Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hebrews Chapter Eleven: 3

“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible,” (Hebrews 11:3 NASB).

In Hebrews 1:1-2 we read, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in may portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, though whom also He made the world,” (NASB).

The Greek word translated “worlds” and “world” in the above passages is aeon, which is normally translated “ages” or similarly. The following comment by F.F. Bruce regarding Hebrews 1:2 is helpful:

“It was through him [Jesus Christ] that God “made the universe.” The Greek word here rendered “universe” is aiones, which primarily means “ages”; but its meaning cannot be restricted to “ages” either here on in 11:3, where it reappears in a similar context. The whole created universe of space and time is meant, and the affirmation that God brought this universe into being by the agency of his Son is in line with the statements of other New Testament writers…” (underline is mine). The Epistle to the Hebrews, Revised, NICNT, F.F. Bruce, Eerdmans, page 47.

There are at least two points I want to make in this post, the first is that time and space and that which occupies space have been framed and created by the Word of God; God did not only create space and the material things and creatures that occupy space, but He also created time and the unfolding of time.

The second point is that understanding the first point is integral to living lives of faith, it is foundational – to live lives of faith we must believe that we live in a framework of creation – creation of space and materiality and personality, and creation of time and the unfolding of time. God prepared what we see and the time that we experience, He framed the context of the life of humanity and of our individual lives in particular.

When we understand this then we know that what we see with our natural eyes is not all that there is, and that the chronological time that we experience has been orchestrated by God, and that furthermore within chronological time we also have “Kairos” time – seasonal time if you will – and as we grow in Christ hopefully we are better able to discern “Kairos” time when we are near it or in it. When we know that what we see with our natural eyes is not the whole picture then we can look beyond the natural into God’s Kingdom and God’s truth and God’s Word and we can learn to see the things that are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16 – 18). Our lives and decisions are then hopefully based on God’s eternal reality and not on man’s transient and rebellious understanding of life; hopefully we can make decisions based long-term wisdom rather than short-term reaction.

The men and women of faith that are described in Hebrews 11 are people who lived within an understanding that creation and time and the unfolding of time come from God and are in God’s hands. Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and others need not be intimidated by current events, including the rise and fall of kingdoms, because they know that the seasons of governments and empires and ethnic groups are governed by God, having been prepared, set in motion, and sustained by Him.

I prefer to translate aeon in the above passages either “ages” or “worlds and ages” – in Greek it is plural in both verses. If I have to choose one word I like “ages” because it represents the unfolding of time and trajectory – it emphasizes that the seasons of life and the grand events around us have their genesis in God – a message found from Genesis to Revelation. We are called to rise above the age that is passing away and to live in the age to come in Christ; we are called to live in harmony with the seasons of the Kingdom and not the seasons of this world. We can reject the ways of this age when we realize that Christ is the Way, we can reject the evil of the present age when we realize that there is a higher and unseen reality, a real reality, in Jesus Christ.

There are two trajectories unfolding simultaneously; the trajectory of rebellion and darkness spirals downward (even though it might seem to some to be moving upward); the trajectory of the Kingdom of light in Jesus Christ ascends upward (even though it might seem to some to be overcome by opposition).

Those who live by faith are those who learn to see things differently than the inhabitants of the world do, they understand that all time and space and matter and historical trajectories have been created, planned, framed, prepared, and sustained by the Word of God, so that “what is seen is not made out of things which are visible.”

This is a different way of life; it is the life of faith in and through Jesus Christ – it is the faith and life of Hebrews Chapter 11. 

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