The truth that God is eternal, that is, without beginning, without ending and without succession, is vital not only for the Trinity and the truth of God’s attributes but also for the biblical and Reformed doctrine of His eternal decree. Scripture clearly teaches that, before the foundation of the world, Jehovah determined an all-encompassing plan for all things (Eph. 1:11). But if there were time in God, surely it would have taken Him time to decree all things? And if the Almighty spent time thinking and formulating His purposes, what about His absolutely perfect knowledge and will?
God’s first work outside of Himself was creation. This was the making of space (there was no space before this!) and time (there was no time before this!). Genesis 1 speaks of God as king and sovereign over time (I Tim. 1:17). He ordered the periods of darkness and light with both together constituting a day. The seven-day week is modelled on God’s creating in six days and resting from creating on one day. From Genesis 1, we also have our months, seasons and years (14).
Romans 1:20 states that the creation declares Jehovah’s “eternal power and Godhead.” Everything that is made proclaims, in effect, “God created me. Therefore He was before me, for He is eternal!” Note the significance of our young earth, just a few thousand years old. It highlights God’s eternity, as Calvin points out (Institutes 1.14.1). Evolutionism postulates millions and billions of years. Who then thinks of God’s eternity? This is just another lie of the devil to blind foolish man from God’s glory.
The truth of God’s eternity also answers the foolish questions: “Why did God wait so long before creating?” and “What was God doing before He created?” There was no time before God created!
God’s eternity sheds light upon our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. With the incarnation of the Second Person, the eternal Son has a beginning, according to His human nature. The man Christ Jesus began in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary some 2,000 years ago. Now the blessed Son, according to His human nature, experiences succession of moments, time, in Himself! He entered space as a human and He entered time as a human.
Have you ever wondered how Christ’s sufferings can deliver us from eternal punishment? How can the sufferings of one Person atone for millions of the elect? How can the sufferings of one Person during 33 years and especially during His public ministry and particularly during the three hours of darkness deliver millions of people from eternal fire? The answer is that Jesus is a divine Person and God is eternal. Being eternal, Christ’s divine nature gives His human sufferings an eternal worth. Stephen Charnock explains, “As the eternity of God is the ground of all religion, so the eternity of Christ is the ground of the Christian religion. Could our sins be perfectly expiated had he not an eternal divinity to answer for the offences committed against an eternal God? Temporary sufferings had been of little validity, without an infiniteness and eternity in his person to add weight to his passion” (The Existence and Attributes of God, I:294).
The first practical lesson for us is how gloriously transcendent God is! He is eternal, infinitely exalted above time as its creator and sovereign ruler. How unlike us! The Bible speaks frequently of the brevity of man’s life. Man’s age is as an handbreadth or even as nothing (Ps. 39:5). We are like a flower that fades or grass that withers (Job 14:2; Isa. 40:6-8). We are vapour or smoke that vanishes (James 4:14; Ps. 102:3). Moses even presents man’s short life as a sleep (Ps. 90:5). Even the angels, both good and evil, are only about 6,000 years old, the same age as the universe. The world itself, in its present form, is passing away (I Cor. 7:31), as are its lusts (I John 2:17).
So let us worship the eternal God! “Now unto the King eternal [i.e., the king of ages, the sovereign over time] ... be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (I Tim. 1:17). The Lord’s Prayer closes with this doxology: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (Matt. 6:13). Many biblical doxologies include the phrase, “forever and ever,” for our praise of the eternal God will be everlasting.
The eternal God is our “portion for ever” (Ps. 73:26). Let us believe in Him; let us hope in Him; let us enjoy Him. Near the end of his lengthy and eventful life, Moses holds this out for the comfort of the church: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27). The God who is without beginning and without ending and without succession envelops us, protects us and cares for us!
The eternal God makes an everlasting covenant with His people in Jesus Christ so that the church and every believer is preserved everlastingly (Jer. 32:40). The God who inhabits eternity dwells with him who is of a humble and contrite heart forever more (Isa. 57:15; Rev. 21:3-4).
The eternal God has two eternal destinies: eternal life in the new world for believers or everlasting death in the lake of fire for the unbelieving who refuse to forsake their sins. Scripture speaks of “everlasting burnings” (Isa. 33:14), “everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46) and “everlasting destruction” (II Thess. 1:9). Repent and trust in Christ!
Knowing God as eternal, Moses began Psalm 90 with these confident words: “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations” (1). The man of God is filled with amazement: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (2). He marvels at Jehovah: “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (4). But man’s life on earth is, literally, just “a sigh” (9). Thus Moses prays for wisdom: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (12). He asks the eternal God that He would grant us glad days (15) and “establish the work of our hands” (17). May this be our portion in the service of the eternal God!
- Volume: 13
- Issue: 23
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851