The Pleroma No. 2
Creation and its
place in the Purpose:
by Charles H. Welch
In the vision of Ezekiel,
recorded in the opening chapters of his prophecy, the prophet saw the living
creature which he afterward identified with the cherubim (Ezek. 10: 20). These
not only had the four faces, namely that of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle
(Ezek. 1:10) but were associated with dreadful rings and wheels, and among other
things it was noted "as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel"
(Ezek. 1:16). This element of complication, one wheel within another, seems to
be a reflection of the way in which one dispensation encloses another, so that
between the annunciation of the opening phase of the purpose and the attainment
of its purpose and goal, a great gap intervenes which is filled by another and
yet another succeeding dispensation until in the "fullness" of time
Christ came (Gal. 4:4) born of a woman, with a view to the fullness of the
seasons (Eph. 1:10), when He in Whom all the fullness dwells (Col. 1:19) shall
bring the purpose of the ages to its blessed consummation: In harmony with the
fact that this purpose is redemptive in character, various companies of the
redeemed during the ages have been associated with the word
"fullness", even the earth itself and its fullness, being linked with
the glory of the Lord (Isa. 6: 3 margin). The outrunning of the purpose of the
ages therefore can be represented (very crudely it is true) thus
The purpose of the ages
opens with Genesis 1:1 in the creation of the heaven and the earth, but between
the attainment of the purpose for which heaven and earth were created "in
the beginning", and the day when God shall be "all in all" lies a
great gulf, a gulf caused by a moral catastrophe and .not merely by a physical
land-slide, a gap that is "filled'" by a series of wheels within
wheels, Adam and his world, Noah and his world, Israel and their inheritance,
and at last that church which is itself "the fullness of Him that filleth
all in all". The two extremes therefore of the purpose are found in the
following passages which are themselves separated in the sacred volume by the
rest of the Scriptures. The first occurring in Genesis, the first book of the
Bible, the last in Revelation, the last book of the Bible.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1.1).
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21: 1). The gap in the
outworking of the purpose is expressed in Genesis 1: 2 "The earth was
without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep" and in
Revelation 21: 1 by the added words
"For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was
no more sea (Rev. 21:1).
This feature may be visualized as follows
In the purpose of the
first all-comprehensive gap.
Gen. 1: 1 The
No more sea Rev. 21:1
Let us consider in fuller detail some of the terms that are here employed to set
before us this opening and closing feature of the purpose of the ages.
"In the beginning", B're-shith; Septuagint Greek, En arche.
While the fact must not be unduly stressed, it should be observed that neither
in the Hebrew nor in the Greek is the article "the" actually used.
Moreover, it is certain that b're-shith denotes the commencement of a point of
time as Jeremiah 26: l; 21:1 and 28 : 1 will show. But it is also very certain
that the self same word denotes something more than a point of departure in
time, for it is used by Jeremiah m 2: 3 for "the first fruits" even as
it is used in Leviticus 2: 12 and 23 :10, which are "beginnings" in
that they anticipate the harvest at the end, the "fullness of seasons"
(Eph. 1:10). The same can be said of the Greek arche. While it most certainly
means "beginning", it is noteworthy that in Genesis 1: 16, where the
next occurrences are found it means "rule" even as in Ephesians 1: 21;
3 : 10 and 6: 12 arche in the plural is translated "principalities",
while in Philippians 4:1S it is used once again in its ordinary time sense.
While God knows the end from the beginning, and nothing which He has caused to
be written for our learning can ever be anything but truth, we must nevertheless
be prepared to find that much is veiled in the O.T. until, in the wisdom of God,
the time is ripe for fuller teaching.
If we leave Genesis 1: 1 and go straight over to the last book of Scripture,
namely the book of the Revelation, we shall sea that the words "In the
beginning" acquire a fuller sense than was possible at the time when they
were first written by Moses. Arche occurs in Revelation four times, as follows
"I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord,
which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty".
"These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning
of the creation of God".
"And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and
the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last
(Rev. I :8; 3: 14; 21 :6; 22:13).
Here, in the last book of the Bible, arche ceases to bear merely a time
significance, it is the title of a Person, a Person in Whom creation and the
purpose of the ages find their meaning and their goal. Paul uses arche eighteen
times, the word having the time sense "beginning" in five occurrences
(Phil. 4:15, the only occurrence with this meaning in the Prison epistles), once
in the earlier epistles (2 Thess. 2:13) and three times in Hebrews (Heb. 1:10;
2:3; 7:3). The
remaining references save one use arche to indicate
"rule" or "principles" (Rom. 8: 38, 1 Cor. 15:24, Eph. 1:21;
6:12, Col. 1:16,18; 2:10,15, Tit. 3 :1, Heb. 6:1). The Hebrew word rosh which
gives us the word for "beginning" is translated "head" in
Genesis 3 :1S and both "beginning" and "head" in Exodus 12 :
2 and 9 respectively. In Colossians 1:1.8 Paul uses arche of Christ in a
somewhat similar sense to the usage of the word in the Revelation.
"Who is the Image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature,
for by him were all things created . . . and He is the head of the Body the
church: who Is THE BEGINNING, the Firstborn from the dead . . . in Him should
ALL FULLNESS DWELL" (Col. 1:15-13).
The two phrases "by Him" all things were created, and "in
Him" all fullness dwells, are obviously complementary. It is a fact that
the preposition en is translated many times "by", but it is difficult
to understand how it is that in Colossians 1:16 en auto should be translated
"BY Whom" while in Colossians 1:19 en auto should be translated
"IN Him". Moreover the preposition en occurs in the phrases "in
heaven", "in all things". Again, the AN. reads in verse seventeen
"By Him all things consist" where the preposition is dia, which only,
makes the need more felt that en should not be translated "by" in the
same context. There does not appear any grammatical necessity to depart from the
primary meaning of en "in" in Colossians 1: 16, and this is the
considered opinion of such exegetes as Bishop Lightfoot and Dean Alford, and the
translators of the R.V.
"In Him" therefore, all things were created (Col. 1: 16). He Himself
is "the Beginning" in the New Creation (Col. 1:18), even as He is
"the Beginning" of the Creation of God (Rev. 3 : 14). We therefore
return to Genesis 1: 1 and read with fuller insight and meaning "In the
BEGINNING God created the heaven and the earth". When dealing with the word
pleroma, this passage in Colossians will naturally come up for a more detailed
examination. Christ is "the Beginning" of Genesis 1: I, although at
the time of Moses such a truth was not perceived, just as the purpose of the
name Jehovah was not known to the world before the revelation given in the days
of Moses. What was known as the Creation of the Almighty, is subsequently
revealed to have been the work of Jehovah, the God of Redemption. In Genesis 1 :
1 we learn that Elohim "God" created the heaven and the earth, and
subsequently we learn that all was the work of Him Who is "The Word",
"The Image", "The One Mediator". From the beginning,
creation had in view the redemptive purpose of the ages, but just as it would
have been impolitic to have answered the question of the Apostles in Acts 1: 6
before the time, so the true purpose of Creation was not revealed until Man had
sinned and Christ had died for his redemption.
Bara, the word translated create, must now be given a consideration. Metaphysics
"the science of things transcending what is physical or natural"
attempts to deal with the question of "being", and in that department
of thought the question of "creating something out of nothing"
naturally arises. Scripture however never discusses this metaphysical problem.
Even in Genesis 1:1, it does NOT say "In the beginning God created the
basic matter of the universe", it commences with a highly organized and
differentiated universe "heaven and earth'". The Hebrew word bara in
its primary meaning of "create" is reserved for God as Creator, not
being used of man, except in a secondary sense (and that in five passages only),
out of fifty-four occurrences namely Josh. 17:15,18, 1 Sam. 2:29, Ezek. 21: 19
and 23 : 47. Adam is said to be created, although the "dust of the
ground" from which he was made was in existence long before. God is said to
be the Creator of Israel (Isa. 43 : 1,7,15), yet Israel was a nation descended
from Abraham. Bara gives us the Chaldaic word bar "son", which but
perpetuates the idea already recognized in bara. The Septuagint translates
Joshua 17:15 and 18 "thou shalt clear it", which the A.V. renders
"cut down", thereby revealing, as the lexicographers point out, that
bara primarily means "to cut, to carve out, to form by cutting". When
we remember that "the world" kosmos is derived from the word 'kosmeo
"to adorn" as with "goodly stones", with "gold"
and "to garnish" with all manner of precious stones (Luke 21: 5, 1
Tim. 2: 9, Rev. 21: 2,19) we perceive the reason for the choice of bara and the
words with which revelation opens "In the beginning God created the heaven
and the earth" begin to bear deeper significance. It will also show that
"the world" necessarily includes the earth as its sphere. Creation was
dual, from the start. Not heaven only, but the heaven and the earth. Man was
created male and female, and before we read of the generations of Adam; namely
of his descendants, we read of the "generations of the heavens and of the
earth" (Gen. 2 : 4). Heaven is intimately concerned with the earth; in the
heavens God is "ALL" ("the Heavens do rule", "as it is
in heaven") and when at last the will of God is done on earth as it is in
heaven, the goal of the ages will be attained, and God will not only be
"All" but "ALL in ALL". Such are faint shadows of His ways.
By searching we shall never find out God unto perfection, but to stand as we
have in a cleft of the rock while His glory passes before us, and be permitted
to behold but the "back part" of His ways is joy unspeakable.
"Lo these are but the outlines of His ways; A whisper only, that we hear of
Him; His wondrous power, who then, can comprehend?"
(Job 26:14 Dr. Bullinger's Metrical Version)
Pleroma Part 3