THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE
"In the beginning God created heaven and earth." By the Word of His power He called forth systems of suns and stars. "He spake: it came into being; He commanded: there it stood" (Psa. 33: 9; comp. ver. 6).
i. The Origin of the Creation.
The general question why God created a world at all no one is able to answer. As the absolute One, the "blessed God" (I Tim. 1: 11) He exists on His own account, eternally suffices for Himself, and needs no other who should exist for His sake. He is indeed love, and love by the necessity of its nature needs a beloved, another ego, to which it can lovingly reach forth. But the Ego was already eternally present in God. In the Son the Divine love enjoyed, without beginning and without end, full unfolding and unceasing satisfaction: " Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world" (John 17: :4). Therefore the only thing that can here be said is: God has created the world because He willed to create it. Certainly indeed His will and His freedom are not uncontrolled arbitrariness; so that the decision to create must have been formed on eternal grounds within the Deity, but what these are God has not revealed to us, and with this we must rest content (Rom. 11:33, 34). 1
ii. The Purpose of the Creation.
The question whereto God created the world is answered more plainly in the Scripture.
(1) The revealing of the glory of God. Everything that God does has Himself eternally as its goal; it comes to pass "for his name's sake" (Psa. 23: 3). for Himself throughout (Eph. 5: 27), " to the praise of his glory " (Eph. 1: 6, 12, 14), so that " God may be all in all" (I Cor. 15: 28). For since God, by virtue of His perfection, must always wish the highest, and since He Himself, by virtue of His Deity, is the highest, He must always have that which is within His own nature as the goal of His will. Therefore must His work be so ordered that it may lead to Him and have its end in Him. Thus the purpose of the creation of the world must consist in the unfolding, setting forth, and displaying of the glory of God. Himself is its beginning, middle, and ultimate objective, the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. (Rom. 11:36; Col. 1: 16; Heb. 1: 2).
1 Heb. 1: 2 declares that God appointed the Son to be heir of all things. The next clause reads: "though whom also he made the worlds. " This "also" shows that the appointment as heir was made before creation, which suggests that the creation exists by the will of the Father for the glory of the Son. See also John 3: 35. [Trans.]
(2) The revealing of the love of God. But this self-displaying plan of God must be perfect, and therefore unfold itself in a double manner. Not only His omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, but also His righteousness, love, and truthfulness must be manifested.
The former can indeed be effected in the realm of space and matter, that is, in the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms; but the latter demands the creation of morally free personalities, and therefore a spiritual kingdom within created beings. But just because holiness is the essential nature of God, therefore in His world plan the higher purpose of the material must lie in the moral realm, and the chief ground for the very creation of a world must be the magnifying of the moral qualities of God as the Holy, Blessed, and Wise, by the creation of morally free personalities. Only in them, namely, in the angels and in mankind, can God perfectly display His glory in creation.
But the essence of such spiritual life, and the essence of all true morality in general, is not only an outward, objective carrying out of law and a merely legal freedom from sin and guilt, but a personal, organic participation in the moral life of the Deity itself. For God, as the supreme lawgiver, has appointed the moral ordering of the world according to His nature, and He is love, the most perfect love (I John 4: 16). Therefore the moral appointment of free creatures must also be an appointment to love, and the supreme final purpose of world creation must consist in the self-unfolding and self-displaying of God as the Perfect, Holy, and Loving One, in the establishment of a fellowship of life and love between the Creator and the creature. But this means that God has called the world into existence so as to be able to love it, and that it should love Him in return. His goal evermore is to lead it to an eternal share in the enjoyment of His holiness and love, and thereby to blessedness and glory (comp. Rom. 8: 17).
The determined purpose of world creation being so high, it is no wonder that the stamp of divinity lies also in especial manner on the Biblical account of the creation. The six " days " clearly divide into two triplets, the members of which correspond exactly to one another.
The first triplet contains the works of division (of the light from the darkness, the upper waters from the lower, the dry land from the sea). The second triplet contains the works of quickening and adorning, (sun, moon, and stars; fishes and birds; land animals and man).
On the first day God created light; on the fourth day the light-bearing stars: on the second day the air and the sea; on the fifth the birds in the air and the fish in the sea: on the third the land and the plants, that is, the lowest grade of earthly life; on the sixth day the animals and man, that is, the highest grade of earthly life.
Thus the work of the six days bears unmistakably the stamp of the number three, which so often in the Divine revelation is the symbol of the Godhead. After it has, by three self-ascending creative impulses, attained a certain height and resting point, it pauses, and then, returning to the starting point, resumes, as it were beginning afresh, so as again by a threefold ascent to reach its summit. The creating of light is the first beginning: the creating of the light-bearers the second beginning. Thus this double tri-unity becomes a deep symbolic prophecy in numbers concerning the origin, character, and goal of the earth-system in general. All is from Him, through Him, and unto Him. In all He will magnify Himself.
iii. The Greatness of Creation.
1. The Host of Stars. The horizon of the Bible is immeasurable and universal. God's Word speaks not only of the earth and of time, but above all of heaven and eternity, and it describes the world above as a multiplicity of heavenly spheres. "The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee" (I Kings 8: 27)1. Far from seeing in this small earth "the world," constituting the mathematical centre and chief point of the entire creation, to the Bible the nations are but as a " drop in a bucket," as a "grain of sand" which remains in the scales (Isa. 40: 1,); and to it the islands are as "small dust," and the whole of mankind as "grasshoppers" (Isa. 40: 22). Indeed, the whole globe is to the Bible only a "footstool" to the heavenly throne (Matt. 5: 35; Acts 7: 49). "The heaven is my throne, and the earth the footstool of my feet" (Isa. 66:1). But no one would be so foolish as to imagine that the footstool to a throne is the central point of a palace, or surpasses the throne in size or importance. No, "all nations are as nothing before him" (Isa. 40: 17). " When I consider the heaven, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast prepared, what is man, that thou thinkest upon him, and the son of the earth that thou regardest him?" (Psa. 8: 3, 4).
1 The Hebrew word for heaven stands always in the plural (ha-schamayim), where the ending "im" is the masculine plural, as also in cherubim and seraphim. So also in Eph. 4:10 "all the heavens": and II Cor. 12: 2 "third heaven."
The size of our own earth surpasses indeed all thought. All that man has built on the whole world, ships, cities, and villages, taken together, would not occupy 300 cubic miles; Professor Bettex, indeed, reckons only 98 cubic miles. But the earth contains more than 260,000 millions of such cubic miles! And yet it is itself but an astronomical atom among the whirling constellations, only a tiny speck of dust among the ocean of suns of the universe. In the glowing ball of the giant sun alone there is room for over one and a quarter million (more exactly 1,297,000) such earths; and an express, non-stop train, driven furiously, would need more than 169 years to reach the sun, the distance being some 93 millions of miles.
But the sun itself is only one star among a mighty spherical shaped group of 400 stars; for since the arrangement of the nearer stars visible to the naked eye "stands in no perceptible relationship to the Milky Way, all these stars must form a great, nearly spherical group of stars, to which our sun belongs " (Prof. Klein), and which, according to Professor Riem, consists of about 400 suns.
And here the distances are still more immeasurable. Light that a single second travels seven times round the entire equator, requires fully four years and three months to reach our nearest neighbour among the suns, the fixed star Alpha Centauri (in the southern sky). For light travels at about 187,000 miles a second, and the equator of the earth is between 24,000 and 25,000 miles in length. And to star 61 in The Swan, our third nearest neighbour among the fixed stars, the swiftest express train of the world would have to travel 60 millions of years that is, 9.7 light years (Prof. Klein). And yet in comparison with the starless abyss of space itself the stars in such a system of suns stand extraordinarily near together.
Proof of this to the unastronomical night observer are the thickly-crowded, diamond-like twinkling points of light in the constellation called the Pleiades, not far from Orion, which forms a similar star-system to "ours." "The splendid spectacle which the Pleiades present in a telescope is heightened when one knows that these luminous stars, sparkling like diamonds against the dark background of heaven, form a great star-system among themselves. This is proved by the fact that all the stars of this system move forward through space together, while at the same time all the individual members move together around a centre of gravity common to them all." So that the Pleiades not only seem to be a star-group, but are actually such a locally interrelated group of fixed stars. How star upon star sparkles herel The photographic plate, indeed, shows here 1,681 stars upon an area of the heaven not larger than the disk of the moon, and in the further vicinity about 5,000 more (Klein). And the distances between these individual stars which to our sight are contracted indeed to nothing, are actually thousands of millions upon thousands of millions of miles. Yet this is only the beginning of universal space!
What, then, must be these distances which lie behind and between such groups of star-islands, till we arrive finally at the actual chief ring of the spiral Milky Way, which ravishes with its hundred-millionfold '"star-dust" the eye of the inhabitant of the earth! And then follow, in further immeasurable distances, yet other Milky Way systems, such as the Andromeda universe with its innumerable suns, or even the unfathomable spiral nebula H 156 in the constellation of the Great Lion, whose distance is estimated at over 500,000 light years (G. Wolf).
Taken together all this shows that the stars are as thinly scattered in the universe as if one should happen on earth on a single pinhead every 20 or 60 miles (Prof. Schwarzschild), or as if one should sprinkle one quart of water over the whole surface of the earth, that is, over some 196,000,000 square miles (Prof. Riem). Nor with all this must we forget, that these "waterdrops" and "pinheads," of less than one twenty-fourth part of an inch in diameter, are those glowing and fiery worlds with surfaces of millions upon millions of square miles and a capacity which exceeds hundreds of thousands of millions of militons of cubic miles by ten thousands of millions of millions.1
1 Thus for example, the diameter of the sun is 868,750 rniles, its superficial area over 2,334,000 millions of square miles, and its capacity over 351 billions of cubic miles.
Upon the question how, in view of such vast proportions, our tiny earth, though not as to matter or space, yet morally and in respect of salvation, can be the centre ot the universe, we remark: "As a place Sedan is of no significance, but because of the decisive battle of William I against Napoleon III, it has become world-famed and a chief turning point in European history. Thus it has attained a historical significance which stands in no proportion to its geographical importance." World history often shows that places in which the most mighty battles, of century-long significance, were decided, were in themselves, as to situation and size, small and insignificant. See further pp. 91, 92
But the totality of such vastness, embracing thc entire creation, is the universal framework of the history of salvation. " The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all" (Psa. 103: 19). It is only in connexion with the starry world that we become conscious of the extent of the Divine counsel of salvation, and therefore let us set salvation's record as found in the Bible against the 'daming golden background of its cosmic super-history. Only then will its centre and focus, the cross of Golgotha, be rightly esteemed; then the whole universe arches itself over the cross: "The foot of the cross remains on earth, but its head reaches into the distances of the starry world with their cosmic history," and overwhelmed we hearten to the promise of the Lord: "Fear not, thou little flock: for it is your Father's good pleasure to give to you the kingdom" (Luke 12: 32). "Lift up your eyes to the height and see: who has created these? He who leads out their host by number, who calls them all by names . . . Jehovah, the Lord of hosts is his name (Isa. 40: 26; 51: 15).
2. The Host of the Angels. Now to what end do these worlds exist in the etherial space? Has God any pleasure in dead matter? Is He not the God of the living? Can inanimate matter praise Him, the Lord of all life? (Psa. 30: 9). Or is not rather the starry world of God everywhere filled with personal life?
In fact, if only our small earth, this speck of dust amidst the whirling suns of the universe, carries organic life, "then in meaningless contrast to it there stands millions of dead star-colossi. Then were the immense universe a limitless extinct waste, in which only on this tiny earth, as a marvellous exception the solitary flower of life blooms."1 Then the fiery splendour of the millions of suns, which yet illuminate nothing, were only a vast meaningless and purposeless firework in the dead universe," and all the stars and heavenly bodies were only burning or burnt-out craters!
1 And yet there are on the earth over 200,000 species of plants, with 300,000 species of fungi; and further, 80,000 species of beetles (Bettex), 200,000 species of butterflies (Prof. Dennert), and the total number of all species of life is over two millions.
Quite otherwise speak the prophets and apostles of the Divine revelation. The Word of God knows of thrones and lordships, of principalities and authorities (Col. 1: 16), of sons of God and morning stars (Job 38: 7), of the host of the high in the height (Isa. 24: 21), of cherubim and seraphim (Rev. 4: 6-8; Isa. 6: 2, 3) of archangels and angels (Jude 9: Rev. 5: 11; 12: 7). And all these it describes by the same term, "host of heaven", as it uses for thc stars.2
2 Thus in Deut. 4: 19; Isa. 34: 4; Jer. 8: 2 the term, describes the material stars; in Kings 22:19; Luke 2:13; Rev. 19:4, the angels. In other places it means both at once (for example, Psa. 148: 1-6; Isa. 24: 2l-23; 40: 26; Job 38: 7).
From this viewing and naming of the two together we perceive a reference of a more profound nature. For otherwise how could the "morning stars" sing together, and at the same time shout for joy with the "sons of God"? (Job 38: 7). How could the starry world of God worship the Creator? Will the dust praise Him? Will it proclaim His truth? But '`Thou art the existmg one, Jehovah alone! Thou hast made the heavens the heaven of heavens, and all their host, the earth and all that is thereon . . . and thou makest these all living, and the host of the heaven worships thee" (Neh. 9: 6). And how else could the psalmist, similarly, in connexion with the angels, call upon the stars also to praise God?
Praise Jehovah from the heavens,
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him all His angels,
Praise Him all His hosts!
Praise Him sun and moon,
Praise Him all ye stars of light! (Psa. 148: 1-3).
No, all this is more than mere poetic rhapsody. It proves that between angels and stars there is not merely a figurative comparison, but an actual and real connexion, although one whose details are still obscure to us.
Nevertheless this one thing we already perceive: that the angels, in unnumbered hosts, sometimes individually (Acts 5: 19), sometimes in organized bodies (Rev. 12:7; Col.1: 16), take part in the history of human salvation. In this respect they are
(i). Observers of our walk (I Cor. 4: 9; Eph. 3: 10),
(ii). Messengers 1of our King (Luke 1:11; Matt. 1: 20; Dan. 9: 22; Rev. 1:1; 22: 6, 16; Heb. 2: 2).
1 Whence the word "angel" in Greek angelos, from angello, I dispatch, I sent.
(iii). Helpers in our distresses (Heb. 1: 14; Acts 12: 7; Dan. 3: 25, 28; 6: 22; II Kings 6: 17; Luke 22: 43).
(iv). Fighters for our final victory (Dan. 12:1; Rev. 12:7 - 9; 19: 11-14; Dan. 10:13, 20).
(v). Guardians of the Divine world-order (Dan. 4: 13, 17, 23; I Cor. 11:10).
(vi). Executors of the Divine judgments (Isa. 37: 36; Acts 12: 23; Matt. 13: 30, 41; Rev. 14:19; 15: 1, 6,7)
(vii). Worshippers because of the Divine acts of redemption (Luke 2: 13, 14; 15: 10; I Pet. 1:12).
3. The Throne of God. And yet! All that is "visible is temporal", only "the invisible is eternal" (II Cor. 4: 18). But the stars are visible and therefore will pass away: "They all will wax old as doth a garment, and as a mantle wilt thou roll them together" (Psa. 102: 26). The eternal world of God must therefore be still higher, far above the stars, in the invisible, beyond all things visible.
There is the throne of God, there the dwelling place of the angels, there the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all (Gal. 4: 26). Thither "above all the heavens" was Christ exalted (Eph. 4: 10), and is now at the right hand of the Father "become higher than the heavens" (Heb. 7: 26). There dwells the All-Highest as the fountain of light for all worlds, and from Him streams out all life throughout the creation (Acts 17: 25, 28).
The thought of such a supreme throne existing in the universe must readily be acceptable to the reflecting mind. The whole universe is ruled by the law of ascent. Truly God is present everywhere and interpenetrates with His life the whole creation (Col. 1:17; Acts 17: 28). But this does not exclude that, above all the fields of light, there is a special pinnacle of light where His glory most perfectly displays itself. In even a stone there flashes a reflection of the Divine thought; yet finer in a rose; still more arrestingly in the song of the nightingale; more spiritual still in the human eye; and among mankind what different stages there are between the humblest and neediest up to the finest of the sons of men, in Whom dwells the fulness of the Godhead.
Thus also on earth there are wastes and deserts with no inhabitants; inhospitable regions with but few; fruitful places with many; regions of beauty and yet greater beauty with the greatest fulness of earthly life. So it is also in the heavenly places; there are small and great stars, cold and hot, dark and radiant; there are led and leading stars, planets, and suns, abysses of space and families of suns: and so there is also above them all a central point of the universe, a place of the most immediate presence of God, a dwelling of the most concentrated glory-light, even the throne of God.1
1 Otherwise the ascension of Christ were only a becoming inviable, but not ascent to heaven.
But the light in which He dwells is superior to all things visible; it is something other than the radiance of all suns and stars. It is not to be beheld by earthly eyes; it is "unapproachable" (I Tim. 6: 16), far removed from all things this side (II Cor. 12: 4. Only the angels in heaven can behold it (Matt. 18:10); only the spirits of the perfected in the eternal light (Matt. 5: 8; I John 3: 2; Rev. 22: 4); only the pure and holly, even as He Himself is pure (I John 3: 2, 3; Heb. 12: 14).
Therefore down here only figurative language can be used of things heavenly. Even the term " above " as used of the Eternal is not to be understood in a purely local sense (Psa. 139). It is the perceptible representation of the "beyondness" of the Divine. It is the symbolical setting forth in terms of space of the sublimity of the super-spatial. This is why the Bible figuratively represents this "super" by "above," the spiritually superior through the spatial term to be "higher," the "super' temporal and the "super" spatial by the figurative "above" space. And because God, the Lord of the heaven, is at once the most perfect and the All-highest, therefore the Bible seizes as its symbols the most precious things of earth and speaks in a language of precious stones of the throne of light of His glory.
The blue sapphire speaks of the heavenly nature (Ex. 24: 10; Ezek. 1: 26).
The crystal jasper of holiness and light (Rev. 4: 3; comp. 21: 11; 22: 1).
The green rainbow of emerald speaks of covenant faithfulness and renewal of life 2(Rev. 4: 3; Ezek. 1: 28).
2 In very ancient times green was the emblem of life, as in Ur in Chaldea 2000B.C.
But we bow down and worship Him, and say, in the concluding words of the World Harmony of Copernicus (1618):--
Great is our God and great His power,
And of His wisdom there is no end.
Praise Him sun, moon, and planets,
In whose speech may a song of praise for ever resound:
Praise Him, ye heavenly harmonies,
And also ye, the witnesses and confirmers of Hts revealed truths;
And thou, my soul, sing the honour of the Lord throughout thy life. Amen.
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