Last time, we saw that God’s eternity is His being without beginning, without ending and without succession. God has a different relationship to time than we do (Ps. 90:4; II Peter 3:8), since God is before (and, hence, outside and above) time (I Cor. 2:7; II Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:2), as the One who created time. Two texts from Hebrews especially prove this last point. Hebrews 1:2 asserts that God by Christ “made the worlds,” literally “made the ages” and so time. Hebrews 11:3 states, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” “The worlds,” here, are literally “the ages.” God created not only a universe of space, as many texts teach, but also time, as Hebrews 1:2 and 11:3 affirm. We could say that Jehovah made a space-time universe.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God created the universe and with it He created time. So Genesis 1:1 records the beginning of space and the beginning of time. Time is a creature made by the Almighty. Therefore, there is no time (a creature) in God (the Creator), since everything that is in God is God, for God is perfectly one or simple. Jehovah is infinitely exalted above time, as the One infinitely exalted above all creatures.
Now let us consider one of Paul’s greatest doxologies: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (I Tim. 1:17). “The King eternal,” here, is literally “the King of ages” and, hence, the ruler of time. He is not subject to time. He is the sovereign king over time, creating time (as the One who preexisted it) and ruling over time in His providence and according to His eternal decree. Let us worship Him! “Now unto the King [of ages] ... be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Moses, the author of Psalm 90, was the one to whom God revealed Himself on Mount Sinai as “I Am That I Am” (Ex. 3:14), the meaning of Jehovah. No creature can declare “I Am That I Am” for, before he finishes the sentence, he will not be what he was. Time passes in the very utterance so that a man or angel who pronounced these words would be older than he was before he spoke. You see, man, as a creature, is limited by time, the succession of moments. How unlike God we are! God can say, and says, “I Am That I Am” because there is an absolutely perfect identity between the first “I Am” and the second “I Am” in the sentence. For in God there is no time, no succession of moments. In Psalm 90, Moses holds, and is teaching, that God is without beginning and without ending (2) and without succession. After all, Jehovah (Ex. 3:14) is the divine name used in Psalm 90:13: “Return, O Lord, how long?”
The truth that God is without beginning, without ending and without succession is extremely important for several glorious truths about our covenant Father. The first divine attribute one could mention in this regard is God’s unchangeability. In the Most High, there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). The Almighty declares, “I am the Lord [i.e., Jehovah], I change not” (Mal. 3:6). But if God were in time (as some standard outside Him), He would grow older with time. If time were in God, there would be a succession of moments in His Being. Thus, God would change for He would age. Only as One who is truly eternal (without beginning, without ending and without succession) can God be unchangeable.
God’s unity or oneness or simplicity is a second divine perfection that requires His eternity. God’s simplicity means that He is absolutely one in His Being. But if God were not without succession, then He could be divided into two: all of time past to the present and the present into endless time future. Moreover, each of these two parts could be “split” into many more parts! Only as eternal (without beginning, without ending and without succession) is God, and can God be, one or simple.
Third, God’s omniscience—His perfect knowledge of everything, instantly and without having to reason things out in stages in His mind—requires His eternity. If there were time or succession of moments in God, then time would be involved in His knowing and thus He would not be omniscient, knowing everything instantly.
Moving from God’s attributes to His Persons, we note that God’s eternity provides us with a simple way of proving the Deity of the Son and the Spirit. II Peter 3:8 alludes to Psalm 90:4 with reference to the Son: “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years.” Christ Himself declared, “Before Abraham was, I am [not merely was]” (John 8:58). Being eternal, Jesus is God. The Holy Ghost is also God for He is called “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14). Since the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternal, there are three divine Persons in the one Godhead. As the Athanasian Creed puts it, “The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.” This is the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
God’s eternity is vital for the personal relationships within the Trinity. The Son is eternally begotten by the Father, and the Spirit is eternally breathed forth by the Father and the Son. But if there were time in God, then some time would have elapsed before the Father begat the Son and before the Father and the Son breathed forth the Spirit. Then the Father would be (slightly) older than the Son and the Son would be (slightly) older than the Spirit. This would be (at best) subordinationism in the Trinity! Indeed, Arius the heretic would be right: there was (a time) when the Son was not! However, the truth is that God is infinitely exalted above time and time is not in God. The Son is generated eternally and the Spirit proceeds eternally—outside and above time. Thus, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are fully co-eternal. Clearly, the classic view of divine eternity is necessary for the truth of God’s attributes and the Holy Trinity. It is in this light that we must understand the references to God’s eternity in our creeds, especially the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Belgic Confession (e.g., Articles 1, 8-11). Let us admire and serve our eternal, timeless Triune God!
- Volume: 13
- Issue: 22
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
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