Among the many striking images in the book of Revelation, there is one that stands out in particular. In Chapter 13, vs 8, we read:
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
The passage is not unlike that in 1 Peter:
“knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:18-21)
There is a clear understanding here that the “Lamb” (which is a sacrificial image) is applied not just to Jesus as Incarnate God, but to Him as the pre-existent Logos. It is this reality that I want to press into more deeply in this article.
What comes first? The pattern or the image of the pattern? Obviously, the pattern comes first – the image is a copy. This should open our understanding as we read the description in Genesis of the creation of Adam.
In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told that, on the sixth day, God created humanity. He created “them” both male and female, in His image. The second chapter gives a more detailed account of that creation, describing Adam as formed from the dust, with Eve being taken from his side, after God caused a deep sleep to come on him.
The Church has traditionally seen in these accounts an image of Christ’s life-giving death. The sixth day is Friday, the day of Christ’s crucifixion. God takes Eve from Adam’s side as he slept just as the Church (Christ’s bride) is taken from Christ’s side (the piercing from which blood and water flowed) as He “slept” in death. Thus the creation of Adam is in the image of the Crucified God.
There is, if you will, a “pattern” that already exists, according to which we were created. This sort of thinking is common in the Scriptures. Moses is shown a “pattern” in the heavens according to which designed the Tabernacle and its furnishings. This is reaffirmed in the book of Hebrews where it describes the priests of Israel as serving in a Temple that is a “copy.”
who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Heb. 8:5).
In John 12, Jesus predicts his crucifixion by saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” He returns to this thought in John 17, saying:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, (vs. 1)
However, He says yet more about this “glory.” In verse 5, He says:
“And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
The Church clearly understands this glory to be nothing other that His death on the Cross. The traditional plaque portrayed on the icon of Christ Crucified does not read “Jesus Christ King of the Jews.” Instead, it reads, “The King of Glory.” This is done that we might understand the very Scripture texts without a mistake.
The Pattern, of which humanity is an image, is the Crucified Christ, who is the “glory of God.” (Heb. 1:3) St. Paul expounds on this declaring that Christ crucified is the “wisdom and power of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).
Nothing in this is meant to distract from the full historical character of what took place in Jerusalem in 33 A.D. But it says that what took place was neither accident, nor was it “plan B.” St. Irenaeus has this very odd statement:
“Since He who saves already existed, it was necessary that he who would be saved should come into existence, that the One who saves should not exist in vain.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.22.3)
It is Christ Crucified (the Savior) who is the cause of the existence of Adam (the saved). He is the pattern according to which we are created. Of course such a statement simply staggers the mind. However, it is this that insists on proclaiming that the Logos of all things is revealed in Christ Crucified. Creation is cruciform in its very being.
“All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” (Col 1:16–18)
When we participate in the events of Holy Week and consider the death and resurrection of Christ, we honor the events in Jerusalem, but we proclaim that here, in this place, is the beginning and ending of all things. It is on the Cross that Christ says, “It is finished,” and then He “rests from all His labors.” In His rest (on Saturday, the Holy Sabbath) He tramples down death by death and reveals the resurrection on the Eighth Day, the new week that is beyond all weeks. It is His Kingdom that is made manifest among us.
Even in His resurrection, Christ’s body bears the wounds of His crucifixion (not scars – but wounds):
Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”(Jn. 20:27)
We speak of the divine energies and tend to abstract them. The word “energeia” can be translated as “doings.” We say of the divine energies that they, too, are God (God in His energies rather than God in His essence) and that God in energies and essence are one. The doings (energeia) of God reveal what can be made known of His essence.
And so, when we consider the “doings” of Jesus Christ, we see God in action. Nothing that He does is a contradiction of Who God Is. All that He does reveals God.
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18)
We can see in Christ that the divine energies are “cruciform”. “God is love,” St. John says, and we see the love of God revealed most fully in His death on the Cross. God is always the God who suffers for us (and with us and in us). Speaking of the Body of Christ (of which Christ is a member, the Head), St. Paul says,
“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
Thus, he can also say, “Just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22)
Christ’s teaching cannot be reduced to morality (“do this because it’s good”). Rather, His teaching is ontological. If God, in His divine energies, is cruciform, then we (who exist as His image) are to be cruciform if we are to be what we were created to be. We love because He loves. To love, even to the death, is to live in the image of Christ. “Greater love has no one than this – to lay down his life for his friends.”
The point of this meditation is to help us open our eyes to what we are seeing in the death and resurrection of Christ. It is the revelation of the God in whose image we are created.
There are those who want to weaken this Biblical and Patristic understanding and promote the historical to the place of pre-eminence. In that scenario, the account of creation (as described in Genesis) only “prefigures” what is to come in Jerusalem at the Cross, in which case “eternity” doesn’t enter into it. I believe this diminishes the testimony of Scripture and fails to see that the Crucified Christ is revelatory of who God is (and always was and is).
I have written on this topic a number of times. I would point readers to Fr. John Behr’s book, The Mystery of Christ, particularly the third chapter, for an even deeper treatment. I also want to express my thanks to Fr. Aidan Kimel for his article, God Creates the World from the Cross, which also has a more thorough discussion. God give us grace to perceive what is made known to us in the days to come.