The Nature of God: Eternity

eternalThe eternity of God means that He transcends time. It is an attribute that sets him apart from his creatures, and so it is one of the attributes that are often called incommunicable. God alone is eternal, neither man nor the angels partake of this quality. We are finite beings. God is infinite. We live in time. God exists beyond it.

God is eternal. This does not merely mean that God lives forever, but that he exists in a realm devoid of time. He transcends time.The Bible speaks of this in several passages:

‘Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him;

Nor can the number of His years be discovered.’ Job 36:26

‘who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.’ 1 Tim. 6:16

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ 2 Peter 3:8

Many other passages refer to this attribute, e.g., Isaiah 40:28; 41:4; 57:15; Rev 1:8; Gen 1:1; John 1:1; John 17:5,24; Psalm 102:26,27; 90:2; 93:2; Job 36:26; Deut. 32:40;  Exodus 3:14

If God is said to transcend time, what then is time?

Time is a mode of existence. It is not a real ‘something’, rather it is the state or realm in which things exist. According to Augustine, one of the early teachers of the Church, if there were no creatures, there would be no time.

Herman Bavinck, a Dutch theologian of the nineteenth century, noted the following:

‘Time is that mode of creaturely existence by virtue of which beings have a past, present, and future, as so many parts or divisions which can be measured and counted’. (The Doctrine of God, p.156) It is a mode of existence of all created and finite beings.

For God there is no time. He is what he is from age to age. He is who He is forever. We can rest in his love and his promises, knowing that He can never change.

What the eternity of God means for us today

1. It gives us a basis for the enduring nature of moral values and principles. The Christian believes that moral principles like honesty, truth, and fairness are absolute . They are not relative to culture or circumstance. We must always be honest, whether it is convenient or not. We must be fair in our dealings with neighbours, customers, or suppliers. These requirements are simply expressions of God’s own character. And we as his creatures must reflect that character. Were God not eternal, his character might change overtime. Honesty could cease to be always appropriate. Marital unfaithfulness might become okay.

2. It gives the believer confidence in God’s promises. The Christian lives by faith – faith in God’s promises. We receive justification because the righteousness of God is promised in the gospel (Romans 1:17). We are at peace when we hear of violence and terrorist attacks because of God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10:

‘Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

We can rest in these and other promises because the God who made them endures always. He is ever present to defend and fulfill his promises.

3. It implies a certainty that unjust and immoral acts will not finally go unpunished. The apostle John saw a vision of the end of history. His words were as follows:

‘And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God,and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.’ (Rev. 20:12)

Since God is eternal, all the actions of men that have ever been performed will be examined and judged. Cruel acts of torture, mutilation and rape of innocent women, unfaithfulness to spouses, and so many deeds that we think the perpetrators have gone away with – all will be brought to judgement.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Eccl. 12:14)

*I welcome comments and enquiries from readers.

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