Today feels like an Attributes of God kind of day. In fact, I think we could even step it up a notch and take on one more of God’s incommunicable attributes – his eternality. When we speak of his eternality we are talking about God’s relationship to time. You had better hold on tight, this may get a little bumpy.
So why did I feel it necessary to preface our conversation with a word of caution? Well, there are two very good reasons why this might be a difficult topic to cover. Let me start with the obvious issue – God alone is eternal (Psalm 90:2, Rev 1:8).
Everything except for God has a beginning (John 1:1-3, Col 1:6). Since God gave us a soul that can never die, we can imagine something that has no end. However, God is more than immortal, he is eternal. He has neither beginning nor ending, and alone is “uncaused”. This is very much beyond our experience and understanding.
The other issue we have is that time isn’t all that easy of a thing to explain. Saint Augustine said of time, “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.” That pretty much encapsulates the problem right there.
It is obvious we are creatures bound by time. We can neither escape its progress nor alter its course. Causes proceed effects, the past is different from the future, and we just tag along for the ride. In the absence of time would everything just happen simultaneously, or would nothing happen at all? It is impossible to image there could even be an instant when time did not exist. Come to think of it, I can’t even talk about time “before” time without using some of the many temporal words and phrases that litter our language. Add the fact God alone is eternal and we have ourselves a potentially difficult conversation ahead.
Now that we have established this is going to be a difficult concept, let’s define what we mean when we say God is eternal. In the same way, when speaking about his omnipresence, God is free from all limitations of space, so is he free from all limitations of time. Some would say that he exists above and apart from time. How is this possible? Well, God was before time, and he is the cause of time. Hence, he cannot be a part of time, though as creator he can and does relate to his creation in time.
So in a practical sense what does that mean? First off it means time does not change God. We change with every tick of the clock, but God does not (Mal 3:6, Heb 13:8). This should be encouraging, as God will not grow old, surly, impotent and forgetful with time. He is today as he was and will always be.
God’s freedom from all limitations of time also means he is equally present in every time and sees all time with equal clarity (Isaiah 46:10). A. W. Tozer explained it this way, “In God there is no was or will be, but a continuous and unbroken is. In Him history and prophecy are one and the same. “
The picture below may help you visualize what I am trying to explain. God is the creator of time and it dwells within him. He causes, affects, and controls it, and yet does so without time exerting any control on him. Although he exists above time he enters into time in order to interact with his creation. No more is this more pronounced than when the Son took on flesh and entered into time to die for our sins (Gal 4:4).
Here are some more scriptures related to God’s eternality:
Deut 33:27 The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms;
Psalm 93:2 Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.
Psalm 102:12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.
Isa 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
Isa 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
Rom 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
1 Tim 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
More In The Series
9) Infinite God