THE SEPTENARY ARRANGEMENT OF SCRIPTURE*

 

By ARLEN L. CHITWOOD

 

[* The following writing can be found in the author's book: FROM EGYPT TO CANAAN.]

 

DAYS IN SCRIPTURE

 

The structure of God's revelation to man will be set forth briefly under three headings, and material discussed under these three headings will relate specifically to how particular sections of Scripture handle the matter at hand.  Then attention will be called to other related Scriptures outside these sections to better present the overall picture from the whole of Scripture.

 

1. THE SIGN OF THE SABBATH

 

The Sabbath was a sign of "a perpetual covenant."  God stated concerning the Sabbath, "It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed" (Exodus 31: 16, 17).  When giving the Sabbath to Israel (cf. Exodus 20: 11) or referring to the Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God in Hebrews, in each instance, for a very good reason, God called attention to that which occurred in Genesis 1, 2There is a latter work of restoration, followed by rest, which is based on the former; and the Sabbath was given to Israel to keep this thought ever before the nation.

 

That is, though the sign of the Sabbath concerned a present work and future rest, it was based on a past work and rest.  God worked six days to restore* a ruined creation in the opening chapter of Genesis; and on the sixth day, along with the completion of His work of restoration, He brought man into existence to rule over the restored material creation.  Then God rested on the seventh day.  But a ruin ensued once again.  Man, an entirely new creation in the universe, fell; and, as a result, the restored material creation was brought under a curse, leaving God with two ruined creations: man, and the material creation.

 

[* NOTE. The Hebrew word "Hayah," translated "was" in most English versions in Genesis 1: 2 ("and the earth was"), can also be translated "became".

Hebrew scholars see the word ("hayah") used in the sense of "to be," "to become," or "to come to pass.

In the Latin vulgate there are thirteen instances where hayah has been translated in the sense of "became" in Genesis chapter one alone (the word appears 27 times in the chapter); and in the Septuagint there are 22 such instances in this one chapter.

Scripture will support only one view in Genesis 1: 2a: "And the earth was ("became") without form, and void; and darkness was ("became" -word not in Hebrew text, though implied from the first verb) upon the face of the deep."] 

 

With that in mind, how did God, in the Genesis account, set about to restore these two ruined creations?  The answer is not only clearly revealed but it is also very simple.  According to Scripture, God set about to restore the subsequent ruined creations in exactly the same manner as He had restored the former ruined creation in the opening chapter of Genesis.  He set about to restore the ruined creations over six days of time, and He, in accord with Genesis 2: 2, 3, would then rest on the seventh day.

 

The latter restoration must occur in complete keeping with the former restoration.  A pattern has been set in the opening verses of Genesis which cannot change.  The latter restoration must occur over a six-day period.  And also in accord with this pattern there must be a day of rest following the six days of work.

 

The Sabbath was given to Israel to keep the thought ever before the nation that God, in accord with the opening verses of Genesis, was going to once again rest for one day following six days of work to effect the restoration of that which is presently in a ruined state (both man and the material creation).  The Sabbath was a "sign," and a sign in Scripture points to something beyond itself.  The Sabbath points to a seventh-day rest which God will enter into with His people ("the people of God" in Hebrews 4: 9) following six previous days of restorative work.

 

Each day in the former restoration and rest was twenty-four hours in length, but each day in the latter restoration and rest is revealed to be one thousand years in length (2 Peter 1: 16-18; 3: 3-8; cf. Matthew 16: 28-17: 5).  Based on the pattern set forth in Genesis 1, 2, God is going to work for six thousand years during the present restoration and then rest the seventh one-thousand-year period.

 

Scripture begins by laying the basis for this septenary arrangement of time in the opening verses (Genesis 1, 2), this is something seen throughout Scripture (Exodus 31: 13-17; Numbers 19: 12; Hosea 5: 15-6: 2; Jonah 1: 17; Matthew 17: 1; Luke 24: 21; John 1: 29, 35, 43; 2: 1; 5: 9; 9: 14; 11: 6,7; Hebrews 4: 1, 4, 9), and this is the way God concludes His revelation surrounding time immediately prior to the eternal ages (Revelation 20: 4-6).

 

Scripture deals with 7,000 years of time - time extending from the restoration of the earth and the creation of man to the end of the Messianic Kingdom.  Scripture has very little to say about what occurred prior to these 7,000 years, and it has very little to say about what will occur following these 7,000 years. Scripture is built on this septenary arrangement of time, which is based on the opening two chapters of Genesis; and this is an evident fact which must be recognized if one would correctly understand God's redemptive plans and purposes which He has revealed in His Word.

 

2. THE SIGNS IN JOHN'S GOSPEL

 

The Gospel of John is built around seven signs; and, as in the sign of the Sabbath, the signs in this gospel point to things beyond the signs themselves.

 

It is the Jews who require a sign (1 Corinthians 1: 22); and these signs, taken from numerous signs which Jesus performed during His earthly ministry, are directed (as was His ministry in that day) to the Jewish people.  Jesus performed such signs for one central purpose: "... that ye [the Jews] might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20: 30, 31; cf. John 2: 11; 5: 46, 47; 6: 14, 21; 11: 45).

 

Six of the seven signs in John's gospel were performed in connection with particular days, all in perfect keeping with one another, all in perfect keeping with the sign of the Sabbath, and all in perfect keeping with the septenary arrangement of Scripture.  And all of the signs refer, after different fashions, to the same thing.  They all refer to Israel's coming salvation and restoration.

 

The first sign, in John 2: 1-11, has to do with Jesus turning the water in six waterpots to wine ("six," man's number; the waterpots made from the earth, as man; filled with water [the Word]; and through Divine intervention a change ensues).  This sign, pointing to the future salvation of Israel, occurred on the seventh day (1: 29, 35, 43; 2: 1), which is when Israel will be saved yet future.

 

The second sign, in 4: 40-54, has to do with the healing of a nobleman's son.  This sign occurred after Jesus had spent two days with the Samaritans, on the third day (verses 40, 43).  It will be after two days visiting "the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name," on the third day, that Jesus will return to the Jewish people and the nation will be healed (cf. Hosea 5: 15- 6: 2; Acts 15: 14-18).

 

The third sign, in 5: 1-9, has to do with a man being healed.  This occurred after thirty eight years, on the Sabbath (verses 5, 9).  The reference (in the type) would be to the healing of the nation through the second generation of Israelites being allowed to enter the land under Joshua after thirty-eight years (dating from the overthrow at Kadesh-Barena), referring to that time (in the antitype) when the nation will be healed and be allowed to enter the land under Christ, an event which will occur on the seventh day, the Sabbath.

 

The fourth sign, in 6: 1-14, has to do with bread being provided for the multitudes; and the sign occurred in connection with the Passover (verse 4).  Jesus is the "bread of life" which will be provided for the nation yet future (verse 35), and the Passover is the festival in Leviticus 23 which has to do with the future salvation Of Israel, when the nation will receive the true "bread of life.Israel has slain the Lamb (cf. Exodus 12: 6; Acts 2: 36; 3: 14, 15), but the nation has yet to appropriate the blood (cf. Exodus 12: 7, 13; Zechariah 12: 10; Romans 11: 26).

 

The fifth sign, in 6: 15-21, has to do with Christ's departure, a storm, His return, the disciples' attitude toward Him at this time, and the geographical location in which they subsequently found themselves.  It points to Christ's departure from Israel two thousand years ago (verse 15), the coming Tribulation (verses 16-18), Christ's return (verses 19, 20), the nation receiving Him (verse 21a), and the nation's restoration to the land (verse 21b).  This is the only sign giving no specific reference to particular days, but the chronology must be understood in the light of the other six signs.

 

The sixth sign, in 9: 1-41, has to do with the healing of a blind man, on the Sabbath day (verse 14).  This points to Israel's future deliverance from her blindness (Romans 11: 25), which will occur on the seventh day, the Sabbath.  Or as in Luke 24: 13-31, it will occur after two days (dating from the crucifixion), on the third day (verse 21).

 

The seventh sign, in 11: 1-44, has to do with the resurrection of Lazarus.  This resurrection occurred after Jesus had been out of the land of Judea two days, on the third day (verses 6, 7), after Lazarus had lain in the grave four days (verse 17).  This points to Israel's future resurrection* (Ezekiel 37: 12-14; Daniel 12: 2) after two days, on the third day; and at this time Israel will have been in the place of death four days, dating four millenniums back to Abraham.

 

[*  This must be at the time of the first resurrection, when the Lord descends from Heaven to establish His millennial kingdom, (1Thessalonians 4: 16; Rev. 20: 5).]

 

3. THE STRUCTURE OF 2 PETER

 

2 Peter parallels Jude in the sense that both deal with the Word of the Kingdom and apostasy after a similar fashion.

 

Both epistles begin the same way. The first chapter of Peter is taken up with that which is stated in one verse in Jude (verse 3).  Then the matter of apostasy is dealt with throughout most of the remainder of both epistles.  However, there are things dealt with in the first and third chapters of 2 Peter, showing the septenary structure of the epistle, which are not dealt with at all in Jude.

 

Peter exhorts his readers to make their "calling [pertaining to the Kingdom] and election ['selection' for a position of power and authority in the Kingdom] sure" (1: 1-15); and Jude states the same thing in Jude 3 when he exhorts his readers to "earnestly contend for ['strive with respect to'] the faith"* (cf. 1 Timothy 6: 12; 2 Timothy 4: 7, 8). Then the thought of apostasy relative to "the faith"* comes into view in both epistles.

 

[* It should be evident from the first three verses in Jude, that the expression - "the faith," has nothing to do with initial salvation: it is something which one must "earnestly contend for," (Jude 3): it has to do with the future salvation of the soul"Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called ..."  This verse could be better translated, "Strive ['Agonize,' Agonizomi] in the good contest [agon] of the faith; lay hold on life for the age, whereunto thou art also called."(1 Timothy 6: 12).  2 Timothy 4: 7 is a very similar verse "I have fought a good fight ..." could be better translated, "I have strived ['agonised,' agonizomai] in the good contest [agon] ..."  The "contest" here, as in 1 Timothy 6: 12, has to do with the faith.  This verse, along with the following, goes on to state, "... I have finished my course [the contest/race], I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day ..."  The contest or race here is the same race set forth in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, with one or more crowns in view at the end of the race, and successful completion of the race will result in the runner being crowned, anticipating the coming rule from the heavens over the earth as a joint-heir with Christ (called "life for the age" in 1 Timothy 6: 12).]

 

However, Peter does something which Jude does not do.  Before beginning his dissertation on apostasy he calls attention to that which occurred on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17: 1-8 (2 Peter 1: 16-18), which has to do with the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom, after six days, on the seventh day (cf. Matthew 16: 28-17: 1).

 

Then toward the end of his epistle, Peter, unlike Jude, moves from thoughts surrounding apostasy to thoughts surrounding the existence and subsequent destruction of the heavens and the earth at two different times - (a) at a time following the creation of the heavens and earth ("the heavens ... of old" and "the world that then was [the world existing at the time of 'the heavens ... of old']" [verses 5, 6]), and (b) at the time following the restoration of the heavens and earth ("the heavens and the earth which are now" [verse 7]).

 

The destruction of the former is seen in Genesis 1: 2a ("But the earth had become without form, and void; and darkness [the sun had ceased to give its light] was upon the face of the deep ['the raging waters']"), and the destruction of the latter - a destruction by fire - is seen in succeeding verses in 2 Peter (3: 10 ff).

 

Peter then draws the entire matter to a climax by stating that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (3: 8).  Understood contextually, the verse is self-explanatory.  "The heavens and the earth, which are now" (verse 7) must cover the entire septenary period from chapter one (verses 16- 18), else 2 Peter 3: 8 would be meaningless.  And each day in this period is revealed to be one thousand years in length - six millenniums of work, followed by one millennium of rest, based on the opening verses of Genesis.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

 

Viewing the whole of Scripture, the correct interpretation of the opening verses of Genesis can be clearly and unquestionably presented through the typical nature of Old Testament history (1 Corinthains 10: 6, 11), as it is set forth in the very evident Divinely established septenary arrangement of Scripture.  And these opening verses, providing the Divinely established basis for that which follows, must be understood accordingly.

 

The Bible is a book of redemption; and only a correct view of the opening verses of Genesis can reflect positively, at the very outset, on God's redemptive message as a whole (the restoration of a ruined creation, performed in its entirety through divine intervention, for a revealed purpose).

 

An incorrect view can, on the other hand, only have negative ramifications.  Creation alone, apart from a ruin and restoration of the creation, fails to convey the complete message; and Restoration alone (viewing the opening verse as other than an absolute beginning), apart from a record of the preceding creation and ruin, likewise fails to convey the complete message.

 

It is as F. W. Grant stated years ago: "The thought of a ruined condition of the earth succeeding its original creation ... is ... required by the typical view [man's creation, ruin, and subsequent restoration paralleling the earth's creation, ruin, and subsequent restoration]."

 

Accordingly, the opening verses of Genesis cannot deal strictly with Creation; nor can these verses deal strictly with Restoration. Either view would be out of line with the whole of Scripture, beginning with the central theme of Scripture, the message of redemption.

 

The only interpretative view which will fit - at all points - within the Divinely established septenary arrangement of Scripture (which has its basis in these opening verses) is ...

 

Creation (an absolute creation [Gen. 1: verse 1]).

 

A Ruin of the Creation (verse 2a).

 

A Restoration of the Ruined Creation (verses 2b-25).

 

Time (in the type - six days of restorative work, followed by a day of rest; in the antitype - six thousand years of restorative work, followed by one thousand years of rest [1: 2b - 2: 3]).

 

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