God Inhabits Eternity – The End from the Beginning (Part 6)

God calls the end from the beginning and calls Himself the beginning and the end.

Revelation 1:8
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. KJV

For those who view God as absolutely timeless, this declaration is problematic. Is, was, and is to come correspond to present, past, and future. If God viewed time timelessly, all at once from the “eternal now,” why would He define Himself with a sequential time frame? Beginning to end is as a sequential journey as is past, present, and future.

God revealed Himself to the patriarchs as YHWH.[1] In These Are the Words, Jewish scholar Arthur Green offers the following definition of the Name:

Y-H-W-H, like most Hebrew words, appears to be derived from a three-letter root. H-W-H is the root for ‘being’ or ‘existence.’ The Y at the beginning of Y-H-W-H could indicate the imperfect tense, so that we could translate the name to mean ‘that which is’ or ‘that which will be.’ But Y-H-W-H is more likely to be an awkward conflation of all the tenses, and it is really best to translate it as ‘Is-Was-Will Be.’ … Y-H-W-H, in fact, is not really a noun at all, but a verb caught in motion, artificially frozen by our simple minds into noun form.”[2]

In His expression of Himself to us, God uses a name that is time itself. Many see in this merely condescension, the Timeless One picking terms we can relate to. But all we will ever intimately know of God is limited to our perspective. He chose to relate to us in time as the One who inhabits all of it.

Isaiah 57:15
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones. NKJV

God inhabits eternity. Like foreknowledge and predestination, eternity is a word weighed down and skewed with centuries of theological and philosophical baggage. One key of scriptural interpretation is to take the plain meaning of the word. In the verse above, the Hebrew word translated “eternity” is ‘ad, meaning “the unforeseeable future.” In strict vernacular, we would say that God lives in the future. Meditation on this truth can lead us to some startling concepts.

For the sake of illustration, let us consider the future, which is an extension forward in time, as an extension in space.[3] In this framework, the future would be a space we are marching toward whose shape, intended inhabitants, and their foreseeable actions God knows.

This concept helps us understand man’s freedom of will in relation to God’s foreknowledge:

  1. Man is moving toward the “space” of the future[4] and his choices dynamically impact the “shape” the future will take.
  2. God is omniscient and knows (present tense) the heart of man[5] and thus the decisions he will make. Knowing the decisions is equivalent to knowing the outcome (future). He knows the shape man’s future-space will take. Knowing the decision, however, doesn’t hamper man’s ability to make a free will choice any more than God’s knowledge of man’s present action determines that action.[6]

The future is there. God dwells in it, but we haven’t arrived. The present is the filling up of the room of the future and the past is its old furnishings.

As created spirit, free will moral agents, we have endless time set in our hearts (Eccles. 3:11) but not the breadth of God’s duration in the creation (“the work that God does from beginning to end”). He has invested in our hearts an eternal nature but not an eternal presence. The spirit of man (his “heart”) is eternal in that it is meant to endure from its creation onward. But we are not substantial enough in ourselves to inhabit time in the present and the future simultaneously (something that can be done “in the Spirit”).[7]

The experience of the children of Israel coming to the Promised Land is a good spatial illustration of this temporal ideal. Canaan had cities the Hebrews did not build and vineyards and olive groves they did not plant and wells they did not dig (Deut. 6:10-13). All were there for them on the east side of the Jordan while they wandered in the western wilderness. The Lord went “before” them (Deut. 9:3) and knew what was (present tense) in the land and who would (future tense) occupy it.

Take as another spatiotemporal example God’s omnipresence. Omnipresence means God is everywhere. He inhabits all of space. When we speak of God being present in all of time (past, present, and future), we say He is omnitemporal. If space and time are two sides of the same coin, then there should be a rough equivalence between the Lord’s omnitemporality and His omnipresence. The following table gives some examples of this equivalence.

Omnitemporal (Ps. 90:2; Isa. 57:15)

Omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-8; Jer. 23:23-24)
“Who was, and is, and is to come” Rev. 1:4

“Who fills everything everywhere with Himself” Eph. 1:23 AMP
“Before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58

“that He … might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest)” Eph. 4:10 AMP
God interacts with His people in their objective time, their “now.” (Exod. 3:7; 2 Cor. 6:2)

God may fellowship with His people in manifest presence in a theophany or wonder (burning bush, pillar of cloud).
God intimately fellowships with us in our subjective time, how we “feel” time passing. (Job 7:4-6; Heb. 13:5)

God fellowships with His people in the abiding presence of the inward anointing, which is a subjective experience. (1 John 2:27.)

The language of Isaiah 57:15 puts the unbounded future in a realm beyond this space-time continuum. No spaceship can reach “the high and holy place” nor can it reach the eternity over which He reigns. He truly is a transcendent God, One who interacts with His creatures yet dwells in a dimension they cannot attain without Him.

The universe feels the flow of time (its speed increased or dilated by the matter “stones” in the space-time continuum), but its fabric does not contain the future. The future comes from the Lord for He it is Who dwells in eternity and keeps the cosmos going (gives it duration and thus the passage of time) by His powerful word (Heb. 1:1-3).

We serve a God who has shown us the end from the beginning. He said “Let there be light” in Genesis 1:3 and in Revelation 22:5 there is light. In His love, He made man to fellowship with Him. The story of redemption is the story of His longsuffering. He worked through the ages to might bring man back to Himself. In due time, Christ died for the ungodly. At the appointed time, He was resurrected. In the fullness of time, He shall return to judge the quick and the dead. Seeing we know these things before, beloved, we should live in all holy conversation and godliness, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, redeeming the time for the days are evil.

To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Timothy 1:17 ESV)

[1] Also transliterated as Yahweh and Jehovah.
[2] Arthur Green, These Are the Words: A Vocabulary of Jewish Spiritual Life, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, 1999, p. 3-4.
[3] General Relativity has shown time and space to be two sides of the same coin much like energy and matter.
[4] Or, more literally, the “space”
[5] See 1 Sam. 16:7 and John 2:25.
[6] If that were the case, God could be accused of making man sin.
[7] See Rev. 1:10. It is possible that in this sense, “in the Spirit” holds the same relationship to “Spirit upon” that “Spirit upon” holds to “Spirit in.”