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
"fullness" of time Christ came (Gal. 4:4) born of a woman, with a view to the
fullness of the seasons (Eph. 1:10), when He in Whom all the
fullness dwells (Col. 1:19) shall bring this purpose of the ages to its blessed
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
"fullness", even the earth itself and its
fullness 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, 27:1 and 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 23:10 which are "beginnings" in that they anticipate the harvest at the end, "the fullness 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, 3:10 and 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, with the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty".
"These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness,
the beginning of the creation of God".
"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."
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last" (Rev. 1:8; 3:14; 21:6; 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 (1:10, 2:3; 7:3). The remaining references have the meaning "principalities", "rule" and "principles" (Rom. 8:38, 1 Cor. 15:24, Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12, Col. 1:16,18; 2:10,15, 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 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 impolitic 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,17:15,18,1 Sam. 2:29, Ezek. 21:19 and 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. 43:1,7,15), 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 18, "thou shah clear it", which the
AV. 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. 21:2,19) we perceive a richer reason for the choice of
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".
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: