The End of the Apocalypse (Genesis 2:1-3)

Moses’ creation story began in darkness and silence. But it was not the kind of darkness that leads to rest, it was not the silence of peace and serenity; it was the darkness of chaos, the silence of the vaccuum.

Just as one famous sci-fi horror movie pointed out in the 1970’s, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

But what Moses described for us was not a vacuum, it was a cosmic ocean, seething, restless, stirred into galaxy-sized storms by the violent whirlwind of God circling over its surface.

Then, for the first time in this universe, God spoke. And his voice, being the true and eternal image of who he is, of course manifested itself as light. And the light and the sound penetrated down into the lifeless depths and brought the first elements of order and structure into the chaos: Day and Night. The Apocalypse of God — the Revelation of God — had begun.

And there was evening, and there was morning: the first day.

Then Moses told us how God spoke again into the depths of the cosmic ocean, to where the planet Earth lay submerged like a flat plate suspended in the water, crushed by the weight of the primordial waters on every side. And his voice lifted up the weight of the waters from the face of the earth, creating an unbreakable roof: a sky dome holding back the chaos, bringing the beginnings of order and structure to the earth for the first time.

And there was evening, and there was morning — the second day.

Then Moses told us how God spoke again into the waters — but this time the job was much easier, because this was just the shallow sea still covering the face of the earth, the water left behind when the cosmic ocean was lifted away. His breath parted the waters, and brought dry land up to the surface: one central super-continent surrounded by a circular ocean that extended to the edges of the earth, where the pillars that hold up the sky-dome can be found. Then God spoke to the land and told it to produce life: plants, food.

And there was evening, and there was morning — the third day.

Then Moses told us how God installed lights in the sky. And these heavenly lights took over the job of regulating the patterns of Day and Night, Light and Darkness, Revelation and Ignorance. They became the guardians fixed to that sky-wall that protects the earth from the darkness and the silence of the cosmic ocean without.

And there was evening, and there was morning — the fourth day.

Then Moses told us how, for the first time, God created living creatures: birds and fish, creatures specifically designed to thrive in the transition zones between chaos and order, creatures designed to bring order and beauty and life to the semi-chaotic currents of the air and the seas.

And there was evening, and there was morning — the fifth day.

Then Moses told us how God spoke to the land for a second time and told it to produce life again. But this time the life was animal life, animal life that would be supported by the plant life. And these living creatures were specifically designed for life at the central, most stable, most orderly structure in the universe: the dry land. Unlike the birds and the fish, the land animals were not designed to thrive in semi-chaos; they would need help.

Then God spoke for the first time to someone else, discussing his plans to create something of his own kind, a creature with his DNA that would be able to communicate with God and pass that communication on to the animals. God created mankind as a living reflection of who he is, a creature specifically designed to bring ever increasing order and structure and beauty and life to the earth.

And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day.

And now, here, at the beginning of Chapter 2, Moses tells us: thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

And so, at this point, a hush falls across the universe, a profound silence.

But this silence is not like the silence at the beginning. That was the silence of chaos, timelessness, formlessness.

This is the silence of perfect order, of pregnant structure. This is a waiting silence.

The picture Moses paints for us here is of a temple the size of the universe. This temple extends from a most orderly center — which is the earth, the footstool of God — through the transition layers of skies above and seas below to the outermost edges of the cosmic ocean. And there, beyond our comprehension, our physical cosmic temple blends somehow into the spiritual cosmic temple, with the throne of God placed at its very center.

Moses is showing us the end of construction. What we are seeing here are those quiet moments between when a building is completed and when it is officially dedicated and put into use. All the workmen are gone. All the tools have been packed away. Every surface has been swept and washed and polished. Every light has been installed, every faucet works, all the furniture has been put into place. This is the silence of a job well done. This is the silence of expectation. This is the silence of a completed building, in perfect move-in condition.

But Moses is not just talking about an empty structure here. He says the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. And that word “array” is a good word, but it does not capture the life of the original Hebrew word. The original Hebrew word covers not just the structure itself, but also the living inhabitants of that structure.

Moses wants us to see not just the spiritual temple with that throne at its center; he wants us to see the angels standing there in their billions, rank upon rank upon rank, in absolute stillness and readiness. He wants us to pass from that outer brilliance, through the blackness of the cosmic ocean, to see — not just that protective sky dome standing between the chaos without and the order within — he wants us to see every star properly installed there, the sun and the moon poised and waiting to make their runs. He wants us to see the birds hovering, the fish circling slowly in their schools, every animal paused in its place, with mankind at the very center waiting.

Moses wants us to see the universe completed, but not yet activated; pregnant with purpose, bursting with life! —- but not yet in use. He wants us to see God’s throne sitting empty at the center of the spiritual world, his footstool sitting empty at the center of the physical world, with all his servants — spiritual and physical — gathered around waiting to welcome their Lord into his sanctuary.

And then he arrives.

[2] By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

He enters. He sits down on his throne. He puts his feet on his footstool. And he enjoys what he has created.

And for the first time, the universe actually becomes the temple it was designed to be.

Because, if you recall from our previous discussions, a structure without inhabitants actually has no real purpose. A thing that is not being used is — literally! — useless. Purposeless.

Up until this moment, the universe had the structure of a temple, it had the furniture of a temple, it had creatures that looked like worshipers, and creatures that looked like priests — but until a god is properly installed in it, a temple structure is just a potential temple. Until a god arrives, the worshipers remain only potential worshipers, the priests are only potential priests.

So until this point, the universe — spiritual and physical — was only a potential universe. It only became actual — it only became what it was meant to be — when God took his place at the center of it.

But this, of course, raises a question for some of us who have very precise minds. We want to know: “But hold on a minute: if the whole universe is God’s temple, and God enters his temple at this point — does that mean he was outside the universe before this? How is that possible? Beside, I thought he was, like, right there at creation the whole time, doing the creation?”

Yes. God has been present from the beginning. Creation started as chaos, and God was hovering over that chaos and controlling it. But chaos is not a condition where worship can happen. Chaos is not a temple. So God brought order to chaos, step by step, creating structures and systems — but those structure and systems were not ready to host worship until they were completed. Only after construction was completed could God “officially” move in and activate it as his temple.

It’s a bit like when a tycoon in KL decides to build some new condo tower for himself. He is involved in all the planning, he inspects the construction site many times, he is there the whole time — but there always comes a day when that tycoon finally officially moves into the penthouse, and then the tower becomes what it was meant to be. It exists officially, because the owner has moved in. There’s a big ceremony, ribbons are cut, lions dance, firecrackers go off —

This is what Moses is describing for us here: the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the universe. Has God been there the whole time? Of course God has been there the whole time, nothing can exist apart from him. But this is the first time he officially takes his place at the center of the universe, at the centre of worship.

And then he sets worship going:

[3] Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

This verse is the first time the the whole bible that the word “holy” is used. And it is used to describe a day! It is not used to describe God, it is not used to describe some element of God’s creation, it is used to describe a span of time! A 24-hour block of time! And that seems very strange, doesn’t it?

…oh, but, wait: when we look more closely at the text, we discover that the Seventh Day is not actually a 24-hour block of time. Nowhere does Moses write, “and there was evening, and there was morning: the seventh day.”

Moses is telling us that the seventh day is still going. God is still seated on his throne. His feet are still on his footstool. He is still resting from his work. He is still receiving the worship of his creation.

Today is still the seventh day!

So when Moses tells us that God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, we are supposed to understand that God blessed all of Time and made it holy. All of history. All of eternity. We are supposed to understand that ultimately, there are no sacred days in our calendar, because every day is a sacred day. Every moment is a sacred moment.

The Seventh Day is actually the end of the Apocalypse of God. The Seventh Day actually contains the entire Apocalypse of God, from creation to the Judgement. This day is the end — this day is the purpose — this day is the great triumphant climax that the whole creation story has been leading up to from the beginning!

We, unfortunately, tend to miss this. We tend to read these verses and think, “Oh, God rested on the seventh day, and so should we. That’s nice!”

But it is so much more than that!

And I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn that the ancient people of Israel would have understood at once the immense gravity of what Moses has just told them. They would have understood that the Seventh Day is not actually meant to teach us about rest and relaxation. They would have understood that God has entered his cosmic sanctuary, he has seated himself in his cosmic throne, he has placed his feet on his footstool, he has arrived, and eternal worship has begun!

And, of course, this hurts our feelings, because we don’t like to think that some primitive people from 4000 years ago are smarter than we are. So we say, “Oh, come on! If God wanted us to understand that, then why didn’t he just say that? Why didn’t he just speak plainly and say, ‘Look! On Day 7, I sat down on my throne’?”

But we have to understand that God did speak plainly. Even a ten year old, listening to Moses tell this story, would have known from the beginning that it was going to end with this glorious triumph of God entering his temple — just like a ten year old today, watching a Marvel movie, knows from the beginning that it is going to end with the glorious triumph of the hero over the villain. If we were to walk out of a movie theatre and a friend said, “Oh, man, I did not see that coming! Why didn’t the director just just tell me plainly it was going to end that way?” we would wonder if our friend is really all there!

See, Moses could have said, “Listen, God sits down on his throne in the end,” just like I could tell you, before you go watch Spiderman, “Listen, the good guy wins in the end.” But that doesn’t actually tell you anything about the movie, does it? That doesn’t actually make you feel anything. You need to experience a story in order to really understand in your gut what that story is really all about.

And that is what Moses is doing for his people. He is telling a particular kind of story, using particular words, with a particular plot structure. By verse 5, his listeners would have been able to make a good guess at what kind of story it was, and how it would end. By verse 8 they would have known for sure. But they wouldn’t have said, “Oh, I already know how it’s going to end, I don’t need to hear the rest.” They would have gone on so they could experience the story and understand it from the inside-out.

So what is it about this story that was so obvious and exciting to them, and so invisible to us?

It is this chorus: “And there was evening, and there was morning: the first day…the second day…the third day…”

Over the last 100 years or so, beginning in America, there has been a discussion about these Seven Days of creation: are they 24-hour days? Are they figurative days that are actually ages? Are these days of creation actually telling us the exact order in which God created all the different pieces of the universe? And this discussion has gotten increasingly nasty. Some Christians have even started to call other Christians heretics based on what they believe about the Days of creation!

Unfortunately, all of those questions are completely beside the point. They have only served to turn us against one another and distract us from experiencing this story as the ancient people of Israel experienced it.

So: let’s conduct a little thought experiment. Let’s travel back in time 3500 years, and let’s camp at the foot of Mount Sinai in Arabia, along with the people of Israel, and let’s try to experience what they experienced.


Ok. Here we are at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses has given us extremely detailed instructions for a tent called the Tabernacle, which is supposed to be a sort of travelling temple. Eight months ago we donated gold, silver, bronze, wood, cloth, everything needed for the construction, and for eight months craftsmen have been creating all the different pieces of the tabernacle and its furniture. And while we waited we have been listening to Moses tell us the creation story again and again until we know it by heart.

And now, on the first day of the new year, 12 months after we escaped from Egypt, Moses begins to assemble the tabernacle. And we begin to realize that we are experiencing for ourselves things that strongly resemble the elements of the creation story.

For instance, in the creation story there is the Spirit of God hovering in the darkness, speaking light into the chaos of the primordial ocean: that was Day 1. And here we are, at the foot of a mountain covered in terrifying darkness, with the Spirit of God hovering there, speaking out in flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder.

In the creation story there is the sky being raised up over the earth to protect it: Day 2. And here we are, watching Moses raise up a tent made of cloth that is woven with all the colours of the sky: blue, purple, scarlet, and gold.

In the creation story there is the dry land being revealed — God’s footstool at the very centre of the cosmos — and the land produces food in the form of plants: Day 3. And here we are, watching Moses carry the ark of God — also known as the footstool of God — into the sky tent, along with a table of bread: food that comes from plants.

In the creation story there are the lights installed in the heavens: Day number 4. And here we are, watching Moses carry a golden lampstand into the tent and light it. And just to make sure we make the connection between the heavenly “lights” and the lampstand, Moses uses a particular word to describe the “lights” of the lampstand, and this is a word that he has only used once before, when he described the heavenly “lights”. And — just to make doubly sure we make the connection, Moses points out that there are seven lights on the lampstand. Now, this means nothing to us from the 21st century, but for everyone else this is significant, because everyone else understands that there are seven planets in the sky: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Sun, Moon, Jupiter, Saturn. Everyone understands that the stars are fixed into the sky-roof, they only rotate as the roof rotates; they also understand that the seven planets cross the sky by flying just underneath the sky-roof. Seven “lights” in the heavens under the sky; seven “lights” on the lampstand under the sky tent.

In the creation story there are the birds and the fish, designed to fill the spaces of sky and sea with life and beauty and worship: Day 5. And here we are, watching Moses carry a table of incense into the tent, watching the sweet smoke filling up the spaces within: all the scents and the sounds and the beauty of worship.

In the creation story there are the animals: some wild and unclean, living out at the edges of order; some domesticated, clean, living closer to the center of order. And here we are, watching Moses set up a large bronze basin outside the tent, watching him wash himself, watching him set up a large bronze altar outside the tent, watching him sacrifice clean, domesticated animals: a bull and two goats, and as the sun sets, one lamb. And we are watching as he takes some of the blood from those sacrifices and sprinkles it on his brother Aaron and on Aaron’s sons, anointing them as priests — creating priests! — as part of a seven day consecration process. And Moses takes some of that blood, and some sacred anoining oil, and he also sprinkles the tent, and the ark, and the table of bread, and the lampstand, and the incense table, and the water basin, and the altar, and the outer curtain wall of the courtyard.

And then Moses puts down all his tools, and he says, “That’s it. I have finished the work I have been doing.”

And a silence, a stillness comes over the camp. The people are quiet, the animals are quiet, the birds are gone from the sky. A hush travels outward across the desert in every direction.

And then, as we watch, the cloud on the mountain rises up, and descends toward us in a terrifying wall of darkness and flame — and just when we think that death has come for us all…the cloud covers the tabernacle, and enters it, and fills it with such shining glory that not even Moses can enter.

And now we know, from our guts, without even having to think about it, we know what the Seventh Day of creation is all about. Now we understand what the whole creation story is all about! It has nothing to do with whether the days are 24-hour days or not! It has nothing to do with what order things were created in! It has everything to do with how — piece by piece, element by element, over the course of a seven day consecration process — the cosmic temple and the worshipers within it have been made holy, fit to meet their Creator face to face.

Fit to worship.

The creation story is not about how God made the universe. It is about how God made the universe holy so he could reveal himself to us as he really is. In other words, the creation story is all about the Apocalypse of God, the Revelation of God.

The creation story is not about the structuring of Space and Time. It is about how Space became sacred Space, and how Time became sacred Time. Without this, we would be lost. Without the seven day consecration of the universe, without the seven day consecration of the calendar, God could never have entered his temple and met his creation face to face without destroying it.

This is what the ancient people of Israel realized at the foot of Mount Sinai. They realized that through the seven day consecration of the tabernacle, through the seven day consecration of the priesthood, God was able to descend from the mountain and live with his people without destroying them. The tabernacle — just like the cosmos itself — was designed as a container for the glory of God, strong enough and holy enough to keep that glory from breaking out and burning everyone up.

God has provided a tabernacle for us as well. This is how it happened: that tabernacle in the desert became a temple in Jerusalem. That temple in Jerusalem became a living man: Jesus Christ, the only living container for the glory of God, strong enough and holy enough to keep God’s glory from breaking out and destroying us all. That living container was broken in death, and when he was raised back to life his glory spilled out and filled his bride, his Church. And so the Church became a living tabernacle for the glory of God. Which means that every human being who enters into Christ’s Church becomes a container for God’s glory.

So the tabernacle in the desert that became a temple in Jerusalem that became a man in Jerusalem has become a living nation filling the earth with the knowledge and the glory of God.

So…what is our application? What are we supposed to do with this knowledge that through Jesus our tabernacle, through the Church his tabernacle, God has filled us with his glory and saved us from the darkness and the silence of eternal death?

Well, let’s keep it simple: all we are supposed to do today is experience the glory of it. Bask in the glory of it. Rest in the glory of it.

One day this Seventh Day will come to an end. The sun and the moon and the stars will set for the last time. And then, in the final Apocalypse of God, that cloud of darkness and flame is going to descend once more from the mountain of the Lord, and scripture tells us the sight will be so terrifying that everyone who sees it will try to bury themselves in the earth. They will be reduced to animals, digging with hands and feet and teeth. They will call upon the mountains to fall upon them, but the mountains will no longer obey them. Darkness and silence will once again close upon this cosmos, upon everyone and everything.

Upon everyone but us. “On that day,” Jesus says, “when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

So let us live every moment of this Seventh Day with our heads bent in worship and prayer, knowing that at dawn on the Eighth Day of creation we will lift our eyes at last to the mountain of God and see our Lord descending to fill creation with his glory and make all things new.

All things shining when he comes.

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