7-8-2 Previous Creations
As to whether there were previous creations before our own, my basic
sense is 'Yes, probably there were'. The earth being " without form
and void" (Gen. 1:2) uses a phrase elsewhere used to describe the
judgment that has come on an order of things (Jer. 4:23; Is. 24:10; 34:11).
It may be, therefore, that there was a previous creation on earth which
was destroyed in judgment. John Thomas in the first section of Elpis
Israel suggests (without much direct support from the Hebrew, it
must be admitted) that the command to Adam to " replenish the earth"
(Gen. 1:28) implies to re-fill, as if there had been a previous creation
that was destroyed, presumably by water. " In the beginning"
, perhaps a huge period of time ago, God created the heavens and earth.
But the present creation can be seen as being constituted some time later,
after the previous creations. When during the six days of creation He
said " Let there be light" this may not have necessitated the
actual manufacture of the sun; this was presumably done " in the
beginning" . But the sun was commanded to shine out of the darkness
(2 Cor. 4:6), and therefore from the viewpoint of someone standing on
the earth, it was as if the sun had been created. The earth was covered
with water at the time the present creation began (Gen. 1:2). This would
mean that the destruction of the earth by the flood in Noah's time was
actually a repeat of something God had previously done. This sheds light
on His promise to never again destroy the earth with water: " I will
stablish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any
more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood
to destroy the earth" (Gen. 9:11). This sounds as if destruction
of the earth by flooding had happened several times before. It's almost
as if the God of all grace is showing Himself progressively gracious to
earth's inhabitants: 'I've done it before several times, but now I promise
you humans, you new race of inhabitants upon whom my special love is to
be shown through My Son, that I'll never do it again'.
All That Fall
It was presumably in one of the previous creations that the Angels were
developed. They have knowledge of good and evil, just as fallen man has
(Gen. 3:22). This could suggest that they too had the experience of temptation
and choice between sin and obedience. Job speaks of the angels who were
charged with folly as if this fact was well known (Job 4:18). Bro. Thomas
suggests that the " angels that sinned" in 2 Pet. 2:4 lived
at this time. There is no doubt that this passage in Peter, and the parallel
in Jude, has some reference to Korah's rebellion. However, there are many
such warnings to God's people which combine reference to more than one
historical event, and it could be the same here: as if to say, 'History
repeats itself. The angels that sinned so long ago went through in principle
the same process of apostasy as Korah's company, and you too are capable
of falling from grace in the same basic way'.
Apostasy has a long continuity; all who fall follow a similar pattern,
ultimately sharing the same apotheosis. It could even be that the fall
of the Kings of Tyre and Babylon (Is. 14; Ez. 28) are recorded in the
language of an angel / " anointed cherub" who wanted superiority
over the others, and who then fell from Heaven (Ez. 28:14; Is. 14:13,14
cp. Eph. 4:10). There are strong similarities between these passages and
the Jewish understanding of Angels that sinned before creation. These
similarities would be in order to show the same kind of historical continuity:
between the Angels who once sinned, and spiritually blessed men who turned
away from what they could have had. The fact that all the Angels
now are righteous and incapable of sinning (cp. Lk. 20:35,36)
doesn't mean that Angels never sinned in a previous creation. But the
point to note is that they are now in the grave, chained in darkness-
not running around as evil spirits causing mischief. They are " reserved
unto judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4), when " we shall judge angels"
(1 Cor. 6:3).
The Wonder Of It All
From these thoughts comes a powerful devotional point. God, who existed
from eternity, has doubtless been active from eternity. He is
Spirit, and His Spirit is essentially His power in action. There was at
least one previous creation, involving the Angels. The fossil record,
if indeed it can be taken seriously, would suggest that there were plants
and animals (e.g. dinosaurs) which lived millions of years ago. These
may have been part of those previous creations. And yet Adam was the first
human being (1 Cor. 15:45), created around 6,000 years ago.
The human race which descended from him has generally rejected God. The
majority of His chosen people, Israel, rejected Him to the point of crucifying
His Son. But for such a small group of people, existing at such a small
time and in such a tiny physical area in the perspective of infinite time
and space, God gave His only begotten Son. The Lord Jesus didn't physically
exist before His birth; He wasn't some kind of time traveller who had
shown up in previous creations. The only begotten Son of God
was born for the very first time. This is the pure wonder of the narratives
of His birth. He was a human being, not an Angel, because He shared the
nature of those He came to redeem (Hebrews 2 develops this at length).
The only and begotten Son of God was a human being because
He came to save just a few million (or however many) little human beings
on this little insignificant planet, a pin prick in the vastness of space
even within this present creation, people who lived out their
history for just a few thousand years compared to infinity. And this only
son of His was born to an illiterate young girl, and then the crying,
gurgling Son of God was laid down in a cattle stall (Luke, the
doctor who appreciated the need for hygiene, so emphasizes this: Lk. 2:7,12,16),
because the other guests in that cheap hotel couldn't make space for a
heavily pregnant woman (again, Luke the sometime-gyn doctor would've sensed
the shame of it). And this was the beginning of the only and
ever begotten Son of God, who dwelt light years away from that humble
barn. It's almost too wonderful to believe. There will be many "
ages" to come, as there have doubtless been many " ages"
of previous creations already (Rom. 1:25; 9:5; Heb. 13:8); but for our
" age" alone was the only begotten Son of God given as a representative
of us, the humans who live in this brief " age" . God
thus describes Himself as a first timer falling in love with His people;
as a young marries a virgin, so God marries us (Is. 62:5); Israel were
as the lines graven on a man's palm, with which he was born (Is. 49:16).
Thus from absolute eternity, we were the great " all things"
to Almighty God, the God of all, all past and future creations.
We may well ask why space is so big, why there were countless previous
creations, why out of all the teeming species and forms of life on this
planet (and perhaps others), God's salvation in Christ is only for
human beings, whom He represented in His very nature; why out of all humans,
only a few are called, and why out of those few called are even fewer
chosen; why in the past He delighted to chose Israel, one
of the smallest and unlovely nations, and their small, despised land,
as His land and His people (and in principle He has
done the same in His calling of the new Israel)... and the answer may
be that God has arranged it this way in order to show us the magnitude
of His humanly senseless love; that He has given so much, even
His Only Son, for so very few in such a very small geographical
area in such a very short time span. Brethren, think on these things.
Look up at the night sky and like father Abraham, struggle, successfully,
to believe the wonder of it all.