The Heart of Biblical Cosmology

The Heart of Biblical Cosmology

The Father has the Son in his heart, and he has chosen to place the Son at the heart of his plan for the entire universe. In other words, biblical cosmology is really a love story, a story of God diligently seeking to exalt his dear Son by making him the glorious and beloved creator, sustainer, redeemer, ruler, judge, and re-creator of all things.

. . . that all should honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.
(John 5:23)

Cosmology is the study of the origin, structure, purpose, and destiny of our universe. Now that’s a topic to wrap your head around!

I’m guessing that most folks today doubt we can ever be sure about such lofty and complex matters. But here’s a thought to consider: Doesn’t the very fact that we’re able to ponder these questions imply that our minds were actually created to find the answers? Cosmological skeptics may moan and groan, but surely it is not without significance that nearly all of us remain incurably curious about cosmology!

Could it be, then, that we we were meant to behold and enjoy the one true cosmology—and that any religion or philosophy that hopes to win the allegiance of thoughtful people must offer us one?

No doubt. But if that cosmology is to prevail in the war of the worldviews, it will have to be a good one: clear, comprehensive, logical, well-supported by good evidence, and full of hope for a suffering humanity that knows there’s a Supreme Being, but is having difficulty discovering his truth about the world he created.

Having studied naturalistic, pantheistic, and theistic cosmologies for many years, I have concluded that biblical cosmology meets all these criteria, and that it does so far better than any other contestant in the ring. Indeed, I’m  convinced that here we reach the spiritual and philosophical home our hearts were made for.

Yes, its teachings run hard against the grain of  the cosmological “wisdom” of modern man. And yes, because of this, many Christians are reluctant to study, formulate, embrace, and defend a deeply biblical cosmology.

However, such cosmological conflict should not surprise or demoralize intellectually hungry believers. Has not God said that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to him, and that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men? In such a world, does it make sense for the lovers of truth to let the majority rule?!

If, then, Christians would only dig a little deeper into these matters, and let the Spirit of Truth perform His wonderful work of illumination, I believe they would find, to their amazement and joy, that in his Word God  really has graciously granted us the full spectrum of cosmological truth for which we, by our very nature as creatures in his image an likeness, are ever hungering!

In this post I’d like to tackle first things first by looking at the heart of Biblical Cosmology: the One who dwells in the heart of God the Father, and whom the Father has placed at the heart of all things: the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Christ-Centered Cosmology of the New Testament

In order to understand the full-blown apostolic cosmology—which caps and completes biblical cosmology as a whole—we must begin at the beginning: the glory of God.

As we know from many passages in Scripture, one of God’s great purposes in creation was that the universe should be a theater for the display and enhancement of his glory. Even a cursory look at the apostles writings reveals that they fully understood, embraced, and proclaimed this sublime truth.

Thus, in a doxology that appears in his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul writes, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36)!

Clearly, the expression “all things” is comprehensive, taking in the universe as a whole, and viewed from every conceivable angle: its framework, furniture, inhabitants, and entire history. By divine decree, all are meant to redound to the glory of God (Eph. 3:21, Phil. 4:20, 1 Peter 4:11, 2 Peter 3:18, Jude 25, Rev. 5:13, 7:12).

While this theme does indeed pervade the Old Testament (see Ex. 14:4, Psalms 19:1f,  Isaiah 24:15-16, 66:18f), the New Testament takes it to an entirely new level, opening it up like a flower in full bloom.

With Jesus leading the way, his apostles henceforth spoke of the glory of God in terms of the tri-unity of God. In particular, they revealed that it belongs essentially to the very nature and activity of the triune God that each of the three Persons should seek the glory and honor of the other.

Scriptural evidence for this amazing tendency abounds. Jesus said that the Father loves the Son, and has bestowed upon him any number of divine prerogatives “…so that all should honor the Son, just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).

Similarly, concerning his own life and ministry, he said, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the One who sent him is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7:18, 17:1).

As for the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus taught that, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14; Matt. 12:32).

These few citations supply but a tiny glimpse into a pervasive NT motif: In all their work before men and angels in the great theater of the cosmos, each Person of the Holy Trinity seeks the pleasure, glory, and honor of the others (Matt. 12:32, John 5:19-23, 8:29, 14:31, 16:13-15, Phil. 2:1-11). Through the active, mutual, other-oriented love of each member of “the Holy Family,” God is ever seeking the glory of God!

Christ, the Firstborn Over All

Keeping these ideas in mind, let us turn now to the theme at hand: the Christ-centered cosmology of the NT. We will begin by looking at two passages of great cosmological importance.

The first is found in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Seeking to clarify for them the nature and work of Christ, he writes:

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col. 1:15-17).

Clearly, the primary thrust of this rich text is to exalt the deity of Christ, which Paul accomplishes simply by enumerating some of his divine prerogatives. To this end he identifies Christ as “the image of the invisible God,”the one in whom we finite humans can best behold the glorious face of the infinite and invisible Father (John 14:9, 2 Cor. 4:6).

Similarly, he identifies Christ, along with the Father, as the eternal Creator, through whom not only the heavens and the Earth, but also the angelic hosts, were made (John 1:1-3, 1 Cor. 8:6).

Finally, he identifies Christ as the cosmic Sustainer; the one who holds all things together in their appointed form and structure, and the one who also guides them to their appointed ends (Heb. 1:1f, Rev. 6:1f).

We must, however, take special note of a subtle yet central aspect of Paul’s teaching here. Almost as if in passing, he states that God not only created the universe through Christ, but also for Christ. What might this cryptic remark mean?

In part, Paul has already supplied the answer, having identified God’s Son as “the first-born over (literally, “of”) all creation.” As commentators have often pointed out, this expression cannot mean that the pre-incarnate Son was the Father’s first creation, for the context itself (along with many other NT passages) declares that the Son existed before all things, and that all things were created through him. Such things would include, of course, the angels, with whom some of the Colossians were apparently confusing Christ.

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