"Of course He is!"
You might say.
But, what this question really asks is,
What is "eternal"?
You see, as Saints, unless we make doctrine and what we believe, totally based on Scripture, as contained in our bibles, then the "eternal" we have in mind, may be, from somewhere else.
For example, Plato, a Greek philosopher from 400 or so years before Jesus, wrote this about eternity:
when the father and creator saw the creature which he had made moving and living, the created image of the eternal gods, he rejoiced, and in his joy determined to make the copy still more like the original, and as this was an eternal living being, he sought to make the universe eternal, so far as might be. Now the nature of the ideal being was everlasting, but to bestow this attribute in its fullness upon a creature was impossible. Wherefore he resolved to have a moving image of eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he made this image eternal but moving according to number, while eternity itself rests in unity, and this image we call time. For there were no days and nights and months and years before the heaven was created, but when he constructed the heaven he created them also. They are all parts of time, and the past and future are all created species of time, which we unconsciously but wrongly transfer to eternal being, for we say that it 'was,' or 'is,' or 'will be,' but the truth is that 'is' alone is properly attributed to it, and that 'was' and 'will be' are only to be spoken of as becoming in time, for they are motions, but that which is immovably the same forever cannot become older or younger by time, nor can it be said that it came into being in the past, or has come into being now, or will come into being in the future, nor is it subject at all to any of those states which affect moving and sensible things and of which generation is the cause. These are the forms of time, which imitates eternity and revolves according to a law of number. Moreover, when we say that what has become is become and what becomes is becoming, and that what will become is about to become and that the nonexistent is nonexistent - all these are inaccurate modes of expression. But perhaps this whole subject will be more suitably discussed on some other occasion.
Timaeus 37b-37c - Plato 5th century BC
What is Plato saying?
He is teaching that God's existence in "eternity" is a situation or "place", an alleged "reality", *from which* time was created, so that there never was, nor is there days, nights, weeks, months and years in eternity. So eternity, for want of another name is "non time", an actual existence (alleged) with no sequential duration whatsoever. And, from that setting, from this view, and this idea of eternity, God then created time. This is Plato's picture of the divine.
This very Greek view of creation and existence has been absorbed into Christian thinking and theology.
It is in the writings of Augustine of Hippo as to how much he read Plato and, John Calvin in his well known Institutes, is seen to highly regard Plato too1.
I am reminded of a play on words by the bible teacher David Pawson wherein he declared the need to "De-Greece the Church" (spoken as the invited speaker at the main meal of the UK Christian Booksellers gathering in Bournemouth c1995).
Even the famous C. S. Lewis has been affected. He was a fan of Greek mythology prior to his conversion and this resource of stories helped in creating the fiction elements of various of his books. He took on board this idea that time is created, such that he wrote that all history (of man) could be considered like the writings on a page of a book, all there fully written on the one face of a page of paper, so like a reader would then read a line at a time and his eyes move along a word at a time, so is time for humans as they live in time, but from God's perspective he said, God can see the full page all at once. So that here just like with Plato, all time and history already exists and can be seen all at once from God's viewpoint of that "eternity". All is thus already known for the eternal God in this "eternity" (Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis Chapter 3).
The view of "eternity" has a profound effect on the teaching of God's foreknowledge and therefore the whole idea of predestination, of fate, and of God's real (actual) or, imaginary interaction with man in time, and so on, including how God saves, the doctrine of salvation.
So, let's look and see if *this* "eternity" is biblical. Does Scripture really reveal "eternity" like that?
We can make use of the above quote from Plato to compare and see how he was distant from Scripture. He mentioned how there were no days in (his) eternity. The bible says the opposite.
We read of days existing in the period prior to the Creation of the heavens and the earth; that is, prior to the events of Genesis 1.
We read of days before the sun was created in Genesis 1.
We read of God making new choices in history, thus changing its course. And, more importantly thus, God not knowing (then, at that point in history) what that later choice would be: God cannot be said to already know what He declares He has not (yet) chosen. If this is so, then God cannot but exist *in time* completely.
Days in God's pre-Creation existence
In Micah 5:2 we prophetically read about the coming of Jesus, and how long He has been around.
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
The Hebrew for the last words "from everlasting" is literally "from the days of eternity" (as found in some margins):
The literal Hebrew is
yomyomowlam = daydayeternity = "days of eternity"
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 is that of sequential time as an entity, a reality, which co-exists with Him.
It reveals 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).
We know this existence was before the time of creation of the world, because we are also told that Jesus back then, was foreknown before the foundation of the world.
He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
1 Peter 1:20
So we can see from the literal Hebrew, before this period of Creation, there were consecutive days of existence: The days everlasting.
Days before the sun was created (Key: Genesis = G)
We have 3 days of Creation mentioned before the sun was created.
God created the sun and stars on the 4th day (G1:14-19)
1st God is introduced in Genesis (G1:1) as creating "the heavens and the earth".
I read that as the season for the creating of the material world that we know and all it contains: That is, what is being announced. I say this, in this way, in this manner, because we also read of heavenly creatures not mentioned in G1 as being already present when the foundations of the earth were put in place (Job 38:4-7). And that the 6 days of this season of creation were clearly just for the earth, the heavens (that we see) and what *they* contain (Exodus 20:11). So, not only was Christ foreknown before the foundation of the world, but so were angelic beings already present.
And, we have mentioned to us, whilst creating the stars and the sun, the very purpose for the creation of the sun and stars.
Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;"
There were days and other repeatable amounts of duration before the means present for us to observe them.
We can see how for 3 days there was no sun during the Creation week, but that there was instead a light source (somewhere) from the point of when God created the light on His 1st day of the creating of "the heavens and the earth" (G. 1:1) and what they contain. Again, I specify *this Creating season* like this because as I said, we also know angels had *already been created some time before*. These heavenly beings also named as "sons of God"2 we see (all these) praising God as He established the foundations of the earth. These are events God Himself reveals to Job as occurring back then,
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God2 shouted for joy?
These angelic beings were created some time before the heavens and the earth of Genesis 1. The Creation of Genesis 1 only covers the period of creation of the earth and the visible heavens, and all that is in them.
So, on the first day of this creating "season", during this time of God making the heavens and the earth and what *they* contain, the literal Hebrew for that first day's mention is that of "the setting and the dawning, day one": thus ends the mention of the very creation of the light during that day.
With the earth mentioned as present, this indicates the physical light now created then caused, from an arbitrary placed source position, an observable moving shadow on the face of the earth, "the setting and the dawning".
And, with the earth or this source of light being in some form of rotation already, there then was the first setting and dawning of that Creating "season", that day one, as observed in toto, as the first setting and dawning occurred.
In the beginning
The reality of earlier creation by God, before the earth's existence, of these other heavenly beings helps us appreciate more accurately what is meant when we read,
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
We can see then that this beginning involves a season of (new) creation, that of the heavens and the earth and what they contain only:
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them
The heavenly beings who praised God as He laid the foundations of the earth had been created in a time prior to that (Job 38:4-77). This means that "In the beginning" cannot refer to God creating time. These beings existed prior to that "beginning". And we are told these were created too (Colossians 1:16; Ezekiel 28:14-15). This "beginning" then refers simply that in the beginning of this season of creation the following happened(…). This of course helps explain how Satan, the Serpent (Revelation 12:9) mentioned in Genesis 3 was already a fallen being by the time of the Genesis 3 temptation of Adam. It also explains how evil had begun to exist by that fall of Satan, as well as, a then growing knowledge of evil had by then materialised as shown us by the existence in the garden of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Evil not being a direct creation of God and the tree is a record of the rebellion effects including the darkness that rebellion generated. Remember "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John1:5). Evil (of that kind) cannot emanate or come directly from God.
Time no longer
In the KJV one reads,
And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:
Revelation 10:5-6 KJV
I have heard "there should be time no longer" to mean that one day time will cease, so that eternity in heaven is different.
The meaning here is better given in the NKJV,
And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer,
To say "there should be delay no longer" is a reasonable understanding of the older English "there should be time no longer", so to force a singular other meaning is a tenuous foundation.
Before time began
In the NIV we read,
No, we declare God's wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
1 Corinthians 2:7 NIV
"before time began" suggests the Greek word AIÓN for "age" can also be used for "time". I mention this word further later. As "time" it is a form of paraphrase and as such unfit for teaching doctrine, where only a direct translation should be used at all times.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
1 Corinthians 2:7
Half an hour
In heaven there is time, since we read,
When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
We read of God making new choices in history
If we read a truth that God really makes a new choice within the duration of what we call history, that is, during the time of man on earth, then God cannot be seen to exist outside of duration. He is clearly understood in scripture as also experiencing duration, time, as we call it, and thus eternity in the bible can only stand for what is everlasting and nothing more.
This is so in Scripture.
Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel.
2 Chronicles 6:5
This is significant.
So important in fact that much of theology falls or stands on the truth here.
God here informs us He made no decision, no choice of His at all, for two things. He did not choose who should be king nor did He choose which city was going to be used for a placement for the temple to be. And all that, God also says, was that decision, these choices, they were not made right up to a certain point in man's time, in *his* history: it is "Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt".
So, the truth contained here is that right up to the exodus of Israel from Egypt God did not know what that decision was, since He had yet to choose, who was going to be king in Israel and where the temple was to go. You cannot say God knew this already for the simple truth, if He already knew, that is, if God knew already what He was going to choose, then what is really being said, is that God had already chosen. So, either God did choose already or He did not. Which is it? What does the Bible say?
Answer: God did not (yet) choose on this.
Once God chose, He then says,
but I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.
2 Chronicles 6:6
But, all well read bible students also know, Saul was God's first choice as king and that God would have had Saul's rule, his dynasty, to last forever (1 Samuel 13:133), but following Saul's rebellion, God regretted He had made Saul King (1 Samuel 15:35)…
But, now we know David was to be the next king.
An important aspect of this matter of the temple's place of existence not being decided, by a certain time in history, is that it is a solid repeated truth in the bible.
you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.
Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there
Deuteronomy 12:11a KJV
But in the place which the LORD chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.
But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose
Deuteronomy 12:18a KJV
And God keeps saying this in many other such passages4.
God in His inspired text of scripture is here informing us, that He did not yet know where it would be: His knowledge of future events is limited in at least one way: decisions God has yet to make.
We should take this seriously as Paul said,
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine
2 Timothy 3:16a
Direct Evidence of time and God's interaction
Perhaps the best pointer to God interacting in time, not unlike us (remember we are the ones made in God's image here; it is not God made in ours); It is the Scripture here that informs us what God is like; the best passage may be that of the beginning of Psalm 90.
LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
You turn man to destruction, and say, "Return, O children of men."
For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.
First here is a good verbal picture of the meaning of eternity for God "from everlasting to everlasting, You are God" God's eternity involves His being "from everlasting to everlasting" = eternity. Since it is "from" and "to", it is not static. Nor is God static. There is a change from one thing to another. This is then a pointer to a limit of what is called God's immutability. God never changes. But, in what way is here shown us. As regards time God is involved in a "from" and a "to", not at the same time, as in a pantheistic like existence, for then "from" and "to" would become meaningless, but simply as involved with duration and not being separate from duration: time.
This truth is then reinforced with "a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night". 1000 years = 1 day. When? What do I mean, when?
Read carefully the inspired text here says, "when it is past".
It is not before the 1000 years or before the day, nor is it during the 1000 years or during the day, but it is "when it is past", that is, after the 1000 years or after the day. For God, more of time is involved than with man. He has been around a lot longer. So though with you and me one could say "these last few weeks went so quickly" or "it feels like we last saw each other only yesterday" (say, when it was years ago), we can't say much more than that. But God can.
And, just as like God, we say it of what is past: when it is past. So for God it is 1000 years as 1 day when it is behind Him in time. It is "like a watch in the night". A long time is perceived by God like a short time, when it is past.
This is why God also reveals Himself to us as the God who was (but no longer there) the one who is (right now) and the one who will be (when it comes to pass): God is not all three states at the same time. God is not the author (of that kind) of confusion. He is no pantheist being.
Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come
Revelation 1:4b See also 1:8 & 4:8
Forever and ever
The Old Testament (OT) of our bibles is mostly translated from Hebrew. A few small portions were first written in Aramaic. The whole New Testament (NT) is translated from Greek. But, for up to about 300 years following the beginning of the Church (Pentecost Day of Acts 2) the Old Testament read by Christians was the Greek version of the OT. This was the predominant language of the day. That is, until in the Western part of the Roman Empire Latin began to be dominant from about the 4th century. Alexander the Great and his 4 successors who split that empire between them were all Greeks. So that had been the dominant language until the Romans then conquered much of that empire. It is in that Greek time that the OT was translated into Greek. It is a version of the OT we now call the Septuagint. This language was so prominent still at the beginning of the 4th century that the full blown gathering of church leaders in 325AD at Nicea had all the proceedings and records in Greek. The latest Roman emperor had stopped the persecution of Christians of prior centuries and had promoted such a gathering. He did this after pronouncing Christianity as the now official religion of the empire. He was present but did not vote at the gathering.
In our OT bibles translated from the Hebrew we can read,
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
The words "forever and ever" are in fact translated from two different Hebrew words. OWLAM (we saw above) and AD.
It is important to note the difference between these two words. False dogma hangs on the lack of distinction by JWs and folk who hold to Annihilation (as opposed to everlasting existence in hell) for the wicked, let alone the topic in hand of the subject of "eternity".
What is the difference?
OWLAM is forever in the sense of something ongoing "out of sight, and beyond view".
AD is forever, or ever, in the sense of something ongoing "perpetually so".
That is the difference.
So that in the Hebrew, to express truly non-stopping ongoing "forever [OWLAM] and ever [AD]" these two words are used together in the inspired text. This is so in the quote just given. God's reign will never end, but be perpetually so.
JWs teach that this current earth will remain perpetually and never cease to be, based on passages that mention the earth with only one of these words, usually OWLAM. Whilst ignoring passages that clearly say God will make a new earth (Isaiah 65:17). Such is the way of the enemy. A deceiving spirit highlights with legal force a text out of context and at the same time veils the mind to the counter texts.
Teachers like Rob Bell5 highlight the singular Greek word AIÓN (which translates OWLAM) to "say" the torment in hell for the wicked will end and one day cease.
But, when we see the translation of the above quote in the NT Greek this is what we read:
The two separate and different Hebrew words are both translated by the same Greek word AIÓN.
But to the Son He says:
"Your throne, O God, is forever [AIÓN] and ever [AIÓN]; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom."
So, if indeed the word AIÓN appeared on its own it could mean an ongoing time that might end, since the ending is out of sight and beyond view, but it cannot when used twice, one after the other, as that is a direct and clear representation of OWLAM and AD together. This is Rob Bell's error5.
For the passage with both together is clear:
And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever [AIÓN] and ever [AIÓN] .
The sobering truth is all the wicked are also mentioned as thrown into this very lake of fire in Revelation 20:13-15.
The significance here
With the above first mention of "the days of eternity: above, since that is [OWLAM] it is really "the days everlasting (that have already gone by)".
With the mention of "from everlasting [OWLAM] to everlasting [OWLAM], You are God" since both are OWLAM, then God's "eternity", as we already mentioned, has been ongoing back in time from out of sight, beyond view ("from everlasting") and will be ongoing forward in time to out of sight, beyond view ("to everlasting"). That is the truth of scripture of eternity's meaning for God. Knowing also, that God will never cease to be or to reign in view of the texts with both OWLAM and AD together, but no appreciation of more than that, as per Plato, is permissible nor should be entertained.
God is eternal in the sense of being from everlasting to everlasting, not both at the same time: The words "from" and "to" are otherwise meaningless. God existed in the days everlasting before creation. God is not there now, but is always in the present now and, God will always be. So eternity for God is the existence in time that He experiences. Time is just duration and is a facet of existence. Nothing happens or exists "outside of time", it is a nonentity. The fact, reality and truth that God makes new decisions in time, in man's "timeline" of history as revealed in the inspired text of Scripture proves God's knowing only what is, and all that is, knowable6 up to the moment in time He is: present. A new decision God makes in time is something God learns from Himself now making it. So God's knowledge increases, but God remains the same: His character never changes: He is always the same in that sense.
God is love and God is light,
and in Him is no darkness at all,
is true forever and ever.
1See this page for John Calvin's quotes of Plato and his thoughts on him in his Institutes of Christian Religion (correct at 24th August 2019).
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2"sons of God" are given as "angels" in the Septuagint - The Greek translation of that passage of Job 38.
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31 Samuel 13:13 itself being a clear pointer of God making new choices in history: God had a plan, told us by Samuel, in saying to king Saul "the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever". We know that God is not into play acting or lying and thus this plan was real and in existence. God could not now fulfil it because of Saul's rebellion and thus chose a new king. This was a new decision by God in history. The plan would not have been real had God known a new king was to be chosen. David only then begins being mentioned in Scripture. This real plan, not having been revealed before, meant that God was not bound to fulfil it. God was bound to fulfil it for David later, because God then did reveal a similar plan to him and declared it in advance, so God had to uphold His word: Even though not a few of David's descendants were worse rebels than King Saul had been.
Equally many other occasions shows God making new decisions in time which He could not have known before, like the giving of King Hezekiah another 15 years of life, after having just told him he only had a short time, say "days" to live (since he was told to put his affairs in order - 2 Kings 20:1-6). God does not play act or lie. He is no deceiver.
The subject of Divine Nescience as named (as a teaching) in the 19th Century which was renamed Open Theism in the 1960s, is thereby found true in all these passages.
In contrast, Calvinism (Monergism) is a theology based on the idea that God has already decreed, God has decided long ago, He has chosen, all the very detail of everything that happens, whether good or bad well before Creation. As seen here, this is not founded on the bible. God makes new decisions in time, in history.
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4See also in Deuteronomy: 12:26, 14:23, 14:24, 14:25, 15:20, 16:2, 16:6, 16:7, 16:15, 16:16, 17:8, 17:10
18:6, 23:16, 26:2, 31:11 and in Joshua 9:27 (this is not claimed as exhaustive)
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5See my article LOVE AND TRUTH WINS - A response to Rob Bell's book Love Wins
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6See also my chapter entitled Evil and God's knowledge in my book So you think you're chosen?
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