To know God. That is the full measure and purpose of the Christian life. We know God in many ways, both by searching out and listening to what He has revealed to us about Himself, and by experiencing Him through relationship, by abiding in Him through obedience, by interacting with Him through prayer.
We began this series by asking what God is. We talked about His triune nature and what each of the three members of the Godhead are. In this article, we will begin to discuss more of His nature, specifically, how He is eternal and why that matters.
One final note before proceeding. I’ve provided links in the further reading section that explore some of the topics I’ve discussed here. Though I tend to agree with most of the content given, the works are the works of other individuals and may not express my own thoughts and feelings with complete accuracy. Nevertheless, the articles are useful and should be approached the same way my own writing are approached, with thoughtfulness, discretion and a desire to learn the truth.
What is He like?
How do you describe God? What are the essential aspects of His being? Answering questions like these allow us to understand what kind of role He can play, both in our personal life and in the world at large. What is He capable of? What can we rely on Him for? Over the next several articles, I will look at different attributes that describe God, and discuss what some of the implications of those attributes are for us.
He is Eternal (in all of His three persons)
refs: Genesis 1:1, Psalm 90:2, Exodus 3:14
What does it mean?
To be eternal means to have always existed (it comes from the same root word as eternity, meaning without beginning or end). God did not have a beginning, nor does He have an end. He exists outside the constraints of space (because He is not physical, but a spirit) and time (all time has a beginning and an end, for time is bound to space).
In Genesis 1:1 we see God existing before creation, and since space and time are created things, they must have come after God and thus can not bind Him. Psalm 90:2 says the He is from everlasting (eternity in the past) to everlasting (eternity in the future). In His conversation with Moses on Mount Horeb (Exodus 3:1-16) God names Himself “I Am”, using the perpetual present tense. God wasn’t and God won’t be, God simply is, all the time at every moment, God is. God experiences every moment in time at the same time. Its a concept that I can barely grasp, and an aspect of His nature that is in some ways incomprehensible to us. We have no frame of reference to understand a being who does not exist inside a space/time context. His nature is higher than our nature, His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
Why is this important?
Have you ever wondered where God comes from? Have you ever wondered why that question is important?
The short answer is that God doesn’t come from anywhere. The question itself is broken, betraying a misunderstanding of God’s nature, because the question itself implies the idea of space and time, for to ask the question “where” there must be a “place” and since places are a part of space and God does not exist inside of space, because He made space, then God himself cannot be from a where. He simply is. The same is true of time. To use the word “come” implies a beginning, and beginnings imply time. And since God does not exist inside of time, because He made time, then a question that assumes time cannot be asked of God.
To ask where we come from is to ask a question that is based on a desire to know your purpose, I think. Because knowing where we come from, knowing how we came into being, knowing who is responsible, if anyone is responsible, matters and has implications for what our purpose is and how we interpret what we experience in this life.
A post modern view of the world that believes there is no God has few options for answering that question. You can assert that the universe itself is eternal, and that we are simply experiencing one cycle of an infinite cycle. This option is similar to the assertions of the Bible about God, and the only one that I find reasonable (barring evidence I won’t go into here).
But such an assertion feels unsatisfying, and leaves a person with the enormous responsibility of taking ownership of their own purpose and happiness. If the universe is an uncaring random factory throwing around atoms that occasionally exhibit the attributes we have come to associate with life and intelligence, then nothing that you or I do really matters beyond what makes us feel good during our present life times. Surely, we should “eat, drink and be merry” as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:32, “for tomorrow we die”.
But if God does exist, if God is the origin point, then the point where you stop asking “what came before?” is not an impersonal, unfeeling universe, but a living being. And the implications of that are profound. If that being is responsible for creating the universe, then the universe has a purpose that is derived from that Being’s intent. When we ask about our purpose, we are asking why we were made. We are asking our creator what intention He had when He fashioned us?
God’s eternal nature allows Him to be the Creator. It allows us to stop asking, “What came before?”, and it allows us to answer the question, “Why am I here?”. Such existential questions are fundamental to happiness and fulfillment.
I want to talk about this in more detail later, but God’s answer to us concerning why we are here, is two fold. We are here to share in the joy of relationship, relationship with God first and foremost, and relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters in mankind. And by engaging in relationships, as we were intended, to glorify God. Not because God needs us to glorify Him, but because His glory is expressed in His creation as it works itself out according to His purposes.