Mystery of Creation, Ch. 1 & 2, CFP, Watchman Nee
We believe the Bible is the word of God: every word is God-breathed. It is a constant weight in the minds of the godly that people should despise and even oppose God’s word. The hearts of God’s children are grieved because people do not respect God’s statutes. And of the sixty-six books of the Bible, Genesis is subjected to more doubt and attacks than is any other. Those who oppose the Holy Bible frequently try to use geological periods and pre-historical fossils to overturn the clear revelation of God’s word. According to these geological evidences, the earth has been in existence for tens of thousands of years. And hence to them the record of six thousand years of history in the Bible is untrustworthy. They accordingly wave the flag of science in their attack on the record of Genesis.
Many dear brethren in the Lord are really tossed by such storms of controversy due to their lack of learning. Although geology is not the basis for our meditation today, we would deal with it at the outset of our meditation on Genesis for the sake of the benefit of those brethren. By the grace of God we will together look into the word of God to discover how perfect is His word so that we may remain in His presence beholding His glory.
Let us understand, first of all, that Genesis is God’s revelation; geology, on the other hand, is man’s invention. Since God knows all the facts, His revelation can never be in error. Men can only see partially, hence their deduction is hardly accurate. If both Genesis and geology are before us, what we follow must be Genesis and not geology because God is behind Genesis. If Genesis and geology differ, the error must be on the side of geology, for the authority of the Bible is beyond questioning. Thank God our Father for giving us a perfect revelation. If there is any disagreement between God and men, we would rather forsake men and follow God. But if there is no difference between the word of God and that of men, will that not strengthen the faith of the weak to believe in the revelation which comes from heaven?
People often laugh at the creation story myths circulated among the Chinese, the Babylonians, and other ancient peoples. No scientist bothers to refute these mythic accounts. And why? Because these traditions have no intrinsic value; therefore, they are not worth any special attention. People’s attitude towards the Bible, however, is quite different. Their very effort to resist the Scriptures proves the power of the Bible. The fact that they do not treat this Book the same as they treat the traditions of the nations demonstrates the ascendant position the Bible holds.
Who can read the first chapter of Genesis without being impressed by its uniqueness? Rather common, yet so marvelous! The facts are presented in such a straightforward manner that there is not a trace of theorizing. There is no attempt to argue and to prove the authenticity of the facts presented. The Author is not bound by the book since He is so much bigger than that about which He writes. He far transcends the universe simply because He is God. Now had the author been Moses—who would doubtless have written out of his own learning and wisdom—his writing would naturally have been influenced by Egyptian creation myths, for he was instructed in all the wisdom of that ancient people. But no one can ever discover in the Genesis account any trace of the Egyptian myth! And why? Because it was God who inspired Moses to write. If this were not so, how could Moses have possibly known that the earth originally came out of water?—a fact recognized in geology but only discovered in modern times. How can it be explained otherwise, if Moses had not received revelation? And as to the origin of life on earth, even though the Bible opposes the theory of evolution it does not reject the concept of progression: first the scaly fishes of the water and finally human beings on earth. Should not the scientists marvel at the record of Moses? Because the omniscient God revealed these facts, the one who received such revelation from Him cannot be in error.
Even so, the Bible is not a book of science. Its primary aim is rather to point sinners to Christ Jesus that they may receive the wisdom of salvation. Yet interestingly enough it contains no scientific error even though it basically is not a book on science. If there is any discrepancy between it and science, such discrepancy will be either due to man’s misinterpretation of the Bible or to an inaccuracy in the conclusions of science. How many of the sure pronouncements of former geologists have over the years changed! What they affirmed in the past have been proven later to be mistakes. One observer, Cummings by name, has said that “geology has made mistakes, and it will make mistakes again. Those hurriedly announced loud proclamations may prove to be inaccurate in the future.” Since the Bible was never intended to teach people science, it simply narrates the “fact” of creation without explaining “why.” Scientists like to explain the “why” (and without a doubt they have succeeded much in doing so), but they should not proceed to overturn fact by their reasonings which are based on limited observations. For God knows everything, and what He says is fact. How can men in their searching to know the why of something deny the authority of God and trust in their own opinions? It is good to have knowledge, but there is a foolishness which is more blessed.
The general concept among Christians regarding the first chapter of Genesis is that the very first verse is a kind of general introduction or premise, and that the works which are done in the six days to follow explain it. In other words, they take the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” as the subject of Chapter 1. The writer of Genesis, so they speculate, outlines what he intends to say in the first sentence and then proceeds to explain it in detail. Having mentioned when God created the heavens and the earth, he then continues by telling what condition the earth is in and how God day after day creates light, air, earth, plants, animals, and so forth. Such is the popular view as to how Genesis 1 narrates the creation story and how the universe was created out of waste and void. Yet those who study carefully the first chapter of sacred Scripture deem this interpretation to be erroneous. Due to this erroneous interpretation and not due to the Bible’s narration itself, a great controversy has arisen between the church and the world. Many young people, for example, doubt the accuracy of the Bible when they learn of such “discrepancy” in the face of particular geological evidences.
In the original Hebrew, this initial verse of the first chapter of Genesis contains seven words which carry within themselves a sense of independence. These divinely revealed words do not say that in the beginning God “formed” or “made” the world out of certain raw materials. No, the heavens and the earth were created. This word “created” is “bara” in the original. So that in the beginning God bara the heavens and the earth. This word “bara” is used three more times in Genesis 1 and 2: (1st) “And God created [bara] the great sea-monsters, and every living creature that moveth, wherewith the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind” (1.21); (2nd) “And God created [bara] man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (1.27); and (3rd) “And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it he rested from all his work which God had created [bara] and made” (2.3). To “create” is to “call the things that are not, as though they were” (Rom. 4.17). These sea-monsters and living things not only had physical bodies but also had an animated life within them. They therefore required a direct creative act of God. Thus it is only reasonable that the Scriptures should use the word “created” rather than the word “made” in these passages. In similar manner, though man’s body was formed out of the dust of the ground, his soul and spirit could not be made out of any physical material, and hence the Bible declared that “God created man in his own image.”
In the first two chapters of Genesis three different words are used for the act of creation: (1) “bara”—calling into being without the aid of pre-existing material. This we have already touched upon; (2) “asah”—which is quite different from “bara,” since the latter denotes the idea of creating without any material whereas “asah” signifies the making, fashioning, or preparing out of existing material. For instance, a carpenter can make a chair, but he cannot create one. The works of the Six Days in Genesis are mainly of the order of “asah”; (3) “yatsar”—which means to shape or mold as a potter does with clay. This word is used in Genesis 2.7 as follows: “And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground.” Interestingly, Isaiah 43.7 illustrates the meaning and connection of all three of these words: “every one that is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, yea, whom I have made.” “Created” signifies a calling into being out of nothing; “formed” denotes a fashioning into appointed form; and “made” means a preparing out of pre-existing material.
The words “In the beginning” reinforce the thought of God creating the heavens and the earth out of nothing. There is really no need to theorize; since God has so spoken, let men simply believe. How absurd for finite minds to search out the works of God which He performed at the beginning! “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God” (Heb. 11.3). Who can answer God’s challenge to Job concerning creation (see Job 38)?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This heaven is not the firmament immediately surrounding the earth; rather, it points to the heaven where the stars are. It has not undergone any change since it was created, but the earth is no longer the same.
To understand the first chapter of Genesis, it is of utmost importance that we distinguish the “earth” mentioned in verse 1 from the “earth” spoken of in verse 2. For the condition of the earth referred to in verse 2 is not what God had created originally. Now we know that “God is not a God of confusion” (1 Cor. 14.33). And hence when it states that in the beginning God created the earth, what He created was therefore perfect. So that the waste and void of the earth spoken of in verse 2 was not the original condition of the earth as God first created it. Would God ever create an earth whose primeval condition would be waste and void? A true understanding of this verse will solve the apparent problem.
“Thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens, the God that formed the earth and made it, that established it and created it not a waste, that formed it to be inhabited: I am Jehovah; and there is none else” (Is. 45.18). How clear God’s word is. The word “waste” here is “tohu” in Hebrew, which signifies “desolation” or “that which is desolate.” It says here that the earth which God created was not a waste. Why then does Genesis 1.2 state that “the earth was waste”? This may be easily resolved. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1.1). At that time, the earth which God had created was not a waste; but later on, in passing through a great catastrophe, the earth did become waste and void. So that all which is mentioned from verse 3 onward does not refer to the original creation but to the restoration of the earth. God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning; but He subsequently used the Six Days to remake the earth habitable. Genesis 1.1 was the original world; Genesis 1.3 onward is our present world; while Genesis 1.2 describes the desolate condition which was the earth’s during the transitional period following its original creation and before our present world.
Such an interpretation cannot only be arrived at on the basis of Isaiah 45.18, it can also be supported on the basis of other evidences. The conjunctive word “and” in verse 2 can also be translated as “but”: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but the earth was waste and void.” G. H. Pember, in his book Earth’s Earliest Ages, wrote that...
the “and” according to Hebrew usage—as well as that of most other languages—proves that the first verse is not a compendium of what follows, but a statement of the first event in the record. For if it were a mere summary, the second verse would be the actual commencement of the history, and certainly would not begin with a copulative. A good illustration of this may be found in the fifth chapter of Genesis (Gen. 5.1). There the opening words, “This is the book of the generations of Adam,” are a compendium of the chapter, and, consequently, the next sentence begins without a copulative. We have, therefore, in the second verse of Genesis no first detail of a general statement in the preceding sentence, but the record of an altogether distinct and subsequent event, which did not affect the sidereal [starry] heaven, but only the earth and its immediate surroundings. And what that event was we must now endeavour to discover.*
* G. H. Pember, Earth's Earliest Ages, New Edition, edited with additions by G. H. Lang (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1975), p. 31. (The original work of Pember, under the same title, was initially published in 1876 by Hodder and Stoughton. Later editions were issued by Pickering and Inglis and the Fleming H. Revell Co.)
Over a hundred years ago, Dr. Chalmers pointed out that the words “the earth was waste” might equally be translated “the earth became waste.” Dr. I. M. Haldeman, G. H. Pember, and others showed that the Hebrew word for “was” here has been translated “became” in Genesis 19.26: “His wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” If this same Hebrew word can be translated in 19.26 as “became,” why can it not be translated as “became” in 1.2? Furthermore, the word “became” in 2.7 (“and man became a living soul”) is the same word as is found in Genesis 1.2. So that it is not at all arbitrary for anyone to translate “was” as “became” here: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, [but] the earth became waste and void.” The earth which God created originally was not waste, it only later became waste.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1.1) and “in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” (Ex. 20.11). Comparing these two verses, we can readily see that the world in Genesis 1.1 was quite different from the world that came after Genesis 1.3. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. In the Six Days God made the heaven and earth and sea. Who can measure the distance that exists between “created” and “made”? The one is a calling into being things out of nothing, the other is a working on something already there. Man can make but cannot create; God can create as well as make. Hence Genesis records that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but later on the earth had become waste and void due to a tremendous catastrophe, after which God commenced to remake the heaven, earth and sea and all the creatures in them. 2 Peter 3.5-7 expresses the same thought as well: the heavens and the earth in verse 5 are the original heavens and earth referred to in Genesis 1.1; the earth mentioned in verse 6 that was overflowed with water and which perished is the earth covered with water which became waste and void as mentioned in Genesis 1.2; and the heavens and the earth that now are as spoken of in verse 7 are the restored heavens and earth after Genesis 1.3. Hence the works of God during the Six Days are quite different from His creative work done in the beginning.
The more we study Genesis 1, the more we are convinced that the above is the true interpretation. In the first day, God commanded light to shine forth. Before this first day, the earth had already been existing, but it was now buried in water, dwelt in darkness, and was waste and void. On the third day, God did not create the earth. He merely commanded it to come out of water. F. W. Grant has stated that “the six days’ work merely sets the earth into a new program; it does not create it out of nothing.”* On the first day, God did not create light, He instead commanded light to shine out of darkness. The light was already there. Neither did God create heaven on the second day. The heaven here is not the starry heaven but the atmospheric heaven, that which surrounds the earth. Where, then, did all these come from if they were not created during the Six Days? The one answer is that they were created at the time of the first verse of Genesis 1. So that subsequently, there was no need to create but simply to remake.
* A free translation.—Translator
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Note that there is no detailed description here. We therefore do not know whether the original heaven and earth were created instantaneously or through many ages. Was it done in thousands of years or in millions of years? In what shape and how large? We only know that God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning. Neither do we know how many years elapsed between the time of the first verse and that of the second verse of Genesis 1. We do not know when God created the heavens and the earth, nor do we know how long was the period after the original creation that the desolation described in verse 2 occurred. But we do believe that the original, perfect creation must have passed through many many years before it became waste and void. Such a long period would be enough to cover the so-called pre-historic age. All the years which geology demands and all the so-called geologic periods which it distributes among those years can fall into this time frame. We do not know how long the earth underwent change nor how many changes there were before it became waste and void because the Scriptures do not tell us these things. Yet we can affirm that the Bible never states that the age of the earth is but six thousand years in length. It merely shows that the history of man is approximately six thousand years old. By understanding the first two verses of Scripture, we can recognize that there is no contradiction between the Bible and geology. The attack of geologists against the Bible is merely beating the air. How marvelous is the word of God.
We do not present this interpretation in order to pacify science. For the revelation of God never yields to man’s reasoning. We will not forsake the authority of God’s word in order to make compromise with the conclusions of men. Nor do we intend to attempt to reconcile science with the Bible (for contradiction is to be expected since “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God”—Rom. 8.7). For such an interpretation as we have presented here was put forward even in the early church, long before geology had become a discipline of science.
What a Christian believes is not the wisdom of men but the word of God. Aside from the rock of the Bible, we need no other ground on which to stand. As long as the Scriptures declare it, that is deemed final to us. How lamentable it is that many so-called defenders of the faith too readily give ground and alter the Scriptures so as to reconcile them with human theories. An example of this is given by A. W. Pink, who noted that after the translation of a certain Assyrian tablet, people such as mentioned above enthusiastically reported that the Old Testament history was now being verified by that tablet. This is really turning things upside down. Does the word of God need any verification? Let us clearly understand that if the record on the Assyrian tablet coincides with that of the Bible, it only shows that the tablet has no historical error. And if they do not agree, it merely proves that the tablet is erroneous. In a similar way, if the teaching of science agrees with the Bible, the latter verifies the truth of science. But in case they do not agree, the Scriptures attest to the falsehood of science’s hypothesis. Natural man will of course laugh at our logic, yet this scornful attitude in itself ironically substantiates what the word of God declares when it states that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged” (1 Cor. 2.14)! Let us therefore not compromise our dignity in order to agree with the world. Let us not alter the Bible to suit the taste of men.
How marvelous is the first chapter of Genesis! One verse is used to proclaim the original creation, a single verse is called upon to pronounce the ruin of the world, and less than thirty verses are utilized to promulgate the remaking of the world! Who else in the universe could write a chapter comparable to Genesis 1? So difficult a topic, yet so clearly stated. So long a history, but so simply put. It is plainly not science, and yet it is scientifically accurate. If it was not written by God, then who was it who could write such a chapter? The reason why God does not say more is because He will reveal to men only that which pertains to men’s relationship with Him. As one Biblical scholar has observed:
The revelation from God is not a history by Him of all that He has done, but what has been given to man for his profit, the truth as to what he has to say to. Its object is to communicate to man all that regards his own relationship with God…. But historically the revelation is partial. It communicates what is for the conscience and spiritual affections of man…. Thus no mention is made of any heavenly beings….Thus also, as regards this earth, except the fact of its creation, nothing is said of it beyond what relates to the present form of it.*
* J. N. Darby, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible (Kingston-on-Thames: Stow Hill Bible and Truth Depot, 1948), I:7-8.
Indeed, what God has revealed is not for the sake of gratifying the curiosity of men, but for the purpose of expressing His divine character, the sinful nature of man, the way of salvation, and the future glory and punishment. How dangerous is worldly knowledge, for men out of their self-conceit will attack God with their limited knowledge.
How difficult for the intellectual man to be humble! Men always seek after knowledge, but God is unwilling to enhance such pursuit with His revelation. Consequently, He says very little here about creation. What we now need is not more science but deeper spirituality which will last on into eternity. Let us praise God our Father for He is so merciful. He not only created us but also remakes us, that we may be a new creation in Christ. How sweet is the name of the Lord Jesus! What grace it is that God has given His Son to us!
We have already seen how in the beginning God created a perfect heaven and earth. Later on—we do not know how long afterwards—the original beautiful earth became waste and void. However, God rose up and remade this world. In six days, He restored this desolate world. We will deal with the works of these Six Days in a later chapter, but here we would inquire as to why this original world was turned into waste. Why did God allow the work of His hand to be destroyed? For what reason did such a terrifying catastrophe fall upon such a beautiful earth?
The subject we will examine is not explicitly stated in the Scriptures, but it is found implicitly in many passages. By these intimations of light we may understand a little more concerning the original world and the cause of its desolation. Only the word of God can guide our thought. As a matter of fact, the understanding of His word will edify us with regard to whatever subject we may take up. The vanity of vanities is to rely on man’s mental supposition instead of holding on to the word of God.
Now as we look into Genesis chapter 3 (and even though Satan is nowhere named there), we can know for a certainty that the serpent mentioned therein was indeed Satan’s instrument; in fact, it was probably Satan himself in disguise. For it is said in Revelation 12.9 that “the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” Since Genesis 1 does not record the creation of Satan, it can legitimately be asked: Where did he come from? Furthermore, we see mention made throughout the Old Testament of many evil spirits; throughout the Gospels as well we encounter many of them quite frequently. Where did they come from? Moreover, we do not learn of the creation of angels, even though these angels are often mentioned throughout the Bible. Where also did they come from? All these questions are legitimately related to our problem. Now inasmuch as nothing was mentioned during the work of the Six Days in Genesis about the creation of angels or other supernatural beings, we must assume that they could not have been created at that time. If they were not created during the Six Days’ period, when were they created? The only possible answer is that they were the creatures of the former, original world. In this connection, we ought to consider the observations of G. H. Pember:
As the fossil remains clearly show, not only were disease and death—inseparable companions of sin—then prevalent among the living creatures of the earth, but even ferocity and slaughter. And the fact proves that these remains have nothing to do with our world; since the Bible declares that all things made by God during the six days were very good, and that no evil was in them till Adam sinned. . . . Since, then, the fossil remains are those of creatures anterior to Adam, and yet show evident tokens of disease, death, and mutual destruction, they must have belonged to another world and have a sin-stained history of their own, a history which ended in the ruin of themselves and their habitation.*
* G. H. Pember, op. cit., pp. 34-35.
By reading Jeremiah 4.23-26 we may know why the earth became waste and void: “broken down at the presence of Jehovah, and before his fierce anger” (v.26). Why was the Lord angry? Most likely it was due to the sin of the creatures at that time. Isaiah 24.1 sheds further light: “Behold, Jehovah maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste.” What made Him willing to destroy the earth which He had originally created? By looking at the history of our own world, we may deduce that it was also because of the sin of those creatures who inhabited the original earth. Accordingly, God could not but judge them.
Though in studying Genesis we do not learn the origin of Satan, nevertheless, as we probe into the cause for the desolation of the earth in the beginning we naturally can conclude that this must be due to the enemy. Apart from Satan there can be found no other reason in the Bible to account for this catastrophe.
Let us now examine another passage in the Scriptures which seems to tell us the origin of this adversary of God whom we shall discover to be the cause for the desolation of the original world. It is Ezekiel 28.1-19. These nineteen verses can be divided into two parts: the first from verses 1 to 10 is the prophet’s warning to the Prince of Tyre; the second part from verses 11 to 19 is the prophet’s lamentation for the King of Tyre. The first part regarding the Prince of Tyre is easily understood. He was proud and arrogant, who considered himself to be god and wiser than Daniel. His heart was lifted up because of his riches gained through trafficking in commerce. Therefore God punished him and destroyed him by the hands of the terror of the nations. For not long after this prophecy was spoken, Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Chaldeans, came and destroyed Tyre. The Jewish historian Josephus thought this prince of Tyre was Ittobalus, whereas in Phoenician history he was called Ittobaal II. We today know that this prophecy has already been fulfilled. Hence we encounter no difficulty in explaining verses 1 to 10. But as we read on from verse 11 we find many places hard to understand. Since this is closely related to what we are examining, we will quote this second part in full:
Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou wast in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, the topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was in thee; in the day that thou wast created they were prepared. Thou wast the anointed cherub that covereth: and I set thee, so that thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till unrighteousness was found in thee. By the abundance of thy traffic they filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore have I cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God; and I have destroyed thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thy heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I have cast thee to the ground; I have laid thee before kings, that they may behold thee. By the multitude of thine iniquities, in the unrighteousness of thy traffic, thou hast profaned thy sanctuaries; therefore have I brought forth a fire from the midst of thee; it hath devoured thee, and I have turned thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the peoples shall be astonished at thee: thou art become a terror, and thou shalt nevermore have any being. (28.11—19)
This lengthy passage is truly difficult to understand because there are many words here which cannot be applied to human beings. If the King of Tyre is but a human being, how can you explain the things mentioned from verses 11 to 15? When was the King of Tyre ever in the Garden of Eden, in the holy mountain of God? How could he in the least be the cherub who covered the ark? Nothing mentioned here was ever the experience of the King of Tyre. Yet neither can we spiritualize everything whenever we encounter difficulty.
I consider the first part (verses 1-10) which is addressed to the Prince of Tyre as being applicable to Ittobalus but that the second part (verses 11-19)—which is a lamentation against the King of Tyre—points to the future Antichrist. Verse 2 mentions Tyre as being in the midst of the sea. In reading Daniel 11.41-45 we know that when the future Antichrist will be in Palestine he will most probably stay in Tyre. Hence he is called the King of Tyre. Actually the Antichrist is but Satan incarnated. So that many of the things here have reference to Satan himself. In the opinion of J. N. Darby, “Verses 11-19, while continuing to speak of Tyre, go, I think, much farther, and disclose, though darkly, the fall and the ways of Satan, become through our sin the prince and god of this world.”* Arno C. Gaebelein feels the same way: “The King of Tyre is a type of the last man of sin (the Antichrist). Behind this wicked King we see another power—which is Satan. For at that time Satan was the power behind the King of Tyre; now he still is the god of this world who controls the nations.”**
* J. N. Darby, op. cit., II:294.
** A free translation.—Translator
If we study the Bible carefully, we will see that it is not against the normal teaching of God’s word to join Satan and the Antichrist together. We know, in spite of the fact people have their own will, that their movement is either the result of the working of God in them (Phil. 2.13) or the result of the working of the evil spirit (Eph. 2.2). Men do not have complete liberty. Ordinarily people of the world are under the control of the evil spirits. Sometimes, where mighty issues are at stake, Satan himself may step in and work. We saw how he came personally to tempt Christ in the wilderness; how later on he used Peter to dissuade Christ from the cross; and finally how he entered Judas’ heart in order to destroy Christ. In the last days he will join with the Antichrist in the arena of the world. Hence the Bible states this: “Even he [the lawless one], whose coming is according to the working of Satan” (2 Thess. 2.9). For Satan shall give him “his power, and his throne, and great authority” (Rev. 13.2). In view of the fact that Antichrist is Satan incarnated, the Holy Spirit speaks of them as one. So that in these verses all the supernatural things have reference to Satan himself while the rest speaks of the Antichrist. Now our purpose here is not to engage in research on the Antichrist but to know the creatures of the original world and to discover the reason for its desolation. Consequently, we shall set aside the places where Antichrist is referred to and focus our attention on those things involving Satan.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning!” (Is. 14.12) Before the archangel’s fall, he was called the Day-Star, the Son of the Morning. After his rebellion, however, he is called Satan—which means the adversary.
“Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” (Ez. 28.12). This was the archangel’s condition prior to his sin. He was higher than all the other angels. These terms—“the sum . . . full . . . perfect”—indicate that he was the greatest among the original creatures. God placed him above all others. Moreover, he was full of wisdom, indicative of his understanding of God’s will. Probably he had at that time the office of a prophet.
“Thou wast in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering” (v.13a). In Genesis 3 we see the presence of Satan. He was there not having every precious stone as his covering but rather he was there as a tempter to Adam and Eve. And hence these two Edens do not co-exist. At the time of Adam’s Eden, Satan had already fallen; but in the Eden mentioned here, Satan had not fallen yet. So that this garden of Eden must have existed before Adam’s Eden. If so, it must have belonged to the former world, not to the present world. It can be likened to the New Jerusalem in the future, having many precious stones such as the sardis, jasper, and so forth. The Eden which Adam inhabited, though, was not so. The Bible draws attention only to the trees in it, nothing being said of its bejeweled covering. Hence the Eden here must be different from Adam’s Eden. It was much earlier in time. The precious stones which the archangel wore remind us of the precious stones which Aaron the priest had on him (see Ex. 28). This therefore intimates that probably God had established him as a priest.
“The workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was in thee” (v. 13b). In the Bible we find that musical instruments were used by kings. We notice, for example, how David played the harp before King Saul, how, in reference to another king, his “pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the noise of [his] viols” when the King of Babylon was destroyed (Is. 14.11), and how the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music was sounded when the King of Babylon was elated (see Dan. 3). Evidently, the archangel at that time was made king and therefore he was given all these musical instruments by God.
“Thou wast the anointed cherub that covereth” (v.14a). “Anointed” means he was being set apart. The work of a “cherub” or “living creature” (cf. Ez. 10.15) is to lead in worshiping the Lord (see Rev. 4.9,10; 5.11-14). So that Lucifer’s work at the beginning was to lead the creatures of that day in the worship of God. This also indicates he had the office of a priest.
“And I set thee, so that thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire” (v.14b). The mountain of God most probably is the place where the glory of God is manifested. Since he is God’s priest, Lucifer would naturally stand before God and serve Him. What is the meaning of “walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire”? According to Ezekiel 1.26, the place of the cherubim or “living creatures” (see Ez. 1.19ff.) is just beneath the throne of God. When Moses and seventy of the elders of Israel were called to Mount Sinai, it says that “they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the very heaven for clearness . . . And the appearance of the glory of Jehovah was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Ex. 24.10,17). So that this paved work of sapphire stone which looked like devouring fire is “the stones of fire” spoken of here in Ezekiel 28.14b. It thus indicates that originally this archangel was placed in the habitation of the Most High directly under the throne of God where he was very close to God.
“Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till unrighteousness was found in thee” (v.15). Whatever God created was perfect, because He is not the originator of sin. Unrighteousness began with this sinful archangel Lucifer. He was created by God and was given a free will, just as God has given us human beings free will. How sad that this created angel misused this freedom! How many are the people today who abuse their freedom even as Satan of old did.
“By the abundance of thy traffic they filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned” (v.16a). We may apply this word to the Antichrist, since in the last days we know that commerce will be greatly increased (see Rev. 18). Due to the increase in trade, many sins also follow. This is easily proven by observing past human history.
However, this word may also be applied to Satan. Pember has pointed out that the word “traffic” may also be translated “detraction” or “slander.”* We know the word “devil” in the original means “slanderer,” “calumniator” or “malignant accuser.” How Satan accused Job and attacked him without mercy! At the end of this age we shall hear these words: “Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night” (Rev. 12.10). The phrase “cast down” here corresponds to that of the “cast out” in Ezekiel 28, and the reason for his being cast out is likewise the same. Probably in Ezekiel God is seen as condemning Satan’s sin, whereas in the Revelation passage He is observed as sending Michael to execute the judgment against Satan. Why does God allow Satan to remain in the air today? Possibly because (1) God’s time is not yet come, and/or (2) there is still much rubbish in God’s children which needs to be purified by means of this fiery furnace.
* G. H. Pember, op. cit., p. 52.
Verse 17 states explicitly the cause of Satan’s fall: “Thy heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.” The description given of the King of Babylon in Isaiah 14.12-14 is quite similar to what is described here with respect to Satan. Hence many of God’s servants believe that what the Holy Spirit has said applied not only to the King of Babylon but in a deeper sense also applied to the one behind the King of Babylon, even Satan. It tells of the cause of Satan’s fall. I believe Ezekiel reveals the cause of Satan’s pride whereas Isaiah discloses how proud he was. It might be that inwardly as he compared himself to the other created beings of God, he began to be proud and arrogant. Later on he even thought of himself as being equal with God. Thus he incurred God’s judgment: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! . . . And thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost part of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Is. 14.12-14). Because of his arrogant pride, he was punished by God. All his powers in heaven were being taken away from him. (Since the prophecy which follows has nothing to do with our present investigation, we will end our consideration from Ezekiel at this point.)
From Lucifer to Satan: a Summary
Now if our interpretation is correct, we can readily see from this prophetic passage of Ezekiel how in the former world God created a most beautiful and intelligent archangel (Lucifer) whom He established as leader of that creation. God placed him in the Garden of Eden, a garden far more ancient and superior to that Eden of Adam’s time. It might have looked something like what the future New Jerusalem shall be like. There in Eden the archangel was to function as prophet, using his wisdom to instruct all who inhabited the former world how to serve God. He was also the priest of God to lead them to worship and praise the Lord. Among the created beings of that day he was to serve as king, for his position was higher than all the rest of creation. He might have remained in this blessed state for quite a long while (please re-read verse 15); yet he sinned, and henceforth he became God’s greatest enemy.
We have now seen the origin of Satan. What about the angels under him and the demons? How did their fall affect the earth and help to turn it into waste and void?
From the New Testament we can trace two orders of Satan’s subjects: (1) the angels, (2) the demons. Let us look at the angels first. “Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25.41). “And his [the dragon’s] tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven” (Rev. 12.4). The “stars” here refer to the angels (cf. Rev. 1.20). The passage continues later with these words: “And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him” (v.9). These angels must be those spirits whom God had set in the beginning to assist the archangel to rule the world. They are “the gods” in Psalm 82.1 (cf. John 10.35). Now at the fall of Lucifer, these probably conspired with him—at least they were in sympathy with him. And so they fell into sin with Satan and have now become the principalities, the powers, the world rulers of this darkness, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph. 6.12). These angels are not disembodied demons. They have instead an ethereal body, for the Lord reveals to us the fact that in resurrection people will be as angels in heaven.
Satan has another order of subjects. These are the evil spirits or the demons. “When even was come, they brought unto him [Christ] many possessed with demons: and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were sick” (Matt. 8.16). Here the Holy Spirit uses these two words “demons” and “spirits” synonymously. Likewise in Luke 10.17,20: “And the seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in thy name”; and the Lord answered as follows: “Nevertheless in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Here the Lord Jesus considers “demons” and “spirits” to be the same. Again, Matthew 17.18 records how the Lord cast “the demon” out of a boy. Concerning the same incident, Mark refers to the demon as “the unclean spirit,” a “dumb and deaf spirit” (9.25).
These demons or spirits probably were a preadamic race who inhabited the former world. They either assisted Satan in rebellion or else they followed him afterwards. And thus they were destroyed by God by their being disembodied. These beings have consequently become disembodied spirits. Though there is no plain evidence in the Scriptures, we can still find some hints in the Bible. For instance, in Matthew 12 there is the situation of such a spirit after it had left a human body: it “passeth through waterless places, seeking rest, and findeth it not” (12.43). It became helpless and, wandering far outside the human body, it could find no rest. Finally, it was compelled to re-enter the original place—the human body. If these beings are not in fact disembodied spirits, why must they enter a human body? Furthermore, in Luke 8 we read how unwilling the demon called Legion was to leave the human body. When they (those of the Legion) were pressed, they preferred to enter the bodies of the swine. These demons are different from Satan and his fallen angels because the latter have no desire to enter human bodies since they still retain their own ethereal bodies. The demons, on the other hand, are different. Both their character and desire seem to prove that they are indeed disembodied spirits. If that be true, though, when were they disembodied? We know that the spirits of the dead today are either in Paradise or in Hades. Where, then, came these spirits? They must have come from the former world. When they were living, their dwelling place must have been the world which Satan formerly governed.
That there were inhabitants in the former world can be deduced from another passage in the Scriptures. We have already pointed out from Isaiah 45.18 that the world—that is to say, the former world—was not created a waste but was formed to be inhabited. This seems to imply that there were inhabitants in the earth of old.
As we study the Bible further we discover even more information regarding this matter. There is a place of detention for evil spirits today. The spirits called Legion who were among the Gerasene demoniacs knew about this place. This was why they were so terrified as to entreat the Lord “not [to] command them to depart into the abyss” (Luke 8.31).
Regarding the abyss, Pember wrote: “It is called the abyss; and in some passages, such as the ninth chapter of the Apocalypse, this term is evidently applied to a fiery hollow in the centre of the earth: but it is also used for the depths of the sea, a meaning which accords well with its derivation.”* The book of Revelation informs us that one day Satan will be cast into this abyss (20.3). Evidently some of the demons are now imprisoned there, but some of them are still free, waiting for the appropriate time when they too will be shut in there. This abyss is most likely in the sea, not in the center of the earth. And at the time of the final judgment (see Rev. 20.11-15), all the prisoners will be cast into the lake of fire, and in the New Heaven and the New Earth there will be no more sea (Rev. 21.1). Probably there is only one abyss, but it is scattered in two places—at the center of the earth and in the depth of the sea.
* G. H. Pember, op. cit., p. 60.
We have even more allusion in the Scriptures to this detention center of the demons. According to the Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament the word “deep” in Genesis 1.2 is the same as the word “abyss” here in the Greek New Testament. We have already mentioned how these demons were probably the preadamic race who inhabited the former world. In reading Genesis 1.2 it looks quite reasonable to us that those who originally inhabited the earth had their bodies destroyed by God because of their sins, and the place in which they dwelt was also judged by God by being turned into waste and a void so that the whole earth was covered with water and became a deep sea. How natural it would be for the spirits of those former inhabitants to be shut into the depth of this sea! Later on, when God restored the earth on the third day, He commanded the land to appear out of the waters, and called the gathering together of the waters the Seas. This dry land, the earth, was ready for men of the new world.
Where then did these demons go? Naturally our answer would be, these demons were left with the sea. When we read Revelation 20.13 (“And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them”) we understand how death and Hades will give up the dead, but we are often puzzled at how the sea will give up the dead in it. The common interpretation is that the sea will yield up the bodies of all who were drowned. Yet if that be so, the earth must also yield up its dead since more bodies will have been buried in the earth than in the sea. The earth, however, will not give up the dead. Consequently, what the sea will yield up cannot be the bodies of the dead people but the spirits already shut within it. Human souls are kept in death and Hades. The Bible never suggests that human souls are kept in the sea. Thus who can be the dead given up by the sea except those who belonged to the former world? The order here is quite revealing: “And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them.” Those inhabitants of the former world died first, therefore they shall be delivered up first. People of our present world will follow next since all shall be judged in order of time.
We have briefly touched on the origin of Satan, his angels, and these demons. As to how the preadamic race lived on the former earth, this seems to be beyond our knowledge. Yet we can obtain some understanding through a few intimations in the Scriptures. Many Bible scholars, including C. I. Scofield, believe that Jeremiah 4.23-26 refers to the conditions of the waste and void cited in Genesis 1.2. Although what precedes and what follows speak of the desolations of Judah, these verses appear to take on a broader cast in that it seems that God showed His prophet the desolations of the original earth. If our interpretation is correct, then we know from this passage that there were “fruitful fields” and “cities” (v.26) in the former world. The early settlers dwelt in cities and cultivated the fields. The fierce anger of the Lord came upon them and upon the entire earth because of their rebellion with Satan. And thus the earth became waste and void.
If our meditation together has been correct, then the conditions of the original world and the cause of its desolation may be summed up as follows: At the beginning of time (in contrast to eternity) God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was not at that time a waste and void (Is. 45.18) but was instead most beautiful. On that earth there were not a few inhabitants. Yet before God had created the earth and its preadamic race, He had created angels (see Job 38.6,7). Of the myriads of angels created, He set Lucifer as head. This archangel was fairer and wiser than all other created beings. He was a masterpiece of God’s creative act. He dwelt in the ancient preadamic Garden of Eden and was given dominion over the world. And as a result he was called the prince of the world (John 14.30). Many angels were under his authority; they helped him to govern this world. But due to his position and glory, he became proud and rebellious. He wished to lift himself up to be equal with God. He was unhappy to be a created being and wished to be a creator. So he began to slander God before the preadamic race and to accuse the latter before God. His unrighteousness was found out, he was duly condemned, and at the fullness of time Lucifer was cast down from heaven to earth. One third of the angelic beings followed him in his rebellion, so that they became the devil’s messengers. For them God has prepared hell (Matt. 25.41); and into hell shall Satan and his followers be cast at the appropriate time. The preadamic race who inhabited the former earth was under the rule of this archangel and his angels. That race was enticed and their sins became full (we can readily understand this situation by comparing it with our own world today). So that through the fierce anger of God the earth and all who inhabited it were destroyed. Many evil spirits were shut into the abyss of the sea. Satan, his angels, and the evil spirits thus compose the kingdom of darkness. We do not know how long such a condition continued on before God took new action.
But then the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and the triune God began to repair the world. And after He finished restoring the earth, He created Adam and Eve. He ordered them to be on guard that through the union of man with heaven the power of Satan might be put to nought. Adam, however, was tempted into sin, and he fell. Instead of subduing the world and bringing it back to God, he delivered the world which God had given him to Satan once again. Angels had earlier failed, and now man failed. So God himself came to be man as the Last Adam, even the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus has become the prophet, priest and king of God. On earth He was the spotless prophet of God. Towards the hour of His death, He could boldly declare that “the prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in me” (John 14.30). As He died, all who are in Adam were crucified in Him. Being God, He was able to have the old Adamic creation crucified in himself and to begin a new creation. Through His death and resurrection He recovered the world which the first Adam had lost. Thus sinners who deserve to die can die to the old Adam by His death and be joined in life to Him—that is to say, to the Christ. This is salvation and such is the meaning of believing in the death of the Lord Jesus. All who believe in the Lord are therefore at enmity with the devil. The latter will attack us in all things, yet we must resist him, his angels, and his demons at all times. And such is real spiritual warfare.
Thus, Satan was judged once at “the holy mountain of God” and once again at Calvary. His sin has already been condemned, and only the execution has not been fully carried out. The time will come when he shall be cast down to earth. And when the Son of God shall return to the earth, then Satan shall be cast into the abyss. And after a thousand years he will be thrown into the lake of fire to suffer eternally. Today, our Lord Jesus holds the keys of death and of Hades. He will wait until He wipes out all traces of rebellion. He has brought His own blood into the holiest of all, having purified the heaven, and ever since acting as the priest of God. At His return, all things shall be restored to God’s original design. Then shall He be God’s King. He with His overcoming saints shall rule this world from heaven. He shall instruct the inhabitants of the earth concerning the will of God and the way of worshiping Him. And the conditions of the millennial kingdom shall be similar to that of the world before sin entered in.
Having restored all things to their original design, Christ has fulfilled the eternal purpose of God. Then this world will be consumed by fire and a new heaven and a new earth will be created in which righteousness shall reign.
For this reason, we who are God’s children ought to have a deeper sense of enmity toward the devil. In these thousands of years the one purpose of God has been for men to be united with Him in destroying the power of Satan. Our God is the One who cannot deny himself. The world which was lost through man He would not take back by himself. He therefore sent His Son to become a man, and as man to recover that which was lost. We, the saved ones, must work together with that unique Man, the Lord Jesus. We must resist the devil in our life, work, environment, and all things. We resist through faith (1 Peter 5.9) and not with fleshly weapons (2 Cor. 10.4).
How clever and beautiful was Satan before, but because of his pride he has fallen into such an irredeemable state. How dangerous are those people who consider themselves clever and beautiful! Beware, lest your pride and arrogance cause you to “fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3.6). Pride and self-conceit are not the blessing of man; the fear of the great and incomparable Lord God is wisdom!