“Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’ ” (John 8:57,58).
THE “ETERNITY” OF GOD IS A DIFFICULT CONCEPT, BUT I BELIEVE IT’S ALSO A VERY IMPORTANT ONE. God has always existed, and He always will exist. He is eternal, without either a beginning or an end. And presumably, He is the only such being that exists. Since He created everything else, everything else had a beginning. But not having been created, God is self-existent. He is eternal.
In language, verbs can be in the past, present, or future tense. God, we may say, is always in the “present tense.” There was never a “time” when He didn’t exist, and there will never be a “time” when He won’t exist. When asked by Moses what His name was, God said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). And Jesus, who was God in fleshly form, said to the astonished Jews, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” He did not say, “I was before Abraham,” but “Before Abraham was, I AM.” God is always in the present tense.
The eternity of God is one answer to the seeming contradiction between God’s foreknowledge and our freedom of will. God can know what we are going to do without infringing on our freedom of will because He sees all that happens — past, present, and future — as one present moment. It is only we finite, time-bound creatures who see things in terms of what has happened, what will happen, etc. Living in an eternal now, God simply sees what is.
In a world broken by sin, time is our enemy in many ways. We struggle with what has happened and what will happen. We even struggle to have the right attitude toward past, present, and future. So there is great comfort in knowing that God is above and beyond time, that time is within His control and subject to His sovereignty. Whatever problems the passage of time may present for us, nothing that has to do with time is a problem for God.
There is an old song that says, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.” There is nothing about the past, the present, or the future that He won’t deal with in just the right way.
“In God there is no was or will be, but a continuous and unbroken is. In him history and prophecy are one and the same” (A. W. Tozer).