This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
One of the things that we are made aware of in life, pretty early in life most of us, is that life is full of conflict, struggle and war. And many of us, all of us, I suppose, have adjusted to this fact, we accept the fact that there’s war, conflict, struggle, contention. Many other different words could be used.
Some years back, I began to meditate on this, and to ask myself, What is the reason? Why do we accept as normal something, in a sense, that should be abnormal? Why is there war? Why is there struggle and strife and dispute? Does the Scripture give us any clear explanation of what is the real basic cause? Should this be so, will it always be so, did it have a beginning? These are the questions I have turned over in my own mind for many years and I have meditated on them, prayed over them and sought to find answers out of the Scripture. And what I’m going to bring you today and successive studies will be the fruit of this meditation and prayer and study. And when we look at the New Testament and we see what it has to say about Christians and to Christians, we find again that conflict, war, the life of a soldier, are all accepted as a regular, normal part of Christian living. They’re not something exceptional; they’re not something just a few Christians may encounter. All Christians will inevitably encounter conflict and warfare in the spiritual realm. This is what the Bible clearly shows. Let’s look at some of these Scriptures for a moment that show us that conflict and warfare are a normal part of Christian living, and then let’s try to go behind this and see how it all began.
The first reference you’ll find in the margin on your outline is 2 Corinthians chapter 10, verses 3–5. 2 Corinthians 10:3–5. I’ll read just verses 3 and 4. We will not pause to comment on them at length, but just let’s notice the wording.
“Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.)” (KJV)
Paul is talking here about all Christians generally, not some special group of Christians. And notice, he says we war, but not in the flesh, we have weapons for our warfare, and we are attacking strongholds. So you have about four military words in those two sentences. They’re an essential and inevitable part of Christian life. Warfare, weapons, and attacking strongholds. And I’d like you to notice right from the start, that the New Testament does not place the Christian on the defensive, but on the offensive. This is one of the biggest mistakes of contemporary Christendom—that we tend to place ourselves on the defensive. For instance, there’s a quite well-known book by Jesse Penn Lewis, entitled, War on the Saints. I’m sure that some of you have read that book. But you notice, the very title assumes that the initiative is with the enemy. It’s the enemy who makes war on the saints. Actually, the New Testament places the initiative with the Christians. It’s the Christians who should be making war on the enemy. We should not wait to see what the enemy will do to us; we should be keeping the enemy in an attitude of suspense: What are these Christians going to do to me next? And part of the ultimate purpose of these studies is to try to restore the initiative to God’s people.
Turning on to 1 Timothy, chapter 1 and verse 18, we find words spoken by Paul to Timothy as a minister of the gospel. 1 Timothy chapter 1 verse 18:
“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience.” (KJV)
Timothy was a young man who had been called early to the ministry of the gospel. Prophecies had apparently been given over him, giving some kind of outline of the type of ministry that God was calling him to do. These prophecies apparently warned him of conflict and opposition and even danger.
But Paul says, “I want you to remember these prophecies, which went before on you, and in the light of them I want you to remember you’ve got to war a good warfare. You’ve got to serve efficiently and with courage and dedication in this spiritual warfare in which you find yourself as a result of your commitment to serve Jesus Christ.” So we pick out again the words war and warfare.
And then in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 3 and 4, Paul returns to the same theme. And he here introduces also the word soldier of Timothy as an individual believer. Second Timothy, chapter 2, verses 3 and 4:
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (KJV)
So Paul assumes that Timothy is a soldier, engaged in spiritual warfare, chosen for this warfare by the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he has to conduct himself in the light of this position as a soldier.
I served as a soldier five and a half years in the British army; I know what a soldier’s life is like. It’s entirely different from the life of a civilian. There are so many differences, we don’t need to go into them, but the fact is that a soldier has to recognize the fact that he cannot live like a civilian! And Paul is bringing this lesson home to Timothy as a minister of the gospel. You cannot live like other people. You have a special calling. You have special responsibilities. You’re set apart, just as a soldier is set apart to a special way of life. But you notice again the assumption that the Christian life involves warfare.
And then we could turn back in the Bible to Ephesians the 6th chapter, and the 12th verse, and we find another vivid picture of Christian living. Ephesians 6 verse 12. This is an important verse, we’ll return to it later on. But let’s just look at it for a moment. I’ll read the King James Version and then slightly rephrase it, to make it a little more literal. In the King James Version it says,
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Paul is here illustrating the Christian life by a metaphor taken from the Olympic Games. A wrestling match. And he says as Christians we are involved in a wrestling match. Now everybody knows that wrestling involves the total person. It’s the most total of all forms of conflict in sport. There’s no area of your personality that’s omitted. And this is the particular type of contest that Paul chooses to illustrate the Christian life. It is a wrestling match. I’ll give you a more literal reading of that. It’s very vivid:
“For our wrestling match is not against flesh and blood—we are not wrestling against mere human personalities, but against principalities, or rulerships, against powers, the realms of their authority against the world rulers of the present darkness, against spirits of wickedness in the heavenlies.”
Now there are many questions prompted by those statements and we will seek in due course to find the answer to all those questions. But it’s a remarkable picture that as Christians, we’re involved in a wrestling match, and the area of our wrestling is not limited to the earth, but it’s in the heavenlies. Now we won’t go into that now in detail, because we’ll have time to study it further later.
Now another aspect of this truth is contained in the way that the Scriptures speak about God Himself as a military commander. And this language does not occur just once or twice, but is found all through the Scriptures. Let’s turn back to the Old Testament to the book of Exodus for a moment. The 15th chapter and the 3rd verse. Exodus 15:3. This is a song that Moses and the children of Israel sang after they had passed through the waters of the Red Sea and seen God’s judgment on their enemies, the Egyptians, the total annihilation of the entire Egyptian army. And they give expression to their gratitude and their sense of triumph and victory in this song. And in the 3rd verse of the 15th chapter, this is what they’re saying:
“The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.” (KJV)
Of course, that’s Jehovah in the original text, the sacred name for the one true God, Jehovah, or whatever you like to call it—modern scholars tend to call Yahweh, or “Jehovah” is a man of war, Yahweh is His name.
“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.” (KJV)
Notice, God as a military commander has brought total defeat upon the enemies of His people. It’s not just a metaphor, but it’s much more. It’s actually expressed in the results that are achieved. And then in the book of Joshua, and the 5th chapter, we have a scene outside the city of Jericho. Jericho was at that time besieged by the armies of Israel, and Joshua was no doubt was seeking to plan his strategy to capture this very well defended and highly fortified ancient city. And as Joshua was outside the city, a man appeared to him, who was no ordinary man, but was indeed the Lord. And we read these three verses— 13, 14, and 15:
“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD, am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.” (KJV)
Here is a divine person coming to Joshua, and notice, he has a sword drawn in his hand, and he gives his title, “I’m the captain of the army of the LORD.” I have no question in my own mind, but this is the One that was manifested in human history as Jesus of Nazareth, the Eternal Son of God. Not the Father, but the Son, one of, I suppose, scores of places in the Old Testament Scriptures where He was manifested actually to human beings such as Abraham, Jacob, Joshua and Moses, and others. But the point that I’m bringing out at the moment here is the Lord Himself, manifested as a military commander with a sword drawn in His hand. This part of the total picture of God.
We turn on to the book of Psalms, and in the 24th Psalm and the 8th verse, we have another similar presentation of the Lord. Psalm 24, verse 8. Psalm 24:8:
“Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.” (KJV)
Those words are vivid for me because when I served with the 8th army in the North African desert, the British 8th Army, we suffered a series of reverses. In fact, I took place in the longest retreat recorded in the history of the British Army, which is about 1500 miles of continuous retreating. We got to the very gates of Cairo, to a place called El Alamein, and then the British government under Winston Churchill gave us a new commander, whose name was Montgomery. And we certainly needed a new commander, because the discipline, the morale, and the efficiency of the British forces were in a shocking condition.
And I had, as a new Christian, been praying this prayer—“Lord, give us a leader such that it will be for Your glory to give us victory through him!” And then the Battle of El Alamein was fought and won—the first real Allied victory in the war, and a major turning point.
And I was in the desert with a truck about two days after the battle, and I had a small portable radio on the tailboard of the truck and I was listening to the news commentator describe the preparations for the Battle of El Alamein at the British headquarters, and he described how General Montgomery, who was then an unknown figure, had called his officers and men together before the battle was joined, and said in public, “Let us ask the Lord, mighty in battle, to give us the victory.” And it was as though God spoke to me, and said, “That’s the answer to your prayer!”
But those words are taken here from Psalm 24 verse 8:
“Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.”
And there is another example in contemporary history where the Lord’s might was manifested actually in a military battle. We have to face this fact—the Lord is a man of war! In agreement with this, you’ll find well over a hundred times in the Scriptures that the Lord (or Jehovah) is called in the King James Version the “Lord of Hosts,” or the “God of Hosts.” And you have to remember that the word “hosts” is the old Elizabethan English word for an army. He’s the God of armies, the Lord of armies. The Hebrew word tsaba is the modern Hebrew word for the army of Israel. The same word is still used today. Perhaps this picture could be summed up in a verse from Isaiah 13:4. Isaiah 13:4. Where it is a prophecy of judgment on the city of Babylon, and the judgment was in the literal, judgment. Babylon was captured by armies and destroyed. Isaiah saw this vision of God’s judgment on Babylon before it took place. And in the 4th verse we have a very vivid picture of a great company of nations gathering together against Babylon. It says:
“The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the LORD of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.” (KJV)
The Lord of Armies is drawing up the army for the battle. That’s modern English, see, it’s entirely military. He’s the Lord of armies; He’s drawing up the army for the battle.
So I believe these Scriptures that we’ve looked at, all quite briefly, show us that in the Christian life conflict, warfare, the life and discipline of a soldier, are an important part, a normal part. Every Christian will find this part of his total experience. And looking beyond this we see that God Himself is involved in some kind of a warfare. He’s presented as a captain with a drawn sword. He’s the God of armies, the Lord of armies.
So this is something that runs through Scripture and it runs out into the Christian life. The Christian life is not all sweetness and singing hymns or playing harps. There’s a lot of other aspects of the Christian life. And this is the one we are dealing with.
Now, as I said at the beginning, for a good many years I have pondered in my mind: What is the background to this situation? What is the root cause of this conflict that we see on every hand? And, secondly, who are the opposing forces involved in this conflict? God is a military commander; we are an army under His command. Against whom is He fighting?
Let me seek to answer the first question first. What is the background—what is the root cause—and I’ve come to this conclusion, that the root cause of all unrest, conflict, war, can be summed up in one single word—and that word is rebellion. Rebellion against the righteous, moral government of God. And the world today is full of rebels. And a rebel never can know peace. I deal in counseling with scores and scores of people who come to me with their spiritual problems, their personal problems, their family problems. And God has shown me very clearly that people’s problems can be more or less defined like the three main areas of a tree. A tree has branches, a trunk, and roots.
Now, I find most people are occupied with the branches. That’s what they see. But God has shown me that if you deal with a tree and just cut off a few branches, you haven’t really changed things very much. Cause it’s the trunk that carries the branches. Let’s take, for instance, this very common problem of the alcohol—the alcoholic. Or there are other forms of addiction. Addiction is a kind of very prevalent modern problem. God has shown me clearly, addiction is just a branch. You deal with the branch, and even if you cut it off, there’s a whole deeper area of problem that you haven’t touched. God has shown me—you go for the trunk. When you get the trunk, the branches automatically are dealt with. And even below the trunk are the roots.
So, for instance, let’s take the lady who becomes an alcoholic. Alcohol is just a symptom. There’s something below. What is it? Well, her husband is unfaithful; he spends the money in a way she doesn’t approve of, and so on and so forth. And she has built up great resentment and bitterness against this husband—for many reasons which are valid, by human standards. Well, you will never solve that lady’s problem by just dealing with alcohol. You’ve got to deal with her attitude to her husband. Is she willing to forgive him? If not, even if she gets rid of alcohol, there’ll be another addiction or another problem next year. And this is true in so many areas. Basically, I’m afraid the church at large is grappling at branches most of the time. It doesn’t get below that level. But God has shown me that below the branches is the trunk, and below the trunk are the roots! And God has shown me the real root of all problems is rebellion. And you would be amazed at the number of nice religious rebels we have in our churches. They have never really submitted to God.
You see, I have a reference here, if you’d like to look at it, to the Lord’s Prayer, a very familiar passage of Scripture, probably all of us could quote it. And I’d like you to notice the opening phrases of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s found in Matthew chapter 6 verses 9 and 10. Matthew 6:9 and 10:
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” (KJV)
Let’s not go further. Those opening phrases set the whole attitude and atmosphere of prayer. First of all, we pray as members of the body. We don’t pray “My” Father; we pray “Our” Father. There are other people involved in this relationship with God. One of the great problems people have is, “I’m the only one that ever went through this problem. Nobody else has ever suffered like this. You don’t know, Brother Prince, what I’ve gone through!” But you don’t know how many people have told me exactly the same thing! The Bible teaches us to regard ourselves as members together of one body. And the word “our” is very important: “Our Father.”
Then we are reminded that we are sons and daughters of God. We have the right to come to Him as a Father. Then the first thing that we have to learn is reverence and respect: “Hallowed be thy name.” There isn’t too much real reverence for God in many sections of the church today. There’s an outward conformity of behavior. But this is a very different thing—honoring and respecting Almighty God, and fearing Him! “Hallowed be thy name.”
The next thing is—“Thy kingdom come.” God has a kingdom and His ultimate purpose in this dispensation is to bring His kingdom into being on earth. And when I say, “Thy kingdom come,” I am lining myself up with God’s purposes. It’s not just a nice religious phrase. I’m saying, “God, Thy kingdom come—and here I am to play my part in the coming of Your kingdom.” That’s why I’m saying it. I’m identifying myself with the purpose of God and then I say, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” How is God’s will done in heaven? As I understand it, it’s done perfectly. There are no hitches, there are no frustrations, there are no delays. God’s will goes through perfectly in heaven, as I understand it. And Jesus taught us to pray that it should go the same way on earth. And if Jesus taught us to pray that, I believe it’s a possibility. I don’t believe He taught us to pray for something which was absolutely impossible. But when I pray—“Thy will be done in earth,” you know where that’s got to begin? With me! I have to submit myself without reservation to the will of God.
I don’t know whether you are familiar with the story of the conversion of Charles Finney, who was one of the greatest preachers that the church has ever been graced with. And a man with an outstanding ministry of bringing sinners to conviction and conversion. And one of the remarkable facts about Finney’s ministry as an evangelist is that it’s estimated that over sixty percent of his converts remained Christians. Whereas the converts of Moody—this is no criticism of Moody—but it’s estimated that only approximately thirty percent remained Christian. There was something in the ministry of Finney that produced gripping conviction. And I believe it goes back partly to Finney’s own conversion.
He was a respectable lawyer, and then somebody—I don’t remember the details—confronted him with the gospel and salvation. And Finney turned it over in his mind and thought, “Well, if there’s such a thing as salvation, I probably need to be saved. It would be a good thing to be saved.” But because he was a respectable citizen, he didn’t think it would be dignified to get saved in public, in a church or anywhere like that, so he thought it would be good to go out in the woods and pray alone and get saved. And then he wouldn’t have the embarrassment of letting everybody know that he needed to be saved. So he went out in the woods to pray. And I found myself in a similar position once—when I came to pray, I didn’t know anything to pray. And Finney thought, “Well, what am I going to pray? Well, the Lord’s Prayer, that’s a good prayer, there’s nothing wrong with praying that.” So he started out—“Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come...” and he got ready to say the next phrase, “Thy will be done in earth,” and it dawned on him that this involved him—that he could not say, “Thy will be done in earth,” unless he was prepared, without reservation, to submit to God’s will in his own life. Otherwise he was a total hypocrite. And at this point the Holy Spirit moved in and through that phrase, “Thy will be done,” showed Finney what a rebel he really was: a polite, respectable, law-abiding, religious rebel. And God broke him down into a state of total submission. Dealt with him very, very powerfully. And shortly afterwards baptized him in the Holy Spirit. And there’s no question what happened to Finney. He said, “I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Spirit.” And he said, “I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my soul.” There’s no question that he gave forth an utterance in what we would call today “an unknown tongue.” And here is the real secret—first of all, the deep conviction, and secondly, a mighty anointing of the Holy Spirit.
But coming back to this text, “Thy will be done” means “Lord, I’m not going to be a rebel any longer.” And you see, there are lots and lots of people who say the Lord’s Prayer regularly every day or every week, but they have never realized what they’re committing themselves to. I have found that a person will never have deep, settled, permanent inward peace until they’ve made a total submission to Almighty God. This is what Isaiah says. And there’s a reference there in Isaiah 57. Isaiah the 57th chapter, verses 19 through 21. Without going into the background of it, the Lord is speaking. And He says:
“I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.” (KJV)
God is offering peace and healing to all mankind. “To him that is afar off” is usually a form of speech for the Gentiles. “To him that is near”—to Israel. You’ll find Paul takes up these references in Ephesians. God is offering peace and healing. But there are those that can never receive peace because they will never lay down their arms of rebellion. So God goes on to say:
“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (KJV)
As long as there’s that attitude of rebellion, it’s like something that we seem to see, it cannot rest. It’s continually—it’s waves of continually rolling, it’s breaking, it’s casting up the mire and the dirt at the edge. You watch the sea—it cannot rest! And the Scripture says, “The wicked [the rebellious] are like the troubled sea, they cannot rest. There is no peace to the wicked.” The best single evidence that you are living right is that you have deep, settled, abiding, inward peace. And I’ll tell you today, in modern America there are very, very few people that have that.
I was in New Zealand with some Baptist friends there, and they were talking about their Sunday school class, it was a college-age class, and there was a young woman who was a trained nurse who came into the class. Didn’t profess to be a Christian, but wanted to study. And this lady was her teacher. The lady in whose house we were staying, the Baptist lady. And she said—One day this young woman challenged her and said, “You’re talking to us about joy and peace and the fruit of the Holy Spirit,” and she said, “I’ll believe that when I’m not continually giving sedation and tranquilizers to the members of your church that I visited in their homes! But if you have joy and peace—why all the sedation? Why all the tranquilizers? It doesn’t go together.” And that’s the truth. There are very, very few people in modern
America that have real deep, settled, inward peace. You know why? Because it’s a nation of rebels! Many times religious rebels, but rebels. And I believe there’s coming a confrontation, a showdown between God and the people of the United States in this decade in which we are living. I envisage this and it’s in my spirit! But I praise God for it. And the real question will be—total submission!
After all, if God is willing to come into my life and share with me, there’s only one logical place I can give Him, and that’s total supremacy. Complete Lordship. Anything short of that is quite illogical.
Now, let’s go further back, and this is the second phase of our study today. We find ourselves confronted with the fact of rebellion. Rebellion inside us. Rebellion in the world. Rebellion against government. Rebellion against God. Rebellion in the children against parents, students against teachers, and so on. Everywhere you look, you see rebellion and it’s burgeoning and increasing. When did rebellion begin? Who was the first rebel?
Now, I’m going to seek to begin to answer these questions now, but I have to lay a foundation. There are two basic facts concerning Scripture and its revelation, which we need to recognize. Let’s try and look at them briefly right now. First of all, the Bible deals primarily with the Adamic race. This is a very important fact, which few Christians have really grasped.
In the first chapter of the Bible, in the 26th verse we have the creation of Adam. And what you have to remember is that Adam is a proper name. And almost, I would say, 98 percent of the remaining teaching of Scripture relates to the descendants of Adam. Wherever you read in the Old Testament “the sons of men” it is actually “the sons of Adam.” It’s a proper name. And the Bible’s focus is on a certain name—Adam and his descendants. And as I will seek to show you in a little while, there is nothing that I know of in Scripture to suggest that Adam was the only person of the human type that ever lived on the earth. In fact, I think it’s almost inevitable that we have to acknowledge there were other races before Adam. But the Bible does not deal with that. The Bible is a revelation given to the Adamic race to tell us the things that we need to know for our spiritual benefit and good.
Now there are other facts, but they’re really like the frame on the picture. The picture is Adam and his descendants and God’s dealings with them. The other things that are revealed—and we’re going to look at some of them—are not so much the picture as the frame. We have to get the frame right in order to get the picture right. But we bear this in mind then: the Bible is speaking to Adam.
Let me just point this out which I’m going to deal with at length later on, when Jesus came, one of His main titles was the Son of Man. Actually, He gives Himself that title more than eighty times in the gospel. Now the Son of Man is a direct translation from Hebrew ben Adam, which is the Son of Adam—“Adam”— Adam. So He deliberately declared Himself to be the Son of Adam.
And the apostle Paul calls Him “the last Adam.” In other words, He was identified with one specific man and His descendants—this is the most remarkable fact. It’s a breathtaking thought that God has taken so much trouble about Adam. But there it is.
The second thing which also goes with this is that there was an undetermined period in the history of the universe before the creation of Adam. And I am not interested to measure it. It could be millions of years, it could be billions of years. In my opinion, years probably really aren’t relevant to measuring that period. There are various passages in the Bible which suggest the elapse of almost measureless ages. There are also passages in the Bible which suggest that measureless ages still lie in front of us. But for the most part, the Bible does not focus on them. But the suggestion, in fact I would say the indication, is there in the Scripture. And we will not properly see things in focus unless we acknowledge it.
Now for the remainder of our study now, I want to take a look at what I have taught here in your outline, “The Pre-Adamic Period.” You see, this is a very, what shall I say, egocentric classification. But I’m not capable of any other. From God’s point of view, there will probably be many, many successive periods prior to Adam. But I’m looking at it from our little point of view and saying, before we even came on the scene, who knows, there was something going on a long, long, long time. And I just call that whole long, long, long time the Pre-Adamic Period. But if we could see it as God sees it, we’d probably classify it and subdivide it and have many different periods and ages to speak of.
Now let’s turn to the opening verse of Scripture. Which is one of those tremendous statements that never loses its impact. If there was really only one verse in the Bible, and it was Genesis 1:1, I would have to acknowledge that it was inspired. To me that speaks with authority. Even as an unbeliever and a skeptic I never could get away from the fact that there was some authority here which one way or another I was going to have to face up to and in due course I did. In the King James Version we have this statement, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” In the opening chapters of Genesis, there are certain words that are in the plural form that are very interesting.
You see, in the English language normally to make a noun plural we add “s,” don’t we? Book, books—job, jobs—and so on. Now the normal plural in Hebrew, not the only one, but the normal one is adding two letters, “I–M,” which are pronounced “eem.” And “I–M” is the normal plural form in Hebrew. Now in this very first verse, we have two words ending in “I–M.” I’ll say the verse in Hebrew, because it sounds good. (??? Gen. 1:1 in Hebrew ???.)
Did you hear the two eems—in the beginning, (???)—created, Elohim—God.
The word for God the first time in Scripture is (Elohim), and there’s a perfectly good singular form of that word: it’s (???). You have an immediate conflict of grammar, because the Hebrew verbs have a plural and a singular form all through. But the verb (bara) is in the singular, so you have a conflict of grammar. A plural God, singular created. Which is, if you want to call it a mystery, it’s the mystery of the Trinity in a nutshell. In God there is both plurality and unity.
The noun is plural, the verb is singular. Which is the whole mystery of the Trinity presented in the very first statement of God in the Scripture.
Then you have the word “heaven,” (shamayim) and “im” is plural—not heaven, but heavens. And then (erets), the earth, is singular. So we have a plurality in God and a plurality in heaven. And of course the Bible indicates very, very clearly—as we’ll see even maybe today, anyhow in subsequent studies— that there is more than one heaven. But all this is contained in the initial revelation.
Two other words which are interesting, which are also plural, that one, first of all, is (???), which is “life.” “He breathed into him the breath of life.” The word is chaiyim. And we find as we go on through
Scripture there are various forms of life. There’s spiritual life, and physical life, mortal life and immortal life. All these things are contained there.
Another interesting word that’s in the plural in Hebrew is mitsraim, which is the word for Egypt.
Because in Scripture—and in fact throughout history—there was upper and lower Egypt.
Another interesting word that’s plural is the word for water—mayim. And the Bible indicates there is more than one kind of water. There’s living water, and natural water. There’s water above the heavens and water under the heavens. In every case where the word is in the plural form, there’s a reason for it. A revelation is contained even in that grammatical fact that the noun is in the plural.
So here we have the very beginning of everything. God created the heavens and the earth.
Now other passages of Scripture indicate that God created the heavens first, and the people that were to inhabit the heavens, then He created the earth. The heavens and their inhabitants were already created when the earth was created.
Now we look at two Scriptures that bring this point out. Turning to the book of Job, the 38th chapter. Job 38, and reading just verses 4 through 8. Job had been, you might say, arguing with the Lord. Complaining that God wasn’t running the universe right and wasn’t treating Job right, and things were getting out of hand. He was wishing that he could have a personal interview with the Lord! But in the midst of all this, the Lord suddenly appeared in person on the scene! And Job got the shock of his life. That’s how we put it that way. And the Lord started on Job a lot of questions that Job couldn’t answer. And we’ll just read some of these questions beginning at verse 1 and skipping a little bit.
“The LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I would demand of thee, and answer...” (KJV)
I’m going to ask you some questions, Job, and you’d be ready with the answers. And Job said later, “I will lay my hand upon my mouth” (Job 40:4 KJV). I’ve spoken once but never again! I was talking like a man who didn’t know what I was talking about.
All right, here are the questions, just a few of them. First off:
“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? [And Job would have to say, I wasn’t there.] declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? [Lord, I don’t.] or who hath stretched the line [the architect’s line] upon it [to measure of each portion of it]? [Lord, I didn’t do it.] Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? [Or what are the sockets of the earth imbedded into? in modern English] who laid the corner stone thereof? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (KJV)
Notice that when the Lord laid the foundations of the earth, the morning stars sang and the sons of God shouted for joy! “The sons of God” in Job, without any question, are the angels. So that when God laid the foundations of the earth, the angels were all watching. Heaven and its hosts were complete. And then all heaven enjoyed the wonderful spectacle of the Lord creating the earth.
This is clear and I believe there’s nothing in us that wouldn’t agree with this. It’s logical, it’s reasonable. Then there’s another passage there you’ll see in your note outline. Compare Nehemiah 9:6. It’s rather a strange place to look for this revelation, many of us wouldn’t think it would be Nehemiah, but it is. The ninth chapter of Nehemiah is a tremendous chapter. It gives us an outline of God’s dealings with man and with Israel after the time of Nehemiah. And it’s tremendous, beautiful language. That we will just take the 6th verse of the 9th chapter of Nehemiah.
“Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all.” (KJV)
Notice two things here—“Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens.” And that phrase is used also in the book of psalms. There is a heaven which is as far above the heaven that we see as the heaven that we see is above earth! There’s a heaven that’s the heaven of heavens. And God made them all. And the Scripture says that God lives even above that! He lives above the heavens. He humbles Himself to behold of things in heaven and on earth. So we find again the justification for this statement that heaven is plural. There’s more than one heaven. We’ll find further detail about this later on. But God, when He made the heaven of heavens, also made their hosts. All those that were to dwell in them. “Their company
of heaven,” I believe it says in one of the passages in the Episcopal prayer book. All the company of heaven. It’s a rather vivid and beautiful phrase.
Now turning back to Genesis 1:1, let’s notice the next verse, verse 2. And I want to say immediately, I want to make this statement and then seek to substantiate it, but I believe there is an unmeasured lapse of time between Genesis 1, verse 1, and Genesis 1 verse 2. And that term could be thousands of years, it could be millions of years, it could be in figures that we wouldn’t know how to measure.
See, another interesting fact, and I was particularly interested in this as a philosopher, is that it’s meaningless to talk of time unless you have a standard of measurement. Now when we talk of time, our standard of measurement is the movement of the sun and heavenly bodies and things related to it. But who knows how God measures time? In other words, it is impossible actually for us to use meaningful words of other periods before the human race existed in the measurement of time.
And what I what I respect about the Bible is it never makes a wrong statement in that regard. If it had been purely a human work, written with the knowledge of that time, they would have made many statements that would not stand the test of logic. But there’s not one in the Bible that I know of. All right, we’ll read then verse 2:
“The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. [And then it says,] The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (KJV)
The picture is of a bird hovering. The Spirit of God hovering like a dove on the dark face of the deep. But what I am now declaring to you is this—that the description of the earth given in verse two is not a description of the earth in the state in which God created it. It’s a description of the earth into a state which it fell as the result of things that happened between verse 1 and verse 2.
Now the word that’s translated “was” could equally well be translated “became.” And I think that’s the correct translation. I’m not saying that it’s only translated “became.” Either is an accurate translation. But you’ll see that I have put there in the outline “the earth became waste and void.” And then in brackets, or in parentheses, you say, we have the two Hebrew words, tohu and bohu. In Hebrew, tohu and bohu... which are obviously designed to go together. And various languages tend to do this. I mean, we have in English the word “harem-scarem.” Well, I really don’t know what it means, but the rhyme is Russian phrase for “upside-down,” is ?shiveret neviverit?! Well, the ?shiveret? and ?neviverit? rhyme is exactly really like tohu and bohu. It’s a kind of a way of saying a terrible condition. All upside down, all harem-scarem. In fact, you see, there’s a feeling in language that this describes a situation.
Now, for the remainder of this study, I want to go through with you the other places in the Old Testament where these same Hebrew words are used—tohu and bohu. And in the outline that follows, you’ll find I have given every place where these two words are used. There are only two other passages where both words are used together—tohu and bohu. And they’re given there. The first one is Isaiah 34, and verse 11. Isaiah 34:11.
Now if you look into the background of the study of this chapter of Isaiah, it’s a very vivid picture of God’s judgment on the territory of Edom. Edom is the name given to Esau and his descendants. That is Jacob’s twin brother. It’s the country east of the Dead Sea. And the Scripture indicates that at the close of this age there will be terrible, desolating, permanent judgment of God upon that area. A judgment of which the effects will remain. But we don’t need to go into this. But it’s going to be judged in a way that will not just dry up, it will be a perpetual monument of God’s judgment for all successive ages. And we’ll see some of the phrases used.
Now for instance, verse 8 of Isaiah 34:
“It is the day of the LORD’S vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. The streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. [This is a terrible, fearful judgment.] It shall not be quenched night nor day [the burning pitch]; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever.” (KJV)
This refers to the actual physical area east of the Dead Sea. This is an interesting fact but it’s not relevant to our immediate study and therefore I have to be a little careful I don’t get too far off on it because it interests me. Now look at verse 11:
“But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it [unclean birds and beasts]: and he [God] shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.” (KJV)
Now this is a metaphor from the architect’s measuring line and his plummet. With the measuring line he measures horizontally, with the plummet he measures vertically. And God’s judgment is summed up in this vivid phrase. It will be the measuring line of confusion and the plummet of emptiness. The words in Hebrew are tohu and bohu. The measuring line of tohu and a plummet of bohu. In other words, what is it going to be? Total desolation. Completely given over to desolation that will be a memorial of God’s judgment forever afterwards. The whole picture is one of God’s anger and wrath visited in a desolating judgment.
Now the other place where these two words are found together is in Jeremiah 4 and verse 23. Jeremiah, the 4th chapter, and the 23rd verse. Now again, the association of these words is with judgment. The judgment here relates to Israel. And in verse 22 of Jeremiah 4, God says about Israel:
“My people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.” (KJV)
Total rebellion and wickedness. Then Jeremiah is given a vision of Judgment to come:
“I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.” (KJV)
Without form and void—tohu and bohu. So again a picture of complete desolation as a result of God’s judgment upon wickedness. So the only three places where these two words occur together, Genesis 1:2, Isaiah 34:11, Jeremiah 4:23. And I think we have to say that the consistent picture given is a fearful scene of desolation brought about by God’s judgment upon terrible wickedness. And I believe that this is the truth about Genesis 1:2. It depicts a scene of desolation brought about by God’s judgment upon terrible wickedness.
Now, let’s just go quickly through the other passages where tohu is used without bohu. And I think we’ll not need to turn to them all, they are listed there and if you want to study them for yourself, you can do. But I have given, not all the passages here, but a number of them. Deuteronomy 32:10, it says about the Lord that He found Jacob in “a waste howling wilderness.” The word “waste” is tohu. The whole picture is desolation. In Job 6:18, it speaks about streams in the desert that dry up and just go into sand and offer nothing to anybody, it says: “They go to nothing.” The word is tohu—perish. They just dry up into the sand. In Job 12:24 and Psalm 107:40 we have the phrase repeated—“a wilderness where there is no way.” And in each case men upon whom God’s judgment has come are made to wander in this wilderness where there is no way. The word “wilderness” is tohu.
Then in Isaiah 24:10, which is a picture of judgment, we might look quickly at that, the 24th chapter of Isaiah. Notice the first verse of this chapter is a picture of judgment on the whole earth. Isaiah 24:1:
“The Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.” (KJV)
And then as part of this total judgment, it says, “The city of confusion is broken down.” Confusion— tohu. A city of absolute desolation as a result of God’s judgment. Isaiah 40:23, since we are in Isaiah we can turn quickly through these Scriptures, Isaiah 40:23, it says:
“[The Lord] bringeth princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” (KJV)
Vanity—tohu. They are just consumed in His anger and wrath and judgment. And then in Isaiah 41:29, speaking about worshipers of idols, it says:
“They are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.” (KJV)
Confusion—tohu. The object of God’s wrath and judgment. And then the clearest statement of all, Isaiah 45:18, look at this one for a moment if you can:
“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: I am the LORD; and there is none else.” (KJV)
In vain—tohu. So read tohu there and you’ll see what you get. He created it not tohu. So if in Genesis 1:2, it was tohu, then it wasn’t in that condition that God created it. This is, I think, absolutely unanswerable logic. So the situation in Genesis 1:2 where the earth was tohu and bohu was not the condition in which the Lord created it. He did not create a world that was tohu or bohu; He created it to be inhabited. His aim was to make a blessed, pleasant, wonderful place for people to dwell in. The fact that it became tohu and bohu indicates that judgment of God had descended upon the earth between its creation as recorded in Genesis 1:1 and the scene presented in Genesis 1:2.