For an adult in the Americas, on an average day we probably use words dozens or even hundreds of time that have multiple meanings. For example, in 21st century language, what could the word fast mean? Let’s prime the pump, if your will, to get your mind spinning: For “fast,” how about dieting, horse racing, dating situations, the ship was held fast, the color won’t run, she is a fast thinker, etc. You can perhaps add a few more. But we want to look at the word “day” in the Bible.
Taking the word “yom” (pronounced yom or yome), it is a common Hebrew word most often translated as “day.” It is found in the Old Testament between 2,200 and 3,000 times depending on which lexicon you use. And translated, this word has many more uses than fast, our example word. To complicate matters, taking into consideration the context, there can be specific as well as vague meanings of the word on top of that.
We won’t go into a lengthy unraveling of this word’s (day) meaning, but we will provide a couple of specific examples. These will show a clear distinction how the same word can have widely different meanings, just in terms of time or duration. The point is that words have meanings that are important and those meanings should not be ignored. If we disregard the meanings of words, we end up creating an unnecessary battlefield rather than a level playing field for conversation and dialogue.
A “Day” in the Writings of Moses
When we go to the New Testament and read about the life of Jesus, we find that conflicts between the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus often brought both Moses and Abraham into the discussion. Later, of course, in the Apostle Paul’s experiences with the same groups both Moses and Abraham were claimed as supporters by each side. Since Moses is often credited with authorship of the first five books of the Old Testament, lets use Moses as our primary example of how the word yom was used. “Yom” is the Hebrew word for “day”, as in Yom Kippur—the day of atonement.
You may recall, either from your reading or early church school experience, the stories of Moses leading the “Children of Israel.” That story starts with Moses leading Israel out of bondage from Egypt. Even today, that is the defining historical event in Jewish tradition. It was a “big deal” when it happened and it still is.
So here is Moses, victorious over Egypt’s Pharaoh and his army, guiding the now freed people of Israel across the Red Sea and into the desert. It is a large group. In a sense they become like nomads, moving from place to place. Abundant water determines where they will stop. It is now the end of the second month after leaving their homes in Egypt and arriving at the edge of the Sinai desert (Horeb). While we are not certain today where the mountain was, the location and event become another major component of Jewish history and tradition: It is where God revealed himself and his Law to the people of Israel.
We read it like this:
1 On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
9 The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said. 10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.
14 After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. 15 Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.” 16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
Here, near the very beginning of Israel’s escape from slavery under the leadership of Moses, we have a clear statement of the day and date of what took place. It was an important date that would be remembered in perpetuity by Israel. Just why did God bring Moses and his people to this out-of-the-way place—so much so that it is difficult even today to understand where it was? Yet, the record definitely punctuates the time (and timing) and location and its future importance to Israel. And then we ask, had Moses ever been at this mountain before?
At this point, God is revealing himself and his law in a way to imprint on this new nation who he is and how true justice will forever be measured. And, yes, Moses had been here before. He was herding sheep when God got his attention with a burning bush—on fire, but not consumed. This was God’s way of calling Moses to a great task.
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:7-12.
Read again that final verse, verse 12, in case it slipped by. Israel’s visit to Mt. Sinai (Horeb) after escaping from Egypt was the fulfillment of God’s earlier promise to Moses. At some time in the future, God told Moses he would be there at that mountain worshipping God.
Now, let’s move ahead about 40 years. This time we are listening to another conversation between Moses and God—it’s at the end of Moses’ career as Israel’s leader. Between Mt. Sinai and this occasion, God’s generational promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others has brought his people Israel to the edge of the “promised” land. This time, God’s words are of concern and caution and warning.
As you read these verses, you will note the word “day” (yom) is indefinite, lacking the preciseness of the same word when used about Israel’s time at Mount Sinai. You will also notice that the word “day” covers long periods of time when “disasters and calamities” will come on them. During that time (day) God will not be available to them to bail them out as before. Israel will be left to their own devices since they are worshiping other gods. Nonetheless, Moses’ “day” of departure is near—for him a specific day is close at hand.
14 The Lord said to Moses, “Now the day (yom) of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, where I will commission him.” So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the tent of meeting.
15 Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent. 16 And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day (yom) I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day (yom) they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ 18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day (yom) because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods. Deuteronomy 31:14-18.
This pattern for the Hebrew word “yom” remains the same throughout the Old Testament. It has a variety of meanings, sometimes with significant time differences as well as other applications. To force this word into a time frame of 24 hours in all cases, for example, would change the intention of the writer and give a distorted meaning to the passage. We’ll have more about this when we return to the opening chapters of Genesis. In the meantime, though, we will explore other important events, predicted in the Old Testament and reaching into the New Testament time.
Special Days Created by God in the Old Testament
To have a “day” that is called The Day of the Lord, has got to be an important day. And so it is. This designation of a day as “the Day of the Lord” is used by a number of Old Testament prophets. You will find it in Isaiah 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:5; Amos 5:18, 20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14; and Malachi 4:5. In Joel, where we will spend some time, this phrase is found 5 times (2:1, 2:11, 2:31, 3:14). In all cases, the writers are pointing to some momentous future event that deserves our special attention.
As an example of the importance of this phrase, we will look at a passage written by the prophet Joel. We might call him the “no-name prophet.” Certainly unlike Isaiah or Jeremiah who were well identified within the city of Jerusalem and the king’s court, Joel is a nobody. We don’t know anything about him or Pethuel who is identified as his father. But later his credentials were certified by the Apostle Peter. Let’s go to a sample of his writing to underscore how the Day of the Lord opens the door to something we should pay attention to.
1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming.
It is close at hand—
2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was in ancient times
nor ever will be in ages to come.
3 Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes.
Before them the land is like the garden of Eden,
behind them, a desert waste–nothing escapes them.
4 They have the appearance of horses;
they gallop along like cavalry.
5 With a noise like that of chariots
they leap over the mountain tops,
like a crackling fire consuming stubble,
like a mighty army drawn up for battle.
6 At the sight of them, nations are in anguish;
every face turns pale. Joel 2:1-6.
As you read these verses, can you hear the crashing and clanging and commotion that is going on? And what is Joel warning about? It is a coming invasion of locusts, so fearsome as to be compared to an attacking army. We may not appreciate the total devastation that this would bring about in an agricultural nation. Such an invading army of locusts would wipe them out. And, yes, it is the Day of the Lord–a day of judgment to Israel because of their continued rebellion against God, even effecting surrounding nations.
We can understand the impact of this coming day, but when would this day come? How long would this day last? We are not told. The meaning of the word “day” (yom) is not disclosed. It is again a specific time without identifying when it would come or how long it would last. Yet, there is more to come. The straying nation is not left without a redeeming option—an opportunity to make corrections.
11b The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? 12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly. Joel 2:11b-16a.
The day of the Lord detailed in the first part of Joel 2 is an indeterminate day, both in arrival and duration. But that day can be conditioned by human activity: Specifically, Israel’s “day” of judgment can be avoided by another day, a “day” of repentance and returning to the God of their forefathers, the God they knew but had abandoned. This warning and invitation to return are similar to other occasions when God tried to guide his people in righteous ways. But when they refused, the predicted consequences were visited on the people of Israel.
The “Day of the Spirit” Predicted
We turn now on another day found in the same chapter of Joel. Already in Isaiah and other prophets, there had been numerous prophetic references to the coming of the Lamb of God, the Branch of Jesse, the One called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and more. That day and time arrived hundreds of years later in a quiet, perhaps dusty town called Bethlehem. That day was heralded by angelic beings, shepherds and men of standing from the east.
But in Joel chapter 2, another day comes into focus. Here is how he described what was going to happen “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls. Joel 2:28-32.
If we had been around when the prophet Joel was “preaching” about this promised day to the people of Israel, we would undoubtedly have scratched our heads with serious questions: What is he talking about this time? What’s this about visions and wonders, blood and smoke, darkness and a dreadful day? Yes, and that would be just some of the uncertainty about what we were hearing. And when some of this did indeed come to pass, there were many who still had no idea what was going on. But later on in the New Testament, we get a specific answer to these questions.
It was just hours after Jesus had been crucified that two prominent Jewish leaders, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, secured a burial place for Jesus a short distance from where he died. Both men were members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious body of the Jewish nation. The Chief Priests got the Roman Governor, Pilate, to secure the tomb and post a military guard at the tomb. Three days later, Jesus rose from his grave.
Then, 50 days after the events of that weekend, something strange took place in Jerusalem. And just like in Joel’s day, people witnessing and hearing what was going on couldn’t make sense out of it. Similar questions were again being asked: How could things like this take place? And what does it all mean? Well, someone knew.
As you read the following passage from Acts 2, you see that what we speculated about in Joel’s time is what really took place 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. One person speaking through inspiration of God’s Spirit was able to explain what it all meant. The key to what the Apostle Peter said is underlined in this quote from the Prophet Joel along with his words to the gathered crowd.
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?” . . . 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Acts 2:1-21.
According to the Apostle Peter, this is the beginning of the “day of the Lord” for he brings in a significant phrase in verse 17, “In the last days, God says . . .” So what took place there in Jerusalem on the “Day of Pentecost” is not yet completed. The “day” of God’s revelation of himself as Joel publically announced is not yet fully realized. There is still more to come during this “day of the Lord.”
What is on display here in both Testaments, New and Old, is that God’s “days” do not reflect the time schedules that we work with as humans. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Peter may well not have realized that when he was preaching in Acts 2. You may recall that as one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, he seemed always to be in a rush.
However, several years after this sermon in Jerusalem, the Apostle Peter acknowledged that God’s time schedule doesn’t depend on human calculations or calendars. He wrote, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” II Peter 3:8.
As you read Joel’s words above, you will realize that not all of what Joel predicted has yet come to pass. Yes, there is more that will take place within God’s own time schedule in what Joel called the “great and dreadful day of the Lord.” To help us in our understanding of God’s time durations and our own limitation in that arena, let’s bring in another witness. Coming from another Old Testament preacher, we want to bring in the writing of this prophet who is not often referred to or preached from in our current era, Zephaniah. Have you heard about him?
The Great Day of the Lord from Zephaniah
While we referred to Joel as the “no-name prophet” Zephaniah was cut from a different piece of cloth. He had standing in Jerusalem and in the king’s court. He was a great-grandson of King Hezekiah who is reliably credited with constructing the tunnel under Jerusalem to bring water into the city during times of enemy sieges.
As a member of the royal class, he had access even to King Josiah. We can’t tell what kind of influence Zephaniah may have had on the king, but we know that several years into his reign, Josiah brought revival and spiritual vitality to the kingdom as almost no other king of Israel had. Beginning in Jerusalem and moving up and down the land, King Josiah restored the worship of Jehovah throughout the nation. You can read about him in II Kings 23. Here is the opening paragraph to give you a sense of what he accomplished:
1 Then the king (Josiah) called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 2 He went up to the temple of the Lord with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. 3 The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.
While we have no direct connection between the prophet Zephaniah and Josiah’s reform movement, it is safe to say that the king had a strong ally if not a prime motivator in this prophet/preacher of his time. The prophet proclaimed not only a great warning, but also an amazing promise of forgiveness and restoration if the nations would repent. In Israel, the people listened and responded and received a time of peace during King Josiah’s reign.
Read one of the great promises found in all Scripture from the pen of Zephaniah: 16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 17 The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:16, 17.
This tender, reassuring and compassionate expression from God comes after a searing warning in the first chapter:
12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad.’ 13 Their wealth will be plundered, their houses demolished. Though they build houses, they will not live in them; though they plant vineyards, they will not drink the wine.” 14 The great day of the Lord is near—near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the Lord is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry. 15 That day will be a day of wrath—a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness—16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. 17 “I will bring such distress on all people that they will grope about like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the Lord. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath.” In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth. Zephaniah 1:12 – 18.
While we have seen similar words as these in our quotations from the prophet Joel, we have here an expanded phase of God’s judgment not seen in other writings of the prophets. Zephaniah is simultaneously picturing events that will take place over centuries of time, yet identifying them as happening in the “near and quickly coming great day of the Lord.”
Let’s take apart some of the verses quoted above. Yes, we have seen and the Scriptures have recorded events such as are outlined in verses 15 – 18. Three of Josiah’s sons had their turn at being king of Judah (Israel). Particularly during the reign of Zedekiah, the third son, we see the fulfillment of much that is quoted above. (See II Kings 25). Conditions in Jerusalem got so bad that in order to survive, people resorted to cannibalism, even of family members.
However, when you read from Zephaniah, that “great day of the Lord” includes verse 18 where “the whole earth will be consumed” and “he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.” Obviously, the“great day of the Lord” is referring to a time and phase of God’s judgment that extends far more than days and years—even into centuries. From II Kings 25 we know that the siege of Jerusalem lasted for two years—all part of the predicted “great day of the Lord.”
Perhaps this is where the Apostle Peter can again help us understand the prophecy. He writes: 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. II Peter 3:8 – 10. (See also Malachi 4:1-6 for additional material regarding the “great and dreadful” day of the Lord.”)
As we have already seen, it is difficult to determine in advance what prophecy really means. It becomes much easier after the facts are laid out through events. However, you can make your own judgment here whether the scriptures in Zephaniah or Malachi 4 are figurative or literal. Then ask the same questions about Peter’s writing to Christians in the first century.
The issue remains: Will the earth at some time be purged and cleansed by fire? And, have both Zephaniah and Peter (and others) predicted that coming event? In advance of the answers to these questions, we already know that the “great day” of the Lord’s judgment during King Zedekiah’s reign was longer than 24 hours.
The Preaching from the Prophet Zephaniah—Like the Story of Noah
At an earlier time, God saw that the world he had created had become corrupt and that violence was found everywhere. Yet, as he looked over humanity, God found a man and his family walking faithfully with him. Genesis 6 has the record of God’s interaction with Noah: 9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Genesis 6:9, 10.
Perhaps you are familiar with the story—movies have even been made about the Genesis account about Noah. God’s reaction to the “good” world he had created now filled with corruption and violence was to make a fresh start. But he found Noah whom the Apostle Peter called a “preacher of righteousness.” (II Peter 2:5)
Now Noah was around 500 years old when God first spoke to him and instructed him on how to build an “ark” to save a remnant of humankind and animals. It took him100 years to complete the project. So, during that time, Noah, the preacher of righteousness, was trying to convince his neighbors that something really big was coming along—a flood! Actually, it was pretty hard for Noah to hide what he was doing in his back yard: His boat was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet deep. You can imagine the entire region was awash with rumors about Noah’s crazy project!
Why bring in Noah when talking about Zephaniah? In Zephaniah, God repeats a pattern of his interaction with mankind from ancient times. For 100 years or so, God through Noah gave warning about the coming flood. There was ample time for people to hear and for people to make a decision as to how they would respond to God’s warning. And when we get to Zephaniah, we see the same model being followed. Briefly, here is an outline of what the prophet wrote:
Zephaniah 1:2 – 18 Warning of impending judgment
Zephaniah 2:1 – 3:8 Nation by nation, charges and a call to repentance
Zephaniah 3:9 – 20 Future restoration and blessing.
When we link up Zephaniah and King Josiah (who were related), we have a great combination for preaching repentance and restoration (See II Kings 23:1-25). These passages also provide us with guidelines for personal renewal and restoration. And while we are reading God’s message to nations and peoples, we understand that they are all made up of individuals. So as individuals, we can make our repentance and reconciliation with the God who is inviting us.
This idea of repentance and reconciliation with God turning up in the Old Testament may come as a surprise to some. It may be that much of what you have heard contradicts that notion. The God of the Old Testament, so he is portrayed, was a hard, demanding taskmaster unlike the God that Jesus revealed and preached about. Jesus is seen as the meek and mild shepherd who cares for all God’s children as if the Old Testament God did not.
Well, while we may not understand all of the Old Testament portrayals of God with human weaknesses and faults, they were pictures that would be understood by a more primitive society. God’s primary aim was to preserve a remnant that would show evidence of his grace in a world often flooded with violence against the righteous and innocent.
The God of Jesus is not in conflict with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In God’s planning, Jesus’ coming was to be the fulfillment and completion of the revelation of himself to humankind from Adam forward. Remember, God did not wipe out Adam and Eve. He left them with the promise of a future rescue as he did with Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Hosea and many more. Yes, there were times of devastation when God intervened for the sake of all humanity. But even then, people were offered an opportunity to step away from the edge of death and into a righteous life.
As we now cross over into the New Testament, there is a fuller and more complete revelation of God’s plan for humanity. As already noted, Jesus ads more light, more definition, more directness to the appeal of the Old Testament. What had been foretold has arrived. What had been partial is complete. What was viewed as a reflection is now the full reality. The Bethlehem of the old is eclipsed by the new.
When one of Jesus’ own disciples asked him to “show us the Father,” Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”John 14:9. So we will learn more about God’s plans in the New Testament adding to what we received from the Old. God has been intentional all along to give us as much insight and information as we could handle at the time. We now step further into that light.
The Lamb Slain Before the Foundation of the World
One of the essential truths or beliefs of Christian faith is that Jesus, the Son of God, died and was raised from death for the redemption of believing humanity. It is impossible to call yourself a “Christian” if that position of Jesus is denied. A person may have an opinion about Jesus as a great teacher, or religious leader. But Jesus himself claimed that he would give his life to redeem mankind. That is basic Christianity.
Within the context of that event (Jesus’ death and resurrection), we want to establish a timeline, if you will, of God’s planning and his action. Here we turn to the specific language of the New Testament from the pen of one many consider the prime leader of the early Christian church and one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Read what the Apostle Peter wrote in I Peter.
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. I Peter 1:19 – 21. (See also Ephesians 1:4; John 17:24; John 1:29; Matthew 25:34; Hebrews 4:3, 9:26).
The Apostle Paul writing in a similar manner to the church in the region of Galatia said: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. Galatians 4:4, 5.
As we considered earlier, God planned in eternity past, prior to the creation of our earth, that his Son, Jesus, would redeem and ransom humanity from the power of evil. Without getting into the theology of Jesus’ death and resurrection, what Jesus went through was the result of a plan that was “drawn up” at a time in the distant past of eternity.
Both great Apostles of the New Testament confirm that Jesus’ coming into the world as a baby and being crucified as a criminal to be raised on the third day was not a last minute accommodation—that was God’s plan from eternity past. And what God intends he accomplishes in his time.
So, regardless of when anyone thinks the earth was created, before that took place, it was already God’s plan that Jesus would rescue humanity. Something terrible would take place that would require an infinite sacrifice to be made. God’s plan to redeem mankind was worked out according to his own timing
So before creation took place, God had already made provisions for things that would happen after he completed creating the earth. Let’s take a moment to think about what God’s creative process may have been like. Perhaps we can even borrow some insight from “Wisdom” quoted from the book of Proverbs.