Tuesday, August 3

God's Eternality

What does it mean that God is eternal? It means, for one thing, that God has no beginning or end. He has always been and always will be. His duration is constant. Scriptures that express this idea say that God is from "everlasting to everlasting," or that God lives forever. He had no beginning point, and he will have no end point.

However, when God expresses to us that he is eternal, it would seems he means something more than just that he is forever enduring, with no beginning or end. We might say that as well as being forever enduring, God also has no succession of moments, so he is always in the eternal now, or the eternal present. God communicates this idea to us with the name "I AM", and statements like the one given to us by Jesus in John 8: "..before Abraham came into being, I AM." God also tells us that he does not change, and if there were a succession of moments with him, He would change as successions of experiences were added. A God who experiences the succession of time would be a maturing God. That time does not unfold for God is probably also part of what is meant by the statements that tell us that a day is the same thing as a thousand years to God. God does not experience time as a succession of cycles of days and nights, but exists somehow beyond the moments of time, or beyond time as periodical.

Time is also something that God controls. He has power over it and is therefore not bound by it. "He declares the end from the beginning," and events in time that he has yet to bring about were already declared by him from ancient times (Isaiah 46:9-10). When I read these statements, I understand them to mean that God calls time itself into being, for if he declares successive events, would he not declare time itself? Then, too, if God is the dwelling place of all successive generations (generations being partly an expression of time), then it seems that time itself must "dwell" within God, and time must in some way be held or encapsulated by God. (As I write this, I'm reminded of the limitations of our language to express these things. Everything I write makes it sound as if God is spatial, and, of course, he's not.) If God calls time into being and time exists within him, then God exists outside the bounds of time. Another way to express this thought is to say that God transcends time.

God transcends time, yet sees the events of time, acts within time, and relates to us within time. There are events in time that he will bring about in the future and things he has already done in the past. God does what he does "at the right time." He sent Christ into the world "when the fullness of time came." It is yet another mystery to add to our list of the mysteries of the being our incomprehensible God: God transcends time and yet relates to time by knowing every moment of it and acting within every moment of it.

Like the other of God's attributes, God's eternality is impossible for us to grasp in any complete way, although we can nibble around the edges of it, and know something about it. I tend to see things mathematically, so I'd like to be able to put God's relation to time into some sort of Venn diagram, and I find it frustrating that I can't. There is no Venn diagram for this, just as there is no language to express it, or even thoughts to think it.

Examining God's eternality shows us in one more way how "other" God is. We are vapor or "breath"—constantly changing, here one moment and gone the next—but God is from everlasting to everlasting. We cannot even speak of present moments, because before the words are spoken, the moment has moved to the past. Yet God is the eternal "I AM".

What does this mean for us? It means God is always there. We can always come to him and be assured that he is there to receive us. Time is our enemy, bringing death, and decay, and loss; but beyond time, there is one constant, and that is our God, who stands beyond the grasp of time. The God who loves us does not change. The God who works all things for our good is not subject to time, but controls and uses it to bring about his perfect will. That God is eternal is yet another reason to trust him.

Let's remember, too, that what God promises comes about certainly, but in his own time. The terms "one day" and "a thousand years" don't have the same meaning to him as an eternal being that they have to us. He is never slack concerning his promises, even though we don't see them fulfilled in our own lifetimes, or even in the lifetimes of countless generations. What he says will happen, but in the "fullness of time" of an eternal God.

What say ye? Have you anything to add in regards to God's eternality? Anything to quibble over?

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