God over Time

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'”  Isa 46:8-10

God is beyond time, yet He communicates to us in references to time so we can more easily comprehend His meanings.  In His desire for us to understand what He is saying, He will use anthropomorphic language, which allegorically describes what cannot be understood in human terms.  You will find this throughout the scriptures.  But we must be careful that we interpret these things correctly.  Some things that appear allegorical are not, and some that do not sound allegorical, are.  This is where our relationship with the Holy Spirit, our unerring interpreter, is important.  Does the reference, if taken literally, make sense with the whole of scripture?  For example, 2 Sam 22:16 – “Then the channels of the sea were seen; the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.”  We know God is spirit, and therefore has no nostrils.  But we can take this and more easily visualize His power.

So, with that said, lets discuss the above passage.  God is speaking to the Israelites who were falling into idolatry.  He is telling them to stand firm in the former things of old, with Him as their God and leader.  He reminds them that He is the only God, and there is no other.  All these so called gods are not true gods.  They are imperfect.  They do not have all power and all knowledge.  As an example, He declares that He knows the end of all things, and has from the beginning of all things.  And nothing can change this, for He will accomplish all that He has purposed.  This was said to show that He is above all the idols that they worshiped, for He is the only one who sees all time; past, present and future.

But there is much more I would like to explore in verse 10.  It reads, “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’”  This verse has some intriguing implications.  Firstly, nothing surprises God.  There is nothing you can do that will catch Him off guard.  Everything, you have done, are doing, and will do is already known to Him.  This can be both comforting and unsettling.  If someone else, other than God knew everything about us; past, present and future, we may not be all that crazy about it.  For we have no idea how they will accept it.  However, God loves us with a love that transcends all human comprehension.  He accepts us because of the work Christ did on the cross.  He has clothed us in the Righteousness of His Son.  And get this, He accepts us knowing what we would do.  This to me is a profound truth.  We cannot think this way, for we do not love like He loves.  We tend to look at what people do and judge their character based on these actions, and thus, our love is measured.   Furthermore, we tend to make judgments without complete knowledge.  Many a man has been condemned in the court of public opinion for something he has not done.  However, God knows it all and as Christians, we are not condemned.  What a beautiful truth.

The second thing is that this is, along with other verses, a repudiation of Hyper-Calvinism.  First, let us look at a verse that helps make clear what I mean. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  The word in the Greek translated ‘foreknew’ is προέγνω, which denotes ‘know beforehand.’  Now, this verse and it’s meaning has been the subject of dispute for some time.  Many in the Hyper-Calvinist camp believe that those whom He foreknew He made Christians, and those not in this camp believe that those He foreknew would become Christians. It is very apparent that He foreknew those who would become Christians because He knows the end from the beginning.  So it is no surprise He would know ahead of time.  But, did He choose whom to save?  This is the stance of the hyper-Calvinist.  I will say definitively, no.  Let us look at a verse in 2 Peter.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  2 Pet 3:9.  God desires that none should perish.  He desires that all should come to repentance.  However, not all will because not all desire it.  He made a way for all, but not all will take it.

And lastly, since He sees the end from the beginning, clearly seeing past, present and future as already accomplished, this means our future is fixed.   If it was not, then our future would be contingent.  And things contingent cannot be fully known.  Therefore, due to the fact God knows all things, including the very details of each and every moment of each and every life, our futures must therefore be fixed.  Now, how can our futures be fixed if we have free will?   That is a good question.  The answer lies in perspective.  Through who’s perspective are we seeing our future?  Let us take a moment to examine each of these.

First, from God’s perspective.  Before He created us, He knew us.  He knew the day we would be born and the day we will die.  And He knows every detail in between.  He knows the number of hairs on our head, at every time, no matter how many we lose.  There is no future to God, only now.  That is why He declared His name as ‘I AM.’, without adding ‘I WAS’ and ‘I WILL BE.’  So, as far as God is concerned, our future is as sure as our past.  It is known by Him completely.  And since His omniscience is perfect, just as the rest of His attributes are, that means He has perfect knowledge of our future.  And perfect knowledge is not contingent, but is fixed.  For example, if you have perfect knowledge of a specific computer program, you would know every aspect of that program.  Nothing would surprise you, because you would know every outcome of the program no matter what input was entered or key pressed.  You would also know all the strengths and weaknesses of that program.  You would know all the bugs found in the computer code.  You would know exactly the outcome for every keystroke and process.  There would be no surprises, no anomalies.  This is not a perfect example, but it does in some ways explain why our future is not contingent.  Contingency denotes unknowns.  And since God has no unknowns, He has no contingencies, and therefore the future is fixed.

Now, lets look at the future from man’s perspective.  With man, our futures are definitely contingent.  We have many choices we could make, and each choice has it’s own affect on our future.  We are unable to look beyond the present, because anything beyond the present is contingent.  We may be able to guess, but we can never be sure.  There are variables which make things uncertain.  If you roll one die, one of 6 outcomes are possible.  If you randomly choose one card out of a deck of cards, you have 52 possible outcomes.  And you have no idea which number on the die shows up, or which card gets selected.  Take it to another level.  Selecting a day in the future for an outdoor party.  The weather may not allow for the party to take place.  A natural disaster could prevent the event.  A foreign country could drop a nuclear device on your yard.  What I am getting at is that we may think we know what our future  holds, but we can never be sure.  Examine the contingencies above, and these are just a couple of the many outcomes that could occur.  And the farther into the future we go, the more contingencies arise.

Now, to sum up these two perspectives.  God knows everything about everything.  There is nothing outside of His knowledge.  We only have knowledge  of past and present events we have become acquainted with.  We have free will, and God knows what will be the outcome of our free will, as opposed to us who only know the choice but not the total outcome.  Therefore, free will and fixed future are compatible.  It is how you look at it.

In my next blog entry, I am going to continue to discuss time as a created entity.  I started to discuss it here, but I decided to hold off.  It is outside of the scope, and beyond the ability to do it justice.  However, let us remember that God knows our future in totality   And this should give us reason to rejoice.  First, because He can guide our footsteps completely in the direction He desires us to take.  But more importantly, because He has accepted us into the family, and He knows what we will do and He accepted us anyway, then we can be assured that His love will never lesson, and our salvation will never lose it’s assurance.  He is never surprised, therefore He can never be disappointed.  Let us not view God anthropomorphically, because this takes away from the infinite grace and mercy He has for us.  He is infinite, and any attempt to place human attributes on Him is to try and bring Him to our level.  We are to  have His love, His grace, His mercy, His forgiving ways.  We should strive to be like Him, not strive to make Him like us.  We must understanding that time has no relevance when discussing God and His nature.  He knows our failures, past, present and future.  And He accepts us anyway, and loves us with an everlasting love.  Knowing this helps me to understand my hope is assured, and it makes me strive to be what He wants me to be.  I know I am thankful He is not like man.  For if He was, our hope itself would be contingent, and therefore, no hope at all.

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3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Outstanding as always, Bill. Keep up the great work! Excellent Theology!

    • Thanks Darrell for the encouragement. This is something I have be thinking about for some time. I am glad God provided a way for me to share this with others.

  2. […] is a part of physical existence, then God has to be in every time.  This idea takes us back to the last post, because if He is in every point in time, at the same time, this is why He can know the end from […]

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