What does it mean that Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world, when He literally died around 30A.D.?
ESV - 8 And all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
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Rev 13:8 is a bit of an ambiguous verse as it technically can be read two ways without doing violence to the grammar. The more straightforward and the one translators usually opt for, is "...in the book of life of the lamb having been slain from the founding of the world." The second is "not having their names written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb slain." Both are technically possible so one isn't "wrong" for taking either. However, "...in the book of life of the lamb having been slain from the founding of the world" is the more straightforward reading/natural to regular speech, so ideally the ones translators would take while footnoting that the other reading is possible. For my answer, I'll go through each translation in turn: There are three main senses in which Jesus can be said to have been slain from the foundation of the world: 1. God intended for Christ to die from the very first moment of creation. "Let there be Light," the physical creation of light, looked forward to Jesus the true light coming into the world (Jn 1.) Christ was not a plan B after the Fall of Adam or a plan C after Israel rebelled. God's intention had always been to send Christ the Redeemer to lay down His life that His blood might cover the sins of believers. 2. The death of Christ was certain from the foundation of the world. As Barne's Bible commentary puts it, "The purpose was so certain, it was so constantly represented by bloody sacrifices from the earliest ages, all typifying the future Saviour, that it might be said that he was "slain from the foundation of the world."" Scripture sometimes uses heterosis/the prophetic perfect tense to speak of a prediction or promise of God as if it has already happened. Isaiah 5:13, Amos 5:2, Jude 14, etc. The idea behind this idiomatic way of speaking is that it shows the complete reality and assurance of the promises and prophecies of God. If He declares it, it will be so, and so placing it in a 'past tense' emphasizes that reality and assurance. Rev 13:8, likewise, has that idiomatic element of assurance. The plan of God that Christ would lay down his life and be slain as the perfect Passover lamb was decreed from the foundation of the world, therefore it was certain from the foundation of the world, therefore the lamb 'was slain from the foundation of the world' not because Jesus literally died then, but because that was when God decreed it. 3. The third way Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world is in the sense of application: Jesus' blood covers those believers in the promise who died before His literal death on the cross. Jesus' blood covers Adam, the Patriarchs, and all who looked forward to the promised Messiah. So His blood is counted as a covering from God's wrath from the foundation of the world. At the judgement, those believers in the promise will be covered by the blood just as those believers who die post-cross are covered by the blood. *** For the second possible translation, it isn't Christ's death in view but that many people have not had their names written in the book of life. This concept has allusions to the Jewish registers - accounts kept over the centuries of all the people of Israel ever born, in which those who died or whose family line died out were erased (like in Psa 109:13.) Non-Jews who didn't marry in were not on the records. Over time, the Jews developed an analogy of the future Resurrection based off their civil records: to be 'on the list' was to be counted among the righteous. To be 'erased/blotted out' (as if one had never been written there to begin with) was to lose all benefits of the covenant and it's privileges and to lose part in the Resurrection and the restoration of the Earth. The multitudes worshiping the Beast would then be people who rejected Christ (never part of the covenant) and former Christians who rejected Christ but were 'blotted out' as if they had never been written there to begin with.
The meaning of Revelation 13:8 is not that Christ was actually put to death “from the foundation of the world,” but that the plan of salvation, to offer Christ as a sacrifice for the human race, was devised back then at the very beginning of the world. The OT temple sacrifice was a representation of the future Savior, and it helped people understand that without the shedding of Jesus’ blood, sin could be forgiven. Since all of us have sinned, all of us have earned death (Rom 6:23). In anticipation of Christ slaying, God required the sinner to bring an animal sacrifice (Gen 4:3-7; Lev 1:4, 5). The sacrificial system taught, through the symbol of the slain animal, that God would give His own Son to die for their sins (1 Cor 15:3). Thus Jesus became our Savior and Substitute (Heb 9:28; John 1:29). The OT people looked forward to the cross for salvation. We look back to Calvary for salvation. There is no other way to be saved (Acts 4:12).
God's knowledge does not cause events to happen. However, He knows what will happen from beginning to end. As I read this it seems to me that God knew from before the foundation of the world that His son would be the final sacrifice for sin and His plan of salvation would only include those who chose to accept Jesus as savior here on earth to have their names written in the lamb’s book of life.
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