sermon: The Foundation of the World
Beginnings are Important
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 05-Jan-13; Sermon #1137; 74 minutes
Richard Ritenbaugh observes that people tend to ignore things they do not see at once, having a superficial perspective. Whether we view a painting, architecture, or a NASCAR race, most of us will fail to see the intricate details involved in their assembly or execution. One example of this is the Burj Khalifa, remarkable for its architectural and engineering detail. The foundation of the building, which cannot be seen, supports 500,000 tons, and was based on extensive seismic and geological studies, studies indicating that engineers would have to construct a massive, veritable rock (a rock which would be unseen) in order to support such a massive structure. The more extensive the foundation (something which has the function of supporting something else), the more secure the structure. Foundations can be both literal and metaphorical, referring to actual buildings and systems of morality. The foundations of this world's cultures are not sure, and will be destroyed to make way for God's Kingdom. Jesus Christ is the only secure Foundation upon which we can build, protecting us from life-threatening storms. The Church of God is built upon Christ, the Prophets, and the apostles. We should have the whole counsel of God in the foundation. We need to be careful what we build upon this foundation; some of the construction built by the Worldwide Church of God was seriously flawed by the appending of false doctrine and error, ultimately causing the edifice to collapse. Conformity to law and church authority were over-emphasized, causing people to be judgmental and critical, rather than loving and merciful as Christ demanded. The foundation of the world refers to the time when the plan of Christ was set on its course with reference to the conclusion in eternity. Sometime in the indeterminate past we were chosen, even before the creation of the angels. The Lamb of God was foreord
Apo Artist Atlas Auto racing Axioms Before the foundation of the world Before the time piece was set up in Heaven Body metaphor Built upon apostles and prophets Burj Khalifa Hotel Colossians 3:14 Commonwealth of Israel Compression of building Christ as corner stone Deuteronomy 32:22 Ephesians 1:4; 2:19-22 Eternity I Corinthians 3:9-11 I John 2:16 I Kings 5:17; 6:37 Foundation I Corinthians 10:4; I Peter 1:20 Genesis 1:2 God destroys foundations God's building Habitation of God Hebrews 4:3; 9:26; 11:8-10 Helel Katabalis Kosmu John 13:34-35; 17:4 Law and order Luke 11:50 Mark 10:6 Master painter Matthew 13:24-25; 25:34 Psalm 11:3 Matthew 7:24-25; 16:18; 17 Morality Picking up the pieces Present evil world Pro Rebar Revelation 2:8;17:8 Romans 5:5 Sear's Tower Seven years Solomon's temple Task masters Tenets Transfiguration
I do not know if you have noticed this, but I have, that generally people tend to be both unobservant and incurious. They do not look very deeply at things and they really do not care. They just are very surfacey type of people. In fact, one could go so far as to say that people tend to ignore what they cannot see at once. So you take them down the road, they look at things; they do not really think about what is going on behind the scenes—all they see is what their eyes pick up on the outside.
We tend to lack a lot of imagination too when it comes to what is going on. We just take things at face value so that if we are presented with something like, let us say a famous painting (there is somebody’s name of great repute down there in the lower right-hand corner), most people just see the obvious picture within the frame—they see a lady sitting there with a kind of a funny smile on her face, or they see a couple of boats, or a haystack, or a lily pad, or whatever it happens to be. And that is about as far as it goes (“Oh, aren’t those pretty colors?”).
But they fail to consider the laborious and skillful process that went into painting that. It is not like some of these modern painters that just throw things at a canvas. Some of these ones that were done by the masters in time past took a lot of time to put those paintings together. They layered them with various things; they had to kind of build them up; and of course, the brushwork and everything that goes into it is very intricate. That is why they are masters. Because of all the work, the effort, the time that they took to make a masterpiece—something that will last over a long time.
In the same way (Now, don’t judge me), I know a lot of people who scoff at auto racing fans for these very same reasons. The most common response I get when I say “I just love watching racing”: They will say, “Oh, racing is boring. It’s just a bunch of fast cars, all turning left.” But they really fail to realize the skill and the effort that goes into automobile racing.
I do not want to take a long time on this, but it takes a lot of people, a lot of time, a lot of skill, and a lot of money to prepare those cars (the drivers in NASCAR at least, and the other racing organizations). I know NASCAR drivers are the best in the world as far as auto racing goes and they have a lot of skill behind them. I would like to see you guys go 200 miles an hour into the corner—see where you end up.
And of course, the crew chiefs on the top, with the driver, have to be very skilled in the strategy that they take—when to pit, when to put on tires. And even how they do those things, it is just a matter of seconds (if they shave off one second in the pits, that is a couple of hundred yards out on the race track). There is a lot of little things going on.
But people who are unobservant and incurious will miss those types of things. They just do not put in the effort to see them. Same thing could be said when people look at magnificent buildings that are around the world.
When the Empire State Building was finished, it was a marvel of construction. People were surprised that anybody was able to even pull it off to go up that high in a building. The speed in which they put it up, all the concrete that was used, all the steel that was used, the way they put everything together—it was a remarkable thing. Tallest building in the world at the time.
But a lot bigger buildings have been built since that time all around the world, not just here in the United States; of course, there are other New York City buildings that are bigger than the Empire State Building now—you have the Sears Tower in Chicago (it is called something else now, I cannot remember what it is)—and several in the Far-East (in something like Singapore and what-not) that are just huge buildings.
And of course, the building that is really making headlines these days is the ‘Burj Dubai’ (actually the name has been changed; since it is finished, it is called the ‘Burj Khalifa’). It is the tallest building in the world. People, when they see it—even if you see it on the computer screen and see some of the facets of the building—it is marvelous. Think about its height: 2,717 feet high. That is over a half-mile, right? It is 160 stories high. Can you imagine how long it takes to get up there, even on an elevator? And you look at it, and all you see is glass and steel. Do you know that in the Burj Khalifa, there are 26,000 individual glass panels? That is a lot of glass.
If you sit there and you try to consider what it would take to cool the place, your mind starts to go blank because it takes 10,000 tons of cooling at any one time to keep that place cool because Dubai is very hot. And actually because it is by the ocean, it is a very humid place, and that building is just sitting there exposed to all of that—to the sun and to the humidity and to the wind—and it takes 10,000 tons of cooling. In my house I have got a 2-ton (I think that is what it is; I am not sure). But you can just start to multiply all this out, how much it takes to cool the place. As a matter of fact, to fully electrify Burj Khalifa, it takes 36 Megawatts of electricity. That is just hard to imagine. Who writes the check for that bill every month?
I also thought—because there is a hotel in the place—what would it cost to spend one night at the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa. To get the cheapest room on a weekday in January, which might actually be a high season because it is warm there—it starts at $600 and goes up from there (by the way, no breakfast included in that price). If you want breakfast, you have to go up to one of the suites and you can pay about $1000 for a suite for a weeknight there, and you do get breakfast.
These are some very astounding facts, but they are all kind of surfacey facts.
What about other things that you cannot see—things like the building’s structural design? I mean, it has to be really well-engineered to hold up that big of a building. There is also the fact that it is in a ‘Y’ shape—the whole building is in a ‘Y’ shape—and you might wonder ‘Why?’ Well, the reason is that the ‘Y’ shape helps to handle the wind forces. Each one of the sides of this ‘Y’ shape helps to shield one or both of the other sides, just however that works (I do not know all the physics of it).
The architects, inside the building, used hexagons all over the place because a hexagon is super-strong; it can support a lot of weight. That is what a honeycomb is, it is made up of a lot of hexagons; and they have taken that from nature and learned how they could use it to build these huge buildings and support all that weight.
Did you know the architects added four millimeters of height on each floor because they were compensating for the eventual compression of the building? Burj Khalifa weighs 500,000 tons. Even though they did all that work with the ‘Y’ and the hexagons and everything to make this weight supportable, it is still going to compress, and they figured 4 millimeters of floor was about right. So they added it so that when it starts to compress a little bit, that it will also be the same height.
Now this fact brings us to the most unappreciated part of the Burj Khalifa: the foundation. You cannot see the foundation at all. Foundation is underground. You would have to actually dig to see it. Yet, without it, the rest of the building could not exist. All 500,000 tons rests on that foundation. Without the foundation being what it is, it would soon begin to sink one way or the other and topple over, unlike the Leaning Tower of Pisa which has somehow remained upright with a bad foundation. But this building would—at 500,000 tons. In reality, it would never have been built without a foundation like this. So what we find is that a foundation is absolutely essential to a building. Nothing occurs before it, nothing occurs without it.
Now the foundation of Burj Khalifa was based on extensive geotechnical and seismic studies. They had to get the science right first. And what they found was that they would have to, literally, construct a rock to support it because it is right there on the coast and they found that the rock underneath it would not support it properly. So they had to build a rock.
So the super-structure of Burj Khalifa (that is everything above ground) stands on a 12-foot-thick reinforced concrete mat which was constructed in four separate pours of concrete, totaling over 16,000 cubic yards of concrete. So this huge mat, 12 feet thick, is what is underneath the super-structure totaling 16,000 cubic yards of concrete. Now the mat itself is supported by 192 bored, reinforced concrete piles. So they drilled down into the native rock there and bored out these holes, and then they reinforced it with rebar all the way down. These bores are 5 feet in diameter. That is pretty big—5 feet all the way through the center, which means they are 15 feet around roughly. So they are 5 feet across, about 15 feet along the perimeter, and they are over 140 feet long. So 5 feet across, 140 feet long—192 of these bored and reinforced.
A certain kind of concrete was made just for this building. It is high-density and low permeability. So that means it is very dense, very heavy, and the water cannot get in. But what is astounding to me is that in this foundation (the mat and the bored concrete piles): 58,900 cubic yards of this concrete. It is hard to even imagine how much concrete that is, but like I said, they had to build, basically, a rock to support this huge building. To me, the Burj Khalifa foundation is simply incredible; it is almost to the point of unbelievable. But it has to be, to support that big of a building.
And that is the way of all foundations. They are unseen; they are essential beginnings, and supports of all that come after. Whether it is the foundation of a building or whether it is the foundation of an institution, or of a government, or of a dynasty, or really, of anything, the foundation sets the tone for everything that follows.
So the foundation of a thing is absolutely critical to its beginnings. And it is not just a thing, but any kind of endeavor—it has to be founded, it has to be started, it has to be begun in the best way. And the more perfect the foundation, the higher the potential of what is built on it.
So, to use the example of Burj Khalifa, if they had built anything less than the perfect foundation for that building, they could not have done it. They could have gone only so high, so heavy, and it would have been a ruined project.
So today we are going to look at the subject of foundations, generally at first. I want to cover basically what the Bible says about foundations. But later on we are going to concentrate on a particular phrase in Scripture that uses the word ‘foundation’ and that is ‘the foundation of the world.’
There has been perhaps, in some minds, some confusion about what this phrase means—‘the foundation of the world’—and in the church, I think, especially. So I hope we can clear that up and have a better understanding of the ten places that it appears in the New Testament.
As we begin here, let us define ‘foundation’ in English. ‘Foundation’ means ‘a basis’—as in tenet, principle, or axiom—upon which something stands. So you have a principle that stands under or that supports a philosophy, let us say.
It is also an underlying base or support. This is where we would probably put the idea of a foundation of a building—it is an underlying base or support. It is also a body or a ground upon which something is built up or overlaid. So this is a sort of thing that says, ‘undergarments are the foundation of one’s attire’; or, in makeup, you use a base as a foundation for one’s additional makeup. So it is a body or ground upon which something is built up or overlaid.
If we extrapolate from these three definitions—that is, a basis upon which something stands, like an idea; an underlying base or support; or a body or ground upon which something is built up or overlaid—we see that the word describes both literal foundations, like the foundation of a building, or anything that requires a base to support it—even like an easel is the foundation for the board that is put on it.
But foundations also have a figurative or non-physical sense, as we saw there in the first definition—the foundation of an idea or a philosophy; the foundation of a moral code or a religion. You have foundations of society (we will see a verse about this in just a few minutes). Even purposes and plans have foundations, and this is a big one which we will talk about quite a bit later on.
So, generally, a foundation (if you want a very simple definition) is what underlies and supports something else.
We are going to start our investigation in the Bible in Deuteronomy 32. I think that is a funny place to start. It is part of one of those songs of Moses that I mentioned at the Feast the year before, and this is of course a prophecy of Israel that Moses gives to the children of Israel just before he dies. Of course, Moses writes it but it is really God speaking to Israel. Essentially it tells of the fact that God gives everything to Israel and Israel just kind of spurns them, and so He has to punish them very badly.
Deuteronomy 32:36 For the Lord will judge His people and [then] have compassion on His servants.
So it is not going to be a judgment that ends in their annihilation, but eventually He is going to bring them back to Him.
But we want verse 22. This is the first mention of ‘foundation’ in the Bible.
Deuteronomy 32:22 For a fire is kindled in My anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell; it shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
I think this is a really interesting first mention. When I saw it I thought, “Wow, that’s kind of neat.”
It shows God in His great wrath against Israel. He is mad at them. He is angry at their defection from Him, at their disobedience, at their unwillingness to listen to Him, that He destroys the whole earth down to the foundations of the mountains. It is a metaphor, you could say, of just how angry He is at Israel, and the depth of His anger at them because they failed time and time and time again to listen to Him.
This is kind of interesting that when the Bible talks about foundations being destroyed (here it is ‘the foundations of the mountains’ being destroyed)—foundations of anything, especially in the Old Testament—that He is talking about God judging. God is the one that destroys foundations. And what it shows here, in verse 22, is that God is being shown as more powerful than the most solid and stable of all things—the foundations, the roots of mountains. Of course He is. He is Creator. He made them. He can destroy them just as easily.
But it is showing Israel just who they are dealing with here: the One (their God) who is able to, just with a thought, obliterate the most stable of things—the mountains. We think of mountains as being so solid and sure and unmovable, but God can, just with a flick of His wrist, it says here, set it on fire all the way down to its foundations. So that should give you a shiver up your spine about the God we are dealing with.
That is enough on that. Let us move forward a little bit in the Bible, to I Kings 5.
I thought it was interesting there, in Deuteronomy 32, that in this case foundations are in some way compared to the strength of God; the judgment of God; the sovereignty of God, you might say; the control that He has over all things; the government that He has; and His willingness to judge to this extent to get people to change.
This, in I Kings 5, is the literal use of foundations. We are talking about Solomon and the building of the Temple here.
I Kings 5:17 And the king commanded them to quarry large stones, costly stones, and hewn stones, to lay the foundation of the temple.
So Solomon went to all expenses here. I mean, he got the very best for the foundation of the Temple and had his workers hew all these large costly stones to lay on the foundation of the Temple so that the Temple had the surest, best foundations that it could have.
Okay, let us go to the next chapter.
I Kings 6:37-38 In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, in the month of Ziv [which the margin says is April-May time]. And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul [which is October-November], which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its details and according to all its plans. So he was seven years in building it.
So this is the physical side of foundations. There are real foundations and the Bible uses them for various teaching devices. As an example here, God’s house has a foundation, and it has got a foundation of very large stones, very costly stones. Solomon, we see here, took great care to make sure that not only the foundation was set right, but he took his time also on doing the superstructure so that it took seven years to build the full Temple—and seven years is an interesting number as well. That is the perfect complete time that it took to finish God’s house.
Let us move on a little bit. Go to Psalm 11. This is the scripture I mentioned before about the foundations of society. We are getting into another non-literal use of the word ‘foundation.’ This is a psalm of David, and he is in trouble. You will find in verse 1:
Psalm 11:1-2 In the Lord I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”? For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
He is going through his problems there, probably with Saul, early on in his life and then he says in verse 3:
Psalm 11:3-4 If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? [And he answers it in verse 4] The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
So God is in control. He is there. You have to have faith in Him even if the foundations are being destroyed.
The indication here is that the foundations that David is talking about are things like law and order, morality that are being undercut by the present administration (I am speaking about Saul—those things that were happening in his time) that were causing David and those righteous to wonder what they can do. It is kind of a rhetorical question.
When these things are being stripped down to nothing (law and order and the moral code and all those things) and the righteous are ‘one here, two there, another one way over here’—they are under oppression; they have no power, no strength—what can they do? And the answer of course is: Look to God because He is behind all this.
Remember what I said: When foundations are being destroyed, God is judging, and so what we saw in history in the time of Saul, God was judging. Things in Israelite society were not great and Saul was put on the throne in order to help with matters, but he went south just like the rest of Israel and he was persecuting the righteous—David and his people. So what could they do? They had to trust in God.
And so God was turning society over, it was taking place, and we know from the history of David that things were turned right again by God. He raised a righteous king—David—Himself and things went okay for a while.
Of course, it is a type of what is going to happen at the end time that God will raise up a righteous King and this time it will work because it is the Son of David—the Branch—who is going to come and set His Kingdom up. And all that is going on now will be just a memory. But we have to go through this now and we have to prove our faith in God.
So this is the idea going on here, that the foundations of this world are not sure and they can be ripped out from under us in a wink, it seems like (it is really not because these things or processes take some time). But we know that God is working. He is trying to get us primarily ready for His Kingdom and He is moving His plan along. Sometimes it is the destroying of foundations that needs to happen in order to move that plan along. So He is at work.
So the foundations here are those things that undergird the culture and give it stability—so a non-literal usage.
Let us leave the Old Testament and go into the New.
We are going to go to Matthew 7 (part of the Sermon on the Mount) where Jesus, very early on in His ministry, speaks about a very vital principle about foundations. This is how He ends His sermon. It is the last thing that people are thinking about when it is over.
Matthew 7:24-25 Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock [maybe we should capitalize that ‘rock’ there]: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
Here we have another use of a foundation, and this time Christ says that He is the rock. If we hear what He teaches and we do what He teaches (remember, it has got to be both; you cannot just hear it and do nothing. You have to hear it and do it. You have to place it in your lives and live by it)—if we do these things—we are building on a rock. It is a solid firm invisible foundation—the very best that there is.
We could go to Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says that His church is built on the great ‘Petra’ (the great craggy ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ type of thing)—Himself. Not Peter (he is the ‘Petros’; he is a little rock, he is the stone). That ‘Petra’ (the big rock) is Christ and that is what the church is founded upon.
We also have I Corinthians 10:4 that says that the rock that went with the Israelites was Christ. He was that rock that took them through the wilderness.
So we have these three mentions here of Christ as the rock. He is the sure foundation. And if we are built on Him, if we fashion our lives on His teaching and we do them, then we can endure the storms that come up and prevail against them. We will remain after the storm blows away. But we will only remain if we are built on the Rock. Otherwise we will get beaten down in the storm and be swept away, which is the other half of the parable there.
We are not finished here.
Let us go to Ephesians 2. These verses say much the same thing. But I wanted just to show that this was in another place in Scripture—in the New Testament—that not just Jesus preached this, but Paul did as well.
Ephesians 2:19-22 Now, therefore. . .
This is a concluding statement to what he had been talking about earlier in the chapter. He says:
Ephesians 2:19-22 Now, therefore, you [meaning the members of the church of God] are no longer strangers and foreigners. . .
He is primarily talking to the Gentiles because they had been at one point strangers and foreigners, and he said that they were not a part of the commonwealth of Israel. But they had been brought into spiritual Israel by the blood of Christ. That middle wall that had separated them had been taken out of the way. And so in Christ they are now allowed to come into (spiritual) Israel. So:
Ephesians 2:19-22 . . . but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a [habitation] of God in the Spirit.
So we are members of God’s house, we have been put into the house of God. This brings up a metaphor of a building in Paul’s mind, saying that we have been built on (this house has been built on) the foundation—that underlying thing that you really cannot see because it is underground but it is there supporting what comes after—and that foundation is made up of the writings of the apostles and the writings of the prophets but Jesus Christ Himself is the big cheese, as it were. He is the main load-bearing stone, the costly precious stone, the Rock on which these others sit.
The apostles and the prophets are on top of Christ because He is the One underneath supporting it all. If you do not mind a mythological reference, He is ‘Atlas’ holding everything up in the church. He is under everything, in the way we are looking at it here. He is the chief cornerstone.
The chief cornerstone in a building at the time was the big rock that the whole weight of the building rested upon. If something were to happen to that chief cornerstone, the whole building would fall. It is the largest rock, the strongest rock—the one that is under everything else. And so we are built on top of that—upon the apostles and the prophets—as the superstructure, and the whole building, it says in verse 21, is joined together in Christ.
It is like, not only is He the chief cornerstone underlying everything but He is joining everything with Himself in the whole building. I almost get this idea of great arms or whatever coming up from the foundation and just infusing every part of the building and holding it together.
Ephesians 2:21 “. . . the whole building being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
Of course, we have got to think at this point about the body metaphor—that we are Christ’s body. This is where it comes in best to us, I think we can see it better—that the whole body is Christ and we are in Him. See, it is turned upside down—in the body metaphor, He is the Head controlling everything. I hope I am not confusing you going between these two.
But they both show different facets of this union we have with Christ. We are His body, we are His building. And He underlies us (in the building metaphor) and supports us and infuses us so that we all grow together in one building. In the body metaphor, He is the top, He is the controlling Head, and we are His body and we are in Him.
So they are both saying the same thing but just coming from little bit different angles and showing us different spiritual truths.
Through it all, it says in verse 22, we are a habitation of God in the Spirit. The Spirit of God just infuses everything and brings us all together in a unity—whether you think of it in terms of a building or in terms of a body. That is what binds us all together. You could say that is the glue, the cement that keeps everything tight and one—unified.
So, getting back to what it says in verse 20 there about being built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, we see here that Paul is showing us that the church of God is built on Christ first of all (the sayings of Christ, what Christ taught) and included in that, on top of Him, are the inspired writings of the prophets in the Old Testament and the later inspired writings of the apostles in the New Testament.
So we cannot leave any one of those out. It is not just the gospels that we follow although that is the primary thing because it is the direct words of Christ. Those are the things that we have to follow first. But it is also the commentary of the apostles and their working with the church, and it is also what the prophets were inspired to teach in the Old Testament.
We cannot throw away the Old Testament. We cannot throw away James or Jude or Revelation or whatever because they are part of the foundation. We have to have the whole counsel of God in the foundation. We have to have everything between the two covers of your Bible. You cannot just throw things out willy-nilly because Jesus says, in Matthew 4:4, we have to live by every Word of God.
So we could say, as I just mentioned, that our foundation in the church of God includes the whole Word of God. But Christ is the primary basis in the foundation, the primary stone, the big Rock. He is the most important Prophet. He is the most important Apostle. So His teaching underlies all other spiritual truth. And as I mentioned in a sermon I gave a couple of years ago, what He said was the priority.
If we ever have a question about what Paul said on a subject or what Moses or somebody else said on a subject, go find out what Jesus said on the subject. That is what we follow. There is not going to be a contradiction; there just may be a misunderstanding the way we are looking at it. Because Paul is going to agree with Christ and Moses is going to agree with Christ. But we have to always give Christ the priority when it comes to any kind of misunderstanding that we may have. So that is our foundation. Christ first as the Chief Cornerstone, and then the apostles and the prophets and their inspired writings.
Let us go back a few pages to I Corinthians 3. Probably figured I would go to I Corinthians at some point. Getting to be my book, I really like this book just for what it can teach.
I Corinthians 3:9-11 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
This is a very interesting part of scripture here. As I think about it more and more, I get more out of it.
Paul says here that he laid the foundation for the Corinthian church. And we can put it in another way: He preached the gospel that Christ brought. That was the foundation that he laid there in Corinth. And he warns them, “Watch out how other people build on it.” He said, “I did my job. I built on it properly. I gave you the straight truth that Christ taught me.”
So he has told them to be careful, what they allow themselves to learn on top of that. They needed to be careful because some might teach something that is against the foundation—that does not go with the foundation—and it can cause problems.
Then he goes on and talks about, that some are going to build on it good things (gold, silver, precious stones) but others are going to build bad things (wood, hay, straw). Some of them will endure. Some of them will not endure. So you need to be really careful about what goes on top of that foundation.
And he says very interestingly, if any other kind of foundation is laid—any kind of foundation that does not faithfully convey the true gospel that Christ brought—it is flawed (this other foundation) and it will not support what is built on it. It will not support the truth. In fact, it may not even be Christianity if it is some other foundation. No true Christianity certainly. But it will be some kind of imitation, some counterfeit, some knock-off. And it will fail.
Now some people in the church may not like what I am about to say because it is critical. I do not often get critical.
But I am going to be historically critical about the Worldwide Church of God and I am not trying to be critical of Herbert Armstrong. I am not going to be critical of anyone in particular. But I think what I am going to say is irrefutable in some degree. What I want to say is what was built over the years on the foundation that was laid in the Worldwide Church of God was flawed. Perhaps I can even go so far as to say that at some point the Worldwide Church of God paid little heed to some vital parts of the foundation—the real foundation.
Clearly, something was wrong. We can look back historically and say definitely something was wrong because the Worldwide Church of God did not endure. It fell.
Remember the parable—if it is built on the rock, it is going to weather the storms but if it is built on the sands, it is going to fall and great will be the ruin thereof? There must have been something wrong in something in the church. The winds of false doctrine blew that church apart and many fled from it to avoid being destroyed in its collapse.
Now I am not saying that the truth was not preached in the Worldwide Church of God; I am not saying that whatsoever at all—I am not. But there was some flaw that came into the church at some point and it made the church fail.
Now, of course, we know that God was involved in all this. So I am not saying that it happened without His approval in any way or that Satan did it. I am just saying there was something wrong in the foundation somewhere or in what was built on that foundation because history shows that it failed. And of course, it is human. It was made up of human people. Human people are people full of sin, there is error, and so we could expect that to happen at some point.
Frankly, Matthew 13, I believe, shows that that is the way it works throughout church history. That is why I gave those sermons on the parables so long ago because I feel that Matthew 13 is prophetic about the way the church will be throughout the time between the resurrection of Christ and His return.
So something was wrong there in the Worldwide Church of God. Now this is my opinion. But I believe that the problem was conformity to law and church authority—it was overemphasized. My feeling is that the flaw in it was conformity to law and church authority was overemphasized.
Not that law-keeping is bad. Law-keeping is good; God tells us to keep His commandments, and I believe that one hundred percent. We should keep God’s law. But like the Pharisees, law-keeping became a matter of pride. We were trying to see who could be the best law-keepers rather than trying to love God by keeping His law. There is a big difference. This idea of law-keeping and the task masters that it produced became a burden to the church, and it drove many people away.
We have failed in the church (I am including myself in this even though I was fairly young—but I am including myself in this). We failed to follow Christ’s saying that He desires mercy more than sacrifice. He says that Matthew 12:7. Because what happened was people became judgmental about other people’s keeping of God’s law rather than patiently giving them a chance to grow.
Paul teaches in I Corinthians 13:8 that love never fails. That was what was missing in many cases—the love of the brethren for one another; the patience, the forbearance, the helping hand. Colossians 3:14 says love is the bond of perfection. If we had more love, perhaps would we have been able to stick together better. Of course, God is working. But that is what the scripture says, that love is that bond that holds us together, completes us, and perfects us.
But I should also say that it is the love of God poured out in our hearts by God’s Spirit that does this. It is not our love; it is the love of God that we allow God to give us that we can then project out to others—that is Romans 5:5. It was one of Mr. Armstrong’s favorite scriptures that toward the end of his life he was always talking about the love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. That is what we did not show as much as we should have. It was part of the foundation that we underemphasized.
Now I understand why Mr. Armstrong, in the beginning, really emphasized the law over love. Because he was coming out of a Protestant tradition that over-emphasized love and he could see the problems that that caused—people were not obeying Christ, their lives were a mess, they were not doing what God wanted them to do. But I think it tilted the other way too far so that we missed God’s love in many respects toward one another.
What happened? When the Worldwide Church of God shattered, not very many pieces stuck together. So many people ended up back in the world and the groups that we have are very small in comparison. We are, in a sense, still picking up the pieces. And I think we can go back to this idea of foundations as the reason why there was a problem. There was something at the very beginning of things that was not quite right and it took 50-60 years for it to come out, but eventually did.
Unfortunately, many ministers in the Worldwide Church of God used the law as a whip instead of as God’s loving standard and guide for life and people are still resentful of the ministry (then and—in some cases—now) because they think they used their authority too much and did not show the love of God. So I am sure God allowed this to happen so that we can learn lessons like this and then be able to apply His law and His love far better as we go forward.
In foundational terms, if you want to put it that way—in terms of like Burj Khalifa—we had too much rebar and not enough concrete. The rebar rusted and became brittle and it could not withstand the stresses of the doctrinal storm that came. The Worldwide Church of God fell in great ruin and it is still in ruin. So our own church history shows us how important it is to get the foundation right.
Christ’s teaching is primary, and then the apostles’ and the prophets’ inspired instruction. We should have known this.
It says right there in Matthew 17 when, in the Transfiguration, we see Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah, and Peter says “Hey, let’s make three tabernacles” and God says “Shut up, Peter!” It says, while he was still speaking, God interrupted him and said, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.”
Jesus is greater than Moses and Elijah and—we can add—He is greater than Peter and Paul and Jude and James and all the others. He is first.
And we should have recognized one of the most well-known scriptures in all of the Bible (John 13:34-35—Jesus says that you will know My disciples because they love one another even as I have loved you). And we have not seen enough of it.
I will now get off my soapbox. But I really wanted to show that the foundation is very important. You have got to get that right. As human beings, we are never going to get it right but we can try our best, from this time forward, to have the proper priorities here—priorities of Christ and of doing what He said first rather than trying to overemphasize one thing or the other.
I think we can, in the next few minutes, get on to ‘foundation of the world’ because it is actually not as complicated as one might think.
The Greek phrase ‘foundation of the world’ is ‘katoboles kosmou.’ The phrase can also be translated ‘beginning of the universe’ or ‘creation of the world’. Just the word ‘katobole’ means the laying down or the founding of anything. The word literally means ‘to cast down’ or ‘to throw down.’ See the word ‘bole’ in there? What do you do with a ball? You throw a ball. Well, ‘katoboles’ means ‘to cast down’ or ‘to throw down.’ So what it implies, in terms of a foundation—when you cast down a foundation—it means the absolute beginning of a thing. That is when you start; you start at the foundation.
So, ‘foundation of the world’, in general, was the time when God set history on its course and when the plan of salvation through Christ was conceived (not the whole plan but one of its parts was set in motion). The context of these things is very important when you see them.
Let us go through these ten. We can do it very quickly. Three times in Scripture, in the New Testament, this phrase—‘katoboles kosmou’ (foundation of the world)—is the object of the preposition ‘pro’. Three times. Jesus says in His prayer in John 17:
John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
Ephesians 1:4 Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
I Peter 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
Did you notice that in each of these three cases it was ‘before the foundation of the world’? That is what the preposition ‘pro’ in Greek means; it means ‘before’.
Use of the preposition ‘pro’ before this phrase signifies that the writer is considering eternity in some form. It is a very indeterminate time before time. It is a rather vague thing. It just means ‘eternity past’. It is kind of ambiguous, I know, but that is what it means. It is a time before we can even give you a time.
Time began when God created the heavenly bodies and set them in motion so that we could tell time. So He put the sun up there so we could tell days and years. That is what it says in Genesis 1:14-19. He tells us there that He made these lights in the heaven to be for signs and seasons and for days and years, and so that is when time began—when He set these things in motion on the fourth day.
So this phrase used here in John 17, Ephesians 1, and I Peter 1 is saying that it is some time before the timepiece was set up in the heavens—some time before time. That is thus eternity past. So that is what it means. ‘Before the foundation of the world’ suggests some time before creation—the physical creation.
Using this understanding then, on these three verses, we understand that the Father loved the Son from eternity. That is what He said in John 17:24: that He loved Him before the foundation of the world. It goes all the way back, and we do not know how far back it went. As a matter of fact, it probably never began. He has always loved the Son; that is, the Father has always loved the Son and the Son has always loved the Father. It is just the way it has always been.
The next one is the one in Ephesians 1:4 that says that we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, which means that some time in the indeterminate past before creation, God chose us either individually, specifically, or as a group as the body of Christ that He would put together a church. More likely it is individually; that He had such foresight that He could see how things were going to go that He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Before there was time, He had us in mind and it goes way way back. We do not understand this. But that is what Paul says here that in the time before time He chose us in Christ.
The other one here in I Peter is that the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, was foreordained before the foundation of the world to be our Redeemer; that He was to be our Savior and He was chosen for this job or He was set apart for this job (that is what ‘foreordained’ means—we know that Jesus volunteered to be the one to do this). So He was ordained at that time, way before time began.
So all these things tell us that God’s plan was in Their minds for a long long time—we cannot even call it time—for eternity. It has been there forever, as far as we are concerned, and it goes before the creation of the angels and therefore before Satan’s fall because the angels, including Satan, are part of the plan. God knew how things would work. He made angels to be His servants and our fellow servants, helping us towards salvation, and Satan was one of them, Helel. But he rebelled and God used that because He knew that He would have a rebellious angel like that. He is so far ahead of us in His thinking that we cannot understand it. But these things—this ‘before the foundation of the world’—is reaching as far back in time as we can imagine.
The other seven—they are the object of the preposition ‘apo’ and that means ‘from’. And when these are used, it means that there is a starting point and it is from that starting point and then forward into the future from that point.
So I am just going to give these to you. Matthew 13. This is talking about Jesus speaking in parables. He says:
Matthew 13:35 I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
This next one is in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
Matthew 25:34 The King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Luke 11:50 . . . the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation.
The blood of the prophets has been shed since the foundation of the world.
Hebrews 4:3 says that God rested because all His works were finished from the foundation of the world.
Hebrews 9:26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world.
Talking about sin. If He was not who He was, then He would have had to suffer often, but it says “Christ”—in verse 28—“was offered once to bear the sins of many.” So He did not have to suffer often, from the foundation of the world, when sin occurred. He just had to suffer once.
And then we have two in Revelation.
Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him [meaning, the beast], whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
And then in Revelation 17—this is a similar one:
Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
So here we have seven uses of ‘foundation of the world’ with ‘apo’ meaning ‘from.’
Now Mark 10:6 gives us the understanding of what this is.
Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’
That is essentially what this phrase ‘from the foundation of the world’ means: From the beginning of the Creation—the sense of this implying the time of Genesis 1:2 onward. Some people think that it would go all the way back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” but I think this is just dithering. Most of these occurrences deal with the creation of man, in particular, and his subsequent actions that put aspects of God’s plan into motion.
So the instruction of God that began to be revealed to mankind was revealed after man was created, and that was not completed until Christ and the apostles. So these things have been revealed ‘from’ the foundation of the world.
The creation of mankind also set in motion all the preparations for the inheritance of the saints—because you cannot have an inheritance for the saints unless there are saints, and they, the saints, began with the creation of man in the Garden of Eden. So that part of the plan became possible. It was not long after the creation of man that God’s prophets began to be killed. Think of Abel. Cain killed him right after Creation. And so all the blood of the prophets—Jesus says—was put on the head of that generation that he was living in at the time.
The works that are mentioned in Hebrews 4:3 (that God rested from His works and they were finished from the foundation of the world), he is talking about His physical creation—the works that He had done in the seven days of creation. So His physical creation was then finished and He then rested on the Sabbath, and He created the Sabbath.
Hebrews 9:26 and the two occurrences in Revelation are specifically speaking about the foundation of this present evil world, as Mr. Armstrong always talked about—the cosmos (the world under the dominion and the influence of Satan that began when Adam sinned). That was also at creation.
Adam put himself under Satan at that point and created this present evil world for mankind. So since then all men except for those whom God has specifically called, those who are written in the Book of Life, have followed in the course of this world. They have followed this course of sin.
I John 2:16 tells us that this world was founded on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and the next verse says that it is passing away. Why? Look at what it was founded on. It was founded on sin—on lust, on vanity, on pride. And since the foundation of this present evil world is rotten, it cannot stand for long. So we wait for that day when Christ will establish His Kingdom built on a perfect foundation.
So let us conclude then in Hebrews 11.
Hebrew 11:8-10 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would [afterward] receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt [sojourned] in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with [of] him of [in] the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Like the father of the faithful, we too are waiting for a city—the New Jerusalem—which has divine foundations, meaning that the Architect, the Engineer, and the Builder is God Himself. He is making all things perfectly. And the foundations of that city are pure and true. They are strong and enduring so much so that it will never crack, it will never crumble, but will last in true integrity for all eternity.
So as much as lies within in us, let us stand together on this sure foundation.