This is the re-formatted eBook version of this chapter in the book So You Think You're Chosen?
DOES GOD KNOW EVERYTHING?
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Some would immediately say:
Well, of course He does, or He wouldn’t be God!
Which is ﬁne: this is something which is believed and everyone is free to believe it, but my question really is,
Does The Bible show us the God who inspired its contents as someone who knows everything?
We may feel He does or think so, but if this is not the revelation given to us in scripture it is a belief which is extra biblical and no other doctrine could or should be built upon it. Indeed, the belief that God knows everything about the future some would say is at the root of the idea that He has predestined certain individuals – out of the midst of the many – to be saved; the many that remain have been left as ‘un-chosen’ and are destined to be lost. This is all very well but again only if sufﬁcient evidence is given from The Word of God as to its reality should this also be believed.
Allow me to show you some clear indicators that, although God knows all that is ‘knowable’ and this encompasses more than the knowledge of all other beings put together, this knowledge is limited as concerns a range of situations involving the freedom of choice imparted to man.
The alternative, that God knows everything and in particular everything about the future I aim to show is more a recipe for confusion than for the truth as revealed in scripture.
God’s knowledge is also termed his omniscience and is one of the three ‘omnis’.
Omnipresence (there is no space where God is not present).
Omnipotent (there is nothing He cannot do).
Omniscience (there is nothing He cannot know).
But we don’t have to look far to see the limitations of the three Omnis.
God’s omnipotence is limited by the fact that he cannot make 1+1=3 and still only have two elements. Equally he cannot make a square out of a circle and still call it a circle: so it is evident that there are limitations to God’s omnipotence.
So it is with His omnipresence, God ‘fill[-s] heaven and earth’ (Jeremiah 23:24) as scripture tells us, but it is evident that until something else were to come into being, God is unable to be present there also. For example He does not (yet) ﬁll the new heavens and the new earth ‘which I [God himself ] will make’ (Isaiah 66:22), because he has not created them yet, so it is evident that there are limits to God’s omnipresence.
So it is with God’s omniscience, until something becomes a reality in thought or deed it is not something which can be known by God in all circumstances. This is where scripture indicates the limits of God’s omniscience: it involves future events which are not part of the foretold plans of his purposes (these are shown to be known about, only due to His determined actions designed to bring these about). The limits revealed range upon the genuine free choices given as – an ability – to mankind within the scope of choices he has been set (allowed).
If you have read the previous chapter this is not totally new. This is an expansion and further explanation.
In Israel there was no king until God spoke to Samuel his prophet and directed him to pick out Saul a Benjamite to be their ﬁrst king. Saul was chosen by God for this role, this post, as king (1 Samuel 10:24, 2 Samuel 21:6):
. . . Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen . . .
1 Samuel 10:24
. . . Saul, whom the LORD chose . . .
2 Samuel 21:6
After ruling for a while, Saul deliberately rebelled against God and on one such public occasion, Samuel came along and said these words to Saul:
You have done foolishly. You have not kept the
commandment of the LORD your God, which He
commanded you. For now the LORD would have
established your kingdom over Israel forever. But
now your kingdom shall not continue.
1 Samuel 13:13-14
I would like to look at ‘the LORD would have
established your kingdom over Israel forever. But
now your kingdom shall not continue’.
If the Bible is inspired and proﬁtable for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16) and God does not lie (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2), then I am bound to believe that God would indeed have established Saul’s kingdom over Israel for ever.
Now if God knew beforehand that Saul (the king He chose) was going to be a rebel like he became, then it is impossible for Him to have established his kingdom over Israel for ever.
So, either He would have established Saul’s kingdom, or, He would not. Since God does not lie, and I believe the above passage is scripture and therefore inspired by God, I can only conclude that God did not really know beforehand how Saul was going to end up.
For this passage to make full sense, the choice is simple, either God did not fully know beforehand and is telling the truth about the fact that He ‘would have established your [Saul’s] kingdom over Israel for ever’, or, God is not telling the truth: He in fact would not have established Saul’s kingdom, in the full advance knowledge that he was going to be rejected.
To my mind it is very plain: I believe God is telling the truth, the scripture is inspired and it makes full sense of God not to know fully the free choices of 1man
In the previous chapter I outlined precise words that explicitly show God testing so He would know something new. It is helpful to remind ourselves: Where God is seen to acquire knowledge: ‘now I know’ Genesis 22:12; ‘God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart’ 2 Chronicles 32:31; ‘the LORD your God led you . . . to . . . test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not’ Deuteronomy 8:2; ‘God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul’ Deuteronomy 13:3.
I also touched on how prophecy operates. By God ensuring that his foretold plans come to pass.
The wicked dying before their time
Another pointer is that we find wicked men – in particular – clearly mentioned as dying before their time.
. . . the years of the wicked will be shortened.
Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: why should you die before your time?
. . . wicked men . . . cut down before their time . . .
Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.
The fact that God never desires directly anyone to
sin, it is not conceivable within the revealed order of
things that God knows the extent of a life before it is
started in all cases: God’s knowledge of future events
is not absolute. To say God knew they were going to
die early is really to say: ‘that is the actual extent of
their lifetime’, so ‘that is its full term’ – for them – is
not an occasion of dying before ‘their time’. You
cannot say they are dying early if that was the time
‘they should go’. Is it any wonder that to believe God knows all things future is confusion?
The whole of unconditional predestination thinking founders on this point alone.
The pointers are not few to show that there is a limitation to God’s foreknowledge. This strips away the foundation for the idea that God knows beforehand all who would be the ‘elect’ (of course I refer to ‘elect’ within that ‘thinking’). I believe God told truthfully to Saul that He ‘would have established . . . [his] kingdom over Israel for ever’ and therefore did not know beforehand that he would reject Saul. I believe God knows all that is ‘knowable’ but this is limited to many true free choices man makes. Therefore I cannot believe that God has chosen individuals to be saved over and above others since that would be against His revealed nature and workings in the Bible.
Did God create time?
This question has an important bearing on all the above. It is another pointer.
It makes sense that if God created time, everything that happens in time is wholly known by God. He would then know every detail of the future of individuals before even Creation came about.
It is as if time was a line drawn on a page with a beginning and an end. The present would be represented by a point somewhere along the line (and moving along it), and the future would be the remaining portion of that line. The rest of the page would then represent ‘non-time’ where God exists and the ‘place’ from where He could therefore see everything on this line. If this is true then it would indeed make sense that God knows every detail of the future of individuals prior to their existence.
Personally, I would like to believe what God has given as the source for all doctrine and teaching, the Bible. If this idea is valid then, due to the use of it as a foundation to the ediﬁce of so much teaching, it is vital that only from the Bible we gain the evidence for its reality. Does scripture reveal to us the existence of ‘non-time’, does it mention time as a created ‘object’, or instead, does it reveal to us that time and God have always been?
There are two basic views of time in relationship to God: one is that He created time and the other is that time has always been with Him. These are mutually exclusive views: both cannot be true at the same time. To know which is true we need to see what evidence there is to support one or the other. If there is any support for one than the other cannot be true. So what kind of evidence do we need to look for? The same is true for God’s knowledge: He either knows all future or there are limits to His knowledge. Mutually exclusive views are great in this sense: You only need proof of one to reveal the truth of both.
Passages which refer to God and time
God is shown to experience time differently to us (as to its extent),
. . . with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
2 Peter 3:8
The immediate context of this passage tells us that this occurs within the framework of God’s patience and this thinking correlates with Psalm 90:4 where we read in a prayer attributed to Moses,
. . . a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past . . .
Now, if God created time (and thus ‘non-time’ exists) then, a thousand years would be as a day, before the thousand years as well as during the thousand years, not just ‘when it is past’. Already then we have a pointer to time not being created, but that instead God was with time before The Creation. Verse Two of the same Psalm in fact tells us this very thing,
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
Before creation of the earth this verse tells us that
God was present from everlasting to everlasting.
Probably the closest statement we have that God lives within time is:
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity . . .
There is an immediate problem here however. To some the word ‘eternity’ renders ‘time’ meaningless and they are two separate concepts. This may be so in their minds, but only what the scripture declares is worthy of believing ﬁrst and foremost. In Micah 5:2 we read about the coming of Jesus,
. . . Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. . .
‘Whose goings forth have been from of old, from
everlasting’. The Hebrew for the last words is literally
‘from the days of eternity’ (as found in many margins):
yomyomowlam = ‘daydayeternity’ = ‘days of eternity’.
It makes clear therefore that there were set moments
i.e. one after the other, before the world was made and
that it is thus nonsense to separate time from eternity
(as far as scripture is concerned).
In the Jewish calendar Yom Kippur is an important day: the Day of Atonement. The word yom for day is therefore well known. When it is realised that the inspired Word of God has yomyomowlam: daydayeternity then it follows that the impression God wishes us to have of time is as an entity which co-exists with Him.
There is of course the simple logic that if God created time then, what did He do before its existence?
He could not have a conversation or, do anything with a beginning and an end. ‘Let us . . .’ would be a permanent event. This is nonsense. For if, He was to start something, and then stop it for a moment then all this took a period of time. It has a beginning and an end. There needs to be events one after the other for existence of a person to make any sense at all. It makes no sense of God as a living Being to exist outside of time. To say He is outside of time is confusion in my mind. As we saw from Micah 5:2 the literal Hebrew shows us otherwise: God is very much in time.
We saw above a number of statements which state that individuals as a result of persistent evil have their lives shortened from what length they would have been. There are also those due to their ‘free-choices’ have their lives lengthened from what it would be.
In other words the evidence is not insigniﬁcant for lives of individuals not to have a ﬁxed extent prior to their birth, such that knowledge of this cannot logically be said as complete in God’s mind prior to that person’s life. If God was outside of time, then by His mere observance of all ‘in time’ there is no such thing as a life shortened or lengthened. It would be a fixed time: period!
(As our beloved American cousins would say)
The fear of the LORD prolongs days [Hebrew. addeth], but the years of the wicked will be shortened.
For by me [wisdom] your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.
‘Honour your father and mother,’ which is the ﬁrst commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’
A counter argument
Another argument is sometimes expressed that since Genesis 1:1 expresses ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’, the word ‘beginning’ implies a beginning for time also. The real question here should be, ‘In the beginning’ of what?
The context shows in the beginning, at the start of his creating, the ﬁrst job he did was to make the heavens and the earth. This does not say, or infer that time was created, just that the moment God began creating God started with the heavens and the earth.
Of course let’s not forget Psalm 139.
For You have formed my inward parts; You have
covered me in my mother’s womb.
This passage especially in the NIV can be seen as
useful to the doctrine of unconditional predestination,
‘All the days ordained for me were written in
your book before one of them came to be.’ (Psalm
139:16 NIV). The idea is that if God has written up
all the days of our lives before they existed, then you
can’t help but see unconditional predestination as a
reality. He must thereby also know how long each one
of us has got.
The Hebrew literal which can be found in KJV margins has ‘what days they should be fashioned’. In other words the order in which his body was fashioned was known and understood in detail by God. This is my understanding of this text portion. So that in the KJV we have:
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:16 KJV
There is in context no appreciation that the days of one’s life is known by God in advance, but instead the order in which the parts of the body are knit together in the womb: the days in which they should be fashioned (emphasis mine). See also Young’s translation.
As we have seen then, there is direct and indirect evidence in scripture to reveal that time has always been and that it was not part of the creation. God can thus be seen to live only within time and that not unlike love, faith and wisdom, time has always been an existent ‘entity’ prior to the creation.
God’s knowledge is seen to be incomplete in regards to the length of time everyone will live their life on earth.
The choices given to man where there is real freedom to a number of alternatives is seen in scripture as points in time where the outcome is unknown beforehand by the God of the bible.
Copyright © Jacques More 2008
First published in Great Britain 2008
The right of Jacques More to be identiﬁed as
the Author of The Work has been asserted by him
in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
ISBN 978 1 898158 16 5
Unless otherwise stated Bible passages are taken from
The Holy Bible,
New King James Version Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983
by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
NIV material is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version
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