaning is surely one of the most comprehensive. Accordingly, we are setting ourselves no restrictions on space in this study, and have presented it in two parts along with a illustration. We commend this theme to every lover of the Word, and particularly to those who have the responsibility of teaching others.
(1) INTRODUCTION AND CHART
THE problem of the ages is the problem of the presence of evil and the apparent necessity for suffering and often an accompanying feeling of frustration. Men like Job and books like Ecclesiastes, ventilate this feeling, but the consciousness of redeeming love, enables the believer to trust where he cannot trace. The present study is set forth with an intense desire, to borrow the words of Milton "to justify the ways of God with men", to show that there is a most gracious purpose in process, and that there are indications of that purpose in sufficient clarity to enable the tried believer to say with Job "when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold".
In the present study, we commence with the primary creation of Genesis 1:1 which is followed by the "rent" or gap of Genesis 1:2 and then the reconstruction of the earth and will conclude with the creation of the new heavens and new earth of Revelation twenty-one, which, according to Peter, is ushered in by a convulsion of nature similar to the condition described as "without form and void" at the beginning.
By observing the parallel between the words of Ephesians 1:4 and 2 Timothy 1:9 we are able to show that "the ages" commence with the reconstruction of the earth in Genesis 1:3. What follows is a series of "fillings" in the persons of men like Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Nebuchadnezzar, with the administrations associated with them, but all such are provisional, failing and typical only, and they carry the unfolding purpose on to "the fulness of time" when "the Seed should come to Whom the promises were made". Adam was but a "filling", he was not "the fulness", that title belongs only to The Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The only company of the redeemed who are themselves called "the fulness" is the Church of the Mystery, the church of "heavenly places", the church which is most closely associated with the seated Christ.
Two words found in Matthew 9:16 must ever be kept together in the course of this study, they are the words "fulness", and "fuller". We shall see presently that God is preparing during the ages, as it were a piece of "fulled" cloth, so that at last there may be a perfected universe, the "rent" of Genesis 1:2 healed, and "God all in all". Fulling involves several processes, most of them drastic and rigorous.
Nitre (or soda), soap, scouring, bleaching and fluffing, processes at length make the shrunken cloth "as white as snow" (Mark 9:3). We can say, therefore, concerning the problem of the purpose of the ages "no fulness without fulling". We do most earnestly desire that consummation, when the Son of God shall deliver up to the Father a perfected Kingdom with every vestige of the "rent" of Genesis 1:2 entirely gone. We do most ardently desire to be found in that day, as part of that blessed pleroma or fulness, but we must remember that every thread that goes to make the "filling" will have passed through the "fuller's" hands, "fulled under foot" must precede being "far above all".
At the beginning of this volume the reader will find a chart, which endeavors to set forth the way in which the Divine purpose of the Fulness is accomplished. At either end of the chart stand "the beginning" and "the end", the black division that immediately follows the former representing the catastrophe of Genesis 1:2, "without form or void"; the black division that immediately precedes the consummation represents the corresponding state of dissolution indicated in Isaiah 34:4 and 2 Peter three leading up to 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. Running along the bottom of the chart is "the deep" that was the vehicle of judgment in Genesis 1:2 and that which is to pass away at the end, for John says, "and there was no more sea" (Rev. 21:1). By comparing Ephesians 1:4, "before the foundation of the world" with 2 Timothy 1:8-9, "before the world began (literally, before age times)" we have the start and the finish of the ages indicated.
What follows is a series of "fillings" rather than a fulness. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Nebuchadnezzar are but "stop-gaps", types and shadows, pointing on. The fulness of time (Gal. 4:4) did not come until 4,000 years after Adam and the fulness of the times (seasons) will not come until the day which is about to dawn ushers in the glory that will be revealed, when all things in heaven and on earth will be gathered together under the Headship of Christ.
Not until we reach the dispensation of the Mystery do we come to any company of the redeemed which constitute a "fulness", and there we read of the Church which is His Body, "the FULNESS of Him, that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23). The fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ, and the heavenly places, far above all, with which both the seated Christ, and His Church are associated, is a sphere untouched by the catastrophe of Genesis 1:2. Those heavenly places are where Christ sits far above all heavens (Eph. 4:10), that is, far above the temporary heaven called "the firmament" which is likened to a spread-out curtain. This "tabernacle", characteristic of the Adamic earth, is of extreme importance; it places the whole purpose of the ages under a redeeming Royal Sovereign.
As this study proceeds, we shall turn aside to consider various themes that bear upon the main subject, but unless that main subject is consistently held before the mind, we may sometimes "not see the wood for the trees". A reference back to the chart at the commencement of each section might be wise, and should enable the reader to see at the beginning the course we follow, we conclude this introduction with a general survey of the articles that follow:
(2) Some lessons taught by the parable of the "patch" with an answer to the question "are there gaps in the outworking of the "divine purpose?"
(3) Creation, its place in "the purpose", in which the meaning of the words "in (the) beginning" are considered.
(4) The first "gap". "Without form and void".
(5) The present creation, a tabernacle.
(6) The testimony of Peter to the days of Noah. This is a new approach to a matter of importance involving the true intention of 2 Peter three.
(7) Paradise lost and restored.
(8) The filling up of the nations (Genesis 48:19).
(9) The fulness of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25).
(10) The title "Head", and its relation to the "Fulness".
(11) The fulness of the seasons.
(12) All the fulness of God.
(13) All the fulness of the Godhead. Bodily-wise
(2) SOME LESSONS TAUGHT BY THE PARABLE OF THE "PATCH"
For our purposes of discussion we trust the principle of Right Division needs neither introduction nor commendation. Its recognition underlies every true study of the Scripture and determines both the Gospel we preach, the Church to which we belong, and the Hope that is before us. Dispensational Truth is not confined to one aspect or phase of the Divine purpose, for every dealing of God with man, whether under law or grace, whether with saint or sinner, has its own dispensational coloring which is inherent to its teaching and is in no wise accidental. The particular application of this principle, now before us, focuses the reader's attention upon one thing, namely, that while in the mind of God the whole purpose of the ages is seen as one and its end assured, in the outworking of that purpose. The fact that moral creatures are involved, creatures that can and alas do exercise their liberty to disobey as well as to obey the revealed will of God, has had an effect upon the manifest unfolding of the purpose of the ages.
This is seen as a series of "gaps" and "postponements" which are filled by new phases and aspects of the purpose until at length He Who was once "All" in a universe that mechanically and unconsciously obeyed, will at length be "All in all" in a universe of willing and intelligent creatures, whose standing will not be that of Creation and Nature, but in Redemption and Grace.
In this section we can do little else than indicate the presence of these "gaps" and consider the terms that are employed in the Hebrew of the O.T. and the Greek of the N.T. and of the LXX (Septuagint). The well-known example of the Saviour's recognition of a "gap" in the prophecy of Isaiah sixty-one must be repeated for the sake of completeness and for the value of its endorsement.
We learn from the fourth chapter of Luke's Gospel, that the Lord attended the service at the Synagogue at Nazareth, and apparently, after the reading of the law by the official reader of the Synagogue, He stood up "for to read" the Haphtorah, or the recognized portion from "the Prophets" that was appointed for the day. He found the place, and commenced to read from Isaiah sixty-one. Now it is laid down by Maimonides that:
"He that reads in the prophets, was to read at least one and twenty verses" ,
but he allowed that if "the sense" be finished in less, the reader was under no necessity to read so many. Even so, it must have caused a deal of surprise to the congregation then gathered, for Christ to read but one verse and one sentence of the second verse, shut the book, and sit down. He did so because "the sense" was indeed finished in less than twenty-one verses. He was about to focus attention upon one aspect of His work, and said:
"This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21).
The sentence with which the Saviour closed His reading of Isaiah sixty-one was "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord". The next sentence, separated in the A.V. by but a comma reads "and the day of vengeance of our God" yet that comma represents a "gap" of at least nineteen hundred years, for the days of vengeance are not referred to until in Luke 21:22 when the Second Coming and the end of the age is at hand.
The recognition of some such gap is important when reading passages like 1 Peter 1:11, or the quotation of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts two. Peter, who was a minister of the circumcision, refers to the testimony of the prophets, as though "the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow" had no interval of centuries between them. The outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost is linked with the blood and fire and vapor of smoke that usher in the great and notable day of the Lord, even though Pentecost took place nineteen hundred years ago and the day of the Lord has not yet come.
We shall discover that the whole purpose of the ages is a series of "gaps" each filled by a succeeding dispensation, which in its turn lapses, until the central dispensation, that of the Mystery, is reached, which, though it has had a central period of darkness and ignorance yet is not succeeded by any other, as the other dispensations have been. All that follow the Mystery are resumptions of the dispensations which had come to a temporary halt.
This peculiar and central dispensation is occupied by the Church, which alone of all companies of the redeemed is called "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23).
The word translated fulness is the Greek pleroma, and its first occurrence in the N.T. places it in contrast with a "rent" or a "gap". The two references are:
"No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse" (Matt. 9:16).
"No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment; else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse" (Mark 2:21).
"No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old" (Luke 5:36).
The words that call for attention are: "That which is put in to fill up". This is the translation of the Greek pleroma a word of extreme importance in the epistles, and there translated "fulness". In contrast with this "fulness" is the word "rent" which in the Greek is schisma. The word translated "new" in Matthew 9:16, and in Mark 2:21 is agnaphos, not yet fulled, or dressed, from gnapheus, a fuller.
In place of "put into" or "put upon" used in Matthew 9:16 and Luke 5:36, we find the word "to sew on", epirrhapto employed in Mark 2:21. One other word is suggestive, the word translated "agree" in Luke 5:36. It is the Greek sumphoneo. Now as these terms will be referred to in the course of the following exposition, we will take the present opportunity of enlarging a little on their meaning and relationship here, and so prepare the way.
Pleroma. This word which is derived from pleroo "to fill" occurs seventeen times in the N.T. Three of these occurrences occur in Matthew and Mark, the remaining fourteen occurrences are found in John's Gospel and in Paul's epistles. It is noteworthy that the word pleroma "fulness" is never used in the epistles of the Circumcision. When Peter spoke of the problem of the "gap" suggested by the words, "where is the promise of His coming?" he referred his readers to the epistles of Paul, who, said he, deals with this matter of longsuffering and apparent postponement and speaks of these things (2 Pet. 3:15-16).
The word pleroma is used in the Septuagint some fifteen times. These we will record for the benefit of the reader who may not have access to that ancient translation. 1 Chronicles 16:32, "Let the sea roar and the fulness thereof". So, Psalm 96:11, Psa. 98:7. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" Psa. 24:1, so with slight variations, Psalm 50:12; Psa. 89:11. In several passages, the fulness, or "all that is therein" is set over against flood or famine, as Jeremiah 8:16; Jer. 47:2, Ezek. 12:19; Ezek. 19:7, and Ezek. 30:12.
Some of the words used in the context of these Septuagint references are too suggestive to be passed over without comment.
Instead of a "time of healing" we find "anxiety", the land "quaking", "deadly serpents" and a "distressed heart" (Jer. 8:15-18).
Again, in Jeremiah 47:2 (29:2 in the LXX), we have such words of prophetic and age-time significance as "an overflowing flood" Greek katakluzomai, kataklusmos and variants, a word used with dispensational significance in 2 Peter 2:5 and 3:6, and preserved in the English "cataclysm", a word of similar import to that which we have translated "the overthrow" of the world. The bearing of 2 Peter two on this "gap" in the outworking of the purpose of the ages, will be given an examination here.
In the context of the word "fulness" found in Ezekiel 12:19, we have such words as "scatter" diaspeiro, a word used in James 1:1 and in 1 Peter 1:1 of the "dispersed" or "scattered" tribes of Israel, also the word "waste", which calls up such passages of prophetic import as Isaiah 34:10-11, and Jeremiah 4:23-27 where the actual words employed in Genesis 1:2 are repeated.
The pleroma or "fulness" is placed in direct contrast with desolation, waste, flood, fire, scattering, and a condition that is without form and void. Schisma, the word translated "rent" in Matthew 9:16, is from schizo which is used of the veil of the temple and of the rocks that were "rent" at the time of the Saviour's death and resurrection. Agnaphos, translated "new", refers to the work of a "fuller", who smooths a cloth by carding. The work of a fuller also includes the washing and scouring process in which fuller's earth or fuller's soap (Mal. 3:2, Mark 9:3) is employed. A piece of cloth thus treated loses its original harshness, and more readily "agrees with" the cloth that has been more often washed.
The whole process of the ages is set forth under the symbol of the work of a fuller, who by beating and by bleaching at length produces a material which is the peak of human attainment, for when the Scriptures would describe the excellent glory of the Lord, His garments are said to have been "exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them" (Mark 9:3). So too, the effect upon Israel of the Second Coming is likened to "a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap" (Mal. 3:2). It is this "fulled" cloth that makes the "fulness", although there is no etymological connection between these like-sounding words.
There is another word translated "new", kainos, which has the meaning of "fresh, as opposed to old", "new, different from the former", and as a compound, the meaning "to renew". It is this word that is used when speaking of the new covenant, the new creation, the new man, and the new heaven and earth. We shall have to take this into account when we are developing the meaning and purpose of the "fulness". The Septuagint version of Job 14:12 reads in place of, "till the heavens be no more", "till the heavens are unsewn"! The bearing of this upon the argument of 2 Peter three, the present firmament, and the fulness, will appear more clearly as we proceed.
Finally, we have the word sumphoneo "to agree". Sumphonia is translated "music" in Luke 15:25, and of course is the Greek original of our word Symphony. In Ecclesiastes 7:14, the word is used with a rather different meaning than "agreement". "In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him". This God will do when at the end of the ages He sets His Peace over against the present conflict, and symphony takes the place of discord.
The presence of so many terms of age-importance in the homely parable of the patching of a torn garment is wonderful in itself, but the wonder grows when we remember that He, in Whom dwells all the pleroma of the Godhead bodily, used this profound and significant term in such a homely and lowly connection. However vast the purpose of the ages may be, and however difficult it is for mortal minds to follow, the first use of pleroma in the N.T. encourages the reader in his search, for does not the purpose of the ages at length lead to a sphere where all things are new, where that which caused the rent or overthrow is entirely removed, and the Father is at length at home with His redeemed family?
(3) CREATION, AND ITS PLACE IN THE PURPOSE
In the vision of Ezekiel, recorded in the opening chapters of his prophecy, the prophet saw the living creature which he afterward identified with the cherubim (Ezek. 10:20). These not only had four faces, namely that of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle (Ezek. 1:10), but were associated with dreadful rings and wheels, "as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel" (Ezek. 1:16). This element of complication, one wheel within another, seems to be a reflection of the way in which one dispensation encloses another, so that between the annunciation of the opening phase of the purpose, and the attainment of its purpose and goal, a great gap intervenes, which is filled by another and yet another succeeding dispensation until in the "fulness" of time Christ came (Gal. 4:4) born of a woman, with a view to the fulness of the seasons (Eph. 1:10), when He in Whom all the fulness dwells (Col. 1:19) shall bring this purpose of the ages to its blessed consummation.
In harmony with the fact that this purpose is redemptive in character, various companies of the redeemed during the ages have been associated with this word "fulness", even the earth itself and its fulness being linked with the glory of the Lord (Isa. 6:3 margin). The outworking of the purpose of the ages, therefore, can be represented, very crudely it is true, thus:
The purpose of the ages opens with Genesis 1:1 in the creation of the heavens and the earth, but between the attainment of the purpose for which heaven and earth were created "in the beginning", and the day when God shall be "all in all" lies a great gulf, a gulf caused by a moral catastrophe and not merely by a physical land-slide, a gap that is "filled" by a series of wheels within wheels, Adam and his world, Noah and his world, Israel and their inheritance, and at last that church which is itself "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all".
The two extremes, therefore, of the purpose are found in the following passages which are themselves separated in the sacred volume by the rest of the Scriptures and by the Age-Times.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1).
"Then cometh the End" (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
The "gap" in the outworking of the purpose is expressed in Genesis 1:2, "The earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep", and in Revelation 21:1 by the added words:
"For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea."
Let us consider in fuller detail some of the terms that are here employed to set before us this opening and closing feature of the purpose of the ages.
"In the beginning". Hebrew b're-shith, Septuagint Greek en arche. While the fact must not be unduly stressed, it should be observed that neither in the Hebrew nor in the Greek is the article "the" actually used. Moreover, it is certain that b're-shith denotes the commencement at a point of time as Jeremiah 26:1, Jer. 27:1 and Jer. 28:1 will show. But it is also very certain that the selfsame word denotes something more than a point of departure in time, for it is used by Jeremiah in 2:3 for "the firstfruits", even as it is used in Leviticus 2:12 and Lev. 23:10 which are "beginnings" in that they anticipate the harvest at the end, "the fulness of seasons" (Eph. 1:10). The "beginning" of Genesis 1:1 purposely looks to the end; it is more than a note of time.
The same can be said of the Greek arche. While it most certainly means "beginning", it is noteworthy that in Genesis 1:16 where the next occurrences are found (in the LXX) it means "rule" even as in Ephesians 1:21, Eph. 3:10 and Eph. 6:12 arche in the plural is translated "principalities" while in Philippians 4:15 it is used once again in its ordinary time sense.
While God knows the end from the beginning, and nothing which He has caused to be written for our learning can ever be anything but the truth, we must nevertheless be prepared to find that much truth is veiled in the O.T. until in the wisdom of God, the time was ripe for fuller teaching. If we leave Genesis 1:1 and go straight over to the last book of Scripture, namely the book of the Revelation, we shall see that the words "in the beginning" acquire a fuller sense than was possible at the time when they were first written by Moses.Arche occurs in Revelation four times, as follows:
"I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty". (Rev. 1:8)
"These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God". (Rev. 3:14)
"And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." (Rev. 21:6)
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last" (Rev. 22:13)
Here, in the last book of the Bible arche ceases to bear a time significance, it is the title of a Person, a Person in Whom Creation and the purpose of the ages find their meaning and their goal.
Paul uses arche eighteen times, the word having the time sense "beginning" in five occurrences (Phil. 4:15, the only occurrence with this meaning in the Prison Epistles), once in the earlier epistles (2 Thess. 2:13) and three times in Hebrews (Heb. 1:10, Heb. 2:3; Heb. 7:3). The remaining references have the meaning "principalities", "rule" and "principles" (Rom. 8:38, 1 Cor. 15:24, Eph. 1:21; Eph. 3:10; Eph. 6:12, Col. 1:16, Col. 1:18; Col. 2:10, Col. 2:15, Tit. 3:1, Heb. 6:1).
The Hebrew word rosh, which gives us the word for "beginning", is translated "head" in Genesis 3:15 and both "beginning" and "head" in Exodus 12:2 and Exo. 12:9 respectively.
In Colossians 1:18, Paul uses arche of Christ in a somewhat similar sense to the usage of the word in the Revelation.
"Who is the Image of the Invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created . . . and He is the head of the body, the church: Who Is THE BEGINNING, the firstborn from the dead . . . in Him should ALL FULNESS dwell" (Col. 1:15-19).
The two phrases "by Him" all things were created, and "in Him" all fulness dwells, are obviously complementary. It is a fact, that the preposition en is translated many times "by", but it is difficult to understand how it is that in Colossians 1:16 en auto should be translated "By Him" while in Colossians 1:19 en auto should be translated "IN Him". Moreover the preposition en occurs in the phrases "in heaven", "in all things". Again, the A.V. reads in verse 17, "By Him all things consist" where the preposition is dia, which only makes the need more felt that en should not be translated "by" in the same context.
There does not appear any grammatical necessity to depart from the primary meaning of en "in" in Colossians 1:16, and this is the considered opinion of such exegetes as Bishop Lightfoot and Dean Alford, and the translators of the R.V.
"In Him" therefore, all things were created (Col. 1:16); He Himself is "the beginning" in the New Creation (Col. 1:18) even as He is "the beginning of the Creation of God" (Rev. 3:14). We therefore return to Gen. 1:1 and read with fuller insight and meaning "IN THE BEGINNING God created the heaven and the earth". When dealing with the word pleroma, this passage in Colossians will naturally come up for a more detailed examination.
Christ is "the Beginning" of Genesis 1:1, although at the time of Moses such a truth was not clearly perceived, just as the significance of the name Jehovah was not realized before the revelation given in the days of Moses. What was known as the Creation of the Almighty, is subsequently revealed to have been the work of Jehovah, the God of Redemption. In Genesis 1:1 we learn that Elohim "God" created the heaven and the earth, and subsequently we learn in John one, Colossians one and Hebrews one that all was the work of Him Who is "The Word", "The Image", the "One Mediator". From the beginning, creation had in view the redemptive purpose of the ages, but just as it would have been unwise to have answered the question of the Apostles in Acts 1:6 before the time, so the true purpose of Creation was not revealed until man had sinned and Christ had died for his redemption.
Bara, the word translated create, must now be given a consideration. Metaphysics, "the science of things transcending what is physical or natural", attempts to deal with the question of "being" and in that department of thought the question of creating "something out of nothing" naturally arises. Scripture, however, never discusses this metaphysical problem. Even in Genesis 1:1 it does NOT say, "in the beginning God created the basic matter of the Universe", it commences with a highly organized and differentiated universe "heaven and earth". The Hebrew word bara in its primary meaning of "create" is reserved only for the work of God, not being used of man, except in a secondary sense, and that in five passages only, out of fifty-four occurrences. (Josh. 17:15, Josh. 17:18 1, Sam. 2:29, Ezek. 21:19 and Ezek. 23:47.)
Adam is said to be "created", although the "dust of the ground" from which he was made was in existence long before. God is said to be the Creator of Israel (Isa. 43:1, Isa. 43:7, Isa. 43:15), yet Israel descended from Abraham. Bara gives us the Chaldaic word bar "son", which but perpetuates the idea already recognized in bara. The Septuagint translates Joshua 17:15 and Jos. 17:18, "thou shalt clear it", which the A.V. renders "cut down", thereby revealing, as the lexicographers point out, that bara primarily means "to cut, to carve out, to form by cutting". When we remember that the word "the world" kosmos is derived from the word kosmeo "to adorn", as with "goodly stones", with "gold" and "to garnish" as with all manner of precious stones (Luke 21:5, 1 Tim. 2:9, Rev. 21:2, Rev. 21:19) we perceive a richer reason for the choice of bara.
The words with which revelation opens, "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" begin to bear deeper significance.
"In Him Who is the beginning of the Creation of God, Elohim, Who was subsequently known as Jehovah, the God of Redemption, fashioned as one would a precious stone, the heavens and the earth". Author's Translation
Creation was dual, from the start. Not heaven only, but heaven and earth. Man was created male and female, and before we read of the generations of Adam, namely of his descendants, we read of the "generations of the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 2:4). Heaven is intimately concerned with the earth; in the heavens God is "ALL" ("the Heavens do rule", "as it is in heaven") and when at last the Will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven, the goal of the ages will be attained, and God will not only be "All" but "All in all".
Such are faint shadows of His ways. By searching we shall never find out God unto perfection, but to stand as we have in a cleft of the Rock while His glory passes before us, and be permitted to behold even the "back part" of His ways is joy unspeakable:
"Lo, these are but the outlines of His ways;
A whisper only, that we hear of Him;
His wondrous pow'r, who then, can comprehend?"
(Job 26:14, Dr. Bullinger's Metrieal Version).
(4) THE FIRST "GAP". "WITHOUT FORM AND VOID"
Whatever the ultimate purpose of creation may prove to be, it is certain that it will not be attained without much sorrow and great sacrifice; "the Fuller" will be at work, and between the opening announcement of Creation in Genesis 1:1 and the bringing in of the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21:1, 2 Pet. 3:13) will roll the eons or the ages with their burden of sin and of redeeming love. When the new heaven and earth was seen by John in the Apocalypse, he adds the words "and there was no more sea". That is a most evident reference back to Genesis 1:2, where darkness and the deep are there revealed.
"And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep" (Gen. 1:2).
Thus the condition that is described in Genesis 1:2 is included with the other "no mores" of Revelation 21:1, Rev. 21:4 and Rev. 22:3.
When we read in Genesis that man "became" a living soul, we immediately gather that he was not a living soul before he breathed the breath of life. When we read that Lot's wife "became" a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:26), we understand that this was consequent upon her looking back. When Cain said, "And it shall come to pass" (Gen. 4:14) we understand his fears concerning what would happen after others had heard of his deed. So, when we read, "the earth was without form and void", and realize that the same verb that is here translated "was", is translated "became" or "come to pass" in these other passages in Genesis, we realize that here in Genesis 1:2, we are looking at the record of the first great gap in the outworking of the Divine purpose, and must read:
"And the earth BECAME without form and void".
The translation "was" in Genesis 1:2, however, is perfectly good, for in our usage we often mean "became" when "was" is written. A speaker at a meeting used the following illustration. If writing on two occasions concerning a friend we should say (1) "He was a man", and (2) "He was very ill", everyone would understand that in the second case, this friend had "become" ill, and so "was" ill at the time spoken of, but it would be impossible to think that anyone would understand by the word "he was ill" that he had been created, or born in that state. Darkness both in the O.T. and in the N.T. is associated with death, judgment and evil, and Paul's use of Genesis 1:2-3 in the words, "God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness" (2 Cor. 4:6) most surely indicates that in his estimation, the darkness of Genesis 1:2 is a fit symbol of the spiritual darkness of the unregenerate mind.
Two words, however, are found in Genesis 1:2, which are so used in subsequent Scriptures as to compel every one that realizes what a great place "usage" has in interpretation, to acknowledge that nothing but catastrophic judgment can be intended by this verse. The two words that describe the condition of the earth, in verse two are the Hebrew words tohu and bohu, "without form and void". Tohu occurs twenty times in the O.T. and bohu twice elsewhere. The only occurrence of tohu by itself in the writings of Moses is Deuteronomy 32:10, where it refers to "the waste howling wilderness". The use which Isaiah makes of this word is highly suggestive and full of instruction.
Isaiah twenty-four. This chapter opens with a judgment that is reminiscent of Genesis 1:2. "Behold the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof . . . the land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled" (Isa. 24:1-3).
When Isaiah would once again refer to this state of affairs, he sums it up in the epithet, "the city of confusion (tohu)" Isaiah 24:10, and there can be no doubt but that the desolation here spoken of is the result of judgment. Another example of its usage is found in Isaiah 45:18, "For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited". Here the A.V. treats the word tohu as an adverb "in vain" which the R.V. corrects, reading "a waste". Whatever rendering we may adopt, one thing is certain. Isaiah 45:18 declares in the name of Him Who created the heavens, who formed the earth and made it, that He did not create it TOHU, it therefore must have become so. Even more convincing are the two passages other than Gen. 1:2, where bohu is employed, for in both instances the word is combined with tohu. The first passage is Isaiah 34:11. The context is one of catastrophic judgment and upheaval. The presence of such terms as "indignation", "fury", "utterly destroy", "sword" and "vengeance" in the first eight verses are sufficient to prove this, and one verse is so definitely prophetic of the upheaval at the time of the end, as to leave no option in the mind.
"And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree" (Isaiah 34:4).
This passage is almost identical with the language employed by Peter when he speaks of the signs that shall precede the coming of the day of God and the setting up of the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13). The words tohu and bohu occur in Isaiah 34:11, to which all these symbols of judgment point:
"He shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion (tohu) and the stones of emptiness (bohu)",
nor is it without significance that unclean birds like the cormorant and the bittern possess this devoted land, that nettles and brambles appear in the fortresses, and that dragons, wild beasts, screech owls and satyrs gather there. The whole is a picture in miniature of what the earth became in Genesis 1:2.
Isaiah's usage of tohu and bohu is convincing, but "in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established", and accordingly we find the prophet Jeremiah using tohu and bohu in a similar context. In the structure of Jeremiah 4:5-7 are in correspondence with Jer. 4:19-31:
"The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant" (Jer. 4:7).
"Destruction upon destruction is cried". "I beheld the earth, and lo it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. . . lo, there was no man . . . lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness. . ." ". . . broken down. . . by His fierce anger" (Jer. 4:20-26).
Here then are the three inspired occurrences of the two words tohu and bohu, Genesis 1:2, Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23. If Genesis 1:2 does not refer to a day of "vengeance" or "fierce anger" should we not have to acknowledge that both Isaiah and Jeremiah by the use of these peculiar words, have misled us? And if once that be our conclusion, inspiration is invalidated, and it does not matter much what Genesis 1:2 means, for our trust is shaken, and Moses is evidently wrong: this, however, cannot be. All Scripture is given by Inspiration of God, and Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah speak with one voice, because they are inspired by One Spirit.
Nothing is said in Genesis 1:2, concerning the cause of this primeval judgment, any more than any statement is offered to explain the presence of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but there are evidences that can be gathered from various parts of Scripture to make it clear that there was a fall among the angels, that Satan is a fallen being, and that the catastrophe of Genesis 1:2 is associated with that fall.
Into the "gap" thus formed, the present six-day creation is placed as a temporary "fulness" ("replenish the earth" Genesis 1:28), carrying the Redemptive purpose on to the threshold of Eternity. It is here also that "age-times" begin.
(5) THE PRESENT CREATION, A TABERNACLE
"The things which are seen are temporal" (2 Cor. 4:18).
"For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible" (Col. 1:16).
"And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said, Let there be light; and there was light" (Gen. 1:2-3).
With these words of Genesis the first movement toward the goal of the ages is recorded. That it indicates a regenerative, redemptive movement, is made clear by the allegorical use that Paul makes of it when writing to the Corinthians.
"For God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).
When we come to consider the place that Israel occupies in the outworking of the purpose of the ages, we shall find that there will be repeated in their case these allegorical fulfillments of Genesis 1:2-3.
"And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations" (Isa. 25:7).
The "veil" plays a big part in the imagery of 2 Corinthians three and four. Like the rising of light in Genesis 1:3, Israel's light shall dispel the gross darkness that has engulfed the nations (Isa. 60:1-2), and both in this passage, in 2 Corinthians 4:6 and from such prophetic passages as Isaiah 11:9, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea", we perceive that "light" symbolizes "knowledge" and prepares us to find in the midst of the garden not only the tree of life, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
These matters, however, are anticipatory of future studies, and the parallel of Israel with the six days creation will be better seen when we reach the Scriptures that speak of their call and destiny. At present we must confine ourselves to the consideration of the fact that here, in the calling into existence of the creation of the six days, we meet the first of a series of "fullnesses" that carry the purpose of the ages on to their glorious goal.
When we traverse the gap formed by the entry of sin and death, and reach the other extreme of this present creation, we find that instead of natural light as in Genesis 1:3, "The Lamb is the light thereof", "The Lord God giveth them light", and we read further that the city "had no need of the sun neither of the moon". Instead of the stars which are spoken of in Genesis 1:16, we have the Lord holding "the seven stars in His right hand", and He Himself set forth as "the bright and morning star". These are indications that "the former things" are about to pass away. Perhaps the most suggestive item in the six days' creation, apart from man who was made in the Image of God, is the provision of the "Firmaments".
"And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. . . and God called the firmament Heaven" (Gen. 1:6-8).
The first fact that emerges from this passage, whatever for the moment the word "firmament" may prove to mean, is that this firmament which was "called" heaven must be distinguished from that which was created "in the beginning" . Here is something peculiar to the present temporary creation, and as we shall discover, destined to pass away at the time of the end.
The margin of the A.V. draws attention to the fact that the Hebrew word raqia translated "firmament" means, literally, an "expansion", and so indicates the Scriptural anticipation by many thousand years, of the modern scientists "expanding universe". Raqah the verb is used by Jeremiah to speak of "silver spread into plates" (Jer. 10:9). Job speaks of Him "which alone spreadeth out the heavens" (Job 9:8), and who "stretcheth out the north over the empty place" (tohu, "without form" of Genesis 1:2), (Job 26:7). The stretched-out heavens are likened to a tent or tabernacle.
"That stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in" (Isa. 40:22).
"He that created the heavens, and stretched them out" (Isa 42:5).
"That stretched forth the heavens alone" (Isa. 44:24; Isa. 51:13; Zech. 12:1)
Not only is the firmament spoken of in language that reminds of the Tabernacle, there is a reference in Job, that suggests that the earth too, is looked upon as the ground upon which this tabernacle of the sky rests.
"Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?" (Job 38:6).
At first sight there may not appear much in this passage to link it with the tabernacle, but when it is known that this same word which is translated "foundation" is translated "socket" fifty-three times, and that fifty-two of the occurrences refer to the sockets on which the Tabernacle rested in the wilderness, then the reference in Job thirty-eight, takes on a richer and deeper meaning.
The firmament of Genesis 1:6 is a lesser and temporary "heaven", destined like a tent to be folded up and to pass away when the ages come to an end.
The "firmament" is not merely the distant "heaven" of the sun, the moon and stars, it is also the place where birds can fly (Gen. 1:20) consequently we can understand that when Christ ascended, He is said to have "passed through the heavens", dierchomai not "passed into" (Heb. 4:14). (The student should note that this reference is omitted in Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible.)
In Hebrews 7:26 Christ is said to have been "made higher" than the heavens, while Ephesians declares that He ascended up "far above all heavens" with the object that He might "fill" all things (Eph. 4:10). Christ is said to have passed through the heavens, to have been made higher than the heavens, and to have ascended up far above all heavens, consequently it is impossible for Him to be far above all heavens, and yet be at the same time seated in those very heavens, for even though knowledge of heaven and heavenly things may be very limited, we can understand the simple import of the language used. Consequently we discover that two words are employed for "heaven", one ouranos, which includes the highest sphere of all, but nevertheless can be used of that "heaven" which is to pass away (Matt. 5:18), of the "air" where birds fly (Matt. 6:26), the heaven of the "stars" (Matt. 24:29) and of the "angels" (Mark 13:32), and the other epouranios.
We perceive that in many passages ouranos refers to the "firmament" of Genesis 1:6, while epouranios refers to the heaven of Genesis 1:1 which was unaffected by the overthrow of verse 2, will not be dissolved and pass away, and is where Christ now sits at the right hand of God "far above all of the heavens". Hebrews 9:24 speaks of this sphere as "heaven itself". In two passages, the heavens are said to be rolled together or to depart "as a scroll" (Isa. 34:4, Rev. 6:14). The present heaven and earth is a temporary "tabernacle" (Psa. 19:4) in which the God of Creation can dwell as the God of Redemption. This creation is to be folded up as a garment (Heb. 1:11-12), the firmament is likened to the curtains of a tabernacle, which will be "unstitched" at the time of the end (Job 14:12 LXX margin), and pass away as a scroll.
The figure is one that appeals to the imagination. A scroll of parchment stretched out and suddenly released, is a figure employed to indicate the sudden departure of the "firmament", "the stretched out heavens". The word used in Revelation 6:14 is apochorizomai, which occurs but once elsewhere, and that of a departure that followed a violent "rage" or "contention" (Acts 15:39). Chorizo which forms part of this word means "to put asunder" (Matt. 19:6); and "separate" (Rom. 8:35).
Isaiah 34:4 which speaks of the heavens being rolled together as a scroll, and so speaks of the "firmament" of Genesis 1:6, leads on to the repetition of the condition of Genesis 1:2, for in Isaiah 34:11, as we have seen, "confusion" is tohu and "emptiness" is bohu, the two words translated "without form and void".
The position at which the record of the ages has now reached is as follows:
"Above the heavens"
Gen. 1:1 Rev.21
Heaven and Earth Gap <---- The Firmament ----> Gap New Heaven and Earth
Bohu <------- The Ages ------> Bohu
Gen. <----- The Pleroma -----> Isa.
Into the gap caused by the overthrow of Genesis 1:2, is placed the present creation which together with its temporary heaven is to pass away. This present creation, headed by Adam, constitutes the first of a series of "fullnesses" that follow a series of "gaps" until we at length arrive at Him, in Whom "All fulness dwells". We read in Genesis 1:28, "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth" where the word "replenish" is the verb male, a word which as a noun is translated "fulness" in such passages as "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (Psa. 24:1). The Septuagint uses the verb pleroo to translate male in Genesis 1:28. We are, therefore, fully Scriptural when we speak of the six days Creation as a part of the "Pleroma" or "Fullness".