Human beings are inherently limited by our nature. It is easy to see that we are “bound” in certain ways. As we consider the nature of God, it is important to understand some of the many ways in which we are bound and God is not. One such area is that of time. As humans, it is easy to understand that we have not always existed – there was a time “before” us. Moreover, it is also easy to see that we exist in time – our lives are a succession of events which follow one after another. God is radically different. Even though it is difficult for us to grasp, the Bible makes clear that God exists outside of time – all things are “present” to Him. He is timeless and sees all time with equal clarity. This is another indication of His greatness.
This truth is seen throughout the Scriptures. In Exodus 3:14, God reveals Himself to Moses as “I Am”. The title sounds strange to us because the concept is strange to us. God is the One who eternally exists. His essence is existence. As Dr. Bruce Ware puts it, this is the “always-isness” of God. No matter what time you are considering – be it past, present, or future – God is. In Job 36:26, Elihu proclaims that God is great and we know him not because “the number of his years is unsearchable”. They cannot be counted or measured. Ps. 102:27, likewise, proclaims that God’s years “have no end”. They go on forever with no limit. And Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Again: God is God – the sovereign Creator and Ruler of all things – from eternity past all the way to eternity future. If we could conceive of infinity in both directions, that would be the nature of God’s existence. As Revelation 1:4 says, He is the One “who is and who was and who is to come”. There never has been and never will be a single instant of existence in which God is not present.
Psalm 90:4 says that “a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night”. God sees any long period of time as if it just happened – with absolutely clarity and vividness. He does not “forget” or have to “remember” something that happened. Likewise, 2 Peter 3:8 says that “one day is as a thousand years”. The same truth is proclaimed: He sees and knows the events of a short period of time with the same clarity and understanding as He does a long period of time. This is the reason He can declare future events before they happen: He sees them as already present (Isa. 45:21; 46:9-10).
Even more, the God who exists eternally also reigns eternally. Psalm 93:2 says, “Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.” From eternity past, God has been on the “throne” – reigning and ruling. That is the reason Jeremiah calls him the “everlasting King” (Jeremiah 10:10). And Paul refers to Him as “the King of ages” and “immortal” (1 Tim. 1:17).
As we consider this, though, it would be easy to begin conceiving of God as far off and distant because He is so different from us. Can God really be said to be “with” us if He exists outside of – and over – time itself? The answer is emphatically “yes”. The God who rules over time and exists outside of time still acts – and reacts – in the midst of time as we know it. God has chosen to do specific things at specific times so that we might know Him and have relationship with Him (Acts 17:30-31; Gal. 4:4-5) – even though He Himself sees all times at once. Again, we cannot conceive of such an existence, but that is the way God has made Himself known to us.
But why do we care? What is the significance of this truth? First, this is another reason God should be praised. Who else is like this? Who else is so incredibly powerful that there has never been a moment when they were not in existence? God alone is from everlasting (eternity past) to everlasting (eternity future), and He is worthy of all our praise. Considering God’s eternity should drive us to our knees in humility and cause us to recognize – and acknowledge – the vast gulf of difference between us and Him.
Second, this gives us the confidence that we can trust Him. Even though we do not know everything future and cannot remember everything past, God can. And He is in control of those things. God sees all and knows all – whether it happened 3,000 years ago or will happen 3,000 years from now. Nothing will ever surprise Him or catch Him off guard – which means nothing will hinder His plans and purposes. We can trust the One who always was and always will be.
Though it may seem impractical, the fact of God’s eternity is another aspect of His glory that we must see if we want to know Him and worship Him rightly. As Paul himself declared, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1:17).