When did God plan for Jesus to be the Saviour of the world? Did he watch Adam sin and then decide to come up with a plan to rescue him? And for everyone who came after Adam (including us), did God simply leave them to their own devices to accept or reject the saving work of Jesus Christ?
For both questions, the answer is a loud and emphatic "No!" What kind of a God would we have if he were merely a being who reacts (rather than being an initiator). What kind of a God would we have if we could take the credit for our own salvation? He would not seem in control, or in other words, sovereign. How glorious can such a God be?
"He [Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." (1 Peter 1:20)
"...Even as he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him." (Ephesians 1:4)
"...Everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain." (Revelation 13:8)
The phrase "before the foundation of the world" appears in all three of the above verses. In 1 Peter 1:20, the Bible tells us that even before God created the world and people, he had already planned to send his son Jesus Christ to die for our sins and pay our sin-debt. Imagine that! Before Adam was created, before the first man even thought of disbelieving God and rebel against him, God the Father had planned for Jesus to pay for Adam's and all our sin-debt. He decided this before the foundation of the world.
Ephesians 1:4 reveals more. God had planned for Jesus to be Saviour. And before the world was formed, he had already chosen those who would be saved by Jesus. Salvation is God's work alone. When we believe, it's because in eternity past, God had already decided we would believe. We take none of the credit for being saved. It is completely the work of God. He decided before the foundation of the world.
And Revelation 13:8 shows that those whom God chooses to save, he puts their name in the book of life. The names in the book were written before the foundation of the world.
For me, that is simply amazing. God is sovereign over all history. He orchestrated his whole salvation plan even before he created anything. He chose the people who would believe and put their names down in the book of life. No one can thwart God's plan. Jesus said in John 10:28, 29, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."
Absolutely no one can snatch away those whom God wants to save. When we stand before him at the end of our lives, he will ask, "And how is it you came to believe in Christ's act of salvation?" And our response will be, "You did it, Lord. You choose me, you paid for my sin-debt, and you gave me the faith to believe. I could do nothing to save myself." By saving us in the way that he did, God gets the glory, and we get the salvation.
This Good Friday, that's something I want to reflect on. Dying on the cross for us was something God had planned for in eternity past. And having Jesus die for us was the only way to destroy sin and its consequences. Jesus asked three times for God the Father to use some other way but God did not change plans (Matthew 26). If there had been another way that did not involve killing his own son, surely God would have taken that path. But he did not, and this to me, shows the enormity of sin's devastation, that to destroy it, God the Son had to die in order to overcome it.
This act of Jesus on Good Friday reminds me how deadly sin is and how much God loves us. He had no need to save us. As objects of wrath, he could destroy us with full justification, but he did not. He chose to show us grace and mercy and die for us instead. And Jesus had been waiting since eternity past to do this for us. He had prepared himself to do this before the foundation of the world. That reveals just how much he loves us.