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Examining Supposed Creation Passages in Ephesians to Revelation

Introduction

In a series of articles,1 I have examined a list of biblical passages that Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (RTB) has compiled. Dr. Ross teaches that these passages fill in important information of the Genesis 1–2 creation account to reveal that the world is billions of years old. However, careful consideration of those passages show that this is not the case. In the first six articles, I discussed passages from his book’s (A Matter of Days) list from the Old Testament and the New Testament through 2 Corinthians. In this concluding seventh article, I complete analysis of the remaining New Testament passages on this list.

Ephesians 1:4

This single verse is but a part of the teaching on predestination in Ephesians 1:3–14. It states that God chose us before the foundation of the world that we would be holy and blameless before him. Perhaps it is the mention of “before the foundation of the world” that Ross thinks qualifies this verse as a creation passage. However, this at best obliquely qualifies as a creation passage, and does not shed any new light on the creation.

Colossians 1:15–20

Like John 1:1–10, Colossians 1:15–20 declares that Jesus is the Creator. It further tells us that he holds all things together (verse 17). Paul’s purpose in writing this passage is to counter false teaching about the nature of Jesus Christ that had crept into the Colossian church. This teaching that Jesus was a created being became prevalent in the later gnostic and Arian heresies. The fact that Jesus is the Creator who is eternally self-existent refutes this. That said, this passage alters nothing from the very plain reading of the Genesis creation account.

1 Timothy 4:3–4

In refuting false teachers who will arise in later times and preach false things, such as abstaining from particular foods, the Apostle Paul stated that everything created by God is good (cf. Genesis 1:31) and therefore is not to be rejected if it is received with gratitude. This response clearly is based upon creation, but the topic discussed here is not creation.

2 Timothy 1:9

Similar to Ephesians 1:4, this verse speaks of God’s plan of salvation worked out before the world began, i.e., in eternity past. This predates the creation, and it tells us nothing about the creation event.

Titus 1:2

The Greek phrase in Titus 1:2 translated “before the world began” is the same phrase that appears in 2 Timothy 1:9 (see above). In either passage, the allusion is to time before creation and hence does not address creation.

Hebrew 1:1–12

Ross apparently believes that the end of this world and its replacement with a better new heavens and new earth will be rapid, but he believes that the creation of this world took billions of years.

In agreement with John 1:1–10 and Colossians 1:15–20, Hebrews 1:2 identifies Jesus as the Creator. Like Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3 credits Jesus with sustaining the world in the present. Hebrews 1:1–12 quotes Psalm 102:25–27, but where Psalm 102:25 uses the phrase “of old,” Hebrews 1:10 uses “in the beginning” (which may be seen as an allusion to Genesis 1:1). Both Psalm 102:25–27 and Hebrews 1:10–12 tie together the creation of this world and its future replacement. Ross apparently believes that the end of this world and its replacement with a better new heavens and new earth will be rapid, but he believes that the creation of this world took billions of years. This asymmetry is striking, for it makes more sense that, just as the new creation will take place rapidly, the original creation took place rapidly as well.

Hebrews 4:1–11

Hebrews 3:7–4:13 is an exposition of Psalm 95:7–11. The first part of the exposition (Hebrews 3:7–19) describes the unbelief of the Hebrew people and the consequences of their unbelief. The second part of the exposition (Hebrews 4:1–11) describes the rest that the people in their unbelief forfeited. The conclusion of the exposition emphasizes the accountability of those who have heard the word of God. It is the latter section of the exposition, Hebrews 4:1–11, that is on the list of creation passages. The reason for the inclusion obviously is the quotation of Genesis 2:2 in Hebrews 4:4. This passage is important to Ross’s argument that the days of the creation week were long periods of times. Ross argues that since Genesis 2:1–3 contains no explicit mention of an evening and morning for the seventh day, the seventh day must be continuing today. This is in contrast to the explicit mention of evening and morning for the six previous days in Genesis 1. As such, this is an argument from silence—that since no beginning or end of the seventh day is mentioned, it is ongoing today and hence not a literal day. At least one problem with this is that Ross assumes that day seven actually had a beginning, after day six. But this is inconsistent, because Ross wants day seven to continue even to today. One could just as easily argue that the seventh day had no beginning and thus proceeded all the other six days of the creation week as well. Moreover, the error is compounded by taking this questionable conclusion about day seven and imposing it upon the other six days of the creation week. It is a poor practice in Bible interpretation to impose the meaning of a less clear passage upon the clearer meaning of another passage.

Ross would respond that Hebrews 4:1–11 proves his point, that the seventh day of creation week is still ongoing, because verse 9 establishes that there is a Sabbath rest available to the people of God, and verse 11 encourages us to enter that rest. Is this a viable interpretation? We think not. Psalm 95 does not tie the promised rest to the Sabbath. It is the writer of Hebrews, writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who makes this connection, but only as a type. There are those who failed to enter that rest (verse 6); we are encouraged to enter that rest (verse 11); and this rest is said to be a rest other than the Sabbath (verse 8). There is no attachment to a particular (creation) day in these points. The emphasis here is on rest, not on a day (or the meaning of “day”). To argue for the day-age theory from this text is to abuse the text. While an allusion is made to creation here, this is not a creation passage and does not overrule the plain meaning of Genesis 1–2.

Hebrews 4:13

This verse tells us that no creature is hidden from God’s sight. A creature is something that is created, so this is an affirmation of creation; but the creation event is not the subject discussed in this passage.

Hebrews 7:26

This verse praises Jesus, our High Priest, for, among other things, being exalted above the heavens. This is reminiscent of Hebrews 4:14, which speaks of Jesus passing through the heavens. This mention of the heavens likely was the trigger for inclusion on the list of creation passages. However, it has no bearing on the creation event.

Hebrews 9:11–14

Hebrews 9:11–14 describes Jesus entering the heavenly tabernacle and offering not the blood of animals, but his own blood as the ultimate sacrifice. This tabernacle is described as being greater and more perfect than the earthly one, and not being made with hands. That last phrase is explained as meaning not of this creation, from which we conclude that, in conjunction with Hebrews 9:24, the tabernacle is in heaven. The inclusion of the word creation probably was the reason for inclusion on the list of creation passages. However, since it describes something “not of this creation,” how can this be classified as a creation passage?

Hebrews 9:22–28

This passage returns to the image of the heavenly tabernacle and clearly identifies the location as heaven. As is so often the case with the list, the use of the word heaven apparently is sufficient for inclusion on the creation passages list, though there is nothing about the creation event described in this passage.

Hebrews 10:1–18

This passage more or less sums up Jesus’ role as the ultimate high priest and perfect sacrifice for sins. We are at a loss to understand how this is a creation passage.

Hebrews 11:3

This is a creation passage in that it succinctly states as inarguable doctrine what may be inferred from passages elsewhere.

This verse tells us that by faith we believe that the world came into existence by the word of God. It further tells us that the world was made of things that were not visible, made out of nothing, ex nihilo. This is a creation passage in that it succinctly states as inarguable doctrine what may be inferred from passages elsewhere. However, Hebrews 11:3 does not suggest billions of years or the big bang.

Hebrews 12:22–23

Hebrews 12:18–24 contrasts the terror surrounding Mount Sinai with the much more inviting Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. It is not clear why this would be a creation passage. It does not speak of a future event but is a metaphorical statement of the salvific work of God through the atonement provided by Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12:26–29

Hebrews 12:25–29 invites us not to refuse the offer of salvation from God. Verse 26 quotes Haggai 2:6 in that God has promised to once more shake the earth and heaven. As with other passages, perhaps it is the mention of “created things” in verse 27 that triggered the inclusion of this passage on the list. However, it does not shed any light on the creation event described in Genesis 1–2.

1 Peter 1:20

This verse mentions the fact that God worked out the plan of salvation before the foundation of the world. The foundation of the world refers to creation, but this verse tells us nothing more about the creation event.

2 Peter 3:3–13

Second Peter 3:3–13 is a key passage in the support of recent creation, because it ties the Noahic flood to the future destruction of the world. The global nature of the future event (evident in this passage) strongly argues for the global nature of the past event. Creation is mentioned in verse 4. There is also a reference to creation in verse 5 where it states that the earth was formed out of water and by water. The first mention of water is in Genesis 1:2, not only by the word water (מיִם, mayim), but also by “the deep” (תִּהוֹם, tihum. On day two, the waters were divided above and below (Genesis 1:6–8), so water was very important in the creation event. Verse 7 tells us that the future destruction of the world will be by fire. This is in keeping with God’s covenant with Noah that the earth would not be destroyed by water again (Genesis 8:21).

Perhaps Ross’s true interest in this passage is the Apostle Peter’s quote (verse 8) from Psalm 90 that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day. This verse often is key in supporting the day-age theory, but this is unwarranted. Second Peter 3 is not about creation.2 The purpose of this chapter is to refute the question that Peter said mockers in the last days would ask (verse 4): “Where is this promised return of Jesus, because things have always been the way that they have been and always will?” The mockers’ rejection of the Lord’s return and ensuing judgment is based upon their denial of the creation and the flood. Peter wrote that the mockers are willingly ignorant of the creation and the flood (verse 5). The text surrounding the quotation of Psalm 90 is intended to emphasize God’s patience with man. God will keep his promise, but God is hesitating in fulfilling it to give unrepentant men ample opportunity to repent (verse 9).

The passage concludes with a promise that this world will be destroyed (verse 10) to be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth (verse 13). As we have seen before, Ross often claims passages about the new heaven and new earth as creation passages.

1 John 1:1–2

Perhaps what triggered inclusion of 1 John 1:1–2 in the list was the phrase “from the beginning” in verse 1. One must ask, “From the beginning of what?” Often in Scripture, the beginning refers to creation (e.g., John 1:1), but probably not in this case. John testified that he heard, saw, and touched the subject of what he was writing about, and John identified it as “the Word of life.” John was not present at the creation. This reference implies that the Apostle John here is referring to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus (John 1:1, 4; cf. 1 John 1:3). Indeed, the context of verse 1 is established in 1 John 1:1–4. The only way that one could conclude that this passage refers to creation is to appeal to the beginning of John’s gospel (John 1:1–3), but that doesn’t appear to be the meaning of the phrase “from the beginning” in this passage, as judged by the context. Obviously, this is not a creation passage.

1 John 2:17

The surrounding context of this verse (1 John 2:17–17) contains the Apostle John’s admonishment not to love the world. Love of the world is futile, because it will pass away (Romans 8:18–22; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 2 Corinthians 4:18) along with its lusts. This verse tells of the fate of the present creation, with the implication that there will be a new creation. However, mention of the destruction of this world does not address the original creation of the world.

1 John 3:2–3

This passage assures us that when Jesus appears, we shall be like him. Apparently, this is the transformation that the Apostle Paul wrote about (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50–58). This passage is not about creation.

1 John 3:8

This verse tells us that the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The “beginning” here refers to Satan’s rebellion against God. This appears to have happened shortly after the creation. While this event was near the time of creation, it was likely not during the creation, so this is not a creation passage.

Revelation 3:12

This verse mentions the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem will accompany or follow the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1–2). This refers to the future, so this verse is not about creation.

Revelation 3:14

In the message to the Laodicean church, Jesus is identified as “the beginning of the creation of God.”

In the message to the Laodicean church, Jesus is identified as “the beginning of the creation of God.” This clear reference to Jesus as Creator probably was intended to counter a pre-gnostic teaching that had crept into the Laodicean church as had crept into the Colossian church. While this draws upon creation, it tells us nothing more about creation.

Revelation 4:11

This is the concluding verse to Revelation 4. The scene is the throne room in heaven. The 24 elders fall before God and praise him as the one who created all things and who upholds all things by his will. While this verse alludes to creation, it barely qualifies as a creation passage, and certainly no new information about the creation event is provided.

Revelation 5:13

This verse contains praise to God the Father and his Son exclaimed by every created thing that is in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, on the sea, and in the sea. This is thus a term expressing the totality of the universe. As it states, God created all these things, but this does not make this verse a passage about the creation event.

Revelation 7:13–17

This passage begins with one of the 24 elders asking John and then declaring who the multitude of people praising God is and why the multitude is there (Revelation 7:9–12). There is no mention of heaven or creation, so we are at a loss to explain why this is part of Ross’s list of creation passages.

Revelation 10:6

This verse credits God with creation in terms that are reminiscent of Exodus 20:11 and Revelation 4:11. This makes it a creation passage under Ross’s criterion, but nothing new about the creation is revealed here.

Revelation 11:17–18

These two verses record the praise of the 24 elders. This praise does not mention creation. The nearest connection to creation that we can see is God’s sovereignty to judge the world, but this hardly constitutes a creation passage.

Revelation 14:7

This verse records the praise uttered by a flying angel. The angel calls for the worship of him who made the heaven, earth, sea, and springs of water. Again, this praise appears to be an allusion to Exodus 20:11, with the addition of the mention of “springs of water.” This qualifies this verse as a creation passage, but no new information about creation is provided.

Revelation 17:8

Once again, it appears that the reason that Ross included this verse in his list of creation passages is that it contains the phrase “from the foundation of the world.” It may be that Dr. Ross believes that this phrase implies that the world is billions of years old, but one cannot deduce this from this phrase alone.

Revelation 20–22

Revelation 20–22 is a description of future events, such as the final judgment of Satan, the Great White Throne Judgment, and the coming of the new heaven and new earth. There are parallels between the new creation and the original creation, and recent creation writers have written about this.3 However, Ross makes a sharp distinction between the original creation and the future new creation in that he thinks that the original creation was bound by the second law of thermodynamics but that the new creation will not be.4 Thus, if it is Ross’s intention to claim that Revelation 20–22 is about the creation event because of the parallel between the original creation and the new creation, his argument falls flat.

Conclusion

In these passages, nothing substantive is revealed that the creation account of Genesis 1–2 has not already revealed.

In seven articles, I have examined exhaustively a list of supposed creation passages by Hugh Ross in his book A Matter of Days. In most cases, I have found that the passages merely mention creation and that the actual theme of the passages is obviously something other than creation. For instance, in praising God, it is common to praise him as Creator. In these passages, nothing substantive is revealed that the creation account of Genesis 1–2 has not already revealed. With the theme being something other than creation, this sets a very low threshold for establishing what a creation passage is. If this is the standard, then one could include far more passages than are on the list (Deuteronomy 4:32 comes to mind). Including as creation passages many verses that do not directly address creation amounts to inflating the argument. I believe it is reasonable to infer that Dr. Ross seems to think that the length of the list of supposed supporting texts will win the argument that the creation is billions of years old, but this is not the case. I have observed a tendency in Hugh Ross to overstate his arguments, and this list is consistent with this pattern.

I also have noticed that Ross frequently confuses the future creation of the new heavens and new earth with the original creation events in Genesis 1–2. One can draw parallels between the two, but there are differences. For instance, the capacity to sin will have been removed. Since the purpose of Ross’s list of alleged biblical creation passages is to shed light on the age and manner of the original creation, to include references to the future creation is highly misleading.5

In some cases, I could see at best an oblique reference to the creation events of Genesis 1–2, so I surmised what connection Ross may have seen. In a few cases, I had no idea why a passage was on the list. I could guess in some instances that it was a matter of a typographical error, but in others I had no clue as to what possible explanation there was.

In the few remaining passages where creation was actually the subject or when some information was offered that Genesis 1–2 did not contain, that information did not alter what the straightforward reading of the Genesis creation account reveals. For instance, John 1:1–10 and several other New Testament passages identify Jesus as the Creator. This indeed is new information about creation that Genesis 1–2 does not expressly mention, but it does not alter our understanding of the creation being over six normal days only a few thousand years ago.

This last point is the main thrust behind Ross’s efforts to compile the list of alleged creation passages. Ross clearly argues that one might gather from the Genesis account of creation the idea that God created the world over six normal days a few thousand years ago, but that if one considers all the creation passages in the Bible, the inescapable conclusion is that God created the world in billions of years using the big bang. However, examination of all the claimed relevant passages reveals no such thing. Ross’s view on creation and the age of the earth is seriously unbiblical and misleading.

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