“X” is for eX Nihilo

“X” is for eX nihilo.  This is a Latin phrase where “ex” means “out of” and “nihilo” means “nothing.”  Thus ex nihilo means, “out of nothing.”  What in the world does that have to do with anything?  Well the world has something to do with it along with all of creation.  For creation itself was created by God ex nihilo, “out of nothing.”  In this week’s newsletter we will examine a number of Scripture passages and will expand our understanding of the phrase, ex nihilo.  Yes I do realize it begins with “e” but thanks for being gracious.

In the Beginning

Genesis 1:1a says, “In the beginning, God…”  Now some advocate for ex nihilo nihil fit which means, “out of nothing, nothing comes.”  The Christian view is not that from nothingness comes something.  For God Himself is not nothing, and He has always been.  God is the self-existent One (cf. Ex. 3:13-14).  God is eternal and alone has the ability to create something out of nothing.  Let’s clear things up.  There has never been nothing as though there were a time when God was not.  For Moses records for us in Genesis 1:1a, “In the beginning, God…”  What we are saying is that God created everything without any preexistent materials or things that have always been.  Only God has always been.  There was no prior materials at God’s disposal by which He formed and fashioned the universe by using a little bit of “this” and a whole lot of “that.”  Still confused?  Maybe an example will help.

When living in Grand Rapids, Katie and I visited Art Prize each year.  We have even gone since moving north.  There are many pieces of art on display throughout the city of Grand Rapids.  Let me quickly note here that I am not one who has a keen eye for art.  There are some things I look at and wonder what in the world the artist was thinking.  Nevertheless we enjoy seeing many of the displays of art from paintings to creative sculptures.  Let’s say we are all looking at a very nice painting.  We realize that the artist began their work with a blank white canvas before them, a number of paint colors, and brushes next to them.  And then from these things came this beautiful painting we are now looking at.  From the very same stuff, canvas, paint, and brush, I would not be able to duplicate the same work, or anything close to it.  Now you are probably seeing why I don’t have a keen eye for art, because by no means am I an artist, but I still enjoy some of it.  Well our artist in this story began with a canvas, a variety of paint colors, and a variety of paint brushes.  God did not create the universe with anything “on hand.”  There was no oxygen, nitrogen, methane, or to use the technical scientific language, primordial soup.  Now I am hungry.  So without the use of preexisting materials God created the entire universe.  How?

A Spoken Word

Hebrews 11:3 tells us, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  God created the universe by His word.  We see this in Genesis 1.  God did not create with some preexistent material but rather by a divine command (sometimes referred to as the “divine imperative”).  We read in Genesis 1:3, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  You see this pattern continue as you go through the six days of creation: what God says, happens, and God sees that it is good.  As RC Sproul says, “Nothing can resist the command of God, who brought the world and everything in it into being” (Everyone’s a Theologian, 92).

Agent of Creation

What becomes abundantly clear in the NT is that Jesus, the second person of our triune God, the Word made flesh, was the Agent of creation.  And note that the Spirit of God is also present at creation (cf. Gen. 1:1-2).  John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”  1 Corinthians 8:6 says, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”  Colossians 1:16 adds, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”  And lastly, Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”  Each of these passages makes it clear that Jesus, the Son of God, was the agent through which everything was created.  And as John 1 tells us, the Word (Jesus), was not only with God but is Himself God.

Creations Testimony

We often speak about sharing our testimony with others since we are commanded to be prepared to do just that (cf. 1 Pt. 3:15).  Creation itself is a testimony that is declaring something.  Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  A starry night, a beautiful sunset, a flower blooming in early spring are all for the glory of God.  Romans 1:18-20 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”  Creation bears witness against us in that no one will have an excuse for not believing when they die and face the judgment.  Creation bears witness about our God.  However, no one can be saved by general revelation for we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.

 

 

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“N” is for New Heaven & New Earth

“N” is for new heaven and new earth.  We read these words in Revelation 21, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (vv. 1-2, 5a).  Life in the new heaven and new earth will be something new to us.  For Jesus says that he is making “all things new” (v. 5a).  For Jesus said in v. 4, “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Every believer looks forward to a day when tears, hurt, pain, and death itself is no more.  In fact even creation itself looks forward to such a day.  Paul writes in Romans 8:20-21, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  Creation “was subjected to futility” because of the sin of Adam and Eve.  Their disobedience had grave and far reaching consequences not only on themselves and their posterity but on creation as well.  The Lord had created everything and declared it to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31) but when Adam and Eve sinned their relationship to God, to each other, to creation, and to themselves was negatively impacted.

While we do not know as much as we might like to about the new heavens and new earth we can be certain that it will be “very good” (cf. 2 Pt. 3:11-13).  For not only will things like death, mourning, crying, and pain be no more but far better still believers will be with the Lord.  The new heavens and new earth is a description of a renewed creation in which believers will dwell with the Lord following the final judgment.  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Rev. 21:3).

As a quick review, while we do not know everything about the new heaven and new earth we know what won’t be there (death, mourning, pain), we know who will be there (the Lord Jesus and believers), and we also know what state believers will be in.  By looking at the new heavens and new earth we have fast forwarded to the end of eschatology (study of the end times or last things).  So looking back briefly will help us better understand the state believers will be in when we are in the new heavens and new earth.

In 1 Cor. 15 we learn of the Christian hope.  The common understanding is that the full Christian hope is when I die my body is buried and my soul goes to be with the Lord in heaven.  It is hard to talk about the Christian hope in its fullness without making it sound like that doesn’t matter.  Paul says in Phil. 1, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (v. 23a) to which I echo a hearty, “Amen!”  But the Christian hope is not merely that we depart from our bodies and go to be with the Lord but that our departed souls will one day be reunited with our resurrected bodies at the last trumpet when Christ returns (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-52).  What Rev. 21 makes clear is that heaven will come down to us.  “We don’t hope merely for the day when we go to live with God, but ultimately for that final day when God comes to live with us” (Wittmer, Heaven is a Place on Earth, 17).  We read in 1 Cor. 15, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 53-57).  Death still hurts now because it is a present reminder of the effects of the Fall and sin in our world and in our own hearts.  But when our souls and bodies are reunited at Christ coming death will lose its sting and be no more because death and Hades will be cast into the lake of fire followed by those whose names are not written in the book of life (cf. Rev. 20:14-15).  Revelation 21:6-8 says, “And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’”

What are we to do right now?  “To paraphrase Abraham Kuyper, we must diligently labor to bring every square inch of human existence beneath the lordship of the Christ who proclaims, ‘It’s mine!’”  (Wittmer, 198).  We should strive to see everything of this creation subject to the lordship of Christ and look forward to that day, and our hope, when soul AND body are with our Lord forever!  Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”