Slain from the foundation of the world?

John’s apocalyptic letter, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, is one of the most discussed and least understood books of the Bible. I would highly recommend Dr. Jonathan Welton’s book Raptureless as a great resource for your personal study. The only verses I would like to address regarding predestination are these found in the middle of the book:

Rev. 13:8, “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” (NIV)

Revelation 17:8 "The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast...”  (NIV)

These verses are difficult to translate and have naturally led to some mis-interpretation. There are several modifiers in these verses. If you mix up which phrase is modifying what, you will easily come away with the thought that at the creation of the world God wrote down everyone's name that He wanted in Heaven and it's tough luck for everyone else. But, that isn't the point of the context of these verses. First, a question.

Was “Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world?” Most of us got this notion from the NIV translation. It gets the first half of verse 13:8 right, but still wrongly uses “from the creation of the world” to modify “the Lamb that was slain.” Other translations use the phrase to modify when the names were written. It’s easy to see there’s confusion even among the scholars around where this phrase belongs.

Rev. 13: 8 “All who live on earth worshipped it, all whose names hadn’t been written—from the time the earth was made—in the scroll of life of the Lamb who was slain.” (CEB)

It should be apparent that Jesus was not slain at the creation of planet Earth; he was slain in A.D. 30. Some may argue that he was already slain in the eyes of the Father who already made provision for man's redemption at the time of the Fall. I won’t argue that God hadn’t already made plans to save his  kids, only that in this context John was not trying to say that Jesus was slain in eternity past. John the Apostle is certainly not sneaking in secret revelation that God predestines everyone to Heaven or Hell. 

The phrase in question in most translations is “from the foundation of the world.” This phrase appears nine times in the New Testament, and in every case refers to the “beginning of the story,” or in other words, back when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Luke 11:50 (NKJV) says, “that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah…” This verse most clearly connects the phrase to the era of time when Abel was alive.

In Greek, the word for “foundation” means “to cast down,” or “to lay down.” The word for “world” is “kosmos” and typically refers to society, culture, systems,…all the tangibles and intangibles that make up the world we live in. (Kosmos does not refer to planet earth. That is a different Greek word, ge.) “Foundation of the world,” carries the sense that it is the transition of one “world” to another—an end and a beginning—as in the transition of humanity from innocent oneness with the Divine (Garden of Eden) to a broken human world built on self-reliance, ego, striving, pain, death, and fear. In short, the “foundation of the world” was the inciting event of Our Story—when there was a “casting down” of God’s ways and a “laying down of a new world order.” 

Interestingly, Jesus’ entire message during his earthly ministry was proclaiming the coming of another new world order (or restored world order) called the Kingdom of God. It was “near,” “at hand,” and “just around the corner” as he said many times throughout his ministry. And he was right. The Kingdom of God was initiated upon his coronation as King of the Jews on the cross. The palm branches and declarations of “Hosanna!” were not in vain. They were not wasted on the streets of Jerusalem. The king came riding in on a colt. Love came to town. 

And his crucifixion wasn’t the end. It was the beginning of a new way of being. It was the beginning of a new world in which Christ is king, reigning from Heaven and from all hearts that exalt him and await for his return. It was the most visceral and dramatic rebuke of power, oppression, and control the world has ever seen. And we will never tire of telling the story, because we are all still recovering from violence and the sweet taste of knowledge apart from God. We are the oppressors who have been disarmed with love and transformed to love and serve the world, and one day will even lay down our lives, as Christ did. 

In short, what Jesus did was another “casting/laying down of a new world order.” What Jesus did is a new “foundation of the world.” And when the apostle John writes, “the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world,” as a qualifying statement, he is referring to the world-changing significance of Christ’s sacrifice, not making a statement about time-transcendent nature of his death.

If John (or the Lord through John) wanted to reveal to us that it is up to him to pick and choose who comes in to his dwelling place, he wouldn't have veiled it in a complicated sentence structure in the negative, passive sense.