What if we’ve got our whole understanding of the world back to front, even in the simplest of things?
For example, how would you describe a day to a child? Perhaps you’d say we get up in the morning, have breakfast, head off to school or work, then come home, have dinner and go to bed.
Sounds reasonable enough. But according to the first five verses of the Bible, we haven’t even got our thinking straight here.
According to Genesis: "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day,' and the darkness he called 'night.' And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day."
Notice the order of the final phrase: "There was evening, and there was morning - the first day." So according to the Bible, a day begins with the evening and ends with the morning. Indeed Jews still think this way - they measure days from sundown to sundown, not sunrise to sunrise.
The Bible starts with pitch darkness in Genesis 1:2. But where does it end?
Revelation 22:5 says: "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever."
So the Bible ends with darkness being banished forever and Jesus’ return ushering in a kingdom of eternal light.
The story of history, the story of the Bible, His-Story, is moving from darkness to light.
Why it matters
The way God has set the universe up is that each "day" preaches this same message. Evening then morning. Darkness then light. Time itself, our world, the spinning of the bodies in our solar system, they all preach to us the message of where history is heading – from darkness to eternal glorious light. A day is a snapshot of the whole story of history!
But we’ve got it back to front. We see our daily lives, our individual days as beginning with light and ending in darkness.
This is not inconsequential. I think this has infected Christians’ view of history, progress and destiny and undermines our hope and security.
For eighteen centuries following Christ’s first coming, the Church universally had a positive outlook on history. They looked forward with hope at God’s unfolding plan for the world. That Jesus, the Lord of history, was redemptively taking this fallen world from glory to glory; his kingdom spreading like yeast throughout the dough; the tent pegs of God’s kingdom spreading wider and wider; his kingdom growing from a small seed until it becomes the greatest tree in the world. Progression, redemption and hope.
But then the American civil war happened and some Christian theologians thought this meant things were getting bleaker and darker, not lighter and brighter. New theologies appeared that said this world was getting worse and worse, that it was sliding into disrepair and despair. Jesus would one day re-appear to rescue us from this increasingly decaying world. Negative theology. Hopeless theology. A theology that denied all the positive progressive messages that Jesus gave us.
So at the beginning of a new year, ask yourself - what’s your outlook on the future?
That things will get brighter and brighter and then Jesus will gloriously return to cap it off? Or things will get dimmer and bleaker and he’ll just rescue us in the nick of time?
Maybe we need to let God, the maker of this world and the Lord of history, define how we see time unfold. It’s as simple as a day. From evening to morning, darkness to light.
David Anthony studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University before joining UCCF as a Christian Union staff worker. He now works in financial services and lives in Bath with his wife Sian and has three lovely kids