Before the foundation of the world

I recently taught a class on unconditional election. In the course of my preparation, an unavoidable question sprang up:

Why would God create a universe that he knows will one day be inhabited by unrepentant, sinful people who he must justly throw into hell?

It is possible to have a biblical view of God’s relation to evil and ask this question with full sincerity. That is, we can ask the question above without denying any of the following truths:

1) God is not the author of evil
2) Evil cannot operate outside the boundaries of God’s permission
3) God is good and sovereign and cannot be frustrated by evil.

More often than not, this question is answered with some appeal to free will. For example, for us to ‘truly’ love God, God had to create beings with free will, beings who could sin. But I do not believe that this is a satisfying answer, given that this conception of free will is sub-biblical.

I think that the right way to think about this question can be found in Revelation 13:8 – “…everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” There is a book that is called “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain”. There are names written in this book. And these names were written before the foundation of the world. Don’t overlook the timing here. This can only mean that the book also existed before the foundation of the world. Otherwise, there would be no book for the names to be written in.

So here lies the key truth: before the foundation of the world, there was a book called “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain”. That means that there existed a Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. And so a helpful way forward in exploring the question I posed at the start is with another question:

Why would God create a universe that he knows will one day be inhabited by repentant, sinful people whose sin can only be paid for by the death of a sacrificial Lamb – namely, his Son?

Or to put it simply:

Why would God create a universe in which his Son would have to die?

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