Thursday, March 16, 2006

Incarnation, Election, and Fall Part IV

It is time now to see what Scripture has to say about the Incarnation and what the purpose of the Incarnation truly is. Many Federal Visionists claim the Incarnation would have taken place even without the Fall. Is this the view of Scripture?

Now there are plenty of verses such as John 10:15 or the Servant Songs of Isaiah that speak of Jesus coming in order to lay his life down for his sheep. These show that Jesus knew his mission was sacrifice of himself on the cross. Yet, these verses do not prove the point of the Incarnation is the atonement for sin because they are all comments made post-fall. I do not think anyone is denying that after the Fall atonement became necessary. What is needed are verses that speak of the atonement being a pre-fall idea. The Bible does provide a few glimpses of the atonement being a pre-fall necessity.

Rev. 13:8 speaks of The Lamb’s Book of Life. This verse tell us that the Lamb was "slain from the foundation of the world." This verse speaks of Jesus as the Lamb, which is sacrificial language. Thus, Jesus was from eternity past to be incarnated in order to be slain. Christ was meant to be sacrificed for our sins from the foundation of world, which pre-dates the Fall. There seems to be no room for how Jesus could have meant to be incarnated apart from his role as Lamb in this verse.

I John 3:8 also speaks to this point. It tells us that "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." Here the purpose of Jesus Christ being made flesh was to destroy the works of the devil, to destroy sin. It also tells us earlier in that verse that the "devil sinneth from the beginning." So here again we see that the devil sinned from the beginning and thus the Son of God took flesh in order to destroy his work.

Heb. 2:9 continues this theme. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Jesus is made in the flesh of man, which is lower than the angels, for the suffering of death. He was made a man to taste death and pay the price of death for his people. Again the purpose of the Incarnation is linked with death and suffering which only comes through sin. The necessity of the incarnation is linked to the presence of sin. Again not much room left for an incarnation apart from such things.

2 Tim 1:9 and 10 again link the incarnation and sin, and do so in an eternal way. "Who hath saved us, and called us with a 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, (10) But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." This verse shows us the benefits of Christ are given to us before the world began. Those benefits are abolishing death and giving life and immortality. His recent incarnation made those things abundantly clear to all. Paul believes that the benefit of Christ’s destroying death is laid out before the world began. And it is given to us then as well. The Incarnation then is placed in eternity past and is linked in eternity past to sin. Paul does not contemplate immortality and life being possible if there were no sin. He does not contemplate then being given to us apart from the atonement of Christ.

This leads to another point that needs to be made. Some have claimed that the Incarnation is much more than Atonement. They support this claim by pointing to his miraculous birth and his being both God and Man for all eternity. Are not these things more than simple atonement by death and resurrection? The problem is that the atonement is much more than simple death and resurrection. It is no wonder they believe the Incarnation to be so much more than atonement for they limit the scope of the atonement. The Virgin Birth of Christ is linked to his atonement. His miraculous birth, I think we can all agree, frees Christ from the stain of original sin so that he might become a high priest for us. One who is tempted in every way like us, but is not conceived and born in sin. Then it is good and right for us to say his Virgin Birth plays a role in the Atonement. What of his ascension into heaven? Hebrews tells us of Christ the High Priest at the right hand of God. Romans 8 tells us that he is at the right hand of God making intercession for us even now. Does Christ himself not tell us he goes before us to prepare places for us? Is this not a part of the atonement? Of course it is part of the atonement. That is why Revelation almost always refers to Christ in heaven as the Lamb. The atonement is always before the eyes of God. The Lamb that was slain is there for us. His whole life is living a life without sin so that when he did die and rise again he


Alastair said...

Actually, the idea that Christ would have died even if Adam had not sinned is not a novel one in the Christian tradition. I hold it strongly.

The problem for many is that they think of death purely in negative terms and fail to recognize the presence of a good form of 'death' in the early chapters of Genesis. James Jordan has argued for this at length. Adam is put into a death-like sleep before rising to receive his bride.

Had Adam not sinned, Christ would still have died. His death would not have been for sin. When Christ died at Calvary He did not merely die for sin. He died in order to offer in Himself the whole creation to God. He also died so that the Bride might be taken from His side. Furthermore He died so that He might be raised to a greater form of glory.

The cruciform pattern of Christ's life is presented as the model of true humanity, not merely as something that was only necessary because of the Fall.

Lee said...


As always, thank you for your thought provoking remarks. My major problem with your theory of "good death" and "bad death" is that death is no longer a punishment for sin. Jordan equates the ‘deep sleep’ of Adam and Abraham with a ‘good death’, but I see no compelling reason to read death into those passages. Sadly the only Jordan work I have where he discusses this topic is the Federal Vision. His footnotes in that book seem to basis the theory on how the operation would have sounded to Adam rather than any exegetical proof. Any suggestions of books that deal with this more thoroughly would be appreciated.

This scheme seems to also make death related to eating the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If Adam eats it prior to being allowed he suffers a bad death, but if he waits till God gives it to him, then he suffers a good death. No longer is death itself related to sin, but to the tree and act of eating its fruit. I would like to hear your response to Romans 5:12 where death enters the world by sin. What basis do we have to read this death in Romans as only the ‘bad death?’

I am looking forward to your response.

John said...

With regard to Rev. 13:8, I don't think the passage says that Jesus is "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

See my comments here.

Lee said...

Thank you for your comments. I had not heard the idea of ‘foundation of the world’ meaning the new creation. That will require further reading. Your article seems to favor the idea that ‘from the foundation of the world’ modifies ‘written’. This a good article, and I hope all clink on the link to read it. I would add that you may also include Kistemaker and Ralph Bass Jr., on your list of commentaries that support the book of life was written from the foundation of the world, not Jesus being slain from the foundation of the world. First, while I admit the reading is possible, it is still not required. The distance of the prepositional phrase from the word ‘written’ is considerable (I count 12 words) making more likely the idea that ‘from the foundation of the world’ modifies another closer word. The word slain is immediately proceeding the phrase in question. The argument of the similar phrase in chapter 17:8 I think is unconvincing because that phrase leaves out ‘of the Lamb that was slain’. To argue that leaving out the phrase in 17:8 proves the phrase in 13:8 means written from the foundation of the world is difficult. One could just as easily argue the discontinuity between the two passages. If John had wanted to say the book of life was written from the foundation of the world, as he did in 17:8, he simply would have said it. The inclusion of a new phrase provides a new idea completely. Neither idea can make a convincing argument that can tip the scales. Second, I Peter 1:19-20 carries the same idea of a lamb slain destined before the foundation of the world. Thus, the idea is taught in Scripture. John could just as easily be referencing this idea. Even changing the reading of Revelation 13:8 does not escape the force of I Peter. Third, even if the phrase modifies when the book of life was written, does it really change the force of the argument? Your reading would place the idea that there was a reprobation decree to damn some not written in the lamb’s book of life from before the foundation of the world. It would still argue for the idea that Jesus always was viewed as having to come and die to save the saints whose names appeared in his book, since having a book with some names and not others implies the existence of sin. I am willing to go with either reading since it seems debatable. Yet, I do not think the new reading nullifies the argument against the necessity of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Again thank you for your challenging article