by Sam Robinson
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
This amazingly rich part of scripture comes from Ephesians 1:3-6. I recently came back from a week-long conference where we explored the doctrine of eschatology, and these words from the Apostle Paul were so important. To understand the end, you have to go back to the beginning. Or even before the beginning! As Paul writes, before the world was created, God had chosen us. Before there was anything, God’s plan was already marked out.
Incredibly, I came back from the conference and found a review copy of the new album from Bellarive awaiting me. Titled Before There Was, it picks up on many of the ideas communicated in Ephesians 1, and the rest of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. The album is a shapeshifter, using dynamics boldly, and most tracks are rather generous in length – only a handful run shorter than four minutes.
Before There Was opens with Let There Be Light, an upbeat number crying out to God for his work to be done here on earth. Your Great Love continues in joyous praise, reflecting on Jesus’ time on earth and responding in praise: ‘We will sing to you forever and a day’.
Lazarus is a slower track but infused with dynamic shifts, grunting dubstep-esque sounds and some very heavy moments. I was surprised that a song as anthemic as this would be placed fourth on the record, but as I kept listening I discovered this is an album full of twists and turns, right until the very end. Lead singer Sean Curran uses his vocal talents with finesse on this track, bringing things back to almost whispers at points.
Save Us is an intelligent progression from Lazarus and is filled with glitches. This song points me to Ephesians 2, perhaps not with the same clarity of Citizens’ Made Alive, but it highlights our helpless state of death (Eph 2:1-2), before bringing hope. ‘We’re calling out! Save us! Save us!’ And just when you think the song is finished, it continues. It’s unconventional songwriting, very theatrical.
Our adoption in Christ is raised on I Belong to You – a track that would work well sung in a church congregation. Bring Us Back is a pop-driven response to new life in Christ.
One of the standout tracks for me on Before There Was is Hallelujah, to Saving Grace. It’s a real turning point on the record, and a song bursting with joy. It delights in the grace shown to us in Jesus, to the point that he became a curse for us, and that death has no hold over us anymore. As Sean sings, ‘death is buried in the grave he rose from’. What a reason for celebration! The album makes another natural progression into Only You Can Raise the Dead featuring some mega harmonies.
Closer From the Very Start brings us back to Ephesians 1 and God’s view of time. Before creation, before the fall, before Jesus came to earth to die on a cross, everything was planned out:
‘Long before sin you thought of redemption, to cover us in Jesus’ blood.
Buried with Christ, we rise as your children, brought to the life by the Son’.
The song launches into a synth spectacular fit for an arena, but the power is in the message. God is in control of everything, and he always has been. Everything is still running to God’s Plan A. Bellarive want us to fix our eyes on Jesus and see God’s goodness and sovereignty. Musically Before There Was is filled with surprises, builds, and lush sounds that complement the message being shared. I’m giving Before There Was three-and-a-half out of five stars.