by Al Maxey

Issue #523 ------- February 27, 2012
We are told that Christ was killed for us,
that His death has washed out our sins,
and that by dying He disabled death itself.
That is the formula. That is Christianity.
That is what has to be believed.

C. S. Lewis {1898-1963}
Mere Christianity

Foreordained to be Slain
A Reflective Study of Rev. 13:8

It has long been suggested by some that the death of Jesus upon the cross was "an afterthought" in the divine plan of redemption. The fall of man required God to initiate "Plan B" in order to bring man back on track and to bring to ultimate fruition the divine purpose for His creation. This portrays our God as a confused Creator continually caught unaware by His wayward creation, thus constantly having to rethink His purposes and realign His actions to accommodate the fallenness of man. Had things gone the way He intended from the beginning, His Son would not have had to die a cruel death on the cross. It was when things "fell apart" that He was forced to take the drastic action of sending His Son to "correct" this "fatal flaw" in His design. We have all probably encountered such thinking, but I wonder how many of us have taken the time to carefully examine it in light of the Scriptures? If we had, we would realize that it is entirely false! Christ on a cross was not "Plan B." From the very beginning of time, from the foundation of creation, God purposed as the solution for man's sin the sacrifice of His Son. Our God was not surprised by the fall of man, but was fully aware that His loving gift of free will could, and indeed would, result in such. Therefore, as a result of His perfect foreknowledge, He predetermined the perfect solution -- a solution predestined from the foundation of the world. A poet once characterized God's omniscience in these words: "Eternity, with all its years, stands open to Thy view: to Thee, great God, nothing old appears; to Thee there's nothing new." All that is, all that ever will be, was already known before it ever was. For the I AM there are no surprises. That includes the cross.

Our gracious God "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. ... In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time" (Eph. 1:4-10, ESV). Yes, Christ on a cross was planned: a plan revealed unto mankind at the proper time so that the riches of His grace might be fully perceived and fully received by faith. Therefore, we are chosen in the Son before the foundation of the world to be the beloved children of the Father. Through the gift of His Son, the Creator has secured our place with Him throughout eternity (a purpose realized in His own mind prior to the creation itself). Just prior to His arrest, Jesus prayed, "Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world's foundation" (John 17:24). Before a single star was created, before our planet was formed, our Father knew us, loved us, and had secured our place in His eternal home. That place was secured at the cross. And both -- the cross of Christ and the names of all His children -- were eternal realities already realized in the mind of God prior to the creation!

The great tragedy played out in the course of human history, however, is that many men and women will choose to reject God's gift, spurning His love, thereby forfeiting eternal life. Thus, their names will not be recorded in the Lamb's book of life. Before the foundation of the world, the Lamb's book of life was already filled with the names of all those who are God's children. This depicts God's perfect foreknowledge. Just as He knows those who are His (those whose names are recorded in the book of life), so also does He know those who have rejected Him (those whose names are not recorded in the book of life). Rev. 17:8 speaks of "the inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world." Although this statement has troubled some people, nevertheless it reveals God's perfect awareness of who are His and who are not. Before the universe was ever created, God knew. Does this mean there is no free will? Is our eternal destiny predetermined? No. We are free to choose. Such is the depth of His love. However, God knew our choice; He knew it from the beginning. He is, after all, the I AM. "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Heb. 4:13, NIV). Indeed, being outside of the constraints of time/space, He is able to regard "things that are not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17). Thus, He is perfectly aware of all things (including all who are His -- and all who are not) before they were ever created.

With all this in mind, we come to the text of Revelation 13:8. Like the statement in Rev. 17:8, this passage speaks of those whose names are not written in the book of life. Unlike Rev. 17:8, however, we find an additional statement regarding the Lamb that was slain. The book of life is said to belong to this Lamb. There is a qualifying phrase found in Rev. 13:8 (which was also found in Rev. 17:8) that has led to no little debate among scholars. It is the phrase "from the foundation of the world." In Rev. 17:8 it clearly speaks of those whose names are not in the book of life. However, in Rev. 13:8 there are two possible ways to translate and understand this passage. Notice this verse in a couple of well-known versions:

As you can plainly see, there is quite a difference between these two versions as to what specifically existed "from the foundation of the world." Was it the fact that the names of the lost were not recorded in the book of life? Or, was it the fact that the Lamb was slain? Which one reflects the author's true intent? Scholars have been divided over this passage for centuries, and there has been significant debate as to which rendering should be followed. To complicate the matter, both statements are theologically sound and biblically accurate. Rev. 17:8 clearly validates the view that from the foundation of the world some names were not written in the book of life. However, we also know from other NT passages that the reality of the cross predated creation. The apostle Peter, for example, declares that we are redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but was made manifest in the last times for your sake" (1 Peter 1:19-20; cf. Eph. 1:4-10). Even our Bible versions are divided over which is the correct rendering. Some of those placing the phrase with the names not written in the book of life are: American Standard Version ... New Living Translation ... English Standard Version ... New American Standard Bible ... Holman Christian Standard Bible ... Contemporary English Version ... The Message ... Darby Translation ... New English Bible ... Revised Standard Version ... Living Bible. Some of those placing the phrase with the Lamb that was slain are: King James Version ... New King James Version ... New International Version ... Amplified Bible ... Young's Literal Translation ... Wycliffe NT ... Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition ... God's Word Translation ... J. B. Phillips' NT in Modern English ... Alexander Campbell's Living Oracles ... Hugo McCord's NT Translation of the Everlasting Gospel ... (as well as the fact that such versions in the former category as NLT and CEV have footnotes in which this alternate rendering is listed as being equally valid).

Some might suggest that an appeal to the Greek of the original text could be helpful in determining the correct wording, however that does not solve the problem, for "in Greek, either interpretation is grammatically acceptable" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 528]. "Either translation is possible and both points are true, but it is difficult to determine which may have been in the apostle's mind" [Homer Hailey, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 290]. Dr. A. T. Robertson points out that the matter, grammatically, is "doubtful, ... either makes sense" [Word Pictures in the NT, e-Sword]. Contextually, however, the weight of biblical scholarship seems to favor the view that the phrase ("from the foundation of the world") should be understood as referring to the Lamb that was slain. Word order and proximity of the phrase seem to suggest this view more strongly than the other. "The Greek order of words favors this translation. He was slain in the Father's eternal counsels," which thought, "in the Greek, is more obvious and simple" [Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 1565]. Dr. Albert Barnes concurs: "Either construction makes good sense, but it seems to me that what is found in our common version (i.e., the KJV) is the most simple and natural" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. Dr. A. T. Robertson, although he admits the matter is "doubtful," states "the most natural use" is with the Lamb that was slain [Word Pictures in the NT]. "Alford, pertinently as I think, urges the position of the words in favor of the connection with 'slain,' and says that had it not been for the apparent difficulty of the sense thus conveyed, no one would have thought of going so far back as to 'hath been written' for a connection" [Dr. Marvin Vincent, Vincent's Word Studies, e-Sword]. "It is natural to connect the words 'from the foundation of the world' with 'slain,' and not with 'written'" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22, p. 333].

R. C. H. Lenski admits that "commentators debate as to whether they should construe" the phrase in question with those names not written in the book of life or the Lamb that was slain. However, he then rather forcefully urges the reader: "Stop and think a little" [Interpretation of Revelation, p. 400]. Lenski believes that a little common sense will go far here in determining the meaning of Rev. 13:8. "How could there be the Lamb's book of life, so that the name of any of the blessed might be written therein 'from the foundation of the world,' if the Lamb and His having been slain did not extend back before and 'from the foundation of the world'? The old exegetes were right: the Lamb has been slain from the world's foundation" [ibid]. Lenski poetically stated that when God recorded the names of His saved ones in the book of life, "His Son's sacrificial blood was the ink for that writing" [ibid]. In other words, if God's eternal solution for sin was/is the shed blood of His Son, and the names of all the redeemed are recorded in the Lamb's book of life "from the foundation of the world," then of necessity that sacrifice was also "from the foundation of the world." The latter forever secured the former, a reality many scholars feel John is emphasizing in Rev. 13:8. "God has certain things done in time, but to God these things are done as completely before time as on the date in time; this slaying of the Lamb is one of them" [ibid, p. 401]. Thus, sin is not dealt with "backward and forward" from the point in time/space of the literal cross, but rather sin is forever dealt with forward in the sacrifice of the "Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world." Thus, all those who live by faith (in whatever era, from creation to consummation) are covered by the blood of the Lamb, for that offering took place before the creation of the world from the perspective of the Throne!! "The slaying of Christ on Calvary was a fact to God ages before His purpose became realized to men" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22, p. 345].

In other words, "redemption is no after-thought in the arrangements of the universe. Away with such notions! They are repugnant to reason, they are an insult to Omniscience, they are a libel on the Gospel, they are obstructive to Christianity" [ibid, p. 346]. Dr. John Gill (1690-1771), in his "Exposition of the Entire Bible," declared, "Such is the efficacy of the bloodshed and death of Christ, that it reached to all the saints from the beginning of the world for the justification of their persons, the atonement of their sins, and cleansing from them, ... for Old Testament saints from the beginning are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus just as New Testament ones are." The Good News is that we are ALL saved by grace through faith in the gift of the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. Thus, all who live by faith have their names recorded from the foundation of the world in the Lamb's book of life. May our God be praised for His indescribable gift!!

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Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce & Remarriage
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One Bread, One Body
An Examination of Eucharistic
Expectation, Evolution & Extremism

(A 230 page book by Al Maxey)
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Immersed By One Spirit
Rethinking the Purpose and Place of
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Readers' Reflections

From an Army Captain in Afghanistan:

Dear Bro. Al, "Drawing Lines of Fellowship" was another great article. You made such valid points in a very clear and articulate manner. Believe it or not, your Reflections are helping me in my goal to get into shape spiritually. Keep 'em coming, Al, if only so I can be selfish and use them to grow while I am here. I really appreciate you, brother, and can't wait for the next issue of Reflections. By the way, we've been getting tons of snow here!! (LOL)

From a Minister in Illinois:

Brother Al, I truly enjoyed your book One Bread, One Body. It really gave cause for reflection about many of our traditions regarding the Lord's Supper. Chapters one and eight were particularly interesting as they related to the doctrines of transubstantiation and consubstantiation. Thank you!

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Brother Maxey, I'm a former One Cup man, and want to thank you for your excellent articles lately! Keep turning the light on so that the legalists might see, because without the light you are shedding they will never see the Truth. God bless you, brother, and keep up the great work!

From a Minister in Maine:

Brother Al, Your recent Reflections article makes my wife and me very grateful that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and not by a perfect understanding of every passage of Scripture. We appreciate your open-minded presentation of difficult passages. May you and yours know the sweetness of Christ's presence this day!

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Brother Al, In Russian, one curse (although a mild one) is "Chort Vozmi" -- "Let the Devil have it/take it." It could also be used of a person: "Let the Devil have/take him." Just like being without God and excluded from His Glory and Light is "hell," so is being outside the fellowship of the Body like being "turned over to the Devil."

From a Reader in Arizona:

Brother Al, The Corinthians were able to carry out Paul's instruction regarding the immoral man (1 Cor. 5) without his physical presence. What seems remarkable is that the depth of fellowship, even in this four party church, was so strong that the immoral man came to repentance as a result of its withdrawal and his abandonment (2 Cor. 2:5-8). It seems doubtful that withdrawing an arm's-length fellowship would have had such an impact.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I haven't written in a while, but after reading the letters from the readers at the end of your recent article "Sectarianism's C-ism Schism: Upper Case or Lower Case Church?" (Reflections #520), I felt a kinship to many of your readers. Thanks for that article! It's amazing how denominational "we" are when it comes to "church of Christ" as opposed to "Church of Christ." If those who are "conservative" would follow their slogan (creed) of being silent where the Bible is silent, they would admit that no inspired writer used the singular expression "church of Christ." The singular expression they DID use was "church of God" (which they used around eight times). Therefore, following the biblical ratio, maybe we should be known as the "church of God," if we are truly to be "biblical" -- following the "old paths."

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Dear Brother Al, What an interesting topic ("Deliver Them Unto Satan"). It is obvious that the apostles had a divine charge, and they wielded their miraculous powers with wisdom and humility. We have all seen instances where someone does something so blasphemous that we are scared to be near them for fear of lightning striking them dead -- or Satan grabbing them at that instant. While we should not wish evil on any man, turning one over to Satan today is often merely the recognition of the result of that person's own choices. You are correct -- after we have done all we can to help such a person, there comes a point when Christians do have to practice "tough love" in order to save a person from themselves. No true Christian takes any pleasure in this. As an older and hopefully wiser Christian, I no longer secretly enjoy seeing a brother get his "come uppance." Instead, I shudder, even pray for mercy, and long for the moment I can embrace him in his return. I'm sure the apostles dreaded the burden of the awesome task of turning one over to Satan. Thank you, Bro. Al, for once again broaching a very interesting and often overlooked aspect of tough love.

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, I think these two passages about turning someone over to Satan are difficult to comprehend because of our warped view of Satan and the Gothic view of eternal torture. In the "Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous," it states that if someone is not convinced that they are an alcoholic, they should continue to drink until they are convinced. We can only hope and pray they come to their senses before their funeral. I view this action by Paul as very similar. We try to persuade a sinner of the error of their ways, but there comes a time when you just have to "hand them over to Satan." You cannot make someone repent or have a relationship with God. You can only help them to want to do it. I think the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) illustrates this concept perfectly. The son was discontent with the father, so the father let him go. The son, in time, came around and was restored. It's as simple as that. Thank you for your Reflections ministry!!

From a Reader in Washington:

Brother Al, "Deliver Them Unto Satan" was excellent, as usual; also thought-provoking, as usual. I was wondering about a similar "giving over" passage -- Romans 1:24-32. In this case, though, it was God doing the "giving over." Also, it doesn't appear there is any redemption left for these folks. Could that be because it was God who was giving them over to their fleshly desires? Al, Lord willing and the Creek Indians don't rise, I will see you next month at The Tulsa Workshop. I know you will be swamped with people wanting to meet you, but I'd love to share a hot dog with you. Even just saying "Hey," and shaking your hand, would go a long ways with me!! Love ya, brother!

From a Reader in Maryland:

Brother Al, Your Reflections on delivering people to Satan was very interesting to me. Partly because I had never pondered the line "deliver him up to Satan," and partly because I was always taught that "disfellowship" was to punish the erring brother. What interests me here is that anyone I ever saw go through a "formal disfellowship" never came back. Not that I would have either -- for often the spirit in which these things were done wasn't very godly! I've seen people "disfellowshipped" simply because they stopped "going to church." I think serious godly sorrow at having to put someone out is vital to the success of this process, not simply "punishing" someone who doesn't believe or act exactly as I do.

From a Missionary in Vanuatu, South Pacific:

Brother Al, Thank you for your thoughts on a timely basis. Keep up the good work. Also, I would like to get copies of all your books.

From a Reader in Canada:

My Dear Brother Al, I am truly blessed by and amazed at each article you write. With every reading I learn more fully God's will. You are very special, brother: a true gift to us from a loving God. I was happy to see many compare you with Dr. Leroy Garrett. He also is a great writer, and has a very profound understanding of the Scriptures. The two of you have been amazing in your willingness to share your understandings with others. You two have had more influence on my grasp of Scripture than any other biblical writer. I have written to you both over the years, and to my surprise you have both written back. It shocked me that two men of your stature would take the time to even respond to someone like me!! It shows you care about people! I have read the books both of you have written, as well as your other writings, and yet what makes the deepest impression on me is that you both are so genuine, caring, loving, kind and approachable; that you care enough about your readers to actually write back and make them feel like they count for something, even if they are not scholars like you. You both really know how to treat others like Jesus would. For that I love you both!!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, Many years ago I was in the same boat as the "Minister from Tennessee" (the 3rd reader response in your last issue of Reflections who "made the journey from bondage under law into the freedom that Jesus offers"). I wrestled with my conscience the entire time I was in the pulpit condemning the "lost" and "preaching to the choir." His statement, "this was what all 'sound' preachers must do," brought back so many memories. It now churns my stomach to recall some of the things I taught and preached all those years ago! How many souls did I drive away from the Lord? Or perhaps worse: how many did I "guilt" into service, only to have them bitter and confused about the God they were supposed to serve? Oh, if I could only go back in time!

From a Reader in Washington:

Brother Al, I just finished reading your book Immersed By One Spirit. It was wonderful; an easy read, and very thought-provoking. I now want to read your book on the Lord's Supper -- One Bread, One Body. I have long been searching the Bible for answers on the Lord's Supper and Baptism, and have discovered that what I had been taught in the past (I had been in the Churches of Christ) wasn't what I was reading for myself in the Bible. Thanks for what you do for the Kingdom!

Special Notice: -- Stanley W. Paher, a good friend and longtime supporter of my Reflections ministry, has a new book out. It is titled "Biblical Inspiration and the Formation of the New Testament Canon." It is a 282 page softcover book released by Nevada Publications (4135 Badger Circle, Reno, NV 89519 ... phone: 775-747-0800) and sells for $19.95. The Foreword is written by Dr. Barry Perryman, who is the same person who wrote the Foreword for my own new book Immersed By One Spirit. Stanley Paher has done the disciples of Christ a great service in presenting the information in this book on the New Covenant canon and its inspiration and formation. He addresses matters that many have wondered about over the centuries, and he does so with a refreshing insight not often seen. His conclusions may come as a surprise to some, but they are well-documented and well-reasoned. Whether you agree with him or not, you will most certainly be challenged to think and study ... and that's a good thing! Stan will also be at the 2012 Tulsa Workshop, and will have a booth there where he'll be offering this new book, as well as his other works. Drop by and visit with him, and pick up several of his studies. You will be greatly enriched. To contact this brother personally, you may email him at:

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