Beholding the Christ of Creation (Genesis 1:1)

Genesis 1:1

“God’s act of creation is the foundation for the entire biblical history. A considerable number of passages refer back to creation (e.g., Pss 8; 104; 148John 1:1–31 Cor. 8:6Col. 1:15–17Heb. 1:2; 11:31 John 1:5–7). All the rest of the Bible depends indirectly on it” (History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ,” in the ESV Study Bible, p. 2635).

In his illuminating book, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutic MethodSidney Greidanus suggests seven ways of ‘finding’ Christ in the Old Testament.  These include (1) progress of redemption, (2) promise-fulfillment, (3) typology, (4) analogy, (5) longitudinal themes, (6) direct quotation, and (7) way of contrast.  Throughout our reading of the OT, we  see all of these at work.  Strikingly, in the opening verse of the Bible–“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” we see all of them at work. Let’s consider these in turn.

First, without creation, there would be no new creation.  There would be nothing–but God.  Everything in the Bible presupposes a creation, and even though the Bible speaks about a time before creation, it begins with the beginning.  The Fall, the history of redemption, and the hope of new creation are all predicated on the reality of creation. Therefore, progress of redemption begins with this grand fact—God created the world with his all-powerful Word (Ps 33:6; John 1:1-3).

Second, with creation comes the promise of God working in the world.  All the world is his, and from the (unfinished) beginning, there is the promise and the need for fulfillment.  In other words, there is as much eschatology in Genesis 1 as there is Revelation 21-22, only eschatology in Genesis 1 is all promise, whereas Revelation 21-22 is all fulfillment.

Third, in creation there is a wealth of typology.  God speaking the world into existence typifies the way in which God is going to speak light into the darkness of dead sinners (2 Cor 4:4). Most significantly, the creation of the imago dei is the preeminent type.  All other types (people, events, insitutions) depend on this original man—a man who is himself made in the image of God. This man serves as the father of humanity, but he also functions as a type of the last Adam, Jesus Christ (Rom 5:12-210. Therefore, the rest of human history and the salvation of mankind is patterned after the original man.

Fourth, the history of redemption hangs on an analogy between creation and new creation. Just as God made the world, he will recreate the heavens and the earth.  Matthew 19:28 reads in red letters, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world (lit., ‘in the regeneration,’ palingenesis), when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Truly, the hope of heaven and earth is the new creation of the heavens and the earth (Isa 65:17-25; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21-22).

Fifth, creation and its renewal (i.e., new creation) run as a theme throughout the Bible. When God delivers Israel from Egypt, the Bible uses creation language to speak of Israel’s exodus (Isa 43:1-7).  In the Psalms, exodus imagery is often conflated with creation imagery (Ps 74:12-17; 89:5-13).  In the Prophets, the judgment of God results in the degeneration of the created world (Jer 4:23-28; Hos 4:3; cf. Isa 24:1-23; Joel 1:10).  This is true in the New Testament as well (see Rom 8:18-22).  Moreover, in the New Testament, personal salvation is described as a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), as is the cosmic regeneration of all created things (Matt 19:28; Rev 21-22).  Therefore, creation, de-creation, and new creation run as themes throughout the Bible.

Sixth, the NT often quotes and/or alludes to Genesis 1:1.  John begins his gospel using similar words, “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”  In three verses, John repeats and expands the first verse in the Bible.  He is not alone, the whole Bible stands on the fact that God created the world and everything in it (cf. Pss 8, 104, 148; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2; 11:3; 1 John 1:5-7; etc.).

Seventh, Scripture frequently uses death, darkness, and the degeneration of creation as visible expressions of God’s judgment.  It was God’s goodness and love that prompted creation; in creation his glory is revealed (Ps 19:1; cf. Rom 1:18-20).  Therefore, when Scripture speaks of God’s curse upon sin, it frequently comes with effects that stand against creation–death is the cessation of life which God created; darkness is the effect of sin upon a persons mind (Eph 4:18) and the destiny of all those who reject God (2 Pet 2:12); and the destruction of heaven and earth is the necessary consequence of those who spurn the Creator and worship created things (Rom 1:21-32).

To deny the fact of creation in Genesis 1:1 as some Christians are doing today (and have done for years)—or to extract from it the existential reality of a creation from nothing—is to present to the world a different God and a different gospel.  History, Scripture, and salvation hang on the reality of God’s creation. Thus it is not surprising that we find in Genesis 1:1 all seven ways of uniting creation (in the OT) to the new creation (expressed most clearly in the NT). Indeed, since the universe came into existence through the Son and for the Son (Col 1:15-16), it is clear that all of creation depends on him (Col 1:17) and declares that something about him (cf. Ps. 19:1). With eyes trained by the Word, we can see Christ in history and creation, and thus we should (labor to) see how all things hold together in him (Eph 1:10).

May God give us such Christ-besotted vision.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss