and all who dwell on the earth will worship him, every one whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. Revelation 13:8
Foundation – In English, I prefer the New American Standard Bible. So, I was quite surprised when I read this verse. All the words from the Greek are here, but the order has been significantly altered. The result is a fundamental change in the idea of the covenant. Unfortunately, you would never know it unless you read the Greek text.
The Greek text places “from the foundation of the world” as a modifier of “the Lamb who has been slain.” In other words, a normal reading of the Greek leads us to the conclusion that Yeshua, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed before the world came into existence. However, the NASB shifts the placement of this modifying phrase to match a similar phrase in Revelation 17:8, making the modifier apply to the writing of names, not to the sacrifice of Yeshua. The way the NASB reads, we would conclude that the names of the apostates and the names of the faithful have been written in the book of life since the world began. That’s a big shift. The NASB gives us a theology of individual predestination. The Greek (and the NIV) puts the focus on the eternal sacrifice of Yeshua. Without an explanation of this shift, you would never know. This is not a mistake. It is deliberate alteration of the translated text to match a prior theological position. It’s equivalent to the NIV consistently translating sarx (flesh) as “sinful nature”.
Once we’ve cleared up the English translation, we can pay attention to the implication. Read correctly, this verse makes a startling and powerful claim. Yeshua’s sacrifice occurred before the creation of the world. Of course, in earthly physical reality His death on the cross occurred in the first century AD. But as far as the Bible is concerned, the real sacrifice happened the moment Yeshua took on the role of redeemer, and He volunteered for that role before the world began. God didn’t make up the plan of redemption on the fly. He didn’t think it up after the Fall. It was all conceived and executed in advance. There was always a provision for sin.
Let’s push this one step further. Since the perfect sacrifice was initiated before the world began, all of the sacrificial provisions found in the torah are merely shadows of the greater reality. The real sacrifice happened in heaven. The progressive revelation of God’s plan of redemption introduced many sacrifices as pointers, symbols, representations and tokens of the heavenly reality. Here’s the fundamental shift: every sacrifice given by God in the torah exemplifies and exhibits some element of the full complexity of the heavenly sacrifice of the Lamb. The peace offering, the sin offering, the cereal offering, the freewill offering, the burnt offering and more – all of them reveal some aspect of the sacrifice of the Lamb. Jesus’ death on the cross is truly the fulfillment of all of those elements, but it does not replace them. Every time a sacrifice is offered, it underscores some aspect of the full and complete sacrifice that occurred in heaven before the world began. Earthly expressions of the heavenly sacrifice are incomplete in themselves, but they are not invalid. They all say something important about the full manifestation and eternal complexity of the Lamb slain before the foundations of the world.
Maybe the next time you read Leviticus it won’t seem so confusing.
Topical Index: Sacrifice