“The Eternal God” – Gen. 21:33
The Eternal God
Knowing God Series
“Who made the universe?” World renowned Oxford Professor, Ph.D mathematician and evangelical Christian, John Lennox asked that question to world famous scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins. It was 2008 at the Oxford Museum of Natural History where these two brilliant men had their second debate, this one titled, “Has Science Buried God?” Sitting on stools with an enormous T-Rex skeleton looming down over them their topic turned to the origin of the universe. The exchange went like this:
Lennox: Do you believe that the universe is just a brute fact?
Dawkins: The universe is an easier brute fact to accept than a conscious creator.”
Lennox: “Well who made it [the universe]?”
Dawkins: “Well you’re the one who insists on asking that question…”
Lennox: “No, no. You asked me who made the Creator. The universe created you, Richard. Who made it then?”
Dawkins: “A God is a much more complicated entity which requires a much more sophisticated explanation than a universe which according to modern physics is a very simple entity. It had a simple beginning…that has got to be an easier explanation than something as complicated as a God.”
Lennox: “I think you may have missed my question. I’m drawing a parallel. You see, you say it is ridiculous for me to believe in a God who created the universe because I have to answer the question who made God. All I’m doing is turning that question around and saying you believe the universe created you…well then who created it?”
Romans 1 declares that when men refuse to acknowledge God, their hearts and minds become darkened and their thinking becomes futile (21). In the process of dismissing God and thinking of themselves as wise for it, they became fools (22). The result of rejecting the Creator is always to worship the creation (25). Dawkins thinks the universe is what created him, and in doing so Dawkins is committing idolatry. He is worshipping the creation, ascribing to it what should be ascribed to God: He is declaring that the creation is the Creator! His friend and fellow atheist, Lawrence Krauss literally marvels at the universe with a worshipful adoration that would make us ashamed we don’t worship God in similar fashion. As Romans 1:25 says, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the created things rather than the Creator.”
The universe began. The Creator of the universe did not. Which is one way of saying God is eternal.
GOD IS ETERNAL
Last week we saw that God is self-existent, which means that God exists all by Himself and needs nothing outside of Himself to exist. A being like that is an eternal being. And that is our next attribute for this week: God is Eternal.
- In Genesis 21:33 it says Abraham “called on the name of God, the Eternal God” (Gen 21:33).
- According to Psalm 90 and 93 “from everlasting to everlasting God is God” (Ps 90:2; 93:2).
- He is the “Everlasting King” (Isa 40:28), “the eternal King” (Jer 10:10), the “Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13), and then in Revelation 22 He is the “Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Rev. 22:13)
- Paul the Apostle is not going to be 2nd to anyone in praising God as eternal. In 1 Timothy 6 he pours it out: “God, the blessed and only ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom eno one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” (1 Tim. 6:15-17)
Scriptures are clear: God is eternal
WHAT IS ETERNAL?
What does it mean that God is eternal? It means that He has no beginning and no end. It means He has always been and will always be. Isaiah 57:15 says God is the one “who lives forever”, and Job 36:26 says His “years are unsearchable”.
That God is eternal means that He existed before time began and will keep on existing when time ends. His life has no origin and will endure forever. It’s not helpful to think of eternity as having existed before time began and then picking up again when time ends in the future. Eternity has always been, is right now, and always will be. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Him who was, who is, and who will come Revelation 4:11 says.
C.S. Lewis has a mental picture to help us think better here. Imagine a piece of paper that extends outward in every direction endlessly. That is eternity. Then imagine a line one inch long on that paper. That line is time. It has a starting point, an ending point, and a continuum between the two. But eternity is “happening” beyond that line.
God is happening beyond the timeline we live on. He lives beyond it, like the paper is infinitely beyond the line. So all this also means that while time is going on God is not “in” time. It cannot contain Him. How can the line contain that infinite paper?
He is not confined to time as though He sees the past, present, or future like we do. He doesn’t stand in today looking back at yesterday, then turn around and look forward to tomorrow. His perspective is not looking out simply from the moment of time we call “now”. His is the Eternal Now, where He sees the past, present and future “all at once”. For God, yesterday is now, tomorrow is now, and today is now. He is before time, will live after time, and right “now” He is beyond time. He is eternal.
A favorite hymn of mine, Immortal, Invisible, says:
We blossom and flourish like leaves on a tree
And wither and perish but naught changeth Thee!
Do you notice how those lines contrast God’s life with ours? The Scriptures do the same thing. It’s like in order for us to start marveling over the Creator’s eternality the Holy Spirit contrasts it with the diminishable life of creation. For instance, Hebrews 1 says:
“[The heavens and the earth] will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same and your years will never end.”
Or when 1 Peter 1 quotes Isaiah and says,
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of the LORD stands forever.
JESUS THE ETERNAL GOD INCARNATE
Now that we’ve mentioned the Eternal Word of God we have to turn our attention to Jesus. He is the personal, pre-existing divine Word of God. When the heavens open upon the earth on that awful day of His return Revelation 19 says He will come riding a white horse and be “dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God.” He is God in the flesh, as Thomas declared on his knees, “My Savior and My God!”
That eternal God chose to enter into human existence – into space, time, matter, flesh, bone, blood, and all that is human. Jesus was born – but as the personal divine Word of God He was before all things: “Father” He prayed in John 17, “return to me the glory I had with you before the world began”. He has always been. Turn to John 1:1, 14…. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh…” (Jn 1:1, 14).
Then later in John’s Gospel, Jesus makes one of His more marvelous declarations when He said “Before Abraham was born, I AM.” You may recognize those words from last week. In John 8 Jesus was taking the personal name of God and using it for Himself. Blasphemy – if you’re not God. When Muslims say “Show me where Jesus claimed to be God” take them to John 8:58 where Jesus used the personal, covenant name of God.
Here’s the thing: He wasn’t borrowing the name! He was saying to the Jews that He is the I AM! He was saying, “I AM THAT I AM. I Am the self-existent God who has lived from before the world began, who brought forth the world, who called your father Abraham, who rescued you from Egypt, who spoke to you from the Mountain, who gave you the Law and the prophets. I AM the I AM that you worshipped with every sacrifice in the temple and who heard your every prayer and who saved you from your enemies. I am that I AM.”
When you realize that you will not read John’s Gospel the same anymore. “I AM the Good Shepherd.” “I AM the VINE”. “I AM the Light of the World.” “I AM the RESURRECTION and the LIFE.” “I AM the BREAD of LIFE.” Your eyes will open up to all the ways Jesus was communicating that He is God, the I AM.
You begin to read everything differently in the Bible when it touches on Jesus. For instance, turn with me to Hebrews 7. The author is showing that Jesus is a priest. But Jesus is not in any way the Israelites are familiar with. In Israel only descendents of Aaron or Levi could be priests. Jesus wasn’t a descendent of either as to His human nature. He was from the tribe of Judah. But He wasn’t an Aaronic priest or a Levitical priest. Instead He was part of a different priesthood. Verse 17 says, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” That’s a quote from Psalm 110:4, speaking of the Messiah. The Messiah would be a Prophet, He would be a King, and, He would be a Priest.
What does this have to do with Jesus being eternal? Well, He is a priest “FOREVER”. And do you know why that matters? Because it means that His salvation is a forever salvation. The life He can give you is an eternal life because He lives forever. Notice verse 16, “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life” Oh. My. Goodness. The fact that Jesus is eternal is the basis for His eternal priesthood, and, it is the basis of the life you receive when you come to Him. Verse 11 says, “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical (Old) priesthood why was there still need for another priest to come – one in the order of Melchizedek?” In other words, the Old System and Covenant, which had the Levitical priesthood and sacrificial system working, could not deliver to mankind the righteousness, the salvation, the atonement for sins, the “perfection” that was needed for man to be able to come close to God and know Him. Verse 18, “The former regulation (Levitical Priesthood and Mosaic Law) is set aside because it was weak and useless, for the law made nothing perfect, and a better hope is introduced [through the eternal, Melchizidekian Priesthood of Jesus] BY WHICH WE DRAW NEAR TO GOD.”
This study of God’s attributes has its rewards and its risks as well. On the one hand, thinking of God and what He is like greatly improves our Christian life. Not to mention it is more worthy of God to “think of Him more nearly as He is” (Tozer). However, we must see how this high and lofty God comes to us as all that He is. We must somehow be able to “touch” this God who is so far beyond our thinking, seeing Him as both transcendent and immanent. Otherwise we end up just thinking of Him as almost imaginary, that He is far beyond our reality down here. He is out of reach to us, less personal to us, and we lose that sense of Him being here and now. The point of this series is to see that God is the Ultimate Reality beyond the reality we see here and now. But, if He is not personal, if He is not near, if He is not touchable for us then we are no better than agnostics, really. Worse, if this awesome supra-reality God is too far away then He lives in the imaginations of our minds, not really the The problem I’m getting at is that when this God who is beyond our reality doesn’t touch our reality down here where we are we don’t see Him as the Reality beyond the here and now.
The worship of Christians should be pure. One of the reasons we are focusing on God’s attributes is that our worship would be purer. Purity means without contaminants. When something is pure it means that something is without anything foreign added to it that pollutes it. That something is untouched by anything that would defile it. So in our striving for “pure” worship we mean that we think of God as He is without any thoughts about Him that are foreign to Him. We see Him, understand Him, know Him, think of Him, as Tozer says “more nearly as He is”. Does God care if we think wrongly about Him? Yes. And thus we ought to care more about thinking rightly about God than anything else.