GOD said, "Let us make man [humanity] in Our image, and according to Our likeness." And God created man [humanity] in His image.
But men have said that humanity has come into being from insignificant beginnings, through a long process of evolution, and have claimed that both men and apes had the same forbears.
WHAT IS MAN?
We propose to discard without delay all the theories of men, and concentrate solely upon the Word of God; but we opened as we did in order to focus attention on the fact that our question has been engaging human minds over the years, with results that are often at variance with Scripture, and completely dishonoring to God. Can we have a greater contrast? On the one hand, created in the image of God. On the other, evolved through the forbears of apes.
What, then, is man? Why was he created? And what is his function in God's great scheme and purpose? Why was he specifically created in God's own image and likeness? Above all, why does he suffer and die?
These are perfectly proper questions to ask, and we hope to give answers that are completely satisfying because they are in full accord with God's Word, and are therefore glorifying to God Himself.
The question is asked several times in the Scriptures.
Job asks it in Job 7:17, "What is man, that Thou shouldest magnify him? And that Thou shouldest set Thine heart upon him? And that Thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?"
Job was a man passing through affliction, and he is asking why God should trouble Himself with men, whose days are numbered in any case. Why cannot God leave them to pass their few days in peace? Why must He subject them to such distress?
David asks the question in Psalm 144:3. "Lord, what is man, that Thou art acknowledging him? Or the son of a mortal that Thou art reckoning with him? Man is like to vanity; his days are as a passing shadow." Apparently, there is nothing of any permanence or consequence in man that God should take such particular notice of him.
David again asks the question in Psalm 8:3, and here he sets it against a background of God's most expansive creations. "For I am seeing Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast established. What is a mortal that Thou art mindful of him? And a son of humanity, that Thou art noting him?"
Here the psalmist, who in another place cries, "The heavens declare the glory of God," looks up into these same heavens, considers their magnitude, and then asks, "What is man?"—"What is a mortal?"
And when we compare God's terrestrial creation with His celestial ones, we may well ask, "Why has God created man?"
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At the very beginning of God's Word, we read that He created the heavens and the earth. This has been accepted, by those who believe the Scriptures, as a simple statement of fact, but really it is a very profound truth indeed. For one thing, have we really considered its incongruity? It is like saying, God created the ocean and a raindrop, or God created a continent and a grain of sand. So vast are the heavens; so small is the earth!
We will not take up space in trying to describe the magnitude of the heavens, but let one illustration suffice. There is a well-known constellation of stars known as the Great Bear (Ursa Major). There are many stars in this group, but seven are very prominent, and can be easily seen on any starlit night, for in the northern hemisphere they are clearly visible to the naked eye all the year round. Four of the stars are roughly in the form of a square, with the other three forming a kind of tail (or handle, if you think of the constellation as the Dipper or the Plough, by which names it is also sometimes known).
Now the last star but one in the tail is called Mizar. Near to it is a tiny star (Alcor) which is much fainter than Mizar, but we can ignore this, and just concentrate on Mizar alone. For Mizar itself is a double star—that is, two stars that to the naked eye appear as one. Yet the two components of Mizar are 25 million miles apart, but they are so far away that they appear as one.
It takes just over one second for light to travel from the moon to the earth; it takes rather more than eight minutes for light to travel from the sun to the earth, about 93 million miles. It takes more than 73 years for Mizar's light to reach this earth. Or, to put it another way, if the moon were to be darkened, men would know about it in less than two seconds; if the sun were to be darkened, they would know it in under ten minutes, but if Mizar were to lose its light, it would be more than 70 years before any of us would learn about it. And even this is only a small distance in the universe. The light from some of the objects that can be seen in the sky on a cloudless night has been on its way to us since before Adam came into being.
In drawing attention to the vastness of the heavens in contrast to the smallness of the earth, we are doing no more than is done by the Scriptures, when they speak of the inhabitants of the earth as grasshoppers, and whole nations as a drop from a bucket, and as the small fine dust of the balances which no one bothers to blow away because it has so little effect on the measurement. Indeed, Isaiah 40:17 tells us that "all the nations are as nothing in front of Him." When we consider the great upheavals that have been caused by the various eruptions of nations in our own lifetimes, it is especially comforting to be assured that the great God of the universe is completely unmoved by them. They do not affect His purpose any more than does an extra drop in a bucketful of water, or a speck of dust on a pair of scales.
Then "What is a mortal, that Thou art mindful of him?"
"For I am seeing Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and stars which Thou hast established..." It is stated in Scripture that the stars of heaven cannot be numbered by mankind, and this is borne out by astronomy. Every new telescope that is made brings millions of fresh stars, and even new galaxies of stars, into view, so that the mind boggles when trying to assess their numbers. But if it is true that the physical, material content of the heavens is so much greater than that of the earth, what are we to say about the animate spiritual content? Scientists make feeble endeavors to find out whether there is life on the neighboring planets; this is as far as they can go, for they can only think in terms of life as they understand it on this earth. But we are convinced that the universe is full of life—spirit beings with far greater powers than anything possessed by humans, and numerous beyond computation.
Let us note what Nehemiah has to say (Neh. 9:6), "Thou, even Thou, art Lord alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that are therein, the seas and all that is therein, and Thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth Thee." Nehemiah can ignore all the multitudes of earth in this picture; it is the host of heaven that is so important.
But now let us draw attention to one or two points which have been passed over by many believers, and treated too lightly even by many of those who are aware that God's purpose is an eonian one, to be achieved in five eons.
The first point is, that in the first eon humanity was not even in existence. Adam was not created until the sixth day of the second eon. During the whole of that first eon (and we are not told its length) God's dealings were with other beings, celestial creations. In fact, we can go so far as to say that the heavens were created first, and the earth later, for there were already celestial beings in existence when the foundations of the earth were laid. Hence, Job tells us that when this happened, "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted together for joy" (Job 38:7). There must have been some reason for such great jubilation among celestial beings when they saw the earth brought into being; and there must also have been some reason why some of their number, led by the Adversary, brought about the circumstances (whatever they may have been) that led to the disruption of that same earth at the end of that first eon.
That there has been a violent disruption of the earth there can be no doubt. Quite apart from indications in the structure of the earth itself, which indicate a violent upheaval at some time, there are the evidences of Scripture. The Greek word katabole, used ten times in connection with the world, and erroneously translated foundation in the King James (Authorized) Version, literally means down-casting. Notice how the verbal form of the word is used in 2 Corinthians 4:9, "Persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not perishing." But perhaps the most potent scriptural evidence for the disruption occurs in Genesis 1:2, where we perceive a great contrast from the happenings of verse 1. Let us read the two verses together from the Concordant Translation.
Verse 1: "Created by the Alueim were the heavens and the earth."
Verse 2: "Yet the earth became a chaos and vacant, and darkness was on the surface of the submerged chaos."
In this corrected translation, we see that the first sentence summarizes the orderly process of creation; the second sentence brings in disorder and chaos. God did not create the earth a chaos; He created it to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18). He did not create it in darkness, or out of darkness, as is popularly supposed. He created it in light, for He is light, and darkness in Him there is none (1 John 1:5). Darkness comes when light is withdrawn, and, in Scripture is associated with the Adversary (Satan) (Eph. 6:11,12), and here (in Gen. 1:2) we see a first reference to that jurisdiction of darkness later spoken of by both Jesus and Paul (Luke 22:53; Col. 1:13).
Consideration of these and other scriptures leads us to the conclusion that there must have been a rebellion against God during that first eon, which ended with the disruption of the world and the imposition of darkness. This rebellion must have been among the hosts of heaven, for humanity was not yet in existence. Man was not responsible for the earth becoming a chaos and vacant, nor for the darkness which came with it, for man was not yet created. Nor was man primarily the cause of the slaying of the Lambkin, for, in Revelation 13:8, we read of "the Lambkin slain from the disruption of the world," and again we emphasize that humanity was not in existence at the disruption.
In Ephesians 6:11, Paul says, "Put on the panoply of God, to enable you to stand up to the stratagems of the Adversary, for it is not ours to wrestle with blood and flesh, but with the sovereignties, with the authorities, with the world-mights of this darkness, with the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials." Humans are foolish to quarrel among themselves, for the real enemies of God's purpose are those immensely powerful spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, who have consistently opposed God's purpose wherever it has been revealed, and who caused such havoc in that first eon as to bring about the chaos and darkness that subsequently ensued.
What we are suggesting is that humanity was not the cause of all evil, but rather a rectifying factor—a special creation, an entirely new order of beings, brought in to correct the evil wrought by Satan among the original celestial creations of God. This is not to suggest that humanity has the power to rectify matters, for, as we shall hope to show later, humanity (like all creation) was made subject to vanity in order that, of itself, it might achieve nothing. No, we are not suggesting that men can reconcile the universe to God, but, rather, that God Himself can achieve this stupendous thing by using "the form of humanity"—the form of that special creation which He has created for this very purpose (See Rom.8:3; Phil.2:8).
For we are convinced, after much consideration of the matter, that what occurred in that first eon, before the disruption of the world, was nothing less than a direct challenge by the Adversary to the headship of Christ by stirring up rebellion among celestial beings, by drawing many away from their loyalty to God and His Son, and by thus creating an estrangement between them and God—an estrangement which they had no means of rectifying. Sooner or later, it seems, many would perceive this. The morning stars and the sons of God are evidently those elements that retained their loyalty to God, but they could see no way out of the impasse until the foundations of the earth were laid. Then they burst into applause. How much they knew of God's intentions we cannot say, but evidently they sensed here a new development in God's purpose, which offered them an assurance for the future. Hence they sang together and shouted for joy.
And, again, taking a long step forward, may we suggest that when that Saviour was announced, Whose subsequent death was to reconcile all in heaven and earth to God—when His birth as a child of humanity was publicly proclaimed by a single messenger (possibly Gabriel) to the shepherds, those same loyal elements among the celestials immediately, suddenly, burst into spontaneous praise to God, for in this Son of Mankind they saw the divine answer to all the problems that beset them as celestials, and for which they could find no answer among themselves.
Are we being fanciful in our suppositions? Well, let us go back to Psalm 8. Beginning at verse 4, David asks, "What is a mortal, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of humanity that Thou art noting him!" He then continues, "Yet lacking little art Thou making him of the messengers [LXX], and with glory and honor art Thou crowning him." What a peculiar statement! (The AV reads: Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels). Yet in this statement there seems to be a first clue to the real answer to the question, "What is man?"
In the remainder of the Psalm, David speaks of the dominion which was given to mankind, for he says, "All dost Thou get under his feet," and then goes on to elaborate the statement, "Flocks and domestic animals, all of them, and even the beasts of the field; the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea." This is the dominion originally given to mankind in Adam (Gen.1:28).
Now let us see how the writer of Hebrews makes use of this passage. In Hebrews 2:6, we read, "What is man, that Thou are mindful of him? Or a son of mankind that Thou art visiting him? Thou makest him some bit inferior to messengers, with glory and honor Thou wreathest him, and dost place him over the works of Thy hands. All dost Thou subject under his feet."
Up to here, allowing for differences of translation, this is a direct and exact quotation from the psalm. David went on to define that which was made subject to man, namely domestic animals, beasts of the field, birds, and fish. The writer of Hebrews omits this definition, for he wants to stress a different point. He presses home the total nature of that subjection. All was to be subject to man; nothing was to be left unsubject to him. "Yet," he continues, "now we are not as yet seeing all subject to him." From the moment that man allowed a serpent to rule his conduct, he lost his authority over the lower creatures. This was the insidious nature of the Adversary's attack on Adam—challenging his head-ship over the lower creatures by appearing in the guise of one of them and seducing his complement—woman.
But now the writer of Hebrews takes hold of this passage from the psalm, and gives it a special application (verses 9, 10). "What is man?" was the question, "that Thou art mindful of him?" "Yet we are observing Jesus, Who has been made some bit inferior to messengers." Here the generic term man is abandoned in favor of the specific name Jesus, thus indicating that, when man was created, it was with an ultimate objective in mind—an objective which would be accomplished by Jesus in the likeness of humanity. And the writer continues by inserting something that was not in the psalm at all, yet which gives the key to the whole matter; "We are observing Jesus, Who has been made some bit inferior to messengers, because of the suffering of death, wreathed with glory and honor, so that He should, in the grace of God, be tasting death for everyone." Humanity, it would appear, came into being because of the sufferings of death. Celestials, as such, do not die (Luke 20:36), and the creation of an inferior order of beings was necessary in order that the Son of God Himself could partake of the sufferings of death, and thus for all time settle the question of sin. By coming in fashion as a human (Phil. 2:8), He could offer Himself in a manner acceptable to God and through the sufferings represented by "the blood of His cross," bring back to God all in heaven as well as all on earth.
Now, can we see the answer to our question, "What is man?" We are suggesting that humanity was created to be the vehicle in which the Lord Jesus could come in order to become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, so that He might be the means of reconciling not merely all on earth but all in the heavens also. This text, Colossians 1:20, is conclusive proof, if any is needed, that there is still enmity and estrangement to God in the heavens as well as on this earth.
We are therefore submitting to you that, when we read in the very first chapter of Genesis, "It is becoming light," we are seeing the first signs of the dispersal of that deep spiritual darkness which surrounded the celestials as a result of their rebellion against God in that first eon, and of which the physical darkness that engulfed the earth was merely a sign and a token. And when we read down that first chapter of Genesis and see the restoration of the earth after the chaos caused by the disruption, when it became a chaos and vacant—when we read of vegetation, reappearing and of animal life being created, we are, in fact, seeing the stage being set for Golgotha. The props are being prepared!
All the three kingdoms were required to effect the events surrounding the crucifixion. The vegetable kingdom was represented by the wood of the cross, and by the crown of thorns; the mineral kingdom by the nails which pierced the Victim's hands and feet; the animal kingdom by the thongs which lacerated His back. (The animal kingdom also provided all the typical sacrifices which, throughout the centuries, pointed to the real Sacrifice). Only the human element was missing, and this had to be a special creation, made in the image and likeness of God, in order that He, Who was His true Image and Likeness, might come in human form without ever losing that resemblance to God.
Here is the glory and honor with which man is wreathed—being created in the image and likeness of God, in order that God's objective might ultimately be achieved through One in the likeness of humanity. This One would suffer death for the universe, and so remove, once and for all, the cause of all estrangement from God. The irony in the creation of humanity lies in this, that events were to prove that man himself could not provide the Saviour, only His murderers. The Sacrifice was to be provided by God alone (see Gen.22:8), yet humanity, in the person of a single woman, was graciously permitted to bring forth the One in Whom that Sacrifice should come.
It is to be noted that six times in the first chapter of Genesis, (namely, in verses 4,10,12,18,21, and 25), God looks at what has been accomplished and declares it to be "good." But after the creation of humanity, and the asserting of man's dominion over the rest, He looks at all that He has made and pronounces it to be "very good" (verse 31). Yes, very good for the purpose for which all was designed, for at this point, God ceases from all the work that He has made, secure in the knowledge that He has implanted within it the impetus that will carry it straight through to the fulfilment (but no more) of everything that He has purposed in it.
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It has been said that the earth is the theater of the universe, that the earth is a stage, on which all the main events of God's purpose are being enacted, watched by a vast audience in the auditorium of the heavens. This may well be true, but we also believe that the earth is an operating theater as well as a display theater. These words are being written close to a great city, in which there are many hospitals. Each of these has a special room, an operating theater, where cases of serious illness are brought for surgery. Also in this same city are several cemeteries. The purpose of the operating theaters is to keep people out of the cemeteries as long as possible.
Now, in the whole universe of God there is only one operating theater and one cemetery. The earth is both, and the remarkable fact is that the one major operation that has been performed in the theater had the immediate result of putting a Man into a cemetery. It is an essential feature of Paul's evangel that Christ not only died but was also entombed before being roused from among the dead. It is also a fact that, of all the many millions of tombs in this vast cemetery called earth, only one is of special significance, and that because it housed for a short while the crucified Lord of glory.
Peter told his hearers on the day of Pentecost that Jesus was given up "in the specific counsel and fore-knowledge of God." Paul, in Romans 8, speaks of God, "Who spares not His own Son, but gives Him up for us all." It was God, then, Who performed this operation, holding the knife over His own Son, even as in figure Abraham held the knife over Isaac. And was the operation successful, even though it put a Man straight into a tomb? Humanity would declare at once that it was a failure. But God, through His apostle Paul, declares that the evangel, which preaches the word of the cross, is indeed God's power for salvation, and that the blood of Christ's cross brings individual peace and reconciles all, whether on earth or in heaven, to God. And the emptying of the one tomb will eventually result in the emptying of all the rest, so that the earth will no longer be a cemetery at all.
Sing, O sing with exultation,
Let the joyful tidings spread.
Herald wide the proclamation,
Christ is risen from the dead!
All the bonds of death are riven,
All its doors are opened wide.
Back the grave its prize has given,
Yielding up the Crucified!
Christ is risen, He has broken
All the power of death and sin.
He, the Firstfruit, is the Token
Till the rest is gathered in.