Questions From Readers
● How could persons called to heavenly life be given undeserved kindness in “connection with Christ Jesus before times long lasting,” as 2 Timothy 1:9 indicates?—U.S.A.
It would, of course, be impossible for individuals to receive undeserved kindness many centuries before their birth. However, Jehovah God foreordained a class of persons (but not the specific individuals forming it) to become heirs of a heavenly kingdom. That being his purpose, it was as good as accomplished and hence it could be said that this class of persons had received undeserved kindness “before times long lasting.” Romans 4:17 says of Jehovah: “[He] calls the things that are not as though they were.” So this can be one way of looking at the matter.
The expression “before times long lasting” evidently designates a period of considerable, though undetermined length. However, other scriptures enable us to be more specific relative to the time involved. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote: “He [God] chose us in union with him before the founding [ka·ta·bo·leʹ] of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love. For he foreordained us to the adoption through Jesus Christ as sons to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, . . . we were also assigned as heirs, in that we were foreordained according to the purpose of him who operates all things according to the way his will counsels.”—Eph. 1:4-11.
The Greek term for founding (ka·ta·bo·leʹ) appearing in this passage literally means “a casting or laying down” and can mean the implanting of seed in human conception. In fact, at Hebrews 11:11 the term is appropriately rendered “conceive.” We read: “By faith also Sarah herself received power to conceive seed, even when she was past the age limit.” Clearly the reference is to Abraham’s ‘throwing down’ human seed for the begetting of a son and Sarah’s receiving that seed so as to be fertilized.
As to the “founding of the world,” Jesus Christ linked this event with Abel, saying: “That the blood of all the prophets spilled from the founding of the world may be required from this generation, from the blood of Abel down to the blood of Zechariah.” (Luke 11:50, 51) Thus Abel is spoken of as living at the “founding of the world.” Abel being a son of Adam and Eve, the “founding of the world” manifestly refers to the time when the first human pair became parents to children, thereby producing a world of mankind. So it must have been after Adam and Eve sinned and before children were born to them that Jehovah God purposed to produce a class of persons to be heavenly rulers with his Son. This was about 4,000 years before Paul wrote his letter to Timothy and so could well be spoken of as being “before times long lasting.”