One consistent thought that keeps recurring to me through this present pandemic crisis is how God has repeatedly seen fit to press the reset button, so to speak, on humanity. Surveying Scripture, it is not difficult to find crystal clear examples of this and how it applies individually, locally, and globally.
In Genesis, the book of origins or beginnings, one finds this pattern of reset implemented by God on several occasions. First, and foundational, is the reset of humanity through punishment given at the fall of Adam (and Eve) in the garden. By violating the positive command of God, thereby breaking the law written on the heart that had come through the imago Dei, Adam and Eve faced the consequences of their sin, death, as God had promised. As they learn the meaning of death, they find that it does not immediately mean removal from this physical body, rather it initially meant removal from the immediate and uninterrupted presence of God. By removing them from the garden-temple in which God had set his king-priests, God effectively pressed the reset button on humanity. Now, instead of being fruitful and multiplying in the garden while extending dominion from here throughout the world, Adam and Eve are cut off from garden access and cut off from their relationship with God. While God seemingly provides an atonement and covering for them in preparation for their new life outside of the garden, it is clear that a change takes place as He levies the curses against the ground and promises pain and frustration for the first couple. Downstream of Adam and Eve, all humanity share in this guilt and corruption, being born sinners and cut off from God. This first ‘reset’ is still in effect to this day, though now is in the process of being reversed through the person and work of Jesus Christ, whereby all mankind can be restored into their right relationship with God through Christ by repentance and faith.
Just a few chapters later, though chronologically more than 1000 years, we arrive at the tenth generation from Adam with the man Noah. During this period, we find that corruption has increased dramatically throughout all of the world, summarized by the familiar,
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.Genesis 6:5In response to this level of worldwide, universal depravity, God effectively hits the global reset button. We find in the midst of humanity’s corruption that Noah was declared righteous in his generation and chosen by God to build the ark, a physical means of salvation for a remnant of humanity. Through the ark, Noah and his family would be saved and a new creation would begin. While the Promised Seed from Genesis 3:15 was saved ‘in Noah’ as it were, we likewise find that corruption and guilt had been allowed safe passage on the ark as well. In this global reset we see themes of salvation and redemption as they point typologically towards Christ, but we likewise find perhaps our clearest example of God’s hatred of sin and willingness to bring judgment upon all humanity and His creation. To this point, we may conclude that this reset is typological of the final day when God will reset humanity once again and usher in the New Heavens and New Earth.
A third example from Genesis is again a global reset but not nearly as cataclysmic as the previous one, though we might note that less time had passed between the necessity of the last reset and this one (~340 years). This next event occurs at Babel as humanity has seemingly advanced in worldly wisdom and presumed themselves to sit in the place of God. In doing so, we find them working together – not to extend God’s reign upon the earth, rather circumventing God’s reign perhaps even concluding that they could overtake God. Regardless of their ultimate purposes we find them collectively collaborating to build a tower (ziggaraut) to heaven.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4Here we read a collective summary statement from humanity as they effort to build a city and tower reaching to the heavens. Moving more towards internal motivations we find they wanted to make a name for themselves and were stubbornly short-circuiting God’s plan for them to multiply and spread throughout the world. This motivation for geographic permanence effectively assaults the original design of God to be fruitful and multiply and take dominion over the globe. As the ESV Study Bible helpfully summarizes, the desire to build a city in contrast to being spread throughout the earth was a desire for self-sufficient security. Likewise, the desire to build a tower and make a name for themselves was a desire for praise. In effect, both self-sufficiency and security along with the desire for praise are anti-God. These traits are not too dissimilar from what we find in humanity today, as the overwhelming desire for security from disease and death is the rule of the day. Those who champion efforts, via policy, treatment, or vaccine, essentially garner the praise of humanity. God’s response to Babel – a worldwide scattering and confusion of the language, as we have seen, is not all that dissimilar from our own situation today. This third reset in the early chapters of Genesis shows us that while God promised never again to flood the world in global judgment marking this promise by the sign of the bow in the clouds, He nevertheless is still concerned with the day-to-day activities of humanity and He is still ordering, sustaining, and ruling over His creation having not relinquished one iota of supremacy to any person, power, or pandemic. Accordingly, we learn that there are other means which God has used and can use in order to press the reset button.
As we move throughout Scripture, we find this pattern of reset continuing most notably among the nation of Israel – God’s chosen people. Three major resets occur throughout their history as a response to their collective sin. First, with the Assyrian conquest, then with the Babylonian exile, and finally with the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 A.D. With these, we learn that while previous resets had been global in nature, God has a special attentive eye towards His own people. Furthermore, they remind us that while God’s people, especially in the New Covenant context, have a unique relationship with God as His children, we ought not to be arrogant in assuming that God’s displeasure towards us would not or could not result in a divine reset.
Scripturally, the strongest support for this point occurs in the opening chapters of Revelation and the warnings that Christ extends to six of the seven churches. Each of these involve some aspect of a divine reset for each individual, example church, i.e. the removal of a lampstand, thrown into prison (suffering and tribulation), war by the sword of Christ’s mouth, sickbed, great tribulation, children struck dead, Christ coming against them like a theif, submission of the false prophets (synagogue of Satan), the hour of trial, and vomited out of the mouth of Christ. Finally, in relation to this we read of the summary statement, “Those whom I love, I reprove, and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:19 Christ our Lord summarizes His prerogative to initiate a divine resent, called reproof or discipline, as the outworking of His love. Like a parent to a child, He loves us too much to allow us to continue down the wrong path, therefore, in times of discipline, the first order of business, individually or corporately, is to repent and return, then to look towards the ‘how’ of reforming our actions from the previous path we were on.
God’s prerogative to press the reset button reveals several aspects of His character as well our own.
- Resets are an exercise of God’s own sovereignty and supremacy.
- Resets (re)assert the reality that God is God and humanity (or nations/individuals) is not.
- Resets serve to remind humanity of their frailty and sinfulness.
- Resets cause the eye to look heavenward rather than earthward.
- Resets are means to bring repentance for offending the all-Holy God.
- Resets are never used as a means to return to the previous condition/state, rather they are meant to initiate reform.
- Resets are typological of final judgment in “that day”.
- Resets among God’s people are means of reproof and discipline for correction rather than punitive judgment. Even if that correction results in death, it then becomes a means for others to observe (See Acts 5).