Eternity from the Beginning
Infinity is difficult for us to understand. Eternity is beyond our ability even to imagine.
Where does an eternity start? God created space and time. But think about what God did. He did the impossible. Somehow He broke into infinity and eternity and created starting points. From these starting points God created the universe. How did He do it? We don’t know.
Science calls this starting point the Big Bang. Did space and time exist before the Big Bang? There is no way we can know. Forget about multi-universe theories. Did other universes exist prior to our universe? Science cannot know. According to a scientist named Max Planck, the laws of physics began 6.62 x
10-34 seconds after the Big Bang. Before that time the laws of physics did not exist. Where there are no laws of physics, there is no meaningful science.
Prior to the Big Bang we have no way of knowing anything. People may construct theories. Their theories are based on faith. Some people believe that God spoke. He said, “Let there be light!” The Big Bang took place at God’s command. That’s a statement of faith. Were there multiple universes? That also is a statement of faith.
The atheist says, “No, no! It didn’t happen that way.” Then the atheist scrambles around. He is looking for an explanation—any explanation. He does not believe in God. He is unwilling to accept the Big Bang as an act of God. So what does he do?
The atheist calls on science to rescue him. He says, “Science cannot accept God as an explanation. You scientists better get busy. Do your job. Dream up some half-baked theory (well, he doesn’t use the word half-baked) about the beginning of the universe. The theory doesn’t have to be logical. It doesn’t have to be based on scientific method. If you say the words ‘scientists have discovered,’ people will believe anything. But we need it quick! We can’t let people run around saying that God made the universe. That’s not acceptable!”
So a few scientists respond. They come up with all sorts of theories: expanding-contracting universe theories; multi-universe theories; theories of membranes that separate us from other dimensions; bubble universe theories. Science publishes babble; the media spreads it as fact; the people accept it as truth. Can you believe it? Neither can I. These “scientific” answers are not based on science. They are based on faith.
Why do they do this? They want to prove the eternity of space and time. Scientists know the ultimate explanation for the origin of the universe must involve eternity. But they misunderstand the scope of eternity. We already saw that an actual infinity cannot exist in space. Similarly, an actual eternity cannot exist in time.
Time is a sequence of moments. They take place one after another. Each moment is a unique event. You can never have an infinite number of moments in time. You can never make time into an eternity. But eternity is even more mystifying than that.
Forever in an Instant
How many units of time are in an eternity? Countless units? No. Not even one.
We already know we never will reach eternity by adding another day, month, or year. Remember our rocket ship to infinity? That ship never got us to infinity. Neither can it get us to eternity. Within time a person always can add another second, minute, or year. We never will reach eternity.
Let’s try a different tactic. Can we divide one second into an infinite number of miniscule time units? Physics is aware of something called “Planck time.” It’s incredibly
tiny. Planck time is 5.39 x 10-44 seconds. That’s less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a ten billionth of a second. Our brains have difficulty conceiving a number that small.
Did we get to an eternity? Nope. To get to an eternity our unit of time would have to be zero seconds. Zero seconds! That does not make sense. How can something be eternal if we measure it using a unit of time that lasts 0 seconds?
This is baffling! I agree. We will never reach eternity within time.
Confused? It took me a while to catch onto this. Maybe this quote from the philosopher Boethius will help. He lived from A.D. 480 to around A.D. 525. During the Middle Ages, Boethius was more famous than Aristotle. We never hear about him today. Boethius wrote a book called The Consolation of Philosophy. Here’s how he explained eternity in an instant.
“It is the common judgement, then, of all creatures that live by reason that God is eternal. So let us consider the nature of eternity, for this will make clear to us both the nature of God and His manner of knowing. Eternity, then, is the complete, simultaneous and perfect possession of everlasting life . . . [God embraces] the whole of everlasting life in one simultaneous present.” (Boethius Consolation, V.VI.)
Yes, God is eternal. He lives outside of time. He lives in one simultaneous present.
A Land Without Time
At the beginning of this page I made the following statement: “Infinity is difficult for us to understand. Eternity is beyond our ability even to imagine.” See what I mean?
Could we survive in a land without time? Consider the importance of time as we live from day to day. Time is needed for change. No time; no change. This even includes little changes. A drop of water would never fall without time. Your heart cannot beat without time. Even the thoughts you have now would not arise in your mind without time.
Time is a requirement for growth. Growth is change. Time is a requirement for experience. Experiences take place over time. You cannot learn without time. Time is required for learning.
Time also is required even for existence. And being itself takes place over time. The only exception is God. God is pure, eternal Being. What’s God’s Name? I am! How did Moses know this? He was not a philosopher or a theologian. How did Moses know that God is eternally present? I guess God really did speak to Moses!
How could we live in a true eternity? It would take an act of God.
Eternity is timeless. Eternity is an infinite number of moments all happening at the same time. Eternity requires units of time that equal zero seconds. At the same time, eternity is bigger than any length of time. But time cannot exist in an eternity. They cannot co-exist. So how did God start time while maintaining eternity? Believe me, I don’t have the slightest clue.
How Do We Know God Is Eternal?
How do we know something like that? It’s impossible for us to explore eternity. Eternity is so different from us. We cannot even take a peek into eternity. We would not understand what we saw. So, how do we know? How do we know God is eternal?
Simple logic. Like the logic used by philosophers. Augustine was one of the greatest philosophers of all time. This is how he explained it.
It is not in time that you precede times. Otherwise you would not precede all times. In the sublimity of an eternity which is always in the present, you are before all things past and transcend all things future, because they are still to come. (Augustine Confessions XI. xiii (16)).
It was simple for Augustine. If God existed in time, He could not precede all things. God lives in the eternal present. More than that, God is the eternal present.
Again, how did God introduce Himself to Moses? Moses met God in a cave. God spoke from a burning bush. Moses asked God, “What is Your Name?” God answered, “I Am Who I Am. Tell the Israelites ‘I Am has sent me.’ ” (see Exodus 3: 14)
Jesus explained this in Matthew 22, saying
“Have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. He is not God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22: 31-32, NIV)
God, Himself, says in Revelation 1:8,
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty.” (NIV)
Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet. God says He is everlasting. He is everything from A to Z. God also is eternal. He is and He was and He is to come. But He is all these things at the same time.
Do You Understand?
Do you completely understand this? If so, explain it to me. I don’t fully understand it. The Bible says this is beyond our ability to completely understand.
“He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. . . . I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, 14, NIV)
This is one additional reason for us to give glory to God. He is absolutely glorious!
This leads to the ultimate question: Why is there anything rather than nothing? We really cannot answer that question. God exists. He’s the Creator of everything we know. That’s just the way it is.