Timelessness and Timeliness: Eternality
“From everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” This declaration of the eternal nature of our God ends one of the most notable opening verse couplets to any of the Psalms. Moses, in Psalm 90, declares the excellencies of the God of Israel, contrasting the eternal nature of God with the extremely fleeting and temporal nature of His creation. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” God’s eternal nature means that before He created the universe, before He had even created time itself, God existed perfectly and fully in Himself. God is truly timeless; He is not subject to the rules of time and space like His creation. He does not experience that succession of moments, that droning on of seconds and minutes and hours like we do. He is outside of time, able to view all of the reality of time and space as one succinct and timeless reality. Even more, time itself gets its reality from God, with all things being born out of God’s very existence. As Steve Unthank noted quite rightly in his article on God’s immutability, God, as pure actuality, gives rise out of the perfect abundance of His nature to all things that are not pure actuality, things that are by definition subject to change, things that are subject to time.
And time in a fallen world is actually quite depressing for us creatures. Moses makes this abundantly clear in verses 9-10: “For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sign. The years of our life are seventy or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” Each of us feels the weight of the passing of time in a myriad of ways. Parents often love to sit and talk about how it felt like just yesterday that their kids were toddling around in diapers and now they are sending them off to college. Older generations will sit and regale their grandkids of days without cell phones, computers, and fuel-injected vehicles. Yet for the senior in high school counting down the days until graduation, time seems like an eternity passing, with each hour dragging out mercilessly – only to look back 10 years later and wonder where that last month of high school actually went and yearning to have another go at one of the happiest moments of their young lives. For the creature, time is fickle; never enough of it when we need it or want it but always too much of it when we want it to go faster. A 20-year-old may think that 80 seems so far away and the 80-year-old thinks that 20 seems like just yesterday. Time is tricky; we run out of it as we are trying to get the family ready for church in the morning even though we thought we planned ahead. Time is saddening; we attend the funeral of someone who lived a good and long life, yet we are merely reminded of our own mortality and shortness. Or worse, we attend the funeral of a young person and lament that they were “taken before their time.” We may even wonder where God is in all of this!
The good news is that because God is timeless, He is also timely, at least from the perspective of us creatures. Since He is not bound by time, He is free to work in it as He pleases. Since He sees it all from the outside, He is not taken by surprise, not caught off-guard, not left trying to scramble to correct something that went wrong. This is why Moses can declare right at the outset of Psalm 90: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” For the elect children of God, we need not wonder if God may one day turn His back on us, or if that one sin we commit might undue all that He’s done in us thus far. We need not wonder if God will show up to help us in our moment of need. We simply need to look to the past, see how God has again and again shown Himself faithful to His Word and promises, and know that this God will always remain faithful. God, in electing His children, knew every sin we’d ever commit from before the very foundation of the world, and yet He still showed us love and grace in salvation. God’s foreknowledge is not one simply of knowing in advance, but rather one of firm commitment and promise of His enduring love unto all eternity. The future is secure since God is eternal. In the midst of a changing world that seems to be wasting away, dear Christian, let us find hope, rest, and assurance in the God who not only is Himself not subject to time, but uses time most wonderfully to the good of His people and the purposes of His glory.
Keith Kauffman attended University of Maryland (B.S.) and Capital Bible Seminary(M.Div.). Keith currently works at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, working in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases studying the immune response to Tuberculosis. Keith serves as an elder at Greenbelt Baptist Church.