Of Heaven and Earth

Studies in Genesis by V. Keith Relf

    There are many terms used in our language and especially in the Bible that have differing meanings, “heart” is a good example. It’s a pump, it’s the centre of emotion or it is a condition or degree of compassion and the list may go on.

    It is also clear that in the Bible record, the writers and even Jesus himself used common idioms and anecdotes as examples to illustrate an important truth. The parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke16:19-31) is such an example or the unjust judge (Luke18:2-6) where the lesson is drawn obliquely from the story.

    These are difficult things to say to dear folk who demand that every word in the Bible must be believed as written. And indeed, there are some torturous “interpretations” offered by some respected teachers in the earnest endeavour to make every word “run on four feet”.

    Be sure that every message in the Bible is to be believed.  But for example, it is not uncommon to hear a preacher, illustrate a sermon point with an anecdote, a joke, or a fictitious story. It does not make the message less true, just easier to remember and we easily separate the story from the truth.

    New Testament writers, especially Paul, sometimes very loosely, quote well known phrases from the Old Covenant Scriptures to give “remember-ability” to his message because the words are so well known or have even become a popular saying that is not necessarily accurate with the original meaning. Missing this fact often leads to obscure and difficult “interpretations” attempting to reconcile all the details of both passages.

    Jude quoted from an Apocryphal writing, The Book of Enoch, which we are told was written thousands of years after Enoch who “was no more, because God took him away.” Genesis 5:24. To quote Jude 1:14,15  Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."  Does that make The Book of Enoch sacred or inspired or simply a well known source of history and wisdom useful to quote and establish a point. I’ll leave that to the reader to decide.

    Just one more example - there are many.  It is interesting and helpful to our understanding to see just how the Commandments were handed down. When Jesus was “tested” (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-32; Luke 10:25-29) by the Pharisees, He got an A+ for quoting, not from the Decalogue, but from the common teachings drawn from Moses’ explanation of the Commandments. Certainly not the 1st and 2nd items of the 10 Commands as recorded in Exodus 20:3-17 or Deuteronomy 5:7-21. But later from Deuteronomy 6:5  “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  and from Leviticus 19:18  "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but [and] love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.”  The interview recorded in Luke suggests a different occasion when the question was put in another context; "Teacher," he was asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  and Jesus offered the same words, Luke 10:27  He answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind [Deuteronomy 6:5]; "and, Love your neighbour as yourself." [Leviticus 19:18 ]

    Now let me be clear, I do not offer this line of reasoning to diminish or question the “Word of God” but that we might do more than just glibly quote from 2 Timothy 2:15 “ . . . a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” But indeed, for ourselves, to do just that.  If we are not diligent in this we become prey of false prophets and teachers of which there are plenty in the Church and even the Messianic Assemblies.  Jesus warned the disciples to "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." Matthew 7:15 and in Mark 13:22 "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect-- if that were possible."

    There have been many instances of the Church employing Scripture to retroactively sanitise some Pagan practice that had been, as a matter of political convenience, given hallowed place in the life of the Body. Easter is a good example. Sufficient to say that we have erred and incorrectly handled the word of truth in a pious attempt to make good past errors, rather than confess the errors.  In these studies we attempt to dispense with this sort of theological “baggage” and take a fresh look at the message.  Probably a difficult thing to do with 2000 years of ingrained conditioning but it is still worth the try.  We are not the first to question orthodox wisdom.  Today, as never before orthodox Christianity is made by our leaders and the media to appear out-dated or irrelevant, yet the end time events we are warned of in the Bible seem to be knocking on our door.  People are seeking the truth.

    One such study I have attempted within this “open intellectual framework” is the early part of Genesis.  Especially the first chapters concerned with the Creation. I, personally, have no trouble believing that God could make the entire universe in 144 hours but I must also ask the question, “Did He?”. Is that the message that has been given to us as an explanation of the beginnings of all we are, see, know and imagine, here and elsewhere?  I don’t think so. I think this is another case of some pagan fantasy adopted by an early church notable. Said fantasy has been the subject of extensive and extended theological “reverse engineering” in an attempt to make the idea stand up. While those who may question this position are branded doubters.  

    "Wait!" someone will say, "didn't Jesus say the world was made in six days?"  Well, first read the Genesis article and then remembering what we've learned above about using commonly used phrases, re- read the "proof text".  Remember, Genesis stands alone, it was inspired and written to be understood and not re-interpreted by things spoken thousands of years later.  It is the later statements that must be understood and interpreted in the light of the original revelation.

    I think we need to look more carefully at the real “beginnings” and the terms used.  If we don’t read Genesis 1:1,2 with preconceived ideas but at the same time, aware of conventional wisdom on the subject, we will see that the second verse may seem to contradict the first. The first verse, says of the universe, God “created” a complete act and the second verse as traditionally translated says that this planet was unfinished, incomplete, a desolation in fact.

    God created “the heavens”. Does this speak of the sky, our solar system, our Milky Way Galaxy, the near Galaxies, the Universe, things we can perceive and that which we can’t perceive, for example, possible parallel dimensions beyond our imagination.  And so we could go on.  It’s no good saying it’s not for us to know. If so why did God mention it in the first place? If it’s there I believe it’s for us and we should give it our best shot at getting the message, as much as God intended.

    So let’s say that from an earthling’s standpoint “the heavens” referred to here are all that is not “earth”. Pretty simple! The heavens seem vast and complex to us, how much more wonderful to those “heavenly hosts” without our limitations.

    Sometimes, the word “heaven” is used to indicate the sky. Other times it is where God resides. There may be many “heavens”, Paul knew “a man . . . caught up to the third heaven. 2 Corinthians 12:2. Paul didn’t know if this person was transported bodily or whether it was a visionary experience but obviously he believed that a “body” could go there if so required.  In fact "heaven" is another word, like "day" the meaning of which depends upon the context in which it is used.

    In Hebrews 9:11b  the writer speaks of a "greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation."   We know that the time will come when all things are made new, a new heaven and a new earth but Hebrews 9 speaks of well before that event, so we suggest that the "the greater and more perfect tabernacle" mentioned exists in those heavenly dimensions indicated in the 1st verse that were "not a part of this creation".

    What I’m getting at is that the first 2 verses of Genesis are not a part of the Creation account that specifically concerns this planet. Rather, verses 1 and 2 establish the pre existence and presence of an Almighty God who established in eternity the vastness of the universe as His dwelling place and hints at some cosmic catastrophe that destroyed much of this planet earth which “became without form and void”, shapeless and empty. Verse 2 further tells us "the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters."

    Now here would probably be a good place to pause open your Internet Browser click here on http://return.2truth.com/ and then continue with the more detailed examination of this study in Genesis under the headings entitled “Beginnings” and “Theory of Creation”.

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