That’s not a new idea, of course. It’s one we’re well acquainted with – so acquainted that the word eternity has arguably lost its impact on us.
But think about it for a minute.
Eternal can mean ‘lasting forever’ or ‘existing outside time’. Those sound like different concepts, but maybe the only way anything can possibly last forever is if it exists outside time.
If God exists outside of time, He existed before the concept of ‘before’ existed. And He’ll continue to exist after the concept of ‘after’ has run its course. As Christian Shepard told his son Jack, who’d recently arrived in Heaven in the final episode of Lost, “There is no ‘now’ here.”
Er… makes the chicken and the egg look easy, doesn’t it?
I advise you to forget trying to understand how it all works. I think we’re better off just accepting it. A much more enjoyable (but, admittedly, equally fruitless) exercise is imagining what an existence unfettered by time is like.
For a little help, let’s look to the Apostle Peter:
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” – 2 Peter 3:8
Or, put another way …
“It’s Christmas in Heaven, there’s great films on TV. The Sound of Music twice an hour, and Jaws 1, 2 and 3 … It’s Christmas in Heaven, every single day.” – Graham Chapman, from Monty Python and the Meaning of Life
As I said, speculating about what eternal life looks like is probably pointless, but it is fun.
Maybe ‘pointless’ is the wrong word, though. Pondering eternity might not result in an intellectual understanding of the mechanics of such a state of being, but perhaps it can help us move a little closer to eternity’s chief resident.
In Exodus 3:14, God gives Himself the name I Am. Jesus invokes that mysterious handle in an unconventional and controversial manner in John 8:58, when He tells the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” In Revelation 1:8, God describes Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega … who is, and who was, and who is to come.”
God’s choices of words in those three passages all serve different purposes as well, but I think they underscore the truth that for a Being who lives outside time, the past, present and future are all one and the same!
This side of Heaven, I’ll probably never look at the eternity of God and say, ‘I understand’. But I think it’s enough to look at the eternity of God and say, ‘Wow!’
Peace be with you.