We’re continuing to think about ways in which God is quite unlike us. I know that some will have found this a bit of a stretch. But I’ve got to be honest. I don’t mind that. I’ve intended to drown us in God’s immensity. So don’t worry is you’ve got to the end of the post and been left feeling like you’re at the point of dying! Every now and again it’s good to get a little out of our depth. It reminds us that there’s so much more to God thatn we may have thought and imagined. And it keeps us humble because we discover that no matter how well we think we know him, there’s so much more of him to explore and enjoy.
So far we’ve thought about God’s independence. And we’ve thought about God’s immutability. But this time we’re thinking about God’s relationship to time. The Bible has three things to say about God’s eternity.
1. God exists before time
In Psalm 90:2 the songwriter says, ‘Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God’.
God is eternal. He exists from everlasting to everlasting. He has no beginning and he has no end. There never was a moment when he was not. He never started toi exist. He has always been. He always is. And he always will be. He exists before all things. And he creates all things. Everything comes from him and depends on him. And that includes time. Before God created the universe there was no time. Time does not have an existence by itself. God alone is independent and self sufficient. Everything else in creation depends on him. Therefore God does not need time. Time is something that proceeds from him. It’s not part of him. And he does not exist in time. His life is not a succession of moments. He does not progress from one place in history to another. All of his existence is somehow always present to him. He doesn’t age. He doesn’t progress from immaturity to maturity. He doesn’t gain wisdom as he grows up, as we are supposed to! He’s ancient and he’s got all the wisdom on the planet already. He’s always had it.
2. God stands above time
In 2 Peter 3:8, Peter says ‘with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day’.
Let’s take these two parts in turn. First, a thousand years are like a day. This means that God can remember all the detailed of events of a thousand years ago as though they happened yesterday. I can barely remember what happened last week. But God has perfect recall because the events are always present to him. The passage of time and increasing distance from events doesn’t affect Gods recollection. All of creation is viewed by him as though it just took place.
But also a day is like a thousand years. One day, from God;s perspective, seems to last like a thousand years. It’s as if the day never ends but is always being experiences with an intense scrutiny. Whichever way you look at it, God’s relationship o time is very different to ours. It’s as though time is simultaneously present to him as he stands above it and takes it all in.
3. God acts in time
In Acts 17:30&31, Paul says, ‘In the past God overlooked such ignorance but now he has commanded all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising them from the dead.
Though God exists apart from time and stands above time, nevertheless the Bible teaches that God also acts in time. We can see that from the quote from Acts 17. In that passage Paul records God acting in the past when he overlooked ignorance, God acting in the present as he commends people to repent and God acting in the future as he promises to judge people through Jesus. And so, though in himself God is timeless, in creation he sees and acts as a succession of moments. And he chooses the right time to do the right thing. He is the Lord of time. I guess we could say that he’s the ultimate Time Lord! Time is the canvas on which he paints his glorious picture of redemption in the events of salvation history.
What do we do with this? Let’s think through three quick implications.
Since God created time it’s his. It belongs to him. It’s from him and it’s for him. Every second, minute, hour, day, month and year of our lives is his.
Since God rules over time he’s not subject to it. Time always runs away from me. I never have enough of it to do everything that I ought to do or that I want to do. Not God. I can’t master it. He can. It’s not my servant. But it is his.
Since God uses time we need to recognise that it’s an instrument in his hands that he’ll use for his glory.
He’s some God, isn’t he?