God is eternal (or God transcends time)


I’m not gonna hide it: I love talking about God’s eternity. It’s mind-boggling, awful (full of awe), and brings me to praise to think the One Who inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15) has come near in Jesus. In talking about God, eternity reminds us that our human language is just that, human. While it’s true that revelation of God is real knowledge of Him (He gives it, after all!) God’s eternity makes us remember that revelation is often on the edge of what we can say about God, constantly keeping the awesomeness of Him before us. Other classical attributes of God do this, but eternality is most well-known so it’s easier to bring this to mind through reflection and meditation on God’s eternity.

So what does it mean to say that God is eternal, “the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity,” as Isaiah says? Let’s clear a couple of misconceptions of eternity out of the way before we delve into the eternal life offered in the Father the through the Son by the Spirit.

First, eternity is not simply everlastingness. I know this may sound strange, but it’s possible something could have existed forever and also still have been created by God. Yeah, weird. It gets into some tricky philosophical and theological stuff, but the point is that God doesn’t just happen to have existed from forever. God is the source of all that is, even if something has existed forever. So God’s eternity is of a particular kind, one that only God Himself possesses. God is everlasting, to be sure, as Psalm 90 proclaims. But we have to keep in mind that our idea of ‘everlasting’ is to be used as a starting point, not an ending point.

Second, eternity does not mean that God is simply outside of time. Rather, God transcends time. This means God can interact freely with His creation, entering into covenant, speaking and responding to His creatures, as well as enacting His plan of redemption and salvation. When we use the phrase ‘outside of time,’ don’t think that this means God is far, far away. Rather, God is radically distinct from us, transcending time in a way that we do not. We are beings bound by time. We have beginnings and will have ends. God does not and is not bound, but is free to be all of Himself in the eternal now, interacting freely with his time-bound creatures.

There’s so much more to say that, when done well, brings us to our knees in worship. God’s eternity is, quite simply, incredible and irresistible. We are drawn into the life of the eternal One Who sends the Spirit and His Son to make communion and reconciliation possible. But what does such an abstract-sounding attribute have to do with us, especially during coronavirus?

Here’s the immense comfort and mind-boggling joy that, I think, comes from the truth that God is eternal. Because God, according to the classical definition, “possess all at once limitless life,” all reality is present to Him in the eternal ‘now.’ The fullness of His creation is immediately present to and intimately known by Him always and in its fullness (more on this intimacy when we talk about impassibility). An example may help here. I fondly remember watching the TV show Gargoyles when I was a kid. I would sneak out of bed to watch it when my dad went to work at 3am when he worked the early shift. I always thought of it as a comforting show because I’d get to see my dad during a time where only he and I were awake. It was special. But that time in my life has passed; it’s only a dim memory today.

For God, however, all moments are present to Him in the eternal ‘now.’ God is as intimately aware of my childhood self as He currently is of my 30-year old self. God sees you; the whole of your life, always present to Him in eternity. There is no “God knows this before it happens,” because God isn’t before or after anything (well He is but that’s from our perspective), not being in time. God knows your pain, your fear, your tears, your anxiety, your hopes, your past, your present, your future, all in the eternal ‘now’ and all at once. What this really means is that God knows you better and more fully than you know yourself. The first time I realized that it gave me chills and I sort of froze. How is this possible? What is a human that you are eternally mindful of them? Of your whole creation? Of me?


During the coronavirus, the future is unknown. It freaks us out, scares us, frustrates us, angers us. We are finite and cannot see all things, past, present, nor future. We struggle with what we can see. We struggle with seeing ourselves even. However, when we read of the 24 elders around the throne of God in Revelation 4 fall down before God and “worship him who lives forever and ever,” this draws us into the mystery of the One that “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16). By this light we are illumined. God sees you, right now. All of you, your whole life, is present to God. You are not forgotten. You are seen and loved in the infinite depth of eternal love.

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