On Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.
Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.
See previous posts:
- Introducing Biblical Theology and Redemptive History (LDBC Recap 1/24/16)
- The Significance and Relevance of Biblical Theology and Redemptive History (LDBC Recap 1/31/16)
- Foundational Principles and Basic Frameworks for Redemptive History and Biblical Theology (LDBC Recap 2/7/16)
- Redemptive-Historical, Biblical-Theological Hermeneutics (LDBC Recap 2/14/16 Pt. 1)
In this post we will recap our initial venture in surveying redemptive history, i.e., the role of creation in redemptive history.
The basic narrative of redemptive history
First, we recalled the basic narrative framework of redemptive history as a refresher. It can be presented as follows:
These four events are the central turning points in the all-encompassing storyline of scripture. But they leave a lot out (like all of God’s dealings with Israel!). Therefore, in this section of the course, as we survey redemptive history, we will unpack the contours and stages in between these four pillar-events.
1 | Creation
There are a total of fifteen stages that we will cover as we work our way through redemptive history. We begin with creation.
In each stage we will do at least two things: (1) We will briefly overview the Biblical material that primarily addresses and covers this stage (so, for example, with creation we will overview Genesis 1-2 which presents the creation account). We do this in order to make sure we are all on the same page, knowing the basic idea of what goes on at this stage. But, (2) since the goal of surveying redemptive history is not to lay out a pure chronological listing of what happened in Biblical history–“this happened, and then this happened…” etc.–but to show how all of the events fit together as one large story centered in Christ and the Gospel, we will ask and answer the question, how does this stage fit into that larger story? What is its role within redemptive history)?
Overview of Biblical Material
- God created the universe out of nothing (Ex Nihilo) by His spoken word.
- God created his creation good.
- God created man unique, in his image of God, and commissioned him to multiply and rule over his creation.
- God forbid mankind from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and threatened the punishment of death for disobedience.
We used the following illustration to help us understand the role of creation within redemptive history:
The opening scene of TV crime shows often open with a crime scene or criminal activity that serves as the case for the rest of the show. In this way, this beginning scene sets the stage for the rest of the show. It lays out important details that will prove to be foundational for understanding the rest of the story. In a similar way, creation—as the beginning of the story of scripture—presents key foundational matters for understanding the rest of redemptive history.
Revisiting the theme of scripture
Next we developed our initial statement on the theme of scripture, which, by extension, is also the theme of redemptive history.
In a previous lesson we defined the theme of scripture this way: “The outworking of God’s salvation accomplished through Jesus Christ in history on behalf of his people to the glory of God.”
But this theme can be improved upon. We can be more precise. Specifically, we can answer the questions, “What do we mean by ‘salvation’ here?” (noting how we are using ‘salvation’ here in its broadest sense to refer to, not merely forgiveness of sins, be reversing the curse far as it is found) and, second, “How is that salvation ‘accomplished’ or worked out?” as the initial theme states.
We proposed the following development upon our original theme: “The outworking of God’s new-creational kingdom accomplished through covenants…”
“New-creational.” Notice: We’ve defined what we mean by “salvation” here as “new-creational kingdom.” But, first, what do we mean by “new-creational”?
To answer this we first need to understand that creation establishes God’s creation-intent. To say this differently, creation sets out the designed pattern God intended for his creation. As such, it sets the standard by which to contrast fallen creation and fallen humanity. As Genesis 1:31 says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
We can present this creational-pattern through the following chart:
You’ll notice that there are six rows in this chart. For the time being, just focus on the top four, which are in white (ignore the bottom two gray ones). These four rows specify four key elements of God’s creational-pattern, i.e., his design or intent for creation. And this pattern, this intent, this aim, this purpose for creation then sets the tone for the rest of redemptive history, which, post-fall, involves God working out his purposes to recover (hence “new-creational” in the above definition of the theme of scripture) that creation intent.
At this point we can look at the columns on the right hand side and notice how the initial pattern in creation sets a trajectory for God’s purposes, promises, activity, and work to re-achieve (again, hence “new-creational“) that pattern. These trajectories, we can see, ultimately find their fulfillment in Christ.
Here we can also note the bottom two rows that specify new elements that need to be added to this pattern post-fall: First, God’s deliverance–that God’s creational pattern is not achieved by our own doing, but only by God’s rescuing us and delivering us; and second, sacrifice and mediation–the need to deal with sin in order to re-achive this creational-pattern.
And, so, again, by way of summary, creation lays out God’s intended design which involves certain elements–God’s people, under God’s rule and exercising that rule, in God’s place, experiencing God’s presence–that we can speak of in terms of a pattern (the creational-pattern) that then gets picked up across redemptive history as God seeks to re-achieve (hence “new-creational”) that pattern involving those elements.
Thus, as the early Christian work, the Epistle of Barnabas 6:13, says, “He [God] made a second creation at the last; and the Lord saith; Behold I make the last things as the first.” We might put it this way: The end is contained in the beginning; and the beginning is pregnant with the end. This idea is evident in Revelation 21-22 which depicts that final, fully realized New Creation state in language rather reminiscent of Genesis 1-2. The end new creation recovers the pattern and intent of the original creation.
“Kingdom.” You’ll notice that in the above definition of the theme of scripture, that we also described this broad idea of salvation in terms of God’s kingdom. So what do we mean by that? Well, in simple terms, by God’s kingdom we mean the realization of God’s rule and will over his creation and over his people. Thus, by new [-creational] kingdom we mean the re-institution of God’s rule and will over creation and humanity.
Thus, we describe God’s broad saving and restoring purposes in terms of a new-creational kingdom.
To connect this to past material we discussed, it is helpful to note that what we mean by “new-creational kingdom” is identical with the “age to come” (the blue section) in the diagram below. The “this age” (the red section) is the original creational-kingdom that has been lost at the fall.
As we noted in this diagram originally, Christ brought about the “age to come” (the blue section; aka, the “new-creational kingdom”) into being in a partial (yet decisive) sense at his first coming, even though the “this age” (the red section; aka, the fallen creation-age) still lingers on. Hence we get the purple section–the overlap of the ages, aka, the overlap of the original fallen creation and the new-creational kingdom.
And, so, because these themes of creation and kingdom (→ “new-creational kingdom”) seem to be the most all-encompassing ways to speak of God’s saving/restoring intent as he executes it across redemptive-history, we will be using these ideas of creation and kingdom to outline redemptive history. It is helpful for us to use them to examine redemptive history because they seem to tie in all of the other redemptive themes of redemptive history.
“Through covenants.” Notice, in the above definition of the theme of scripture we’ve also added an element of how God accomplishes or brings about this new-creational kingdom, i.e., through (by means of) covenants. By this we mean that God’s plan of bringing into being this new-creational kingdom is unfolded and executed through a series of covenants he makes with his people.
But what do we mean by “covenant”? A rather simplified definition of covenant is the following: a binding agreement between two parties involving promises and obligations. For examples of Biblical covenants we can think of the following: the Noahic (God’s covenant with Noah), the Abrahamic (God’s covenant with Abraham), the Mosaic (God’s covenant with Israel through Moses; also called the Sinai Covenant or “Old Covenant”), the Davidic (God’s covenant with David), and the New Covenant.
As noted in the definition above, these covenants contain promises. And the goal of these promises is the final, ultimate, and full realization (aka, fulfillment) of God’s new-creational kingdom.
Thus, God’s new-creational kingdom is accomplished through covenants—the content and aim of the covenant promises is the new-creational kingdom of God; and the new-creational kingdom of God is the realization of the covenant promises.
Because these covenants—particularly their promises—aim at God’s new-creational kingdom, these covenants drive and provide structure to redemptive history. Everything in the redemptive history is related to these covenants; everything in redemptive history is an outflow or product of these covenants. Thus, as we survey redemptive history, we will follow its course as it is structured and driven by these covenants.
And, so, to recap, our developed definition of the theme of scripture is “The outworking of God’s new-creational kingdom accomplished through covenants…”
Role within Redemptive History
And this large excursus leads us, finally, to the role of creation within redemptive history, within the all-encompassing storyline of scripture, which is the following: That in creation, God’s creational-kingdom intent is established. In other words, creation establishes God’s creation-kingdom intent, the creational-kingdom pattern. And, as noted above, this sets the trajectory for the rest of redemptive history, which involves God working out his proposes to restore (hence “new-creational kingdom”) that design set forth in creation.
For further study I would direct you to the following resources that you can be accessed online:
- D.A. Carson was recently on John Piper’s Ask Pastor John podcast beginning a series on Biblical theology (how convenient for us!). In the first episode he surveyed all of redemptive history (see here). Check back regularly at the Ask Pastor John podcast for upcoming episodes in this series.
- In this blog post, Justin Taylor shares Graeme Goldsworthy’s summaries of the stages that make up redemptive history.
- Again, the White Horse Inn podcast is currently doing a series in which the hosts are surveying redemptive-history (again, how convenient for us!). Listening to these would be a helpful supplement to our core seminar. Below I’ll link to the episodes that are currently available. Check back or subscribe to their podcast for new episodes.
 The concepts of new creation and kingdom go hand and hand and really seem to be two ways of speaking of the same thing, just through different motifs – creation vs. rule.
 There may be a question about why I am using “new-creational” language to refer to realities prior to what we actually think of as the New Creation (e.g,. Rev 21-22, or, even in inaugurated form, texts like 1 Cor 5:17). Beale’s comments are helpful here:
[T]he original state of Adam and Eden becomes a prototype of the escalated conditions of new creation that appear to be introduced at repeated points in certain subsequent historical accounts in the OT era. These apparent inaugurated eschatological episodes do not materialize in a consummated end-time state, and they themselves then come to be seen as eschatological prototypes by later OT writers. … Accordingly, Adam’s failure in Eden and the other OT patterns of new-creational start-ups and failures become typological foreshadowings of what finally is successfully accomplished in Christ (see, e.g., Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:45).
… [T]he major episodes of OT history were seen to be reiterations, to varying significant degrees, of the pattern of beginning kingship in a beginning new creation. Thus, these subsequent episodes in the OT represent events that have the appearance of commencing an end-time process that is never completed.
… Other OT episodes subsequent to Eden also appear to be reinstating the conditions of Eden and marching toward a final consummation, but they never reach it. Such potential but failed eschatological-like narratives come to be seen by subsequent OT narrators and the NT as patterns foreshadowing the eschaton that will indeed finally come to pass at some future point.
[M]ost definitions of OT eschatology focus on conditions that have significant and decisively irreversible discontinuities with the prior sinful course of history. … [However,] there may be in the OT itself a temporary sense of inaugurated eschatology or semieschatological conditions that can exist prior to their consummated, future form. While I think this is the case, such apparent eschatological conditions never eventuate into true, decisively irreversible conditions until the first coming of Christ.
G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, 90-92.
In short, we recognize that these OT events and circumstances are not the true realization of eschatological realities. Rather, we speak of them as proto-eschatology or typological-eschatology. But, therefore, i.e., due to their typological function of foreshadowing the ultimate realization of the New Creation, we project “new-creational” language back onto them in order to make clear this function.
 Since the intent, goal, or aim of the later covenants is present here in the creation account itself – God’s people, under God’s rule, exercising that rule, in God’s place, experiencing God’s presence, etc. – we can probably say that something like a “proto-covenant” is present here in the creation account. By “proto-“ we mean a primitive, precursor, pre-cultural form, not necessary a formalized, ritualized, culturally-expressed covenant as we will eventual find in the ANE culture of the latter OT period (e.g., a suzerain-vassal treaty), but, nonetheless, something that has the essential features or intent of those latter formalized and explicit Biblical covenants. If nothing else, the intent and aim of the later covenants is present here.
We might call this a covenant of creation or a creational covenant. Otherwise we might refer to it as an Adamic covenant, i.e., a covenant made by God with Adam and his progeny—humanity.
Note: We can’t just rule out the idea covenant present in creation simply because the word “covenant” isn’t used in the opening chapters of Genesis. Think: “if looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” So here too, if all the elements or features of a covenant are present, but the word simply isn’t, a covenant—or some proto-expression of one—is nonetheless still likely present.