Before the foundation of the world

Posted in: 2015
By Tom L. Ballinger
Dec 9, 2015 - 4:36:45 PM

Plainer Words since 1968
Issue # 403
December 4, 2015
“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:” (Eph.1:4).
The highlighted phrase, before the foundation of the world, was one of the most prominent ones Paul used as he revealed and explained the revelation of the Mystery.
“Wow!” I said over and over again when the Lord gave me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in order for me to acknowledge all that Christ has done (Eph. 1:17). Many saints who had the “eyes of [their] understanding enlightened” (Eph. 1:18), also, were everlastingly amazed that it was before “the beginning of Creation” (Mark 10:6) that members of the Mystery Calling were chosen.
Many of us expressed joy of the uniqueness of our Calling  which pre-dated David, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not only that, but the Calling of the Church over which Christ Jesus is the Head pre-dated the LORD entering into any covenants with the Fathers of Israel. He had a purpose planned and a Calling chosen. It even pre-dated Noah, Enoch, Methuselah, Abel, and Adam. The plan was kept secret in the heart of God. It was not made known until it was given to Paul, the prisoner, personally by Jesus Christ in Paul’s prison cell (Eph. 4:9-10).
The general ideas expressed in the two previous paragraphs were taken from Plainer Words … The Epistle To The Ephesians ( 5 ) issued on April 15, 1977. That was 38 years ago. The two paragraphs made for “good teaching,” but in my-heart-of-hearts, I believed many of us were missing the mark. As I pondered the phrase, “before the foundation of the world,” I was baffled about its wording. I would put it on the shelf and for 38 years, I would  periodically un-shelve it, study the phrase, ponder it, pray for spiritual light, and consider the “What Ifs.” I began to concentrate my focus on the word, “BEFORE.”
There are two other references that are similar in their expression.
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9).
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
At times, I would consider God in His pre-creation state. There was no universe, no sun, no moon, no planets, no heavenly bodies, no heaven and earth, no light, no atmosphere, no firmament, no oxygen, no outer space, no inner space (just space), no vegetation, no insect life, no human or animal life. In fact, there was absolutely nothing. Whatever the pre-creation state was like, it was only filled with God—Who was Spirit (John 4:24).
Now, in Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form (Col. 2:9). When I contemplated the nothingness other than God’s existence in the pre-creation state, it is almost impossible to pull-out words in my vocabulary that describe the pre-creation condition.
In His pre-creation condition, He had no shape—He was Spirit—we have no record of Him doing anything, saying anything, or thinking anything while he was in the pre-creation mode. In the space He occupied, which is indescribable, His Spirit filled every ½  inch of sheer space. As I considered this, words failed me.  I do not think God was incapable of choosing us ( the Church, which is His Body) while He was in the pre-creation state, when none of us existed. I have concluded it isn’t a reasonable conclusion when other options exist. The other options need to be investigated. The Apostle Paul certainly wrote a profound statement in 1Timothy 3:16 when he said, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness …”
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, while teaching at the Berean Chapel in Mobile, I put a great deal of emphasis upon “us” having been chosen in Christ BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.  It was an excellent Biblical tool for teaching how to Rightly Divide the Word of Truth. However, as time went by, slowly, I began to have a change of view regarding the proper interpretation of “before the foundation of world.”
As the years went by, I pondered the idea, “Before the foundation of which world?” One idea, among many, stands out in my mind. How many worlds did God make (i.e. create)?  Here are four foundations God laid:
            The foundation of the world before Genesis 1:1-2.
            The foundation of the world before Man’s Day, Genesis 8:21-9:17.
            The foundation of the world before the Day of Christ, Isaiah 65:17-25.
            The foundation of the world before the Day of God, Revelation 21:1-22:5.
I considered these four foundations, and no additional light was shed on my quest for the answer of the inquiry—What is the proper discernment for the phrase, “Before the foundation of the world?”
Understanding how the word, “before,” is used in the text of Ephesians 1:4 opened a pathway that, seemingly, no one has yet to have traversed. In my Garden one day, while “the dew was still on the roses,” I was spiritually searching for what might be the key to my understanding
“According as He hath chosen us in Him before [pro] the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:” (Ephesians 1:4).
In the context, I discerned in Ephesians 1:4 that “before” is not a reference to time. It cannot be a reference to “time” because prior to Genesis 1:1, there was no time—it was timeless—in plainer words, before Genesis 1:1, there was NO TIME.  Webster’s Dictionary defines the word, “before,” as:
“Before = (1) ahead; in front of, (2)  previously; (3) earlier, sooner; (4)  in the presence of; (5)  superior; preceding in dignity; (6) rather than” (Webster). These six categories actually refer to the highest rank before another.
“According as Christ hath chosen us before (i. e., ahead of; in front of; previously; earlier than; sooner than; as superior to; preceding in dignity; rather than) the foundation of the world.”
Now, note that Thayer’s Greek Lexicon for “before” is “pro” (Strong’s #4253), “a. used of a place (in ranking), b. used of time, c. used of superiority or preeminence above all things, d. In compositon, ‘pro’ marks highest degree of comparison:
            ( a ). Is used of place: Acts 5:23 (before another who follows, in advance).
            ( b ). Is used of  time: Acts 5:36 (before this, previously, beforehand, in advance).
            ( c ). Is used of superiority or preference.
            ( d ). Is used of  ranking, not WHEN, but a grade of comparison.
Christ Himself is superior to all things, and people, and angels.
“And He is superior [pro] to all things, and by Him all things consist” (Col. 1:17).
“PRO” carries with it the idea of being a superlative. SUPERLATIVE means: “of the highest order, or kind; above or surpassing all others. Supreme, supereminent. Exaggerated, hyperbolic. In Grammar—the highest degree of comparison—above all others.” (The World Book Dictionary).
 At times, “pro” can indicate a Figure as a type of Hyperbole—over and above, or beyond, a casting from (ballein), to throw. Hence, a casting or going beyond, overshooting, excess. A Hyperbole is so-called because the expression adds to the sense, so much, that it exaggerates it and enlarges, or diminishes it more so than is really meant. The Hyperbole is designed to “grab” the reader’s attention.
After I digested all of the above, I believe the phrase was used as a form of a figure of speech used as a Hyperbole in which the superlative speaks of the Mystery Calling as being the highest degree of comparison with all other Callings. Not only that, but the Figure also declares it to be the first elective office Christ chose—therefore, the superlative is used emphasizing the utmost priority this Church has above all others.
This Ecclesia over which Christ Jesus is the Head is the most pre-eminent Calling of all. It surpasses all others in wisdom, prudence, glory, and divine character. The Holy Spirit directed Paul to use the expression, going beyond Genesis 1:1, in which no other creation can compete as being Christ’s first choice, no matter what the Theologians say or teach.
To summarize, I would rank Ephesians 1:4 as proverbial. A proverb is an “adage, or an aphorism, or motto, or axiom, or dictum, or maxim.” I would say Ephesians 1:4 is a proverbial expression for being unequaled, peerless, unrivaled, inimitable, and incomparable. In plainer words, “before the foundation of the world” is a proverb for ranking it “far above” all others who are, or were chosen in Christ.
I acknowledge that if I relied upon my resume, I wouldn’t qualify “to be found in Him” (Phil. 3:9). I can only rely on and trust in the “righteous which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9).
Copyright© 2015 by Thomas L. Ballinger
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