The Beginning is Near

The Beginning is Near!We love to discuss and debate our apparent origin and destiny as human beings—to research the secrets of our family, cultural, biological, and cosmological histories; and to speculate as to what our future might be like on all these fronts. And while each of us may have opinions about such things— and there is certainly nothing wrong with this kind of research, speculation and debate —we should not imagine that any ultimate truth about our origin or identity is to be discovered retrospectively (however plausible the stories we tell ourselves about the past may seem); nor that the ultimate meaning of our life is to be discovered prospectively, in some ideal (or apocalyptic) future—however desperate (or terrified) we may be to find it there. Rather, the answer to our ultimate questions are only to be found as we become attuned to Reality— attuned to that which IS —to that which can only be encountered here and now (albeit deep within and high above that which we typically imagine ourselves to be). And as we have discussed elsewhere, our point of contact with this deeper/higher Reality is the Divine presence within each one of us—the “I Am” presence which IS the living Christ. Moreover, if we abide in Him, as He abides in us, a proper orientation toward the past and future will surely followjust as surely, in fact, as night follows day.

In light of this, as you consider the following scriptures pertaining to creation, you would do well to remember the “I Am” presence (which IS Christ-in-you) and see if you do not begin to recognize in Him— here and now —your true source and your greek logosultimate destiny. As you do so, it will become abundantly clear that this aware presence in your heart is, indeed, your point of contact with the living Word of God—the Divine Intelligence (or logos) through which the world is framed:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. . . . That was the true Light, that lights every man that comes into the world” (John 1:1-4,9 KJV 2000).

While these opening verses from the gospel of John are perhaps the most famous reference to creation in the New Testament, there are several others of note, including the following passages from the book of Hebrews and the book of Colossians. All three of these, considered together, not only dovetail nicely with one another, but also with the account in Genesis 1:1-2:3.

The account in Hebrews 1 is quite consistent with the Johannine account, but in addition to Christ being portrayed as the source of all things, he is there said to be the image of God, the sustainer of all things, and the heir of the all things, as well:

In these last days [God] has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Moreover, in the book of Colossians, too, we read that all thing have been created through Christ and for Christ—suggesting again that we may find in Him not only our source, but also our destiny. And here, too, Christ is described as the image of God. But in addition, we learn in Colossians that all things were created in Christ:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:15-17; see also verses 27-28).

And while verse 28 indicates that Christ is in some sense prior to those who are said to have been created in Him (and through Him, and for Him), it is also clear that we are no mere afterthought. Indeed, Paul elsewhere writes that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4; cf. Romans 8:29); and, elsewhere, it is made abundantly clear that we, in fact, have eternal life in Him (e.g. John 5:24; 6:47; 11:26; I John 5:13). Indeed, being thus chosen in Him, created in Him, and eternally alive in Him, there is a sense in which we are what we are in Christ— from the beginningeven if, from a particular standpoint in space and time, it does not yet appear:

“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (I John 3:2).

Indeed, the implication is that when we see him as He is, we shall see ourselves as we are and shall know even as we are known (cf. I Corinthians 13:12).

There is a myth, dating back at least to the time of Plato, in ancient Greece, that before we are born, we drink from the river lethe— the river of forgetfulness or oblivion —so that we cannot remember our real origin and destiny which is somehow prior to (or transcendent of ) the unfolding of our existence in space and time.  It is interesting to note that the Greek word for truth is aletheia which can be construed (quite literally) as that which is “no longer forgotten” or that which “no longer escapes our notice”—that which, if seemingly unknown, must be “remembered” or “recollected” (cf. aletheia; alethes; lanthano; lethe). For us to arrive at the truth, then, is in some sense to remember that which we have forgotten or to turn our attention to that of which we have, for a time, become oblivious. This is consistent with a very plausible interpretation of an otherwise obscure passage in Ecclesiastes which seems to be saying that “whatever God does endures forever” (3:14) but that He has “put a sense of past and future into [our] minds” such that we “cannot find out what [He] has done from the beginning to the end” (3:11). The veil of time, it seems, renders us oblivious to the true glory and integrity of creation and would seem to be closely related to that which is portrayed in Genesis 3 as the punishment that we incurred after having eaten of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which resulted in our alienation from God, together with the experience of suffering and death which that entails. The predicament we find ourselves in is quite complex, but the solution, as we shall see, is very simple. We need only to turn, in faith, toward the One in whom we live and move and have our being by trusting in and relying on the “I Am” presence which IS the living Christ (cf. Acts 17:27-28; John 14:6).

All of the forgoing can be summarized briefly as follows:

  • The “I Am” presence is our point of contact with the living Word of God.
  • The Word of God (or logos) is the Divine intelligence through which our world is framed.
  • We are created in the beginning— in, through, and for Christ —and have eternal life in Him.
  • We have become (for a time) oblivious to or forgetful of our relationship to God in Christ.
  • The Reality of our origin and our destiny— our eternal life in Christ —is not to be discovered in the past or in the future (as we usually imagine them), but is to be found here and now, by grace, through faith (cf. II Corinthians 6:2, Ephesians 2:8-9).

In the beginning... In the Image of God... Very Good!In light of these observations, when we read the opening verses of the Gospel of John and other New Testament references to creation, it is worth considering that since we are in Christ and Christ is in us, these scriptures are best understood as referring not to something that happened long ago and far away, in terms of time and space, but to something which is taking place— here, now, and always —in each one of us; taking place in us because Christ is being formed in us (Galatians 4:19; cf. Colossians 1:27-28); and taking place in Christ because we are created in Him; because He IS the beginning in which God creates the heavens and the earth, including human beings in His image (i.e.human beings in Christ). Indeed, Christ has come to light as the beginning of the creation of God which not only endures forever, but which is very good, indeed (cf. Genesis 1:1, 26-27, 31; Psalms 8 and Hebrews 2; Revelation 3:14; I Peter 1:23-25).

Paradoxically, that which we ARE, in Him, is in some sense prior to that which we appear to be (as our lives unfold in time and space) and in another sense, it follows after. In Genesis 1 it written that “God created man in his image” and in Psalms 8 it is said that he “put all things under his feet.” However, in Hebrews 2 it is written that “we see not yet all things put under him, but we see Jesus…” And Paul also writes,

“That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (I Corinthians 15:46-49).

Thus, from the standpoint of salvation history, humanity in Christ stands at the end of a cosmic drama:

“According to his good pleasure which [God] has purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-12).

Nevertheless— appearances to the contrary notwithstanding —that which we ARE in Christ IS logically prior (in the most fundamental sense of the Word or logos) to the apparent unfolding of our lives (in linear fashion) in space and time. Be Still and Know that I Am GodAs such, just as Christ IS (always the same—yesterday, today, and forever), the Truth IS that we, likewise, participate in his Divine nature and share in his eternal life from beginning to end, however counterintuitive this may seem to us in our forgetfulness (cf. Hebrews 13:8; Ephesians 1:4). Indeed, to really know this Truth about our origin and destiny, we must cease looking for it in the faded manuscript of the past or in some fortuitous turn of events that we project onto the future. Rather, we must learn to abide in the Way, the Truth, and the Life which can only be realized here and now by truly recognizing Jesus as Lord—albeit, not Jesus as we might imagine him, according to the flesh, but that which Jesus IS in Spirit and in Truth:

“…from now on know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 5:16-18 KJV 2000).

Thus knowing Christ and thus being reconciled to God, we also realize our origin and our destiny in Him— by grace through faith —as we begin to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, here and now:

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).

Clearly, the worship described by Jesus in these verses suggests an authentic, living faith that is truly universal. By its very nature it reaches across cultures and transcends ethnic and sectarian divisions. But what are we to think of those who lived before Jesus or who have never heard the name of Christ? Are they excluded from salvation history? Have they no access to the truth? Have they no spiritual inheritance to claim?

While the advent of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth is a clear and world-historic revelation, it can be seen, with just a bit of reflection, that the truth of Christ and the gift of God in Christ is not confined to Christendom or to the Christian era, but is universally accessible in that hour which, as we shall show, is always coming, here and now. Indeed, the universality of this truth is illustrated, in part, by these various remarks by Jesus concerning Abraham and the resurrection:

Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I Am.” (John 8:56-58).

Have you not read what was said to you by God, “I Am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32).

“I Am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

In short, Jesus IS and those of any era who, like Abraham, truly believe God can be said to see His day and to have eternal life in Him. Paul, too, explains that even as we are justified by faith, so was Abraham (Romans 4), and that, indeed, all who belong to Christ, are (spiritually speaking) children of Abraham:

“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27-29).

We see at this point, then, that the continuity is clear, in scripture, between the faith of Abraham and the faith of those who trust in Christ through the teachings of the New Testament. And, clearly, what Jesus said of Abraham must equally apply to all those born before the advent of Jesus (or outside of Christendom) who somehow— by the grace of God and through the eyes of faith —see His day. Still, for the truth of Christ to be truly universal, it would seem that the grace of God that is found in Christ must, in some sense, appear to all human beings, whether or not they ever hear the story of Jesus, per se (cf. Titus 2:11), and whether or not they, through the eyes of faith, actually see His day, as Abraham did.  And, indeed— with all due respect to the profound significance and inestimable value of the New Testament teachings and the Christian culture that grew out of them —the true universality of the story of Jesus is borne out by its inner truth (or archetypical significance). For there is a sense in which the gospel is true even if Jesus of Nazareth had never existed. That is— just as 2 + 2 =4, whether or not we ever see it WRIT LARGE, so to speak —there is a sense in which it can be said at all times and in all places that:

“[Christ] was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).

The passion of Jesus, as represented in the New Testament, is this universal truth WRIT LARGE. But the purpose of the written word is to point to the living Word. And, as indicated above, our point of contact with the living Word is the “I Am” presence within us— that aware presence which is truly universal the light that lights everyone who comes into the world (John 1:2, 9). As such, whoever we are— and whenever or wherever we may have been born —if we remain ignorant of the truth about our origin and our destiny, it is only because we neglect or reject the One in whom we live and move and have our being:

“Indeed he is not far from each one of us. . . . as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring'” (Acts 17:27-28).

Indeed, there is to be found in every culture and among every people some recognition of this truth. And just as it is written in our scriptures that God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4), not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance (II Peter 3:9), it is also clear— from a wide variety of pre-Christian and non-Christian traditions —that by virtue of our very existence as human beings, we have a Divine calling and that, indeed, whosoever will may come. As it is written,

“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:20; cf. 22:17).

I Am PresenceMoreover, the image of God in each of us is rather obvious (“I Am” ). Indeed, it becomes crystal clear in those of us who, remembering the One with whom we have to do, turn to Him in living faith. But having eaten of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, our tendency is, at first, to turn a deaf ear to this calling and to reject the light of life— this one and only way to the Father —hoping instead to complete ourselves and secure our future by accumulating money and prestige; and/or by indulging in sensual diversions). Or, having realized the limitations of these things, perhaps, we may decide, instead, to pursue some sort of social, ethical, or political ideal—not by the grace of God, however (in the strength and the power of the Spirit), but merely by dint of our own efforts and according to our own understanding. Alas, all such desires and all such pursuits reflect false ideals and false gods projected onto reality by a false sense of self (the carnal or egoic mind). Thus it is written,

“The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19).

But sooner or later our dark passions will be exposed. For the objects of such “love” together with the “selves” that pursue them are counterfeit. According to the metaphor that follows, they are thieves in shepherds’ clothing. In contrast to the false self-image and the counterfeit goods which have seduced us stands Jesus—the “I Am” presence within each one of us. Indeed, His living presence rings true— through and through —and must sooner or later be recognized as the singular gate though which authentic, abundant life is to be realized:

“Very truly, I tell you, I Am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I Am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. . . . My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish (John 10:7-10; 27-28).

By the grace of God, then— when all other avenues are exhausted —we, like the prodigal son, wake up and in that moment of clarity hear his voice speaking to us in the stillness of Divine presence. At that moment— by grace, through faith —we are ready, willing, and able to step through the narrow gate that leads to life:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

This is the gate which has been there all along, but which for any number of reasons has been neglected or rejected:

“This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:20-24; cf. John 14:6-7).

I AmJust like the stone that builder rejects, the “I Am” presence within us is pushed to one side as we pursue our prodigal escapades with an entourage of thieves and bandits—willing, as we are, to exchange our birthright for a mess of pottage. The good news, however, is that the kingdom of heaven is always at hand (is within us and among us) and that whosoever will may come (cf. Matthew 3:2; Luke 17:20-21; Revelation 22:17). Now is the accepted time… Now is the day of salvation! (II Corinthians 6:2).

But the kingdom of heaven— though always at hand —does not come with observation; it does not evolve in time and space; does not arrive on the scene in the natural course of human events (Luke 17:20). Indeed, it is in this regard quite comparable to those who have entered the kingdom—to those who are described as having been born again or born from above. Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is very instructive in this regard—notice Nicodemus’ failed attempt at framing the new birth in naturalistic terms:

Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:3-4).

In the verses which follow, Jesus explains that the origin and destiny of those who are born of God will always appear mysterious:

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8).

Indeed, neither the kingdom of heaven nor those who dwell there are to be adequately accounted for by the apparent causal relationships which appear to affect change over time. This principle of new birth and new creation is alluded to in Jesus’ discussion of the bread of life (John 6:32-36, quoted below) and is also suggested by these verses in the book of James:

“Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:17-18).

Intelligent DesignThus, through the eyes of the flesh— i.e. through our natural perception as employed by the carnal or egoic mind —we perceive, evaluate, and attempt to manipulate the apparent unfolding of our lives in space and time (appearing, as it does, to originate horizontally, so to speak, or naturalistically). But through the eyes of the Spirit— i.e. through the mind of Christ —we see the eternal creation which is fresh and new every moment [originating from deep within and high above us—originating vertically, so to speak, or epiphanously—bubbling up from within our hearts, like an eternal spring of living water (John 7:38); or coming down from above like every perfect gift from the Father of lights (James 1:17)]. As it is written, we are in the world (as perceived by the carnal or egoic mind), but (Christ-like) we are not of the world (cf. John 17:14-16).

This vertical or epiphanous creation (which IS Reality— appearing HERE, NOW, ALWAYS ever fresh, and ever new) is also symbolized in scripture by the virgin birth (cf. being born of God or born from above). Consider, if you will, that in light of the virgin birth, the New Testament genealogies— which trace Jesus’ lineage from Abraham to Joseph (Matthew 1: 1-17) or from Joseph back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38) —tell us nothing of Jesus’ true origin which is better accounted for in these verses from the book of Hebrews:

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. This “King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him”; and to him Abraham apportioned “one-tenth of everything.” His name, in the first place, means “king of righteousness”; next he is also king of Salem, that is, “king of peace.” Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever” (Hebrews 6:19 – 7:3).

What a beautiful description of the “I Am” presence which IS the living Christ —“a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” within the “inner shrine behind the curtain” (transcending the veil of time and at-one with the Father).

“Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalms 34:8).

Indeed, there is no doubt that this is the bread from heaven which like every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights:

I Am the Bread of Life!Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I Am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe (John 6:32-36).

Likewise, the gift of aware presence shines forth from the soul of every human being in the beginning with God!

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!” (Psalm 36:9-10).

The upright of heart are those who, like Abraham, are justified by faith—those who trusting in and relying on Him, truly see His day. Each one of us sees (by virtue of) this light, but few recognize Him as Lord—few recognize in Him their real origin and destiny.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).

Moreover, whatever account we may find compelling with regard to our natural history as a species and the unfolding of the universe, over time, the real beginning in which both we and it are created is Christ— the living Word of God —who IS, in any event, not that far from each and every one of us. Indeed, as we have seen, the beginning is near! And we, along with the whole of creation, are born again— fresh and new every moment— HERE, NOW, and ALWAYS —even in Him:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

“Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God” (II Corinthians 5:16-18 NKJV)

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17 KJV 2000).

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalms 118:24).

Good news—the kingdom of heaven is at hand!

  • The hour is coming and is now here… (John 4:23).
  • Now is the accepted time… Now is the day of salvation! (II Corinthians 6:2).

All that is necessary to dwell therein is to finally recognize the gate of the Lord— to trust in and rely on the “I Am” presence which IS our source and destiny —and, so doing, to enter into life:

“I Am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13).

I Am Alpha and Omega...

–> Jesus Is Coming Soon (parousia)

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