Creation as a Type

The book of Genesis naturally divides into eight parts - seven biographies, and an introductory account of creation. The biographies are those of Adam, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. Each has a spiritual import of its own, and though I forbear to enter on it here, I may say briefly, that I believe the whole to be typical of God's work in a ruined world - His various steps of progress up to the "restitution of all things," whether in man individually, or generally in the world at large.

Of these applications, the fuller (so far as I see at present) is the first; but the second very constantly underlies it, perhaps everywhere to more discerning eyes. In the history of creation itself it is not hard to trace each of them throughout, though as the picture grows brighter and more blessed, it necessarily becomes fainter, alas! to eyes so little able to bear brightness.

It is to this part of Genesis - the introduction to the whole book - that I would turn for a little, looking at it briefly in both ways. First, as having application to the inner work of God in man individually; and second, as telling of the same work in the more extended field of the world at large.

And first, the individual application.

It was a fallen world - how fallen we know not - that needed to be renewed. The first verse of Genesis I take assuredly to be the statement of original creation; the second to speak of a state into which it had now lapsed: "And the earth was" (or, perhaps, had become) "without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." Who can doubt how striking a figure of man's natural state? fallen, too, shapeless and orderless, "subject to vanity," his heart, like the restless waves of the sea, tossing under darkness.

"The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast forth mire and dirt."

It is not from himself that a change comes. We are not born of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Here is the only help. Without our own will we are born into the world of nature, and without our own we are new-born. Our parentage (blessed be His name!) is of God, and thus we can call Him Father. So I find in this inspired record God Himself at work. Not laws, but a person. "God created," "God formed," "God made." Nay, the agent and the instrument are both particularly pointed out. "The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said - "That is, we have the Spirit and the word of God. And so are we said to be born of each: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit;" "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."

The Spirit is mentioned first, then God speaks, and "the entrance of His word giveth light." Not that the darkness is at once removed. It is bounded, yet returns again, but not in its first density. And the order is, I doubt not, significant of progress: first evening, and then morning. And after the seventh day evening no more mentioned; as in the full day of eternity, when the sun goes no more down, and the night is fled for ever.

Meanwhile, though the sun be not yet, the light is good. God calls it so, while as yet it shines on nothing but a waste of waters. Only evil seems brought out by it. There is no change, or so it might seem, in the creature. It might seem that darkness were a fitter covering for the hopeless ruin in which it lies.

So, too, with the first light upon the soul. When the living Word has penetrated the heart, even to the dividing asunder of joints and marrow, of soul and spirit, and we find ourselves detected and exposed in the presence of One before whom all things are naked and opened, yet the light is good even then. "Grace and truth" come hand in hand together. The utter evil is only the dark background for the display of the infinite good; and where sin hath abounded, grace does much more abound.

The second day sees heaven formed. In the wisdom and through the operation of God - at His word still, not otherwise - out of all the barrenness and confusion below, the felt evil and ruin of the creature, thoughts and aspirations rise, drawn up as vapours from the sea; to one that can understand, foretokening fertility, though now for a time we lie under their shadows. So out of a world ruined by sins and darkened with misery, the mercy and love of God have drawn up our hearts heavenward. Hopes and desires, called forth by His word, reach up without presumption thither; and the soul finds its government,* as we may say, in the power of heavenly things. This is a step onwards still, yet leaving room surely for much more. I do not find God saying here of the waters, as He had done of the light, that "they are good." He says no such thing of this day's work at all. And the silence is surely expressive. Right it is, in a sense, of course, when the soul, before resurrection known, looks up to heaven. Yet is it self or God that is uppermost in the heart? When the cry is pressed out of the soul, "What shall I do to be saved?" it were worse than folly to say that He who has wrought this in us does not rejoice in it. Yet of necessity what occupies us then, rightly enough, is self. It is my need, my salvation. All well as a transition to better things. Yet He who seeks us as children, not as servants, cannot be contented with this, which yet bears witness of His own work wrought within.

*Shamaim, heavens, signifies "placers or arrangers."

The third day is resurrection-day, and the earth rises out of the waters; for the power of resurrection known, gives to the soul stability and fruitfulness. As with the darkness before, so the waters now get their bound from God - a bound which they cannot pass, nor "turn again to cover the earth." So with all that causes the disquiet and barrenness of the soul. The flesh is not removed, but bounded. It gets its limit and its name. And out of the firm ground of the risen man, fruit is produced, though still, and ever, at God's bidding only; for the new nature is not independent, but rather most truly dependent upon Him in all things.

God speaks twice this day. It is a great day for making His power known. And the fruit comes forth at His bidding - from the grass to the fruit-tree, from the more perishable to the more profitable and enduring and withal, bearing within itself the seed of more. Real fruit is thus reproducing. Glorify God in your life, and you shall not glorify Him alone. Sing joyfully unto Him, and the most desert place shall find an echo. Blessed be His grace who worketh it all Himself, whatever it be - all and in all.

Notice how upon this resurrection-day earth and waters, the spirit and the flesh,* get their distinctive names. Not merely as quickened, but as risen men, we understand both the thorough hopelessness of the evil, and recognize distinctively that which is of God. So the New Testament writers - resurrection men - speak plainly of death and life, the old nature and the new - things dimly seen before.

*The earth is what is taken up and cultivated of God; hence, in the individual application, the new nature, outwardly Israel. The waters, the unrestrained, unquiet will of man; hence the flesh, or, outwardly, the Gentiles.

Above all, there is freedom. It is not "captivity to the law of sin" any more. Conflict there may be, but the sea within has got its bound from God, and though the waves thereof roar and swell, the earth has risen up above the water-floods: they cannot return to cover it any more. By-and-by a time shall come, when, with the darkness, the sea, too, shall be gone for ever. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea."

And now, resurrection known, not only quickened but risen men, there yet waits us another and a higher experience. The fourth day presents us, not with an earthly but a heavenly scene. Sun, and moon, and stars shine on us. Earth is blessed indeed, lit up with this brightness, but it is beneath our feet - far away.

It is not very hard to read these symbols.

Christ rose from the dead, not to tarry here, but ascended up to the right hand of the Father. And we, too, who believe in Him, are not merely risen, but heavenly men. "As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly." Scripture itself leads us fully and distinctly to the interpretation of these two great lights, when it speaks of "the Sun of Righteousness" which "shines upon the world," and where our Lord speaks of His disciples as "the light of the world," in the meantime, during "the night" of His absence.

Very different, though both light-bearers," is the light of each. His, ever full-orbed, self-derived, unchanging. The Church, clothed but with His glory - comeliness put upon her - glory which she reflects, too, but partially; always changing, often eclipsed. In a time coming, there shall be (what has not yet been) sun and moon in the firmament together; and the "sun shall no more go down, neither shall the moon withdraw herself." There shall be no more change, no failure in manifestation of Him, when He, who is our life, shall appear, and "we shall appear with Him in glory."

Then let us note how, and special emphasis is laid upon it, "God set them in the firmament of heaven, to give light upon the earth." A risen and ascended Christ it is, who shall as the "Sun of Righteousness arise upon the earth with healing in His wings." And as for the Church, is it not invariably true, that the higher her course in heaven the more her light shines? She is heavenly indeed, perforce; for God has set her there; but, alas! near enough, often, down, to be sadly dimmed with the shadows and mists of earth.

And "He made the stars also." These are not forgotten, though they do not make the principal figure here. So shine far out of the depths of heaven into which they are gone, the lights of other days. From Abel to him whose voice in the wilderness in vain called Israel to repentance, God made them all, and forgets them not. "He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names." Nor in vain does their light shine on us, witnesses to the glory of their Maker.

Thus on this fourth day we are made familiar with heaven. We cross with Israel over Jordan, and our Canaan, our land of rest, lies before us. Happiest he who most heeds here the assurance which God gives to us as once to them: "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given you, from the wilderness and this Lebanon, even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun." For us the shadows of a more blessed reality, a fairer prospect, and brighter shores.

Strange it may seem, that after all this blessedness we get back, not even to earth, but to "the waters." We come down from the mount of glory to find still what nature shrinks from, and how evil nature is. But we come down to find God at work amid it all, and by the power of His hand a higher form of life than ever yet born out of the midst of that which hitherto was never aught but barren.

So in the fifth day stage, after glory is known, or begins to be, and the hope of our calling, we come to find the tossing sea again, the world in its true character of unquiet evil - waters, waters everywhere. Seen after the brightness of sun and moon, painful it is and wearisome indeed, but profitable too. Our souls need the contrast, need the discipline of it; for all is discipline, and it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby. With what loathing we learn to turn from self, with what yearning to God, as we pass through this scene of sin and sorrow, and feel the buffeting of its waves. How tribulation, temptation, persecution, which are but waves in the sea of universal evil, yet work appointed ends of separation; that is, sanctification, - holiness. And how thus forms of higher life spring out of them, while "tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope."

Nor is it without use to notice the difference between the resurrection fruits of the third day, and what we may rather call the ascension fruits of the fifth and sixth. For the fruits here are ascension fruits. The waters produced none such till the fourth day glories had come. And all disquiet, evil, sorrow known, can never work in us fruitfulness such as this, until we have learnt something of what this fourth day gives. Then, indeed, there is fruitfulness; not merely righteousness, joy, or peace, but the development of living affections in intercourse with the unseen and eternal. But to this the waters too contribute. God knows how little of heaven might be known by us, were it not for the shaking of things of time and sense. Thus while our outward man perishes, "our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

On the sixth day the earth produces. A blessed time of which we know but little, when the new life develops itself without hindrance, and without need of discipline; when we are beyond the troubled waters, in the quiet haven where we would be; when man is found fully in "the image of God" that created him, "in righteousness and holiness of truth." Then the kingdom is His indeed, and over everything that His hands have made God can rejoice; for, behold, it is very good.

Then in a sweet and blessed sense He can have rest, of whom He that declared Him said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." He has brought that work marvellously to completion, and by grace, for us even as for Him, there is only now a never-ending rest - Himself the First and the Last, seen, enjoyed, and glorified in it - the Sabbath of eternity.

Of all this latter part, a few brief words sums up my present knowledge. But we have yet to trace the application of these wonders in the field of the world at large. And I am sure it will confirm the accuracy of the separate interpretations to observe how closely and intimately they are connected together, how truly the one underlies the other.

Here again the fact of the fall is what we necessarily start with, and it needs no argument to show that the world in its general features corresponds with those of the individual. "As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." The agents in recovery also are the same. There is no power for it in the creature; God Himself must act. And here too, I doubt not, that each day marks some special stage in the development of His plans and process of restoration.

Upon the face of revelation it is not very hard to discover at least so many epochs of special interpositions of the Divine Worker as answer to these creative days. Thus we have (1) The antediluvian period, opened with the promise of the woman's seed; (2) Human government set up in Noah; (3) The call of Abraham, and in him of an elect family, out of all the families of the earth; (4) The church period; (5) The time of trouble after the church is taken up; (6) The millennial kingdom; (7) The eternal rest. These are all not only strictly defined periods, with each a special character of its own, but they are really stages of progress, the effects of which remain. Some that we might think at first sight strangely omitted in this enumeration have not in reality this character of permanent steps of progress at all. Thus the law, needful as it undoubtedly was, was in some important respects rather retrogression than progress. The apostle's own account of it is, that "it came in by the way" (parioeelthe); that "it was added because of transgression, till the seed should come." So it is not represented here. The transfer of dominion to the Gentiles could still less, though for a like reason, come in. We have then just these seven periods left - six formative, and the seventh the final rest, the "sabbatism" that remains to the people of God.

When we come to the application, we find it in the main as simple as possible. That the first day answers to the antediluvian period is plain. Its light before the sun is the promise before Christ. Yet the world lay unchanged - a sea of disordered lusts and passions; and God, while acting in grace on individuals, did not publicly interfere with it. This lasted till the flood.

The second day may seem less easy to identify with the establishment of human government in Noah. Yet if the waters symbolize, as I doubt not, man in his instability of changing evil, then the separation of the waters from the waters does surely point to that establishment of human power, which in Noah himself might only make its weakness more discernible, and in Nimrod become, on the other hand, tyranny; but which yet Paul could speak of as the ordinance of God and ministering good. It is confirmation of this, that the word "heavens" contains in the original, as I have before noticed, the thought of "arrangement" - government. These heavens are not the sphere in which the sun and moon move on the fourth day. Yet, I doubt not, all that is blessed herein will be more than reproduced; yea, gloriously perfected and established when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.

The third day comes, and again there is separation; but of a different kind. The earth is divided from the waters. Now here again, if the waters signify the restless passions of man's self-will left to their natural course, it is plain we have the figure in them of Gentile nations. Scripture moreover abundantly establishes this view, as in Rev. 17:15 - "The waters which thou sawest are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues;" and again, where our Lord, typifying the temporary giving up of Israel, goes out of the house, and sits by the sea-side.

This period begins, then, with the call of Abraham, and Himself. In the earth, separated from the waters, I see the Lord's taking out of the nations a special people for Israel taken up of God to be cultivated (if I may so say) for Himself. It may, alas! be ground which produces thorns and thistles; but that is not in the line of thought here, nor failure at all (save so far as day and night succeed each other in constant cycles till the seventh day). But in this ground grow, too, the goodly trees of the Lord's planting; not barren nor unfruitful under His abiding care.

But all, so far, is earth. The next day carries us up to heaven. The symbols here have been already before us, and I need not dwell on them again. I surely believe we have here the present period - earth not taken up at all, though the scene of testimony, and God thereby taking out of it a people for His name; but a people who are thus "taken out," heavenly, the body of Him who, Himself in heaven, is made there "Head over all things to the Church," "seated together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus."

The fifth day, in contrast to all this, brings us back, as one might think, to confusion such as is the beginning. We find nothing but "waters" - a mass of Gentile evil; Israel for the time given up and mingled in the mass in what might seem hopeless confusion. It is the "time of Jacob's trouble," the time of the "lawless one," who shall "do after his own will;" when the nations "shall be gathered together unto the great day of God Almighty," and shall end their career of folly and impiety in open war against the Lamb."

Yet amid all this we know, just as in the type we see the waters made productive, God shall have a people for Himself. Rev. 7 witnesses to this, both as regards Israel and the Gentiles also; as Matt. 25 shows us, as to the latter, their separation from the mass of the ungodly when the Lord is come.

Then on the sixth day we have the figure of the kingdom. Earth produces, as it is written of restored Israel, that they "shall bud and blossom, and fill the face of the earth with fruit." Man, in the image of God - and Christ is "the image of the invisible God" - reigns with his bride over a ransomed earth. The figures are so plain as to preclude all doubt as to interpretation.

Finally a "sabbath" comes - a full and final rest. This cannot be till all things are subdued unto Christ; nor can He rest until He hath "delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." Short of this He could not rest, even on earth directing His disciples' thoughts and desires to that: "Our Father, … Thy kingdom come." And so when the time shall be fully arrived for the accomplishment, "when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also," as man, "be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all." So it is emphatically in the type here. It is God's work finished, God's rest come; true blessing for the creature when God occupies the scene altogether; evil shut out for ever; the whole state "sanctified and blessed."

Thus this precious word unfolds itself, and the Maker of the world is seen indeed as the Redeemer too. There are yet a few thoughts more which I offer more as suggestions than as fully matured.

The days of creation in their typical import evidently show a close connection with the seven lives which follow, and divide among themselves the remainder of the book. If you take the first and the last of these only, it is impossible not to be struck with the contrast. In Adam, fallen human nature; in Joseph, the Christ-like life, so perfect a type of the Second Man, the Lord from heaven. And if we take the intervening lives we shall be no less clear that in their spiritual meaning they are in perfect and orderly progress between the former and the latter. The seven lives are, in short, the perfect picture of the believer from the time the light first breaks in upon the darkness of nature till he attains the image of the heavenly in the kingdom that cannot be moved.

Now this, it is plain, answers to what we find in the six creative days. Moreover the third day is, as it were, divided into two by the twice-spoken fiat of creation. Now, if we apply these to the seven lives we shall find that they correspond in a wonderful way with one another.

Thus we have in Adam the first day light bringing out the ruin, and speaking dimly of the remedy; in Abel, and those that follow in his line (for Seth is in the room of Abel, whom Cain slew), the strife between the old nature and the new, linking, more dimly it may be, with the second day; in Noah, the third of these lives, the third day resurrection, where we pass through the judgment of the flesh into a new world of peace and blessing; in Abraham, resurrection fruit, the pilgrim's life on earth; in Isaac, the peaceful consciousness of sonship, as Gal. 4, where "the child of the freewoman" becomes our type; in Jacob's life of discipline, that which answers so remarkably to the lesson of the fifth day; finally, in Joseph, the highest stage is reached in one who stands before us as pre-eminently a type of Christ Himself, where the path of suffering leads up to the kingdom.

I have done. May the God of all grace only be pleased to bless us with a spirit of more humble, holy reverence for His blessed Word, that truth, even in fragments, may be gathered up as too precious to be lost. And may we be sanctified by it. F. W. G.

*** The above is the development of thoughts which appeared in a paper in the thirteenth volume of the Present Testimony, entitled "The Typical Character of Genesis 1, 2:3." - F. W. Grant.