Anyone who has read the book of Genesis and the gospel of John will immediately notice the similarity of the opening words of each book. Genesis opens with those astonishing first words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;” while John opens in this way: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” As a boy, I remember seeing that parallel but not understanding what it meant. I only came to understand it when the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, at the creation of the universe, shone into the darkness of my heart to give me the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Significantly, that is the point of the parallel. In redemptive history, we are meant to understand that the coming of the Son into this world was the breaking in of the light of God’s grace and truth to bring about the re-creation of a world that lay in darkness. B.B. Warfield captured this in a profound way, when he wrote,
“The obvious resemblance between the prologue to John’s Gospel and the proem of Genesis is not a matter of mere phraseology and external form. As the one, in the brief compass of a few verses, paints the whole history of the creation of a universe with a vividness which makes the quickened imagination a witness of the process, so the other in still briefer compass traces the whole history of the re-creation of a dead world into newness of life. In both, we are first pointed back into the depths of eternity, when only God was. In both we are bidden to look upon the chaotic darkness of lawless matter or of lawless souls, over which the brooding Spirit was yet to move. In both, as the tremendous pageants are unrolled before our eyes, we are made to see the Living God; and to see him as the Light and the Life of the world, the Destroyer of all darkness, the Author of all good. Here too, however, the Old Testament revelation is the preparation for the better to come. In it we see God as the God of power and of wisdom, the Author and Orderer of all; in this we see him as the God of goodness and mercy, the Restorer and Redeemer of the lost. Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”1
In Christ, the triune God becomes “the Destroyer of all darkness.” What God does in the creation of the universe stands as a model of what He would do in “the re-creation of a dead world.” Even the first act of creation teaches us about the work of God in this respect. The first act of creation was light breaking into darkness. R. A. Finlayson highlighted the significance of this in the work of redemption, when he wrote,
“It was God’s pattern of workmanship. He is always facing the light, his back is on the evening, his face is towards the waxing light, and the rising sun. And if that was true in the natural creation, it is blessedly true in the spiritual creation. When God shines in our hearts with spiritual illumination, it is twilight with our souls; we see, though we see but dimly. Yet God comes with waxing light, and as God’s work develops, the light progresses until, eventually, it reaches noonday splendor. Our face is towards the sunrising, and our souls are looking towards the meridian splendor of God’s fully developed work, and of God’s self-revelation to our souls. . .It was a harbinger of every blessing; every growth and every development in our being came because the light of the knowledge of Jesus shone into our hearts. Is it not true then, that we, who have been saved by grace, have felt the creative power of God? Is it not true that the God who laid the foundations of that first creation, and brought light out of primeval darkness, is the God who has shone into our hearts, and laid the foundations of a new creation which sin will not mar, and the flesh and the Devil cannot destroy? Yes, our dealings have been with the Creator-God who made himself known savingly and redeemingly to us in Jesus Christ his Son.2
There is another indicator of the parallel between creation and re-creation in the opening of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament. In Genesis there are a series of nine teledots (generations) beginning with the “generations of the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 2:4). These teledots are either narratival in nature or they are genealogical. For instance, “the generations of the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 2:4) is a narratival teledot. By way of contrast, “the generations of Noah” (Gen. 6:9; 10:1, 32) is genealogical. All the teledots in Genesis deal with individuals, their stories and their descendents except for the teledot of the heavens and the earth. It is the teledot of teledots. This is significant because of the opening of Matthew’s gospel. In Matthew 1:1, we read these words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” G.K. Beale has pointed out that Matthew picks up on the language of Genesis 2:4 in Matthew 1:1, to make a theological point, namely, that Jesus is the new creation, Last Adam. He writes,
“Matthew’s genealogy begins in 1:1 with biblos geneseōs, which can be translated as the “book of the genealogy” or the “book of beginning” or the “book of genesis.” Genesis 2:4 LXX has biblos geneseōs: “This is the book of the generation [or ‘the book of the genesis’] of heaven and earth, when they came about, in the day in which God made the heaven and the earth.” Likewise Gen. 5:1–2 LXX has “This is the book of generation [biblos geneseōs] [some render it as ‘genealogy’] of man [i.e., Adam] in the day in which God made Adam, according to the image of God he made him. Male and female he made them, and blessed them; and he called their name Adam in the day in which he made them.” Then follows the first genealogy in the Bible, beginning with Adam and ending with Noah at the end of Gen. 5.
These are the only two places in the entire OT where the phrase biblos geneseōs occurs. Matthew’s expression thus appears to be an intentional allusion to these two statements early in the book of Genesis. The point is that Matthew is narrating the record of the new age, the new creation, launched by the coming, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And, since Matthew is narrating a genealogy of Jesus, it is likely that the Gen. 5:1 reference is uppermost in mind, and that Jesus is being painted with the genealogical brush of Adam. And just as Adam created others “in his own likeness, according to his image” (Gen. 5:3), so would Christ.
There is also mention of the Holy Spirit in conceiving Jesus (Matt. 1:18–20), who is the beginning of the new creation. Just as the Spirit was mentioned in Gen. 1:2 in bringing about the creation, so Matt. 1:18, 20 says, “Now the generation [genesis] of Jesus Christ was in this manner. . . . that which is begotten [gennēthen] in her is from the Holy Spirit.” This seems to focus even more on Jesus as the new Adam, as the beginning of the new creation.”3
Jesus came into this dark and fallen world as the new creation and to bring about a re-creation of all those for whom He died. He is “the Destroyer of the darkness.” In His death on the cross, Jesus comes under the power of darkness as the substitute of those who once lived in darkness. He put Himself under the wrath of God for the sins of His people in order to give them to light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Him. He is the light of the world who shines in the darkness (John 8:12). By His death and resurrection, Jesus destroys the darkness and disseminates the light of God’s grace and truth.
1. B.B. Warfield, “Incarnate Truth,” Benjamin B. Warfield: Selected Shorter Writings vol. 2 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing) p. 455
2. Finlayson The Cross in the Experience of Our Lord (Christian Heritage)
3. G.K. Beale A New Testament Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011) pp. 388–389