God IS... Eternal
There are many passages that declare that God is eternal, that He never had a beginning and that He will never have an end. He is called the “everlasting God” (Genesis 21:33); the Psalmist said, “From everlasting to everlasting You are God” (Psalm 90:2), and “But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end” (Psalm 102:27). God says of Himself through Isaiah, “Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever” (Isaiah 57:15). The same declaration that is said about God in the Old Testament, that God lives forever, is said about Jesus as well (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; Hebrews 1:8-12). Paul declares that Jesus is “before all things” (Colossians 1:17). “The Lord shall endure forever” (Psalm 9:7); “Even from eternity I am He” (Isaiah 43:13); “I am the first and I am the last” (Isaiah 44:6); “His eternal power” (Romans 1:20); “Who liveth forever and ever” (Revelation 4:9); “Who alone possesses immortality” (1 Timothy 6:15).
Time and Eternity
There have been many attempts to define time and eternity but I like the following comparison: Eternity and time differ as the sea and rivers; the sea never changes place, and is always one water; but the rivers glide along, and are swallowed up in the sea; so is time by eternity” (Charnock p. 280). “Behold God is exalted, and we do not know Him; the number of His years is unsearchable” (Job 36:26). “The numbers of the drops of rain which have fallen in all parts of the earth since the creation of the world, if subtracted from the number of the years of God, would be found a small quantity, a mere nothing, to the years of God”(Charnock p. 286).
Exodus 3:14 “I AM WHO I AM”
God is eternal because God is self-existent. We depend upon outward circumstances for our continued existence, but God depends upon nothing for existence outside of His own nature. He is uncaused, He needs nothing for continued existence. The above expression is from a root word that means “to be”. This is the essential idea behind the Hebrew word Yahweh (YHWH), which is commonly translated “Jehovah” or LORD. “It carries the fundamental idea of the self-existence of God, and simply means ‘I am the One who is’” (Davis pp. 72-73). The reader should note that the name Yahweh is also found in secular documents (that is in the years to come the cultures which surrounded Israel knew that this was the name of the God they served) including the Mesha Inscription. “The statement basically emphasizes the timelessness of God. He is the self-existing one, the Eternal, the one without beginning or end” (Smith p. 253).
What this means is that God is never lacking and thus does not need to learn, mature, grow in knowledge and power and neither is God declining. God uses the present tense, “I am that I am” and not, “I was” or “I will be”. “I am” speaks of absolute perfection at every single moment. “Of a creature, it may be said he was, or he is, or he shall be; of God it cannot be said but only He is. He is what He always was, and He is what He always will be” (Charnock p. 284). God did not evolve, and God has not been ignorantly creating or experimenting with the human race as He has grown in knowledge. The Scripture says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Hebrews 13:8); “But Thou are the same” (Psalm 102:27). Another application is the fact that God has not mellowed over the years. Some feel that God has changed over time and is far more lenient today. The truth of the matter is that God has remained the same and has the same expectations. God told the early Christians that far from expecting less of them in terms of faithfulness and obedience than those in the Old Testament, God expected even a greater seriousness of purpose in serving Him, “For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:2-3).
Acts 17:25 “Nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things”
“Any attempt to tame or domesticate God, to reduce him to the level of a household pet dependent on us for food and shelter, is again a ridiculous reversal of roles” (Stott p. 285). This is one reason why God is eternal. He is completely self-sustaining and self-existent, God's existence is completely independent, and He is not dependant upon anything or anyone for His existence. In contrast, we are completely dependent upon Him for our continued existence (Acts 17:28 “For in Him we live and move and exist”). The above also means that God does not need any advice. If God is eternal then His experience and wisdom are eternal as well, in view of these facts it would be very arrogant and foolish for any temporary, infinite, and limited mortal to question God’s moral standards or the instructions in His word. Eternal wisdom, looking both past and forward, is behind every word and command in Scripture.
John 5:26 “For just as the Father has life in Himself”
It is reasonable that only the Being who has life in Himself can give life to others. This is one reason why God is called the “living God”. God has unlimited life, not a mere drop of it, but a continuous stream or fountain. “The enjoyment of God will be as fresh and glorious after many ages, as it was at first. God is eternal, and eternity knows no change; there will then be the fullest possession without any decay (1 Peter 1:4) in the object enjoyed. There can be nothing past, nothing future; time neither adds to it, nor detracts from it; that infinite fullness of perfection. As God is, so will the eternity of Him be, without succession, without division; the fullness of joy will be always present; without past to be thought of with regret for being gone; without future to be expected with tormenting desires. When we enjoy God, we enjoy Him in His eternity without any flux; an entire possession of all together, without the passing away of pleasures that may be wished to return, or expectation of future joys without might be desired to hasten. Time is fluid, but eternity is stable; and after many ages, the joys will be as savory and satisfying as if they had been but that moment first tasted by our hungry appetites” (Charnock p. 298). What this means is that God is always vigorous, always flourishing and always amazing! No wonder that in heaven praise is unceasing (Revelation 5:14).
“Because God is eternal, His decrees must be eternal, for He could never have existed without thinking or willing them. He can accomplish His decrees because He is almighty, but He could not be almighty without being eternal” (Zondervan Pictorial Ency. p. 384). “According to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations” (Romans 16:26). “The gospel is not preached by the command of a new and temporary god, but of that God that was before all ages” (The Existence and Attributes of God, Stephen Charnock, Volume 1, p. 281). This means that we need to follow the Bible because God will always be there to enforce His word and punish disobedience (John 12:48). On a practical level this means that all things in God are eternal; His power, mercy, wisdom, justice, knowledge, holiness, and so on.
“The eternity of God is the foundation of the stability of the covenant, the great comfort of a Christian. If He had a beginning, He might have an end, and so all our happiness, hope, and being would expire with Him” (Charnock p. 279). Therefore the Christian can have absolute confidence in God’s promises because He will be always present to fulfill and keep those promises throughout eternity. The hope of heaven and eternal life would be meaningless if God Himself were not eternal. In order to be almighty, God must be eternal, because if God was otherwise there would have been a time in the distant past when God was not and there will be time in the distant future when God’s power would cease.
In order to be all-knowing and wise God must be eternal, because if God had a beginning, then He would be ignorant of all those things that happened prior to His existence, and if He has an end, then He can only see so far into the future. “In times of distress, decline, or apostasy the doctrine of the eternity of God provides assurance and comfort. The God who never was born cannot die” (Zond. Ency. p. 384). The prophets and apostles have come and gone yet the church is still in good hands because God is eternal. The future of the church is something that some might worry about from time to time, but let us remember that Christ remains the eternal head and that is the key to the survival of God’s people throughout the ages (Matthew 16:18 “The gates of Hades shall not overpower it”). Apostasy will come and go; yet the true church and the incorruptible seed of the Gospel will survive from generation to generation.
2 Peter 3:8
“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”
God does not ignore time, for God does work within the frame of time to fulfill His purposes, “But when the fullness of time came’ (Galatians 4:4). Yet God is not bound, limited, or affected by the passing of time. Yes, it has been almost two thousand years since Jesus ascended and promised to return (Acts 1:11), but for God this amount of time was like two days ago to us. First, there is a wonderful truth here. Time does not pass slowly or drag by for God. I think that some people have been convinced that eternity will grind on slowly and will, in effect, become a prison for Christians. God is eternal, yet time does not drag by. In addition, time does not affect God’s will to do something, God can let thousands of years pass by and still be just as zealous in rewarding the faithful or punishing the wicked. Time does not affect God’s love for the faithful or His wrath upon the wicked. What this means is that God will not let people out of hell after a million years because His wrath is spent, and neither will it mean that God will eventually grow tired of the faithful and that His love will wane. “But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:17); “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3); “With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten” (Jeremiah 20:11; “And an everlasting humiliation” (23:40).
Daniel 7:9 “Ancient of Days”
I wanted to examine the above title because some might misunderstand and think that the term “ancient” somehow means that God is “old” in the sense of being aged and tired. Through Isaiah, God makes it clear that just because He is eternal does not mean that He is “old” and “tired”, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired” (Isaiah 40:28). Everyday and every moment God is fresh, awake, fully aware of our needs and full of life. God never tires of desiring man’s salvation (2 Peter 3:9) and He never becomes apathetic in His holiness, justice, or mercy as well. God remains, to this day, eager to hear our prayers (1 Peter 5:7). Finally if you are not a Christian, or if you have become unfaithful, you need to be deeply affected by your sins, even if committed long ago. They might be in the past with us, but they are present to God, to whom all things are before Him at once. God is not affected by time, therefore unforgiven sins, even those committed long ago, are presently before Him as if they were committed at this moment. The good news is that God wants you saved (1 Timothy 2:4,6)!