Dr. W. Noble King
1. Before there was time, or place, or created creature, God (Elohim), the blessed Trinity, inhabited eternity, was in Himself complete and completely happy. However, desiring to manifest and communicate His goodness he planned the Cosmos, Space-Time, and created creatures, etc. Then the various persons of God in Unity took up the several relationships to each other in creation and in redemption, necessary to effect both. Those relationships are given names which we can understand, and those names become revelations of God’s creative purpose and redemptive desire. (Butler, p 650; Pope Vol. II pp. 101, 102).
2. W.B. Pope further points out that it is wrong to think of a Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son "according to which the three persons concerted the plan of salvation: the Son undertaking on his part to undergo the penalties of the law for his people, and the Father pledging himself to give the Son his own glory and his people's soul's as his recompense, and the Spirit witnessing in order to administrate this covenant" ( Vol. II, p. 102). That is, the Father consented and sent, the Son volunteered and came, and the Spirit witnessed and empowered. This destroys the Trinity, and substitutes a triad in its place. The Scriptures speak only of the will of the undivided Trinity. The Son came to do the united will of the Trinity--His Father's will, his own will, and the will of the Spirit. As the three Persons are one: "Hear O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah" (Deut 6:4), so the three wills are one: "Let us make man" (Gen. 1:26b). It could also be said, "Let us redeem man." There is thus perfect ðåñé÷þñçóéò [perichor_sis] in the redemptional Trinity, as there is in the absolute: "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30 ;Pope Vol. II p. 102).
3. Then, when redemption is forever past and time is no more, the various persons of the Trinity will again return to that close Unity in Trinity enjoyed by them before time. This is evidenced by St. Paul's statement in I Corinthians 15:28, in which he says, "And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the son also himself be subjected unto him, that did subject all things unto him, that God (Elohim) may be all in all." There is, however, an impenetrable veil over what is so often called the council of the eternal Trinity; and the Scripture does not take our thoughts behind that veil, save only when the Son speaks of a glory which he had with the Father before the world was, and his disciples of an atonement before the foundation of the world. It is with this atonement made before the foundation of the world with which we are now concerned (Pope Vol. II, p. 102).
I. The Cross of Christ is a pre-temporal fact.
1. God foreordained the creation of the cosmos, and its fixtures and inhabitants, and foreknew the fall of rational creatures therein. However, his foreknowledge of the fall did not in any measure determine that fall. God is transcendentally out of time, but he is active in it. Being pre-temporal, and post-temporal; that is, personally non-temporal, all time is as present with him. Hence events in time, comprehended by God, are not determined by that comprehension. God's foreknowledge of the appearance of sin in the cosmos, and of the fall of man, made it possible for him to determine the cross at that same eternal point. Thus God's foreknowledge of the appearance of sin, of the fall of man, and his provision of a remedy for sin all took place in the pre-temporal and eternal order.
2. The Scripture further informs us that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation (ðñ_ êáôáâoëÞò êüóìoõ) [pro katabol_s kosmou] of the world, but was manifested in these last times for you: (I Peter 1:19, 20). With regard to the finally impenitent, we are told that "All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names were not written in the book of life of the lamb slain from the foundation (áñ_ êáôáâoëÞò êüóìoõ) [apo katabol_s kosmou] of the world" (Rev.13:8). Whether we use the ðñü [pro] or áñü [apo] does not change the fact that Christ was slain before cosmic creation qua cosmic creation was a fact.
(1) God's foreknowledge of all things temporal makes it possible for him to foreknow those who will volitionally yield to the claims of the Gospel, and then of their own free wills, continue therein to the end of life for them. Referring to such, Paul says, "Even as he chose us in him before the foundation (ðñ_ êáôáâoëÞò êüóìoõ) [pro katabol_s kosmou] of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Eph. 1:4). John, dealing with the same matter, but with regard to the lost, agrees with Paul and says, "They whose names hath not been written in the book of life from the foundation (áñ_ êáôáâoëÞò êüóìoõ) [apo katabol_s küsmou] of the world" (Rev. 17:8b).
(2) Thus the cross is pre-temporal. But we also have a post-temporal glimpse of the cross as having been redemptional, yet an eternal fact. We again quote from John: "And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain . . ." (Rev.5:6a). That pre-temporal and post-temporal cross was temporally manifested (I Peter 1:20), and temporally testified of (I Tim.2:6) at a point in history for our benefit.
(3) The pre-temporal, post-temporal, and temporal manifestations of the cross, are not manifestations of three facts, but of one. Each presentation of that one fact is surrounded by a fitting setting for its revelation in that particular order.
3. This eternal aspect of the cross is subscribed to by both Calvinism and Arminianism with no marked differences.
(1) In the Pulpit Commentary, dealing with Rev. 13:8, we read "The Lamb hath been slain from the foundation of the world, because from the foundation of the world his death hath been efficacious for the salvation of man; and because his death was foreordained before the foundation of the world."
(2) Adam Clarke, although not as pronounced in his declaration on the matter, nevertheless says, "But as Jesus Christ was in the Divine purpose appointed from the foundation of the world to redeem man by his blood, he therefore is, in a very eminent sense, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, i.e., from creation" (Rev.13:8).
(3) Dr. Pope, the great Methodist luminary, says, "The atonement was a reality in the Divine Mind before it was accomplished on the cross." That is, it was a redemptive fact before it was a physical fact in time (II, 102).
(4) Dr. Wiley, the dean of Nazarene theologians, expresses his position by quoting from Wakefield. The quotation reads as follows: "The redemption of man by Christ was certainly not an afterthought brought in upon man's apostasy. It was a provision, and when man fell he found justice in hand with mercy." Dr. Wiley then further says, "The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, and the atonement began where sin began, . . ." Thus original sin and original grace met in the mystery of mercy at the very gate of paradise (II, 133, 134).
(5) John Wesley and Wesleyanism are very pronounced on the matter. We quote from the Methodist writer, Dr. Canon, in his book, The Theology of John Wesley, p. 204.
The person of Christ, therefore, is set forth in Wesleyan thought always in terms of his work, and the historical Jesus is never limited to his date in time, but is interpreted sole as a manifestation of eternity, . . . Although he stands in history as a particular person occupying a particular place and performing a particular task at a particular time, the effects of his mission are eternal; for in the purpose of divinity, the Lamb of God was slain from the beginning of the world (Wesley’s sermon 61, sec. 3). The work of redemption was made available for our first parents in the garden centuries before the redeemer took human form (Wesley’s sermon 62, art 2, sec. 2), and the efficacy of that work will abide until the end of time. Though it was necessary for the redeemer to be born into the world and to assume our humanity in order to save us, he none the less capitulated in his person all generations of mankind and made himself the center of salvation for all ages as well as races of men (Wesley’s sermon 141, part 2).
Thus, for Methodism, the date in time is held to be the disclosure of an eternal, pre-temporal fact.
4. We have in this section one more matter to deal with, namely, the resurrection of Jesus from the sepulchre. The total power of the Trinity is resident in each member of the Trinity. Thus, the power of God the Father raised him, or the Father raised him; The power of God the Spirit raised him, or the Spirit raised him (Romans 6:4; 8:11; I Peter 1:21). But the eternal Christ Himself was the active operating Personal Agent in his own resurrection (John 2:19-22; 10:17, 18). Thus the Christ voluntarily placed his human body and soul under the power of Death, and then rose therefrom (I Cor.15:55). This too, is an eternal event with a date in time (Pope II 168; Wiley, II 204).
II. The Cross Being Pre-temporal, Grace Flowing Therefrom Becomes a Pre-temporal Provision.
1. The grace of God was first revealed to man when sin first appeared in the human race (Wiley, II, 134). The great spiritual giants mentioned in the book of Genesis were fully aware of this provision of grace for they spoke of finding grace in the sight of Jehovah (Gen. 6:8 ; 19:19). This grace which was provided before it was needed by man is sometimes called Prevenient Grace. Some of the ways that this grace has been manifested are:
(1). It prevented the race from becoming extinct at the moment the first sin was committed. The punishment for sin was to be death physically and spiritually at once. However, grace deferred the execution of the sentence on them physically so that they could get back to God spiritually. Otherwise the damnation of the first pair, and the extinction of the race with the first pair would have been the instantaneous results (Raymond, II, p 308).
(2) It made possible the reversal of the condemnation that rested on the first pair as a result of their deliberate sin, and the bestowal of eternal life. This salvation was provided as a possibility for all men (Ibid, p 310).
(3) It also provided a full salvation for those dying in infancy, and for the mentally unfortunate who never leave childhood. This truth is revealed in the Old Testament’s system of sacrifices, and in Jesus’ statements with regard to little children (Ibid, p. 311).
(4) It also provided the conditions for a fair probationary trial for all men of every age, walk of life, state of revelation, and spiritual endowments (op. cit., p. 214; Pope II 52; Wiley II, 134).
2. Further, three basic provisions of grace were, and are, provided pre-temporally by the cross of Christ and his subsequent resurrection. They are:
(1) The measurable return
of the Holy Spirit through the riven veil, "that is to say his flesh,"
after the redemptive revelation in Eden (Gen. 3:15, 21), and the still
fuller impartation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in the New testament.
In the Old Order God anthropomorphically imparted his messages to man (Gen.
18:1ff). In between those anthropomorphic revelations and communications
the Old Testament spiritual luminaries had to travel largely on their previous
and then present knowledge of the will of God. In the New Testament,
however, with the fuller revelation of the Holy Spirit, we have the checks,
the urges, the warnings, and the commendations of the Spirit daily, hourly
and momentarily to keep us in the will of God. Thus the personal,
constant, and immediate witness of the Spirit with spirit was not so pronounced
before Pentecost as it now is. However, neither was the Son as clearly
revealed in the Old as he is in the New. Of this Pope says, "His
revelation as the Administrator of redemption has kept pace with the revelation
of the Redeeming Son" (II, 321). Thus just as Christ was the unrevealed
Savior in the Old Testament, So the Spirit was the unrevealed dispenser
of that salvation. The revelations of those two Divine Persons have
kept pace with each other throughout time (Wiley, II 303-310).
In Psalm 24:3, 4a, we read: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord (Jehovah)? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." Then in Psalm 73:1, 24; we have, "Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. . . . Thou wilt guide me with thy council, and afterward receive me to glory." We also have whole groups referred to as pure; "With the pure thou shalt show thyself pure" (II Sam. 22:27a). In Matt. 5:8, we have Jesus saying, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Peter, referring to the group at the home of Cornelius, and to the group (about 120) at Pentecost, said, "And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Thus both in the Old and In the New the one standard for the people of God was and is heart purity .
Heart perfection, a synonym for heart purity, is also a required standard in both Testaments for the people of God. Moses wrote to the Israelites and said, "Thou shalt be perfect with Jehovah thy God" (Deut.18:13). Then Solomon, in his dedicatory prayer, said, "Let your heart therefore be perfect with Jehovah our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments" (I Kings 8:61). Jesus also said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:49). Paul also carried the concept of heart perfection into the very heart of his teachings by saying, "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you" (Phil.3:15). Thus, heart perfection as well as heart purity is a norm or standard for all time.
Holiness is an Old Testament doctrine as well as a New Testament one. Moses says, "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 20:7). The writers of the Old testament are said to have been holy men: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (II Peter 1:21). The women who were associated with those men, in various capacities, are also said to have been holy. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, is named as an holy woman (I Peter 3:5,6). To the Colossians Paul wrote: "In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight" (Col. 1 :22). Then to the Thessalonians Paul said, "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto the holy brethren" (I Thess. 5:27). In writing to the Hebrews the author of Hebrews says, "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 3:1). Thus, heart purity, heart perfection, and heart holiness are all norms of both the Old and the New Testaments.
Sanctification is often used in both the Old and the New Testaments in the ceremonial sense, but it is also used in both, in the sense of cleansing or purity. Hezekaih sanctified the temple by removing all inward impurity therefrom (II Chron.29:16,17):
And the priests went into
the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out
all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the
court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it, to carry it out
abroad into the brook Kidron. Now they began on the first day of
the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month came they
to the porch of the LORD: so they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight
days; and in the sixteenth day of the first month they made an end.
In the Old Testament individuals
were said to have been in possession of this second heart benefit.
Noah was said to have been perfect in his generation (Gen. 6:9).
Abraham was perfect (Gen 17: 1). God himself repeatedly said that
Job was perfect (Job 1:1, 1:8; 2:3). Isaiah’s heart was cleansed
by celestial fire (Isaiah 6:7). Asa’s heart was perfect (I kings
15:14; II Chron. 15:17). Hezekiah’s heart was also perfect (II Kings
1. Where did the eternal Christ go when His body died on the cross? The easiest way to answer that question is to observe what Jesus Himself and his immediate followers said with regard to it.
(1) Jesus came from the immediate presence of God. St. John said, "In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God" (John 1:1a, b). Then Jesus, referring to God, said "I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me" (John 7:29). Jesus again said, "And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of Man who is in heaven" (John 3:13). ". . . For I am come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38). "I am the living bread which came down out of heaven" (John 6:51a). "I know him; because I am from him, and he sent me" (John 7:29). Jesus was thus with God and came from God to the world.
(2). Jesus returned to the
presence of God. John said, ". . . Jesus knowing that his hour was
come, that he should depart out of this world unto the Father" (John 13:1b).
Again: "What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where he
was before?" (John 6:62). "I came out from the Father, and am come
into the world: again I leave the world and go unto the Father" (John 16:28).
Jesus therefore said, "yet a little while am I with you, and then I go
unto him that sent me: (John 7:33). Then, when in prayer, Jesus said,
"I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee"
(John 17:11). John wrote "Jesus knowing that the Father had given
all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God"(John
13:3). "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world:
again, I leave the world, and go to the Father" (John 16:28). In
addressing the thief on the cross, Jesus said, "Verily I say, To day shalt
thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43b). Then Jesus’ last word
on the cross was, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46b).
Then, the writer of the book of Hebrews said, ". . . When he had by himself
purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of majesty on high" (Heb.1:3c).
2. Terms or names used in the Bible become fuller and clearer in meaning as written revelation progressed.
(1) Nowhere is this principle of revelation more clearly in evidence than in the progressive revelation of the various persons of the Trinity. El or Elohim is a plural word, and is joined with plural or singular adjuncts (Gen. 1:26a). The term indicates that the Being or Beings referred to is or are strong and mighty. Yahweh, or Yahveh, or Iaheve indicates the I AM, the Self-Existent, the Being. Personality is suggested. Those terms, however, as they appear in Genesis, do not contain the content of the terms used by Jesus respecting the members of the Trinity, and their interest in man (Field, 10: Berkhof, p.31).
(2) This is also true with regard to terms referring to heaven. Certainly Job, and Moses, and the earlier and later prophets did not have the clear conception of heaven that Jesus, and Stephen, and Paul, and John have given to us. Heaven is referred to as: God’s holy habitation, God’s dwelling place, Abraham’s bosom, and Paradise, etc. Generally speaking they are all synonymous terms, and refer to the same place. Let us trace one term in part: Paradise. Paradise is an Asiatic word, and then referred to parks or pleasure-grounds of Oriental monarchs. It is used in the Greek Septuagint to refer to the garden of Eden where God walked with man--as Creator-Monarch and loyal subject. In Luke 23:43 we have it used by Jesus in addressing the thief on the cross: "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Paul later used it as follows: "And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth); How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (II Cor. 12:3, 4). Then John used it at the close of time: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Rev.2:7). Thus, the term paradise is self-evidently a synonym for heaven as we understand it.
(3) Terms that refer to the lost estate also become more meaningful as revelation proceeded. Sheol (Hebrew) and Hades (Greek) are somewhat the same meaning and referred to the shades or to the realm of the departed or to the grave. The context generally has to determine what is meant. When Samuel said to Saul: "Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hands of the Philistines; and tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me" (I Sam. 28:19 a, b), he merely meant that they would be dead, physically, as he was; but he had no reference to the abode of spirits. The term Tartartus is only used once in the Bible, and refers to being cast down into the regions of intense darkness. Fallen angels are said to be cast down to Tartartus and bound with chains of darkness (I Peter 2:4). The term Gehenna appears twelve times in the New Testament. Once by James (James 3:6) and eleven times by Jesus. Ghenna is used by John in Revelation 20:10,15: and by Jesus in Matt. 25:41. Jude must be understood to mean that the people of Sodom and Gomorrha are "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7). Matthew Henry agrees with this and says, "The spirits of disobedient sinners, as soon as they are out of their bodies, are committed to the prison of hell, from whence there is no redemption" (On I Peter 3:19). Thus, from the beginning of time, the saved, at death, pass to heaven; and the unsaved, at death, pass to hell fire (Matt.3:13; 13:42; 18:8; 25:41; Mark 9: 44).
3. Furthermore, Jesus the
Christ was an eternal spirit, and had a human body and a human soul.
His body and soul passed under the power of death, and were laid in the
(2) The expression "he descended into hell" is taken from Psalm 16:10 in which we have "For thou wilt not leave my soul [not my spirit, but my soul] in Sheol: neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption." Sheol has no reference to hell as used in the New Testament. Peter quotes the passage as follows: "Because thou wilt not leave my soul [not my spirit, but my soul] in Hades, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption (Acts 2:27). Peter uses the word Hades in the sense of the Old Testament Sheol. Paul, in his usual clear and through manner, clears the matter up as follows: "Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy one to see corruption" (Acts 13:55). Paul understands the term to refer to the grave only. This is in harmony with the statement: "And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre" (Mark 15:46a).
4. We have one more matter to consider. It arises from a misunderstanding of I Peter 3:19, 20. These verses read as follows:
By which also he went and
preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when
once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark
was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
That Christ went to hell and preached to the spirits there, but did not suffer with them. This is Romanism in full bloom.
That Christ swept through
the regions of the damned to show the spirits there who resisted God in
Noah’s day, that what Noah preached was true and had taken place.
This is totally unnecessary.
So Christ went by the
spirit, and preached through Noah, to the antediluvians. He is the
Jehovah who sent his spirit to do his office of awaking to repentance,
the ungodly of that generation, Gen 6:3, and spake through Noah.
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The King James Version
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