GOD HAS ATTRIBUTE OF ETERNITY
A second attribute, which follows logically from that of self-existence, is that of ETERNITY. In the name Jehovah and in the assertion “I AM,” there is the implicit fact of eternity. A God who has the ground of existence within Himself is without cause and without origin. He has neither beginning of days nor end of being.
1. The Scriptural testimony to this fact is of considerable breadth and various. The simplest testimony is in the words eternal and everlasting applied to God (Gen. 21:33; Deut. 33:27; Heb. 9:14). Five times the word eternal is applied to God, and 16 times the word everlasting. These words represent three terms in the original Hebrew and three terms in the original Greek. For all practical purposes the translation into English is sufficient to establish this point. But the terms in the original languages suggest a relationship to the created order and the succession of events associated with it, whereas the eternity of God transcends that of the created order.
Other expressions also appear in the Biblical record to express the eternity of God. He is said to "endure forever" in contrast with the created order (Psa. 102:12, 26), whose "years shall have no end" (vs. 27). To God is ascribed glory "throughout all ages, world without end" (Eph. 3:21). As a part of the praise given to Him, it is said that He "liveth forever and ever" (Rev. 4:10). But there are also other combinations of words and ideas which convey the same truth concerning God.
Certain descriptions of God in His relation to the created order make it clear that His eternity is distinctly different from the general impressions of men. For one thing, God is declared to be the one who created the ages
(Heb. 1:2 Grk.). He is called the Father of eternity (Isa. 9:6 ASV marg.). He is referred to as the king of the ages (1 Tim. 1:17 ASV marg.). As such He is one who inhabits eternity (Isa. 57:15), and whose schedule cannot be measured over the succession of time that characterizes the created order (2 Pet. 3:8). Measured over against the ages with their beginning and end, God extends into the past to the vanishing point, and also into the future in the same respect (Psa. 90:1-2).
2. The explanation of this attribute of God is not in any sense to be regarded as simple to any mind, let alone the ordinary mind. And yet there is sufficient that lies within the grasp of the average person to derive benefit from the truth.
Inasmuch as the eternity of God is differentiated from time, it is logical to give a definition of time. Time is the relation of events and things in a finite and changing order. Time came into existence with the created order, and time will continue as long as this created order exists. So far as we are able to see from the Scriptures, there will be no interruption of time in the future. A misunderstanding of the meaning of the text in Rev. 10:6, "there should be time no longer," is corrected by a reading of the same passage in the American Standard Version.
God, however, does not belong to a finite and changing order. God is infinite and unchanging, and He is antecedent to and the originator of creation. Therefore, eternity with God may be defined as "that perfection of God whereby He is elevated above all temporal limits and all succession of moments, and possesses the whole of His existence in one indivisible present." God is the great I AM, with whom there is no past, present, or future. He is without beginning and without end. Time is in God, but God is not in time, for time is the creation of God, and therefore He is in no sense limited by or subject to time. With God time is one eternal now. He knows the end from the beginning. "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18).
God is the author of time in the sense that He created a finite world of changing things. Though it had a beginning, it will never have an end, for the world will never be annihilated. Since the very essence of time is measurement, there would be no such thing if there were not events that could be measured in relation to one another. If this changing order were to be annihilated, then time would cease to be. But even with time now existing, God is completely above time. Men in some limited sense are able to live above time. In memory they can live in the past as well as the present; by prediction of the future as based on past observation; by communication in books and other ways preserve a segment of time; science says nothing is lost: words, deeds, ideas, all are etched in the universe; from this store God will produce books at the judgment (Rev. 20:12-13); and by regeneration in which man is inducted into the eternal One (Gal. 1:4; 1 John 5:11-12). But in a perfect and incomprehensible fashion the eternal One can rise above time.
3. An evaluation of this doctrine for all practical purposes may at first thought seem to be without point. It is amazing, however, to discover instances in the Scriptures when this doctrine has ministered great encouragement to the saints. At that moment of greatest disappointment to Moses, when he realized that he was to die without the privilege of entering the promised land, in his final address to Israel he said, "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deut. 33:27). At that moment, when the race of life is run and he is confronted with an unknown future, Moses took refuge in the fact that God had been his dwelling place in all generations, a dwelling that reaches into the vanishing point of the past and the future. In all that, this dwelling is God (Psa. 90:1-2). In the midst of affliction (Psa. 102:1-2), the Psalmist found comfort in the fact that he was completely in the hands of an eternal God, who unlike the created universe, would never perish (Psa. 102:11-12,24-27). Habakkuk saw the hordes of wicked Chaldeans descending in judgment upon his own precious land. His only hope in this fateful hour was in the eternal God. "Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment: and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction" (Hab. 1:12).