Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Images of the Savior (1 -- The Creation of the World)

by Nathan Pitchford of Reformation Theology

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth....And God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. – (Genesis 1:1,3)

When Jesus offered up for all believers his high-priestly prayer in their behalf, he summed up the essence of his request thus: “Father, I desire that those whom you have given me might be with me, where I am, in order that they might behold my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). From which circumstance we may learn that the very essence of what Jesus died to provide us with is nothing less than a rapturous gazing upon his glorious person, as we dwell in his presence forevermore. Heaven is nowhere but where Jesus dwells in his glory, and eternal life is nothing besides the sight of this glory. This is why Jesus had earlier defined eternal life as this: “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). True life is that which fulfills the purpose for which man was created, namely, to know and enjoy fellowship with God; and Jesus Christ is the only One who is able to reveal the nature of God to mankind, as we may learn from John chapter one, verses 14 and 18: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as from the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth....No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him.” If we would be eternally satisfied, we must learn to behold the glory of Christ. And if we would be among those who for all eternity will indeed be in the joy of God's presence, we must learn to seek Christ's glory even now, as we live upon the earth.

This reduces the entire purpose of our lives on earth, and our eternal lives which follow, to this one thing: seeking to see Jesus the Savior. And there is only one place where we may see the Savior; and that is, the Word of God, which was inspired by the Spirit (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:21) who delights to testify of Christ (John 15:26). This Word of God includes both the Old and New Testaments, and we may be sure that the Spirit spoke of Jesus in both Testaments, even as Jesus himself testifies to the Pharisees, calling the Old Testament scriptures “they which testify of me” (John 5:39); and likewise to the disciples, when, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

It is, therefore, a most grievous circumstance that many believers do not habitually see or even look for Jesus the Savior, when they are reading the Old Testament scriptures. Too often they are satisfied with a mere surface understanding of the Jewish history testified therein, or else they look for such a moral as may be found in Aesop's fables. But if the Old Testament scriptures will at all satisfy us or prepare us for eternal life, they will do so by virtue of their ability to uncover the Savior before our eyes. And one of the notable ways in which they do this is through the means of types. God purposed to reveal himself to the world, through his Son, by slow degrees; and therefore, long before he sent him into the world, he spoke of him in many dark and symbolic ways, through the circumstances, histories, and persons which he recorded for us in his Word. The true believers of the Old Testament were instructed of Christ as they looked beyond the types to the Savior which they signified (see, for example, John 8:56); and we may be assured that we will not be profited by those same scriptures unless we do the same thing, looking to Christ under the figures by means of which he is represented to us in the Scriptures.

And it is manifestly clear from the first pages of the Old Testament that God had at that time determined to reveal his will under figures, symbols, and types. For when he intended to promise to Noah that he would not again destroy the world by water, he did so under the type of the rainbow, under which figure he drew back against himself the bow of vengeance, as if to curse himself if ever he should break his word (Genesis 9:11-17). And then we may see how he revealed his plans to send a seven year famine by the type of seven lean cows in a dream to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:17-36); how he signified the future struggle between Edom and Israel by the struggling of the twins in the womb of Rebekah (Genesis 25:21-23); and how he revealed the future pre-eminence of Judah's son Perez to his twin brother Zerah by the typological circumstance of his unexpected breaking forth first from the womb (Genesis 38:27-30). And throughout the rest of the Old Testament, we have so many clear examples of revelation by typological significance, that we would soon weary of trying to record them all.

Now, it is likewise evident from the beginning that the greatest act of God in all of history would be his sending of the Messiah to redeem his people; for this is the first promise of God ever given to fallen man, and that under the type of the bruising of the serpent's head (Genesis 3:15); it is the event to which the greatest typical deliverance in Israel's history, the redemption from Egypt, looked forward (e.g. Micah 7:25, Isaiah 11:10-16, etc.); and it is the event which the prophets most delighted to speak of, in their Spirit-empowered ministry (e.g. Isaiah 52:13-53:12, and many others). If God's chosen means of revelation, in the days of the Old Testament, was typology; and if the most important event which he desired to reveal was the redemptive work of Christ; then it certainly stands to reason that in many ways he should have revealed the person and work of Christ under the shadows and types of the Old Testament; with which assessment the New Testament authors also agree, seeing in passages clear as well as obscure things pertaining to the Messiah and his work (e.g. Acts 2:25-26; 4:10-11; 15:13-20; and many others beside). From their example, we may surely learn that the Old Testament is to be used for the purpose of uncovering the things of Jesus, which were before revealed under types and shadows, and have now been made more manifest by the Spirit which he has sent. It is only as we read them in this manner that they will profit us with the eternal measure of joy contingent upon seeing the glory of Christ, who is our life.

Let us, then, from the first pages of the Old Testament, read all the Holy Scriptures with a mind to seeing Christ Jesus our Savior, and the things which he would do for our eternal salvation. The first account of the scriptures is that of the creation of the world, by the Almighty God; let us think of how we may see Christ from this event:

First, this event typified the greater act of redemption that Christ would one day accomplish. It was through Christ Jesus, the Word of God, that the worlds were created (John 1:1-3); but just as the light of creation sprang into being through Christ, at God's word, “Let there be light”; so also, the light of redemption and the knowledge of God sprang into being through Christ, in whom was the light which was the life of men” (John 1:4-5); when God desired the creation of the worlds, they sprang into being through Christ; and when he desired grace and mercy for his people, they too sprang into being through the Son of God, who took upon himself human flesh, to suffer the wrath of God in their place and so win for them eternal grace and mercy (John 1:17). The great work of creation, then, which through Christ displayed the glory of God's character, was itself only a shadow and type of the greater work of redemption, which through Christ would display the nature of God in his love and justice, to a superlative degree (see Hebrews 1:1-3).

But not only did God's creation through the Son typify his greater work of redemption in a general sense; it more specifically typified the process by which every redeemed child of God would come to a knowledge of him; “because the God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness!' has shined in our hearts with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). The creation of the worlds through Christ, which comes to its ultimate expression of orderly power in the creation of light, is only a shadow of the creation of a new heart in fallen man, which is the highest display of God's power and grace, and the true application of the sole accomplishment for which all of history was designed.

And finally, we must notice that this great work of creation was typical of the vastly greater work of the new creation, by which God would take the marred and cursed world of mankind and restore it to its original splendor and beyond. For just as the work of creation culminated in the formation of man, who dwelt in a beautiful garden and found great joy in the fellowship of God himself, bringing him glory through the just and holy subjugation of the earth beneath him (Genesis 1:26-31); so the culminative work of history, the new creation, will issue forth in a beautiful garden, in which man will have dominion over a perfect earth, fully restored from all the manifold deleterious effects of the fall, for the glory of God his Creator and Redeemer (Isaiah 25:1-12). From the very beginning account of the Scriptures, then, we encounter a type of the greater work of redemption, that would be done by Christ the Savior, to reveal the full nature of God, for the everlasting joy of his people.

As we turn to these Old Testament Scriptures and all which follow, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us labor to see Christ as the Spirit has pleased to typify him everywhere and in ever way! He only is our joy and salvation, and the sight of him alone is our heaven and eternal reward. If we read these scriptures to no increase of our understanding of him, we might as well not have read them at all: for they are precious only as they reveal to us God, whom to know is to live forever and to rejoice with true and ceaseless joy; and they reveal to us God only as they reveal to us Christ, who has declared to us the One whom no man has seen at any time. Jesus is our life and joy! Let us seek him in all the scriptures, as the Holy Spirit opens up our eyes.