What Was God Doing Before Creation?

genesisAnyone who has heard me preach or teach on more than one occasion will probably know that one of my “pet” subjects is the knowledge of God. I am convinced that one of the major weaknesses of the contemporary church is an insufficient and oftentimes an incorrect knowledge of God. Much of what we think we know about God originated, not from a correct exegesis of Scripture, but from church and family traditions or our own imaginations.

I am also convinced that if we have insufficient or incomplete or incorrect theology (theo + logy = God knowledge), then we will have error in all other doctrines – Christology, soteriology, eschatology, etc. Our knowledge of God is fundamental to all other doctrines.

If we have insufficient or incomplete or incorrect theology, then we will have error in all other doctrines.

The first verse of the Bible says, “In the beginning, God…” In the first words of John’s gospel in the NT, we read, “In the beginning was the Word (a reference to Christ Jesus) …and the Word was God.” The Bible begins with God and ends with a book entitled “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” That is because the primary character in the Bible is not man, but God! The story begins and ends with Him.

For most of us, our knowledge of God is confined to His interaction with the creation along a timeline between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22. This knowledge is centered around such broad subjects as the creation, the fall of man, the call of Abraham, the founding and development of the nation of Israel, the Law and the prophets, the coming of the Messiah, the establishment of the church, and the prophecies concerning end times events.

The study of any of these and like subjects could keep a person busy for a lifetime, and in fact should keep us busy as a major part of our spiritual development. Yet most of the studies of these subjects are confined to the timeline of creation – to the limits of time, space and matter. The only time we really spend time studying about things beyond the creation is in our quest to understand Heaven and our part in it.

I cannot remember any teacher from my past spending any significant time lecturing on what the Bible has to say about what was going on in the spiritual world before the creation or about why there needed to be a creation at all.

A blog article does not offer a sufficient context to do an exhaustive study of such a tremendous subject, but maybe it can whet our appetites by asking and seeking a biblical answer to a couple of questions.

We all know about the beginning of creation – the beginning of matter, space, and of time – but have you ever stopped to ask…

What was God doing before Creation?

BEFORE CREATION

Some might argue that such a question is not only irrelevant but is also irreverent and calls for too much conjecture. However, if the answer to the question can be couched in biblical reference, then the answer itself is part of God’s revelation of Himself that He intended us to know, and thus worthy of pursuit.

Many years ago, I heard a sermon from Bro. Ernie Perkins, who at that time was an area missionary from Arkansas, the state where he still lives. During a revival at our church in South Georgia, Bro. Ernie used as his text “Gen. 0:0.” The paragraph below is not a direct quote from that sermon, but after I consulted with Bro. Ernie, he agreed that it captures the essence of what he said in that sermon…

Before Gen 1.1, there was nothing but God… Then suddenly (at least from our perspective), He created…not with a Big Bang… but with a big word: LET… God is above time and space and matter, and He is bounded by nothing other than His own nature… If we could travel across time and space to anywhere in the Universe, would we find God? YES!… not because we took Him, but because HE IS!

God himself revealed to us that He is inscrutable (Isaiah 40:28; Romans 11:33). He is beyond finding out, at least in our own power. Man, left to his own desires and devices, would never and could never discover the truth about God that could lead to reconciliation, redemption, and true worship.

In fact, God himself said in His written word, first through the psalmist and then through the Apostle Paul, that there has never been a person who sought after God out of his own desire.

Psalm 14:2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (See also Romans 3:10-12.)

How we know and what we know about God comes only through revelation, not investigation. God controls the knowledge of himself open to man’s scrutiny.

How we know and what we know about God comes only through revelation, not investigation. God controls the knowledge of himself open to man’s scrutiny. And that knowledge is stored in the pages of the written revelation we know as the Bible.

Before the creation, there was only God existing (though what that means in full is beyond our knowledge), experiencing the absolute joy and pleasure and love of the Trinity, completely fulfilled in all things and in every way, needing nothing. Jesus gives us insight into the relationship of the Trinity in His high priestly prayer recorded in John’s gospel.

John 17:5, 24 Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (NKJV)

Yet in eternity, when there were no heavens and no earth, God was not sitting idle, doing nothing. He was about the business of establishing and setting into motion His eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11) that involved, but was not restricted to, creating a world from which He would prepare a Kingdom to be populated by His grace through the process of Redemption and Election.

KINGDOM

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (ESV)

1 Corinthians 2:7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written (paraphrasing Isaiah 64:4),   

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. (ESV)

Pay special attention to verse 10. Those things with which God was engaged before the creation have been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit – by God himself.

Those things with which God was engaged before the creation have been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit – by God himself.

Through the written word inspired by the Holy Spirit, God revealed to mankind that in eternity – where there is no time, no space, no matter – God purposed or determined to prepare a kingdom for His people – a people whom He had not yet created – a people who would become members of the kingdom of God through the plan of redemption.

REDEMPTION

The Bible makes clear that God established the plan of redemption – including the forgiveness of sin – before He ever created the Earth, before He created man, and before there was ever a sin that needed to be forgiven. Forgiveness preceded sinfulness.

In His eternal plan, God the Father determined that God the Son would come to earth as a man, die on a cross for sin, be resurrected after three days and nights in a borrowed tomb, and ascend back into Heaven to stand at the Father’s right hand and return to His rightful throne as Lord of all things in heaven and earth. All of this before the creation.

The Apostle Paul wrote to both Timothy and Titus about this very thing.

Titus 1:1-2 Paul wrote to Titus about the “…hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began…” (NKJV)

2 Timothy 1:9-10 God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ… (NKJV)

We hear parallel teachings from the words of Peter.

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know – 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; (NKJV)

After being released following their arrest in Jerusalem and a hearing before the Sanhedrin, Peter and John led the people to pray, speaking to God…

Acts 4:27 …in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the non-Jewish people and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place… (ESV)

Then in his first epistle or letter to the church in general, Peter wrote…

1 Peter 1:18 …you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (NKJV)

The Greek word translated foreordained in 1 Peter 1:20 is, in other Scripture references, translated foreknown, determined, and election. When used in reference to God the word always refers to God’s infinite knowledge and the revelation of His eternal plan as it is carried out in human history. (For a more detailed discussion of these Greek words, see the NOTES at the end of this article.)

In 1 Peter, Christ, the Lamb of God, is said to be foreordained (foreknown), meaning that God did not just know that God the Son would come to Earth to serve as a sacrifice for the sinfulness of His people. It means that He planned and determined all that would happen in the ministry of Jesus in His eternal counsel before time began. “God’s foreknowledge is given here as the cause for His Son’s sacrifice – because He planned and decreed it.” (CWSB Dictionary)

God does not just know in advance what is going to happen in human history – He planned it all before time began.

God does not just know in advance what is going to happen in human history – He planned it all before time began. That is what is meant by God’s declaration concerning His own nature through the writing of Isaiah…

Isaiah 46:9, 10 I am God…declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” (ESV)

God knows the end from the beginning and that the end will always be in accordance with His perfect will because He also determined the means by which that end would be achieved.

This concept of God’s foreknowledge does not just apply to historical events, but also applies to the plan of redemption in election.

ELECTION

Ephesians 1:4 God the Father chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (ESV)

Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (NKJV)

Admittedly, the subjects of election and predestination – and especially verses similar to these last two – have caused great confusion and controversy as well as discord within the body of Christ since at least the time of the Reformation. Yet if we can look past the controversy over election and predestination, there is one very singular and striking truth that these verses have in common.

Before there was a beginning – before He ever said, “Let…” – God was preparing a kingdom for a people not yet created and to redeem a people who had not yet sinned.

Before there was a beginning – before He ever said, “Let…” – God was preparing a kingdom for a people not yet created and to redeem a people who had not yet sinned.

These verses also emphasize the point that redemption is not God’s reaction to sin, but part of His eternal plan that includes the forgiveness of sin before there was sin in the world.

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul declared that God had concealed a mystery developed in eternity past – before the world was brought into existence – that no scholar, no biblical authority, no king, nor prophet had ever been able to discern or discover.

Through Paul and the other New Testament writers, God revealed that mystery – His eternal plan – that He (God) has prepared for those who love him.

AFTER CREATION

We can do more than imagine…

Here is where the story gets even more interesting, for all that we have talked about so far – the preparation of a kingdom, the plan of redemption, the process of election – are not even the most important parts of the story.

We discover from further study that creation, the fall of man, and the plan of redemption are not the end of the story, but the means to an end.

We discover from further study that creation, the fall of man, and the plan of redemption are not the end of the story, but the means to an end.

All that God planned in eternity past and all that He has performed and continues to perform through the Creation combine as an intentional cause designed to produce a specific effect after the Creation that will be revealed by a grand spiritual Exhibition.

EXHIBITION

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

One commentator said this about these verses…

God’s purpose, therefore, is that in the eternal future…the grace of His ways with those once dead in sins should be declared and understood in all the grandeur of its exceeding riches.

Which leads us to another deep and mysterious question…

To whom will the immeasurable riches of God’s grace be shown and declared, and by whom will it be understood?

Paul answers this question in his letter to the church at Ephesus, though in more general terms than specific.

Ephesians 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the (nations) the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in (in the mind and will of) God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church…

(by means of the unfolding development of the plan of redemption and establishment of a kingdom of people elected to salvation by God)

the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord… (ESV)

All that God has done and all that God is doing in human history is intended to make a point and to teach an eternal lesson to principalities and powers that we know nothing about.

All that God has done and all that God is doing in human history is intended to make a point and to teach an eternal lesson to principalities and powers that we know nothing about.

God is about the business of edifying His own glory so that no other force or power or entity in all of the spiritual world will ever again be able to stand against the glory and power and dominion of Almighty God.

IN REVIEW

God’s eternal purpose is about so much more than rescuing fallen man from the pits of hell or about making the lives of men more comfortable and materially prosperous.

His purpose is eternal, formed in eternity and intended to affect eternity.

It is not about predestination or election, nor even about justification, sanctification, or glorification. These are but the means by which God is achieving the end of His eternal purpose.

The ultimate goal or end of God’s eternal purpose is to glorify Himself!

The ultimate goal or end of God’s eternal purpose is to glorify Himself!

This concept of the infinite nature of God and the magnificence of His sovereignty is difficult to fathom until we at least make an attempt to see the truth of Scripture couched in terms of eternity instead of creation.

What we must realize is the timelessness and the infinite nature of eternity. The terms “before” and “after” have no meaning there because they are time words. Thus God’s plan is not something that begins and ends, but is simply God being God. That is why He did not refer to himself as the “I Was” or the “I Will Be,” but the “I AM”!

Let us go to Bethel and climb with Jacob to the top of that heavenly ladder and try to imagine the unimaginable, unlimited scope of eternity stretching across an infinite expanse far beyond any horizon and filled with the unapproachable glory of God…

…and right in the midst of that eternity, see a time-limited event called Creation, the means by which God creates the miracle of the church by an even greater miracle called redemption through His own unlimited grace in order to demonstrate to all principalities and powers in spiritual places, whoever they might be, the infinite nature of His own power, sovereignty, glory, and love.

APPLICATION

Some who read this may wonder why such an involved study is even necessary. It may be for many that it is not necessary. For others, this knowledge of God’s eternal plan as revealed in Scripture may help strengthen their own hearts and embolden their witness and worship during their own journey through this challenging and often dark way of the world.

There are certainly other benefits of undertaking such a study, but I can think of at least three…

  1. To help us better understand God and His eternal nature, the foundation of all other beliefs and doctrines.
  2. To illustrate that the plan of redemption is not about man, but about God – His purpose, His glory, His will, His majesty – and that “salvation belongs to the Lord.”
  3. To give us comfort by helping us to assess all of the craziness going on around us in the world today against the perspective of eternity, delivering to our hearts and minds both hope and a peace that passes all understanding.

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NOTES ON FOREORDAINED

The word study below is taken from The Complete Word Study Bible Dictionary by Spiros Zhodiates. It is a challenging read but goes a long way in helping understand the sovereignty of Almighty God. The bold highlights are mine.

  1. προορίζω proorízō; fut. proorísō, from pró (G4253), before, and horízō (G3724), to determine. To determine or decree beforehand (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29, 30; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5, 11). The peace of the Christian Church has been disrupted due to the misunderstanding which surrounds this word. It behooves the Church to consider the divinely intended meaning of this word by carefully examining the critical passages where it is used.

In 1 Cor. 2:7 it has a thing as its obj., namely, the wisdom of God. The purpose was our glory, i.e., our benefits of salvation.

In Acts 4:28 the verb is followed by the aor. inf. genésthai (gínomai [G1096], to be, become), to be done. The action of Herod and Pontius Pilate in crucifying Jesus Christ is said to have been predetermined or foreordained by the hand and will of God. This indicates that Christ’s mission, especially His death and resurrection, was not ultimately the result of human will but originated in the eternal counsel of God which decreed the event determining all its primary and secondary causes, instruments, agents, and contingencies.

In Rom. 8:29, 30, predestination is used of God’s actions in eternally decreeing both the objects and goal of His plan of salvation. Proorízō has a personal obj., the pl. relative pron. hoús, whom. This relative pron. refers to those previously mentioned as those whom God foreknew (proégnō [G4267]). The translation is, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” The objects of predestination are those whom He foreknew. Predestination does not involve a predetermined plan only but also includes the individuals for whom the plan is devised. The goal of predestination is expressed in the phrase, “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

In Eph. 1:5, 11 this same purpose of foreordination is termed adoption. Adoption (huiothesía [G5206]) is the placing into sonship or legal heirship of those who are born of God. According to 1:5 the basis of this prior decree is “the good pleasure of His will.” The word rendered “good pleasure” is eudokía (G2107) and means pleasure or satisfaction, that which seems good. Paul is careful to add that it is the good pleasure of God’s will, it is what seems good to God – not man. Similarly, in 1:11 foreordination is based upon “the purpose (próthesis [G4286]) of the One who is working all things ([neut. acc. pl.] tá pánta [G3844], an idiom for the entire metaphysical and physical universe) according to the decision of His will” (a.t.). This same thinking is reflected in Rom. 8:30 where foreordination is joined successively to foreknowledge. Here it is presented not as a capricious, arbitrary or whimsical exercise of raw will or unreasoned impulse, but as the expression of a deliberate and wise plan which purposes to redeem those undeserving sinners whom God freely favors as the objects of His mercy.

Because it is neither possible nor permissible for us to pry into God’s secret counsel, it is not proper to be fixated with determining who the predestined are. Instead, we should contemplate the glories of what they are predestined to, i.e., salvation, adoption, or glory. (CWSB Dictionary)

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