Pristine Grace

The Eternal God
by James Johnson

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen. Psalm 41:13

     Introduction

     The concept that God is eternal is widely known and professed by most Christians today. However, it seems that in reality most people who claim that God is eternal do not truly understand the many implications this has on understanding Christian doctrine and practice. It is essential that we have a clear picture of the eternal God and how God in eternity works. It is very easy for our human minds to begin to see God ONLY acting within the constraints of time. This will inevitably lead into error within doctrine and result in a God who is less that God. It is important to affirm that God does indeed work within time and is constantly doing many things everyday. The best instance of God working within time is the whole incarnation of Christ on Earth.

     This is the greatest picture of God working within the constraints of time to accomplish something great, namely the Salvation of the Elect. Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” What a great testimony of God working in time. Jesus’ death on the Cross is the ultimate example of the eternal God performing actions within time. These timely actions by God are very easy for us to comprehend and understand. They work well with our understanding of the universe and allow us to fully comprehend what God is doing in the Past, Present, and Future. On the other hand, what is much more difficult to understand is the concept of God working and enacting things in and from eternity. When God decrees something from eternity it begins to make understanding the fullness of what is happening very difficult to us here on Earth.

     What is Eternity? 

     Before we can really begin talking about the eternal God we must come to a basic understanding of what eternity is. There are many misconceptions and ideas that are widely espoused about eternity and heaven from both Christians and non Christian alike. What we are going to examine here is strictly what the bible has to say about eternity. First off we know the eternity is an actual place. Isaiah 57:15 says, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Eternity is a place that is inhabited by God and it is a high and holy place. Eternity is also the place of the Throne of God (Psalm 93:20). Given this fact that eternity is an actual place that can be inhabited we must now compare this to Earth, the place we inhabit. If God is in eternity and He created the heavens and Earth from eternity (Genesis 1) that gives us a good starting place to understand what eternity is. Eternity is God’s dwelling place.

     The Concept of Time

     A question that is necessary to address is the whole concept of time. Scripture never addresses the concept of time directly and it can become a stumbling block in understanding God if we do not fully comprehend God’s purpose and use of time. We must also pay close attention to the Genesis 1 account where the first use of time is mentioned. In Genesis 1:5 God calls the light day and the darkness night and further on in verses 14-19 God creates the concept of months and years by creating the sun and the moon and stars. It is important realize that we base the passing of time on these celestial movements and since God created them out of nothing then time itself is evidently also created by God. Paul in Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.” This verse would necessarily include the concept of time as we know it. Given this, it is correct to say that God is outside of time and is not constrained by it in any way. The God of eternity controls time and uses it for His sovereign purposes. To say God does not exist outside of time makes time god and God not really God.

     Evil and Eternity

     For most saying eternity is timeless is an obvious fact. However, it needs to be reiterated because many do not think through the implications of this fact. If God inhabits eternity and is outside of time is it possible that God sees everything of Human history at once? Can it be that for God, the creation and the end of world are seen simultaneously? It is clear from scripture that God predestines and foreordains all of human history. Everything that happens is due to God’s determined purpose and will. Nothing that happens on this earth is outside of His control. He predestines all things, both good and evil, for His glory. Does this means that God created evil and uses it for His divine purposes? Absolutely! Evil is something God created and uses to enact His ultimate purposes on Earth. Does this make God a sinner? Absolutely Not!! God foreordains sin and evil but never commits any sin. The sinner is held guilty before God because of the sin committed, God is the ultimate cause of all but is not to be held guilty. Here are some scriptural examples to show this truth.

Job 2:10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

1Sam 16:14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him.

Act 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Act 4:27-28 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Isa 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

     These are only a few examples of many that show that God uses evil. When God told Israel to wipe out whole nations and people down to every man, woman, child and even livestock, were these acts evil? From most peoples perspective genocide is considered an evil act, but for God enacting his Justice on a people group as a whole is totally within His right as God and Lord of the universe. Consider Abraham and Isaac. God told Abraham to commit a sin of human sacrifice and kill Isaac as a burnt offering. To everyone reading this all would agree that child sacrifice is a sin. God tempted Abraham with this sin as a test and did indeed provide a proper sacrifice for Abraham to use in place of Isaac. When we consider God's use and purpose of evil in this world, it is important to understand God’s ultimate purpose for Humanity as a whole. When you understand God’s plan it will be clear why evil is needed. An important question can be raised here to help make this concept clearer.

     According to the whole of scripture, what is God’s ultimate purpose for all of creation and human history?

     It is my belief that that God’s ultimate purpose is to create a people wholly devoted to Himself that will give Him praise and glory for all eternity. This people will be united with Christ as His bride and will forever sing His praises and give him Glory. So if I am correct and this is God’s ultimate purpose for all of history and creation why did He choose the method he did to create this people? Think of the whole situation like this. If someone was going to build a house they would know the end product they wanted and plan back to what first needed to be done to build this house. You wouldn’t start with the roof of the house but the foundation. The same thing is true with God’s plan to create a people for Himself. He doesn’t start at the End of history with his chosen people but starts with Creation and goes from there with everything along the way being foreordained and planed out. You wouldn’t start to build a house without the complete blueprints already done. Three quick questions:

  1. Couldn’t God just created a perfect human being free from sin and wholly devoted to him?
     
  2. Why did God create sin and evil and cause man to fall into sin and become separated from His presence just to have to redeem some of them through Jesus’ death on the cross?
     
  3. Does somehow the whole process of the fall and redemption create a better end product?

     These are all very intriguing questions that few have deemed worthy to address. From my meditation on scripture I have come to this conclusion. The whole reason for the entire process of the fall, sin, law, redemption, ect, ect, is that this results in a people who are made perfect by the blood of Christ. God just didn’t create them from the start as righteous but went through this entire process to apply His own righteousness to them and thus make this people completely untied to Him. The elect of God are not created righteous because that would detract from the Glory and majesty of God almighty. For God to just skip the entire process of the fall and redemption would detract from God’s glory. God instead chose to create a people and cause them to sin and then bring some out of this mass of fallen humanity and apply His own righteousness to them through the death of Christ. This creates a people who are not created from the start as righteous but are made righteous through Christ alone. Glory can only be given to God. The people themselves have no glory or righteousness on their own and thus do not detract from the Glory of God. If God chose to just create a people for himself without this whole process the result would be vastly different. How awesome is God’s plan!!! This also helps to explains why God uses and created evil. Ephesians 1:4 says we were chosen before the foundations of the earth and this is because the blueprint was already made before the foundation was started thus our election was planned before the building project got started.

     Election and Reprobation from Eternity

     Given the above is true, then when we consider election and reprobation it makes complete sense given God’s end plan. Some are chosen to become a people separated to God for His glory through the demonstration of mercy and others are chosen to glorify God through demonstrating his wrath and Justice on sin. Romans 9 emphasizes this point perfectly.

Rom 9:19-24 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Ephesians 1:7 – 10 also gives a good picture of how God’s plan for everything culminated in Christ and his death and it mentions the plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him.

Eph 1:7 -10 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

     We should continue to dwell on God’s ultimate purpose for all history and realize that God is the cause of all things good and bad. How great a salvation we have!!! Glory be to God!!!

Heb 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Eph 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

1Pe 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you