by Del Tackett


2
5

Eternal

[preface]

C. S. Lewis offered an illustration regarding the relationship of time and God’s eternal existence. If you had a sheet of paper and could extend it in both directions endlessly, representing the eternality of God, and then drew a short line on the paper. The line would represent all of time—engulfed in the eternal nature of God. This is why God can be both the Alpha and Omega simultaneously. There is neither beginning nor end with Him. He is “from everlasting to everlasting”, as Moses put it.

These are hard things to comprehend for those of us bound up within that line. We live in the confines of an existence in which we experience this mortal thing we call “time”—the measurement of change: the clock ticks; the earth rotates and circles the sun; events are preceded by a cause and followed by an effect; actions have reactions; things begin and end; a birth is followed by growth, aging and death. Everything around us is in a state of flux—a universe of constant change. But for the immutable, unchanging God in whom that short line exists, time is irrelevant. The words “begin”, “change”, and “end” are not part of His nature.

Somewhere in here our minds begin to grow fuzzy because we are so totally bound up in the march of time that we have trouble conceiving a God who is not caught up in it with us. This why a child might ponder, or the atheist challenge, “Where did God come from?” To ask is to begin with the assumption that God is not transcendent to time, but subordinate to it. This shrinks God down to something finite that can be placed inside the line.

But if God is eternal, as the Scripture declares, and time has a beginning and end, then God has created a finite line of time that exists as a small dash within His eternality.

It is puzzling enough to contemplate that God has existed forever, without beginning or end, but it becomes more difficult for us when the eternal God acts causally within our realm of time. When He asks Adam: “Where are you?” we have a tendency to think that God is caught up, as we are, in the flow of time, cause and effect—Adam hides and then neither we nor God can see him. But God is not like us. He exists outside of time, seeing both the “beginning” and the “end”—and everything in between, in one complete view:

“I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, things which have not been done…” Isaiah 46:9-10

That is why neither Adam nor Jonah could hide from God… nor can we. And this is not because He knows all the good hiding places, it is because He not only sees us hiding but He sees our entire hiding event from beginning to end as if it were all present to Him. The past, the present, the future… the whole of time exists within the eternal presence of God. When God declared to Moses that His name is “I Am”, it bore, among many things, the essence of the God who “is” regardless of where we are on our finite timeline.

Yet this eternal God “stoops” to interact with us, entering into our realm of time to do so. Certainly God sees where Adam is, just as He sees where you and I are hiding today, tomorrow and years from now, but He asks the question so that Adam can respond and confess that he was naked and ashamed.

God acts within the line of time but He is transcendent to it—engulfing it within His eternal and infinite nature. As Tozier put it: “… God lives in the everlasting now.”

The implications for us are as immeasurably good as they are immeasurably puzzling. Consider 2 Timothy, as Paul is talking about the Gospel and the power of God:

“… [He] saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity… ” 2 Timothy 1:9

This is an astounding statement. Our salvation and calling were granted to us “from all eternity”. This is only possible if God Himself is eternal and able, therefore, to grant them from the eternal past. And, if this is so, then it is understandable why the Scripture speaks of our “eternal salvation”—a salvation that extends from eternity past to eternity future. Otherwise, it cannot be “eternal”. And, it is also why we see our future state so often declared in the “present tense”. For example, we are declared to be “seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”, present tense. How can this be when that hasn’t, in our time frame, happened to us yet? It is because of the eternality of God, in whom our future is already a reality to Him. And if it is a reality to Him, then it is a reality for us.

Oh my!

This, of course, raises more mysteries in our mind as we read in Ephesians 1:4 that He “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”. Some would say that this was based upon God “knowing” that we would do some sufficient “work” in the future. Yet our Timothy passage clearly says that our salvation is granted to us purely by His purpose and grace and not according to our works. How is this possible, for surely He knows our beginning and end and our daily failings in between? Surely this “knowledge” of us would disqualify us rather than qualify us, wouldn’t it?

Several years ago, a theological position arose in which men tried to diminish the difficulty of biblical words like  “chosen” and “predestination” and “foreordained” by pulling God inside the line with us. It was called “Process Theology” because God was supposedly in “process” with us… bound up in the present, not really knowing the future but learning along with us. They thought they could erase those troubling words. But the cost was to create a God who was quite scary, for if He is learning about me and my thoughts and actions on a daily, minute by minute basis, then He may soon realize that I am not worth bothering with. He will, day after day, be disappointed in my lack of true agape love, or my less than full devotion to Him, or my constantly falling short of His bar of holiness and perfection. For if He is in “process”, then He could well change His mind about my “sonship”, now that He has learned the “truth” about me.

BUT, for the eternal God who knows and sees every one of my gazillion faults and failings from beginning to end simultaneously and still, from the eternal past grants that to me? Oh, the depth and richness of the love of God in Christ Jesus!

It is at this point we should fall prostrate to the ground before Him in utter thankfulness for a grace poured out upon us that is so completely unearned and so completely forever-forever… so eternally eternal.

As Peter ended, so do we:

“… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

                                   ___________

For contemplation throughout the week (don’t skip the hard ones J ):

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’ Isaiah 46:9-10

And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation… Hebrews 5:9

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity… 2 Timothy 1:8-9

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:4-9

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Psalm 90:1-2

Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it? Isaiah 43:13

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:13-15

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear, As I live forever,
if I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand takes hold on judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me. Deuteronomy 32:39-41

The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms; Deuteronomy 33:27

Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him;
The number of His years is unsearchable. Job 36:26

But the Lord abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment… Psalm 9:7

Your name, O Lord, is everlasting,
Your remembrance, O Lord, throughout all generations. Psalm 135:13

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. Psalm 145:13

For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15

But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. Lamentations 5:19

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

“… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17

From A.W. Tozer, “The Knowledge of the Holy”, page 45: “The truth is that if the Bible did not teach that God possessed endless being in the ultimate meaning of that term, we would be compelled to infer it from His other attributes, and if the Holy Scriptures had no word for absolute everlastingness, it would be necessary for us to coin one to express the concept, for it is assumed, implied, and generally taken for granted everywhere throughout the inspired Scriptures. The idea of endlessness is to the kingdom of God what carbon is to the kingdom of nature. As carbon is present almost everywhere, as it is an essential element in all living matter and supplies all life with energy, so the concept of everlastingness is necessary to give meaning to any Christian doctrine. Indeed I know of no tenet of the Christian creed that could retain its significance if the idea of eternity were extracted from it.”

Comments

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  • Suzanne Forsberg

    Thank you for this article and all the wonderful Scriptures containing Truth. I hope to truly meditate on them and not skim over.
  • Stephen King

    Thanks Del! I appreciate your propensity to delve into mystery and seek truth.

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